Icon of St. Michael, for meeeeeeee

Sorry about not posting this sooner, I needed a brain decompression period post-Pennsic.

I was honored to serve as a champion of the East Kingdom’s Arts and Sciences War Point team this summer, and decided that it was the perfect time to complete an icon of Michael the Archangel that I had planned on for some time. Since I’ve posted previously about my process, this is mostly just a picture (and video) dump.

The best part? This belongs to me. It’s not a gift or a scroll for somebody else, he gets to stay in my personal collection, and I’m happy about this. I’m also insanely happy with how it came out.

The original icon is dated to the 15th Century at the Church of Panagia Angeloktisti, Kition, Cyprus.

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And here is my finished piece, on a 11×14″ poplar panel from Pandora Icon Supplies:

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Slew of progress shots:

 

 

And a comparison between this one, and my first Michael icon from September 2013:

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While working on this, I decided I was going to video myself, and then roll it into a timelapse, here is the result! Yeah, the musical choices aren’t really, uh, Byzantine, but some of them could work. Maybe. 😉

Day 1: https://youtu.be/OfBiAdaYZ6I
Day 2: https://youtu.be/FNgDTw9NBE8
Day 3: https://youtu.be/-fblmmceEjw
Day 4: https://youtu.be/lCN_gHKOvvA
Day 5: https://youtu.be/tLLrVU7Tgfs
Day 6: https://youtu.be/-fNdg_zoeUg
Day 7: https://youtu.be/sPMhnnbO-8E

And the full blown 10 minute timelapse of the whole shebang for your enjoyment:

Come join me at the Knowne World Costume and Fiber Symposium!

I’ve signed up to teach two classes! A timeline of Byzantine dress, and the care and feeding of museum costume collections, but the more programming, the better.

Come on down (or up, in my case) to Meridies in June and have a nerdy party with us fancy dressed mavens!

Here’s the link to the signup!
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdvayPPRKjLwM3JKjnHQYepGNjYNfTAOZH_yaILNGM_CRcIfQ/viewform

The 5-day Trossfrau, and why personal challenges matter.

I do this to myself a lot.

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This isn’t always the smartest idea. Especially when that particular garb is 16th Century and you literally haven’t sewed a fitted bodice on anything in about 5 years. But I was determined, and challenged by a certain Countess in Meridies who just received her Laurel in 16th Century German clothing to get it done. She even made me the wulsthaube as incentive.

I looked at a lot of pictures, and broke down the ensemble: shirt, dress with fitted bodice and full pleated skirt. Easy enough. Really. I could do this! Granted, I’m currently unemployed. Your mileage may vary.

It went as follows:
Sunday – Shirt.
Monday – Didn’t sew for some reason.
Tuesday – Skirt panels.
Wednesday – Fit the bodice.
Thursday – Sewed the bodice.
Friday – Constructed the dress.

So, first was the shirt. Kissa pointed me in the direction of a simple pattern, and I used some of my super soft Signature Finish linen from everybody’s favorite online linen store, Fabrics-Store.com. The shirt is pretty standard for a 16th century smock: sleeves are gathered into cuffs, and the collar has a slit, and is also gathered into a band. The Germans were extremely fond of pleatwork, or smocking, and that is really far out of my wheelhouse, so I opted for simple knife pleats, which also appears to be a period method. I made this is an afternoon, including hand-finishing the cuffs and collar. I initially left a slit in the cuffs, and then for some reason, closed it. I should have left them open, because it would have been easier to roll the sleeves.

 

Now I had to construct the dress. The bodice needed to be fitted, so I had to wait for a friend of mine to find time to come over for a fitting. So I focused on the skirt pieces. At first, I was going to do basic black guards, and then I had a visit from the Scope Creep Imp in my sleep, and decided that big, funky checkers were going to be the answer. Because, I can’t do anything that doesn’t make me look like a traffic cone. This was another full day’s worth of work.

