Where to find Terri, Ariela, and Geek Calligraphy Art at Arisia 2019

Arisia Logo

by Terri and Ariela

As we explained, we have decided to attend Arisia this year. We will be keeping our ears and eyes open, but we are cautiously hopeful that we, and everyone else, will be able to have a safe and enjoyable con.

If you aren’t there this weekend because of a principled boycott of the convention, we hope that you will support the artists and vendors who depend on Arisia sales for their livelihoods.

If you're on staff/volunteering for the convention, you can catch us at the Art Show reception in our business colors. Otherwise, you can see our work there (and us, from time to time). Protip: our art is cheaper at conventions than it is online!

You can also see us on these panels:

Terri’s Schedule:

Saturday, 11:30 AM: Neurodivergent Protagonists
Room: Franklin
Panel #: 301
So many mental health issues can make us feel disproportionately terrible for minor, everyday mishaps, and the culture of "neurodivergent character = villain" doesn't help. Instead, let's talk about neurodivergent protagonists and stories about people working around or even using their Quirky Brain Stuff to save the world and live happily ever after.

Sunday, 2:30 PM: Jewish SFF
Room: Tremont
Panel #: 201
It can be hard to find Jewish stories that don't focus on the Holocaust. Luckily, there are many works relating to Judaism in science fiction and fantasy. Naomi Novik and NS Dolkart are two Jewish authors who include Jewish characters and themes in their works. Marie Brennan based the world religion of her Natural History of Dragons series on Judaism. Let's celebrate Jewish authors, worlds, and characters!

Monday, 10:00 AM: Fluff and You: The Worth of Fun Reads
Room: Tremont
Panel #: 294
"Beach reads," "candy," "fluff," "guilty pleasures," -- so many words to downplay the fact that we may be reading something "less than literary"! But fun reads have worth of their own, and lightness and artistic merit are not mutually exclusive. Join the panelists as they discuss the delights of fluff, their favorite works, and moving away from a culture of shame.

Ariela’s Schedule:

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Girl Power in Anime
Room: St James
Panel #: 156
In anime, many female characters tend to fall into one of two stereotypical groups: weak and meek or angry warrior women. There are characters who go deeper, who might even make good role models. From the girls in Studio Ghibli to Junko Kaname in Puella Magi Madoka Magica to Mikasa Ackerman in Attack on Titan and beyond, who are these strong, nuanced female characters? What about them screams "GIRL POWER!" Which characters or tropes are doing a disservice to women today?

Saturday, 4:00 PM: Female Relationships in Fiction
Room: Beacon Hill
Panel #: 196
Though great strides have been made in recent years, we still hunger for depictions of complex relationships between women, whether familial, platonic, or romantic. What are we still lacking? What stories about female love would make the panelists' hearts sing?

Saturday, 5:30 PM: Clothing Modifcation
Room: Winthrop
Panel #: 361
Whether you're making a cosplay or something for everyday wear, learn to extend the life and utility of off the rack or second hand garments. Take a thrift store find and turn it into something amazing or save a favored piece from the trash pile with creative solutions for poor fit and minor stains and tears.
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Sunday, 1:00 PM: First Steps for New Costumers
Room: Cambridge
Panel #: 378
So you want to be a costumer, but don't know where to begin? Then this panel is for you. Our group of veteran costumers tell you how to get started in the hobby with everything from tips and tricks to demystifying the terms and expectations that are out there. We all had to start somewhere, so let us help you do the same.
(Ariela will moderate this panel.)

Sunday, 5:30 PM: Treatsments of Abuse in SFF
Room: Beacon Hill
Panel #: 429
While discussing Lethal Weapon, Junot Diaz, and toxic masculinity in a Fireside Fiction essay last year, author Brandon O'Brien reminded us that "We need to teach and remind men as often as possible that recovery means responsibility." How has SFF treated cycles of abuse and recovery, and how can it do better? Which books/shows/movies get it right?

If You Boycott Arisia, Support the Artists Anyway

by Terri and Ariela

Well, this stinks. The situation is pretty terrible.

Well, this stinks. The situation is pretty terrible.

Recent revelations about Arisia’s woeful mis-handling of numerous incidents of stalking and sexual assault have inspired a widespread boycott of the convention. Unfortunately, as with all boycotts, this one has some proliferating consequences for some vulnerable people.

Many fannish artists and vendors sell their work at Arisia each year. In the past, Arisia has been a convention that could be relied upon for significant sales; we suspect that, with the damage done to Arisia’s reputation, that will not be the case in 2019, or for many years to come. Moreover, the news about all of these problems broke when it was already far too late for artists or vendors to book an alternate convention for that weekend.

