Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pierre de Tours (Court Barony)

Court Baron
Bjorn’s Ceilidh and Baronial Investiture, Barony of Concordia of the Snows
Awarded November 8, 2014 A.S. 49 (XLIX)



Melchior Kriebel (Order of the Golden Rapier)

Order of the Golden Rapier
River War, Barony of Iron Bog
Awarded September 13 2014, AS 49 (XLIX)




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Camille des Jardins (Order of the Golden Rapier)

Order of the Golden Rapier
Great Northeastern War
Awarded July 12, 2014 AS49 (XLIX)





Details:
Calligraphy by Mickel von Salm and illumination by Isabel Chamberlaine. Inspired by the 15th century Sforza Tarot Cards held by the Pierpont Morgan Library MS M.630, no. 23.

This was a collaboration piece between myself and Mickel von Salm, initiated by Carolyne de la Pointe.

Materials: For the illuminated contribution to this piece was Jerry Tresser's Liquid Gesso; 23k gold leaf; 23k shell-gold; Windsor & Newton gouache; homemade sap green.

Words by Lord Michael Arcensis

Scroll ID: Isabel C 46
Completed July 2014

Lillia de Vaux (Order of the Pelican)

Order of the Pelican
Pennsic War, Kingdom of Æthelmearc
Awarded 
August 6, 2014 AS 49 (XLIX



Monday, April 7, 2014

Antonio Patrasso (Queens Order of Courtesy)

Queens Order of Courtesy
First Court, Coronation of Brennan and Caoilfhionn, Barony of Settmour
Awarded April 5, AS 48 (XLVIII)



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Christopher Serpentius (Silver Rapier)

Order of the Silver Rapier
King’s and Queen’s Rapier Championships
March 29, AS 48 (XLVIII)



Details:
Calligraphy & Illumination by Isabel Chamberlaine. Inspired by Russian Gospels (Egerton 3045) found in The British Library manuscript collection, dated to the late 15th century.

Paper: 300 Series Bristol, Vellum, 100lb.
Materials: Oak gall ink; Windsor & Newton gouache; Holbein gold gouache.

Scroll ID: Isabel C. 43
Completed March 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Parchment Research & Production by Jean Paul Ducasse

In this post I would like to highlight and promote the work of Jean Paul Ducasse.

Many know of him due to his success within the fencing community, but what is not so obvious is his experimental research into the techniques and production of parchment. Its a field of study that offers very little in the way of available sources, or even other people researching the same things. The vast majority of his knowledge comes from small tidbits found in historical sources, talking with what few people he can find and then experimenting with techniques. He and I have spent a lot of time having fun discussion while debating sources found in my scribal library. There are also a number of us that have successfully used his parchment for our own scribal work, examples of which can be found on this very blog.

I was thrilled to see his display at this past K&Q Arts and Sciences competition here in the East Kingdom. From what I saw he had a crowd of interested people around him for most of the day, letting some of them actually use the lunarium/lunellum to see for themselves what it is like, and randomly sending folks over to me since I had swatches of pigment painted onto one of his finished pieces of parchment.

I'd love to hear what other peoples impressions were.

JP stretching his wet goat-skin onto the rack for display.
Photo used with permission from Mistress Brunissende.
An onlooker trying their hand at scraping parchment under the instruction of JP.
Photo used with permission from Rosaline Wright.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Entering K&Q Arts & Sciences

First the negative. I'm generally not a fan of A&S competitions as I feel that they're far to subjective to the whims of those judging. I also dislike that most entries are focused on dramatic finished pieces, I feel that the craft gets overlooked because they're so mundane. That said, I was talked into entering this K&Q on the premise that a number of us band together to concentrate on the craft components of our individual disciplines rather than the end product. That appealed to me.

The intention had been to display more, but mundane reality took over so that my entry was reduced down to just two pigments, sap green and verdigris. Both were considered important greens to the medieval artist.




My Experience.
I went into this with eyes wide open. It was about display with the aim of discussion rather than competing to win anything. I feel like this was an important distinction for me and helped relieve some of the feeling of obligation that I often get around this type of thing. My entry was based around what I wanted to show and how I wanted to show it, it wasn't complete and I willingly displayed my mistakes and failures, even pointing a few of them out. Documentation was written in a style that suited me and my thought process rather than trying to fit it into a set of arbitrary rules about how long it should be or how it should be formatted. Basically, I did this MY way.

