Sunday, April 29, 2018

Winging It--Crash Space Coordination

Bardic Bedlam is here, in the Barony of the Lonely Tower. It's a bardic sharing event named after the book series with a similar name

This year I had a different job for it. My friend Lady Zafara Baabur asked me to be the crash-space coordinator, a new-to-me task. So I did my usual and winged it.

Common On Site Sleeper
If you're curious to know, "crash-space" in the SCA is a place to stay overnight in the home of an event's local member. It saves you money and from uncomfortably sleeping on site. It's also a way you can make friends with distant members. 

Crash-space by SCA tradition is only space on one's floor, with a roof and shared bathroom to use. It is a spot for visitors to lay their sleeping bag, pillow, and travel pack. Food is not included and "rent" is not asked.

Matching willing hosts offering space for out of town visitors with possible guests takes planning. Having never done this before, I began by posting a request for hosts on Lonely Tower's private Facebook site. I received one reply. 

Next time I will do it differently. Before the event flier is posted I will individually seek out hosts. A bit of arm twisting may be used. 

I'll also make a host contact "spreadsheet" with their visitor preferences. Keeping all the smokers, non-smokers, pets, children, and allergies in my head mixes them up. And there's also the information on each host to know, their pets, children, smoking and gender preferences. I'll note the number of guests each host will accept and their contact information, both phone and online.

As I did for Bardic Bedlam, a week before the event you match the guests with their appropriate host according to each one's preferences. You give each the other's name and contact information. The host and guest(s) can work out further details such as the day and time they'll arrive. I wait until the week before the event because guests' plans change or even cancel. It makes matching simpler, hopefully only doing it once. 

Two days before the event you'll also check in with guests and co-hosts, again. Two of my prospective guests backed out as did a group on my co-host's list. I offered to even out assignments with my co-host, but she was happy as things were. I resent my contact information and confirmed their "ballpark" arrival time. Knowing their earliest expected arrival time meant I could help with event set-up too.

I've heard more coordination may come later. Sometimes at the event visitors who don't plan ahead may seek me out for a place to stay the night, especially since Bardic Bedlam runs later than most events.

Crashing with local members offers hosts a chance to display their hospitality. A cleanish home, some food before their guests depart and friendly conversation. 

Not every host offers the same hospitality. Because of my house's bathroom arrangement, I separate people by gender. And offer more than floor space such as towels, blankets, pillows, various types of beds and comfy couches. I also provide donuts and beverages for breakfast, mostly as an excuse to have some for me. I know others cook a whole meal. 

When I'm a visitor I try to be a good guest. I ask ahead what they expect of me and let them know if I'll be running late. I avoid annoying anyone's allergies, routines, or lights-out time. I keep my stuff neat and out of the way. I stay out of their personal things and refrigerator. I offer to help with tasks that need doing and try to make less work for them. After all, they also have event tasks to do. I thank the host and show appreciation for their generous hospitality.

It turned out crash-space coordinating wasn't bedlam. It was easy because there were only two hosts and limited visitors to pair with them. Winging it worked and I learned what to do when you have more. In the end, my dogs and I enjoyed our new out of town friends. 

Related External Website:
SCA Bardic Arts Resource Page

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pointed Metal Pen Nibs: Not As Old As You Think

I've been searching all over the web for a metal pen picture I know is out there. It seems to have gone the way of some other historic metal pen pictures. If you're like me you're another scribe wanting to know metal pens and nibs are pre-17th Century.

While metal pens and nibs have roots in ancient Egypt where they were made of copper or bronze those did not have the writing quality of their common reed pens. All the way through the 18th-century metal pens seem to have been made as unique or luxury items.

If you're curious, Ian the Green has more information you'll want to check out on pre-17th Century metal pens.

You find history's first hint of metal nibs in a 1792 ad, The Times offering 'New invented' metal pens. Then in 1822, John Mitchell of Birmingham, England, began making large quantity steel pen nibs. They were easily produced, affordable, had uniform tip sizes, outlasted quills, and didn't need recutting. They soon became the favored, replacing the long-serving feather quill.

Pointed Nibs showing
flexed and unflexed strokes.