We are lucky in this respect: neither Terri nor Ariela relies on Geek Calligraphy income to pay our rent, or food, or other bills. But artists and vendors who make their living creating the fandom and geeky merch that we love will see a bite taken out of their livelihoods as collateral damage to the bad decisions made by Arisia’s Incident Response Team and Incident Review Board.

The following is an incomplete list of artists and vendors who were planning to show at Arisia 2019. We ask that you look through their websites and order from them. They cannot continue making wonderful stuff for all of us if we don’t support their work.

(note: we have only included artists with websites. There are other artists who routinely show up, but without a website we cannot direct you to them)

R. L. Allison (aka robdamnit) mixed media & paintings horror, steampunk and fantasy themes


Julia Austein Digital prints of pieces based on dream imagery

Victoria Chapman Colorful watercolor illustrations of nature and spirit

Sarah Clemens Fantasy art, realistic, Magnus and Loki series

LJ Cohen Hand built and wheel thrown ceramics

The Corey Press Hand carved images of medieval madness pressed to wood

Rachel Creemers Futurism with Ink and Watercolor

Charlene Taylor D'Alessio Humorous, Acrylics, Fantasy/SF Cats, Hamsters, Dragons, Owls

Lori Del Genis Photorealistic portraits of fan favorites real and imagined

Meredith Dillman

Duncan Eagleson Fantasy, SF, and game illustration

eHawk illustrator from Somerville, MA

Wendy Ellertson Sculptural Leather Mythic Figures and artist books

Michele Ellington Jewelry, ceramics, painting, sculpture

EveL Illustrating the combination of nature and man

Sara Felix jewelry and resin

Meg Frank Space focused, high chroma, fantasy art

Remmi Franklin Mixed media of both aerials and imagination

Heather M Gamble

Gil The best of dreams and monsters from every reality

Mike Greenberg Space and Time

Griffin Ess figurative illustrations using watercolors and inks

Lauren Grover Victorian style paper quilled pieces

Sara Eileen Hames Brilliantly colored watercolors: space, botanicals, monsters

Carol Hanson Explorations in a variety of forms: jewelry, sketches, masks

Lisa Hertel Watercolor, pottery, encaustics, alcohol ink, pencil, more

Butch Honeck Bronze fantasy sculpture

Elaine Isaak fiber artist creating one-of-a-kind wearables

herman james Pop-Surreal painting and drawing

Jeliza Whimsical space inspired art and jewelry

I. S. Kallick Folkloric illustration

Boriana Kantcheva a varied cast of characters between reality and imagination

Kimberly's Creatures Cloth & papier mache creatures

Ryan Klemek Strange sci-fi and fantasy paintings

Johnna Klukas art boxes, sculpture, musical instruments, usually in wood

Liz LaManche

Scott Lefton Sculptural metal, glass and wood, and digital fantasy images

Elizabeth Leggett Fantastic Realism, image storytelling, bold color, matte prints

Tracy Levesque Paintings in the Style of Fairytale Realism

Julia Burns Liberman Whimsical abstract watercolor cityscapes

Lily Lion Labyrinth Mixed media pieces exploring fantastical realms of emotion

Lubov The art of the fantastic - fantasy, phantasmagoric.

marcart Matted Art Prints

Theresa Mather Fantasy subjects in acrylic and colored pencil

V McMican Bright & bold graphic illustration

Alexander Merkel Clockwork Jewelry, Computer Mice/Misfit-toy monstrosities

Chris Mindle Pop surrealism and fantasy in oils and giclee prints

Christine Mitzuk Fantasy art with dramatic lighting, and a hint of whimsy

MooreWarmth Fiber Art focusing on fantasy and science fiction

Sarah Morrison Fantasy Illustration

Erika Morton fine art fantasy photography

Anne Nydam Relief block prints that celebrate the realms of imagination

Margaret Organ-Kean Whimsy and watercolors

William O'Connor Fantasy and Science Fiction Painting

David Lee Pancake Fantasy sculptures and prints

Maria Photinakis Boston area-based illustrator, comic creator and painter.

Eli Portman Pen and Ink drawings and Illustrations

Catherine Roop Fantasy art in pen, pencil, paint, & digital media

Karen Roop Laser prints of digital original artwork

Kimball M. Rudeen Steampunk themed sculpture

Ruth Sanderson mythic images in scratchboard

Sandra SanTara Visionary symbolic fantasy

Scrumpy Illustrations Stippled images of cephalopods and Lovecraftian monsters

Diane E Seiler Enamel, clay bird rattles & castle planters, possibly fiber

Donna Shapleigh Enamel switch plates, jewelry, seascapes astronomical

Andrew Sprague Fantasy and scifi artist working in multiple mediums

T. M. Originals Distinctive wearable art that stands out in a crowd

Kendra Tornheim Wire and hand-colored brass jewelry featuring antique keys

Joan Turner Paint Pouring is my newest adventure!

