30 June 2015

Inspired Craziness-- Cloisonne Pelican book plate

Inspired Craziness-- Cloisonne Pelican book plate
Created by Baroness Marwen, Baroness Euriaut, Baroness Samia
Julia May

King Vladimir II and Queen Petranella II saw fit to honor the Honorable Lord Viði Hovdestad by placing him on vigil for the Order of the Pelican in Northshield early in 2015. Many friends were ecstatic to assist in preparation for the ceremony, garb, a vigil space, food, a cloak, and a vigil book.

While planning the vigil book, Marwen and Samia spun each other up into a crazy project idea. The Honorable Lady Una Duckfoot generously volunteered to make the book, while Marwen, Samia, and Euriaut were going to make a cloisonne enameled cover. Between us we had made a handful of enamel pieces, so we had no idea how afraid we should be of this project.

Baroness Siobhan Medhbh O'Roarke found an image online which inspired all of the volunteers as Viði-esque. Baroness Ellen de Wynter drew line art from the image. Marwen and Samia ordered fine silver and enamel. The Honorable Lady Niamh ingen Dhomnail advised us in the design.

We spent hours wrestling with the enormous cloisonne wires and watching videos posted by Rio Grande. Marwen was also able to use her Zing engraving machine to etch the design on sheet of fine silver so we would have lines to follow. 

The first layer of enamel is typically a clear base coat. We had enough experience to know that it was possible to be too light in this application and ruin the piece from the start. Unfortunately, that made our application a little too heavy handed. The border cloisonne is more than half full with the first layer of enamel, and the hard fusing enamel has a yellow cast on the fine silver.

We applied all of the cloisonnes. We were quite pleased with our progress!

Colored enamel is carefully applied to each of the cells.

The first layer of color added.

Tiny silver balls were made from "dead" cloisonne wires.

The balls were laid into a subsequent layer of glass.

After several firings, we realized we had developed a problem. The trivet we were using could not support the full weight of the piece. It was warping by slumping around the trivet. Viði made us a new set of trivets, pictured here, where we placed the work upside down and fired it in an attempt to slump it back to shape.

(The colored stripes are the counter enamel. We used Pam East Counternamel, a fantastic product that's part glass, part cement, and part magic. We were applying the counternamel too thick, but weren't worried because it was the back. We have since learned that  the uneven application likely contributed to our slumping problem.)

We had less than a week to finish the project, and we had already put in about 100 (novice) hours at this point. We researched large enamel pieces in Linda Darty's book The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration. A small section describes smashing the molten glass piece with a steel block to flatten it, while hoping it didn't effectively explode.

Our choices were to either display this as a piece of "what could have been", or smash it. We decided to be brave.
Marwen got out an old iron which does not have the safety of turning off when it's on it's face. We used a jeweler's steel block, a hot pad, and a trivet. We heated the iron on high for several minutes.

Three of us were required for the smashing. Samia would pull the enamel out of the kiln and place it on the hot block. Viði would close the kiln door. Marwen would do the smashing.

It worked!! The enamel was flat enough to apply to the book cover, and we could bend the corners flat with pliers.

The finished piece. This is after the last stoning, and before the final firing (you can see the dull areas prominently on the nest).

It was a wild experience, and we were crazy to give it a try! 

Order of Defense Medallions for Northshield by House Wortham

Order of Defense Medallions for Northshield
Create by House Wortham and friends
Julia May

House Wortham was selected to make the first four Order of Defense Medallions for Northshield. Three for the premieres of the Order, and one Legacy.

We started by perusing images of extant enameled jewelry from the later Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Many of the later-period images we could find represented basse taille enameling.This beautiful technique requires skilled carving of the base metal before carefully placing glass in the correct areas.

Musée national du Moyen Âge, France. Medallion with the bull of St Luke. Translucent enameling on basse-taille silver, Catalunya, second half of the 14th century. Credit line: Bequeathed by François-Achille Wasset, 1906. Accession no. Cl. 14719 

Based on our collective experience, we elected to use champlevé and cloisonné enamel. Champlevé is the practice of creating wells in the metal surface for laying in glass. Cloisonné is bending tiny wires of silver which are fused to the surface of the metal to make wells. These styles were used throughout the SCA periods, but occur in higher concentrations before the fourteenth century.

