A good friend of ours, Mistress Master Baroness Illadore de Bedegrayne, was being elevated to to Order of the Pelican in the SCA, so I decided she needed a new banner to display during her pre-elevation vigil (which was not really a vigil, but there was a tent, so banners were needed).
This banner was made with acrylic fabric paints on blue linen. The unicorn rampant in the center was one of the more difficult charges I have painted, and the repeating fleur-de-lis border was challenging.
I printed out a stencil for the Unicorn. That helped me to get the outline and fill that in with white paint. Then, I cut the stencil apart to help me get the internal lines of the design in the right places.
I made a stencil for the fleurs-de-lis, too (you can see it in the “Stencils” photo), but it turned out to not work so well with the dauber, due to how non-flat the fabric is after painting with the white base coat. I wound up cutting a small stamp from some craft foam, and that worked great. I still needed the daubers that I bought. One became the handle for the stamp, and the other was used to apply a nice coat of paint to the stamp for transfer to the banner. This work so much better than the stencil that I will certainly use this technique again for the annoying repeating patterns that Europeans seem to be enamored of.
A few months ago, I was once again elected to the position of Arts and Sciences Minister of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands. this position used to have a few pieces of regalia associated with it, but most of them have been lost since the last time I was minister. I decided a new belt favor was first on the list.
The fabric is a navy cotton twill I bought online. The populace badge is one of the embroidered patches I had made a few years ago. The A&S badge is machine embroidery designed by me and applied with my embroidery machine.
One of the martial activities in the SCA is called “Thrown Weapons”. Participants throw handled metal weapons such as axes and knives at fixed targets for scores. If you can achieve certain scores during a timed exercise, you qualify for different ranks. These belt favors are meant to be given to those participants who have achieved the required skill levels. The background color of each favor denotes the rank: black for Thrower (0-29 points), blue for Verfur (30-59 points), purple for Caster (60-79 points), green for Huntsman (80-99 points), and red for Marksman (100-120 points).
Each is machine embroidered on cotton twill fabric. The favors are about 7.5 inches wide and 18 inches long, meant to be doubled over a belt. The badge is 3.5 inches in diameter. The fabric is doubled over into a kind of bag, inside which valuables or authorization cards can be stored. I made six of each rank, thirty in all. Even though the machine did all the hard work, there was still a bunch f work setting things up, switching threads, and completing the favors. It took me a while.
Basically as soon as Sweetie and I had reached full immunity following our second COVID-19 inoculations (it’s not really a vaccine, you know), we went and visited my parents in NJ. They still live where I grew up in NJ, and although we did not want to go into NYC to visit fabric stores, I decided to search around the area to see what might have become available in the 30+ years since I left. Sure enough, the large presence of immigrants from Southeast Asia in my home town had resulted in some great fabric stores catering to their tastes, including one just 15 minutes from my parents’ house, called “Fabric Guy“. I was looking for some figured white silk for another project, but also wound up buying some of this lovely medium-weight silk brocade.
I suddenly decided that I needed a fancy kosode, because who doesn’t need a new fancy kosode every once in a while? One difficulty with the project is that the gold metallic threads for the flower buds (or whatever they are) are pretty much just behind those graphics. Cutting the fabric released hundreds of little whiskers, and I realized that wearing the kosode would break off more of those and they would get into everything else. The solution was to add a lining to the plan.
I had some light-weight habotai silk in my stash, so I used that. I’ve madelinedgarmentsbefore, so this was not alien territory for me, but it has been a while. The trick, for those who don’t know it, is to leave closing the neckband for the very last step. That enables you to attach the sleeve linings to the body lining easily by pulling those seams to the outside of the garment. This silk was so light that keeping it still enough to sew was something of a challenge, but it came out OK, I think.
When you receive an award in the SCA, you usually receive a scroll to hang on your wall, and a medallion or other favor to wear on your person. Many of my braids are donated to the Barony or Kingdom to become cords for medallions. It is quite a treat for me to walk around at events and see my cords worn by some of the SCA’s most talented and dedicated members. I have done a number of embroidered “belt favors” for awards, but a long time ago I bought a few packages of “frame charms” on clearance at the craft store, and I have been meaning to make some medallions ever since.
I tried making a medallion for the Aethelmearc‘s “Order of the Sycamore” using actual sycamore leaves, but even though I used the tiniest leaves I could find they were still too big for the charms. Recently, I sat down to hand paint some paper inserts for the charms, and I am pretty happy with the results. At some point I will donate these to the Kingdom and I hope they will be bestowed on some talented artisan.