Mercy Van Vlack Celtic jewelry and superhero SF prints

Andy Volpe Drawings & Prints, Historical replica; Living History

Arrionna Wagoner Digital art of the female form in pop culture in all genres

Raelinda Woad Miniature book art and jewelry

(note: we have only included vendors with websites. There are other vendors who routinely show up, but without a website we cannot direct you to them)

Angelwear Creations Angelwear has pretty shiny things. Come see them!

Art by David Lee Pancake A Fantastical Magical Emporium

Auntie Arwen's Spices/Hutnik's Used Books Spice blends, fudge, books, catnip mice, and lots more

The Blonde Swan Our hats turn heads.

Broad Universe Celebrating the work of women-identifying writers of speculative fiction.

Cloak & Dagger Creations Timeless historical fashions for everyone, all ages and sizes.

Cross Rose | Ears & Rearz Ears & tails, Lolita fashion dresses, jewelry and accessories.

Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery Making Meal Time

Delicious Boutique Specializing in unique and high quality independent designer styles.

The Dragon's Lair The best selection of T-Shirts and Plush in the known multiverse.

Earth Wisdom Earth Wisdom sells exquisite silk jackets, nifty tees, magic dresses

Emporium 32 Vintage-inspired treasures for the fashionable geek.

FanTanimals Come get your dragons!

Fanservice Nails Handmade fandom beauty for chic geeks

Fantastic Books Publisher of new and reprint sf novels, collections, and anthologies.

Felix Eddy - The Clockwork Sphinx Original artwork and embroidery accessories and decor created by Felix Eddy!

Hibernacula Treasures and talismans, metal and bone, crystal and stone!

HKT Import Toys We are a premier importer of Licensed Japanese Toys and Colelctibles

Honeck Sculpture Unique items cast in bronze for you and your home

I Think I've Created a Monstah Rhode Island artist focusing in unique utilitarian "monstah" themed art.

Innsmouth Look Publishing Home of Indie author Michael C. Bailey

Knotty Designs Paracord products for all your knotty lifestyles

MajikCraft One of a kind, every time!

MeadHall Outfiters Costume, garb, corsets, props, and vintage clothing

Meloria Maille Artisan chainmaille made one ring at a time

The Mind's Eye Book Store Signed and unsigned science fiction and fantasy books

Paisley Peacock Body Arts Henna, Facepainting, Glitter, Custom Buttons

Pandemonium Books & Games Boston's specialty SF book and game store for 29 years!

Pawstar Pawstar, furry, cosplay, paws, ravegear, geekyhat, cybergoth

Pendragon Chainmail If you can think it, I can link it!

Pendragon Costumes Purveyors of men's & women's historical & fantasy clothing for over 25 years.

Picklepot Steampunk treasures for all humans!

Purrfect Pastimes Eco-friendly and handmade science fiction/fantasy for your home!

RuRigami Quirky crafts for creative minds

Silver Owl Creations Fantasy and steampunk jewelry in wire and hand-colored brass

Spring Green Interior Design Hidden Door? Game Room? Reading Nook? Themed bath? Gotcha Covered.

Strange Hours Atelier Curious millinery, esoteric art, and assorted whimsies

Sunspot Designs Unique, affordable adornments for mortals and others.

Tally Mark's Sculpture Studio Handmade adorable baby fantasy beasts cast in resin.

Tea & Absinthe Tea and barware for the geeky people

Threads of Time Historically influenced clothing and costuming, with a large Fantasy flair.

Wendy Ellertson Studio Sculptural Leather figures and accessories to encourage creativity and story

Zooguu Colorful decorations for wild imaginations

2018 Hugo Eligibility Post: Best Fan Artist

by Ariela

2018 was a hard year. While I didn’t make much new art, I am extremely proud of what I did.

The Hugo Committee has decided this is not eligible.  Lady Astronaut Nouveau Inspired by  The Calculating Stars  by Mary Robinette Kowal. Licensed by Mary Robinette Kowal.

The Hugo Committee has decided this is not eligible.

Lady Astronaut Nouveau
Inspired by The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal.
Licensed by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Anathem  Illuminated First Page From the novel  Anathem  by Neal Stephenson. Produced with permission from Neal Stephenson.

Anathem Illuminated First Page
From the novel Anathem by Neal Stephenson.
Produced with permission from Neal Stephenson.

