Monday, November 12, 2018

Apprentiship Contract

My friends Elska and Robert asked me to make an indenture contract for their apprentice ceremony, and of course I said yes.  They specifically wanted this on my parchment, and I was happy for the chance to do some calligraphy on what I've made. 

Robert used wording based on 14th c. indenture contracts, and I used the format from the same time period.  The word "Chirographum" is written in the middle, and the contract words are written on either side.  I used multiple abbreviations to shorten the text so it would fit. 

The contract is signed by witnesses, sealed by the participating parties, and then cut in half in a rather messy way so that the two pieces can be joined again.  This prevents forgeries because it would be difficult to reproduce the correct line-up both in terms of parchment texture and all the pretty little lines in the words.

There were some near-heart attacks when Elska cut the calligraphy in half.  She said that first snip nearly did her in.  For me, Best Day Ever!

I also made a quick & dirty little seal for Elska, but forgot the corn starch, so the plastic stuck to the wax something terrible.  They will have to re-do that seal eventually.

Many thanks to Susanne Jensen for the photographs!

Huge thank you to The Pensive Pen for all of their incredibly helpful information.

Abbreviations from

þ = 'th' sound not in 'the'
yͤ = the
o' = of
fs = ss
7 = and
p = ar/er and the line is on the descender not in the middle.  So "others" becomes 'oths' with a long descender on the h to indicate missing 'ar/er' sounds.
~ = missing letters that one can fill in by context.
C descender = 'es' for the plural on the end of a word, this was exceptionally fun.
t' = to

Sheep parchment, split.
Oak gall ink by Master Robert
Speedball red & blue (this HATED the quills)
goose quills cut by me.
Lining quill was a chicken feather because the kid insisted.
Ruler, pencil
Sealing wax, seals, fire.

This is the abbreviated form, though it's missing some because my modern computer didn't really have the equivalent of some of these options.

Þ, þ yͤ
es = descender C off the letter before, es is omitted

By þis indenture does Robert o’ Ferness place himself wiþ Mistress Elska á Fjárfelli as apprentice, 7 yͤ aforesaid Elska accepts yͤ  aforesaid Robert as apprentice, for learning o’ useful crafts 7 arts 7 sciencC 7 o’ writing about þem, 7 o’ teaching þem to oths, within yͤ Dominion 7 beyond.

T’is agreed þat Robert promisC t’ be faithful t’ Elska in all things, not t’ rob her, or take anything aw’y from her, 7 not t’ leave her for a great or less wage for any reason whatsoev, t’ reimburse her for all expensC she incurs on his behalf, t’ tell her yͤ truth, t’ keep her secrets, 7 listen t’ her council in all manner o’ lawful þings. Furth, yͤ said Robert will aid 7 abet yͤ said Elska in her own research as an apprentice ought, such as in yͤ fetching o’ books 7 yͤ brewing o’ drink.

Likewise Elska promisC t’ instruct, or cause t’ be instructed by others, in yͤ knowledge o’ crafts 7 arts 7 sciencC, 7 writing 7 teaching o’ þem, by yͤ best 7 most excellent means þat she knows or can devise. 7 for her part, yͤ said Elska shall allow yͤ said Robert t’ peacefully play at lawful games o’ diverse sorts, 7 on occasion don armor or bow t’ defend yͤ Dominion against any 7 all who would seek t’ cause it harm.

Þis agreement shall last for one year, 7 renew annually unless eith party shall end it with notice, or it should come t’ pass þat yͤ said Robert achievC recognized mastery o’ a craft or o’ an art or o’ a science.

Done Nov X, A.S. LIII, at yͤ Fall Æcademy in yͤ Dominion o’ Myrkfaelinn.

In witness whereo’ yͤ aforesaid partiC pledge to þese indenturC interchangeably have put þeir seals, 7 attested by yͤ signed partiC.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Parchment Workshop

The workshop went very well.  I lost most would-be participants to the fall cold that swept through and people are still coughing from, but I had 3 enthusiastic students, and we had a great day. 
My time estimate was excellent except for defrosting the hides.  I had to resort to hot water so we had something to work on.

Photos by Hrólfr Á Fjárfelli‎ and Simon, who were also participating.

