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  This work is by Kathleen Rollick.
 This piece was created as my Christmas card in 2020.
I had wanted to work on vellum for years. Knowing my wish, fellow guild member Erika Woods gifted me this 10.75” by 5.5” cut of vellum to try some years ago. I loved the natural edge and knew it would be perfect for the chorus of “We Three Kings” - and was terrified to work on it given how much I didn’t know about vellum.

I finally started it in 2019, right after Reggie taught his Carolingian Variations workshop at the Calligraphy Guild of Indiana. I enjoyed the workshop so much that for a few months I found myself using Carolingian for everything… including designs for manuscript-style Christmas cards. I finished the layout and got the lettering on the vellum with much trepidation… and then Christmas arrived before I could finish. (My success rate on sending Christmas cards averages to about once every 5 years.) However, 2020 offered more opportunities for finishing Christmas cards, and Christmas cards seemed like the perfect way to connect during a pandemic.

2020 was also a perfect year to experiment with different gold techniques. Earlier in the year, I did test squares to compare varying numbers of layers of yellow instacoll with tinted clear instacoll as a base and was so excited with how much smoother and more brilliant gold looked over multiple layers of the clear instacoll. I decided this piece would be my golden opportunity to incorporate all the gilding techniques Reggie had told us about, from loose-leaf gold and the clear instacoll to the base of Golden Extra-Heavy Molding Paste, which I used for the flaming acanthus leaves on the O. (I am not sure if instacoll and Golden Extra-Heavy Molding Paste are suitable for vellum, but I have no visions of sugarplums involving this piece needing to last a century.) I also prepared shell gold using a recipe from Rosemary Buczek and Kaori Ogawa.

I wanted the piece to look like a manuscript, with an air of mystery and royalty appropriate to the song. The piece features various 8-pointed stars, a motif traditionally used on Ukrainian pysanky eggs. As the herald of Christ’s birth, the 8-pointed star symbolizes God’s love toward man and the eye or divine will of God. The gold details fit with the gift of one magi. I am still not sure how I feel about the colors I used. I wish I had made the “O’ stand out more, but I wasn’t sure how to accomplish that without destroying the balance or nighttime mood of the piece.

Materials: calfskin vellum, handmade shell gold, instacoll, Golden Extra-heavy molding paste, loose-leaf gold (22K moon gold and 24K gold), Windsor and Newton watercolor (Winsor blue red shade + indigo, cerulean + lemon yellow + varying amounts of Winsor blue, touches of Winsor blue + Quinacridone Magenta + Alizarin crimson, black + indigo), watercolor pencils

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