Golden Mantle for Safiya al-Naghira

I’m so very behind on this blog. I don’t think I’ll go back and put everything I’ve done in the last couple of years but a lot of it is on my facebook if you are interested. It’s not as in depth but it’s something.

I’m finally starting to feel inspired again in all things SCA. The need to get back into it has been slowly growing over the last 6 months or so –maybe since Pennsic– and now I finally feel like I’m back. Getting here though, whew, it was a journey. There were a lot of promises to myself to do things for fun and not obligation, to take time and enjoy things, and to please please please stop comparing myself to others. I’m getting there.

I’m going to update my blog with a few of the pieces I especially enjoyed lately making and then I will try to keep things updated as we move forward.

The first piece I’m posting is a Golden Mantle for Safiya al-Naghira. The manuscript I used for inspiration is the Wonders of Creation, a 16th century Persian manuscript. This book is really intersting to me because it is not what I think of when I consider medieval written works. This books speaks of astrology, cosmology, and natural sciences. It is also absolutely beautifully illuminated.


Overall, this was a fun piece to create. I really enjoy Persian art and I hope I continue to get assignments of this nature. Thanks for reading!


Hedeby bag for the Silver Brooch Exchange 2020

I’m back again, and this time with art. I actually completed this project about a year ago but I thought it was time to finally update the record here.
I was invited to participate in a Silver Brooch Gift Exchange (solely for members of the first level art award in the SCA), and these kinds of things are my favorite. I really enjoy creating art for people and these opportunities are perfect for that. I was assigned to make a gift for another fighter artist *and* his persona was norse. It was perfect.
The idea I had was a norse ispired hedeby/haithabu bag. There’s speculation about this particular style of bag for numerous reasons. I think one of the challenges is that organic components often don’t hold up to time so we don’t have a lot of archeological evidence to pull from. There have been handles found, but the handles are never in pairs. This is actually pretty frustrating to me because the design with two handles is very practical. Two handles keep the bag closed and limit the chances of losing things. I don’t believe that I’m the only person that feels this way because many (or most) people reconstruct this bag with two handles.

Handles displayed at the Haithabu Museum


I’m a novice woodworker, so this was the first time I made something like this. I had to redo one handle due to my inexperience, I drilled a hole too close to the edge and it split the wood. I used modern tools to create the handles but in the future, I would explore some of the tools a norse man or woman may have used.
I chose to make the strap in wool using tablet weaving methods. I chose red and black because these are the colors of my giftee. I was worried that the strap would not be long enough because my giftee is very tall, but I think it is *just* long enough.

Finally, I made the bag using wool on the outside because it’s sturdy, protective and period, and I used linen inside. I sewed a pocket into the lining for extra organizational potential, and there’s not historical evidence for this, but I like to add a small pocket in bags for myself, so I did it here too.
Overall, I am happy with how the bag came out, but I think I could definitely make improvements using what I learned. I hope to make handles again but make them a little thinner and finish the handles in linseed oil.
The crazy thing was that my recipient received me as his giftee. His (sca) name is Sigvardr and he made me the most amazing and beautiful goat pendant out of bronze. Consider checking out his FB page Silverhand Jewelry. Here is a picture of the gift I received:

Bronze pendant made by Sigvardr (Silverhand Jewelry)

Thank you for reading!
embla signoff

Arts & Sciences Champion Scrolls for Queen Margarita

I was absolutely delighted to get the scroll assignments for the Arts and Sciences Champions for Queen Margarita. I’ve had the opportunity to do champion scrolls before (these ones) and it’s fun because it feels like I can be a little more free with my design. Immediately, I thought this could be a great opportunity to do a couple of tiny scrolls!

After much research and contemplation, I found this adorable book, The Imhof Prayerbook. It’s a 16th century Flemish prayerbook, only about 90 x 62mm, meant to be carried around by its owner. I really fell in love with this adorable and tiny book. 

I had some challenges though. I had to make it a little bigger to fit the text (with a line for the recipient and a line for the Queen’s signature, both to be filled in at the event.) The final size of my piece ended up about 120mm tall. I really wish I could have made it the right size, but maybe that’s a goal for next time! 