Judge #1: This was a positive but interesting experience. The judge read my single-page synopsis and then semi-speed read my full documentation. I appreciated this as I feel like just as much work goes into writing documentation as the research. We then discussed my entry at some length, talking about what I had on display and how I could (and intend to) push it further. The thing that struck me the most about this experience was the open negotiation over scores, I've never seen this before. It's an interesting approach that I think I might adopt for myself if I find myself being a judge again in the future. I am my own worst critic and I already knew this, but it was interesting to hear someone else's take on my own thoughts in live-time. The only thing I think that I would change about this style of judging would be to later add a comment or two on the score-sheet.

Judge #2: Again, a positive experience and I appreciated my documentation being read in full, with some injected discussion. The comment on the score sheet from this judge was very uplifting and recognized one of my ultimate goals, so it was a little of an ego-boost for me and suggests that I'm heading down the right path for my personal journey.

Judge #3: This judge challenged me but it wasn't in any way negative, questions were asked that made me think. I did feel quite flustered and tongue-tied while talking with this judge as I just couldn't seem to find my words. I should have been able to answer at least one of the questions asked because I know for a fact that I've read the answer during my research. It's a really basic question too. The other question that stuck out was something I know to be true but I don't know WHY I know it's true. Yet. This one will send me down a research path and there will probably be an associated blog-post at some point. I thought this judge would end up being the harshest of my scoring, surprisingly they weren't (not that any of my scores were bad). This judge don't read my documentation, but they did take a copy away with them.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rendering Suet

Purchased beef suet.
Suet is raw beef fat [1] and is generally considered a waste product of the commercial meat industry. In hindsight I would have preferred to use pasture-fed, organic suet so that I can use it for creams and soaps, however since the original plan was to just use it for candles I'm starting with two packages of beef suet purchased from the local supermarket - 2.90lb for $1.69/lb. Next time I will be a more discerning shopper.

First, chop the suet into small chunks, the smaller the chunks the easier it will process (if you have a meat grinder available then use it). Raw suet feels greasy to the touch just like you imagine fat to feel. Discard anything that looks like muscle, tendon, bone etc.

Almost 3lbs of chopped beef suet.


Simmering on the stove.
Liquid after filtering.
 Put the suet chunks in a large pot and just enough water to cover it. Bring it to a boil CAREFULLY, making sure that it doesn't boil over as it will smoke, set off the fire alarm and potentially cause a fire [2]. If it does overflow it's disgusting, clean up any mess immediately.

As soon as it starts to boil turn the heat down to a low simmer. I left mine like this for about three hours mashing the solids every so often to release the fat [3].

When you decide that it's finished cooking, carefully pour the fatty water through a sieve into a clean bowl and squish the juices out of the fat solids (in the sieve) as best you can. You'll be amazed at how much liquid these retain. Let the bowl of "juice" cool until the top is a solid, creamy-white mass. I put mine in the fridge overnight.

Tallow after being
chopped for final cooking.
Use a knife around the outside to separate the mass of fat from the sides of the bowl, but be careful not to slop the liquid underneath. Lift it out and rinse it in cold water to get the scummys off, I used a knife to gently scrape them away. I weighed mine and it came in at 2.11lbs (down from starting at 2.90lbs. At this point some say to do a second simmering, however I chose to follow instructions that just went straight to chopping it up and putting it into a double-boiler set-up. Melt it down and let it boil off any remaining water. Mine sat on the stove for about two hours.

Strain it through a fine sieve to remove any remaining scummies. I used a piece of natural linen in my metal sieve. At this point you can strain it straight into your final storage container, it will harden to a creamy-white mass. Mine has the slightest hint of a beef smell when you stick your nose right up to it.
Finished tallow that will be used to make candles for the production of lamp-black pigment.