“Penric’s Demon” Illuminated First Page From the novella “Penric’s Demon” by Lois McMaster Bujold. Licensed by Lois McMaster Bujold.

“Penric’s Demon” Illuminated First Page
From the novella “Penric’s Demon” by Lois McMaster Bujold.
Licensed by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Explode the Gender Binary sticker Watercolor and digital.

Explode the Gender Binary sticker
Watercolor and digital.

Hugo Category Eligibility

Once again, I am eligible for the Best Fan Artist Hugo category. If you are able to nominate for the Hugos, please nominate me as “Ariela Housman,” as the award is for the artist, not the business. (This doesn’t recognize Terri’s hard work and the way she contributed, which is annoying. Any rocket which I may eventually win will really be part hers.)

In a sense, this feels like the first time I really belong in the Fan Artist category, since three of the four pieces above these started as art by a fan of books, even though they are licensed and whatnot.

Explanatory Thingee About Hugo Category Eligibility

Some Hugo categories (Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Artist, Best Semiprozine, and Best Fanzine) are defined by whether the work done was professional, semi-professional, or fannish. The definition of what is a “professional” publication is somewhat technical. A professional publication either (1) provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or, (2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.


For the purposes of Hugo categories, you are only a Professional Artist if your stuff gets published in a Professional Publication. So you can make a living entirely for years by selling your SF art directly to other people and still not be considered a Professional Artist for the purposes of the Hugos if your art was never included in a publication that earns according to the above criteria.

When making prints was harder and there wasn't much in the way of direct-to-fans selling outside of conventions, this made sense. Today it is ridiculous, but the rules are the rules.

A Note About Lady Astronaut Nouveau’s Consideration

Update: The Hugo Committee has ruled that Lady Astronaut Nouveau is not eligible. Our post announcing that and our response is here.

When considering whether or not to nominate an artist, only their art which is (1) completed in 2018, and (2) meets the criteria of the category, in this case, Fan Art. An excerpt from the description of the Best Fan Artist category:

Again note that the work by which artists should be judged is not limited to material published in fanzines. Material for semiprozines or material on public displays (such as in convention art shows) is also eligible.


By this metric, whether or not Lady Astronaut Nouveau meets the criteria of Fan Art is questionable, as it was neither published in a semiprozine nor displayed in a convention art show. However, it was posted on this website and blog, Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Pinterest Gallery for Lady Astronaut fanart. Given the wording “not limited to” and “such as” in the category description, we’re reading the examples of semiprozines and convention art shows as just that, examples, and the list thereof as inclusive but not exhaustive. We think that being on the internet is about as public as a display gets, so Lady Astronaut Nouveau should be included when considering Ariela’s 2018 body of work.

Should the Hugo Committee think otherwise, we will remove it from all Eligibility posts about Ariela’s 2018 work.

Arisia 2019 - Go or Cancel?

By Terri & Ariela

Well, frak. It sums up our feelings.

Well, frak. It sums up our feelings.

When the Internet blew up surrounding several accusations of mismanaged Incident Reports by the Arisia Corporation’s Executive Board, we faced a very difficult decision. Do we stay with a convention that has been a very important source of both income and fun for us, or do we boycott as many are doing? This was compounded by the fact that Terri is now living in Israel for two years, and going to Arisia means an expensive international plane ticket.

Neither of us wants to support an environment in which assaults are not taken seriously or handled properly. While Arisia has an extensive Code of Conduct and a dedicated Incident Response Team, it’s clear that changes need to be made in who this team consists of and how they manage both official and unofficial reports.

Our difficulties in making this decision were further complicated by the vagaries of space and time. Ariela first heard about it on a Thursday night, when Terri was already in bed. By the time both of us were up the next day, Terri was about to bring in Shabbat. And what with one thing or another, by the time we managed to sit down and have a discussion about what to do, the window for a principled exit to effect change had closed: the former president had been kicked out, most of the EBoard had resigned, and an external review team had been contracted to revamp the IRT processes. At this point, publicly stepping away would signal dissatisfaction with the changes that are taking place, not disgust with the initial problem. And while we think that the changes made so far are not sufficient to call the problem fixed, we want them to continue this process.

Because of these efforts, we are cautiously giving the convention a last chance. We will be watching carefully to see how these changes are implemented. If we are unsatisfied, we will no longer be attending or exhibiting at Arisia until we can be sure that everyone in attendance is safe.

We ask that if you choose to boycott the convention, you support the artists and vendors who rely on it for their income. These people do not deserve to be punished for the actions of others. We will be posting a list of all of these in early January, before the convention.