Champlevé is removing metal from the piece to create wells for the glass to lay in. It can be carved away or etched away; some artists fuse a pierced sheet of silver to a flat piece.
Victoria and Albert Museum, England. Plaque. Copper-gilt, champlevé enamel; Aragon, Spain, 1420. Credit Line: Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh. Museum number: M.25-1954
Lord Phillip and Lady Marion generously tried milling the original line art released. The milling machine they used is not calibrated for such fine detail. We were able to enamel on the piece to cover most of the milling marks, but the image was not as crisp as we had hoped.

Cloisonné is the application of fine bent wires to a base of glass. The rectangular wires are .25 mm wide and 1 mm tall. The ground glass used for the enamel is shipped in grades of fineness. The glass is laid in place onto a pure metal foundation with water and capillary action. The foundation is put in the kiln at 1450° for two and a half minutes to fuse the glass into one solid piece.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Four Enamel Plaques. Cloisonné enamel, silver-gilt, jewels; French, ca. 1300. Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Accession Number: 17.190.595a-d.

With milling off the table, we moved to bending the cloisonné wire. Baron Robin devised a simplified design for the cloisonné that still read as a rapier visually. You can see the completed and set cloisonne piece on the table. The piece in process has a layer of base glass on it. Then the bent cloisonnes are glued into place with an enamel adhesive, because the surface of the metal is domed.

On this piece, the fine particles of yellow glass bled over into the black glass and blurred the clean lines of the design.Since this piece was sadly removed from circulation, we used it to test the application of the laurel- shaped copper wire. Laying the copper onto the fused glass and firing worked to sink the wreath into the glass just enough to secure it in place.

Here, you can also see more design adaptations created by Duchess Anne. In this piece, some of the cloisonné wires fell over in the kiln and fused out of place. The pock marks in the glass around the wires were made when we tried to pry the wires out of the molten glass. The surface tension was too high for the tools we had available.

Enamel is fused to fine silver or copper, both 99.99% pure. Pure silver is not sturdy material for jewelry structure, so jewelry makers use sterling silver (92.5% silver and 7.5% copper) for structural elements. Sterling silver is considerably stronger and makes sturdy settings.

This setting is marked in two places where the solder flowed up the bezel, preventing the bezel from forming a neat, smooth line around the set piece.

This bezel setting melted in two placed. The limitations of our shop required us to use two torches to heat the large silver setting enough for the solder to flow (technically, it’s “brazing” instead of soldering). There was a learning curve to getting two torches to work in concert.  Both of these pieces will be scrapped and recycled.

For the legacy medallion we wanted to swords to be boldly visible, planning on gilding the silver with gold. We sought the assistance of Master Danr to learn about etching the metal to make champlevé. From there, Master Viði and Lord Oswald succeeded with electro-etching in ferric nitrate. Master Geoffrey, The Honorable Lord Robin, Lord Oswald, and Dame Marwen developed the design for etching. Dame Marwen cut resists from vinyl which we applied to the fine silver so only parts of the silver would be removed.

The last step was plating the sterling silver pieces in 14 karat gold. We employed an alchemist, The Honorable Lady Thuri, who is a goldsmith by trade and owner of Whiplash Designs. While the period method of gilding is reportedly quite easy, it involves burning mercury and releasing heavy metals into the environment.

The cloisonné and enamel were made by Baroness Ellen, Dame Marwen, Baroness Gunnora, Baron Richard, Baroness Ainesleah, Baron Robin, Duchess Anne, Baron Geoffrey, Baroness Claire, Baron David, Countess Guenievre, Baroness Amalia, Baroness Ekaterina, Baroness Euriaut, Lady Aneka, Lord Oswald, Sayyeda al-Kaslaania.