Citations:
[1] Mirriam-Webster Online defines suet as "the hard fat about the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton that yields tallow".
[2] My "Shop Gnome" and I were having a discussion when he convinced me (stupidly) to continue it in the garage since the pot was nowhere near boiling. Not three minutes later I hear the sizzle of the fatty water hitting the stove-top and open the door to discover smoke billowing from the kitchen just as the fire alarm started to warn us of the danger. It was a HUGE disgusting mess of fat covering everything and took a decent amount of time to clean up before I could put the pot back on the stove.
[3] I've since read accounts of others leaving it to simmer for up to eight hours. Some using the stove, others using the low-setting on the crockpot.

Sources:
http://thehoodedhare.com/lighting-in-the-middle-ages.pdf

http://www.candles.org/about_history.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_candle_making

http://lostartskitchen.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/rendering-fats-at-home-primer-lesson-one/

http://preparednessadvice.com/food_storage/suet-and-tallow/#.Uqz1HSG9KK0

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Discussing the Use of Mortar & Pestles

This is a post that I started on Google+ and is embedded here since I consider it a significant discussion on a common tool used by many trades that is probably never given much thought. Please join the discussion in the comments section below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Guild Mirandola's Oak Gall Ink Kit

Or, Isabel and Aife have a playdate.

At one of the recent SCA events I attended there was an auction and one of the items was a bag full of scribal goodies. Of course I had to have that baggie, but if truth be told I feel a little guilty for paying so little for goods worth A LOT more. One of the items in the baggie was an Oak Gall Ink Kit from Guild Mirandola, a small scribal supplies vendor here in the East Kingdom.

Aife needed ink for something she's working on, and I just happened to have the supplies available. What follows isn't my own work, it's what happened when we followed the instructions included in the Kit. I'm not going to specifically detail the instructions and ingredients here as I feel that would be unfair to Guild Mirandola (Doscelina's contact information can be found on the website). The Kit contains very easy to follow instructions and I strongly recommend that people buy the Kit. This is period-style ink making made so simple that ANYONE can do it.


Although the Oak Gall Ink Kit contains exactly the about of ingredients you need, we actually ended up making double what was specified because I had my own supplies already but had never actually gotten around to using them. Other items needed are easy to lay your hands on and should be readily available to most people.

Crushed gall nuts in the mortar.
First order of business was to set up the gum arabic crystals to dissolve while we followed the rest of the instructions. Once that was set up we needed to crush the gall nuts. They were shoved into a plastic ziplock bag, that was then wrapped in a kitchen towel and then smashed vigorously with a hammer borrowed from my "shop gnome". Once they'd been reduce to much smaller pieces they were transferred to the mortar and pestle and ground into "a fine powder".

I do want to comment on how annoying these were to grind, they proved to be much tougher than I had imagined. They are surprisingly hard and I actually ended up with a blister in the center of my hand from the grinding. Get around this by getting them as broken and small as you possibly can with the hammer. The smaller they are before they hit the mortar and pestle, the less hand grinding you'll need to do.

You'll end up with this...

Gall nuts reduced to "fine powder"
Continuing to following the instructions, add the water and let it sit. So just how patient are you? We were working on a couple of other projects at the same time, so our little container of brown gunk actually ended up marinating for well over an hour. It has a VERY earthy smell which I surprisingly found quite pleasant.

Back to following the instructions that came with the kit and we find that it's time to add the green ferrous sulfate. The instructions say that when you add this to the brown gunk it will start to turn black immediately, and it did! We both stood there, staring into the jug saying "that's SO COOL!". We then stirred vigorously so that everything was thoroughly mixed.

Oak gall "tea" after the ferrous sulfate has been added.
Next step was to filter the mixture through some linen to remove all the nasty gunky bits. We used a piece of natural coloured linen which we first saturated with water to help the process along.

Oak gall ink mixture being filtered through linen to remove the debris.
We ended up with about a half of a pint-sized Mason jar of black liquid, basically a dye, and to this was added the gum arabic which we had been dissolving. The addition of the gum arabic provides the binder (glue) that turns the dye into an ink, making it stick to a page.

Upon testing, we found that we had achieved a nice writable ink in a viscosity that I liked. I will admit to being a little surprised at how black it was straight out of the jar, I was expecting it to initially write quite faint (it darkens over time) and be almost translucent but it wasn't.