The Order of the Sycamore is our Kingdom’s order of merit for the Arts and Sciences. These medallions are hand painted using Japanese watercolors on Hosho paper. The frame charms are “antique brass”, but the crystals on the front are just plastic.
Each painting is only an inch in diameter, so it is difficult to get enough detail on the leaves to identify them as sycamore leaves. I have some digital scans of an actual sycamore leaf that I was able to shrink down, print out, and trace so that at least the shape would be vaguely accurate.
These three scroll blanks are traced from a frame captured from “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” a 2013 animated film Studio Ghibli. This film is beautiful, and has a large number of beautiful images in it.
This modern animated film is based on an anonymous 10th-century folk tale called “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. It follows the life of a mysterious baby girl who is found in a shining bamboo stump and raised to be a princess by a poor childless couple.
For almost a decade following its release, this was the most expensive Japanese film ever produced, possibly due to the art style that is based on the Yamato-e style of old Japanese illustrated scrolls (emaki). In 1999, director Takahata published a book called “From a Painting” in which he explored traditional Japanese art and its ties to his animation.
In this image, the devoted maidservants of the Princess ready her cart for travel.
This one, I think I laid the color on a bit heavy. It’s vibrant as heck, but you can’t tell that the maid’s gowns are four different colors.
This one’s a bit lighter, but still too heavy. I tried a different green on the cart, and embellished it with bamboo leaves the way it is in the film, though.
This one is so much lighter, and you can really see the different hues on the robes. I’m starting to get the hang of using really watery mixes of paint to wash color into the paper. The paper is super-absorbent, so you need a light touch to keep from creating blobs of color. Super happy with this one.
It seems that I did this copy of a portrait from the Zuishin Teiki emaki back in June of 2019, but never bothered to scan it in.
This emaki (illustrated scroll) presents portraits of the members of the Imperial Guard Cavalry, and is representative of the highly realistic “documentary” style of emaki that flourished in the Kamakura period.
It is interesting because although this emaki is from the time period when the black-and-white hakubyou style was the dominant expression of Yamato-e, it has light washes of color on the clothing of the rider and the tack of the horse.
I have exaggerated the coloring on this copy, but left the horse pure white.
Next, I decided to copy another image from Sesshu‘s “Long Scroll of Landscapes”. Sesshu is one of my favorites, and I bought book about the Long Scroll when I visited the Tokyo National Museum during my first trip to Japan (for the TV show) in 2016. They have an excellent bookstore in the TNM, but I knew that I didn’t have a lot of room for books flying back, so I just bought this one. Anyway, the copies:
This first one is done primary with black ink lines, then some shading in paint (mostly gray) to simulate the light ink washes that Sesshu was great at and I am not.
For this one, I added a little bit of color, mostly from my smaller set of sumi watercolors. I’ve done this kind of thing before, and I really like the effect this produces. It’s less traditional than the pure ink style that Sesshu used, but I like it anyway.
For this last one, I used entirely paint and no ink. Even the black lines a re black paint instead of ink. I was trying out some of the color variations in my larger set of sumi watercolors, some of which I had never used before. The overall effect is a little impressionistic, but I like the way some of the background washes came out.
I was recently inspired to start painting SCA scroll blanks again, like I did (gulp!) six years ago. My first recent efforts were these, traced from a photo I took of some Azalea blooms in Sharon’s garden.
Original images are all about 8.5″x5.5″ in size. These are all done with Sumi ink and watercolors on 9″x12″ hosho paper. I’m still in love with my “Kolinsky small” brush from Kuretake. Preserve the kolinsky!
The third picture is probably the least “medieval Japanese” of all these, but I think it’s the most attractive. It is difficult to get good shading and depth in watercolor, and I’m just not good enough yet. The outline form is a little easier to achieve.
I just completed another lantern for the “six lanterns” project. The frame of this one is made out of mulberry wood. I had a small plank of this that Mr. Arimoto gave to me probably about seven years ago, and it seemed like a good project to use it on.
Of course, with the paper on it like that, you can barely see any of the wood. The fibers in this plank were very rough and wavy, but in the places where my plane got a good shaving, the surface is super-nice.
I rough-milled the sticks from the plank using my band saw, then hand planed them down to 3/4″ square rods. There really wasn’t enough wood in the plank to make it entirely from mulberry. To compensate, I made some of the stretchers a little shorter than normal, and used dowel joinery instead of my usual mortise and tenon joinery. This was a little easier, since it meant cutting short lengths of dowel instead of cutting 16 tenons, but it meant drilling twice as many mortises, half of them into the ends of stretchers. I could not have done it without my drill press.