In addition to the people already named, the following individuals supplied moral, technical, spiritual, and financial support. Lord Malcolm, young Zane Malcolmson, young Garrett Malcolmson, Lord Njall, Lord Phillip, Lady Marion, Baroness Cassandra, Master Cadwallon, Baroness Angelina, Baroness Siobhan, Duchess Petranella, Master Danr, The Honorable Lady Thuri, Master Peter, Baroness Ivetta.

05 August 2014

Stuffed Dormouse recipe and redaction

Stuffed Dormouse
Redaction and discussion
Sheika al-Kaslaania
August 2014

Stuff the mice with minced pork, mouse meat from all parts of the mouse ground with pepper, pine kernels, laser, and garum. Sew the mouse up and put on a tile on the stove. Or roast in a portable oven.  Translated by Patrick Faas from Apicius.

Faas, Patrick. Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Shaun Whiteside, trans (from Dutch). University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  • Dormice are a protected species nowadays. In Roman times, dormice were housed in specially designed giant clay vases with ledges along the walls for the rodents to run. Modern substitutions include both chicken and pork, I chose to use chicken to offer different flavor from the stuffing.

  • Pine kernels, or pine nuts, have had flavor problems over the last few years so I elected to omit them.
  • Laser is a spice that was eaten to extinction sometime in late antiquity. Its flavor was compared to both asafoetida and garlic.
  • Garum is a fermented fish-based sauce. Modern recreations have been compared to soy sauce.
Other than that….

Here is a redaction for “stuffed” “dormouse”

3 Chicken breasts
1 c cooked pork
3-5 cloves of garlic
½ tsp asafoetida
3-4 Tbls soy sauce
Black pepper
Olive oil

Take 1 cup of leftover pork (shoulder, butt, loin) and mince with 3-5 cloves of garlic. Add ½ tsp asafoetida, 3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce, and black pepper to taste.

Take 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice them the long way to get two thin and wide pieces of chicken. Place small portions of the pork mixture into the center of the chicken pieces and roll them up like a tortilla around the pork. Place them seam-side down in an oiled baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 F.

10 July 2014

Goat stew with verjuice, Hummadiyya Ibrahimiyya: Food Item Ninteen: A&S50 Challenge

Hummadiyya (stew soured with citron pulp) Ibrahimiyya
Goat stew with verjuice
10th century, Baghdad

Take 4 ratls (4 pounds) of fatty meat from [slaughtered] kid, cut it into chunks [and set it aside].

 Take about 1 ratl (1 pound) of boneless mean meat from its thighs, or use its kishtamazija (tenderloin) and a small amount of its tallow or fat tail, or whatever you wish. Pound the meat [in a stone mortar] and cook it in a pot on burning coals until it is done. Sprinkle the meat with a sour liquid such as lemon juice, wine vinegar, sumac juice, or citron pulp. Continue cooking the meat until all moisture evaporates. Take the pot away from the fire. Make sanbusaj (filled pastries) using this meat [for filling] and stiff dough, which you have kneaded very well. Set the filled pastries aside.

Alternatively, you can fry the pounded meat in oil and mix it with masl (dried yogurt whey), cilantro, and coriander seed. Make sanbusaj using this meat mixture and the prepared stiff dough. Set them aside.

Now wash the [set aside] chunks of meat and put them in a pot along with a handful of soaked and split chickpeas (mufallaq), 2 pieces of cassia –about 2 dirhams by weight (6 grams), and one piece of galangal—about 1 dirham by weight (3 grams). Add as well, chopped cilantro, a suitable amount of white part of fresh onion (bayad basal), 1/3 ratl (2/3 cup) sweet and mellow olive oil (zayt ‘adhb), and a little salt. Add juice of citron to the pot, enough to cover the meat, and cook the pot until the meat is done. Add some dry spices such as coriander seeds, black pepper, and a little bit of ground ginger.

Gently add the prepared pastries (sanbusaj) to the cooking pot and wait for a short while until they are done then add 1 dirham (3 grams) chopped fresh rue leaves. Leave the pot on the remaining heat of the coals until it stops simmering, and ladle it.