Click on the image
for the attribution.
The pointed metal nib's flexibility creates thick/thin strokes in a different manner than a does a quill. Instead of changing the nib alignment on the paper to change the line's thickness, you vary the pressure placed on the nib. Pushing down on the nib as you draw it toward you spreads the tines so more ink flows through the widened slit onto your 'paper'. Less pressure causes less tine-flexing creating thinner lines. The tiniest hairline strokes are made on upward and side strokes. Thick lines are created by downstrokes. 

Pointed nib calligraphy uses sensitive nib pressure adjustments to create a letter. Exerting and reducing nib pressure is a delicate skill. And controlling that pressure is a separate skill altogether. If you put excess pressure on a nib upstroke the tines dig into the paper with bad results. 

Pointed nibs also depend on a hard, smooth support. To create a paper surface like that early papers were dipped in a sizing medium, dried, and burnished to a shiny vellum-like surface. A lengthy process.
So pointed pen nib popularity depended not only on steel production but smooth enough paper and operator skill. All coming together at the same time. 

Quill production and use came to halt; the steel nib reigned supreme for years. Until the fountain pen then the cartridge pen, ballpoint pen, and following. Today this path even leads us to handwriting's continued existence. In the future, your calligraphy lettering skills will be more in demand than ever. 

Related Prior Post: 
Is Handwriting Doomed?
6 Reasons To Learn Calligraphy

Related External Source:
History of Dip Pens

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Secrets Of Artist Brush Repair

Have you ever had this happen, your favorite illumination brush is eaten by your dog? That's what Pippa did recently. 
All Fixed

Well, she didn't eat the whole brush. She chomped the handle into two pieces, just above the ferrule. That left me an unusable stubby brush.

But, I was able to rescue it. 

Using my electric rotary Dremel-type tool I drilled out the residual wood as far into the ferrule as possible. Then removed the cheap brush-head from a craft brush. I jammed my favorite brush-head onto the plastic handle crimping it with pliers. Wa-lah, all fixed.

That's a unique brush repair. One I hope you don't have to make. However, it points up the fact brushes need tender loving care.

Here are a few brush tips and tricks.

Dry out your brushes completely before storing them. If you take your brushes to a class or group paint session open them to the air as soon as you get home to let any moisture evaporate. You want them to dry completely before re-packing.

Stored upright with moisture in the ferrule brush handles may crack, ferrules loosen, and may even mold. Gouache and watercolor paints contain honey or glycerin to keep gouache moist when stored in the tube. I learned the hard way, mold in a brush or paints is difficult to stop or remove. 

If your brush slips to the bottom of a bag, like mine did recently, and comes up with wonky bristles don't panic. I bought a new brush and didn't open the bag for a week or more. When opening the bag I found the brush out of its little tube. And the tip was bent to the side. Sad.
To reshape the bristles I first used warm water to rinse out the size the brush was packed in at the factory. I stroked it on a bar of soap until it clumped on the bristles. I then pointed them between my fingers, playing with it for a few minutes until the soap began to hold the bristles up and together. I let this dry overnight. 

When I rinsed the soap out later the brush held its point. Sometimes it takes more than one try. 

If a brush won’t regain a sharp point it might be poorly made. It may also have its longest bristles broken, or something dried in the ferrule. 

For a few unruly bristles you can trim them off or pluck them out. You may do this for a couple stragglers, but it doesn't work to give the whole brush a hair-cut. 

A round brush's tapered shape depends on longer center bristles "held up" by shorter outer ones. That conical pointed shape is difficult to recreate yourself. 

If you have dried gouache or gum Arabic in the ferrule the bristles may not lay close enough together to form one sharp point. Water with a dab of shampoo or soap will dissolve both. The foam created also makes it easier to tell you're getting out all the dried gunk.

My Cairn Terrier
The problem is, although doable, it takes time to dissolve everything. The water must be sucked into the tightly packed ferrule and come out again, probably many times before it works. With a bigger brush, to speed things up I hold the brush handle in one hand and wobble the bristles near the ferrule with the other. 

So take care of your brush and its ferrule, your brush's happening place. And keep them away from my dog Pippa.  

