SCA in the Time of COVID

Well, still here.

Not going to lie; it’s been difficult to dedicate SCA time with all of the world going nuts, but I’ve managed to do a few projects here and there since *checks blog* July, when I last wrote a post. Here’s what I did.

In August and September, my friends in Meridies invited me to take part in an effigy photoshoot, which I did in my backyard. One of my favourite parts of this was doing the research based on Byzantine burials and how the bodies were actually buried. The main goal was to show grave goods were situated with the bodies, but in cultures like mine (6th c Byzantine), there weren’t a whole lot. That said, I also entered in a few of my later period (14th c French) effigy photos, and I was surprised to hear that I won a prize for late period, so. . . (who knew that the early period nerd would end up with winning a late-period thing?)

I was also included in a video, which can be found here.

In addition to this, I took part in a production of Henry V, with the cast being genderswapped and done on the anniversary of the battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day. Henry was played by Countess Marguerite Ingen Lachlainn of the East Kingdom, and it was a blast. I did a lot for the show (hey, former theatre kid here), doing the promotions and organizing the Non Nobis, and I really enjoyed the challenges of playing a villain (I played the Earl of Cambridge), but I also enjoyed the challenges of a production over Zoom. And of course, this can also be watched on YouTube! (link here)

Lastly, this is an upcoming thing that will be occurring in the next few weeks! I’ll be interviewed by Between Two Peers, and I’m looking forward to it! Between Two Peers is hosted by Baroness Tullia and Duchess Helga of the West Kingdom, and I’ve really enjoyed tuning in and sending in questions to answer for other people to answer, and the fact that I’m now a guest is pretty amazing. If you’d like to keep track of the event, you can RSVP to the FB event here, and of course, you’re welcome to send in your own questions for me to answer.

So, yes, SCA in the time of COVID. It’s been rough, especially as my own kingdom hasn’t done a lot, but I am thankful for the SCA veil being thin, as it means I can spend time with other folks in the SCA, but I can also transfer ideas, work with others, and pass along ideas. We may not be together physically, but we are together apart, and that’s important.

Please keep safe, wear your mask, and keep researching.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Don’t Throw Away Your Shot: proposal-writing for the SCA in five Hamilton quotes

There are a lot of things to get outraged over, including in one’s hobby. In the time of Coronavirus, that all seems to be more magnified, as we’re all stuck at home, with very little chance of meeting our friends and chosen family. It’s tumultuous both in and out of the Society, and with several things outside of the Society informing choices within the game, it’s even more critical to be aware of how to clearly communicate with the structures that form our Society.

After all, it’s easy to complain from the safety of our social media pages and within groups – if that’s your aim, cool. Sometimes a person needs to blow off steam. However, if your hope is to try to influence change from your own personal social media page, it might be more difficult to get things started.

But, if the choice to make change is one you’re willing to undertake, and to see it through, well, that I can help with. The list I have is not exactly complete, but for anyone who is interested in attempting to enact change, this is probably your best bet to do it.

So, I bring you Auntie Konstantia’s Starter List of Making Things Happen Within the Society.

Step One: Inform yourself on the current policies.

“Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

There’s a few reasons for this. One, if you are not aware of the current working procedures of a group in the Society, or you are new to the Society and you see a problem, it helps to come at it from a more educated angle.

Do you have to know everything? Absolutely not. Does it mean that you might not get the answers you’re looking for? It might. There might be a reason why certain helmets or swords aren’t used, or why a procedure for accounting or a particular kind of documentation might be preferred. Educate yourself to better be equipped to explain why your idea might be better. Chances are, someone has looked at the problems and tried to fix it. . . and made the situation worse, or better yet, was actually successful in fixing the problem. Still, it is almost always better to educate yourself on the problem as it applies to current procedures.

This is a time to remain humble, as you may encounter knowledge that you don’t particularly like or agree with, but because of a lack of resources, it binds another party from doing the action you desire most. This is also not a time to dig your heels in, either, as that may cost you allies, or worse yet, keep you from finding the information that you need for Step Two.

Step Two: Come up with a plan that includes your change to current policies and the steps needed to make said change.

“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Go through a cost-benefit analysis. Lay out what the problem is, explain how it needs to be fixed, and with the data you have from your information-gathering step, communicate your plan. Now, keep in mind that the Society is a volunteer organization and that resources may occasionally be spread a bit too thin, and that your plan may involve more people at any one particular time that may not have the right skills, abilities, knowledge, or even just people-power. It does mean that it may not be the right time for your particular plan, but still, write it up.

If you realize that your plan requires a petition to the Board, this is the time for you to get those signatures. Also, remember those who have signed as possible resources. (and if you sign a petition to the Board, this is a good time to remember that you’re volunteering here.)

Step Three: Email your proposal to the officer, to the Board of Directors, and possibly the ombudsman for that sector of the Society.

“The art of the trade/How the sausage gets made/We just assume that it happens” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Be prepared that your proposal may take time to actually implement, or that there’s just not enough infrastructure in place to actually enact the change. If that is the case, please be patient, or better yet, ask how you can help.

It’s also a great time to start helping the group you want to work with to enact these changes, especially if it requires research. If you know things, this is the time to be the Subject Matter Expert, or, if you’re not the Subject Matter Expert, work on getting more information and continue to educate yourself on the subject. After all, we are a volunteer organization, which means that things will not get done unless we have volunteers to do them. So, please, volunteer.

Step Four: Wait.

“I’m willing to wait for it.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

To borrow from St. Thomas Petty of the Breaking Hearts, “the waiting is the hardest part.” There may be reasons why the Board hasn’t gotten to your plan, or they themselves are looking at their own set of information gathering missions. This can take time.

So, what does a person do? Keep learning. Work with the team your plan affects the most. Keep fighting. Keep working. You’ve done a large part of legwork if you’ve gotten to this point, but having those extra perspectives aren’t a bad thing. The Board of Directors moves slowly in many other organizations – not just ours. If there are numerous proposals to discuss, in addition to the rest of the business that the Board has to handle, it may get moved to additional meetings.

Remember, the Board of Directors is not the enemy. They’re here to help make the rules into a safe experience for everyone and that might mean balancing other issues, too.

Step Five: If changes are enacted by the Board as part of your plan, please be on the front lines to help support those changes.

“History has its eyes on you.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

This goes without saying. We’re a volunteer organization, and it is patently unfair to make a suggestion without willing to help in some way, especially if the suggestion requires monumental changes. If you know something, someone, or some place that can assist, this is your chance to make those resources available. Sitting back after making your suggestions is akin to someone who would rather make pronouncements time and time again, instead of someone working alongside others to enact change.

I cannot stress the part enough about being on the front lines to fix a problem. After all, pulling from Hamilton: “winning is easy; governing is harder,” meaning that even if you have popular support to fix the thing, it is harder still to find people to help labour, especially if the particular problem is a lack of research or knowledge on a subject.

Konstantia, what about if the Board decides to not go through with my plan?