 [Instead of using citron juice only] you may mix it with juice of sour unripe grapes or juice of sour apples. The dish has also been made with [sour] Levantine mulberries (tut Shami), small sour plums [ijjas], and rhubarb (ribas).

In fact, if you mix mulberry juice with black murri Razi, then cook the dish the way you do with rakhbina, and add spinach to it and serve it, the eater will easily mistake it for a delicious true rakhbina and spare himself its harmful and putrefying effects.

Source: Nasrallah, Nawal. Annals of the Caliphs' Kitchens: Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's Tenth-Century Baghdadi Cookbook. Islamic History and Civilization ed. vol. 70. Brill, 2007.

Sheikah al-Kaslaania’s Redaction
Hummadiyya (stew soured with citron pulp) Ibrahimiyya
Goat stew with verjuice
10th century, Baghdad

1 lb kid meat, ground (or lamb)
Sumac, 2 T.
Pastry (wonton wrappers, 1 package)
               Dried yogurt whey
                Coriander seed
4 lb kid meat, cubed
chickpeas, peeled (two cans)
Cassia cinnamon sticks, 2
Galangal, 3 grams
Cilantro, ¼ cup packed
White onion, peeled and chopped, 1 medium
Olive oil
Citron juice (or verjuice, or rhubarb juice), 10 ounces
Coriander seed, 1 Tbl
Black pepper, 1Tbl
Ground ginger, 1 Tbl
Fresh rue, several sprigs

Add the ground sumac to 1 cup of water. Simmer for 20 minutes to reduce the water and extract the sumac flavor.

Fry the ground meat in olive oil. When meat begins to brown, add ½ cup sumac cooking water, but allow the sumac itself to settle to the bottom first. Cook until the sumac water has evaporated. Let meat cool. Follow package directions for using wonton wrappers. Seal the edges in the shape of a tiny samosa (tetrahedron).  Cover and refrigerate.

Brown the cubed meat in olive oil. Place the browned meat in a pot and add chickpeas, onion and spices. Cover with half strength verjuice or the extracted juice of rhubarb. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for two hours. This simmer time is needed to break down the connective tissue in the stew meat.

At this point, the stew and the samosas can be cooled and stored separately overnight.

Bring the stew to a boil. Add samosas and cook for 15-20 minutes. The meat in the samosas is cooked so this is simply to bring them to temperature. Do not overcook or the samosas will begin to disintegrate. Add fresh rue and serve.


Preparing meat in the Middle Ages
The medieval mindset in the Middle East believed that all meat inherently smelled bad before it was cooked. Washing the meat was a tool for removing the fragrant “scum” from the outside of the meat, as skimming the cooking water removes the scum from the inside of the meat.  However, modern safety standards do not recommend washing raw meat, as the practice typically only serves to splash germs around the kitchen.

Furthermore, although the recipe doesn’t call for browning the goat meat, “the preliminary technique in preparing meat for stews, called ta'riq, which al-Baghdadi religiously followed in all his meat recipes, gave us the impression that that was the only way to do it.”

“Literally, ta'riq means 'sweating.' Before adding liquid to the stew pot, meat was first briefly fried in rendered sheep's tail fat. In the process, meat first releases its juices (i.e. sweats), which then evaporate, leaving behind the meat swimming in its fat. This was believed to eliminate undesirable meat odor zafar.” Caliphs’ Kitchens, p 23.
This recipe, having been collected by al-Warraq, does not indicate ta’riq is required. I elected to include it because our modern mindset enjoys the savory umami flavor browning creates.

Recipe alterations
The kid meat I picked up came as bone-in chunks. I decided to roast it at 325 for 25 minutes to cook the meat away from the bone. I then stripped the meat into the cooking pot and discarded the bone.

I elected to use ground lamb, rather than kid, in the samosas simply because I can purchase it already ground. Likewise, I already have verjuice on hand.

