The award system sometimes brings out the worst in us

So here is another SCA related post with some thoughts on how things work in our society.
And this time my thoughts are related to our awards and what it sometimes does to us.
The whole thought with the awards is to encourage people to continue doing good things – to continue teaching, working so that we all can have fun, to continue fighting or archery or woodcarving – or whatever is your favorite SCA poison.
However – it is also easy to get blinded by it.
And to get to focused on it.

I know – it is easy for me to say that awards aren’t important – having a bunch of awards.
But here comes my question:
If you do things only for the awards – will you continue once you get the award?
Or once you have climbed all the steps and achieved the ultimate goal? When there is no more award to get?

To answer this question I think you need to ask yourself another question.
What if there weren’t any awards?
What would you be doing if there were no scrolls, no special bling and no cookies?
And I know – this is generalizing things a lot. Not all people hunt awards and sometimes one award can be really desired and will really make a whole lot of difference in someones motivation.
But from time to time I think it is healthy for all of us to stop and ask ourselves:
If there were no awards in the SCA – what would I do? Would I hold sewing meetings at my house? Would I volunteer to autocrat or to hold an office? Would I do bone carving or is it really textile arts that is my thing?
This could also be a good question to ask yourself when you are having an SCA low – because we all have those too.
If there wasn’t an award system and if we never got attention for what we were accomplishing, learning, doing or making – what would I find most fun? What is it that makes ME feel good about this hobby and what motivates me?
And the answers might not be the same every time you ask the question.
And our motivations might shift.
It is not always bad to want awards.
But when awards are the only thing that motivates you – I don’t think you will ever be satisfied or feel good about this hobby.

 

 

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Inspiration and plagiarism are two very different things

A short while ago I read a column from the New York Times with the title ”Slaves of the Internet, Unite”.
Being a journalist by profession and having many artist friends I know the subject of that column way to well.
Lots of writers and artists are asked to do original work for free and for what usually is called ”great exposure”.
This made me think a bit about the SCA too.
We have a wonderful way of sharing knowledge and helping each other find new sources and get more and new knowledge.
What gets me is the times when someone walks up to me or e-mails me and asks me to just hand over all my research.

And the reason they usually feel entitled to my research is because they have been asked to teach or they have been told they need to write up some documentation if they want to advance, and they really don’t know much about the subject because they have up to this point just been making pretty and lovely things but not really studied the field.
Their interest focus has been on making the items – not knowing how the items really were made, who used them and from what materials the items were made.
I am not saying this approach is wrong! Not everyone likes to do research.

Usually I don’t think the person asking me to hand over my research does it out of malice and I really think that they don’t understands what they are asking me to do.
I think we are so used to the sharing and helping in the SCA that we have lost parts of the respect for what goes in to doing the research.
Would you ever come up with the idea and offer to teach a class/hold a workshop on a subject that you have no or very little knowledge about at school or at work?
Would you ever – in the mundane world – ask someone else to write up your assignment to hand in to the teacher to get a grade?
I don’t think so. Unless you belong to the group of people that cut corners by plagiating someone elses work.
And if you are not ok with plagiarism in the mundane world – then you shouldn’t be ok with plagiarism in the SCA context.
Stealing is stealing. People will get upset.
Using someone elses research as a base for your own – that is ok. Just as it is in the mundane world.
But if you are not prepared to do some research on your own – don’t say yes to teaching a subject you do not know and don’t participate in A&S competitions where a proper documentation is required.

The internet and the possibility to google just about anything and have someone else give us all the answers have made many of us lazy and made us think that well what the heck – I’ll just google it. And in the SCA – we sort of google by going to the person we know that knows the most about a subject.
Don’t get me wrong. We should share and we should help each other in the SCA.
But to ask someone who has spent YEARS on researching a subject to hand over all the research so that you yourself don’t have to do any work and then use that material for your own advancement and teaching – that is plain rude.
Some of my own research comes from material that I have gotten by contacting museums to get articles sent to me in languages like Czech, Polish and German and that I then have spent time on translating. Not to mention what work went into actually finding out that there was material to ask for…

In my work as a journalist I have to rely on other peoples information to get the basic understanding of a subject – but when I write the article – I do my own original piece.
Or when I see some other newspapers layout that is brilliant – I can of course lend the idea – but then adapt it for other content that suits my newspaper. I do not just take the entire subject and layout and do the exact same thing.
Inspiration and plagiarism are two very different things.
And this is what I wanted to get to.
I happily share my handouts.
I have posted a link to my LibraryThing where people can see all the books I own (or they will soon when I get the time to add the rest of the books) and hence see what books I have used to do my research. I like owning the books so I have invested quite a lot of money in my research materials.
I also happily teach.
I can even tell people in what book they can find the information they are looking for.
What I do NOT do – is to do the research for them.
I do not make handouts for others.
I also won’t put together classes for others.