 

I had to get that bodice done come hell or high water, though. I started the project on a Sunday, it was now Wednesday. I don’t have any pictures of the fitting process, but I do have pictures of the aftermath. Linen is not really the best fiber for this. I know there’s ways to “hack”, and get it to work, but being that I was short on time, I had to make it work.

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Mandatory Tim Gunn.
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Initial bodice block, I made no less than eleventy hundred more adjustments to it before I was pleased enough to cut the dress fabric.

I attempted a thick interfacing as the interlining, and it made all kinds of interesting geometric protrusions that were not okay. So, I stripped it out and conceded to just two layers of linen. I should have included a canvas interlining instead, but my brain went, “It’ll be fiiiiine”, and continued. I hand-closed the arms, and then attached the rings for lacing. It took me almost the entire film Dangerous Beauty to complete the rings.

And a fitting…over a T-shirt. We have bunching and not much support. Uh-oh. I just assume that adding the guards and the skirt would fix the fit. I wasn’t too off in the long run.

 

It was suggested that I hand-sew the guards down. I’m still not sure if this was the best option for me, but I did it anyway. It took the entirety of Dodgeball and almost all of A Knight’s Tale to get them down.

And then finished at 11am on Friday morning!

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“I got blistehs on me fingehs!”

But it was far from over. I still had to actually get the dress together!

I sewed the skirt panels up the side seams, and started the super fun pleating into the waist of the bodice. I actually like pleating, so this part wasn’t so bad. I was having fun with it. And of course, more handsewing: the lining needs to cover the raw edges of the skirts! (Yes, I doubled my thread. I have a bad habit of doing it because I tend to get more tangled and become unthreaded when I don’t. Technically, you should only do this for buttons, because it’s kind of lazy, but whatever. I said it was a bad habit.)


Almost…there… I took a break for dinner before hemming.

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Welp, I did a ton of handwork already, may as well hand-finish the hem, as well. I love blind hems. They’re quick, but I use them mostly on collar facings than actual hems. This is the first hand-hem I’ve done on a dress in a while.

Look! I used a single thread this time!

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But what about the Wulsthaube?! I got in the hat from Kissa on Monday (it was now Friday), but all it needed was a cover. Easy enough. I braided my hair for maximum effort, and picked a striped linen remnant I had in the closet. I machine finished the raw edges, and bam.

Das ist meine Wulsthaube. It Haubes Wulsts!

 

Then I had to try it on…oh no! It didn’t have ANY support! *expletives* But nothing I can’t fix with a pushup bra for the sake of the event. This upset me,but it goes back to the not having an interlining + sagging linen + Florida humidity making it extra saggy.

Without a bra on the left, and with on the right. So annoyed that it wasn’t self-supporting, but the lift was necessary. For someone with a big butt like me, you’d think I have the top to match? Noooo, I live in pushup bras. 😦 Thankfully, most of them are t-shirt bras, so they don’t show, especially through 3 layers of linen. This allowed me to have the support and shape I needed to fill the dress, without showing modern intervention to pull it off.

Naturally, the best thing to do at this point was to put the whole thing on, run downstairs, and terrify my husband.

Gieffrei was…not pleased. He looked at me and went, “That’s so not you. You don’t look normal and I don’t like it.” Gee, thanks, Jeff. But, he obliged in taking pictures of me in our messy library, anyway, as he was covered in sawdust from making a new chair out in the garage.

Voila. A Trimaris-friendly Trossfrau in 5 days.

Well, maybe not THAT Trimaris-Friendly. The stockings and clogs ended up staying home. The high at Hausmaerchen was near 90 and humid. So I opted for cloth Mary Janes, since I don’t have duckbill shoes. I was a hot sweaty mess, and the linen sagged EVEN MORE, but it gave a sense of authenticity of following the Landsknecht tross on campaign, I guess. I also got bit the hell up by fire ants. Womp womp.

I topped off my wulsthaube with a pin of a harpy. The theme was “the Lorelei”, but as I had no mermaid, another man-eating lady monster would fit the bill.