I also spaced the background pattern of the Crown’s Champion scroll a little bigger than I wanted. That was partially because I found a tool that I could use to keep the spacing consistent, not realizing just how wide it was. And, also about the background on the Crown’s Champion scroll, the shading was too light. This was really disappointing to me because it looked right just until I got the rest of the paint on the paper. Now it looks faint. 

The last thing I want to mention is just something that I missed in the details until after. The original painting is done as if the borders are raised and because of that, the 4 sides are not outlined the same. Two sides are darker and two sides are lighter. This is something I should have picked up on but I unfortunately didn’t.


I did really like working small. And I really like doing this style of art with the gems, bugs, and flowers. I think it was an additional challenge to have to work the shading so tiny but, with the right brush, I think it was manageable. I think with even more practice, I will be able to get my lines thinner, or I may experiment more with using a nib. 

I have also been working on my calligraphy and even though it doesn’t match the original manuscript perfectly, I still like it. I had fun making little flourishes on the letters or at the end of lines. I really like my last flourish on both scrolls. I do, however, have ideas on how it could improve but I think I will be working on my calligraphy for a very long time! 

Materials: Gouache and iron gall ink on bristol

Source: The Imhof Prayerbook

Words: Nicol mac Donnchaidh

“By the hand of Margarita, Queen of the Eastern Kingdom, <name of recipient> is named the Crown’s Arts and Sciences Champion this 29th Day of February.  Let word be sent to all baronies, provinces, and shires from Our Barony of Dragonship Haven. Scriptus et finitus est arbitrium iste in oppido Anno Societatis 54.

By the hand of Margarita, Queen of the Eastern Kingdom, <name of recipient> is named the Consort’s Arts and Sciences Champion this 29th Day of February.  Let word be sent to all baronies, provinces, and shires from Our Barony of Dragonship Haven. Scriptus et finitus est arbitrium iste in oppido Anno Societatis 54.”

Tyger’s Eye for Boudicca of House Fulton

When I found out that one of the girls from our household was going to be awarded the Tyger’s Eye, I had to request the scroll assignment. Boudicca routinely volunteers to waterbear, retain for royals, and anything anyone needs help with, always. And she does it all eagerly and cheerfully! I was beyond excited to get the assignment. 

At first, I considered doing an early period scroll, maybe something norse because she tends to dress and act a bit norse. Boudicca is a student to Master Edward dos Scorpus and while she is already fierce, committed, and steadfast with her volunteering, I also know that she likens herself to a barbarian. So, while in my still-browsing-for-inspiration stage, I came upon this image: 


Yes, a man, tackling a lion and pulling apart his jaws. OR I thought, it could easily be a girl forcing a blue Eastern Tyger to drink water, like Boudicca often does. I was officially inspired and decided to use the Luttrell Psalter. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a manuscript from 14th century England with beautiful illuminated margins of fierce and silly beasts, and fun calligraphy. While it isn’t technically her persona, I think her persona is very flexible at this point. 


With this piece, I really wanted to work on making the scroll have a very accurate looking design and clean white work and outlines. I knew that if I missed the mark on any of those things, the piece would definitely look lackluster. Aside from a couple critiques my laurel game me, there is just one spot that I wish I would have gone back to and painted over and redid but otherwise I am pretty happy with the piece.


Words by Matthew MacGyver (below)

Calligraphy and Illumination by myself

Materials: Walnut Ink, gouache, and gilding on bristol

Source: Psalter (The Luttrell Psalter) with calendar and additional material, 14c England


Revered are the Mighty youth of the east And Feared are those who obtain the title of velociraptor, also known as Tiger cub. But further recognition is needed for the individual who kneels before Us this day.  Boudicca of House Fulton has distinguished herself as an unstoppable force for service. She is known as a helpful hand to friend and stranger alike, an eager and jovial retainer for past royalty, and a steadfast and often terrifying water bearer. Boudicca’s drive to serve her kingdom shines bright beyond her years. For this reason Queen Margarita has seen fit to add her into her Order of the Tigers eye, so that she may continue to serve as an inspiration to gentles of all ages. 