That’s a good question. Again, sometimes, the Board might make a decision that you’re not fond of. I get you. I’ve seen it happen, and well, I get that it’s frustrating. It is frustrating. There may be reasons why the Board made their decision the way they did. It could be infrastructure (or lack thereof), it could be an overall lack of interest across the Society, or it could just be that there wasn’t enough information to make an informed decision. It happens. Dust yourself off. Here’s what you can still do.

Save drafts of everything. Tweak your submission, work towards ways of making the problem less of a problem, and keep looking at the processes that need changing. Talk with people who might also be seeing the same problems. It’s possible your submission might affect issues within the Society that are greater than we have infrastructure for. Heck, try running for the Board yourself! You may hear those other perspectives, too.

Of course, this list is far from being a full list. But, if you feel strongly about fixing parts of the Society that need to be fixed, I encourage you to start at step one on this list, learn why a process exists, and to start working on your plan.

The Society can be an absolutely vibrant, wonderful organization, and when many of us have a heart to fix the ills of both society and Society, going through the proper communication channels gives those ideas a better fighting chance to fix those ills.

Posted in how-to, SCA, SCA Philosophy, Society for Creative Anachronism, tutorial, volunteer management, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Gold Paint Review

As a scribe, I’m often asked what I use for my gold paint, and that’s where I kind of hem and haw a bit. You see, like any other art nerd, I have collected a few different supplies here and there, and have experimented, and well, now I have a post coming.

I’ve gathered the gold I have on hand and have taken photos of how the paint looks dry. I used Fluid’s hot press 140 lb/300 gsm block, not pergamenata/vegetable vellum, mostly to show the types of gold on light-coloured substrates, but also because it’s a similar smooth texture to perg. I have, however, experienced pretty decent coverage on pergamenata with all of these paints.

My sample card, under indirect light.

Each section will have two photos – one with a direct light overhead and also indirect light in the room I was working in. It was a cloudy day here on the day I took photos, so the light is particularly dim, but I think it gives a pretty good idea of what to expect in most home displays. I only did one layer of paint, just to give ideas of what coverage would look like.

I also broke these up into two different categories: pans and tubes. Pan paint takes a bit to rehydrate, so I took a dropper of clean water, added a drop of water to the pans, and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Tube paint, though, is soft and doesn’t take much water to become useable (unless one lets it dry and sit in a pan, in which case, it still doesn’t take too much to get to a point where it’s paint-like).

Direct – Kuretake and Coliro
Indirect light – Kuretake and Coliro

First off on the list is the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Starry Colors (Amazon, Blick). This set of paints from Japan are pretty soft, meaning that it doesn’t take much time (at most 2-3 minutes) to rehydrate the paints. This six pack of paint has a pretty wide variety of shades in fairly large quantities. The colours reviewed are Blue Gold No.901, Red Gold No.902, Yellow Gold No.903, Champagne Gold No.904, Light Gold No.905, and Silver No. 906. It doesn’t cover as well as I’d like (ideally, it needs a couple of layers for a good depth of colour), but for a beginner, it’s a great, inexpensive metallic watercolour set.

You’ll see that at least with direct light, they’re pretty shiny, though in indirect, you can see that with one coat, it’s perhaps not quite enough coverage. That being said, even with the coverage issues, I find that the colours run true.

Downside is that pans aren’t sold on an individual basis, so if a pan runs out, a whole new set has to be purchased, though the sets are pretty inexpensive.

Verdict: These are a great gateway paint to metallic paints, especially for SCA use. For scrolls, I’d use Blue Gold No.901 or Yellow Gold No.903.

Next up are the Coliro round pan gold set. (John Neal, Amazon) This set has a very similar colour scheme to the Kuretake, though the names are a bit different. The colours reviewed are Tibet Gold, Inka Gold, Arabian Gold, Gold Pearl, Moon Gold, and Sterling Silver.

These are a bit harder than the Kuretake, and I find that water needs to sit a bit longer in the pans – about 4-5 minutes – to get nice and creamy. The coverage is good, and I find that the quality of the shine is really high. Tibet Gold is a bit more brown than I’d like, but I’ve used Arabian Gold and Gold Pearl with good effect on scrolls. Shades blend well with one another (great for doing dimensional work). However, because the pans are filled a certain way, voids in the pan do form. It is possible to get replacement pans from John Neal at a decent price, however, I have yet to find them in a local store. Additionally, the Coliro sets come in fairly flimsy plastic packaging, which I’m not fond of using if I have to mix a particular shade. In my experience, I find that this sticks the best to pergamenata.

Some scribes have even been able to use these with their dip pens. I have not had that luck, but I am not exactly well known for my calligraphy.

Verdict: Again, a good starter palette, though I’m not fond of the plastic packaging. For SCA scrolls, I’d use Gold Pearl or Arabic Gold.

FineTec with square pan, direct light.
FineTec under indirect light.

FineTec (not to be confused with Coliro; is distributed by Alvin here in the US) (Blick) is a separate company with a similar name with a slightly different formulation than the Coliro. I find that these paints are far more shiny than either the Kuretake or the Coliro. The price point, though is a bit higher, with individual pans priced out to about $7 each, versus the Coliro at about $5.

The palette that I tested does not have the same colours as the other gold palettes, however, many of the same colours are in the 24-pan set as the 6 pan gold set. I tested Crystal Gold, Arabic Gold, Pearl Gold, Olympic Gold, Royal Gold, and Silver. The pans for the Finetec are metal (the noted exception is the 24-pan set, which has a plastic bottom with a porcelain-enameled metal lid).

The amount of time it takes these to get ready is similar to the Coliro – about 4-5 minutes, with similar coverage. This, though is where I feel the comparison ends. Due to the slightly different formulation, these have a different sheen, making them look more metallic than the Coliro. It’s hard to see in the photo, but in real life, the difference is pretty clear. That being said, I have had some issues with FineTec sticking to pergamenata, and like the Coliro, due to the process in filling the pans, voids are found, and may be in some inconvenient locations.

Verdict: the metal container, as well as the coverage are absolutely worth the splurge. The depth of colour really is fantastic. For scrolls, I would use either Pearl Gold or Olympic Gold.

Heart of Gold – indirect lighting

Back to Coliro for about half a second. John Neal carries Coliro’s Heart of Gold pan, and while this is a beautiful little pan, I find that the colour just isn’t quite right for a SCA-type scroll, as I find it’s a closer to a rose gold rather than a true gold.

Like the other Coliro pans, water needs to sit a bit longer in the pans – about 4-5 minutes – to get nice and creamy. The coverage is good, and I find that the quality of the shine is really high. Unlike most Coliro pans, this one has an embedded heart of gold paint in the center of silver paint, allowing for variances in colour. It’s a beautiful little pan, and while there’s a lot of bang for the buck for the amount of colour, it is difficult to get a good consistent colour.

Unlike most Coliro pans, it is a bit more expensive at $7.50, but this is more than likely due to the extra work of embedding the gold heart. This is a special edition paint, and while I don’t want to dissuade people from purchasing it (it is so gorgeous), I have a hard time justifying use of it in medieval-style art.

Heart of Gold – direct lighting

That being said, though, if you’re interested in experimenting with shading, or as an effect for modern work, this is a great pan, with some beautiful colour in it.

