A Painted Box

In November of 2017, I began the first steps towards forming a student-teacher relationship with Her then Excellency, now Princess Adelhait Fuchs. Her Highness and I agreed to a trial-period of at least one year before we would formalize our relationship with a contract. In 2018 we agreed that we felt our relationship to be a good fit and so we began making preparations for my Companion Ceremony.

While there are variations of student-teacher ceremonies throughout the Knowne World, there are some traditions that seem to be most common. In addition to the tradition of a contract and the gifting of a belt or favor, there are often gifts exchanged between student and teacher. When planning for the ceremony began, I started to brainstorm a list of potential gifts for Her Excellency based on what I knew regarding her whims and preferences.

I came up with many ideas, but the one that seemed to stick was the idea of a painted jewelry box. This idea was originally inspired by Dame Emma West, who painted a mirror box in the style of a reliquary box from the Uppsala Cathedral, dated from the 12th century. Her Highness, Princess Adelhait, is well known for her love of shiny things – jewelry and accessories – so I knew this would be a gift that she would both appreciate and find useful.

Originally I planned to paint a mirror box that I had purchased previously at Fool’s War in 2017. However, at Pennsic 2018, Her Highness’s husband Count Christoph purchased her a larger mirror box from Egill’s Woodstuffs and offered it to me to paint instead.

A picture of the mirror box, taken from Egill’s Woodstuffs Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/chuckjones

A picture of the mirror box, taken from Egill’s Woodstuffs Etsy page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/chuckjones

Before I began any work on the box, I sent a message to Dame Emma and asked her what steps she took in painting her box, what supplies she used, etc. She was incredibly helpful – as always – and so I followed her instructions exactly.

Next, I had to decide on a design that I wanted to use. For this step, I mostly browsed Pinterest since documentation was not of vital importance. I mainly needed visual inspiration and found plenty of examples under a search for “reliquary box”. I finally decided on the following design as inspiration since Her Highness’s persona is late period German.

The Pinterest caption read: “South German Jewel Casket, Nuremburg or Augsburg, c.1600”

After deciding on a design, I gathered my list of supplies and went to Michael’s to buy everything that I would need. I used very basic supplies for this project – nothing fancy – since this was my first time painting a box, a lot of the process would be trial and error. The first step was to gesso the entirety of the box. Gesso provides a white base layer so that the colored paints are not muted by the wood.

I bought a large tub of gesso because I knew I would use this for other projects.

After painting the box with two layers of gesso, I decided to make stencils for my design. I love working with stencils – I use them for my fabric painting as well – because they allow for a precision in design that is rarely achieved when drawing or painting free-hand. I came up with two stencils that I used in various combinations on different sides of the box. These stencils were drawn by tracing a variety of circular shaped objects on a brown, paper grocery bag. Very fancy 😉

Stencil #1
Stencil #2

I spent a lot of time visualizing how I wanted the stencils to be arranged in order to get the design that I wanted. But once that lengthy process was complete, I started to trace the stencils directly on to the box using a regular pencil.

The lid of the box after two layers of gesso and the traced design. It is very faint, but you can make out the pencil markings.

One the design was traced, I started to paint. Based on the box that I chose as my inspiration, I chose to work with only three colors.

I decided on these paints since blue and white are Her Excellency’s colors and the box that I used for inspiration was worked in gold.
I bought a very basic set of brushes to use for acrylic paints in a variety of sizes.

I started painting the gold first. I figured that if I went “outside the lines” with the gold, that would easily be covered by the blue. Covering blue with gold would not be as easy a task.

The first layer of gold paint.

Once I started to paint the gold I realized that I was going to need multiple layers. You can see in the picture above how light the gold color was initially and how streaky the paint started with that first layer. In the end, I had to paint four layers of gold in order to get the color that I wanted to achieve.

Second layer. Still very light and streaky.
Third layer. Almost there!

Luckily, acrylic paint dries relatively quickly so it can be layered easily without large amounts of time spent wasted while waiting for paint to dry.

Drawer design featuring my very fancy coffee lid paint pallet.
The inside of the box, with some of the trim painted gold.

Eventually I did need to work in time to allow the paint to dry – this ended up being the trickiest bit. I really had to plan out what sides of the box I could paint and allow to dry, while still being able to work on other parts of the box. The box also had to be flipped and laid on its side to be painted more easily, so that had to be factored in as well. In the end, I came up with a very rigid schedule of which sides I could paint when – in order to allow time for the paint to dry in between layers and the box being laid on one side or the other. This became especially important when I began to paint the remainder of the box blue.

