September 2018 – Armenian

Dzovinar told them about her dream: – In my dream, tonight, Saint Garabed revealed to me That the Khalif, in dire straits, Has pledged to sacrifice you to his idols. When he tries to do this, You should fend for yourselves. He will sacrifice you to his gods, my sons. Run away, go to the city of the Armenian king. Follow the bright star at night, And at daytime ask for directions To the land of the eastern king.”
(‘Sasunts’i Davit’, ‘David of Sassoun’, an oral Armenian folk epic)

Calligraphy and Illumination by Lady Keziah Planchet

Persona: I’m working on developing a persona for an early 14th century French city woman. Being raised SCAdian, I’ve had a problem pinning down one persona. I did 10th century Danish through high school and now have found myself in love with the illuminations and embroideries of the early 14th century.

Why did you choose this culture? When I was asked if I wanted to do a page for the calendar, I was at Pennsic, missing my brushes waiting for me back at home. I’ve only been illuminating since the end of May and have still been experimenting with what I like (and don’t like) to do. I had stumbled across an article talking about some British museum having a small show of Armenian pieces and they just were fascinating to me. The bright gold, the geometric patterns, the pillars, flora and fauna, all with broad lines and deep rustic colors. I hadn’t yet had the chance to undertake one and I’d been spending all my spare cellphone battery at Pennsic looking at more pictures when I should have been going to bed.

Immediately after saying I would do a calendar page, I went to one of the booksellers and asked about books, but was instead introduced to a woman from another kingdom whose passion was medieval Armenian culture. We exchanged emails and I continued to do my own research online. I talked to many people at Pennsic and no one I talked to knew what I was talking about! I knew I had to change that. (I was excited to see one of the Pennsic A&S Champions’ entries from another kingdom was an Armenian scroll this year and I sent many people over to look at it.)

The more I researched medieval Armenia, the more I knew it was the right choice. Armenia’s patron saint is Gregory the Illuminator and throughout their very fascinating history, they prized their manuscripts (all of which that I found were religious) above their own safety at times. Crazy stuff!

Inspiration: T’oros Roslin, an 11th century Armenian illuminator was a big inspiration. All of his pieces were fantastic. The main inspiration was one of his Canon pages that I found on his wikipedia page and then another page, from a Bible, off the Armenica, a website where there are hundreds of scanned manuscripts. I took aspects of these pages for my own calendar page. These pages were some of my favorites, as I was able to do a little bit of everything I liked, geometrics, flowers, you name it, it got to go onto that page.

Materials used: Gouache, all the way.

Notes of interest: I was really excited to be able to throw in a blue Eastern Tyger into the mix, he came out great. I was overjoyed to find a verse from the story of ‘David of Sassoun’, an oral epic, that talked about an ‘Eastern King’, even though the rest of the verse is definitely a bit confusing out of context. I encourage folks to find a translation online, the stories are full of heart and a few times had me laughing at the bravado of the heroes.

What drew you to participate in this project? What drew me to participate in this project has to be the fact that ever since I started illuminating, the Northern Regional scribes have been nothing but encouraging. Christiana Crane walked me over to Mistress Rhonwyn at the Pennsic EK Scribal meeting and said I would love to hear about the calendar. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try something new and to put myself out there (a hard task to do!). Impostor syndrome is a real thing, especially when you’re doing something totally new! But with others’ support (especially that of my now-Laurel master, Harold von Auerbach), I knew I had to go for it! One of my favorite things about the SCA is the wild outpouring of support you get whenever you decide to try something new and scary.

Favorite medium: Gouache! I’m still trying out new kinds of paints and inks, but gouache acts how I always wanted paint to act as a kid, but never knew to try. (but you know, I was given my first gold leaf the other day, and I’m pretty excited to try that!)

Least Favorite/Most challenging technique: Measuring things. No, seriously, whether it’s for a border, for calligraphy, for finding the middle of the page, I am all thumbs and will inevitably have to remeasure and pencil out a border at least three times because -something- will be off. Thank goodness for erasers.

What is a piece of advice you would give a new scribe? My advice for new scribes is to mix your gouache somewhere to a consistency between light and heavy cream.

Better advice would be to read the EK scribes handbook because it has great information! Take notes on what you do, because our EK scribes are going to ask you what you’ve done and why (because they all want to be helpful in troubleshooting problems!) and notes will help you learn. Just like in the Magic School Bus: Take Chances, Make Mistakes and Get Messy!