Verdict: Fine for non-medieval pieces, less okay for medieval ones.

That’s it for the pan watercolours. Up next are the tube watercolours!

Tube watercolours are just that – paints in tubes. Admittedly, I don’t have as many as I’d like, but I’ve mostly stuck with paints that I’d describe as Old Faithfuls of the scribal world. Because these are paints that are coming out of tubes, they are the softest of all of the paints I’ve reviewed. It doesn’t take much water to get these to a workable texture, and finding them at any average art store is pretty easy, as well as on the whole relatively inexpensive.

Holbein and Royal Talens – direct lighting

First up is Holbein’s Pearl Gold. (Blick, Amazon). For many scribes in the Society, this has been held up as a standard of scribal work. It’s relatively inexpensive (around $12/ 15mL), and is easy to work with. It is also a bright gold, smooth as silk, and covers well. It also rehydrates well, and doesn’t take much water to get to a workable consistency.

Holbein’s Pearl Gold is also a gold that looks similar to shell gold, as it’s a bright, yellow-y colour, and it has a gorgeous sheen to it.

Holbein and Royal Talens – indirect lighting

I will admit that I don’t use it as much when I’m painting scrolls (I’ve really fallen in love with the FineTec), but it’s still a good standby, especially for people starting out. It doesn’t take too much paint to really add to a piece, and with it being accessible at both big box and smaller art stores, it’s a pretty easy way to really add the look of medieval art without too much additional investment.

Verdict: This is a staple, and has been for several years. If you prefer the texture of tube paints, I absolutely recommend this paint.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Royal Talens (Blick, Amazon) – this was the paint I used when I first started doing scribal over a decade ago. I lucked out and ended up getting several large tubes for less than $50, which might explain why I still have so much of it today. That being said, the paints (and especially the metallics) really aren’t that bad. The coverage is nice, and with the tubes being 20 mL, there’s a lot of paint in there. The silver is nice and bright, and while I purchased the deep gold (and not the light gold), it still doesn’t look egregiously out of character for a period piece. It doesn’t take much paint to cover large areas of scribal real estate, either.

Downsides: the paint is soft, though there are occasionally some grinding problems where the pigment is a bit clumpy. Even then, it has a good depth of colour, and the silver stands out really nicely (and I think better than most of the other paints on this list). It does take a bit more water to rehydrate after being allowed to dry, especially in comparison to the Holbein.

That being said, I’ve had a difficult time finding it at my preferred art stores, as well as the aforementioned grinding problems (it could have been that batch, but I’ve seen it within their non-metallic paints, too).

Verdict: If you can find it, try it out. It is inexpensive, and covers well, so a tube lasts for a while.

That’s it for now! I’m always searching for new paints and processes for adding gold to our artwork, and who knows – there may be more reviews like this in the future.

Posted in calligraphy, illumination, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, supply list | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creative Anachronism in the Time of Corona(virus)

Hi all. I know, it’s been a bit since I last blogged. With the global shutdown, and with my modern job heavily tied to taking care of contingencies just like this, I didn’t have much time to devote to the Society. . .until I could then devote some time to my arts, for a bit. And lo and behold, I had a little bit more time to work on things. (If there is anything positive from this, it is that I had time to practice and work on things that I love.)

You might remember the post I made about stretching my scribal boundaries, and my plans past that point. Well, I finished the piece I had planned to do, based on this exemplar, and I have to say that I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Things I had problems with, initially: The FineTec I had used for the gold did not want to stick to the pergamenata, so it took a couple of rounds of paint to attempt to get the coverage I wanted. I also finally had a chance to use some of the paint that I’ve been mixing by hand, including using dragon’s blood in some glazing techniques, especially in the shadows of the cherries. I also ended up using my smaller brushes to get the details in. I’m also not entirely keen on the shadows on the gold (I used a highly watered down Daniel Smith Amethyst), but, for getting the 3D effect to really take off, it worked. The thing that looked the most out of place was the Lily badge, but, I think this was due to fatigue on the project. In the future, I may try and sneak a badge in in other places besides at the bottom of the location of the text block. For a piece that easily took about 80 hours of work just on the illumination, though, I’m pleased with how it turned out.

Once this was done, I was somewhat itching to do another piece. Being the kind of person I am, I wanted to do something with skulls or skeletons or something of that ilk. So, after searching, I found this 15th c French exemplar (warning, page uses Flash still) indicating the start of the part of the liturgies that had to do with the Office of the Dead. This particular exemplar is small – about 6″ by 4.3″. I am all for small scrolls, and I may end up redoing this one closer to scale, but for this one, I blew the proportions up to fit on an 17″ x 11″ piece of perg. I don’t normally work this big, but as this was also for the same blank border contest as the first one, I wanted to make sure the calligrapher had room to work in. I suspect the weird fish-shaped bones are meant to be scapulae, and I did some modifications to the layout because I was on a larger substrate. (They’re illuminators, not anatomists, dammit.)

With this one, I used more paint that I had made myself, notably alizarin lake (the pink) and ultramarine (the blue), and oddly, had no issues with the FineTec this scroll. I liveposted this scroll on my Instagram and The Other Social Network and enjoyed such comments as “spoopy spots,” in reference to the gold circles and dots around the skulls.

All told, this particular scroll blank took about 40 hours (simpler background, less complex shading), but I’m not less proud of it. I’m mostly giggly over the number of skulls that look like they could go for a good stiff (ha!) drink right about now. (Me too, skelliman. Me too.)

Less related to painting, but more relating to the community that binds us together, I created a glow-up or pass the brush video, similar to what’s seen on TikTok and Insta. And so this happened.

I could not be happier or prouder of my kingdom, and how this particular exercise really brought us together. (with another one on the way!)

So, what have I learned in the last few months of being away from the Society? One, that we still have a community, and what we say and do online still matters. Our comportment, how we treat others, and how we say and do things both on and offline matter. Classes are still occurring, and in some kingdoms (not mine), awards are still be granted. The most important aspect of the Society – information transfer – is still happening. I’ve had more time to hone my craft. Some have spent time mending and researching. Being forced home hasn’t always been as horrible as it could be. Don’t get me wrong, I miss being in close quarters with friends and chosen family, but I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had here to work on things and improve. I realise this comes from a place of great privilege (I still have my job, my home, and am in relatively good health) – and I recognize that others may not have the same privilege to do what I’ve done over the past couple of months. It’s okay.

I guess what I’m saying is that this has shown us that the Society is its people, and without that, we cannot survive without leaning on one another. It’s going to be rough for the foreseeable future, and our shields will take some battering. We have to be in it together.

Posted in blank border, brag page, calontir, french, illumination, paint, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteer Development in the SCA

This article is a companion article to my Volunteer Management in the SCA article, and is a step beyond the items covered within it. If you have not read that one, please do before going forward with this one.

The difference between volunteer management and volunteer development is best explained as such: volunteer management is the day-to-day work of ensuring that volunteers are content in their work, and volunteer development is the long-term, overarching look at the programs and areas in which volunteers give of their time. Volunteer development also requires a critical look at the environments in which the volunteer does their work, and assists volunteers in making the next big step.

