As members of the SCA we choose to make things for a variety of reasons. At some stage everyone in the SCA has to make something, unless they have infinite cash to spend on buying clothes, feast gear, tents, etc. OR some very kind friends. This post looks at why people make things and how we can understand someone else’s motivations and access to resources when we comment on their stuff.
I made a video about this, the content is also set out below if you prefer to read. Comments on these ideas are welcome.
A core aspect of why we make stuff is our intrinsic motivation. Results from the Kingdom A&S survey indicated that there were four reasons people made stuff:
- Authenticity – I want to make the most period thing I can possibly make. Being as close to doing what “they” did (in a specific time and place) drives me to create
- Workmanship – I want to make the BEST thing I can possibly make, and I will get the best tools and materials to do this. I will practice and practice and take my time until I am satisfied
- Creative expression – I want to make the thing that fits my vision of how “they” looked and experienced the world. This can be based on research, but could also be based on a particular movie, TV series or book. It is usually where we all start when we join the SCA, and we could argue it’s the basis of “the Dream”.
- Variety – I want to try all the things that interest me, until I’ve satisfied my curiosity in that area. I’ll usually have two of three projects in different skill sets going at any point in time. I get bored if I just do one specific thing.
These reasons can be described on a matrix as follows:
The reason this is important is that we are a group that welcomes anyone who makes “an attempt at pre-1600”. By understanding why someone has made something then we can help and encourage them in a way that means they continue to want to make things and to stay in our Society.
Access to resources is a very important element in A&S projects, and one that is often overlooked. Any project requires a balance of the following three things:
- Access to $$ to fund the materials (or instruments in the case of music) and any missing knowledge
- Access to time to make the item, write the research paper, practice the performance
- Access to knowledge to understand how something was made and what is correct for the time and place someone is interested in
We all make choices about how much of our available time and money can go into each project or into acquiring more knowledge or better skills. Some of us have the ability to expend lots of time and money, some of us don’t. Some of us had a solid university education in a humanities subject and enjoy reading the latest research, some of us don’t and learn by tinkering and trying things out.
All of this is important to conversations about A&S, as it helps us realise that we don’t all start from the same place in terms of these resources, nor can we all allocate the same amount of those things to all projects. We make choices, and those choices are valid.
Now that we have a better understanding of motivations and resources I want to issue a challenge.
The number one reason someone stops “doing A&S” is because someone (usually someone they don’t know, or barely know) comes up to them unasked and tells them “that’s not period!”. I’m sure that the person providing this comment thinks it’s helpful and they mean well, however the effect is usually to make the recipient crumple or cranky.
My challenge is this: Let’s adopt the phrase “Unasked for criticism is discourteous”.
Unless a person says something like “What do you think?” or “How could I make this better?” then don’t tell them they are doing it wrong. Instead, if you really want to help that person start from the matrix above, and the list of resources. Understand why they made what they made and then ask if they want any help or more information.
Compliments are always good, btw. Compliments buoy people. We all want to feel proud of the thing we poured our precious time and resources into, so start there.