Sunday, October 26, 2014


Bonus generational points if you get the title reference.  Someone on the SCA scribes group recently asked what folks work spaces looked like so it's time for some studio pictures.  One of the requirements of buying our house was that my lord needed his own office and I needed my own studio space. Scribing is - by no means - the only art I work on and so having space where projects can get laid out, left out, and worked on without interference from furry felines or the rest of the world is extremely important for me.

 This first one is my main work space.  It's a little cluttered looking here but mostly that's poor lighting as it's late afternoon in these pictures. This is my central desk with light coming in from a side window, an overhead fan light, and a desk lamp. I also have an ott lite that isn't shown here. Love the rolling chair and the laminate wood flooring (great for spills).   The phoenix on the wall was painted by me and is a stylized design given to me by a good friend.

 A better view of the table. Glass - which was necessary as I ended up destroying a wooden desk I had over time A number of organizers are suspended on the wall for easy access to oft-used materials.  The photo on the upper right is my pelican and my protege-sister and I.

One of the scribal storage spots - as the supplies outgrew the original drawer.  there actually is a method of organization to the pile involving carefully stacked bottles of liquid and pigment.

 The studio's fabric and fiber shelving. Go Ikea!  The drawers hold smaller items and the rest is fabric generally organized by color range. the top of the shelf currently has a friend's sewing machine, my "tree of shiny items" with event tokens, and a blanket where the cats sleep when the are allowed in the room.
 Storage area (all labeled) for paper and small items. The oven is for polymer clay. There's also a pile of half completed miscellaneous projects on the floor here at any given time, all organized by individual bags or boxes.  We currently have guests staying with us for an extended period so there's far more clutter here than normal.
The masks are all ones I've made, some not period, some period.

 This chair is usually comfy and free of clutter but at the moment, see reference to guests.  I like to read here and sometimes the husband or a friend parks here when they want to keep me company. There is a plethora of phoenix and ferret plush animals on the back, including my very first stuffed dog from when I was a wee scribe.
 Some of my art sci awards

 Above the shelf - I like inspirational signs and art.

This is an idea stolen from a good friend - an art alter.  It has some inspirational cards on it that I try to look through before I start a project. The rest of the items are bits and bobs collected from travel (the dreamweaver on the wall has a stone from glastonbury tor and was a cherished gift from my protege sister.)  When I need a brain break I get up and play with the items on the alter, move them around, fiddle with them, and generally give myself a stretch and a chance to get some new perspective.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happiness inside yourself

There's an interesting phenomenon I sometimes encounter in the SCA - and in the mundane world as well - wherein the idea of self-satisfaction has been completely removed from the individual and placed upon others. This sometimes plays off mildly with moments of cranky and sometimes seems to lead to intense dissatisfaction with almost everything.

There are two key facets to this I've been contemplating.  The first is that someone else doing something they enjoy does not reduce or depreciate the thing you enjoy.  We all have vastly different interests and its important that we give ourselves - and our populace - the opportunity to pursue those interests.   Events do better when they are open to any number of those interests and offer activities that hit more than one area. We've seen this again and again with "specific" events that cater to only one subsection which then do substantially better if other interest areas are pulled in in various ways (Art Sci and Scots Welsh being combined, for example.)  Not only does this offer more people a chance to be involved, but it does not in any way depreciate whatever the original focus was.  Essentially, just because everyone is not enjoying the exact same experience or moment doesn't make anyone's choices invalid.

The second facet is the nasty habit of comparing our own work or progress to others. This is, admittedly, human nature, but it leads to all sorts of dissatisfaction.  I'm not speaking of competitions here - that tends to be another kettle of fish - but the general self assessessment of your work and worth compared to others. This is so hard to stop - I still struggle with as do many Laurels I suppose - but its vital to actually being happy with yourself. Instead of going "that person is a better scribe" try focusing on "I did so much better on this scroll than the last."  Variations in style alone mean that comparing one person's work to another is difficult at best. 

It's possible - likely even - that we are *all* good scribes or artists and are all learning and none of us need to decide who is better than the other.  We can all belong to the artistic community without needing to best our fellows or continually compare ourselves to their speed, ability, or progress. Work for you. Work to improve and enjoy your art. The rest comes out in the wash.

Courtesy and Being a Peer

This one's a bit rambling but is something I'm contemplating.

Courtesy tends to be a double edged sword. We seek it as a laudable quality but the practitioners of it who value it the most are sometimes then caught by it as we try to maintain it around those are acting discourteously.

I have a pretty strong stance on addressing issues of rudeness or discourteous behavior. I am strongly in the camp of "if it's not addressed it will continue to happen" but I struggle with how best to do this, both as a person and as a peer.  There is, in the end, no one right answer I suppose which is why its something we always struggle with.

