June 29, 2007

What an A&S 50 Session *is*


I talk here about a lot of my goals for this Challenge, both as an artist, and as its facilitator, but what happens at the sessions I hold at various events?


* Networking - meeting folks who are interested in doing the Challenge and in supporting their fellow artists in taking their work to the next level, (whatever that level may be), and generally getting to know the people behind the work so we can pick each others brains.

*Brainstorming - new ideas for projects, new solutions for old problems, new ways of presenting our art and classes, who might be a good contact person for someone, ways to expand folks' exposure and understanding of A&S

*Info Exchange - resources of all sorts (supplies, teachers, books, websites, etc), as well as sharing experiences with entering/running A&S competitions and exhibits, getting new folks involved in A&S, teaching and running roundtables, etc

Where other classes focus on single subjects, A&S 50 sessions broaden the view, discussing the A&S and the A&S community in general; how to make it more accessible, supportive and fun for all.

I hope this helps, and I hope you will join us at a session coming to an event near you!

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June 26, 2007

Schedule craziness


I think I have mentioned before how my husband and I have taken to creating a written schedule of who has our toddler twins when at events, and how I'm teaching/attending classes around his fighting so we both get to do what we want to, and keep one parent with our girls at all times.

Well, life just got more interesting; I'm teaching summer school. I've been doing a lot of talking about teaching here, and now I get to go back and do it mundanely! They haven't had any students for me for the last two years, but I found out yesterday that my class for this year is a GO, and it starts TOMORROW. Yikes - my plans for creating art this summer have just gotten waylaid, since I still have laundry loads of garb to make for my husband and children before Pennsic, and have happily already committed to teaching at events all summer long.

Yes, happily. Projects for myself can all too easily get put off, but preparation for my classes, and art that I create for them, are promises made, and so I get to keep them, and thus promise myself that time, that energy. I *strongly* doubt that I would be counting on finding time to warp up a new, portable tapestry loom this summer if I hadn't said I'd teach it at Pennsic, but I did, so I have granted myself that opportunity.

BTW - I'm teaching Keyhole Necklines and running an A&S 50 session at Glenn Linn this coming weekend, and I'd love to meet any of you mystery people who seem to read this blog! Come introduce yourselves!!!

I love teaching of all sorts, and I'm thrilled to be doing it again every day, even if only for six weeks (we'll leave for Pennsic within hours of the final exam). Added bonus? My paycheck will mean that we aren't popping the buttons off our budget every time we gas up for an event...

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June 22, 2007



I have recently been invited to join the Apprentice list on Yahoo, even though I am not apprenticed to anyone. I had known about the list for some time, but, since it says apprentices only, I had never applied. I had thought this was a pretty clear cut issue, but I was wrong. Like many things in life, getting on this list without a Laurel is apparently a matter of who one knows, and/or how hard one is willing to promote oneself.

One of the things that came up on the list, and which I have heard folks discuss elsewhere, is *modesty.* One good gentle said that "modesty, however merited, is not a survival trait." I guess my not getting on the list before now is sort of a case in point, I hadn't put myself on their radar by applying, and so didn't get on before now. (I was invited to join by someone who vouched for me and my work, which was a lovely surprise!)

Modesty is a double-edged sword; if one doesn't put themselves forward, no one ever notices them, but putting oneself forward can be seen as, well, being too *forward.* No one wants to be the doormouse, but no one wants to be thought arrogant either.

Many folks don't offer to teach, or enter A&S competitions 'because they/their work isn't good enough.' Hey - your class might not get a standing ovation, but I have never been to a class and thought that the teacher should just shut up and go home; I have ALWAYS gotten something out of the classes I have attended, even if the teacher had never taught before. Enthusiasm for a subject goes a VERY long way, and many experienced teachers have, unfortunately, lost it through repitition...