 

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So, why did I do this to myself, again? The bodice will have to be dissected and re-fitted before I wear it again, that’s for sure. And this was a lot of work for less than a week. This did, however, distract me from my regularly scheduled unemployment. Instead of sitting on the couch and surfing Facebook, or planning my next Byzantine attack, I had to go outside of my comfort zone (despite formerly having a 16th Century persona, hence the understanding of this basic pattern) and knock it out of the park in just a few days. It took my mind off of real life for a bit, and gave me a reset button to push. A new focus. Sometimes, we need that reset button. We need that challenge outside of our normal routine to wake the brainmeats up. The SCA gives us the fluidity to explore other cultures in that regard, which is nice. Otherwise, I probably would have just gone in a sloppy chiton to a German event if I didn’t give myself this chance to prove otherwise.

I’m going to try to give myself something new every year, now. Last year was the Burgundian, this year the Trossfrau. I wonder what’s next?

 

Better late than never – St. Nicholas of Myra Icon

Story time with Auntie Anna:

Back in the day, which is always a Wednesday, before we began our Knowne World Tour, it was arranged for Jeff to get his Silver Crescent at the same event as his Maunche because he was leaving Portsmouth for San Diego. Because of this, scroll requests got backed up. I wrote the words for his Crescent that was read in court, but he had no scroll. I promised him I would write an icon for him. THEN-

He left for Caid.
I got assigned Konstantia’s Herald Extraordinary scroll.
I wrote my thesis.
I moved to Caid.
He deployed.
I got the gilding down on this.
His backlog scroll came in from the East, and it’s lovely and I gave up.
He came back.
I did things other than paint.
We moved to Trimaris.
I was like, “Oh I still have this.”
And he was like, “So where is it?”

Here it is. 3 years later.

Panel is one of my handmade ones on a birch art panel with my own gesso. It is a hot mess and was not easy to paint on. I noticed the places where I didn’t sand as well, or touched a lot during demos and displays were prone to pitting and bad adhesion of the tempera. On the bright side, a lot of the flaws I had were the same flaws I saw on very old post-period/in-period panels. So there’s that, I guess. If anyone can take my experimental art and actually like it, it would be Gieffrei, anyway.

Saint: Nicholas of Myra, known to most of us as Santa Claus, but also the patron saint of sailors, and, of course, heretic puncher supreme. The reason I chose him should be evident. (Hint: Nothing to do with punching heretics.) The pattern is modern. Most period icons of St. Nicholas are rather boring and rarely show him with a boat/in a boat. Those are all post-period.

Green sky/blue water = Jeff’s arms, sans martlets, though in retrospect, I could have drawn one in. Green is also his favorite color.

Silver Crescent is on the boat, not only because service to his kingdom, but also to his country.

Inscription around the border: Γοδεφρείδος, Αργυρά Ημισέληνος της Ανατολής. “Gieffrei (Godefredus in Latin and Greek), Silver Crescent of the East.”

Main inscription just says Saint Nikolas.

After it cures for a couple of weeks, I will oil it, let it sit for a month, and then it can join the gallery on the staircase as an actual scroll.

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The great shell massacre of 2018. Shells care of the Atlantic Ocean.

Progress Shots:

Finished:

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So pretty. So…messy compared to my porcelain palette.

The long awaited completion of the Alligator Coronet

Yay, after building this as a draft for weeks, it’s finally done!

If I would have made this out of leather, it would have been done months ago. This became an issue of scope creep, that is, the project just kept growing more and more out of my hands.

At first, Jeff was going to make it, then he decided I needed to learn. So what culminated was a joint effort of, “Hey y’all, watch this.”

I am a total metalworking rookie, and I think that it shows, but hey, I did the thing! The base metals are nickel silver and brass. It’s not really based on any one particular coronet, you see hinged crowns across the continent.

Timeline: February to July. I could have had it done sooner if we focused on finishing it. But once we missed the deadline of East Kingdom Coronation, our goal became Pennsic.