Sour-savory flavors
Sourness, or tartness, as a flavor is considered savory in the Middle East. A distressing experience can be had by a US-raised person tasting a Middle Eastern sour cherry fruit leather and finding it salted instead of sweetened with sugar. Whereas sweet items, such as prepared dates, are almost cloying sweetened but have zero tart flavor.

When we think of the climates of Baghdad and Cairo, it isn’t really surprising that sour, vinegary, and tart flavors are incorporated into many of the staple meals of the region. Sour foods, such as pickles, oranges, and sekanjabin, help us rebalance our electrolytes when we’ve spent part of the day sweating.

25 January 2014

Using the bias of woven fabrics: Advanced T-tunics

Using the bias of woven fabrics
Advanced T-tunics
Sayyeda al-Kaslaania
February 2013

Clothing is amazing when we stop to think about it. In the middle ages, someone spent hours weaving threads back and forth to carefully craft yards of fabric. Plus there was all the time taken to spin the fiber—and even to harvest it. People then decided they had enough extra time to make curtains, blankets, napkins, mattress covers, and rugs! Textiles were considered liquid assets in the middle ages, as good as money. They were passed on in wills, recorded as taxes, and gifted in dowries.

Woven fabric is composed of warp and weft threads. Warp threads run the length of the loom and are strong enough to be worked under tension. Weft threads are passed up and down through the warp (or through a warp shed) to bind the fabric together.

The grain line always follows the warp of the fabric. Conveniently, this can be identified by the selvedge edges, which also follow the warp of the fabric. Selvedges typically don’t unravel. Measuring from selvedge to selvedge yields the width of the fabric (modern fabric is typically 44/45”, 54”, and 58/60”).

The crosswise-grain follows the weft of the fabric. On modern cotton broadcloth, warp and weft threads are generally identical. On other fabrics, the crosswise grain is considered weaker than the grain.

The true bias is 45° from the grain. This cuts across both the grain and crosswise grain equally. When cut, this edge will distort quickly when handled. Caution should be used to keep a bias edge from stretching while one sews.

The garment bias is anything other than a 45° angle. An isosceles triangle is an example of a typical bias used in garment construction. Caution should still be used to guard against stretching the bias.

A gore is a triangle with two edges sewn into place, and one edge left free as part of a hem. As a triangle, at least one of the sides will be cut on the bias. A garment will tend to fall in folds and “flow” towards the bias edge of the gore. You can use this to your advantage to accent or diminish aspects of your body shape.

Side flow” is applying a gore so the straight edge is stitched to the body panel. This keeps straight lines down the center of the body and visually creates more fullness toward the outside of the body. This can balance a natural fullness in the center.

Center flow” is applying a gore so the bias edge is stitched to the body panel. This will smooth the fabric over the hips and draw the weight of the fabric toward the center

Tunic for a 10th Century Norse Skald: Material Culture 25: A&S50 Challenge

Tunic for a 10th Century Norse Skald
Material Culture 25: A&S50 Challenge
Samia al-Kaslaania

A friend requested a barter commission for his Norse persona. The criteria were that it be suitable for a skald (bard) to wear, and mainly be red. For reference I primarily utilized Gale Owen-Crocker’s book Dress in Anglo-Saxon England.

Having said that, I reached outside of Owen-Crocker’s text to find the pattern used. The basis is an adaptation of Middle Eastern garb from the same time period. Marc Carlson shares an extant version of the same panel-and-gore pattern from the European Middle Ages (noted as a few centuries later). I made the choice because I find the cut more flattering for prosperous men. The otherwise common pattern has the body panel cut as wide as half of the fullest measurement on the trunk. On a luxury-sized body this makes the shoulder seams sag halfway down the bicep, and can feel frumpy to the wearer. In further support of my choice, in the redrawn images Owen-Crocker offers, garments are generally fitted around the body, which can be seen under raised arms (with a few exceptions).

Figure 1 Calendar, London, British Library MS Cotton Tiberius B, v. fol 4r.