If you want me to comment on your handout, your lecture structure and what you plan to bring up in your lecture – I will happily comment and help.
But you have to do the work yourself.
In the end – you will feel great about what you have accomplished and on top of that – you will have shown those who have done research in the same field before you, that you understand the hard work they have done and that you value their help.
So this is my SCA take on how I do not do original work for free for others.
I can help you, show you in the right direction – but the reading and writing I will not do for you.

We all come from somewhere

Yesterday I went through a box with old pictures. And I found photos of me in my early SCA days wearing some of my very first medieval clothing. And I thought it might be good to make a post about the fact that we all begin somewhere.
Most of us have started this hobby while young and quite often a poor student.
Sometimes it is hard for new young members to remember that those who wear fantastic dresses out of silks and woolens they can only dream of – have been in that exact same situation.
So here are some of my early day clothing. When I was a poor student and when books on medieval clothing were almost impossible to find and fabrics were not something you could order online… 😉

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This is me as Vicerine of Nordmark at Double Wars 1997. Picture was taken by Inger Iona Bladh.
I was 22 years old and studied Behaivioral Science at the University. The dress is made of a viscose/linen blend woven in some sort of vine pattern. I loved this dress! It was sewn on machine, had a rather long train and was laced in the back where I had put in about 60 metal eyelets. The belt was made of rough linen and I had sewn on parts of cheap necklaces that I took apart and I used gold colored rope like trim and some semi precious stones to bling it up. Oh and no underdress… 🙂

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This is a dress I made during the reign as Vicerine of Nordmark. The Viceroy had a matching outfit.
It is a heraldic dress with the nordmark arms (per pale azure and sable, a chevron argent) made out of satin cotton.
All edges of the dress (hem, neckline and sleeves) were embroidered with cotton floss – just simple rather large crosses – and in between the embroidered crosses here were semi precious stones attached. And then I had the tipets out of regular sheet cotton. Everything was machine sewn. And still no underdress. 🙂 And the necklace I am wearing is a ”Robin of Locksley” cross that were rather popular when the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner was brand new… 😉

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This is my very first all linen dress! Having Polish parents I got access to some cheap linen from Poland.
A friend of mine (the very talented EvaJohanna), had a bodice pattern that we all absolutely adored. It was cut in one piece and in times when corset like bodices and skirts and big poofy shirts were the thing this pattern was really the roar! I was so happy when I was given the pattern and was allowed to use it by its creator! And I figured it could also work if it was cut open in the back instead – so this dress is the reverse of the one piece front laced bodice – it is backlaced instead. 🙂 And I used it to make an Italian style dress for an event in the town of Varberg where there was going to be a Crown Tourney and all the girls from my home Shire decided that the theme would be white so we would all have white dresses.
Under the bust I wore a linen belt laced in the back and embroidered with glass pearls in shapes I had seen in illuminated manuscripts. This picture was most likely taken at Double Wars 1998.

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Double Wars 2000. I had moved away to study far away from my home Shire and I had also left the SCA. I started hanging out with a landsknecht re-enactment group and there everything had to be hand stitched. So This is me in my very first hand stitched landsknecht dress! At that time there were lots of ideas on how these dresses were constructed and most of those ideas were based on just trying to interpret woodcuts – and this was the result.
The dress is wool with raw silk behind the slashes in the skirt and the same raw silk is used in the jacket slashing and all was hand stitched with linen thread. I made hosen, a skirt, a shirt, a jacket, a slashed coif and a hat.
In 7 days.
I sewed all my time awake and slept possibly for 4 hours per night.