Prior Related Post: 
Brush Basics and Buying  

Related External Video:
How Watercolor Brushes Are Made

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Useful Paint Niche

Recently at our scribal meeting, I was asked about how I use my gouache palette. Do I put out new paints for each painting session? Do I reconstitute the dried paint in its well? What do I do if the paint breaks into small bits? All great questions. 

This is what I do. You may find other scribes work differently.

I use a student grade plastic watercolor-type palette. Nothing fancy. 

When I set up the palette I usually let the paints dry in their section before painting. And I usually don't reconstitute all the paint in a well to a creamy, smooth consistency. 

When I begin using a color I take a big brush, like a #4 and drop a little water on the dried blob. As I work I dip my brush in water and rewet only the small area where I drag my brush to pick up the paint. I turn the brush each time I stroke the blob eventually creating a small "V". That niche points the brush tip as I work. Only the paint in the small "V" surface area becomes reconstituted.

When your paint breaks into small bits it is difficult to reconstitute. If you have a special need to keep that paint you can mix in a little gum Arabic binder as you try to rewet it. This may make the paint glossier too. Once the bits are totally dry or the well is used up I soak and clean off my palette to reset with freshly squeezed paint.  

I'm so glad scribes ask these questions and more. It's one way I find topics to post for you here.  Please, feel free to ask your own in the comment section below.

Related Prior Post:  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Enrich Your Calligraphy, Book Review

When I had two peerage scrolls on my calendar I surveyed my C & I supplies for missing necessities. I ordered them on John Neal Bookseller's website. I'm a sucker for books so I also looked for their's on clearance. I found Enrich Your Calligraphy by Diana Hardy Wilson and decided to take a chance on it.

Hardy's book is not an introduction to calligraphy or a "how to" guide. It does not cover scripts or their ductus. It has a niche topic that 
stimulates and encourages scribes, graphic artists, and modern calligraphers to advance to their full potential. The book is filled with detailed inspiration about scribal topics including
  • developing your creative process and visual awareness
  • investigating spatial relationships
  • developing and reviewing a reference collection
I particularly like the information and encouragement on developing visual awareness. While Hardy writes for calligraphers the information on seeing details applies to illumination as well.

Enrich Your Calligraphy is an easy to read book for the calligrapher who has more developing and exploring to accomplish, which is most of us. It's a unique book for a devoted calligrapher or lover of lettering. 

Related Prior Post: 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lonely Tower Shows Off Their Crafts And Skills

Demos are a common activity you find in the SCA. They educate the public about life in the Middle Ages, show off our crafts and skills, and help us find recruits. 

Today the Barony of the Lonely Tower put on a demonstration at the University of Nebraska-OmahaThe university's Medieval and Renaissance Studies Department promoted it, calling it "Encountering the Past: Costumes, Crafts & Combats". It was scheduled from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM on the first semi-warm day we'd had in weeks.

With the chosen "lunch" time we had a good turn out. Pesky day jobs do conflict. A dozen members garbed and brought their gear. They also brought their special interest creations to display.

Lord Miklos brought embroidered
bags and information.

Lord William brought painted
wooden game boards.

Lady Batilda showed off
her new loom.

Honorable Lady Cristina cooked beef
and other items for tasters.

M'lord Roger displayed his
archery gear and long bow.

A block away the fighters
had a huge field for practice.

M. Nesscia captured the
 fighting demo and viewers.

Lady Zafar and I combined our
scribal period materials to display.

The day's weather improved and the college students brightened our conversations. About a dozen UNO students signed up for future contact and more information. Plus we talked SCA projects and fighting. You can't ask for a more beneficial three hours.

Kingdom handbooks containing demo information:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Making Lonely Tower's New Cord Award Scrolls

Mini Scrolls Prior To Illumination
Have you ever had calligraphy practice come out of nowhere and fall into your lap? That's what happened to me recently.

With the new Baron and Baroness, Augustin and Aleit, came renewed inspiration for calligraphy and illumination. Their wish was to have a small 5" x 7" hand done scroll to go with the first award a person new to the Barony received. 

Her Excellency Aleit composed the  text and M. Rolf developed the two script styles. One used for Augustine's 12th Century persona, the other for the 15th century Burgundian, Aleit.  