Done this day A.S. 54 at A Market day at Birka, in the great barony of Stonemarche

Brandubh Board for Ducal Challenge

I had the honor of using my art to sponsor one of my fighter friends in a tournament. He publicly asked for help and I messaged him a few days later asking if he had any offers yet. He hadn’t so I volunteered. 

The tournament rules were that if you were a fighter, you either had to commission a piece of art or create a piece of art yourself that would then go into the prize pool. I had never participated in this tournament before because it’s quite far from me, and I also didn’t have a great concept of what art is acceptable but I tried anyway. I knew my friend was into board games and I had created my Hnefatafl board in the past so I thought that might be a good jumping point.

Since I’m not actually insane, I decided I wouldn’t do the 11×11 board which has 37 glass pieces which is… a lot. I knew that there were other size boards so that’s where I went looking. I ended up finding an Irish version of the game called Brandubh that used a 7×7 board and only 13 glass pieces. Which seemed perfect for this project.

I had fun creating this but, I really struggled with authenticity. There is this push and pull between creative fun and accurate fun. The original board that I used for inspiration was carved wood with spots for pegs. I think I have an idea for making pegs in the future but I didn’t have the time to try that for this project. 

Brandubh Board found at Ballinderry crannog excavations, 9-11 century, likely from Dublin

Instead of really diving into learning how-to intricately carve wood and make pegged pieces (with more research to figure out what material these may have been made,) I focused on best guesses, aesthetic, and durability — this is meant to be played after all. But, part of me felt like I would be scrutinized for using modern methods and materials even though I know this is not an A&S competition and I volunteered to do this for fun and for the love of my friend. Even with that in my brain, part of me still felt like I was failing. But in the end, I did it the way I planned and I am happy with how it turned out. Part of this journey, I think, is having the right standards for each project on a case-by-case basis.

So, I ended up painting the board with acrylics. I used designs that I found on extant boards but I also took some artistic liberties, including a blue tyger face right in the center of the board. I made glass bead pieces because I knew that they were used in other Tafl boards so it was at least plausible. I wanted this board to be East Kingdom themed so I used lots of purples and yellows which may not be the most historically accurate but it did look pretty sexy, in my opinion. Then I sprayed the board with a sealant to ensure that this would last. That may be the most extra modern thing I did but it would be unfortunate if all the paint chipped.

Finished painted board


**this is not the beginning set-up to the game.**

New unbroken King

New unbroken King

This project really challenged me in a different way. Part of me always wants to do something as accurate as possible but there is a time and place for everything. My sponsored fighter told me he loved the game and was very happy to be entering it into the tournament and he also told me that it was one of the first prizes to go at the end. In this case, what matters is that everyone is happy with the results and I think in that way, I can call this a success!  

Exploding Glass and Other Lessons

Recently, a memory came up on my Facebook of things I’ve learned from beadmaking/lampworking. I posted it about 2 years ago. This is how the list goes:

  1. If a tool or glass has touched the fire… it’s not safe to touch (especially with your mouth) even if it was just in the fire for a second.
  2. Sometimes it’s best to just swear at the glass and walk away.
  3. The fuel always runs out at the worst possible time.
  4. If you don’t protect everything, you will burn something (carpet, table, clothes…).
  5. Sometimes it’s not working because the world wants you to be happy, just accept that.
  6. Some colors suck more than others.
  7. Some colors pretend to be one color but are really another.
  8. Glass likes slow change… not fast or whippy and spinny … this applies to all parts of the process.

I still like my list two years later. All those rules are rules that I learned from experience. Most, but not all, have tragic stories behind them. Some of these mistakes I still make two years later but, I’m still learning everyday. 

But the thing is, I probably could have learned some of these things from someone else’s experience. It’s a fault of mine that I don’t like asking for help and once I commit to something… I commit to it fully. So that leads to a lot of struggle that my friends don’t see. When I first started learning to lampwork, a lot of people praised me for good work. A lot of people made fun that things come easily for me and that I’m good at everything. But what I don’t post about often is the frustrated, crying, mess I am when every single piece of glass I try to slowly warm up shocks and pieces go flying, and hey I melted my pajama pants to my legs because I probably should have worn something safer. Then, since I haven’t had a lot of experience with working with fire, I would pick up the mandrel or a piece of glass still hot because ahhh it’s burning the carpet! Then my fingers are burning and I drop it back down because better the carpet than my hands… Then finally, my partner soothing me by reminding me that I can’t just be good at something immediately, these things take practice and time. And I want to quit. Forever. But I can’t.. Or won’t. I start over again and I keep trying until something works. And that’s the thing I post on Facebook: the final thing that worked. 