I do hope that this post puts a little perspective on development of the clothing in the SCA and also the fact that just because some people wear fancy dresses of expensive materials today, they might have started with polyester and cotton back when they were young and poor.
Now the access of information on medieval clothing was also very different and today the bar is much higher than it was back when I started playing, so new members of today most likely feel a lot more pressured to do accurate clothing than I did at the end of the 90’s.
But the bar is only so high as you set it yourself.

Apprentice got elevated!

Last weekend, the 6:th of September, my apprentice Eva Grelsdotter was put on vigil by Their Majesties of Drachenwald to be elevated the next day for her art of cooking.
Of course this was all carefully prepared in secret by a lot of her friends and her husband to make sure that she got a perfect vigil and a perfect elevation. 🙂

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Eva in her vigil tent!
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The pies were made by Lady Sahra and Lady Åsa the evening before the vigil – and both recipes were carefully chosen from Evas own recipes! 😉 We left space on the table for the gifts that Eva would get!

I can not even begin to express how happy I am for her and how proud I am of my very talented friend!
We gave her a laurel wreath as a vigil gift made by EvaJohanna Studios – another one of my very talented friends!

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Laurel wreath made by EvaJohanna Studios – known as Baroness Estrid in the SCA. Picture is also taken by her. She has a store on Etsy that I have linked to in this blog and she does take orders!

Evas vigil lasted until 3.30 in the morning and me and her husband escorted her from her vigil to get some rest.
In the morning we slept in and missed the Investiture of our new baronial couple which was a shame but the awesome and long vigil had really drained us of energy.
In the evening court Eva was elevated to the Order of the Laurel.
During that ceremony she was also given the scroll that I had illuminated for her and that Lady Magdalen carefully calligraphed!

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Illumination was based on the Neapolitan Luxury bible from 1360. The miniature shows Evas art to the left with a queen by a table and to the right is her vigil tent with a night sky since I know that Eva loves the night sky! I even checked in what phase the moon would be so it would match her vigil night.

If I would tell about everything that happened during the planning of her vigil and elevation and everything that happened at the event – this would make one really long blog post – so I will just end this little brag of my first apprentice who I am now proud to call my peer with a picture of us two together. After her elevation. 😀

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Mistress Eva Grelsdotter and me – Meisterinne Katheryn Hebenstreitz! I also got the honor to speak for Eva as a laurel during her elevation ceremony. Something that I almost managed to do without starting to cry. But at the end of my speach – the tears of happiness came falling down … 🙂 Picture taken by Mistress Lia de Thornegge.

Went nuts with knots

For those that might not know, The Kingdom of Drachenwald celebrates is 20:th anniversary as a Kingdom in June. For this occasion I had really grand plans – but as usual I had time to realize just one out of several imagined outfits.
However the one I chose to really work on was the one that challenged me the most since it was from a period I really knew very little about.
Now I can safely say that my knowledge has increased substantionally and I have learnt several new techniques along the way.
I will not post any pictures of the complete outfit until after the event (why ruin the possibility of a grand entrance?) but I wanted to give a little sneak peak into one of the new things I learnt.

The textile finds from Birka contained a great deal of metal thread ornaments called posament. It seems that there are rather few websites that bring up this technique and most of those that exist don’t share any secrets of the trade.
So I sat down and stared at pictures of the extant examples and of replicas others had made until I finally figured out how it works.
And just to push myself that extra bit I also promised to teach a class at the 20 year celebration on this technique.
After the event I will post about my whole outfit and also post the handout I am working on for the class – but for now I will leave you with this picture of a piece of posament I just finished today and that will be a part of my head wear for the new viking clothing.
The knotted band is about 42 cm long and about 1 cm wide so it is a lot tinyer than it looks like in this picture.
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What I have been up to

I feel I have neglected this blog for long enough so I thought I’d just make a quick post and show you what I have been up to. 🙂

I have made myself a 14:th century hood out of a hand woven fabric that I bought at Pennsic more than a year ago.
The hood was all stitched together for a long while before I dared to make the buttonholes and sew on the buttons.

14:th century hood with pewter buttons.

The fabric i got from this lady.
The lining is a merino wool from Versace that I got at a local fabric store and the pewter buttons, bells and laurel bezants are all from Billy & Charlies.