How can we accomplish this sort of volunteer development within the Society? Given that the SCA is a wholly volunteer organization, how do we make the changes to assisting people to volunteer their time and energy?

To be frank, we need to look critically at the work we do, but also at the things we say to our volunteers.

The SCA is a volunteer organization. Full-stop. Everyone, from the members of the Board of Directors, to the royals of the twenty kingdoms, to the gentle with their bare AoA, is a volunteer. What we do within our local groups, kingdoms, and Society itself depends wholly on the work that we do as a society.

Let’s start with this: we often hear horror stories of people being told that they were made an officer of their group because they were not there to say no or that they were “voluntold” to do a job. We often tell people that “real life comes first” or “GPA before SCA,” but then get upset when a person goes off to deal with things outside the SCA (seriously, when I took a year off, I got a “well, it’s about time you came back!”). I can’t count how many times a person walking into a new volunteer position with apologies or condolences rather than a genuine congratulations or offers of help.

What does this above example tell us about what it means to volunteer within the confines of the Society?

  • Well, for one, it tells potential volunteers that no matter what they do, the work is going to suck for them, no matter the job they take on.
  • It tells people that they are not valued past what they can give to a group.
  • It also tells that person that the most they are worth is what they can contribute.
  • It also indicates that a person’s agency isn’t important, or that the Society should be the most important thing in a person’s life and that time spent out of the Society is a lower priority.
  • Voluntelling people also disregards any knowledge a person might have that was gained outside of the Society, as well as any effort, love, delight, and inclinations in their own acts of service.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, however, the Society for Creative Anachronism is not the most important thing in my spare time. It may not be in yours, either. It might be for some, and while that’s fine, I also think that it may be a recipe for burnout. It is, however, not okay to make a person’s priority the Society when they may not have the abilities to take on more than they already have.

So, how can we reframe what is a pretty toxic frame of mind and use it to improve the Society? The list below is a great jumping off point.

Value our volunteers. Bluntly, volunteers are not a dime a dozen, nor are they infinite resources. Within geek culture, there are a number of places a volunteer can go, from conventions, to other groups – and some folks manage to do multiple groups! We need to realize that as much as the Society fills the majority of our lives, it’s not that way for everyone, and that’s okay. Think of it this way: you are spending your time in working with other people to make magic happen for others – so doing things like writing down what is necessary and store it in a place where it can be easily reached by future volunteers can be eminently easier and faster for someone to run an activity once you have. Experience is not replaceable.

Play to people’s strengths. We all come to the Society with our own knowledge base and available skills, and there are some volunteer things that we’re going to excel at. (I’m a decent herald, but don’t ask me to be a marshal and definitely don’t give me the books to balance – but I have a friend who doesn’t understand the complex heraldic rules, but is amazing at the math involved with being exchequer.) The point is, if we see that people have skills in something, let’s encourage them to take positions in our local areas.

Provide meaningful work. Busywork, too many people doing the exact same thing at the same time, or by not providing enough opportunities to grow can kill off a volunteer corps, as can not preparing a volunteer to take on a role. The beautiful thing about the Society is that there are many places a new player can help out alongside a more experienced player, and both get something out of it. Find someone to mentor and to teach and to work with. (And before you tell me that’s the reason we have peer-associate relationships, I’m going to tell you that you can mentor and work with people even if you’re not a peer. There is no reason why people can’t do the thing and learn from one another in a group that is dedicated to information transfer.)

Get feedback. You might need a good set of Teflon braies for this – because sometimes, this is the worst part, but it’s also a great opportunity for the organization to grow (but it also means that we need to be critical about where and when we apply those changes, too). Feedback is how we grow as an organization (and groups within the Society need it, so definitely send your letters to the Board!). If someone is saying that something is a problem, there might actually be a reason for that, so take it seriously! If things are going well, it never hurts to ask questions about how to possibly change the process to make it work better.

Thank people. I somewhat covered this above, but seriously, don’t hesitate to thank people for doing the work. By consistently acknowledging the unpaid work and emotional labour that our volunteers do, as well as the time that they use (and don’t get back!), we run a much higher chance of retaining them within the Society. Volunteers don’t do their part because they expect something in return, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t thank them for their contributions. A thank-you note or public acknowledgement can remind volunteers that they’re valued and appreciated. Do not wait for the Crown/Coronet to recognize them in a court situation. Public recognition is usually better done outside of courts. (source)

It is everyone’s job in the Society to continue to find ways to improve not only ourselves, but also the greater Society for Creative Anachronism in which we spend our time. It behooves us to act on the actual chivalric ideals and to give people the franchise to accomplish their own goals that they have set before them and to do so with a sense of actual courtesy and honour our volunteers. You can read more about it within my handout from my KWHSS class on Volunteer Management, with my friend Wu daren.

Posted in burnout, SCA, SCA Philosophy, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, volunteer management | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Omphaloskepsis: Anachronistic Learning in the Information Age

The Society for Creative Anachronism is by large a society based on information transfer, whether it be our own customs and law to how to create medieval items or even learning our method of martial art. Even with this, though, how critical is it exactly that our learning and information transfer happen only at events, especially in the age of blogs, Twitch, Instagram, Discord, That Other Social Network, and the like – and more importantly, how do we use these tools in educating others in the ways of the SCA?

First off, I want to say that I think it’s important to show up to events and SCA activities. After all, what we do is done in community, and without that community, we’re just a bunch of weirdos who play dress-up in medieval clothes. If you can, go to events. Meet people. Do the things that make your little medieval geeky heart happy.

But, let’s say your schedule doesn’t allow you to go to regular fighter practices or A&S nights. You’ve learned things, and you want to share them – how important is it to share what you’ve learned? And more importantly, how do you find ways of sharing them? This post will go through the pros and cons of sharing your work through the Information Superhighway.

It’s incredibly important to share information. We’re an organization based on learning things, and while many of us do well in formalized classroom settings within the SCA, many of us don’t. (Seriously, check out Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. It’s fascinating!) And, with the birth of some amazing sites, there are great ways to pass on our knowledge.

Courtesy of my friend Marie.

We’ll start off with a classic: Blogs. Great for showing off long-form pieces like dress diaries or essays, blogs are wonderful for linking to websites, museum pieces, and in some cases, a great repository for an individual’s body of work. Downsides with blogs, though, are the dreaded TL;DR or even lack of traffic to a blog. Other issues also include lack of citations (seriously, cite your stuff), or learning blogging applications like WordPress or Blogger. (I’ve had decent luck with both, but, your mileage may vary.) On the whole, though, blogs are, in my opinion, one of the best ways to share information with others, especially with regards to the SCA and our shared medieval life.

That Other Social Network also has a way of transferring information through their concept of Pages. The downside with Pages is that That Other Social Network has a habit of changing their algorithms frequently, and Pages frequently get hosed. Is it possible to have a successful Page? Absolutely, but much of the labour goes to those seeking the information. Pages are great for sharing information in pictures, and it’s definitely easy for posts to go viral across the Social Network. The downside, though, is that unless your information is properly cited or poorly represented, that information from Pages can easily be used in misinformation. (really, anything can be used in misinformation, but some methods are easier.) On the other hand, Pages can also be used in conversations (though, others using trollish behaviour can be a thing as well.