So, I have been working on reaching out for help in different areas so I can learn from other people’s mistakes. I’ve also been working on sharing my mistakes so others can learn from me. I don’t just do this from dangerous on fire crafts, but scribal arts, fiber arts, and others as well. 

The thing that drew me to the SCA is that everyone is willing to help everyone succeed. If you want to learn to do something… There is likely someone more than eager to help, you just have to ask around. I know it’s hard to do, trust me I know. But sometimes the hard things are the most rewarding. 

Order of the Tygers Combatant for Juliana de Essex

So there I was, early in the morning on a cool day at Panteria. I was just waking up, still wrapped in blankets in bed, curled up with my partner. I opened my phone and noticed I had an email waiting for me. It was from our Tyger Clerk of the Signet and it was an assignment. Lazily I opened it up because getting an assignment is kind of like getting a present and I needed to know immediately. As I read through the details my excitement started to skyrocket. Female fighter, OTC, I think you might want this one, and then Juliana de Essex. I turned to my partner and gave him a gentle wake-up smack and told him about my assignment. “JULIANA IS GETTING HER OTC!!!!!!! AND I GOT THE ASSIGNMENT!!!!!” 

And from then on, all the way until July when the assignment was due, I was a tornado of panic and excitement. I was not willing to give up the assignment (I didn’t even want to ask her husband if she had preferences or had ever mentioned dream scroll ideas – in case he said she had a preferred scribe). Of course, I did ask him and not only did he give me the information I desired, he seemed happy I got the assignment. 

I’ve had the pleasure to work with Juliana at the PAL practices and at events and I felt we became fast friends. Her persona is early Persian but her husband had mentioned that she might like icons of the sun and Simurgh (a mythological Persian Phoenix). I began my search looking for any manuscript that Simurgh appeared. 

The most promising manuscripts were The Persian Book of Kings (Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp), which was an epic poem (I think 50,000 lines long) written in the 10th century and recreated over and over again. The version I chose was illuminated in the 16th century, a little late for her persona but it fit in every other way. The poem told both mythological and historical stories and this version was lavishly (and I do mean lavishly) illuminated. But, I couldn’t find a complete digitized copy of this manuscript and I became very frustrated in my search. 

I ended up buying a physical copy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s hardcover edition of the book online (a used copy and then I used credit cards points and a gift card because I’m not made of money!) and I have no regrets. This book is incredible, even if I didn’t buy it to use to inspire a scroll, it’s beautiful just to look at! There were a few pages that had Simurgh on it (and it’s my favorite version of him with all his colorful glory!) and I ended up using a fake arabic script – for the very first time – to match the feeling of the words on the page.

The not-so-good – I am ready for my illuminations representing people to start looking like what I picture in my mind. I think this turned out… okay but, there is definitely room for improvement. I know it’s a matter of practice but I really like putting people on scrolls and it always either doesn’t look like it’s in the style of the manuscript or it doesn’t look like the person. It’s a real struggle. I know with practice, this will continue to improve. 

Also, although I think the rocks on the side of the mountain look good, they probably would be improved with more careful blending or a combination of blending and hatching. There is a debate whether the original art was done with hatching or blending the paint or a combination and if I  had good digitized images, I would have a better idea. I do think I captured the feeling of the piece though. 

The good – This was so fun to do! I got to use a wide range of colors and try a new blending technique. I think honestly and truly, the best part of this was how fun it was. But I also liked how the gold turned out – I did an enormous area of gold gouache and I was able to make it look pretty solid. When I lay gold paint I do a layer and no matter how thick I make it, it always seems to look splotchy, so I have started to do two layers with a lot of success. I also liked the finer details on Simurgh like his back feathers and spots. I like the way he looks. 