 I have realized I don't like the internet for these purposes - FB and email and other electronic forums lack the force of having a face to back an opinion and make it easy for arguments to spiral out of control with name calling and commentary, often from parties who have nothing to do with the original problem.  On the other hand, discourtesy is rampant online for that same factor and so I remain torn between calling it out and taking it off thread or in-person because that's more personally effective and provides a calmer scenario and image to everyone at large.

Similarly, not everyone sees the "behind the wall" conversations where rudeness is addressed and so many people think those conversations don't happen - even when they do.  I have no idea how to address this save that I wouldn't call out one of my students in the middle of class either, so I would be discourteous to address an adult in that manner as well, even though that is often my preferred method of telling someone they've been stomping on feelings.

In the end, there's a few important things to remember as we continue to work on this as people who come from a modern world that are trying to live up to an ideal of courtesy that has always been an ideal.

* Our job as peers - and populace - is to try and *always* be courteous, be that online or in person. When we slip - which we will - it behooves us to address those moments and make the necessary apologies and alterations to our actions.

*You should expect the best from people. People tend to live up to expectations and generally, if we set out the expectation of courtesy, it will rise to a more prominent position.

*Our job as peers, in particular, is to help address those who are not behaving well in a manner that is effective.  As noted above, I don't think this is always the same method or that all methods are equal. If I ever am brilliant enough to find a good answer to this, I will tell everyone.  At this time, all I have is that this is an intensely uncomfortable but necessary job but it does not need to be done cruelly or with embarrassment in mind, nor does it always need to be public.  Remember my epiphany of "help people be better"?

*Our job as peers and populace is to make things better, not tear things down. When we belittle ideas and efforts, when we tell people that their efforts are not enough, we don't help them be better - we pull the carpet out from under their feet and make them feel useless.  A person's efforts may not be enough to resolve or fix a situation - but they can be a start.  I'll use my students as an example here. We started a forty book reading challenge this year and for some of my students novels are a true challenge. They are starting with smaller books and that's fine and someday their confidence and ability - along with sound advice and teaching - will help them read longer things.  Everyone starts somewhere. Sometimes we *restart* somewhere and need a reminder to try to be better than we are. But each of those steps is vitally important and should not be belittled.

And lastly, my constant reminder to myself.

My job is to help people be better. In whatever way that better is aimed or that their happiness leads them.

In short, I wish I had more solid answers on all of this but I will continue to wrangle them in my life. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why I love period materials

I've been painting with period replicated materials (or as close to it) for the last few years now, not all the time, but certainly for various bits of research or commission work or what not.  I generally also try to extend that to other areas of interest; at the moment that happens to be embroidery but the extension applies to most of my crafts and arts at this point.

There's often a question of *why* I do this, particularly when I clearly have no aversion to modern materials and in fact get quite a kick out of using many of them (3-D plastic pens? awesome.)

The answer to this was never clear to me until recently.  Part of it is simply because I *should* as a re-enactor and studier of history and, more recently, as a laurel.  But that was never really what got me hooked on period materials, their complexity, the endless variations and books.

It didn't hit me really or really gel until recently when the husband and I took a trip to London. On a side trip to Glastonbury, there was a case of monk's artists tools in the abbey museum, among them an oyster shell filled with ground up verdis gris.  I felt tears spring to my eyes and then immediately had to explain to my poor, non-scribal husband why I was crying over an oyster shell and some ground up copper oxidization.  Poor man.

The simple truth is, period materials and the exploration process around them make me feel connected to the past in ways that even the artistic process does not.  Art styles change, even when replicating period style.  Formats of art change, even the rooms or spaces we create in change.  The materials, however, are one of the basic fundamental pieces that can get us closer to what our historical counterparts experienced than anything else.  I could feel that connection resonating, knew precisely what that monk did to make that pigment, what time it took and what he used it for. I knew precisely that he knew he couldn't paint it next to orpiment because the touch points would destroy the page - even if he didn't know why. I knew the soreness in his wrist and arm from the grinder and muller and the acid tang of oxidized copper.

Sometimes it seems like the search for period materials or to replicate what they used in period is  snobbery or elitism but its not.  It's a search for that connection, a suggestion that yes that goauche paint is great but if you want to get what the artist did - really did - you *gotta* try this.

And admittedly, it's always nice to add to your zombie apocalypse skill set.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The peer like quality of helping others be better

I was actually all set to write this before this weekend and had been pondering it since several moments and discussions at the Bay Area demo. Then my entire weekend rather stood on its head by my elevation being announced at court and its taken me a few more days to really be able to articulate this concept.

The peer like quality of helping others be better people.

Not many people really mention this as a peer like quality. I suppose it might fall under courtesy or chivalry or grace but I prefer to think of it in more in this mundane phrasing because it is, to me, the main purpose of peers. Yes there is advisement to the crown and teaching and service and inspiration and leadership and a bunch of organizational fu but it really struck me that all of that lends back to the purpose of helping people be better.

Maybe it's the teacher in me but this concept is pretty darn important to me.