From my own Instagram account!

Instagram is great for showing off processes, or documenting what you’re doing. It is, however, terrible for citing items. (But hey, if you want inspiration, Instagram is wonderful. And I find that medieval Instagram is delightfully supportive and I love learning from them!) Medieval Twitter is similar, and with organizations like the British Museum and the Walters actively sharing what’s in their collections (with enthusiastic curators often answering questions!), it’s a great place to learn. Downsides include word counts and clunky searches with tags for the exact item you might want. (and, if you’re particularly tied to something, yes, you can cite Tweets using Chicago/Turabian manuals of style.

Something I’ve been using is Twitch and YouTube to stream video of things I’ve been working on, and there are a few instances of SCA folk (Hi Morgan Donner!) who use YouTube in their explorations of history and their chosen crafts. Twitch is great for people who need to watch how something is done, or even feeling part of something – watch any YouTube Live session, and you can see the number of people attempting to interact with the person they’re watching. I often use Twitch when doing live paints. One, it allows people to see what I’m working on from the comfort of my own home, and two, I can answer questions in real time. Downsides, though, are often citation-related. I have a harder time posting links, or I often answer the same question on multiple broadcasts. Technology fails can also be a massive issue, especially when it comes to multiple points of failure (anything from your speed of your internet to the type of camera that you use).

Image may contain: 1 person
Courtesy of Anna. Tell me, how obvious in her display are the modern elements?

Lastly, let’s say you make it to an event, and you’re displaying items. As anachronistic as they are, sometimes, having technology is great. My friend Anna over at Anna’s Rome entered a competition, and used a tablet to not only display her documentation, but also to show people the process. She had a QR code, labeled as leading to video of her timelapses of working on her icons. Talk about harnessing multimedia within an anachronistic setting – and yet, having it being done without it being obtrusive. (It can be done!) Direct from Anna below are her reasons why the multimedia display.

Disclaimer: I have a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies, so this is sort of my jam, and I’m about to get a wee wordy: Displays are supposed to be educational in nature, and people learn in different ways. I myself am a visual learner, so I need video or images to help make sense of words or lectures. I also put the pigments and egg tempera medium down to assist tactile learners with getting a feel for the materials. This is important, especially in an age when we’re learning more and more each day about how we learn, and how to make the arts accessible. A binder of dry words on the table, in my opinion, is not accessible. Non-artists can sometimes have a hard time grasping the amount of work that goes into what we do, so a complete demonstration can paint a more holistic approach.

I filmed myself doing the timelapse before Pennsic as a joke to build a montage ala “Eye of the Tiger”, which is actually the song on the first timelapse video I made. After seven days of painting, I condensed them all into 10 minutes of playtime, and included the link to Youtube in my documentation since it had to be sent ahead of time to the judges. I don’t think they watched it, as no comments were made about it to me. So I decided that a QR code would be an excellent, quickly visible way to access the video online during the display here in Trimaris. We’re all so tethered to our tech, especially phones, for varying reasons. I love taking pictures at A&S displays and competitions, so why NOT video? My husband, THLord Gieffrei, who was out front making coins that day, made the suggesting to use his small tablet for repetitive play. I was apprehensive, because some people can get super squeamish about intrusive modernity, but, hey, we have binders of printed paper on a table, and displays aren’t exactly an immersive medieval event, so I went for it, and it worked, insanely well. The average museum visitor spends less than seven seconds on an object unless there is something that pulls them in unless there is a “hook”. The video was the hook. People were mesmerized by the video, and then found themselves playing with the paint, referring to my documentation, and then snapping the QR code as a “take home” copy of the video.

In fact, The East Kingdom just had their “Artifacts of a Life” event again, and some of my friends up north used these techniques to the same level of positive reception. So I feel that the integration of technology is the next step we need to take as an organization if we want to maintain relevance. Just because we recreate the world prior to the 17th Century, doesn’t mean our educational approaches need to stay there, as well.

Like hammers, chisels, paintbrushes, sewing machines, and the like, the internet is a tool, and through efficacious use of it, the transfer of information can be done cheaply and elegantly.

Posted in how-to, influences, philosophy, SCA, SCA Philosophy, Society for Creative Anachronism, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pomp and Splendor: what to do with your heraldic device once registered

Once you’ve registered your arms, there are a multitude of ways to display them, all which add to our game. While I’ll be using my arms as an example, keep in mind that different shapes may work better (or worse) with your arms. When you work on your own ideas, sketch out your own arms and see what works best for you.

If you are registering a heraldic design for a fieldless badge, please remember that by longstanding precedent, we do not register fieldless badges that appear to be independent forms of armorial display. Charges such as roundels, cartouches, escutcheons, billets, hearts, lozenges, and so forth are all both standard heraldic charges and “shield shapes” for armorial display. Lozenges ployés do not escape this rule and are considered to be a shield shape for the purposes of this precedent.

The traditional way that many of us see our devices displayed is on an escutcheon shape or a heater-type shield. Of course, there are a multitude of escutcheon shapes, but the basic shield shape works well for a lot of heraldic designs. It covers a lot of space, leaving room for charges without things getting too squished, and it fits many time periods within the pre-1600 cut-off that the Society covers.

Associated with unmarried women, especially in Anglo-Norman heraldic practice, the lozenge as display is an option available to all in the Society. It has similar perks to the escutcheon shape, though charged chiefs, flaunches, and bases may run into some issues with squished shapes. It is geometric, however, so designs with bends, bordures, fesses, and pales look particularly striking. One would see the lozenge used by women in heraldic display practice starting circa 1262, though as the linked article does state that, “[m]oreover, the oldest lozenge used by a man is contemporaneous with the oldest lozenge used by a woman. Clearly, then, the lozenge was one of various possible shapes, used by both sexes without significant distinction,” the lozenge was also used by men as well.

Also associated with unmarried women in Anglo-Norman heraldic practice, the cartouche or oval shape has some similar perks to the lozenge. Unlike the lozenge, though, the round shape of the cartouche lends itself nicely to charged chiefs and bases. Flaunches and gores may create some problems given the overall skinny of the design, and as usual, bends, bordures, fesses, and pales look particularly striking with the cartouche.

Think of the billet as a great shape for banners, especially Imperial Roman and Byzantine-era banners (my own banner is somewhat in this shape). Like the escutcheon, there’s a lot of real estate in using the billet shape, without the funky curved edges at the bottom. Within my example, you can see that there is plenty of room for my seraph to. . . ahem. . . spread its wings, and nothing in particular feels crowded. It does, however, have the same problems of the cartouche in that it’s a fairly skinny shape, so fitting charges may take a bit of practice.

Delfs are just squares, and we see this shape a lot for badges (the main badge form for the Society is in this shape). There’s plenty of real estate for charges and ordinaries and is compact enough to save space in blocky designs. It’s geometric, so this works particularly well on scrolls, in weaving designs (depending on the charges), and shows up in 12th century square pennons and some late period square exemplars, too. If you’re feeling particularly extra and late period, you could use a square shape and add a tail (called a “schwenkel“) to the top.