Peggy fleshing the hide.
Then they dehaired, 2nd fleshed, stretched (using both pebbles and continuous lacing)

wet scraped both sides with a round knife, sanded with a cuttle bone (pumice, parchmenter's bread, and shaving with a round knife are also options).
Cut a finished piece of parchment off of the frame (this was before the wet one went up), and then cut it to shape for best use of material.  Peggy & Simon each took home an 8x10 piece of parchment, Hrolfr says he'd like to make his own.  Peggy is reserving smaller deer hides should they become available (big bucks make great rawhide, but not great parchment, stick with younger animals).
Overall it was a great day.  We started around 10:00 a.m. and ended about 5:30 with reasonable breaks. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Preparing for a Parchment Workshop

October 21st will be my first go at running a parchment workshop.  I'm doing it from my home because that is where I have everything set up.  I'm hoping to do one in PA in the spring.  It's an all day affair, even with each stage prepared ahead of time with different hides. 

I still have to clean the place up, but otherwise I'm ready to launch. 

I have hides in the following stages, each one ready to advance to the next according to the order of how a single hide would progress from raw material to finished parchment. 

1: A dried rawhide (this won't go into water, but that's where it would go in the next step)
2: A softened green hide ready for scudding, which will go into the lime bath.
3: A hide that I froze after the lime bath with hair slipping.  Depending on how the hair comes out we'll use this one for degraining and 2nd fleshing, or we'll do a grain-on.  I let the hide tell me that.  This goes into the rinse water.
4: A hide ready to go up on the stretcher for wet scraping.  There's a bit of a hitch here as I have to skip ahead to cutting a finished piece off of the stretcher, but that's OK. 
5: A hide for sanding and re-wetting for the final stretch into parchment.  Sometimes I stretch 2x, but this is nice & clean, so once will probably be it.
6: (this is where one ought to cut the hide off the stretcher).  We'll take the parchment we just cut off the stretcher (herse) and I'll show how to store it rolled, and how to cut it to shape.

I have to sweep the basement, weed around the barn entrance, clean up in the barn (there is room for me to work, but not for 6 other people to watch), and hook up the other hose because the one on there now sprung a leak when my father backed the trailer over it.  I should probably add a few more lights in the basement too.
I also need to figure out how to raise the fleshing beam for taller people.  I'm a mini-human, so that setup won't work for average to tall people.
I have trash bag aprons, rubber gloves & hairbands.
Will have to fill water buckets the day before, and probably make labels so I don't lose my place and that will make it easier for people taking photos to know what is what.

Monday, August 20, 2018

My Baby, My Precious!

Three good friends stopped by yesterday, two together, one after they left.  Many great conversations were had, but one note in particular was extremely helpful to me in putting certain things I've been struggling with in context.

In art school, the whole "My Precious!" thing regarding the art object I created got drummed out of me, and for good reason. It is an object, and what people say about or do to that object is not something that can hurt me. I can take that information and use it appropriately, or file it in the category in which it belongs.

Sometime in the last few moths or years I've reverted to "My Precious!" and didn't realize it until recently, and couldn't understand why my feelings were getting hurt when someone criticized my work. In a theoretical conversation about spheres of control, Cori pointed out that I have lost so much over the last few years in terms of my physical independence (illness, loss of the driving, not being able to work, etc.) and the arts and crafts are one of the few things that I am 100% in control of, that they have become much much more important to me in terms of my time and emotional investments.

Elisabeth pointed out that most people in our hobby feel that way about the things they create, in fact most people who have not been through art school do; that object is My Baby. My Baby may be ugly, a bit stinky, scream real loud, and have some kind of rash happening on their head, but it's MY baby, and My Baby is the most beautiful precious wonderful baby on the face of the planet and I will cut you if you say differently.

There are of course ways to help someone with their baby without insulting them; "What a precious little baby, very lively! He seems to be a bit gassy, have you tried burping him on your knee vs. on your shoulder (alternate technique)? All of mine had cradle cap, they grow out of it eventually (practice/time). Look at your beautiful little face and tiny human hands, you are just too cute for words!" Shortened to the point of rudeness there, but parents know what is wrong with their kids, or they know something is going on even if not exactly what, but we don't barge in on their parenting and tromp all over telling them what for and expect a good reaction. So treat the art like someone's precious newborn, including your own. Yes, newborns are ugly, so is new art (mostly, except mine, he was beautiful - JK, he looked like an angry old man with a rash, but he got pretty over time, and once we figured out the milk allergy he became healthy and beautiful). Same with arts & crafts; they improve over time. And like children, they may be far from perfect for their entire lives, but they are still My Baby! and that is important.