February:

We started with a mockup made out of cardboard. Pieces of cardboard were cut into plausible plaque shapes, and taped together. We used this to make a stencil.

March:

I was busy with conference prep, so things got pushed back, but I got to cut METAL. \m/ I couldn’t do everything, and it was very hard to shape the plaques on the bandsaw after I traced the shape, so Jeff had to nip them by hand. It took 2 days. I felt horrible.

 

My cabochons had also come in. I went with a swampy Ruby-in-Zoisite.

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April:

Time to figure out copper shapes for enameling, and the sizing. Jeff punched them, I dished them. It was a loud night in the garage.

We tried to gun through this, but ran into some hiccups. I did all the enameling and soldering on the ornaments. Yep, hurricanes. And one tropical storm for luck. One of my non-SCA hobbies is storm tracking, much to the chagrin of my Facebook friends once the season gets cooking. That and, growing up in Florida, living most of my life on the Eastern Seaboard, yeah, they sort of become a way of life.

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Jeff did the brass work on the edges and hinges, I helped only a bit with the solder but didn’t feel confident enough with the higher temp stuff.

At this point, we were pretty much out of time, but Jeff attached the bezels for the cabochons. I didn’t get pictures of it. Attempts at polishing with the wheel and dremel failed. We needed to use pickle. This was going to have to wait.

May:

I found the damn pickle solution, and had fun with it. It took off all of the fire scale, and then I went in with some baking soda solution to get extra crud off.

July:

I had to spend some time out of town for most of June, so aside from sewing, not a ton toward Pennsic got done. Time to revisit the coronet and finish this.

Jeff finally got a good polish on the wheel, and inserted the cabochons into the bezels.

Lacquer was painted on it to protect the metal, and let dry.

The ornaments were re-attached, and the rivets were cut. While Jeff did that, I cut the pearl for the tropical storm ornament in the front of the coronet.

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Pearl in the storm, and that is not an obscure sports term:

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Because of the weight of the metal, we needed to get a suspension in there for a lining. My husband concocted a system using cardboard to frame padding made from a tube of flannel and craft felt. It was then riveted to three of the alligators, and treated with Loctite.

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And then I got to play fashion show to make sure it fit. Some of my veils are thicker, but overall it fits well. The padding should squish down a bit, if not, gravity is definitely going to do its job. I haven’t weighed it. I don’t think I want to.

And voila! We did it! A week and half from leaving for Pennsic! It’ll be on display in the Known World A&S Display on Middle Sunday. If not, I think I should stick out in a crowd.

Is it perfect? No. It’s only the third metal coronet Jeff has ever done, and the first like this where stones were set and it was full of ridiculous detail, but it’s mine, and the imperfections make it better for it.

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Remember the human: don’t be that guy at A&S classes and displays.

I was debating if I should post this one, or not.

*watches as the internet gets popcorn*

First and foremost, I am not unaware of my attitude problems, so this is not any way to raise me up above the rest, but rather a reminder for myself, and everybody else, to remember some core values of our society.

I am not a huge fan of A&S competitions, which I think is often reflected in my mediocre entries. And even though I have won Queen’s Champion in Caid, and now I’m baronial champion of Castlemere here in Trimaris, I’m still unconvinced that they are necessary.

I do enjoy displays, however, because it removes the stress of competition, and allows the artisan the chance to outwardly geek about their work, and chat with others informally about it. I love teaching, and I have some new material on deck for Pennsic which I will make a follow up post about.

Having been on both the judge and entrant side of competitions, attendee/displayee (I made a word), student/teacher etc, I feel that I need to speak up about what NOT to say when you’re not the person teaching or displaying.  Judging is in a class of its own, so that discussion will probably wait for another day.