Roundels are as their name calls them – rounds. Great for rotella, targa, bucklers, or any number of round shields, this shape also works great for badges and patches. There’s a lot of space for ordinaries and charges, and if you have peripheral ordinaries (which are on the edges of the field), there’s room for those, too. This is a great all around (ha!) for many applications.

It’s time to start getting weird with displays. Until now, we’ve seen pretty standard shapes, mostly squares, rectangles, circles, and ovals. Heart-shaped shields show up in some cultures (Berber, for one, where it’s pretty prominent in use), but it also works well for some other applications, including the Heraldic Love project, started by Cormac Mór. The downside with the heart shape is that charged chiefs do not have much room, thanks to the dip in the middle, but there’s room for flaunches, bases, gores, etc. This as a token with use of a badge could be absolutely adorable.

Hello inverted triangles. I told you we’d be getting weird here. Like the escutcheon, triangles function pretty close to that shape and there are several examples of banners and even shield shapes in this manner. The downsides to having triangles mean that some peripheral ordinaries like flaunches may make the rest of the design look bizarre. My own barony uses this shape (we’re the Barony of Forgotten Sea. It’s nautical.) in our roll of arms. Some divisions (like per saltire) just look bizarre. If, however, your heraldry uses things on a fess or in cross, it might work really well with this shape.

Banners like the gonfalon mean that filling the space might be interesting. (I did this digitally, and I probably would have not made some of the choices that I did with this.) Perfect for the late period Roman persona (I’m looking at you 16th c Rome) or ecclesiastic personae, the gonfalon evolved from the Imperial Roman vexillium. The gonfalon’s main point is that it hangs from a crossbeam downwards. A similar type of banner called the gonfanon features the same shape, but hangs from the hoist of a flagpole.

Used by confraternities (lay groups), gonfalons could also be used by households in the SCA as a good carryover. Several period examples (including this one from a tapestry!) place the arms or subject in the middle and leave the surrounding area pretty open. It’s a great way to mark your campsite, or even to show off your household’s badge. The gonfalon doesn’t always have to have the three tails. Sometimes they’re swallow-tailed, and sometimes, they’re like the billet above.

Lastly, the tabard. Used as a representation of the person a herald represented, the tabard was worn. (and is a prime example of a coat of arms being used to represent a person!) The nice thing about tabards is that there’s a lot of space for varying charges, ordinaries, peripheral ordinaries, or other shapes. The downside with tabards is that for early period personae, they come pretty late to the party, with most tabards being worn in the 14th and 15th centuries. On the other hand, the tabard is still being worn by heralds (have an 18th c example right here!), so you can see how this garment has evolved from its initial use.

Everybody’s heralding for the weekend?

Perfect for tournaments or court situations, tabards showcase that you represent the voice of your employer. As a herald in the Society, that could be a combatant in Crown, or it could actually be the Crown. If you wear the tabard, your actions directly impact the person you represent. For more on the tabard as worn by a herald, please check out this article.

There are, of course, other shapes (like the Norse crescent banner) that you can use for display, though, unlike the rest of the shapes in this article, the Norse banner is not restricted for use as a badge. Again, check out what works best for you and your persona, and sketch out a couple of ideas. More heraldic display adds to the beauty of our game, and the more we can use our heraldry to beautify our game, the more we look more like the nobles we represent.

Posted in banner, court, herald, heraldry, history, persona, persona development, Renaissance, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Straight Outta SLC: Quick and Easy SCA Names Using FamilySearch

Documenting names for the SCA doesn’t always require large tomes or some sort of wizard with super-linguistic skills to interpret a source. One of the best sources we have at our disposal is FamilySearch, a genealogical tool that has compiled not only International Genealogical Index records, but other records (such as parish and birth) as well. This article will show you how to use FamilySearch to document names for SCA registration and use.

First off, FamilySearch is a repository of two different types of records. The first type is that of User Submitted Genealogies, which consist of family information contributed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormons). The contributions may be fantastic. . . or not so, because it is genealogical research. You may run into modernized spelling, duplicate information, or even inconsistent information. As a result, these types of records are not permitted for use in documenting names for the SCA.

The second type of record is that of Historical Records, which two members from the community have transcribed information from an extant source (usually a scan or a photograph, though sometimes they’re Victorian transcriptions of an older source). If the transcribed information does not agree, an expert then looks at it and determines what is correct. That means that they’re at least as dependable as the other sources we use, and the SCA College of Arms considers those transcriptions reasonable documentation for the spelling and dating of a name element.

Let’s get started in learning to search for a name.

When starting your search, start at, and make sure that you’ve selected the Records tab. This should show a few search bars, with options to search by life event, relationships, or can even restrict your search by location, type, batch number, or even a microfilm number. Much like a search engine like Google, the information that you put into the prompts will give you the best results based on input. So, if you misspell part of the name, don’t limit the time frame, or limit the location to one spot, it is possible that you may not get the results you want or are even useable.

The name I was given to research was David Moffatt.

So, my first thing is to break apart the name into individual chunks: first name and last name, and search both independently of one another. I could search both parts, but this could result in no results found, or a result found out of period. I started with the last name, which I chose because it’s probably a bit more difficult to find than David. I entered this into the last name section, then selected “Any” from the “Search with a life event.” By selecting “Any,” this allows the user to look at all records: parish, death, burial, marriage, birth, and christening records, instead of a very specific record. This keeps the search fairly broad. I then selected the range of time as 1000 CE to 1650 CE, which does limit the search to those 650 years, and as the College of Arms will not register anything later than 1650 and FamilySeach will not look for anything prior to 1000, it is best to limit your search to these dates. I left the place blank, again, keeping the search just broad enough. There is a ticky-box for “Match All Terms Exactly,” though I recommend not using that unless you are looking for an exact match of a spelling. Be aware that this may result in no search results, so use this ticky-box responsibly.

I then clicked search and then I ended up with a page of results! Unfortunately, some of the results were marked as “Find A Grave” records, which are not acceptable records. Another thing to watch out for is that modern American records can and will sneak into your results. While both of the birth records on the Find A Grave records have a date from an acceptable “grey-area” time (post-1600 but pre-1650), the record doesn’t have a batch number, which means it can’t be used. (It does have a photo, but not with a gravestone indicating that the name was normalized, making these records less than helpful. Modern American records, like the record of Duane Moffatt, may indicate a false positive. These, likewise, are not acceptable for research for SCA names. (These are usually the case of a volunteer transcribing the date incorrectly. It is easier to ignore these and keep digging.)

I was, however, successful in finding a Moffatt from an acceptable batch and year. What’s interesting about this particular record is the spelling variations offered. It is reasonable to assume that the name could have had a few spelling variants, and that the person’s name wasn’t “Moffett Or Moffatt.” A few things of note from this historical record: one, the christening date is that of pre-1600, and two, the batch number (next to the indexing project) is a P batch.

