12th century duchess scroll,  Calligraphy,  SCA,  Scriptorium,  Scroll - Duchy

Scriptorium – my secret 12th century scroll project – a Duchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scrollWhile I was writing about the beautiful Grant of Arms scroll made by Meuric ap Rhys, which I just recently received, I remembered that I didn’t post about my own most recent and very secret 12th century scroll project yet. 🙂

But now that my most recent and very secret scroll was officially given out during court at coronation, I can tell you more about it. I made a 12th century based and inspired Duchess scroll for Rhiannon, Our beloved (former) Queen of the beautiful Kingdom of Meridies. It is the second 12th century scroll I ever made! And – by the way – this scroll is the very first one I ever created by using real parchment!

And here it is – a photo of my 12th century Ducchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle.
Photo of the scroll taken the recent coronation event, courtesy by Ellen DeLacey:

2017-09- Racaire - Duchess Rhiannon - 12th century scroll project - SCA scrolls - awards - Kingdom of Meridies - Duchess scroll
12th century Ducchess scroll for Rhiannon of the Isle. Photo copyright Ellen DeLacey 09.2017

Yes, this scroll is really rather big and the calligraphy & illumination was done on real parchment. As far as I remember this parchment was made from goat skin. It is so soft to the touch that I had to restrain myself from petting it all the time when I got it. Btw. it was a lovely gift from a wonderful member of the order of the rose who commissioned the scroll for the rose tournament at Gulf Wars this year. And as soon as I got the commission for Rhiannon’s Ducchess scroll, I knew that this lovely parchment would be perfect for this project. Yeah, sometimes my gut feeling can be quite overwhelming and demanding and in this case it screamed: “Go big or go home…”. 😉

Though this time the “go big” wasn’t actually my own idea. The bigger size was already a request when I accepted the commission. And I have to admit that I found this idea quite intriguing. Just to see where this project and my ideas would take me made it already more than worthwhile and regardless to say – I was always a huge fan of Rhiannon. Especially since she welcomed me so hearty in her Dragons Or camp at my very first Gulf Wars and made sure that I had the time of my life. Her camp Dragons Or is simply filled with some of the most amazing people I ever met in the SCA and damn, they have beer on tap. Well, let me rephrase that – they have really great beer on tap! *swoon*

But back again to the project on hand. Though I am quite used to trying out new things and techniques or taking risks like these, I was quite intimidated at first. As Rhiannon has always been a great friend and inspiration, I wanted to make something amazing and beautiful for her. A scroll she would love and could be proud of. Well, as you can imagine, this kind of expectations added quite some extra pressure on myself and my project. And as this wasn’t intimidating enough, I had never worked on real parchment before. Yes, I worked with faux parchment – pergamenata- but how easy or difficult would it be to create a scroll on real parchment? Would the ink bleed? Would it take on ink and paint without problems or did I pet it too much and left too much oil on its surface? Which side should I use? How shall I cut the parchment?

Question over question was literally coming down on me and I even panicked a bit as my self doubts began to pile up. However, it didn’t help. I had to take all my courage together and to start working as my time was very limited. There was definitely no time left to make any more excuses or to hesitate as Meridian Grand Tournament was fast approaching. I wanted to deliver the scroll there so I could avoid sending it by mail where it could get damaged or arrive too late.   

At this point I had already laid out and pressed the parchment flat for several days because I had stored it as I got it – rolled up. And uneven ground is for sure not the best basic layer to work with when you are doing calligraphy or pen work. And all this days, while I had it on the floor of my crafting room with heavy books piled on top of it to straighten it out, I circled it several times a day, contemplating the best way to cut it.

Oh, yes, it was driving me nuts! There was already a part missing which was removed for another scroll before I even got it. Therefore it seemed like the most difficult decision ever. But I had to decide which cut would work out better… Last but not least, I even asked my husband for help in this case as I just couldn’t make up my mind. You can tell that I was really desperate. *lol*

But you will laugh – I nearly forgot about this painful process until I started writing about the scroll and came to the point where I remembered the beginning phase of my project. I guess it’s kinda like dental work – it hurts until you get to the dentist, it hurts while the dentist is working at it and some weeks later you might barely remember this painful incident. Like the “why the hell did I start this damn project” throughout the project suddenly magically turns into a “wasn’t so bad after all” after the project is finished. *lol*

But back to the project – the parchment was flattened by several heavy books on top of it for about one week to get it as flat as possible. Then I finally made a decision and cut the parchment into a manageable seize so I could mount it to my raised calligraphy writing board which my husband made for me some time ago. Though mounting might be a far to elaborate word for stretching and fixating some parchment to a wooden board via adhesive tape. Yeah, I admit it, I went the convenient route here to keep the parchment in its place and flat. 😉

As soon as I could see the final cut on my calligraphy board, I got a much better impression of the possibilities. I knew that I had some definitive “must haves” on my list: a rose, a dragon and Rhiannons coat of Arms. And given that it was a Ducchess scroll for a Queen stepping down, I had quite some things to work with. As always in such a case I went back to my computer to see if I have a suitable period 12th century inspiration which I could use or at least adapt. And I also knew that there was a certain 12th century initial which I always wanted to use. Within short time I found a very nice period picture which showed a dragon and I had the feeling that I could adapt the composition to include a rose, as Rhiannon had wished.

So far so good. The parchment was on the calligraphy board, my husband provided me with a suitable text for the Duchess scroll and I had plenty of period inspiration to work with.

To avoid adding any more natural fat from my hands onto the surface of the parchment than I already applied by carelessly petting it, I put on some cotton gloves before I continued with the next step – the outlines for the penwork. This is always one of my favorite steps as it finally brings to paper what my brain had imagined and kept me up with when it was time to sleep.

However, as I am not perfect myself, not all outlines always look and work perfectly at the first try. Though it is always a little bit hard for me to keep myself from erasing parts which don’t turn out to work properly and which I have to rework. But if I had used the eraser at this point – before I add the pen work lines, paint or calligraphy – than this could and in most cases would alter the surface at this point which could in the worst scenarios cause the ink to bleed all over the paper, cause it to not take the ink at all at its surface or could cause awful looking “krackles”… Yeah, that was a very hard lesson to learn when I picked up this hobby. And before you ask – yeah, what counts for parchment also counts for pergamenata or faux parchment. I can therefore only advise you to put on gloves and to wait for any corrective measures until the very end- regardless how much those mistakes might bother one. This patience and suffering will be well worth it. 

And soon more about my work at this 12th century scroll project as well as more detail photos of this very special 12th century scroll. I also already started writing on my posting about my new 12th / 13th century stamps for my upcoming stamping and garb projects… Now that I was able to replace my old tablet with a new one which works without problems, it shouldn’t take too long until I get to it… 🙂

Best regards Racaire