Entering A&S competitions is tough. I avoid competition wherever possible, but how else can I get my work *seen*? I have entered exhibitions, where they have had them, but even then, I, like many others, fear being judged (even unofficially) and found wanting. Someone may think this is my being modest, but is it modest to honestly not find one's work worthy of presentation?

We are all our own worst critics, I know. Folks tell me that my work is decent, but... Yes, I want it seen, so I can get some feedback on it, but it still scares me. (I have gotten over my stagefright teaching or presenting something verbally, since I know I can guage the audience as perform, and adjust accordingly; not so much for a static piece on a display table, documentation neatly typed in a folder.)

Frank Llyod Wright is quoted as having said that he prefered "honest arrogance to hypocritical humility," and many folks who are honest about their level of work get chided for false modesty, but others who actively show their work/knowledge get called arrogant and worse.

The good gentles on the list didn't seem to have any pearls of wisdom to share on navigating this other than to just walk the sword - be honest about one's ability and experience, and take the lumps where they fall.

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Small beginnings...


I'm all about the baby steps. I want to try 50 new things over the next eight years, but how much 'trying' will make it count for me?

I figure this is up to me, the individual challenger, for each new task. I would LOVE to try lampworking in the period style, now that I have done it with modern MAPP gas torches, but I still counted my experience towards my goal.

Other things though? I don't know if weaving on my mini-warp weighted loom is going to count as one of my things, or just the beginning of one; weaving being one of my foci in the SCA. Likewise, I am currently tailoring my first shift to fit my unequal height shoulders (I got stuck being born), but probably won't say I have done tailoring until I have done an overdress as well.

But these distinctions are *strictly mine.* I think that the 8 people that I have introduced to drop spinning since May 1 could easily count that as a new thing for them, even though they only spun about 5 feet each. They may each want to do more before they really feel that they have 'tried' it though - as far as their interest and curiosity takes them is as far as they should go!

Not much progress on either my Challenge or the Laurel List this week, since I've been down with a bad cold since getting home from an incredibly relaxing time at Coldwood's Opening of the Inne; good food, better friends, and my Scadian home away from home. No classes, no court, lots of kids and dogs running about on the list after the fighters retired to the Inne.

Good times, even in the rain...

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June 15, 2007



Here I am, six weeks into my challenge, and this post has just garnered its *very first comment!* Hurray! Thank you for reading!

Actually, I *know* that folks are reading - my counter reads at over 350 hits, and they aren't -all- me. ;)

Really, folks, I'd love to hear what you think about all this, or how you found my site, or that I should put my energy into global peace or *whatever.*

If you don't want your thoughts immortalized in the blogosphere, you can drop me a line at AlbredaA@aol.com instead. I won't say a word, honest!

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June 11, 2007

Official class listings incl Pensic


No one showed up for my A&S 50 session at Midsommer's this past weekend in the Barony of Stonemarche (NH), but I taught three little girls how to drop spin (= 8! Maybe I should try to get 50 people spinning!) during the timeslot, and I had several students for my keyhole neckline class, which went well!

I don't think it was much of a factor (if any) this weekend, but my classes were listed at Troll, and not in the official list either online or in the site handout. Many new teachers don't hear that folks are looking for teachers until late in the process, and then don't get their offerings in the official listings, and then, if few (or none!) show up for their classes, it can be a bit of a blow, and make them less likely to offer to teach again in future.

It seems that most of these calls for teachers only go out on the A&S specific lists, and, while it makes sense to ask those folks too, this leaves out the large majority of gentles who know something and may be willing to teach, but aren't on those lists for whatever reasons.

Yes, it would be more work to post these calls for teachers to the local Shire and Barony lists, but A) it could get more attention from prospective teachers and B) it could drum up conversation about A&S activities planned for your event on the local boards, likely leading to increases in attendance at whatever eventually gets scheduled.

Let me be clear though - I completely understand that some folks just CAN'T get their offers to teach in soon enough to be 'in the book' for a given event; just this last weekend for Midsommer my classes weren't in the book because I didn't know until too late that my husband would indeed have the weekend off from work.