When using the Historical Records to document the particular name element (which, yes, you may use in combination with other sources, such as books on the No Photocopy list), you must provide a summary of the FamilySearch result including the batch letter and number on the name form is sufficient documentation and additional printouts are not required. The batch letter and number is important! Batches B, C, J, K, M (except M17 and M18), or P are all acceptable, whereas batches that are all digits, begin with M17 or M18, D, F, H, L, or T are not acceptable, with all other batches allowed on a case by case review. The main reason why certain batches are allowed over ones that are not is due to earlier indexes may actually reflect out of date scholarship, and therefore are not acceptable to the College.

Now that we have a last name, let’s use the same process for the first name, only this time, let us put a few more limitations on the search. The record above shows that Thomas Moffett/Moffatt is from England, so by restricting the records to England only means that we can gain a higher chance of extreme temporal and cultural compatibility. I’ve kept all of the information the same – I want any record from 1000-1650, and by putting in “England” in any place, I’ve successfully locked the search to any English sources in that timeframe. As you can see, I ended up with a lot of Davids. The hard part now is sifting through the records until one finds an acceptable batch. In this case, David Marten, is from an acceptable batch (a B-batch), and is within 10 years of our Moffatt record.

So, how do we combine all of this information and summarize it for submission? The key is to use the most important information: Name, Gender, Date, Type of Record, Place, and Batch Number.

Let’s take our two records here. When I document for submission, I follow a very similar path to researching the names – I break apart the individual parts of the name, this time starting with the first name. I always include the element that I’ve documented separate from the full name of the record, so in documenting David, my summary would look like this, making sure to also include the link where the individual record is held.

David: David Marten, male, buried 04 Apr 1589, England, Batch B03579-4. (

Moffatt: Thomas Moffett Or Moffatt, male, christened 30 Oct 1590, SAINT JOHN,NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE,NORTHUMBERLAND,ENGLAND, Batch P00418-1. (

That’s it! Once all elements are documented, double check your work (maybe against the names checklist and definitely against the O&A), and take your work to your local herald or, if you are the local herald, submit using your kingdom’s processes.

And, if you ever want a bit of fun, consider trying to find names that you didn’t think were documentable, like Kathleen, Ian, or even Jade. You might surprise yourself (and the College)!

Posted in herald, heraldry, how-to, SCA, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, tutorial | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stretching Scribal Boundaries

So, over the Christmas holiday, I had the opportunity to go to an event in Meridies (hi Thor’s Mountain!), and I seized the opportunity to sit and do some art while I was there. I wasn’t sure what kind of art that I wanted to do, and I was kind of flying on what I had, and not what I should have used (because literally flying and limited space blah blah blah). But, with a bit of thinking and a few moments on my phone at my event (sorry!), I started working on a challenge piece for me.

Thanks, Santa Jeff, for capturing this photo of me at work on this piece. You can see that I’m working out of a wire-bound sketchbook, and not my normal pergamenata for scrolls. It’s a practice piece, after all.

So, carrying in my already filled palettes and a bit of paint that I was able to put in my luggage to the event, I started working on a piece that I thought would stretch my abilities – squashed bugs. Squashed bugs, of course, isn’t the period name, but it’s one that we as reenactors and recreationists have saddled with this overly realistic, trompe l’oeil style, featuring botanicals and insects, with most exemplars coming from France and Flanders around the early 16th century. The pieces seem realistic, complete with shadows and highlights, usually with a shell gold background, with a fantastic example being Les Grande Heures d’Anne de Bretagne, which the Bibliothèque nationale de France has digitized and put online for research purposes. Of note, there are several botanicals in this particular exemplar. Some of those botanicals, I joke, might put you on a watchlist because, well, whee cannabis. (Also, as I was telling my coworkers at my modern job: “15th CENTURY GET LIT!” I am a bad person.)

Les Grande Heures was painted by a miniaturist named Jean Bourdichon, and it took him about five years to complete the book. There are numerous portraits (my current favourite game on That Other Social Media site is to take a part from one of these miniatures without context, and ask people to caption it. My friend Anna at Anna’s Rome and I have really gotten into this. It’s bad, y’all), and these numerous portraits are finely detailed.

So, I started, using this particular exemplar, which had violets and a dragonfly. One of the reasons I went with this one, was because of the transparency of the wings, the delicate gradients of colour, but also because the extant wasn’t that large. This particular book of hours is a decent size, being about 300 mm x 190 mm (11″ x 7.4″) on each leaf. I could isolate the botanicals and use the rest of my small page (I had a 5.5″ x 8.5″ Strathmore mixed media sketchbook with me) for calligraphy. So, I also got out my FineTec palette, got it ready, and started work.

Now, admittedly, a lot of the work got done at Holly and Ivy. I have a bit of a heavy hand when it comes to filling in my large swathes of colour, and when the FineTec palette is hydrated nicely, you get these really creamy paints that deal well with a lot of coverage. But also, I was left to my own devices at the event and that’s also good. Before long, I’d gotten quite a bit of work done on it, and all that I needed to do was detail work, which I used my beloved 20/0 brushes (and a new 30/0 brush) to do.

I’m going to take a break from the how I did this to add something about how I don’t know how to teach people how to do this. I’ve been doing art since I was a young kid, and the best thing I can say is practice. I assure you, I still make stuff that’s terrible and that I’m not happy with. I have mountains of sketchbooks filled with failed drawings and paintings. In fact, I can name an SCA scroll in recent memory that I went through at least three failures before I finally got it to a point where I liked it. This particular piece was done to stretch my abilities and to practice techniques. Am I particularly chuffed that it turned out well? Absolutely. Am I afraid that I won’t be able to catch lightning in a bottle a second time? You bet.

Back to the project.

Once my layer of gold paint was down, I started working on transparency portions. The wings of the dragonfly, especially, were a bit difficult, but by watering down some Daniel Smith Amethyst Genuine watercolour where it was barely picking up pigment, I could paint the wings to look like there was diffused light turning into shadow, much like in the extant. Now, because this is a traditional transparent watercolour, it has the ability to take on these nearly transparent washes, whereas gouache would have a more difficult time given the finer grind of the pigment. (It’s possible to have no problems with watering down gouache, and I’ve had decent luck with my M. Graham gouache, but if you’re trying this out for yourself, experiment first.) I also found that using the Daniel Smith also made doing the shadows on gold easier, as the purple and gold would cancel each other out enough (yay complementary colours!) and would create this lovely dark brown. Of course, these shadows were not as dark as I wanted, and I had to break one of my cardinal rules with using black (black often overpowers, which is why I use it so very sparingly), but when watered down, it covered exactly the way I wanted.

Image may contain: plant
Closeup of my 30/0 brush. It’s tiny, yo. Also, you can see how the gold isn’t shiny from this angle. It’s very shiny when the light is right.

The biggest breakthrough I had was when I got my 30/0 brush. Not everyone feels like they need a tiny tiny brush, but I find that they’re helpful. With a light enough touch, I was able to mimic the fine lines in the extant. Like I said, not everyone feels like they need them, but I like mine. If you’re curious, it’s a Royal and Langnickel Monogram brush, and when it isn’t in use, it gets cleaned, dipped in gum arabic, and the plastic protective tube put back on to preserve the point of the brush, because 30/0s are pricy, even for inexpensive ones like this one. (And also, I don’t want to wear down this one as quickly as I do my 20/0s.)