The first part of the box to be painted blue was the removable box that sits inside of the top layer, to the right of the mirror. This smaller box was my test piece for the blue paint, and I’m very glad that I was smart enough to do it this way, because the blue paint turned out to be very disappointing.

This blue paint was terrible on its own.

You can see in the picture above that the blue paint was quite streaky. It was also much thicker and darker than the gold paint, not allowing for layers in the same way. I’ll admit, I had a bit of a panic attack when I first used the blue paint. The gold had layered so well and then the blue looked awful! I reached out to a few friends with more painting experience, in addition to searching the internet for a solution. One specific solution that I found online suggested adding Titanium White as a semi-opaque. Luckily this was the exact color that I bought at Michael’s. I added a dollop of Titanium White to Disappointing Blue and it worked like a charm!

The end result of mixing the white and blue. A bit lighter, but still a true blue. Nice and matte – no streaks!

I was very happy with how the blue turned out and it only required two layers, as opposed to the four layers I had to paint with the gold color.

A progress picture of the blue going on the top of the box.

In order to personalize the box for Her Highness, I added her device to the inside of the bottom drawer.

Her Highness’s device drawn in pencil.
The bottom drawer in its entirety.
The bottom drawer after painting.
Progress! You can see in this picture how I used masking tape along the edges to make painting the trim easier.
Painting is done! Here is the final view of the inside.
Final view of the outside.

Once painting was complete, I used a paint pen to outline the gold motifs and add a bit of detailing. This cleaned up the line that was painted by brush.

You can see the slightly darker gold outline here, with some additional detailing inside the gold motif.
Paint pen.

After the outline and detailing was done, it was time to lacquer the box. This was a trial in itself. For the first attempt at lacquering, I purchased a can of liquid lacquer from Home Depot and attempted to apply it in strokes using a foam brush. This did not work well. It was difficult to regulate the amount of lacquer on the brush and the strokes were very visible to me. It was especially hard to apply inside the box, with the smaller sides and corners.

The streaks of lacquer are quite visible here.

The liquid lacquer also caused a bit of a panic when I applied it to the bottom drawer over Sharpie, which I had used to outline the device, and it streaked horribly. I would never have guessed that lacquer could smear “permanent marker” but it does. Lesson learned!

I may have had a mild meltdown when this happened.

When I saw the Sharpie start to streak, I set down the lacquer and stepped away for the night. The next morning I attempted to fix the streaking by painting over the first layer of lacquer. I am quite certain this is some kind of no-no in the world of painting wood, but I knew I would be applying another coat of lacquer later and it was the only way I could try and fix the problem that the lacquer had created.

I used a small, white paint pen to cover up the silver streaks and also repainted with blue as needed. Not perfect, but I’m happy with the fix.

After the Sharpie incident, I opted to go back to the store, purchase spray lacquer, and try that instead. Not only did it work much better, but it dried much more quickly and I was able to apply 2-3 coats, finishing the box nicely.

The final step was to add some words to the mirror. I had a friend translate Her Highness’s favorite quote from Mean Girls (a favorite movie of ours) into Latin: “You’re really pretty! So you agree, you think you’re really pretty?” – “Tu ed pulcherrima! Tum adsentis, tu putas te pulcherrimam esse?” I then used the gold paint pen to write this on the edge of the mirror. This definitely could have turned out better – I wish I had a smaller, gold paint pen to use, but I was unfortunately out of time and the lacquer incident had taken more time to resolve, leaving less time for this detail.

The lettering with my grumpy reflection.

I applied a final coat of lacquer and then I was done!

I presented the box to Her Highness at Atlantia’s 12th Night event on January 12th.

Presenting the box to Her Highness.

Overall, I am very happy with how this project turned out. From start to finish, it took about two months to complete, though I was not working on it every day. It was my first time painting wood like this and while it wasn’t perfect, I managed to work around and fix most of the complications and mistakes that came up. It was a great learning experience and I already know how best to tackle another project like this in the future!

Pennsic 45 Top Ten

I have a traditional of writing up a “top ten” once I’m home from Pennsic every year. It’s a way to preserve memories while they are still fresh in my mind and hopefully, look back on the positive moments rather than dwelling on any, inevitable negativity that is likely to occur when 10,000 people share the same outdoor space for two weeks straight!