Other – I tried a new hand, a faux arabic hand that I got from some scribes online. At first I was a little frustrated learning it but I think after some practice, it came out well. I always do a line of calligraphy and hate it but once you get a few lines down it starts to flow together. I tend to like the hands that I can be a little free with and I think this one was great for that. I do think I need to work on my overall spacing of lines. Most manuscripts have lines that either fill out until the end, have spacers, or are consistent in another way. I really wanted to keep Matthew’s words intact because they are awesome** I’m going to type them below I like them that much. FB_IMG_1568389835924

Materials: Gouache, Iron Gall Ink by Ian the Green, Calli red ink, on Bristol

Source: The Persian Book of Kings (Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp), 16th century

Words by Lord Matthew MacGyver


Your majesties, we, your order stand as one

Now baking In Malagentian Sun

Your Tigers Combatant fierce and tested

Admit that some of us are bested 

By How Juliana De Essex finds her fun 


Her arms of brilliant solar rays

Are last seen by many men she slays 

And bruised we turn away to hide

Attempt to save our battered pride 

From that evil spear with which she plays 


King Ozur, Queen fortune to you we plead 

At this the 33rd GNE 

Acknowledge how she has grown stronger

So that she will beat us up no longer  

And perhaps harass the Chivalry


Given this 13th day of July Anno Societatis LIV 

in our Province of Malagentia


King’s and Queen’s Thrown Champion’s Scrolls

Now this was a fun assignment! I was given the 2018 Thrown Weapon Champion Scroll assignments that were awarded at Panteria that year. I was excited to have an assignment that had fewer restrictions and I could go a bit wild with. I decided that I wanted to make them in the style of the personas of the royals: King Brennan and Queen Caoilfhionn and that year they were wearing a lot of Byzantine. I asked some laurels I knew how much should I put of the royals into these scrolls and I was advised that it should not be designed like a scroll that is given to the royals but I can use aspects of them in the scroll. 

So, I found this Manuscript called the T’oros Roslin Gospels (specifically Folios 5v and 6r) that was created in Armenia 1262 CE. It was perfect for the style that I was imagining, with a place to put miniatures of the king and queen and beautiful designs around the outside. I just fell in love with the manuscript. 


When I created each piece, I tweaked the design to have the king in the center of one and the queen in the center of the other and crossed axes over the top (for thrown weapons) with the king or queen insignia at the cross. I tried to match the calligraphy to the original manuscript and the hand that I worked with was a lot of fun. I really like how the crosses of the e’s angle out. 


Finally, the words were written by Lord Nicol in the style of a Byzantine document to match the style I was going for. I really love when a piece’s illumination, calligraphy, and words all match so seamlessly.  

However, the very best part was that when the royals went to sign the scrolls, apparently they were blown away and loved the little miniatures of themselves. I heard rumors that they wanted to steal the scrolls instead of giving them out! What a compliment! Because of that, I decided to make a stepping down gift for them where I did the illumination again with a few alterations and framed the pieces for them. They seemed very grateful for the gifts.

Materials: gold gilding, gouache, bristol paper, iron gall ink (by Ian the Green)

Source: T’oros Roslin Gospels


Words by Lord Nicol mac Donnchaidh


Norse Hnefatafl Board in Oak

FB_IMG_1565960623460I’m a geek at heart (just like the rest of you Scadians out there) and one of my passions is board games. Well, I started learning about Hnefatafl (lovingly called Viking Chess by some) online and I was really interested. Then I learned my calculus professor in college studied board game math (way over my head btw) and one of the games he was researching was Hnefatafl. I geeked out really hard with him in office hours!

Around this time I also was exploring the art of lampworking and beginning to make glass beads, trying to replicate viking age finds. This art was haaaarrrd to start. I was constantly shocking glass and burning myself and my carpet and everything around me and too shy to ask advice from those who are more experienced than I…. but I’ll talk more about my adventures in glass in a later post. I did, however, find out that game pieces on Hnefatafl boards were often made of glass.

I decided that I wanted to create a useable game board with glass pieces and ended up entering it in the local arts and sciences competition (and became Malagentia’s A&S champion that year!)

Instead of rewording everything I did, I’m going to include my documentation for this project. I would love feedback or questions if you have any. Otherwise I hope you enjoy!

(P.S. I usually bring this to events if you want to see or play it!)