Likewise, peoples' Pensic plans are often not firmed up until FAR after the May deadline to have their class offerings listed in the Pensic book. I have taught at every war I have attended (12? 13?) and I have NEVER been in the book, and this year will be no exception!

Classes added after the book goes to print have always been listed at the A&S booth at War, and in the daily newspaper (The Pensic Independant), but I have often missed hearing about a class until it is too late, and I try to keep myself informed of such things! What is a heatstroked/soggy Scadian to do?

Well, Master Asim, the Coordinater for Pensic University this year has classes posted online at the Pensic University site AND, best of all, *they will be updated with new additions about every two weeks until War!!!*

This means that I can still sign up to teach, and it can still be added to the list that many folks will be printing out before war so that they can schedule their activities during the often long drive. Not as good as being 'in the book', but a BIG improvement, and available before one gets to Troll!

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June 08, 2007

Multiple Points of Access


I'm a high school teacher mundanely, and one of the things I've learned is the importance of giving my students a way into the information; meeting them where they are, and giving them guideposts on how to get to where I need them to be. This is called having multiple points of access - many doors into the information.

Most of the SCA oldtimers I know (and a Duchess recently called me one of them - yikes!) like to make their garb 'more period.' Some newer folks are interested in the archaeologal evidence for this or that, but others just want to meet the requirement to wear something other than mundanes and get on with the game. Those folks start with loaner garb, and eventually make a few t-tunics. Good for them; sewing *at all* isn't a skill that many people have these days. T-tunics, period or not, are often a newcomer's first foray into SCA A&S.

Much of my purpose with this challenge is to build bridges between where people are, and where they might want to go. Fighter types know that practice pays off. Service types can, as Master Liam St. Liam so succinctly puts it 'carry stuff.' A&S types have a steeper curve, and few handholds along the way - we don't often see the Laurelate just hanging out in their kit, welcoming all to impromptu training sessions, and, even then, it is a big jump from a t-tunic to, well, anything else.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that folks can make a t-tunic, but they have trouble making what they feel are *nice looking* t-tunics, and their biggest issue seems to be with their necklines.

It might sound a little odd, but I consider giving someone the skillset to create a decent looking neckline to be opening the doors of A&S to them (like a gateway drug, but in a good way!) If someone can make a nice looking t-tunic, they often feel the confidence to try something that they feel is more complex, whether it actually is or not.

So, since lots of early period garb calls for a keyhole neckline, I'm working up a class on sewing keyhole necklines. They seem to intimidate and confuse lots of people (including a baroness I know), but really aren't all that difficult, as long as one pays attention. I'm presenting it this weekend at Midsommers in Stonemarche, and I'll let you know how it goes.

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June 07, 2007

History Lesson


I have always liked history, but, like many teenagers, much of what I learned in high school spilled out of my brain onto my final exam, and that was that.

Being in the SCA, I have learned much about history, but in a very scattered way - this dress pattern from then, that calligraphic hand from there, etc. I have learned what goes with which *culture* but really need to learn to connect the dots across the European continent and beyond.

So, I decided to hit the books. Names and dates are important, but they are just more dots, and I needed LINES; HOW things connect, and WHY.
Norman F Cantor's The Civilization of the Middle Ages seems to be fitting the bill; I'm about 20% through it, and I'm actually finding it hard to put down!

I've been reading about the tangled influences of Roman politics on the early Christain church, and about how Germanic legal practice set the stage for the later British Parliament. The man actually knows how to write so I want to read - I'm enjoying getting educated!

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June 05, 2007

Technological blues and EKU


I'm having trouble converting my paper handouts (tapestry technique and pre-1300 weave structures) into downloadable PDFs, but I'll get it eventually. Meanwhile, the Laurel List has had its own technological issues, including having to switch database software *after* having input all the names and dates of elevation I had available (243 of them); at least the names converted over from Open Office to Microsoft Works, and I finished re-inputting the dates this morning.