Pennsic XLV

My first top ten! Yes, I am jumping on the bandwagon in the spirit of positivity! And because I want to be able to look back on this and remember the details…

Leaving Cafe Merhaba after obtaining an ice cold beverage to follow a day on the archery range.

1.Water bearing! To my surprise, water bearing was THE most fun thing I did at Pennsic this year. Tuesday morning rolled around and I really wasn’t feeling up to putting my armor on for the battle, but I still very much wanted to support my friends and serve my Kingdom in some capacity. The experience was amazing. I had great conversations with fighters from all over the Known World, people asking me my name, where I was from, and thanking me profusely for being there and offering service – their kindness made a huge impact on me. I can honestly say that I can’t wait until I can water bear again next War!

2. My sister joining me for the weekend for her FIRST SCA event! Matilda drove from Ohio to hang out and experience the SCA for herself after seeing all of my posts on the Book of Faces. I’m excited to say that she had an awesome time and is planning to come back next year – I can’t wait!

3. Retaining for Their Majesties Atlantia. Our populace is incredibly fortunate to have such kind and generous Monarchs. And for myself, I have felt personally invested and connected during this reign more than any other.

Retaining on the battlefield. Photo credit to Master Ursus.

4. Marshaling the St. Sebastian’s Shoot on Saturday. It was a long, hot day, and I wasn’t relieved from marshaling duty until the shoot was about to end, but I didn’t even mind. I had so much fun! I marshaled a line with Lord Grimm and Lord Ronan – we worked well together as a team and assisted some 280 archers through our targets. My target station consisted of four lollipops to which many arrows were lost, but I kicked my shoes off early on to help searched for ammunition after every round. The look on an archer’s face when you return a lost arrow is priceless! This is another event I can’t wait to help with next War!

5. Bog nights. This will always be a staple of my Pennsic experience! I love adventuring down to the lake at night and wandering around with my friends, never knowing exactly what will happen, where I will go, or who I will meet.

Another beautiful day at Pennsic.

6. Wolgemut! Wolgemut has been my soundtrack to Pennsic prep for the past few months so seeing them live was practically a dream come to life for me. They were incredible! Sadly, the performance was interrupted because of a heavy storm. My friends and I took shelter in the Great Hall, mooched some Blue Feather snacks, and danced like crazy people until there was a break in the rain and we were able to wander back to camp. It was a night of general silliness, of which I am always a fan!

7. Knee injuries. Yes, a knee injury made my top ten list! Wednesday I woke up with incredible pain and swelling in my left knee. I still have no idea what the caused the pain, but I’m now fully recovered. Despite being out of commission for the entire day, I received care and assistance that made it MUCH easier to bear. Having such great friends there to help care for me and keep me company made me realize how lucky I am in my chosen family.

My new crossbow, made for both target and combat shooting. Yes, it is purple!

8. The Mother of All Battles. It was the only battle I managed to fight in this War, but it was an amazing experience! I’m not sure that I actually managed to kill anyone, but I still had fun and that’s what matters. A special thank you to Master Seamus and Master Godai for their encouragement and guidance on the battlefield – as someone completely new to combat archery, that level of support is beyond priceless. I still have a lot to learn but I’m looking forward to working with my fellow combat archers and fighters so that I can be ready for next year!

9. Ponte Alto Court, whiskey tasting, and glow stick battle. I always enjoy Baronial court and seeing individuals be recognized for the (seemingly) never-ending service and support that they give – to each other, to the Barony, and to the Kingdom. During Thursday’s court Lady Barbara gifted me with a beautiful box that will be returning to Pennsic with me every year. After court we had a whiskey tasting and social that was A LOT of fun. This was followed by the kidnapping and execution of a ceramic troll and an epic glow stick battle that culminated in the invasion of a nearby camp – still not sure whose camp that was… The night ended with the snacking of leftover couscous and the stumbly-bumbly walk back to camp. It was kind of a blur at that point…

10. Becoming authorized to inspect combat bolts. I LOVE to learn, so yes, sitting through a two hour class on the proper construction of combat bolts was a lot of fun. Although I wasn’t able to make it out to the battlefield much this War after being injured, I plan on being there as much as possible next year in order to be of service in this capacity.

A quick selfie break during an after-battle inspection of combat bolts with Baroness Cellach!

Goals for next year: two full weeks of fun! More classes (I was only able to attend one this year) – both learning and teaching, more fighting, more shooting! The countdown begins!

Pennsic 46 Top Ten

I have a traditional of writing up a “top ten” once I’m home from Pennsic every year. It’s a way to preserve memories while they are still fresh in my mind and hopefully, look back on the positive moments rather than dwelling on any, inevitable negativity that is likely to occur when 10,000 people share the same outdoor space for two weeks straight!

Pennsic XLVI

Now that laundry is done and I am mostly unpacked… My top ten moments from Pennsic this year were (in no particular order)…

Household selfie on our pilgrimage home from the archery range.

1.Camping with Grimmsfield for the first time at Pennsic as a household. The months leading up to the event were hectic and it seemed like almost every weekend or Monday we were busy with projects, but it was well worth it. Our camp looked amazing and we had all of the amenities and comforts that we needed for two weeks. Our heads of household, Lord Grimm and Lady Gunnora, not only organized everything, but were total enablers and supportive of all of our efforts to make the camp as awesome as it was.

2. Water bearing! This was one of my favorite activities last year and so I made sure to volunteer again this year – this time for the Woods Battle on Wednesday. The Woods Battle was very different than the Field Battle that I volunteered for last year, but fun nonetheless. The only downside was getting stung by a yellow jacket that flew up my dress and got a little too personal 😨😭 Many thanks to those that helped with water-bearing efforts this year – a much needed effort!

This is my water bearing garb. Get it? I match the cooler. /sensible chuckle/

3. My sister joining me for a full week this year! Matilda drove from Ohio to hang out for Peace Week since she enjoyed her Middle Weekend so much last year. We even took the time to submit her name and device to Herald’s Point so she will be official by this time next year – yay!

4. Teaching two classes for Pennsic University. This year was my first time teaching at Pennsic and it was great! I taught Russian 101 and a Newcomer’s class on How to Get Involved at Events. Both classes seemed to be very well received and I am looking forward to teaching them again next year!

Reviewing my class notes while students gather…

5. Marshaling St. Sebastian’s Shoot on Saturday. This has become one of my favorite activities every Pennsic! I love marshaling a different station each year and meeting archers from across the Known World. Though I wasn’t able to make a target this year, Master Seamus allowed me to marshal his very challenging target during the morning shift. It was great fun!

6. Monday Night of War Week – the Roman Bacchanal and SwampFest! I have a new love for Roman garb thanks to Lady Laelia and the Roman Bacchanal on Monday was awesome! Going to a party where 95% of the attendees are actually dressed to the theme was amazing. The party was fun, the company great, and the food & drink plentiful! Following the Bacchanal we wandered down to the Bog for SwampFest, which was equally entertaining. We wandered from camp to camp, sampling specialty drinks and snacks along the way. Here’s to hoping that SwampFest continues next year!

7. Shopping. This year was the first time that I made an effort to visit all the merchants and… well, I spent a lot of money 😂😂 I bought a lot of things I needed, quite a few things that I wanted, and maybe some extra mugs because, despite what my camp-mates may say, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MUGS!

Mugs… OMG mugs…

8. Volunteering for a Watch shift. Middle Sunday morning from 3am-6am, I was driving around in a golf cart with my sister and enjoying Pennsic during its (relatively) quiet hours. This is another activity that I enjoyed so much that I plan to do it again next year! We saw every camp and road, were entertained by hilarious, drunken conversations, momentary lost a wool blanket in action, and found a dollar in the road 😂😂 And, of course, nothing equals the beauty of Pennsic at sunrise ❤

9. Scotch Night at Crossbow. This was my first time sitting within the circle and taking a sample of everything – it was not only a lot of fun, but I actually learned a lot about Scotch!

10. Volunteering at Newcomers Point. I love being a Deputy Chatelain and helping out newcomers whenever I can. This year, I volunteered for about eight hours of shifts at Newcomers Point and I really enjoyed it! It was great to hang out with other Chatelain types, get to know them, and assist any newcomers to Pennsic and the SCA who stopped by!

Bonus 11. And last, but most definitely NOT least, being inducted into the Order of the Yew Bow at Atlantian Royal Court. All I can say is, wow! I’m still feeling a bit shell-shocked to have received such an honor, but I’m grateful for the entire archery community of Atlantia for always being so welcoming, fun, and supportive. I’ve already been told that now is when the real work begins and, yes, I have plans!

