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Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival 2017 Wrap-Up

First off, if you met me at the Ren Fest, thank you for visiting my page! I know that it’s kind of in shambles right now, but I’m working on it as we clean up from the event and get ready for the next ones on the list.

As for the festival itself, it was an amazing time for all of us with surprisingly good weather, first weekend aside. What happened? Well, we had a brief but exciting onslaught of near-hurricane force winds and pelting rain! When we saw the jewelry boards covered in metal start to rattle and peel off the cart, we abandoned ship and hightailed it down to the main shop, Versailles Jewelers. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long until the weather calmed enough for us to go back up top and reset the chainmaille cart. That seemed to be the worst of it, as for the rest of the festival the weather was all right, if a bit hot some days. It felt like Mother Nature got it all out of her system in one afternoon!

Not much else exciting happened, but i did make good progress on my scalemaille armor. I’ll keep the blog (and my instagram) updated on its progress!

Although there was a funny moment on a chilly day. I let my hair down, which I usually have up, and a lady started petting it because she thought I was wearing a Jon Snow cloak! Admittedly, my hair is dark, wavy and there’s, like, three feet of it, so I don’t blame her, especially when I had my friend take a picture and I saw what I looked like from the back. Easy closet cosplay? I think so!

I don’t usually get the chance to take many pictures, but here’s a few:

PghRenFest2017

If you haven’t been to the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, you should come! The food is good, the people are friendly, and you can always stop by the “Spoils of War” cart for a quick chainmaille lesson or to just geek out about things in general.

So, until next time, I leave you with the traditional Rennie goodbye. Sing along!

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Blackstone Raid 2017

We’re back from Backstone Raid and we had a wonderful time!

Aside from manning the booth, we participated in much socializing and mead drinking, which is something we haven’t done in a very long time. Brian cut a gemstone after one of the stones in the Cheapside Hoard, and entered it into the Arts & Sciences Competition. He won Queen’s Choice and Baroness’s Choice! Our friend Anthony (AKA Albrecht) won an Onyx award for his service to the barony in general, Chatelaine duties and his tireless efforts to help things run smoothly for everyone he ran across.

There was also a nasty storm that we thankfully survived with no problems, but several tents were flattened, incliding some fellow merchants. Lukcily there was lots of help on hand to help with immediate damage control and packing the next day. Brian also got to play some music in court, which is something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.

I also took a bunch of pictures, so here they are!

Thursday – Setup & Arrival

Friday

   

Saturday

    

Sunday

Thanks again to everyone who came and visited us in the booth! ^_^ It was great seeing you!

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November is for Topaz

Topaz! It’s such a versatile, colorful birthstone. It comes in blue, orange, white, gold, pink, brown, green – Almost the entire rainbow! November folks are lucky, because topaz is believed to garner success in all endeavors. Different colors were believed to have different effects, such as yellow for wealth and blue for insight.

Today, you often see white topaz as an alternative to diamonds in jewelry. Thanks to modern science, there are an abundance of treatments that can be applied to topazes to induce brilliant plays of color that you can’t find anywhere else. They’re usually marketed as “Mystic Topaz” and they’re made with chemical coatings, heating, radiation, or a mix of all three! In fact, my engagement ring has a green/purple Mystic Topaz in it. The mix of color was made by coating the stone with a thin layer of titanium before irradiating it.

Which kind of topaz is YOUR favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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Blackstone Raid XXIV

After a great weekend hanging out with old friends, we’re starting to prep for our very first SCA event! We’re going to be at Blackstone Raid in West Virginia on Friday and Saturday. We’ve never attended any events before, so we’re excited to get out there and meet people!

Brian is looking forward to seeing the fights. He’s getting gear together so he can join rapier practice on a regular basis and get himself into the fray! There’s a chance I’ll be in Knights of the Classroon’s tent most of the time we’re there, and of course the Little One will be running around and enjoying herself.

We’re going with our friend who is known in the SCA as Doga, and is a heavy fighter. I have no idea where in Blackstone we’ll be staying, but I hope to get a chance to wander the grounds and meet people and see the sights. Something tell me my Instagram is going to get particularly busy next weekend.