Very rough draft writing with the ink made from the Guild Mirandola Oak Gall Ink Kit.


A word on dissolving the gun arabic crystals. We found that keeping the solution warm helped the crystals dissolve at a much better rate. We had allowed the water to cool while we worked on other things, it really delayed the process and the crystals stuck to our stir-stick.

For detailed instructions and supplies please purchase one of these
Oak Gall Ink Kits from Guild Mirandola

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Care for Your Metal Dip Pen Nibs

Most modern calligraphy nibs are made of metal, and like most things they need a little tender loving care to keep them in good condition. Inks not only have the potential to clog your nibs as they dry, but some inks are actually corrosive and damage them.

Disclaimer: This is MY way of doing things and works FOR ME, others may do things differently. There is not "one true way", so find what works for you.

Cleaning:
There are commercial nib cleaning solutions available for purchase, however I've never used one as I don't really see the point. I consider my nibs disposable items and I fully expect them to deteriorate over time, needing to be replaced. That's not to say that I don't try to keep them in good condition, so here are my tips for cleaning metal nibs.

After use I either swish my nib in the rinse-water jar I've been using or use a pipette to squirt water over the nib, but I'm not overly concerned with getting all the ink off the nib. Afterwards I take the nib out of the pen holder so that it can be fully cleaned and dried. My next step is to take a Q-tip and dip one of the ends into rubbing alcohol (both can be purchased in any pharmacy or supermarket), then I use that wet end to thoroughly clean the nib surface. Using a Q-tip allows you to get into all the nooks and crannies on the nib, and the beauty of rubbing alcohol is that it dries VERY quickly through evaporation, leaving the nib mostly dry and reducing the potential to rust. Dried on ink will need more pressure than "fresh" ink, but be careful not to bend the nib ends.Once I've gotten off as much of the ink as I can I just let the nib and pen holder sit on some paper towel for a while so that they can dry further before I store them away.

Some nibs have attached reservoirs on them, especially if you're using the Speedball brand nibs that come in the variety packs at the local art/craft stores. These can be a little annoying when trying to clean your nibs as the reservoir creates a space where ink can get trapped, allowing it to dry and gunk up the nib. Personally I've found these reservoirs more trouble than they are worth as I find that not only are they difficult to clean but, for me, they also load to much ink on to the pen when writing. I've ripped the reservoirs off when ever they've been attached to a nib that I use. This is where the pipette comes in handy, use it to flush the rubbing alcohol under the reservoir. Another option is to try to side some paper towel between the nib and reservoir, be careful as you do this though as you don't want to pull the reservoir to far off the surface of the nib.

Nib Tune-Up:
You will need a whetstone, I bought mine from John Neal Booksellers - Hard Arkansas Stone.

My first step is to put a drop or two of water on the end of the whetstone and just rub it into the stone a little, I'm not 100% sure if it's actually needed but all the things I've seen and read tell you to moisten the stone with either oil[1] or water.

Step 1: Sharpen the very tip of the nib.
Step 1: Next place the very tip of the nib on the whetstone so that it perpendicular to the stone. You are now going to stroke the nib back and forth (sideways) a few times on the whetstone to achieve a straight tip. It's VERY IMPORTANT that you make this motion from your shoulder and NOT your wrist. Moving from the wrist will twist the movement and has the potential to round the edges of the nib, by moving from the shoulder this is less likely to happen.

Step 2: Smooth the edges of the nib of any burrs.
Step 2: I will then turn the nib so that the side of the nib is resting on the edge of the whetstone. Again, moving from the shoulder, stroke back and forth a few times to remove any burrs. Repeat this for the second edge.

Step 3: Smooth the back of the nib at a very slight angle.
Step 3: At this point I I lay the back of the nib against the edge of the whetstone and then angle it up a little, using the same back and forth motion to remove any burrs from the back.

Step 4: Sharpen the front of the nib.
Step 4: The last step with the whetstone sees me working the front of the nib. Lay the nib on the stone and then angle it up to about a 30% angle, use the back and forth motion a few times.

If you look closely (use a magnifier if you like) you will see bright clean metal around the areas the nib has brushed against the whetstone.

