Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The 'Craft' Of Writing SCA Documentation

Entry displays each showing documentation
Entries Showing Documentation
The Barony of the Lonely Tower will be having their Arts and Sciences Championship competition this coming February. In this competition, the current champion sets the challenge for those interested in earning the honor. 

This year, Honorable Lady Cristina la Ambeler challenged each entrant to submit two entries for judging -something you excel at, and another of something you are just learning. Our  Baron and Baroness will judge the entries along with  Cristina, the current Arts and Sciences' Champion.

If you were to enter this competition, you would write documentation for each entry. How do you do that?  And how do you improve at writing it?

Here I give you resources to help you remove the scary from writing documentation. If you are new to this try the first link. The following ones also have sections on basic documentation that will help.

Each project requires different information depending on the materials, tools, and skills used. The items' probable history will influence your writing too. So there are no set items to include. It's more like an option smorgasbord.

You will also want to know the competition's criteria. This competition always follows the Kingdom of Calontir's Arts and Sciences Criteria. Wherever you enter, if the competition uses Kingdom Criteria, be sure to have a look at what judges expect to learn from you about your creation. Know also if the entries will be broken into sections: novice, intermediate, and advanced. Knowing these will relax you during your judging session.

Documentation doesn't have to be scary. And you learn so much from writing about your project. It crystallizes your knowledge about your medieval creation. 

These links will help you learn or improve your writing effort. Knowing how to go about it is just another learning experience. Welcome it!

Related Prior Post:  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Judge This

Let's pretend for a moment. 

Pretend this is a lovingly-made very-first attempt of someone entering a Kingdom Arts and Sciences novice competition. 

How would you judge it? What would you recommend the entrant do for their next creative steps? How would you inspire their creative passion and persistence?

In Calontir the premier novice competition is Queen's Prize Tournament, a non-competitive competition conducted in a face-to-face manner against the current Kingdom novice criteria. Although most SCA A&S competitions are conducted by a panel of judges who determine winners and losers Queen's Prize is different. Its intent is to coach entrants on their technique, research, and process. Even so, this learning experience may sting if you find guidance distasteful.

In the SCA along with the entry item, the entrant provides information about the period inspiration sources and creative resources. For novices in C and I you only have to provide a 3X5 card with information. But I've never been able to keep my information to that amount. You are supposed to provide the country and period of your inspiration's origin and its style characteristics. And list the materials and skills you used to complete your project along with the methods and tools you used. Plus you give at least one source and one visual or descriptive reference. Even as a novice I couldn't limit my information to something so small as a 3x5 card.

For this thought experiment let's say the documentation is outstanding. And the entrant uses Reeves gouache paints and a pointed nib dip pen with Higgins Eternal ink. To help you critique here are the current calligraphy and illumination criteria. 

Judging a novice entry can be challenging. The entrant presents you their prized creation like it's a swaddled newborn babe, but sometimes it feels like you're cooing over an "ugly baby".  So how do you judge this virtual entry?

As the judge at Queen's Prize, I ask the entrant how they wish to be judged. Do they want a full-on judging experience or more a conversation about their work?

Then for this entry, I'd comment on the entrant's use of gouache paint. There is documented evidence it existed although not in tube form. And their use of a non-waterproof modern ink is also good. I'd compliment their efforts. 

Then I'd talk about paint choices and color mixing. Reeves paints are affordable entry-level paints. They are difficult to mix to match period sources. I recommend upgrading tube-by-tube to better paints when the entrant runs out of paint. 

Using Eternal Higgins ink is a good choice for a novice ink. But I'd suggest learning to use a broad nib pen for most scripts. And recommend they work with Drogin or Harris's books for future works. I might suggest ways to create straighter text lines.

Now the tricky "ugly baby" part. What do you say about the human forms? And the knotwork? And their script choice? 

This is where I begin talking about developing their medieval artist's eye. Learning to observe the details and layers in the original inspiration. 

Then I finish up with positive comments. Their entry's large undertaking, especially for a novice. The human forms, knotwork, and calligraphy all used in one work. Plus they created the letter "R" with human and animal forms. I want them to finish believing they impressed me. That they are a developing into a good artist.

Judging is a skill similar to teachers grading students. It becomes difficult when you don't know the reason the person entered and who they really are. They could be shy or a grandstander. They may be new to the group or moved from a kingdom far away. Or they're just looking for exposure to unknown A&S endeavors. 

The truth is a C and I Laurel - an expert in the field - may be a lousy judge. They know their history, technique, materials, and sources. But their most challenging skill is encouraging a competition entrant's passion and persistence.

Related Prior Post: 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Wikipedia Conundrum

You've probably noticed how often the links in my posts are to a Wikipedia article. It's like when you google and the search engine puts Wikipedia's information in a fact box, or Apple’s Siri replies with it to answer your question. They're an easy link to include to give you more information. 