My anecdote:

My last couple of Pennsics in the A&S display have been rough, and I’ve had a couple of hecklers in my classes as well. Now, Pennsic is big. People come from all over the world to camp as neighbors for 2 weeks out of the year, and with that draw, comes all sorts of people from all walks of life. Despite my extroverted personality, I still have anxiety, my husband is the polar opposite being introverted and never stressed (ever.) I understand that there is a spectrum of communication disorders and other issues that individuals face, and it was learning about these issues, as well as coming to terms with my own, that has helped me start reeling thoughts and actions back.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had classes heckled. I’ve had people yell at me for not giving them the ‘yes’ answer they wanted, and I’ve been called ‘wrong’ and other things, and watched students storm out. This is not a common occurrence, mind you, but it has happened. While my brain has told me to throw a chair at them, I’ve never actually done it, because I’m usually standing there, dumbfounded by the outburst coupled with the heat, and wondering why someone would just ruin my class like that. One time, I had a jerk that yelled back at me for the entire first half of my class, that a countess interfered and told him to leave. I could have done this, but I was on a time constraint, and didn’t want to detract from the content for those who were there to actually learn something. This was several years ago, now (I want to say 2011-2012), but I’m still unsure of how to react appropriately when it happen again. I say “when”, because it’s endemic. I’m not the only teacher to get this treatment.

In fact, I get “screamed” at in emails more than anything else. I want to say that for every 10 emails I get with information or research requests regarding my blog content, 1 of them will end with explosions and flames. This is when I stop responding. Sure, I could take them for a walk out to the internet woodshed, but that does me nothing but sate a momentary burst of anger, and will only make the querent more pissed. I save that ranting for social media, which I shouldn’t do either, but sometimes, I need to let the heat out. Again, not just me, I’ve heard similar stories from other blog and site owners. Yikes.

Now, I need to talk about the Pennsic Knowne World A&S Display, and I am going to be blunt. The last year I participated (2016) I met, some of, the NASTIEST PEOPLE IN THE SCA EVER. I have displayed on-off only for few years, but two years ago, I damn near quit the SCA for good because of my Pennsic experiences. I’ve been playing now for 20 years, and I was ready to walk, because a few people did not think before they spoke to me. Going back to the issue of communication and neurological disorders, I tried to be kind, but by the end of the day, I could not, and packed up and left early.

What was I displaying? My thesis. Yeah, it was all machine sewn and I had bought trim on it, but I thought that I could discuss my research behind the garments without getting shredded by the thread counters. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I felt defeated and hurt, and was only boosted by a laurel friend from Atlantia, who actually had to chase off one of the assailants, and several people who urged I present at the International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, which I did, thanks to them. My work was on the table for no less than a minute before I was verbally accosted by someone claiming to be a laurel, (I have my reservations about this. I know a ton of peers, and this was so out of character, I think she was lying as an excuse to be rude,) who snarked me for not doing my own goldwork embroidery. My head spun. I’m not an embroiderer, I am actually terrible at embroidery, so I explained, gently, that this was predominantly an academic project, not an SCA one, and I was limited to one semester for completion. So even if I could embroider, there was no way I could do that much work in my allotted time. She fired back, and said that me purchasing sari trim was “tacky”, and because she could embroider that quickly, I should be able to do it, as well.  I decided to fire back with pulling out documentation from the Book of the Eparch, showing that trim and embellishments were controlled by different guilds than the silk sellers and tailors, so in period, I would not have embroidered or woven the trim used on a garment I sewed, but she wanted nothing of it. She just wanted to be rude. I had to stare at her nearby table the entire time, shellshocked, 3 minutes in to a 4 hour display.

I was handed a mimosa by my dear friend the Mimosa Fairy, and I thought I could shake it off. I could not. I was pissed. I wanted to throttle her. And then they just kept coming.

“Why didn’t you hand sew this?”
“I had three months, but here is this great paper and document-…”
“That’s not an excuse.”

And then the coups de grace was the woman who decided to attack WHAT I WAS WEARING as being wrong. It was no less than 90F out. I was wearing a tube with pins and had rushed over from the Unbelted Champions Battle. This is when I lost my patience, and told her to screw. When she complained to the organizer (Atlantian Laurel friend) she was told to stop her rudeness, and get out. Apparently, she felt it necessary to critique every woman’s hot weather bog dress, and I just happened to have hit my last straw and told her to scram.