My very last step is to run the edges over the leather whetstone sleeve to soften them off a little.

It's important to remember that although you're "sharpening" you nib, you don't want it so sharp that it actually cuts the surface (paper, parchment, etc.) you'll be writing on. Once you've tuned-up your nib try writing with it, if it's catching on the surface you can dull the very tip a little by going back and repeating step one with a couple of strokes.

My habit is to tune-up my nib at the beginning of my scribal session. On occasion, if the piece I am writing is really long, I will need to pause part way through to give another quick tune-up. Once you've done this a time or two, you'll get a feel for how much or how little you need to tune-up your nibs. It's not difficult to do and it will not only prolong the life of your nibs a little but also help the nib move a little easier across the page.





Footnotes:
[1] Don't use oil on the stone your using with your nibs as you don't want that transferring to your finished page.

Sources & Bibliography:
Class taught by Eva Woderose at Known World Herald & Scribes Symposium in CT, 2012.

Other various sources of which I don't remember.

BROWN, Michelle P. & Patricia Lovett. The Historical Source Book for Scribes. London: The British Library, 1999. Print. ISBN 0-8020-4720-3

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sap Green (Part 2)

In Part 1 I described the discovery of Buckthorn growing in my small upstate New York garden, it's identification and subsequent production of berries. On September 4, 2013 I picked and sorted these berries into what you see below.

Buckthorn berries in three stages of ripeness; 28g of unripe green; 30g of medium-ripe blush; and 117g of ripe purple-black.
The period art manuals offer a variety of methods for creating the colour we know as sap-green, which all seem to be variations on squeezing the juice of the berries through a cloth, adding alum, sometimes ley and then storing it. This post will concentrate on the methods that DON'T use ley.

PADUAN MANUSCRIPT - Merrifield, 662
31. How pasta verde [sap green] is made. - Take the grains or berries of the buckthorn when they are quite ripe, and this will be about the end of September; let them soften for 7 or 8 days in a vase with water in which roche alum has been dissolved in the proportion of 1 ounce of alum to 6 of the berries, and boil it well until nearly half the water is consumed; then cool it, strain it through a linen cloth, put the part that is strained into pigs' bladders, and dry them in the sun or smoke; and this is called "pasta di vesicha."

Prep: Six individual ripe berries doesn't even register weight in grams ounces, therefore I am going to make the obvious leap that the above recipe means 1oz of alum to 6oz of berries. I do not have enough berries for that measurement therefore I am going to use 1oz (28.3g) of berries and divide that by six for the correct amount of alum, which is 4.67g.

The recipe doesn't specify an amount of water so I poured in an amount equal to approximately 2 inches in depth (yes, I should have measured), this will cover the berries by the same depth that they take up. Using a double-boiler setup I warmed the distilled water and alum in the glass jar just enough so that the alum completely dissolved, then removed it from the heat and allowed it to cool. This alum water gives me a ph3 (leaning towards ph4).

No mention is made about crushing or pounding the berries so I didn't. When pouring the berries into the water it immediately took on a green hue and it will be interesting to see how this deepens (if it does) over the course of the next week. All of the berries except a few are hanging out on the bottom of the jar, only a few are floating around on the top of the liquid or just under it's surface.

This was repeated with the green unripe berries, and then the semi-ripe blush berries using the methods described above. This time I measured and used 2oz of water to dissolve the alum in each jar. The unripe berries seem to float on the surface of the solution. The semi-ripe berries don't float like the green ones do, but they also aren't sat on the bottom of the jar like the fully ripe berries. On initial observation all three jars seem to be leeching the same green colour.

Result: A week later the individual jars are showing a strong dark colour, which upon close examination looks green to the eye but from a distance looks quite muddy. There is an obvious sediment in the bottom of each jar, but the berries appear plump and not to have started breaking down.

Opening the jars I noticed that they each seem to have vacuum-sealed themselves, but only a little. Once the lid was off, each jar gave me a slight smell of fermentation with the jar of ripe berries presenting more of a smell than the other two (I wonder if some sort of vinegar or wine can be made from Buckthorn berries?).