I know it's not the highest scholarly source. Some articles don't even cite quality references for you to verify. Yet there is no other free resource like it. 

There are things you should know about Wikipedia itself if you don't already. 

Wikipedia's noble goal is to eventually cover every knowledgeable topic in the world. This impossible mission has made it a top ten most searched website in the world. 

But did you know Wikipedia was not the first online encyclopedia? Seven others attempted it first. And Wikipedia began as part of one of them, Nupedia

Also, Wikipedia's operation is unique. It works through a volunteer gaggle and without traditional advisory boards or editors. A contributors' pool that is prompt, authoritative and effective. 

But this force is shrinking while Wikipedia's needs have increased. Its articles have grown in length. Plus it must also defend against the worlds vandals and manipulators.

To revitalize it Wikipedia's owner developed legal and technical ways to adapt its website and software to handle this. It created new editing tools and vetting procedures. And their automatic programs now reverse incorrect format changes and warn probable vandals they're caught. These stiffer quality control measures reduce shams and hoaxes making things better for you and me, the reader and the blogger.

But the writers using Wikipedia the most Facebook, Twitter, corporations, and blogger have also consumed Wikipedia's goal. They're providing information to the world directly. Deterring it from reaching the goal it had when it began in 2001. 

If you are an SCA expert it's possible you unearthed information causing you to disagree with a Wikipedia article. Its information is not guaranteed. Its content and contributors aren't held accountable in the way peer-reviewed journals do. 

In SCA documentation and research I consider Wikipedia in the "trust by verify" category. Believe the article but check the facts. And the bibliography in that article is the place for you to start.

As much as I use Wikipedia to jumpstart SCA projects and create blog links I hope it is around for ages. Even so, this could be the best free encyclopedia we will ever get. 

Related Prior Post: 
Resource Mining  
SCA Curiosity And The Internet Medieval Sourcebook

Related External Webpage: 
The contribution conundrum: Why did Wikipedia succeed while other encyclopedias failed?
The Decline of Wikipedia

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tips And Tricks To Making A Neat Scroll

I make them too.
One distinguishing trait between a beginning scribe and an experienced one is their clean page. Experienced scribes have tricks they use to keep their scroll neat and clean as they work. Here I offer some to you in case you haven't figured them out yourself. 
  • Wash your hands before you begin working and omit hand lotion.
  • Don’t have food or drinks near your workspace. Besides reducing spills this prevents rinsing your brush in your beverage cup.
  • Wear magnet-free thin therapeutic-type fingerless gloves. 
  • Use a permanent ink that isn't absorbed into the surface.
  • Use a clean cover paper over areas you aren't working AND be sure that the surface is dry before covering it.
  • Locate your water and paint so you don't cross your page with a wet brush. Right side if you're right-handed, left side if you're left-handed.
  • Use a scraper and white vinyl eraser when you're done to remove and neaten every spot, smudge and unwanted mark.

Experienced scribes turn these tricks into habits. It's a constant effort. And as long as you're a scribe you'll struggle against the fates and Titivillus to create a perfect page. These habits make all the difference.

Related Prior Post:

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Why Is Art Important In The SCA?

Medieval art involved not creative freedom but subjection to rules. Some time after classical antiquity all period creations were done for God's glory. If that's the case how does art relate to you and me in the Society for Creative Anachronism? Especially since the organization is apolitical and nonreligious. Why is Art important in the SCA?
First, what is art? Art isn't easily defined as other things are like biology or math. For this post, I'll begin with the English Oxford Living Dictionary's definition.
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

A 16th-century diamond-point
 engraved glass I recreated.
Art then is a tangible medium using creative skills and imagination. In the Middle Ages, those were focused on God's beauty and power. How does that relate to us in the SCA now?

In the SCA today you recreate Medieval things to explore and search for answers about the original maker's skills and imagination. We don't create original works as art is defined today. We recreate.

Through recreation, you learn about the original item's artisan. Whether your chosen item was individually or communally made. Whether it was created for personal, communal, or political use. And the rules or laws they followed.

Recreating period items allows you a close, mindful look at its Medieval maker's creative ways and means. Their available techniques, materials and tools and how they were used. You also learn how your recreated item was used in their daily life.

I engraved this glass for an arts and sciences competition "East Mees West" at Calontir's coronation of Garick von Köpke and Yasamin al-Hadiyya September 11, 2004. Diamond-point engraved glass during the 16th century was often done by artisan's separate from a workshop. Stroke by stroke the tiny lines scratched acanthus patterns onto glass and so did I. The glassware would have been formed in Western Europe; the acanthus patterns originated in the Middle East. East meeting West.

Your Medieval art and science recreation is closer to today's realm of material culture study. It's analyzing period human-made or altered things.