Holiday Shipping Notes

Image shows a chibi Ariela under a pile of boxes and cardboard tubes saying "a little help, please..."

Image shows a chibi Ariela under a pile of boxes and cardboard tubes saying "a little help, please..."

Thanksgiving is now a memory of turkey and food comas, which means that the $_WINTERHOLIDAY shopping season has begun in earnest. As such, we wish to make you aware of the purchasing deadlines we will be using to make sure that you (or the recipients) receive your purchases in time to celebrate. Unfortunately, we do not possess a time machine, so we are unable to ensure Diwali gifts arrive on time. If someone could hook us up with with the TARDIS Express folks, we'll get right on that.

As per our FAQ, we generally ship USPS First Class. That requires the item be mailed by December 20th to guarantee delivery for December 24th. In order to give Ariela adequate processing time, we will require the orders to be placed by December 15th to make sure that there is enough time to get things printed, matted and shipped to you.

If you were looking for the perfect חנוכה gift from us, that needs to be ordered by November 28th to ensure arrival before the holiday is over. And may we suggest the Lady Astronaut Nouveau for the Jewish space fan?

No matter what holiday you celebrate, our Holiday greeting card makes the perfect accompaniment to any gift. Be sure to pick one (or a pack) up with any order you place in the next month.


Etiquette Q&A: Inquiring about a Commission When You Aren't Sure You Can Afford It

by Terri

Image shows a hand holding a fan of 100 dollar bills. You may want art and not possess this amount of money. We hope you follow this advice.

Image shows a hand holding a fan of 100 dollar bills. You may want art and not possess this amount of money. We hope you follow this advice.

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than the product releases, you’ll know that one of our personal soapboxes is the fair payment of artists. Our friends and family are pretty conscious of it, and most of our online followers already chime in with our ‘Fuck You, Pay Me’ art print when someone talks about working “for exposure” or anything similar.

Occasionally someone will ask us about the propriety of asking an artist about a commission if they aren’t sure they can pay for it. This is a reasonable question. Our answer is yes, you can, but be respectful about it.

Here are some specific ways to approach an artist respectfully in this situation:

  1. Be polite and clear about your limitations

    • State up front that you have an upper limit on your budget. If you have a hard number, say it outright.

  2. Give them as many details as you can about what sort of work you want them to do.

    • Let them know if you are willing to cut back on your request if it means it will be within budget;

    • Tell them you want to hear any ideas they have for trimming costs.

  3. Thank them for their time and consideration.

    • Let them know that you understand that they might not be able to work in your budget and you respect that.

  4. If they tell you no, respect that no. Do not argue.

All of the above only applies to an individual inquiring about a paid commission. You can also discuss the option of some sort of installment payment plan, if that is acceptable to both parties.

Charities/non profit organizations are another matter. If your organization is asking for a donation in kind, then that’s precisely what you should ask for. Never frame it as a job for no pay or reduced pay. Don’t act like you are doing them a favor by asking them to contribute their work (a good match between artist and institution will result in both feeling like they get something out of it; if you feel the need to frame it as a one-way benefit, that’s a warning sign to an artist and it should be one to you, too). Your organization should also be prepared to accept no for an answer without arguing, same as an individual. Unlike an individual, you may also be inclined to pressure the artist by declaiming the virtues of your organization and what a good cause they would be contributing to. Do Not Do This.

In sum, make it clear you don’t think you are entitled to their work, and be respectful of the artist’s boundaries.

New Art Print: Lady Astronaut Nouveau

Do you remember where you were when you first heard about The Lady Astronaut of Mars? We do. While we can’t send you to the Moon or Mars, we can offer you a gorgeous Art Nouveau print for your wall that we hope will inspire you as much as Dr. Elma York inspires the both of us.


How it Came to Be:

It’s rare that a character grabs both of us in the same way and doesn’t let go. Dr. York is both part of and an exception to that rule. A Jewish protagonist is rare enough for both of us to see. One as well researched and written as Elma York is practically a unicorn. Terri felt the need to tweet at Mary Robinette Kowal while listening to the audiobook:

On the other hand, Elma is solidly Ashkenazi, which leaves Ariela out somewhat as she no longer practices those specific traditions. While there is a mention of the Spanish & Portuguese community of Charleston that resulted in a massive twitter conversation between Ariela and MRK, that’s not enough representation for a community with deep roots in the Southern US that predate the founding of the country. So it’s bittersweet for her, while for Terri it was more than she’d ever seen before.