I also took up illumination again.
And I started with a pelican scroll for Viscountess Genevieve la Flachiere.
I couldn’t be there on her big day so I asked her if she would allow for me to do the illumination. Since I don’t do calligraphy I had to find someone else to do that.
Since I know how much Her Excellency likes heraldry I put as much heraldry on the scroll that I possibly could.
I also exchanged one of the animals on the scroll for a cat from the Luttrell Psalter – her lord hinted to me that she loves cats and I know that the Luttrell manuscript is expecially dear to her aswell.

Pelican scroll for Viscountess Genevieve la Flechiere. Illumination by me and calligraphy by Lady Lyonet de Covenham.

And finally – I have started to make a few items for some friends of mine that won An Tir Crown and they needed some things for their largess.
And this summer I spent a few days over the dye pots learning more about this art and one of my teachers was Her Highness Caoimhe, so I used some of the yarn from our dye session this summer (at Cudgel War here in Finland) to make a naalebound hat that they can give away to someone worthy.
I like to call it ”The Giant Boob Hat”. 😉

Naalebound hat made with the Finnish stitch. The orange yarn is from a madder after bath and the purple decoration dyed with cochenille and an over dye of indigo.

Right now I am working on some blank scrolls so that I can make our signet happy and I just cut out an underdress for a new viking dress I am planning to make.
For the apron dress of that outfit I did a really simple tablet woven trim.

Tablet woven trim – a simple 4 turns forward and 4 turns backward pattern.

So that is it for now.
I am still around and I will not neglect the blog this much again – I promise!
 

Sometimes we forget…

This is a post about two ”trends” in the SCA that worries me. Perhaps trends is not the right word…
Perhaps tendencies is a better word.
All societies evolve and change over the years and to do that we do go through some difficult times.
And sometimes I have a feeling we forget that this is something we do for fun and on our spare time.
One of the things I have noted lately is how some people – they are not many but they do exist – that attend events seem to think they have booked an all inclusive charter weekend to a luxury hotel.
And to clarify – here in Drachnwald almost all our events are weekend evenst that include sleeping arrangements of some sort and usually 2 breakfasts, one lunch and one feast. We do provide food at most our events for all attendees that sign up for it and pay for it.
Many of us have health issues and allergies. Myself included.
For instance I have a hard time getting up to the top bed in bunk beds due to my fibromyalgia. So when I know that a site has bunk beds I inform the autocrats that if only possible – I would need a bottom bunk.
If they can’t provide me with that – I have to decide if I think the event is worth it for me. It is not harder than that in my world.
I can not expect that the autocrats create special arrangements for me – or build me a special bed!
My health issues and allergies can not become the main problem that has to be solved for the event organizers.

And when it comes to food allergies it is actually even simpler.
Some food allergies are deadly. I myself live with a man that suffers from nut allergy.
At some events we have brought him his own food. And that is nothing strange.
The people that cook the food at our events are not proffessional chefs. They are not people that daily handle food for people with severe allergies.
If there are nuts in many of the dishes served, they can not guarrantee that the nuts won’t contaminate some of the other food.
We can not expect the kitchen staff to cook special food for all people with dietry restrictions!
If we would expect the cooks at all events to cook food one to one for all allergies and diets (what I mean is that they would replace each dish someone can’t eat with something else) it would be an impossible task.
I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that people with serious dietry restrictions are prepared for the fact that they might not be able to eat all the food at an event and that they might have to bring some food of their own to not go hungry.
It is about safety! Safety for the allergic person, safety for the people in the kitchen and about taking responsibility for your own allergies and diet – not making them someone elses problem.
Someone else that has given up a weekend of spare time to cook for a whole event.
Unreasonable would be if you had to pay for the food but couldn’t eat it.
With ANY food allergies you should be prepared for the fact that you might not be able to eat EVERY SINGLE dish during feast.
Feastocrats aren’t stupid – they will make sure you won’t go hungry – but you might not be able to eat everything.
I am sorry if I make anyone upset with my rant, but honestly – the SCA is a hobby and all autocrating, feastocrating, marshalling and other things is something that people do on their spare time.
Don’t forget that we rely on volounteers – if we expect the unreasonable there won’t be any volounteers in the end!

