Wednesday, July 12, 2017

AoA for Helen Attebroke

I had been fascinated by The Feather Book of Dionisio Minaggio for over a year now. The book was labeled as being created in 1618 and, in all honesty, my original fascination came with the commedia characters that were portrayed in it.

Each picture was created from feathers. Not just feathers, but also skins, beaks, and feet of birds. And, of course, ink for the writing.

As soon as I got an assignment, I began collecting feathers. As can be seen, the colors are amazing in these pictures! The man who made the book was the chief gardner and it is speculated it was a way to use up the feathers from the kitchen. But the pictures were amazing, so I spent time collecting mallard wings and nearly whole bodies of pheasants until I had a pretty amazing collection.

The collection kept growing because as I began I realized I needed many sizes, many shapes, and of course, many colors. But I learned many things while working on this project.

In the end, the entire thing was done on watercolor paper using feathers from turkey, quail, pheasant, mallard, goose, and chicken. The chosen glue was an appropriate fish glue.

I learned many things along the way.

- Never ever EVER trust that your fingers will be appropriate for the job. No matter how much you use brushes and tweezers and toothpicks and blades, your fingers are sticky and they will wreck havoc on your piece.
- A #11 blade is going to be your best friend for cutting, shaping, placing, and reshaping while on the paper. Trust it as long as it isn't sticky.
- Remember that feathers are waterproof. This creates difficulties when trying to mix the thick glue and water. The ratio is a very careful balance that I have yet to perfect.
- Feathers also have curve and shape depending on where they are situated on the bird. Don't fight with the feathers. Use them for their angles. Wait to find the right spot.
- Do not sneeze. Do not breathe. Do not cough. And dear lords, do not have the ceiling fan turned on. Use the same rules as you do for doing gold leaf.
- Do not throw out anything. There will be times you will smack your forehead as you realize that a small piece you brushed aside would be perfect to fill in a specific gap.
- Don't be afraid to add more glue. And water. And watered down glue. And watery glue. And water on top of glue. And glue on top of water.
- Let things dry. Use severe amounts of patience. If you try and brush on more glue, everything -will- move. If you try and cut or scrape away excess before it is dry, everything -will- move. Work in smal areas all over the picture at the same time if you are limited with time. Otherwise this should be a project that easily takes a month.

Things I learned in hindsight that I want to incorporate next time::

- It is obvious in some of the pictures from The Feather Book that there was art underneath the feathers, more than just an outline sketch, but painted colors. Perhaps as a guide for the staff to know what colors to lay down where. I would like to try that next time so there isn't as much concern with filling small gaps because the same color will be underneath.
- Upon closer inspection, it appears that after the picture was created, it was then cut out to give it super clean edges from the feathers and then that feather cut out picture was placed into the book and words were written. Next time I would like to try that as well in hopes of giving a cleaner appearance.

Either way, I'm incredibly proud of the efforts I went to in putting together the scroll.

This particular scroll was an AoA for Helen Attebroke. Words by Tristan le Chanticler:

"Eight July came swiftly, A.S. two and fifty,
Amid blood and gore of the Great Northeastern War,
When Majesties Imperial brought gift to thee,
Ionnes Stark and Honig Sweet, you knelt before.
Awarding Arms, Helen Attebroke, emblazon,
Per chevron green and white, four barnacles in pairs,
With harp arranging, thereby hearts counterchanging.
In love and war will tensioned strings loose wondrous aires!
Know that whenever bow, or back, or song are bent,
Within Our homes or halls, or on Our fields or wall,
This fletchèd point drives deep and true, when talent’s lent,
That patient crafts in steady hands meet duty’s call!
Thus flock and knock fine feathers on Our Eastern wing

As the thrumming archer's harps our victories sing."

He played nicely into the feathers and the fact she was an archer and a harper. The words really pulled it all together.

Here is the final scroll:

For more pictures from the actual book, visit this site.