Items in entry:

-An oak board with an 11 by 11 Hnefatafl board hand carved into the surface painted with black and blue milk paint.

-37 pieces created by hand using lampworking techniques including: 

-24 glass pieces in a yellow-green color (attackers)

-12 glass pieces in a blue color (defenders)

-1 King (defender)


Hnefatafl or King’s Table was a “chess-like” game played during the viking age in scandinavia. Children and adults as well as men and women (1) all played this game which involved a large force of attackers (24 attackers in this example) against a smaller force of defenders (12 defenders and a king in this example). The objective for the defenders is to help the king escape the board through one of the corners and the objective for the attackers is to capture the king. There are different versions of the game that include boards as small as 7 by 7 and as large as 15 by 15 and a variety of sizes of forces. In some versions dice were also used to restrict or control distance of movement. 

Tafl boards have been found made of stone, bone, and wood but very few complete boards have survived time. Some pieces have been found made of a variety of materials such as glass, bone, antler, stone, amber, and horse teeth (2).  


    I decided to use oak because it was a wood available during the viking age (3) for a variety of purposes. Unfortunately, since there were so few wooden boards found due to how fast wood decomposes, there isn’t a large sample size to pull from. One board found was carved into spruce, which I attempted to use previously but, because of the softness of this wood I had a hard time carving it without splintering. I had more success getting clean lines with oak. 

          This was my first attempt at carving wood and it was a learning experience. I used hand carving tools that were similar to what a norse person would use.  I found later that the v-shaped gouge I used wasn’t invented yet during the time period I was aiming for but a u-shaped gouge had been invented. I could have easily substituted the tools and it would not have dramatically changed the appearance of the finished piece. 

          I chose to paint inside the wooden carved lines because it makes it easier to define the game spaces and the norse frequently painted their wooden carvings (3). I used casein paint because it seems feasible that the norse would have mixed pigments with casein because casein, found in milk would have likely been available and is fairly durable and long lasting.

    I made the glass pieces using lampworking techniques which is a skill that I have been working on for other projects. There were many finds of glass pieces because they don’t decompose as easily as some other materials. It is possible that glass was used because it was a valuable resource that would allow one to show off their wealth, it was available, and with careful care, it would last a long time . There were 20 glass pieces that were found in Sweden at Birka grave 523 (2) that appear to have been created on a mandrel similar to what I used. I used a modern torch and propane where a more period technique would have been a clay glass oven. 

          I decided to use blue glass for the attackers because a dark blue was frequently used in game piece artifacts and it is a dark color that I liked. The opposing force were generally created in a lighter color. I used a yellow color because the contrast was appealing. Another option would have been a light blue because there were a number of light blue / dark blue game sets found. There was a dark blue and yellow set found in Norway that dates back to the 8th century. This made yellow especially appealing to me because my persona is from Norway.


1)  Viking Answer Lady- King’s Table: Game of the Noble Scandinavians (

2) Looking For Evidence: Viking Game Pieces (

3) Viking Answer Lady- Woodworking in the Viking Age (

Tyger’s Cub at Birka

This could be my favorite scroll I’ve done as of yet. If not the very favorite, it’s definitely in the top two! I was assigned this Tyger’s Cub and I happened to know the recipient and his family personally. I was excited to reach out to his mom to ask what he might like and I was not disappointed. She mentioned that she had this idea about Pokemon marginalia creatures in the illumination. Now, that’s an idea I can run with ❤

(and quick side note, if a scribe is asking you what kind of things your friend or family member wants on a scroll, this is exactly the kind of thing that I’m looking for! I love trying to incorporate hobbies, interests, things they geek out about, their passions, favorite colors and animals, a picture of the recipient. Honestly… anything helps)

Anyway, she mentioned her son didn’t have a defined persona yet but his parents are from Constantinople in the 10th century. My goal was to create a scroll that was age appropriate but looked period enough from afar and fit close-ish to the period of his parent’s persona. This is what I came up with.

Evan Tyger cub

Evan shiny

Materials: Walnut ink, gouache, gilding, bristol paper

Source: MS 19352 – Feb 1066, Psalter, including Psalm 151 and The Book of Odes (Rahlfs 1088).