When discussing authors to approach for more licensed work, Terri brought up approaching Mary Robinette about doing something with these books. Ariela was looking to do more illuminated first pages, and didn’t see how a series set in the 1950’s would work with that aesthetic. Terri pushed, and Ariela conceded that she hadn’t done any Art Nouveau in a while and it would be nice to get back to that. While Ariela was still noodling around with the draft, she found out about the Lady Astronaut fanart contest, and in the middle of the Jewish high holy days Ariela decided that, sure, she was going to try to produce finished painting in less than three weeks in order to meet the contest deadline. It didn’t quite happen, but when we posted the final painting to social media, there were enough inquiries of “Where/when can I buy a print of that?” that we decided to ask MRK about licensing so that we could do a print run.

Needless to say, when Mary Robinette agreed to allow us to sell this print, there was much squeeing. So much squeeing. First of all, the fact that she liked it as much as she did had us fangirling all over the place, let alone allowing us a license to sell the piece. (The signed licensing contract was actually returned during Terri’s brother’s wedding. It is a sign of how excited we both are that it was a worthy interruption of the festivities for Ariela to text Terri about it.)

The circular text is from קדוש לבנה, the blessing of the Sanctification of the Moon, which Jews say once a month when the moon is close to full. It reads:

וְלַלְּבָנָה אָמַר שֶׁתִּתְחַדֵּשׁ עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת לַעֲמוּסֵי בָטֶן שֶׁהֵם עֲתִידִים לְהִתְחַדֵּשׁ כְּמוֹתָה

And of the moon G-d said that it should renew itself as a crown of glory for those born of the womb, for they are destined to recreate themselves just as it does.

This is a limited edition run of just 100 art prints in the 11”x14” size and only 20 in the 16”x20” size. Each print is matted on a black, archival-safe mat and comes ready to hang. The 11”x14” is $55, and the 16”x20” is $85. Ships flat.

Calligraphing Out Loud

by Ariela

I don’t talk much about my day job over here. 35 hours a week I work on the technical back-end of email marketing and on website analytics for the Union for Reform Judaism (I’m not Reform, I just work for the institution, in case that wasn’t clear.) I take inspiration for my tech-related calligraphy projects from it, but otherwise I assume that no one is coming to the Geek Calligraphy blog to hear me blather about non-profit marketing or database integration woes. But this time I am going to talk about my day job, because I am doing something over there that has surprising applications to calligraphy.

For the past few months I have been doing a professional development program called Working Out Loud. I started it because lately I have had trouble focusing on long term projects and have found myself instead reading news coverage of the dumpster fire that is the world instead. Not that staying informed is bad, but this wasn’t healthy news consumption, and it wasn’t resulting in much action on my part; I just read and read and felt nauseated and distressed. I wanted help getting my focus back. I was initially reluctant to give it a try – I am deeply skeptical about corporate professional development programs – but a coworker whom I trusted vouched for it, so I signed up.

The five elements of Working Out Loud are relationships, generosity, visible work, purposeful discovery, and a growth mindest.

I was surprised to find myself far more inclined to apply the lessons from the program to my calligraphy work than to my day job, and not in the ways that might be expected. Yes, Geek Calligraphy is a small business and a “startup,” but instead of causing me to get more business-y about it, it wound up encouraging me to go the opposite way, particularly on Twitter, in two significant ways.

First, I decided to share more of my responses to things I am reading on Twitter. Mostly that takes the form of telling authors when I am reading and enjoying their book. I didn’t do that much before because I figured that authors get enough noise at them on Twitter, they didn’t need one more person up in their mentions. But the Working Out Loud exercises on “the gift of attention” inspired me to start. Most of those posts have gotten likes from the authors, so I guess they don’t find it annoying after all 😊 In one case I even took a selfie (I never think to take selfies, and when I do I am terrible at them) to show exactly how gobsmacked and touched I was by a certain passage in a book that resonated with me very deeply.

Second, I decided to make more of an effort to share process shots on social media. As a perfectionist, I find the idea of sharing images of my work in progress scary. How can I let people see anything less than my best finished product? But the exercises in being vulnerable, and above all the encouragement to work in a visible way while in community with other people, i.e. “working out loud,” encouraged me to give it a try. In September I shared process shots of a piece on Twitter as I was working on it, and I was surprised at the positive responses I got. Given how much I enjoy watching work-in-progress videos from my favorite artists online, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so shocked, but it never occurred to me that others would view my work the way that I look at theirs.

We just did Week 8 (of 12), and it contains a Habit Checklist. My circle leader, Larry Glickman, suggested printing it out but, ha, I wasn’t just going to print it out! I don’t do boring printouts on my walls, I do calligraphy. And, in the spirit of the Working Out Loud ethos, I want to make it available to anyone who will find it helpful for their personal use.