I packed up and left 2 hours early. Not wanting to people anymore, and wondering if I should even bother sticking around war.

The Lesson:

Why am I whining about this now? Because Pennsic is fast approaching, and I don’t want to deal with it again. I don’t want anybody to deal with the thread counters, the garb snarks, the hecklers, and the pedants.

It is HARD being a teacher. It is HARD to display your art. It takes huevos to get up there. Of course I’ve listened to teachers I’ve disagreed with. You wait until after class and offer to send them an email for further discussion, you do not disrupt their hard work because your research experience tells you otherwise. If it’s really bothering you, get up, give them a friendly wave, and leave. That’s all it takes to be civil.

And despite my own quirks, I cannot, for the life of me, understand those that approach people who are willingly displaying their artwork in the heat of the afternoon for hours, and be rude to them, especially a peer. I was told that the reason people were being rude to me was because I wasn’t wearing my coronet. I should not have to have a specific award, or piece of jewelry to command respect. Again, have I seen research and projects I disagreed with, or thought could use some tweaks? Of course. What do I do? Give them my card and a token, and ask them to shoot me an email if they want feedback. THAT’S IT.  You don’t insert yourself in somebody else’s project unless they ask for it. You don’t stand there in pedantic, elitist glory and get to tell somebody that they should have done something differently. Artists always work hard, and no matter their level, are always their worst critic. Being a jerk to them is a great way to ensure that they never display again. Thanks to rudeness in the SCA, I almost stopped writing icons, and I’m definitely not showing machine-sewn work, ever, again, despite the novel of research that accompanies it. I’ll bring it to my classes, instead.

I love giving out little tokens, too. (As much as I love getting them.) It’s a nice way of saying thanks. I have a wonderful collection of fun beads, charms, beewax, and other goodies given to me because somebody admired what I did. Take the time to sit down and make some, or order something you can’t make. Those little thoughts mean a lot.

The bottom line is this, friends: We are all human beings with feelings. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been in the SCA for 20 years or 20 minutes. Remember the humanity. Remember that we all have something going on.

Don’t be that guy at the A&S Display! Don’t be that heckler in the classroom! Likewise, I need to not open my mouth if you ARE that guy, because I don’t know what’s going on in your life, either. Pennsic is hot. It’s wet. It’s stressful. Let’s all be better this year.

-Anna

Addendum: I’ve noticed some remarks across social media of people getting scared about teaching or displaying at Pennsic. I promise you, cross my heart, that this is not everyone at war. If you have a problem with someone and don’t have anywhere to turn, come find me at the display, or, I camp at the North Gate in block N-18, right on the corner. Ask for Anna (or Angela, most people in my camp refer to me as my mundane name), and I’ll make sure we set this issue straight with the university and display staff.

Icon-a-long with Anna 6: Completion

So, I don’t have a ton of pictures of this, mostly just the end result. The total was 3 floats of highlights, then the embellishments, inscription, shell gold, and border. Total amount of time on this one board: 15 hours. A “light” amount of work. @_@

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After the 3rd day of painting.
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Done!

Use of a pattern doesn’t necessarily mean a copy, so I decided to veer from the original and give a contrast border. The inscription is in Latin, rather than Greek, since the original had the same (from what I could make out).

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I did have some issues getting lines thin enough with my brushes. I think it’s a combination of my own pressure, them wearing out, and just not being thin enough for fine line work on smaller details. For icons where I just do the head or bust, they’re probably still fine, but I need to invest in tinnier liners! I also got a bit carried away with the shell gold on the Hand of God, but everybody loves gold!

I’m also utterly surprised at how good the horse came out.

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It’s now setting up to be oiled in a few weeks, and hopefully dry before Pennsic and delivery to its commissioner. I hope they love it!

 

Next up is the War Sew-a-thon, but I’m hoping to get some paint down on the icon of St. Nicholas next, which is doubling as a backlog scroll for my husband’s Order of the Silver Crescent.