Perhaps you didn't know you were doing material culture study when you decided to recreate that cool item your persona would have used. But it's all but labeled that way in the SCA's mission statement
...The SCA is devoted to the research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat, culture, and employing knowledge of history to enrich the lives of participants ...
And the SCA's Minister of Arts and Sciences describes your art as one of the 
...crafts, skills, and technologies practiced in the time period and cultures that our studies cover. SCA participants [That's you.] research, study, and practice these skills and then share them with others. ...the costumes (garb) we wear, the armor used in combat, the scrolls presented in Court, and the recipes used for a feast, just to name a few.
Recreating gives you new ways of thinking and expressing what might not be understood through printed or spoken word alone. It connects something physical to a historic human experience. And it has the power to cross time, age, class, race or gender boundaries to communicate with strangers.

You don't have to consider or know any of this. Just recreate that cool period item. Make that art for fun. 

Related External Source:
New Member's Guide

Related Prior Post:
What's An Award Scroll's Purpose? 
The Scribal Yin Yang Puzzle 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Missing12th Night

I didn't plan to forgo 12th Night. I had handmade gifts for my Lonely Tower friends - lotion bars, lip balm, and chocolate dipped candy canes for their winter coffees. I had the Arts and Sciences competition things prepared and ready to go. Looking forward to my favorite winter holiday.

Sadly a serious out of town family emergency arose. A huge surprise. Now, what do I do?

I called my friend Honorable Lady Astrid and her immediate reply was "Family First". She instantly stepped up and took over my event tasks, although I hadn't asked her previously to be my deputy. She made it happen for me and for the Barony.

Astrid dove to my house. She cheerfully collected the judging forms and prizes plus the Barony's Roll of Arms I had updated. She took them to the event and took over my whole day's event tasks. A huge load off my shoulders. Thank you so very much, Astrid.

In Lonely Tower and Calontir, that's what we do, we help each other. An immense help to me, even though I'm still sad. I missed 12th Night.

Related Prior Post:
Jump Starting 2018: Lonely Tower's 12th Night Event Photos
Photos from Lonely Tower's 12th Night 2017
12th Night 2016: Barony of Lonely Tower's Midwinter SCA Festival

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Throwback Criteria

Calligraphy Criteria
While it's not Thursday yet I thought you'd like to see a throwback of sorts from August of 1996. 

Years ago the Kingdom of Calontir had Arts and Sciences's Criteria that were different than those we use today. The other day I was reorganizing some papers and my copies for both calligraphy and illumination resurfaced. 

I'd been looking for them for some time. Of course, they were not in the file I expected held them. But they've resurfaced now. 

I've scanned them and you can see them yourself.

Calligraphy Criteria
Why do I want you to be able to see them? I believe the "old" criteria practically walk you through the creative process. Their approach is different than the Kingdom of Calontir's Arts & Sciences Criteria used today for calligraphy and illumination

I can't say that the current criteria are better or that the former ones are. For criteria, the important thing is that everyone is judged by the same standard. And that people know what they are before they enter any competition. Perhaps even before they create their item. That is why I try to be very specific when I run an A&S competition. I even post how judges will be found and a tie decided if one occurs.

I know these images are too small for you to read. Please click on them and they will enlarge to a readable size. Comparing these to the ones used today will help you understand different ways judging may be approached. 

Calligraphy Criteria
Illumination Criteria

Illumination Criteria
Illumination Criteria

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"Uncopyright Notice" Notice

Historiated initial of a man citing a
layman by touching him with a staff
You may have noticed I now have a copywrite on my blog. Well, it's actually an uncopywrite. I am releasing my rights to everything I personally create here and place them all into the public domain. 

What does that include? That includes articles I’ve written or linked to my posts on this blog since I started it in December 2015. Unless I state otherwise that will apply to any future content I personally create and publish on

What does this mean to you? As much as you want you can use my uncopyrighted work in various ways. You could: 

  • Repost it on your own website 
  • Translate it into other languages
  • Transfer it to different media like your own articles and posts
  • Make money from what you create from my work such as selling it in ebook form or linking it to Amazon and make money.
  • Develop a scribal workshop or seminar based on my handouts
You don’t need to directly ask my permission to do these or other things. You can just do it.

If you’re not sure about something, consult your inner counsel and make whatever decision you believe is honorable. Don't ask me about anything legal because it's all Greek to me. Plus, I've already put this in the public domain.

While I am giving away the copyrights, if you reuse my work, please give me credit by mentioning my name such as "Susan Gordon known in the Society as Jehanne Bening." Giving attribution is the honorable thing to do and doesn't cost anything. Giving a link to my blog would be nice also. 

Please preserve my work's integrity. You may shorten or simplify it. Or include it within other works. But, please, don't include things that I didn't write. 

It's also fine if you make money from my work. If you bring more people to scribal or SCA activities and find a way to make money more power to you.

Why am I doing this? Uncopyrighting makes it easier to share the scribal and SCA ideas I present here. I'm relying on the ripple effect to spread the information. That's what is important. Sharing the SCA and scribal skills is more important to me than owning my works.