Download a printable PDF of the calligraphy. Feel free to print it out for your own use. It’s black and white for maximum friendliness to workplace printers. (No commercial reproduction, please.)

Would I recommend Working Out Loud to other people?

Yes, but with two caveats.

First caveat is that the program assumes that participants have a certain safety margin in their personal circumstances. I mean that in a financial sense, in a physical safety sense, and in an emotional labor sense. On the financial side, the program doesn’t require a significant outlay of money, but it does require time, and of course, time is money. In terms of physical safety, Working Out Loud encourages public vulnerability, which can be dangerous for people of marginalized identities, both in the physical world and online. For survivors of abuse or violence, it can be a panic-inducing prospect. WOL does emphasize that each exercise is always up to you and you should never do anything that doesn’t work for you, but the repeated calls for voluntary vulnerability could be very off-putting for those for whom vulnerability is not optional. In terms of emotional labor, the program encourages participants to be generous with their time and their expertise, which is lovely, but very hard to do when the world already expects you to work for free. Of course it is different to choose freely to give of yourself, but for some people and in some professions that needs to be preceded by a cost-benefit analysis of “will doing this for free once cause an expectation of free labor ever after?” Again, WOL doesn’t demand that you do any exercise that doesn’t work for you. But these are some things it is helpful to be aware of so that you can choose whether Working Out Loud will be a good program for you.

The second caveat is that I haven’t found any awareness in the course that, for some, the program will run up hard against structural inequalities. If your main resource is your network and your community is struggling deeply, they will have fewer resources to help you get ahead. Study after study shows that unconscious bias is alive and well, to say nothing of conscious prejudice, and it will make expanding a network and demonstrating work much harder for some people than for others. Expecting a self-improvement program to overcome systemic inequalities would be totally unrealistic, not to mention unfair. But awareness of the limitations in the face of such problems is crucial.

I do still recommend Working Out Loud. I am even making plans to start my own circle with some friends in the geeky professional community after I finish my first circle.

Finished "Lady Astronaut" Fanart

by Ariela

Woo! This round of Jewish holidays is over and it is time to get back to a normal work schedule (at least for those of us who don’t have Indigenous People’s Day off from work). To celebrate, here is the finished version of the Lady Astronaut / The Calculating Stars fanart that I started just before Rosh HaShanah.

The circular text is from קדוש לבנה, the blessing of the Sanctification of the Moon, which Jews say once a month when the moon is close to full. It reads:

וְלַלְּבָנָה אָמַר שֶׁתִּתְחַדֵּשׁ עֲטֶרֶת תִּפְאֶרֶת לַעֲמוּסֵי בָטֶן שֶׁהֵם עֲתִידִים לְהִתְחַדֵּשׁ כְּמוֹתָה

And of the moon G-d said that it should renew itself as a crown of glory for those born of the womb, for they are destined to recreate themselves just as it does.

The unfinished version was my entry in the Lady Astronaut fanart contest. You can see pictures of it in process by searching my Twitter feed for the #fanart hashtag.

I have a Pinterest board of all the reference images I used when working on it. (I haaaaaaated painting that Lunar Lander, and I had to do it twice, because I am a glutton for punishment.)

And here is a crummy cell phone picture of my paint palette just after I finished.

Paint palette with lots of dark blues and greens and purples and greys, some whites, a yellow, and a light blue. Eraser, brushes, and two cups of water in the background.

Would you be interested in buying a Lady Astronaut Nouveau art print?

We are gauging interest in an art print run of the Lady Astronaut Nouveau fanart. If you would buy one, please enter your email address below.

Should we produce an art print, we will email everyone who expressed interest to let them know.

The Making of Anathem Illuminated First Page: Constructing an Edharian Manuscript Page

by Ariela

This is the second of two blog posts on the making of the Anathem Illuminated First Page art print. Read the first part here.

Where last week’s post concentrated on historical inspirations and references in imagery, this one goes into the material concerns of making a manuscript page that looks like it came from the Concent of Saunt Edhar.

Writing on a Leaf from a Page Tree

First, I want to give a major shoutout to Neal Stephenson for coming up with a plausible and sustainable paper culture model for Arbran maths. Parchment would not have been practical, both in the volume of paper usage shown in the math, and also because they would have needed a large number of skins and the math presumably doesn't a sufficient number of herd animals. Paper production likewise probably couldn't have kept apace without mechanization or a large number of avout papermakers. Details like this keep enthusiasts (not Enthusiasts) like me happy.