No photo description available.
So shiny! Also, the finished product.

Once all of this was done, and any remaining lining was finished, I photographed it and put it online. (and then the SCA Social Media picked that up and it went sort of viral, so. uh. Hi.) Now, of course, it’s a practice piece, and as the artist recreating it, I am much harder on myself than perhaps everyone else is, but even with my mistakes, I’m proud of this. I have an idea of what to do next time, and I’m already planning for next time, with this adorable border of cherries from the same text (it’s on page 85r).

One of the biggest issues I think a lot of artists have is knowing when to stop. Self-editing can be difficult, but it’s such an important skill to learn to look at a project critically and stopping one’s self before it ends up getting ruined. There are still things I wish I could change, or wish that I had stopped myself on, but this piece is also a learning process. There’s so much more to learn, which is why I’m working on the border. I also discovered a few other things about this text that I’m excited to try out for next time.

So, while I was working on this one, I also was working on another one, but this was more or less a reminder to myself that just because I can, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Picture it, Sicil. . . I mean, the night before the event a blank border competition is held. No time to paint, but just enough time to try out another method that might have been another stretch of skills. I stumbled upon the concept of canivet, or paper cut to look like

No photo description available.
My finished piece.

lace by using either knives or die cuts, and a particularly spectacular example from the 1310s in a rather tiny book. While I was limited by size (I had to size up to make sure there was room for any text), I was able to cut my 11″x17″ pergamenata piece with the same general design as the extant in about 4.5 hours with my only injury being my slightly sore thumb from pressing too hard on my xacto knife. I did make a few modifications to my piece, with making room for a badge of one of our GoA orders, but on the whole, closely resembles the extant. Do I recommend doing stuff like trying to recreate a scroll the night before a competition in the future? No. Will I probably do dumb stuff like this in the future? Probably. Am I proud of my work? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.

Lessons learned from my scribal scribbles from the past few weeks:

  • Do things because you want to do things, but also, challenging yourself is a good thing. It’s quite easy to hit the Easy Button and do things over and over. And there’s plenty of practice in that, but expanding views is also a way to do that.
  • Inspiration comes in some odd, but fun places. I am truly loving Les Grande Heures.
  • Using Tweets as documentation is fine under Chicago/Turabian citation, so go get your citations from your favourite museum (also, thank you, Walters Art Museum Rare Books and Manuscripts)
  • I stretched a lot of abilities on this piece, and I can’t wait to try it again.
  • Practice is absolutely a good thing (and I can hear my sainted mother laughing from beyond the grave over me saying this).

Go out there and show me your practice pieces! I can’t wait to see what you learn from your own practice!

Posted in blank border, calontir, french, illumination, musings, paint, philosophy, practice, project management, Retrospective, SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making Choices; or why Konstantia wore one outfit over another

No photo description available.
Seriously. This is pretty close to what we had. I live just north of the green circle.

Calontir Coronation was this weekend, and as is often the risk with midwestern kingdoms in January, we had the prediction of some pretty heinous weather. So not kidding – we had a winter storm warning issued that morning for potential awfulness.

So, with that, meant that I had duties to take over due to people not being able to travel. You might be aware that I’m a former Principal Herald of my kingdom (I was the 19th Gold Falcon Principal Herald of Calontir), which meant that I was pretty heavily involved in the tradition of attesting that the victor of Crown Tournament actually was who he says he was. It is a tradition, not a law, so there were a couple of Coronations where I didn’t have this duty. This time, though, our current Gold Falcon and our just past Gold Falcon were both not able to travel, so I became the next one in line. Conveniently, I lived not far from site, so getting there wasn’t as difficult as it could have been for others. Anyway, this is about my clothing choices for an event, not heraldic duties, so let’s keep going here.

My thanks to Catrijn for this photo.

Vestal virgins held a lot of power within Roman society. They could own property, vote (!), and could own property. They also had the best seats at the public games, and could release slaves and prisoners who were condemned. Also, a Vestal’s word was far beyond reproach – her testimony was accepted without her needing to be under oath. Ordinary women, well, couldn’t, unless they had three children, were freedwomen with four children, or were the aforementioned Vestal Virgins. Women could inherit property, but they could not control it, and perhaps while it’s true that some high-ranking women could have influenced their husbands, this is limited to some really rare examples. Most Imperial Roman women were ornaments who also bore children, and were keepers of virtue and morality at home. There would be no reason for anyone but a Vestal or an Empress/her ladies to be present within ceremonies with the equivalent of a Society coronation, let alone to speak at one (I also read part of our lineage of kings and queens).

Since I was the Stunt Gold Falcon, I had to attest that His Highness was indeed the victor of Crown Tournament. An ordinary patrician wife couldn’t do that, but a Vestal could. The Roman state entrusted this select group of women with important documents, such as public treaties and the wills of powerful citizens – so, this public ceremony could have had Vestals as part of it.

About the only thing I didn’t have was a guard to protect me (a Vestal traveled with a personal escort), but, as we are surrounded by friends, it is unlikely that I would have been murderfied by anyone at the event.

My patrician wife kit. And yes, I’m reading the lineage. I think I chose this because of the camping aspect of this particular event.

Now, I’m still probably going to wear my Byzantine as often as I can, but this side of the Bosphoros is still comfy and airy and I still love wallering around in all of the linen. And as I am chronologically approaching Vestal retirement age (anywhere from a woman’s mid-thirties to her early forties), my time in this kit is fast approaching the end. And yes, I know, I could easily still wear the kit well into older ages, but for historical accuracy, I know my time in this kit is not long for this world. (Then again, there are other things about me that my period counterpart would not have been or done, so, there’s that, too.)

I do want to upgrade the linen to white wool, but that comes with time and a little bit of money (I’m gonna need at least 10 yards of the white wool and about half a yard of red). While linen works, especially for long wear, it is not exactly fireproof, and well, the work of the Vestal Virgin was working around fire. It would probably be best to wear a material where the risk of the fabric getting caught on fire would be at a minimum.

I have already upgraded the infula to be made of wool, so I’m a step closer to upgrading the entire kit, but there are other things that have to also be done, including sandals. One step at a time.

The point to this is, sometimes the clothes we wear are more than just clothes. Sometimes looking at what roles we do, and wearing the clothes as best befitting the roles we do take on within the Society help create a better magic moment for everyone else. And this little bit of authenticity makes my heart sing. It may not for you, and that’s fine. I had my magic moment, and I hope others had one too. I am deeply grateful to Their Majesties, both incoming and outgoing, to our Gold Falcon, and our Kingdom Seneschal for this opportunity to do this again. It was wonderful to be able to serve in this manner.

Posted in calontir, ceremonies, ceremony, clothing, early period, herald, heraldry, history, influences, musings, persona, persona development, Project Flammen, Roman, SCA, service, Society for Creative Anachronism, Vestal Virgin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment