Except for an early and consuming passion for the Lindisfarne gospels, I didn’t do any C&I for the first 15 years or so in the SCA.
I only got started painting pre-prints, because my then 12yo child wanted to, and I felt I had to understand so I could help.
A few years ago, I decided to do a Lindisfarne project for Queen’s prize, and donate it to the school that son attends, for their fancy auction. The project (the beatitudes) got $135, and I began to get encouragement to do more custom scrolls.
The words Lyriel used were something like, “I encourage you pursue calligraphy as much as your time and interest allows”.
Now it seems, I might be acceptable at the Illumination, but have a talent for picking up and “writing” the calligraphy hand, rather than “drawing” it.
This concept, and the realization, as I put into some practice that I am talented in that way, blew my mind, and still does. I never aspired to be a scribe. I’m pretty much a dabbler. When I go to the effort, the results are good, but I don’t practice in between commissions, I rarely paint pre-prints, and aspire for recognition in dress accessories (in the loooong run) I was doing about 1 custom scroll a month, between royal and baronial commissions, but backed off about a year ago, in part since the next royal scribe didn’t ask, and in part because I wanted to pursue other stuff. (Ok, I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to stay on the path to a C&I award, and get locked into that in the mind of the populace.)
The reality is, I can do scribal stuff at times when I can’t do other things. I did Seamus’ scroll while locked up doing a medical research study. I haven’t done any bronze casting stuff or lampwork beads since Sept, as it’s too damn cold in the basement to work comfortably.
I really enjoy the feeling of confidence when I am asked, and I love researching the project. (I don’t usually use a ‘hand’ out of the Drogan book, I pick a particular exemplar manuscript, and follow that, as much as practical.) It’s a chance to be of service, and I don’t do a lot of service. (Yes, the torse from Lorell & Cadfael was totally unexpected. My head was saying, “I’m not worthy”, when I mentally counted up what I had done for them, scribally. Then the brain said, “Well, I guess so.”)
But when someone else local, who’s painting skills surpass mine if he could just get a confidence transplant, asks wistfully how to get started doing custom scrolls, I feel guilty that scribal work isn’t more important to me. I mean, perhaps I could be a calligraphy goddess, if I just worked at it diligently. It feels wasteful to not use the talent I apparently have. (Let me tell you, it surprised the heck out of me when I realized that with really minimal practice, I could do a particular hand well. When I say minimal, I usually write out the words of the scroll, alphabetically, one time. That’s it. The last few times, I haven’t even gotten past the middle of the alphabet before I just attack the scroll)
What I don’t know is if my lack of consistent effort in this arena affects how people view my work in other areas? I mean, I’m into a LOT of different stuff. Accessories are made of nearly every material, and need soooo many different skill sets, and tool sets.