Rolf also kindly figured the pen nib and grid size to use. Manuscript cartridge pen fine nib on a 9 squares to the inch grid. They would be done on natural Astroparche 65 pound card-stock.

The first thing I did was buy a ream of the paper. A bit pricey for more paper than I needed, but I thought it would eventually be used by other scribes in a preprint or small original scroll. Later I was glad I did.

I also went to the Incomptech's online graph-paper creator and made Rolf's prescribed graph. I printed this off on clear injet-friendly transperancy film to use with my light pad. This may seem pricey, but I know how much layout time it will save. 

These scrolls turned out well as you see in the picture before they were painted. What you don't see are the 20 some double-scroll pages I did to get to this point. 

I learned original calligraphy on card-stock is difficult to correct. Manuscript cartridge ink sinks into the paper's surface; scratching it off roughens the surface beyond use. A useful thing to know for the future, however frustrating.

The multiple unsuccessful pages were boons for my calligraphy. And I'm now familiar with M. Rolf's scripts. The unexpected calligraphy practice falling into my lap was a windfall. You don't know how much you will improve until you do the practice.

Related Prior Post:  
10 Ways To Practice Calligraphy

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

5 Creativity Levels You Find In The SCA

Archive Photo Of  Jantige's Fiber Arts
As a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism you live to learn about and make things used prior to 1600. Being creative is a big part of what you do. It's is even in our name.

You have SCA friends at all creativity levels. Some are even geniuses. 

Each creative level is labeled different from an SCA honor. But I relate them to those in the SCA like this.

    Charlotte's Joy.
Intuitive--My 7-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte is at this level. Without training, she creates for joy, drawing or coloring to her heart's content. Those new to the SCA  often feel this as well, wanting to make everything they see as cool. 
Intellectual--After playing in the SCA for a time, I found my niche in illumination. I became a voracious illumination viewer, book reader, and painter. 

You may find you own niche somewhere else. Clothing production, cooking, fighting, heraldry. We become geeks in our chosen interest.

Inventive--With practice and knowledge you experiment in wider interest circles. Eventually, I found scroll production which added calligraphy and management of backlog scroll creation.
Scribal Arts' Display
Innovative--My continued explorations took me to paint production from powdered Medieval pigments and local rocks. Master Rolf Hobart has developed scripts in unique Medieval styles and foreign lettering. Master Sir RanthulfR AsparlundR has created whole Medieval books.
Inginus--Artistic geniuses develop ideas and accomplishments beyond explanation. The obvious person is Michaelangelo, known for his peerless influence on Western art development. 

I'm lucky to continue in the innovative category. I'm no genius.

You can make a whole career studying creativity. In Calontir, I find it enjoyable to watch and help scribes explore their way through the creative levels, making things up as you grow along. 

Related Prior Posts:
Playing with Powdered Period Pigments
10 Top Calligraphy And Illumination Artists

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy April Fools Easter

April Fools’ Day is a legend according to Snopes. It began in the 1500s when the Julian calendar changed to the Gregorian. Those who forgot the change and celebrated New Year’s Day as usual, then on April 1st, were teased as “April fools.” That's a little like being picked on when you forget the time change after we monkey with the clock for daylight savings time.
Even the dog got some pinata candy.

This year Easter falls on April Fools' Day. What do you do now? Which non-religious traditions do you celebrate? Is it Easter egg rolls or personal pranks? 

Amazingly you can do both if, like mine, whacking a pinata is one of your family traditions. While pinatas today are considered a Mexican tradition, it came to them from 
the Italian pignatta, where it was found as early as the 14th century.

My family took up the tradition several years ago when my step-daughter turned 40. To celebrate and be fun for the young kids her sister got two pinatas for us to whack-a 4 and a 0. It turned out great fun for us all.

The next year my birthday fell on Easter, so another pinata appeared.

The following year the kids thought that was the tradition on Easter and it's been one ever since. Even with the oldest child now in Highschool. 

I'm looking forward to sharing this again. So for us, that's how the family Easter tradition serves as an April Fool's prank, that started in the 1500s. Hope your family has a wonderful tradition to share too.