The idea that this cut of tunic is known to the Norse is not impossible. Owen-Crocker discusses that furs were traded with the Islamic lands at this time. Gifts of clothing from local leaders are common in the Islamic lands at this time, and the practice grew to include the merchant class power-brokers as well. Norse traders plausibly could have received tunics as gifts from their trading partners in the south.

Tunic style choices and deviations, based on Owen-Crocker:
·    This tunic comes to below the knee, which is in the common range for the 10th century court scenes. 
·    The hem is cut level to the ground to match the redrawn examples Owen-Crocker offers, thus avoiding the “shark-bite” shaped hem.
·    In keeping with images from this period, the hem is intentionally quite full for someone who is not in warrior gear.
·    The sleeves are not so long so they can be pushed up to show wrinkles at the cuffs. While most period images likely display wrinkles at the cuffs, the modern person wearing it is also a volunteer who moves tables and chairs. Therefore he requested standard length.
·    The neckline is “keyhole” style. Whether or not period images show this kind of access slit at the neck opening, all of the garments have close-fitted necks which would require some sort of additional opening.

The construction is a combination of modern and period techniques. The seams are sewn with a machine, and then finished by hand with decorative stitches so that only hand-finishing on the seams is seen on the outside of the garment. The seam decoration is the Mammem herringbone stitch, from a 10th century Danish find at Hedeby. These are worked in Silk Splendor embroidery floss, three strands. The choice for silk decoration was driven by the concept that the skald is an important member of a royal court—he is the historian, spin doctor, and praise-bearer in this period.

Figure 2 Tenth to eleventh century, life of St. Radegund. MS 250 Fol 24r. Bibliotheque Municipale, Poitiers, France

In addition to the decorative seam finishes, this garment is adorned with tablet weaving at the neck and cuffs. The fiber is 100% wool from the retired DMC De Medici collection. The pattern is a simple 7-forward-7-back, with same-color border cards. This simple repeat produces a nice chevron pattern that lies flat when removed from the loom. The fine quality of the wool fibers coupled with the simple repeat allows it to be curved around the neck and steam-shrunk into place.

Finished Tunic

19 January 2014

Mysterious Thirteenth Century Blue Folding Stool

Mysterious Thirteenth Century Blue Folding Stool
Muqima al-Kaslaania with work from Sayyeda Urtatim Al-Qurtubiyya
January 2013

While helping a friend look for an image source, I spotted this stool (the lower figure sits on it).
Folio from an Arabic translation of the Materia medica by Dioscorides. This Arabic translation is dated to 1224 in Baghdad. The original is housed at the Freer Gallery of Art, of the Smithsonian Institutes in Washington, D.C.

From this image alone another researcher, Sayyed "Uncle" Rashid, believed it could be a common ceramic drum stool. Similar items are known from the period.
This stool is housed at the Freer Gallery as well. Painted stone. Eleventh century; Raqqa, Syria.

However, my friend Sayyeda Urtatim discovered another image from the same manuscript, this time housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"Preparation of Medicine from Honey: Leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides [Iraq, Baghdad School]" (13.152.6) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/13.152.6. (December 2011) 

And I discovered a third.

Folio from an Arabic translation of the Materia medica by Dioscorides. This Arabic translation is dated to 1224 in Baghdad. The original is housed at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institutes in Washington, D.C.  Item number S 1986.97.

Finally, Sayyeda Urtatim discovered this fourth image from the same manuscript.
"Leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides ("The Pharmacy") [Iraq]" (57.51.21) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/57.51.21. (October 2006)

At first, I identified that each of these is situated near a cookpot, but it's actually a pharmacy or pharmacist in each image. All are blue, but because all are displayed in the same manuscript that could be a convention of the artist. Could it be a depiction of metal?

It looks to the modern eye like a folding stool, with the balls acting as hinge points. Other thoughts?

Wow!! Thank you, Rachel. Researcher Rachel Shaw saw this post and did the simplest search imaginable: "Islamic folding chair". She found this:

Image 32 a, b. Folding chair, Persian, 12th century, and detail. Private Collection, Teheran. As it appears in: Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1972; p. 301.