Past Projects

Medieval Wedding Invitations for Chelinda and Chris

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I just finished creating medieval wedding invitations for a wonderful couple, Chelinda and Chris.

The invitation itself is a 5×7 card with an Irish blessing on the outside, and the details of the wedding on the inside (in the images, I have blurred the wedding date). There is also an RSVP postcard, and a map to the wedding location.

The invitations are in a Celtic theme: the script is Insular Minuscule, and the initial “C”s are based on letters in the Book of Kells. The map is inspired by the Lord of the Rings, complete with a dragon in the river and a troll guarding the toll-bridge.

Chelinda and Chris were wonderful to work with: easy-going, fun, and enthusiastic. Their wedding should be a blast for them and their guests. I wish them a lifetime of happy marriage: they deserve it!

Deep Peace

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

A customer contacted me to make a gift for a friend of hers who is turning 100. She asked me to write this beautiful Celtic blessing, which I had not heard before – I am glad to have discovered this text!

The pictures are of the unfinished work in progress.

Ellesmere Chaucer: Medieval Manuscript Reproduction

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

In November of 2009, I finished a full-scale reproduction of a folio of the Ellesmere Chaucer manuscript, one of the earliest and most important manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

I stove to be as absolutely authentic as possible in creating this reproduction. I spent weeks studying and practicing the Anglicana script of the original scribe to get my handwriting as close to his as possible. The reproduction is on calfskin vellum. I was going to use iron gall ink, but the ink of the original manuscript is quite brown, so I used walnut ink instead because that made it easier for me to match the color. The paint is gouache. I used 22-karat gold leaf and gesso based on a medieval formula. I even reproduced some of the imperfections of the original: the top of the page has been cropped, cutting off some of the decorative border, and there are smudges in a few places.

This was a really exciting project! I had to learn a lot, but it is all stuff that I had been looking for an opportunity to learn anyway – writing on parchment, using gold leaf. I feel very intimately acquainted with the scribes and artists who created the original Ellesmere Chaucer: it was a joy to study their work and to appreciate their skill. I hope I can create more manuscript reproductions in the future!

The photo gallery shows every step of the process. I also recorded some videos of the work:

Irish Hymn

Monday, May 25th, 2009

I received an unusual and absolutely delightful custom order: a customer requested an Irish hymn for an Irish Catholic priest. I did my best to make it look like a page from the Book of Kells: the initial “A” is borrowed directly from Kells.

The text in Irish is:
Ag Críost an síol
Ag Críost an fómhar
I n-iothalainn dé
go dtugtar sinn
Ag Críost an mhuir
Ag Críost an t-iasc
i liontaibh dé
go gcastar sinn
O fhás go haois
is ó aois go bás
do dhá láimh a Críost
anall tharainn
O bhás go críoch
ní críoch ach ath-fhás
I bPárrthas na nGrást go
O fhás go haois
is ó aois go bás
do dhá láimh a Críost
anall tharainn
O bhás go críoch
ní críoch ach ath-fhás
I bPárrthas na nGrást go

And in English:
Christ’s is the Seed
Christ’s is the Harvest
Into God’s barn
May we be brought.
Christ’s is the sea
Christ’s is the fish
In the nets of God
May we be caught.
From Birth to age
and from age to death,
May your two arms, O Christ,
be around us.
From Death to the end
Not the end but a rebirth,
In the Paradise of Graces
May we be.
From Birth to age
and from age to death,
May your two arms, O Christ,
be around us.
From Death to the end
Not the end but a rebirth,
In the Paradise of Graces
May we be.

Wedding Vows

Friday, April 17th, 2009

The inventory in my shop doesn’t change much, because the vast majority of the calligraphy I do is actually custom orders. I’ve had several custom orders lately, and I always mean to blog about them, but what inevitably happens is that my boyfriend has the camera with him on the day I finish the work, and I would rather send it off to my customers right away than wait an extra day so I can take pictures.