Now to a different rant and a different problem…
In the Nordic countries there is a norm in society that no one should think they are better than anyone else – this is called the Jante Law and you can read about it here.
This causes problems in many hobbies since honestly – there is always someone that is a bit better, a bit faster, a bit stronger etc.
Lately I have heard comments like: ”Some people only do things to get awards”. And I have heard it in many regions of the Kingdom.
Or people say they think that the SCA has become a competition and it is all about who has a new dress, a new tent, new shoes or a new recipie.
And it is sad that people feel like that.
Especially since the people that make new things all the time do it because they are passionate about their hobby.
Perhaps there are people that do things only to get awards – honestly, all people want affirmation and want to get a pat on the shoulder and hear that they are doing good, and in the SCA our pat on the shoulder is awards – but I don’t think that people spend heaps of money and time on something that they are completely uninterested in!
I would not spend HOURS flipping through pictures in the Bildindex and doing wide obscure searches on a topic I am completely uninterested in just to get an award in the SCA.
What I see has happened lately in the SCA, is that people GENUINLEY are interested in doing reaserch and to learn new things and to share their knowledge.
Sure, this raises the bar and sometimes unreasonably high – but is it really all bad?
We have access to so much more information theese days with everything that can be found online – museums have picture databases online – we can easily buy books from anywhere in the world through the internet! Ofcourse the bar will be raised with an increase in access to information!
And we also have so much greater means to share – now we can do it in a blog online and those who are interested can read about it. And those who might not have the money to spend on the book still get access to the information!
The blogs are not there to brag. (Well, most of them are not at least.) They are there so that we can share our finds, increase knowledge, discuss theories, ask questions and also to push ourselves to actually do the projects we set out to do.
To use myself as an example once again – I feel a lot more preassure to finnish a project if I have promised to write about it on my blog. I have a responsibility to my readers.
That is MY way of kicking myself in the butt.
And it does feel good when you see that you get many hits or reads on your blog. That becomes a pat on the shoulder. ”I must be doing something right – people want to read what I write!”
Before I saw tendencies for people to withhold information that they had managed to dig up. Sources were scarce all new knowledge was like finding a gold mine and who wants to share a gold find?
Theese days people want to share what they have learnt for the benefit of all. Actually – theese days it is better to put the information out there as soon as possible – that way you get to be first! 😉

Another reason that things have changed and that people get new things is because many of todays scadians started as poor students many many years ago.
Now many of us are done studying, most of us are working and we finally have the possibilities to do all the investments into our hobby that we have always dreamed about.
Ofcourse there are members in the SCA that don’t have the same possibilities – but it is not a competition! We do it for fun and everyone has to adapt how they can play to their current situation.
And the situation can change – for all of us. Those that have to day might not have tomorrow and the other way arround.
Should I not get a new tent when I finally can afford it just because I have to think about all the others that can’t afford it?
Should I not make a new dress completely out of silk and research it really really well, now that I have found my area of interest, invested in books and have enough money to get the correct materials – because I  have to consider the fact that someone will be stressed by me showing up in a new dress?
Remember – this is a hobby, we do it for fun and we all have different means to practice our hobby.
Some are good at brewing, some are good at textile arts, some are good at metalwork – the people that are good at EVERYTHING are rare!
Find YOUR thing – that you like and that works with your current life situation. All of us have had to cut corners – all of us have had dresses out of sheet cotton at one point or another…
And put things in perspective.
What if we played golf?
Would we sit and complain that ”NN” always win the competitions because he has made himself a new fantatsic club.
”NN” just goes to the drivning range and practices to win competitions.
Damn that ”NN” he, just wrote on his blog how he has figured out how to play hole number 9 on that impossible golf course in Spain – what a prick to share that information!
Doesn’t it suddenly sound pretty silly?
If what others do annoys you – look the other way and play as YOU want to play. Not everyone has to play the same way.
So now some might say – this is easy for you to say! You have awards, you have a camp!
Well, I have not always had it.
I have worked hard for it.
And I know I might not have all of it one day.
Who knows – my fibro might prevent me from sewing in a few years.
Or be so bad that I can’t work or go to events.

This is a hobby like any others. We do it for fun just how we get ProSkins for our video games. We rely on volounteers.
Find the benefits instead of looking for things that annoy you!
Just imagine what sources you can get access to if you reach out!
Play the game the way YOU want and the way YOU can and stop looking so much to what others do.
That way I think one ends up a lot happier and a lot more content with ones hobby.