Friday, December 2, 2011

Merry Early Christmas!

My husband and I decided to splurge this year and get ourselves an extremely early Christmas present: a DSLR!! Our little point-and-shoot has been around for several years and while it was definitely a workhorse, it's so exciting to have this beautiful new camera to play around with! Based on a recommendation from our friends over at Orange Turtle Photography, we got a Canon EOS Rebel T1i for our starter DSLR. We've been going crazy taking pictures of everything (read: Walnut) and marveling at how sharp the shots are.

This was taken indoors! At night!

In the meantime, I've been working on my first "art" dress. Definition of an "art" dress being that it's somewhat impractical for everyday wear and a little too weird even for special occasion wear. And inspired by something. I think that covers the definition of most artsy-fartsy things, yeah? Here's a sneak peak:

To take a break from this dress (it's definitely the longest I've ever worked on anything, and this isn't even that complicated!), I've been returning to my craft roots. I think my first serious foray into arts and crafts was in college, when I went through a wood pyrography phase. As my phases go, it was a fairly long one -- an entire school year! I burned all sorts of gift plaques, boxes, and even candlesticks and napkin rings, all in "elvish"-inspired script. I even sold a few in a craft fair at UCSD. I don't have any pictures of any of it (this was before digital cameras were super common; I have some actual camera prints somewhere, lost forever), but that's probably good because most of my efforts were pretty laughable. I do have this one leftover that's more Gondorian than elvish. Well, watching TTT while hand-picking my Superman dress reminded me again of how much I love love love the aesthetics of LOTR, and I remembered a pyrography project that I had started but never completed. I went digging through my closet and found this plaque:

Pencil on wood, with one measly star finished.

Back when I was a crazy college student, I actually taught myself calligraphy. Not just in English, either -- in Tengwar, JRR Tolkien's alphabet for writing in the Elvish languages of Quenya and Sindarin. I even took some of my notes for my upper div biology classes in Elvish, which of course made studying even more difficult than it needed to be. Anyway, this plaque was my transcription of the Elvish hymn to Varda, A Elbereth Gilthoniel. Here is the English transcription and translation:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
O Elbereth Starkindler,
silivren penna míriel

white-glittering, slanting down sparkling like a jewel,
o menel aglar elenath!

the glory of the starry host!
Na-chaered palan-díriel

Having gazed far away
o galadhremmin ennorath,

from the tree-woven lands of Middle-earth,
Fanuilos, le linnathon

to thee, Everwhite, I will sing,
nef aear, sí nef aearon!

on this side of the Sea, here on this side of the Ocean!

After a few hours of work, I had the calligraphy done, but I felt like the ocean and elf and tree still needed something more. So I went looking through my Alphonse Mucha art book for inspiration (I think the elves fit perfectly with the Art Nouveau style of illustration; just look at the similarities between Arwen's bedroom and the Paris Metro station entrances). I returned to find that a freshly pyrographed plaque is apparently the perfect cat butt warmer.

I swear I didn't pose him like this (cats aren't generally amenable to posing, anyway). I came back and he was sitting exactly like this.

Anyway, after I shooed Walnut off and finished sketching and burning, I have this:

Pyrography tool and tips in the upper left corner: $15 at Michael's.

I still need to stain and seal it at some point, and given the wait time between the pencil transcription and the actual pyrography, let's hope it's not another seven years. Also, still no idea what to do with it, practically speaking (it doesn't match any of our apartment's decor), but it makes me happy to look at it. Also, let me just say that I totally CANNOT WAIT for The Hobbit movies!

Linked here:
Somewhat Simple


  1. sometimes all you need is a finished project that makes you happy to look at it :-)

  2. It's so pretty! I think Art Nouveau was the perfect inspiration for the art (especially as it's already got that rounded top ;) ). I learned Persian numerals at one point and used to number my Uni notes with them... thank goodness I never learned the alphabet well enough try and take notes! Reading my own handwriting is bad enough...

    Maybe you could put it in the bathroom, or somewhere away from the main decor? Or have you got any Tolkien-fan friends who need a Christmas present?

  3. @puu That's what I tell myself! Right now it's sitting on the table next to my laptop so I can see it all the time.

    @Tanit-Isis I just looked up Persian numerals and my goodness, those look tricky (and beautiful!). Unfortunately, I don't think I could give this away!

  4. Merry Early Christmas! :) I'm so glad that you guys are already making awesome use of the camera already! YAY!

  5. Wow! This is so gorgeous! I saw this plaque on your cardboard fireplace and excitedly went looking for a post about it! I love LOTR and can't wait for the Hobbit movie! :)
    Elvish and calligraphy paired together definitely looks amazing! :)

  6. Hi there, I found this page while google searching Mucha's art. Anyway, I saw the second photo of your cat and just had to post! Our cats look very alike (see pics on my flickr and I've never known anyone with such a similar cat. I know this is totally unrelated to your blog post, (my apologies!) but I'm wondering whether you know what breed it is??

    1. Oh my goodness, Penny, your Mephisto and my Walnut could be twins! Walnut is a pure-bred Siberian, but he is often mistaken for a Maine coon. Either way, thanks for sharing your picture...I love seeing Walnut doppelgangers!

    2. Thanks so much for replying. Yes, I often get asked if Mephisto's a Maine Coon but she falls short in size (though she has many of their personality traits)... So she must have Siberian in her, based on how similar they look! Thanks so much for the info! And thanks again for your patience re my unrelated comments :P

  7. Hi there, my son found your blog and loved the project you did here. He loves The Hobbit, too. He wanted me to ask if you happen to have a pattern you could share of this picture?
    Thanks so much!

    1. I'm so pleased that your son liked this project! If you shoot me an email, I can send you a pdf of the pattern.


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