I finally finished a custom order on a day when the camera was home! This was a really fun one to work on (well, they all are, but I enjoyed my conversations with this customer as I worked). Jennifer bought this as an anniversary present for her husband, Neal. It is their wedding vows – I think they’re really lovely vows! – with a Celtic knot of two intertwined people. Between their names at the bottom is a Celtic Tree of Life – Jennifer and Neal frequently use tree imagery.

Custom work is my favorite part of doing calligraphy: it’s so much more satisfying for me when the customer is involved in the process for the very beginning, and when I can be certain that I’m making something that someone will genuinely want and enjoy.

“On Children”

Monday, March 30th, 2009

I was recently asked to write the poem “On Children” by Kahlil Ghibran. The lady who commissioned it is preparing to adopt a child, and wanted this to commemorate the event. I enjoyed having a chance to write this poem slowly and meditate on what it says. It is actually much more about parenting than about childhood.

Unfortunately, the photos are of the unfinished work in progress: I didn’t get a chance to take photos of the finished piece.

The Making of a Medieval Valentine

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

I finally realized Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I should make something for it! So I got busy over the weekend.

First I had to find a text. Medieval love poetry can be a little difficult for modern readers to swallow because it’s usually about how miserable the lover is. But there’s no denying that one of the greatest medieval love poets was Dante (in fact, he’s considered one of the greatest poets ever!). So I browsed around a lot until I found this love poem by Dante:

May Love ever protect
this heart he gave to you, his to command,
and, on the other hand,
may Mercy beg you to remember me,
because before I go
too far away from all your present worth
the thought I will return
to you once more already comforts me.
God! Not for long shall I remain away,
judging by what I see,
for often this my mind
will turn right back to wonder on your face:
therefore, in both my journey and my stay,
O gentle lady, please remember me.

(If you’re interested, here it is in Italian.)

So I had my text… but then I had to figure out how to write it. Most of my work is based on 6th and 7th century Irish manuscripts, and that’s really not appropriate for a 14th century Italian poem. (Yes, I know I take this historical reproduction stuff far more seriously than most of my customers, but I’m not getting a degree in medieval history for nothing!) Italian manuscripts are very distinctive: they use the same Gothic script that was popular in the rest of Europe, except in Italy, Gothic is more rounded, and the letters usually just end with a straight line, instead of having little feet at the bottom. So I really wanted to be sure to get the Italian look in my rendition of Dante.

Whenever I need to know what manuscripts from a certain time and place looked like, I always go to the Digital Scriptorium. So I went there and did a search for manuscripts written in Italy between 1300 and 1350. I had a lot to choose from, but here are the ones I found most helpful:

In particular, I based my script off of this image from Plimpton 35 and my initial “M” off this image.

In the end, here is what I came up with:

Delightful Custom Order

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Today I finished a custom order that has been truly delightful to work on. A customer contacted me to ask me to write in calligraphy a recent quote by her family’s “grand patriarch”: “Wisdom is judging rightly, causing no harm to those about you and being alert to the needs of others.” I think it’s a wonderful quote – profound in its simplicity – and it reminds me of some of the wise things my family’s patriarch used to say in his final years. I gladly agreed to do it, and found the customer an absolute delight to work with. She and I were thinking on the same wavelength all along – she loved my suggestions for how it should go, and her enthusiasm found its way into my work. It’s so much more fun to do my best work when I know it is appreciated and will bring joy to someone. In addition to the original finished work, the customer has ordered greeting cards with the image, so that she can give reproductions of the image to other family members.

Funny Irish Blessing

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

“May those who love us, love us,
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if he doesn’t turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping.”

This has always been one of my favorite Irish blessings, and it seems to be a favorite among Etsy shoppers as well. I have sold two already, and just added a third to my shop. I like using the Celtic knot of the two people intertwined on this one: it’s hard to tell if they’re hugging or fighting, which goes well with the spirit of the blessing.