Sometimes it happens by simple leadership by example - providing a good model for behavior and action or thought.
Sometimes it happens by direct advice - sitting and advising someone or discussing a difficult topic honestly and with constructive feedback.
Sometimes it happens by teaching a class or hosting a discussion.
Sometimes it happens by inspiration - a moment of leadership, a kind word on a touch day, a stretched out hand that shows someone a different side of things, or an optimistic outlook where there wasn't one before.

But really this is the crux of it - that the main job of a peer is to be an example of the Dream  (in whatever way that Peer fits into it as we all have such different ideals for that Dream) and to help others reach toward it and be better in whatever ways that Peer can.  That doesn't mean perfection or being critical - there was never a snarky comment on seams that made anyone feel better or be a better seamstress - but it does mean finding what it is that others need in them to grow and be better and nurturing that aspect, be that an art, a service, fighting, or a personal quality.

I have been blessed with so many brilliant examples of this I cannot even list them all - but lets just say trimaris is often particularly lucky.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Why "learning time" is important

Please note that this post is me mulling over concepts rather than stating "this is what it takes to be a peer" or even establishing that I have mastered any of this. I'm always hesitant to open this topic as it sometimes gets seen as pretension but it's not meant in that spirit in the least.

I have been quietly mulling this concept over for the better part of a year, ever since James and I first heard the "it just takes time," expression from several peers. It was not meant as a criticism of ourselves - which we realize - but was just part of the conversation surrounding this topic.  We both have very open and healthy dialogue's with our own peers and are comfortable with our actions and the joyful path we are on.

We're both - myself more than him - A type personalities, however, so we do better with stated goals and concrete expectations than we do with nebulous statements. I am certainly not the only protege/apprentice in that wagon either. I don't need a checklist, but I do prefer to have concrete reasons  rather than vague statements on what makes a peer.  I don't even like calling them goals as I think that establishes a sense of "Do x, y, z and tada you're a peer" when I believe it's more accurate to say that these types of experiences are what allow you to develop into that mind set over time.

This is also with a heavy dose of acceptance that there is some je ne sais quoi involved just as there is when trying to figure out why anyone serves as an example or leader or is inspiring. James and I were never fully able to articulate that ourselves in our gaming days - sometimes people just eventually reach a point where we look to them and at least a small part of that is undefinable.

I've managed to, at least for me, boil down why "learning time" is important. It's actually similar to the same reasons I would give my students and because it comforts the organized part of my brain to have these concepts articulated:

1) Learning time is important to encountering new experiences in the Society and learning how to deal with them - this was my big "ah-ha" moment. I realized that I'd encountered several things I just didn't know how to approach in the Society. Peer interactions or "when do I tell this person" moments.  These are things that, if I were at work or dealing with friends, would have been absolute no-brainers but because the various levels of people in the Society and the various jobs and tasks sometimes complicate or change dynamics it takes time to even just see those events and experiences in action and learn how best to approach them.

2) Learning time is important to meeting people. Part of being a peer is being well networked and knowing who to turn to when you yourself don't have answers. Even in a small kingdom like Trimaris, that takes time. It also means learning who is connected to who and who knows who and how person A may not be a good fit to teach person X but person B is a great choice.

3) Learning time is important to evaluating your own weaknesses and strengths. There are some things you are already faboo at. Maybe it's your art or maybe your interpersonal skills already kinda rock. That's good to know that you already bring a strength to the SCA table. You're also probably not very good at some aspects of things and it takes time to develop actual awareness of that so you can consciously improve as a human being. More on this shortly.

4) Learning time is important to learning your own pacing. I don't mean in becoming a comet and burning out, but in learning when you can reasonably be a leader and step forward, and understanding when you cannot.  This is actually a completely separate curve from real life pacing as it involves layering your SCA obligations with your real world ones. It has taken me a few years to figure out that taking on additional "leader" style tasks during FCAT season is, for a teacher, utterly freaking stupid. If I want to enter art-sci, I also shouldn't take anything on in December. Conversely, the summer is a spiffy time for me to take the lead on improvement projects. The pacing of my year and such demands that certain times of it are much better for me to take on a project or task than others and figuring out how that dovetails with my "mundane" life was very important.

5) Learning time is important to understanding that you are always in learning time.  To be fair, I am teacher so I get to claim an edge on this one.  You are always learning. As many have said, learning time doesn't stop when you become a peer (or when you graduate or become an adult or are a teacher...) You keep learning, you keep growing. It's that job-description thing.  Teacher's get a bonus because we know that learning and self-reflection and growth never *really* stop but for many people it can be a revelation to figure out that reaching a peerage doesn't mean you suddenly have reached the top of a mountain. Self reflection continues. Learning continues. There are probably significantly more people watching you do that in this case, but it's all still there.

I'm sure there's more to this but...there ya go. Five concrete reasons that learning time is important.