My friends have good insight, and these are important things to remember.
They also got to meet the fuzzy bunns, which is even more important; just ask Tootsie, she'll tell you.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Bad Laurel! Go lay down!

I had the unfortunate experience of being the victim of uninvited criticism on the first book I’ve ever made. 

Two days ago, I posted a ‘look see pretty’ album on Face Book of the book I made for my friend Sadira, 8th Baroness of Thescorre to commemorate her term and stepping down.  I made the album public so that I could share it in the parchment group.  This individual, a total stranger to me, took that public setting as an invitation to critique my work without asking first.  She offered the appropriate compliments “BUT…” and then proceeded to tell me what I had done wrong in the book cover. 

I appreciate her enthusiasm, extensive knowledge, skill, craftsmanship and desire to help me learn more about this topic.  “But…” she did not ask before offering this critique, which was outright rude.  I reminded her, gently but firmly, that it is polite to ask for a person’s documentation before offering commentary; at which point she insulted my researching abilities without having read anything (it was neither requested nor required for her purposes), reminded me of how wrong I was and how right she was, accused me of wasting her time, and then continued to expound on the proper way to do things.

If she had stopped and said ‘yes, of course, I would love to see your documentation’ I would have happily sent it to her, and she would have seen that I do indeed understand the different elements and processes of book covers in different time periods, and that I made some design decisions that deviated from the initial plan based on factors ranging from ‘oh shit’ mistakes to incorporating modern symbolism in a not-quite-historic way. 
I lost my temper, but I considered my words carefully because the people who matter were watching; and those aren’t Laurels (more on that later), they are untitled gentles, new Lords and Ladies, and artisans who cannot be afraid to show a new work for fear of being bitten by Attack Laurel (excepting her excellent self The Attack Laurel).  Yes, I totally Lost. My. Shit.  I told her she was rude and pointed out that she barged in uninvited, made uninformed assumptions about me and my work, and that she needed to ask permission before offering critique.  I also told her that if she says that sort of thing to people at A&S shows that is a Problem.  As you can imagine, she did not take it well.  I injured her pride after she insulted my intelligence.  (For those not in the know on how A&S shows work; this lady essentially came to my picnic uninvited, told me my potato salad was made wrong and there’s only one way to make it and here’s HER recipe, declined to read my recipe, and then got mad when I reminded her that it’s polite to taste something before declaring that you don’t like it. And then stormed off with the statement that she’d only serve her potato salad to her friends and family from now on, so there).

My friends who happen to be Laurels and other assorted Peerages came to the defense, with full alphabet soup, and I cannot thank them enough.  My friends who are not Laurels rallied and complimented and asked good questions politely to demonstrate good and proper behavior.  

I did indeed put my work ‘out there’ and this sort of thing can indeed happen when you do that.  It’s a risk of releasing imperfection into the world; but perfection is no protection against harsh and unwanted criticism either.  The real tragedy is that if she had followed the proper forms of asking for my documentation, and treated me as an equal, we would both have a new friend right now.  We could have geeked out to our heart’s content and, like a marble fountain bringing clean water to a city square, I would have poured out all of the respect and admiration her skill and knowledge deserves.

Ask first, my friends.  Talk to the artisans whose work you are looking at like they are your equal, because they are your equal.  Do not let arrogance overtake your enthusiasm.  Forget your regalia and theirs, and learn from them before trying to teach them.  If you are just waiting for someone to stop talking before you can plow over them with what you have to say, you are doing this for all the wrong reasons.  Taking pride in your work and your knowledge is awesome; self-aggrandizement is not.  I will remember this exchange and guard my own words and actions so that I myself do not repeat her mistake.  And I do understand how easy it can be to override someone in enthusiasm for a subject you love.

I have thick skin.  I’m fine.  I’m delighted with my first book with all of its flaws.  It was made with love and a lot of swearing, for my friend who I both respect and admire for many very good reasons.  Neither love nor craft are perfect; and that’s OK. 

Have the Courage to try new things, and to continue even through adversity.
Do not be afraid to demand Justice, but also be Just in your thoughts and words.
Have Mercy and try to understand where the other person is coming from, especially when you are angry.
Be Generous in your thoughts and actions, and do what you can for others as you have the ability to do.
Have Faith in your own ability and theirs.
Be Noble in all things, especially when it is hard.
Have Hope that you will learn from these experiences.

Yours in Service, Love, and Friendship
THL Abigail Kelhoge