The scroll and medallion made for me by dear friends, awarded in Atlantian Royal Court on Wednesday of War Week.

Recap and goals for next year: This year was much more relaxed than years past – I spent a lot of time in camp, just relaxing and hanging out with the household. I’m getting closer to finding the right balance between busy and restful during my favorite vacation 😂😂 Next year I plan to get back onto the battlefield with a new Combat Archery kit, both teach and take more classes, shoot more archery! 346 days and counting!

Did I cry during tear down? Maybe…

Pennsic 47 Top Ten

I have a traditional of writing up a “top ten” once I’m home from Pennsic every year. It’s a way to preserve memories while they are still fresh in my mind and hopefully, look back on the positive moments rather than dwelling on any, inevitable negativity that is likely to occur when 10,000 people share the same outdoor space for two weeks straight!

Pennsic XLVII

Home from Pennsic – car has been unloaded, laundry is done, camp trailer is unloaded, camp inventory has been taken, list of improvements made, and pavilions set up to dry – deep breaths – and now I can rest and reflect. In all honesty, Pennsic was a bit of a challenge for me this year. There were highs and lows. But in the spirit of remaining positive, I want to continue with my top ten list that I do every year so here goes (in no particular order)…

A moment I captured of the sun shining down on the Pennsic castle.

1.Peace Week – yes, the whole of Peace Week was pretty much perfect. I feel like I struck that balance of busy and relaxed. I woke up early enough to get up and get going, take or teach classes, volunteer, relax in camp as needed, and then party at night.

2. EldVatten/Craic Inne/Octobar – I hung out here at night more than anywhere else this year, mostly to see my friends, Esa and William, but also because the vibe is great. My friend, Mella, and I would get there nice and early, get good seats, drink good brews, and watch Pennsic TV. This is also where I had my one “I am exactly where I want to be/Feel Good” moment of Pennsic that felt like true Nirvana.

3. Chatelain things – I spent a lot of time teaching Newcomer classes and hanging out at Newcomers Point again, like I did last year. I enjoyed it just as much this year. And, if all goes as planned, I will be even more involved in this process next year! Special thanks to Baroness Desiderata and Duchess Kalisa for their guidance, encouragement, and faith in my abilities.

4. Watch shift – seriously, y’all – always one of my favorite things to do at war. This year I did my watch shift with my friend, Alexandria, from 1-4am – the night shifts are THE BEST – and we rocked it. I wanted to do at least one more before war ended, but time ran away from me. Next year though!

5. Known World Courtesan’s Roman Bacchanal – Wow, the Courtesans did an AMAZING job. AMAZING. AMAZINGGGG. It was fun last year, but the improvements made this year were significant. Everyone looked wonderful – the food and drink was delicious – the entertainment was fabulous. Everything was perfect. I cannot wait for this party to happen again!

A Roman matron – it me.

6. Water bearing – another war favorite. This year I did more water bearing than I ever have in the past – being on the field for Allied Champions, the field battle, the Atlantian ten man, and the bridge battle – both rapier and heavy. Our army was amazing – they fought hard and honorably – and I was happy to see so many other water bearers there in support of our fighters. It made me proud to be Atlantian!

7. Retaining for Their Royal Highnesses. Since I was an SCA newbie when Ragnarr and Lynette had their first reign together, it’s been a joy to retain for them now and get to know them both a bit better. They are kind and fun loving people and I am truly looking forward to their reign together as our next Majesties.

Retaining for Their Royal Highnesses during Opening Ceremonies.

8. Fulfilling my role as my boyfriend’s #1 fan. But seriously, I’m so proud of him and how well he fought during war. He placed 4th in the Rose’s Tournament and tied for 5th in the Squire’s Tournament. He also earned both a Shark’s Tooth and the Vexillum Atlantiae as a member of Windmaster’s Hill Baronial fighting unit. So yeah, he’s kind of awesome ❤

9. Shopping! I said I would buy less stuff this year… I lied! Mugs, socks, jewelry, and a lovely chair from Lord Stefan von Kiel (Gryphon Furniture) all found a home with me.

A wimple purchased at a Pennsic merchant’s booth.

10. Wednesday Night, War Week – Atlantian Court, Ansteorran Chili Night, Midnight Madness. We came, we drank, we followed the flag. It was a lot of fun and I hope to have a repeat next year!

Despite the ups and down of this year, Pennsic remains my favorite SCA event. It always has been and always will be.