It seems that, even with all the sequencing, page trees don’t produce perfect writing surfaces. Only one in ten leaves is suitable for collection, drying, cutting, and use, with many having veins that are too prominent to allow for easy writing. This probably means that the leaves that make the cut have visible, but not excessively raised veins. I considered the possibility that page tree leaves would be sequenced to grow with perfectly parallel veins that could be used as ruling lines for writing, but decided that this was improbable: it would limit the uses of the paper by forcing all writing to be approximately the same size and eliminating certain kinds of folding of the leaf because it would cause the rules to orient in the wrong direction. Moreover, if the veins weren’t perfectly parallel, that would also be cause for disqualifying a leaf from use, which Erasmas would surely have mentioned. So the leaves probably have a pattern of veins similar to those of Earth trees from a similar climate to that of the Concent of Saunt Edhar.

After completing a full draft of the piece, I washed watercolor paper in a yellow brown and, once it had dried, painted a full system of leaf veins in slightly darker brown. I wanted them to be visible, enough that it would be clear this is a leaf, not parchment or paper, but not pronounced enough to be distracting from the text.

Finished underpainting with guide lines for the text positioning penciled in.

Finished underpainting with guide lines for the text positioning penciled in.

Only half the leaf is visible and it is landscape-oriented rather than portrait. This has to do with how handmade books are bound. Four or five pages are stacked, oriented horizontally, and then folded about the x-axis and stitched together at the fold. This is called a ‘quire’ or a ‘gathering.’

How a ‘gathering’ or ‘quire’ of four or five sheets of paper or parchment are stacked and then folded along the the center to create a small booklet of 16 or 20 pages.

How a ‘gathering’ or ‘quire’ of four or five sheets of paper or parchment are stacked and then folded along the the center to create a small booklet of 16 or 20 pages.

Copyists write on these quires, which are then collected and, after first checking and re-checking that they are in the correct order, sewn together to form a codex. Assuming page tree leaves, like Earth leaves, tend to grow longer than they grow wide, this means that, when a rectangle with the largest possible surface area is cut from it and oriented horizontally, the central vein will also run horizontally. 

A landscape-oriented cut on a portrait-oriented leaf that is so much taller than it is wide is inefficient.

A landscape-oriented cut on a portrait-oriented leaf that is so much taller than it is wide is inefficient.

A landcape-oriented rectangular cut out of a landscape-oriented leaf makes much better use of the available surface.

A landcape-oriented rectangular cut out of a landscape-oriented leaf makes much better use of the available surface.

Once a rectangular piece is cut out of the leaf, it is folded down the middle so that it can be used in a quire.

Once a rectangular piece is cut out of the leaf, it is folded down the middle so that it can be used in a quire.

Incidentally, this is a verso, or left-hand page. The wider margin, which is the outer margin, is on the left, as are the pinpricks that would be used to align the text with all the other pages in the book.

Inks and Pigments

Once we have the writing support, aka what we’re writing on, we need to figure out what to write with. Erasmas mentions writing with a quill and ink, but what was his ink made of? As a middle-grade manuscript with decoration but no illumination or figurative illustration, this manuscript’s marginalia would be drawn in several different colors of ink.

The Concent of Saunt Edhar seems to engage in quite a bit of trade, but presumably traded goods are less abundant and more valuable than ones that can be produced from local resources. Mining isn’t mentioned as an activity at the math, so all mineral-based pigments would probably be too scarce to be used on this manuscript. Accordingly, I largely confined myself to colors that could be made from plant matter that could be grown at Saunt Edhar, or at least in an Earth climate similar to that described at the math.

The main body of the text is in a brown/black color similar to that of iron gall ink. This actually came down to an aesthetic choice, because it was equally likely that the Edharians could have made carbonic ink from lamp black. Carbonic ink is much blacker than iron gall ink. While there’s no mention of fire-based light sources, presumably some burning could be done just to produce ink. But I like the brown-black of iron-gall ink better.

The red color is similar to what might be produced from the madder plant, and the blue is similar to a product of woad, both of which grow well in the western European climate.

The exception to the plant-based pigments rule is the white, which is based on chalk white. Since chalk halls feature prominently, we can assume that there is a plentiful supply of calcium carbonate at hand that could also be used for white paint on manuscripts. Bonus: way less toxic than lead!

Disclaimer: just as I did not write this on an actual leaf, I did not actually use paint derived from madder, woad, or calcium carbonate. Using the watercolors I had on hand, I did my best to color match those displayed in the Traveling Scriptorium’s online Medieval Manuscripts Ink & Pigment Sampler.

And that’s it.

For those who are interested, I have a Pinterest board of manuscripts and other images I looked at while working on this project.

And finally a big ‘thank you’ to Neal Stephenson and his agent, Liz Darhansoff, for giving me permission to do this project.