So, are you in the SCA? Any advice for a family of first-timers?

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FREE Reference Books!

Screencap of MOMA page

The Met Publications Page has everything!

Guess what? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has put hundreds of their journals, books, and teaching guides online FOR FREE. You can read them, download them, buy them, and even get some of them printed on demand if you want to throw money at them.

Do you like to make garb? Guess what? You can search by “Collection/Department” and hit up The Costume Institute. Send the fighters over to the books on the Arms and Armor collection. I’ve been giggling like a maniac by just typing “Jewelry” into the Keyword box so I can Download All The Things.

So please, tell your friends, tell that cousin who loves to paint, that friend who’s really into cosplay, and send them to MOMA’s Met Publications Page. There’s literally something for everyone. If you only want to look for free downloads, make sure you select Download PDF under “Format” when you begin your search. Once you find a book you’d like, hit “More” and it’ll take you to that book’s page, where you can select what options they have available for that particular title. The screencap up top gives you an idea.

So, what are YOU looking for? Have you found a great resource? Share it in the comments so we can all see it!

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Medieval Ring Brooch Tutorial

Medieval Ring Brooch Tutorial

I’ve got something for you!

I’m doing a series of historical jewelry tutorials! Specifically, things you can make without having to buy a bunch of fancy tools or use a torch for. I’m starting off with the ring brooch, which is something that you don’t see too often, despite its popularity in medieval dress. You can use it on its own as a decoration, or to pin a shawl or scarf.

My instructions assume you have some basic experience with jewelry making, but even if you don’t, this is still pretty simple. Practice on some thin, cheap craft wire if this is your first project, and if you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help!

Click Here to get the PDF
Click Here for the Tutorial on Instructables.

If you make a pin with this tutorial, put a link in the comments!

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Jewelry and Legacy

Rings from my grandparents
Together Again

I’m sharing this picture of my grandparents’ rings because, as of Sunday, they are together again.

My grandma was 95, and lived alone at home. Grandpa died a few years ago, almost to the day, which was almost their 60th anniversary, which was almost her birthday, Valentine’s Day.

I almost posted a blog post about the sample sale going on, and the shows I’m applying to. I almost decided not to say anything about it, but that would feel like lying.

Art is ultimately about life, and life gets sad and messy at times. If artists didn’t acknowledge that, there wouldn’t be “Memento Mori” jewels or mourning rings filled with delicate braids of hair. There’s lots of beauty to be found in the tragic parts of life; we just have to dig a bit harder to get to it.

So I’ll keep going. I will keep up the Project 365 I’m doing on Instagram, even while I’m in NY. I’ll reschedule the sale post for another week. I’ll keep going with my big, crazy fashion show plan. I’ll look for more shows to apply to. I’ll laugh and draw and make things.

But I won’t be mailing out any shipments until next week.

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Dinner from the 14th Century

PicturePreparing Lombard Chicken Pasties from The Medieval Cookbook by Maggic Black

This is something I never thought I’d do: a blog post on cooking. Why? Because I’m a terrible cook. I have set ramen on fire in the microwave. Several times. I have no idea how I set noodles in water on fire, but I am strangely proud that I did. I’ve killed toasters, destroyed pans, and extinguished more kitchen fires than I can remember. Ask my first college roomie. I started a fire the first dinner we had together. (Hi, Rachael! Sorry I still owe you an oven mitt. And a pan.)

So, yeah – I suck at cooking.

Brian makes all the food, but he’s got a lot of stones to cut and the final edit of his book to finish, so he’s asked me to try my hand at cooking again. I agreed, but I hate cooking. To make it fun and interesting for me, I bought two cookbooks on Amazon.

HISTORICAL COOKBOOKS.

I got The Medieval Cookbook by Maggie Black and The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger. They arrived Saturday, and I decided to try the “Lombard Chicken Pasties” from The Medieval Cookbook for dinner. Now, these aren’t your typical cookbooks. They’re full of historical information, including cultural notes about how and when food was served. If you’re like me and like to learn as much as you can, however and whenever you can, these are perfect. When I realized that I had spent more than an hour reading a cookbook without even thinking about cooking, I knew I’d made a good buy.