This blog might not be showing it, but lots of work is going on behind the scenes!

EKU this last weekend in the brand new shire of Wyndhame (Southern Vermont) was small, but *lovely*. Lots of one-on-one time with teachers, and the chance to dig in up to our elbows on hands-on activities. I went to classes on Anglo-Saxon pottery, A&S documentation for competitions, and peer-student relationships, and taught a class on pre-1300 weave structures (Class tally = 3), and held a brainstorming session with Erlan on A&S 50.

And (drumroll please) I tried something new (New things = 1)! Erlan taught a class on lampworking, and I actually got to play with molten glass and made two beads! (Insert picture here soon! Must... find... camera...) Now I just really want to know how they made beads in period... since I somehow doubt they had MAPP gas!

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June 01, 2007

Laurel List


I've been having some really interesting conversations lately about information exchange in the SCA, and one of the things that I have noticed is that there is this HUGE Laurel network out there, but unless one HAS a Laurel (ie, is an apprentice) one doesn't have any access to it (or even know who is out there), and the wealth of information they possess.

So... I went searching. I found the East Kingdom Mugshot Gallery , which is terrific (and has pictures!), but it only lists a few dozen folks. I haven't had a chance to see if such a thing exists for other Kingdoms yet.

Based on all of this, I am compiling my OWN Laurel List - who folks are, their home shire, their time period/culture, their specialties and any classes they regularly teach, and their apprentices (and THEIR specialties). The SCA is very much a WHO you know organization, and since the WHO often leads to the WHAT, I'm hopeful this list will be a good resource for linking up teachers/mentors and potential students.

Know a Laurel or are YOU a Laurel? Tell me about it, and I'll get them on my list! I'm just taking notes for now, but I'll get my data into a database as we go...

Another idea I had (and which apparently happens in other Kingdoms as a 'meet and greet') is a Laurel's Trunk Show - basically give Laurels about 30-60 minutes each to show their stuff, and talk about what they are working on. I see this as having two purposes: it would give the Laurelate the chance to show/talk about what they have been up to lately, and it would let the audience see who is who and doing what, and generally be inspired. A whole track at an event like this would be grand, but just a single timeslot at an EKU or Collegium would be amazing.

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My Challenge Tally through Pantheria XII


Ok, ok, no pictures, since I forgot to take any, and no new articles this week since I've been too busy getting my class together for EKU (pre-1300 weave structures). I WILL post pdfs of my tapestry handout, my weave structures handout, and the as-yet uncreated handout on nursing and baby garb/care in the SCA, but they will all have to wait until next week. Sorry!

I need to keep tabs on my Challenge progress though, since I'm officially making progress!


  1. Tapestry techniques at Pantheria XII
  2. Garb for Nursing and Babies at P XII

(I am not counting kids A&S that I am just back up on, and no A&S 50 sessions)

Garb: (not including retrofits or alterations) **Pictures to come when I get them out of the laundry!**

  1. new fighting pants for my husband (he looks much better now!)
  2. baby - purple Eura dress (a conjectured design that uses every inch of fabric and looks great - gores from ankle to wrist, and sleeves that form the neckline!)
  3. baby - green semi-Eura (I made gores from ankle to wrist, but regular sleeves)
  4. baby- beige/white stripe dress with tan yoke
  5. baby- beige/white stripe dress with tie closure
  6. baby- salmon linen-blend tabard
  7. baby- green plaid-front shift to match Daddy

New things:

.... nada. I taught five folks who had never spun before how to use a drop spindle, just informally in camp, though, and held my first A&S 50 session (and I do another one tomorrow), which went very well, so all is good. Plus, I got a handout on a Cloisonne class I didn't have time to attend, and hope to try it out someday. For those that don't know, that is the glass on metal technique that makes all of the cool medallions they hand out in court! Hurray!

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