For the boiling portion of this recipe I again used a double-boiler setup. I didn't really achieve what I would call a rolling boil, but I did notice evaporation of some of the liquid. I have to admit that I got nervous during this portion of the recipe as I was worried about ruining what I do have. I may attempt the boiling portion again at another time.

For straining, I used a piece of natural linen placed in a small metal kitchen sieve which in turn was placed over a glass bowl. Taking the jar containing the ripe berries, I slowly poured the juice out over the linen so that it strained into the bowl beneath.

I then poured the berries that remained in the jar out onto the linen, gathered up the corners and crushed the sack in my fist to drain out any remaining juice. The berry refuse was then deposited in the rubbish bin. This is when I started to notice just how much sediment there actually was in the jar. The linen cloth was covered in it.

Next, I rinsed off my utensils and linen as I made a mental notation of just how much colour was rinsing out of them. Stupidly I didn't think about "clothlets"[1] until after I had drained the third jar. This is a subject I will need to look into for when I do this again.

One more note-to-self; wear gloves next time as the juice of Buckthorn berries stains your hands a wonderful green hue which is difficult to wash off. This is particularly evident in the absolutely stunning green that was achieved on the linen used to strained the juice from my jars.

The piece of linen used for straining the liquid from the jars, AFTER being rinsed and dried, sitting on it's original fabric.
I now have three jars of filtered juice from the ripe, semi-ripe and unripe berried of the Buckthorn. As you can see in the photograph below, they are two very distinct colours with a subtle difference between the jars containing the liquid produced from the unripe and semi-ripe berries. The next phase (and blog-post) will explore what these colours look like when painted as swatches.

The three differing colours obtained from (left to right) ripe, semi-ripe and unripe Buckthorn berries.
BOLOGNESE MANUSCRIPT - Merrifield, 420
89. To make a good green with buckthorn. - Take small berries of buckthorn when quite ripe, put them into a glass vase, and crush them well with your hands; then place them in the sun, and let them remain until the juice rises above the berries; then strain the refuse, and throw it away, and if the juice weighs one pound put into it the weight of two quattrini [2] of roche alum in powder. Place the mixture in the sun in a well-closed glass vase, and let it stand three or four days, stirring it well three or four times every day; and if it should happen to dry after a time, distemper it with clear ley, with a little gum.

Prep and Results: I found this recipe to be a little strange. Crushing the berries as described in the first sentence produced hardly any juice. What little juice there was then evaporated over the course of the following couple of days.

As a variation, I tried this same recipe and added a little distilled water to assist in making a juice. This worked slightly better but produced no where near "one pound" of juice. As a result, I didn't really get a chance to properly follow through with this recipe.

The juice didn't really "rise above the berries" and I'm curious to know if this is just a result of the batch-size I was using. The recipe does mention "one pound" of juice which leads me to believe that they were processing HUGE batches at a time.

Nevertheless, I squeezed out what I could into a clean glass jar and quickly realized that continuing to follow this recipe with what I had was pointless.

I poured what little juice I had out into an oyster shell, it is almost the colour of red wine. Adding alum to the juice made it turn an olive purple, so I added more until what I had in my shell was a definitely green liquid. Whats funny is that even though I see a definite green hue with my eyes, all the camera see's are red hues.

Juice of the ripe Buckthorn berries in an oyster shell with added alum. Although the photograph displays the liquid
as the colour similar to red wine, to the human eye it is actually green.
From Thompson, 170
To prepare the green, the juice of the ripe buckthorn berries was squeezed out, mixed with a little alum, and allowed to thicken by evaporation. The result was a gummy green colour, generally rather olive, transparent, and rich. The use of buckthorn berries was used quite early, without preparation, to temper and enrich verdigris; and probably it's use as an independent pigment came about as a development of its accessory function. Used by itself, without alum, the juice is somewhat yellow or green, according to the ripeness of the berries, but it's colour is very fugitive. . .The colour made with alum is more durable, though not permanent . . . 

Prep: 20g of the ripe purple berries we deposited in a 6oz mason jar and crushed,  I then covered them with purchased distilled water of ph8 to the 2oz line. The reason I added a little water is so that I can soak out the juice (and hopefully more colour) from the berries, as when crushing the berries they didn't seem to produce much liquid. I do plan on letting this verjuice sit for a week before straining it as many of the other recipes suggest. Looks like the basic verjuice is ph5. It has a very muddy colour which could be called olive brown, with a hint of green.