Out of respect to the author I’m not posting the recipe, but they were easy to make, even for someone like me. Most importantly, they were delicious! The Little One loved them! I did make the mistake of not pricking the tops of the pasties before I put them in the oven, though. Considering how my cooking escapades usually turn out, I’m happy I only had to clean up the filling that leaked out and got baked on the pan.

I had planned to throw a steam bag of veggies in the microwave to go with them but I forgot, and I’m glad I did. These things are filling! Granted, I did use slightly more chicken than was called for, but only by a tiny bit. They’re just filling. There were three left over, and while I have them in the fridge for leftover night, I imagine that they would freeze really well.


PictureSo delicious! I have a feeling this will become a regular dinner item.

So far, cooking like it’s 1399 is working out.

Have you ever tried your hand at historical cooking? If you have, tell me about it in the comments; I’m eager to learn!

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Venus Earrings History and Craftsmanship

Because pearls come from the sea, they gained a permanent connection to Venus, goddess of love, who was born from the waves’ foam and carried to shore on a clamshell. Venus was also the goddess in charge of everyday drinking wine, while Jupiter was in charge of sacred wine used for religious ceremonies. Venus’s wine festivals were celebrated throughout the Empire and were very well attended. As a result, wine-purple amethyst also became a stone associated with love while green stones were connected to spring and fertility. These gems were often placed together in various combinations.

A jewelry staple for centuries, pearl studs can be as fancy or as simple as you’d like. We added our own twist with a granulated border and riveting. I chose to rivet the pearls in place, rather than glue them, not only for added security but also to showcase an ancient technique not typically used today.

These earrings were directly inspired by Greek and Roman earrings discovered in the late 1800s. Flat discs covered in granulation and set with gems or dangling pearls seemed to be a popular earring style throughout the ancient world.

Before I begin cutting the back plate from sheet silver, I had to match the cultured, freshwater button pearls. The pearls are then placed on a silver wire that I soldered to the back plate of the earring. Then, I carefully hammered the end of the wire until it flattened out like the head of a nail. This delicate work requires patience, but results in a secure, timelessly elegant earring.

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My First Cloisonné Enamel Piece

I love to use color in my work. I may wear all black every day, but I love color. That’s why I decided to try enamelling. There’s only so much you can do with gemstones to add color anyway, and enamelling has been used in jewelry to do just that for thousands of years. The type of enamel work I’m talking about is vitreous enamel. It’s pretty much colored glass ground up so fine that it’s like sand or sugar. You put the glass grains on a backing material – gold, copper or fine silver for jewelry – then put it in a kiln or hit it with a torch. This melts the grains of glass and fuses them together to make a smooth surface. It seems like there’s as many different ways to use enamel on jewelry as there are for using paint on a canvas, and just like with paint, it can be simple or complex.

The enamelling technique I decided to try is cloisonné. It invloves the use of thin strips of metal or wire to make cells (cloisons in French) that are then adhered to a backing material and filled in with (usually) different colors of enamel. The cloisons can be used to separate the colors, or be an important design element in and of themselves. Upon reading this article on Ganoksin, I was inspired to make a pendant after the designs on the gold rings from Kouklia in Cyprus, some of the oldest examples of cloisonné enamel ever found. The rings date from around the 13th century, BC.

For my first piece, I decided to use transparent enamel with fine silver. The technique I used to apply the enamel is wet-packing, where the grains of glass are mixed with distilled water and applied with a brush or small spatula. I made a little animated gif of the process, which goes roughly like this:

  1. The shaped cloisons are stuck in place, fused with a layer of clear enamel
  2. Wet-packing in the first layer of color. I used a fine sable brush.
  3. The first layer dry and ready to fire. Note the color change.
  4. Layer one is fired!
  5. This is after a few layers. You can see it’s quite high, almost to the top of the wires. I also decided to try blending from light to dark blue on the curly bits.
  6. Fired and looking good. The jewel tones are gorgeous! Almost finished…
  7. After the final firing. The wires are still a little high, but those will be ground down.
  8. The metal and glass surfaces have been ground down to be even with one another, and the enamel itself is finished!
  9. Now it’s a pendant and ready to wear.

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