February 18, 2014

Creating a Coat of Arms

One of the last times I saw Petey he told me there were 10,000 ninjas up my nose. That was okay because he is 5 years old, and one of my favorite people. Like many other little boys, he is preoccupied with ninjas and interested in battle toys. His mom made him a saber light, and I thought he might like a shield featuring his family's coat of arms.

To see if your own family has a coat of arms, a web site like House of Names is useful. You can type in your surname and see what comes up. If your family does not have a crest (mine doesn't), you can design one at a site like Make Your Coat of Arms. Petey's family does have an ancient coat of arms and it looks like this:

For $18 he could purchase an 8 1/2 x 11 print (without the copyright sign on it) suitable for framing. But my rendition of his coat of arms needed to be a toy. I looked around for something suitable on which to paint the coat of arms, and was not sure what would work out best.

This is Peter and Danny, two more of my favorite people:

They own a pizza restaurant around the corner from where I live, called Milkflower.
It has a brick oven into which they pile wood.

And they make delicious pizzas that look like this...

...that come in a box which turned out to be a perfect size for a 5-year old's coat of arms.

I printed out the illustration of the family crest and folded the page into fourths. Then I cut the pizza box down to size and hand drew each quadrant on the inside of the box. I bought some paint at the 99 cent store and filled in the drawing, adding more definition with a Sharpie. It came out like this:

I glued a handle to the back by cutting a thin strip from the box and using heavy duty glue to attach it. Up at the top I left blank the place where I could have put Petey's name because when I give it to him I'm going to explain he is one in a long line of people in his family, some of which came before him, and some who will come after. The coat of arms represents not just him, but his lineage. I fully expect he will scrawl his own name in that box, and that's fine because he will be making it his own.

Shortly after the paint was dry, I brought the coat of arms into Milkflower because I thought Danny and Peter would get a kick out of it. When I walked through the door, Danny was standing in front of the wood burning oven but even from across the room he recognized what I was holding as one of their pizza boxes, and he broke into a smile. Being only 23 years older than Petey, he admired the piece for its practical use of a used pizza box; its identity as a work of art; and its usefulness as a weapon -- in that order.

He called over his brother, who was rushing from the cash register to the kitchen. I held up the piece. Peter looked at the shield and made a serious move to take possession. "I love it," he said.

"But it's not for you. Is your name Rojas?" I asked, pointing to Petey's name. "I just wanted to show you."

"So, I don't care. It's great. Who made it?"

Oh brother. "I did. Why would you want somebody else's coat of arms?" I asked, befuddled." He took the painted pizza box from my hands, held it up exactly where he would hang it on the brick wall, admired it and with a big smile on his face looked around for other smiling faces to gain consensus. He seriously wanted Petey's coat of arms.

"It's somebody's coat of arms?"

That was not a compliment. He also pointed to the armet, the bowl helmet that encloses the entire head and features a visor and comb that was favored in 15th century Italian armor, and asked, "What's that?"

I explained exactly what each element of the shield was, and Peter made it clear he thought it would be wasted on a 5-year old, and should hang in the restaurant. Because Danny and Peter are really only grown up versions of Petey, and what you love in one you love in the others, there was only one way out.

I offered to turn a new pizza box into an official Milkflower coat of arms, for which I would chose appropriate symbols of representation. For instance, it could include a cherub (the guys are Greek and their last name, Aggelatos, translates to "angel"), a tomato, and a wood burning oven. Danny added the unorthodox request that it would make his brother happy if somewhere it said, "Peter the Greek."

The three of us finally agreed Petey would get his own family's coat of arms, and a newly designed shield would be presented to the Aggelatos brothers to hang in the restaurant, on the brick wall. No artist commission was discussed.

"I'll need another box," I said aloud... and preferably with a pizza in it, I thought.

Susan Spedalle

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