Results: After a week in a sealed mason jar the berries look and smell like they've fermented. I used a piece of natural linen to strain the mixture and squeeze the berries of liquid, my result is a liquid almost the same  colour as red wine. Strangely, the linen cloth has a slight green tint to it.

I added a generous amount of alum to the purple-juice and it immediately turned into a dark green. I didn't really measure but it was six scoops with the plastic spatula. I basically added alum until I had a Rich green colour. After a number of days had passed the juice had returned to a muddy brown colour, suggesting that something other than alum affects the colour. [3]

Conclusion:
These recipes seem like overkill. I feel like all I really need to do to obtain the colour is to squeeze the berries through linen into a shell and add a little alum. I will be curious to see how these different methods paint up when used in swatches. There is also the use of lye in some of the recipes which needs to still be explored.

Footnotes:
[1] From the British Library's Catalogue of Iluminated Manuscripts glossary: "A piece of cloth impregnated with PIGMENT (generally a vegetable dye). A portion of such cloth, when soaked in a little BINDING MEDIUM, releases its colorant and produces an artist's pigment. Clothlets are called petiae in Latin and pezze or pezzette in Italian; bisetus folii refers to clothlets dyed with folium, or turnsole, extract. Clothlets were a convenient way of carrying or shipping vegetal pigments, and they were especially popular from the fourteenth century on, with the growth of the textile trade. Glazes of vegetable dyes were often used to enhance other colours in book ILLUMINATION, since they created a rich, glowing, and transparent effect."

[2] Since I had intended to follow this recipe I needed to figure out what a "quattrini" was and how much it weighed. Merrifields footnotes on page 420 tells us "Quattrini. Small copper con, worth about the fifth part of a crazia, or the 60th part of a Florentine lira; perhaps so called because a quattrino was of the value of four denari or piccioli, now no longer in use." With a little searching, I discovered a 15 c. quattrino from Bologna that was listed as weighing 0.39 grams (and of course now I can't find the screenshot I saved for reference).

[3] Later discussion with Master RanthulfR of the Midrealm regarding the colour of the liquid suggests that the calcium carbonate in the shell reacts with the liquid to turn and keep it green. Further observations are needed by myself, but this information corresponds with what I'm currently seeing in my own tests.

Bibliography:
MERRIFIELD, Mary P. Medieval and Renaissance Treatises on the Arts of Painting. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 1999. Print. ISBN 0-486-40440-4

THOMPSON, Daniel V. The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 1956. Print. ISBN 0-486-20327-1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An Unintentional Step into Dyeing


Verdigris Epic Fail

About a week ago I remembered that I'd forgotten all about the crock of verdigris I had "brewing" in the garden. We've had some pretty depressing weather since I sealed the jar with wax and set it aside. Granted, it was an extension of my Not-Even-Trying-To-Be-Period Verdigris which had been a success, but unfortunately this time it was an epic failure.

This is what I bought inside, a frozen block of teal-coloured water. The wax I'd used to seal the jar had melted and/or disintegrated at some point and the remnants were trapped in the ice, you can even see some on top. I set it aside for a few days so that the ice had time to melt and I could find time to clean up my mess.

Failed verdigris experiment. A frozen mass of copper acetate, copper piping, vinegar, wax and water.
I knew immediately that this was a bust, however I figured that I could at least see what I would get if I drained it through a coffee filter.

The answer, not much. Just a disgusting combination of sediment, teal-colouring, wax and soggy dead bugs. Definitely nothing useable. 

Remnants of the copper-water, a combination of sediment, teal-colouring, wax and soggy dead bugs. 
I threw it all in the rubbish with plans to start over.

The good news it that for my next foray into making verdigris I have purchased organic vinegar's (unfiltered apple cider with "the Mother" and a white wine vinegar) which attempts to get me a small step closer to what would have been available in period. I've also been donated some homemade wines so that I can attempt to create my own vinegar.

Experiments are pending.