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.
The Kingdom-wide survey of A&S opinions and activity showed that one of the areas we needed to improve was our Kingdom Competition format. It really isn’t working for most of the Kingdom. This can be seen by a simple comparison between the number of entries received at competitions and the dis-engagement around the process of entering and judging versus numbers and the energy surrounding artisan displays like the one held at Canterbury Faire or Laurel Prize at Rowany Festival.
Respondents gave specific reasons they didn’t enter competitions. A large number of responses said that they just couldn’t get to the events to enter, many said they found the topics too narrow and were only likely to enter something if they were already planning to make it. So this means that entrants are drawn from a very tiny set of people that are going to a specific Kingdom event AND were already making something that fit a competition topic. I don’t know about you but that seems unlikely and not the culture of Lochac.
Other respondents talked about how they didn’t feel good enough to enter, were intimidated by Kingdom level expectations, or even didn’t want to enter as they didn’t want to discourage other entries (in the case of Laurels). So, yet again, we have broad swathes of the populace feeling like competitions as designed are not for them. We are a Kingdom that likes to cheer people on for their efforts, their enthusiasm and for how they have improved. If our competitions are too intimidating for the populace then we should change them.
Finally there were some really good and sensible suggestions. Group entries, the Anealan rubric, a focus on feedback, improvement and being able to compare yourself across the Kingdom as the purpose of the competitions.
Introducing Lochac A&S competitions for the post AS50 era
Featuring: A new rubric! New forms! Group entries! Winners announced by experience not topic!
Judging allowed around the Kingdom, not just at Kingdom events!
Here’s our current Kingdom Minister for A&S explaining the changes:
What does this mean?!
The less exclamation pointed explanation is: From now on Kingdom competitions can be judged at any time in the Kingdom at any official SCA event, as long as it is supervised by the local A&S officer, the Kingdom Minister of A&S or someone they have deputised (like an A&S co-ordinator for an event). The beauty of a well-written, standardised rubric (how judging points are allocated) is that it should calibrate judging across the Kingdom. This means entries can be judged at disparate locations and achieve reasonably comparable scores. We are a large Kingdom and this means better access and more inclusive competitions. It means we can actually find outstanding artisans across the Kingdom and not just those who are able to travel to Kingdom events.
The way we award winners is changing too. Instead of a winner for a competition topic, we’re going to award winners for experience levels. This means that our beginners have a chance to shine, and our more experienced artisans can set themselves challenges without fear of tall poppy syndrome. The experience levels are explained on the rules page.
There’s now also a group entry category. The Kingdom was inspired by the Politarchopolis Pentathlon. Many people have spoken to me about how they like to work with others and would like our competitions to allow this. So now they do. Go forth collaborative artisans! Show us what you can make together!!
Want to know more?!
We’ve written some new pages for the website. Check out:
From the Guild of the Silver Rondel, Lochac’s Dance Guild:
We opened the Coronation feast on Saturday night with a performance by five members of the Guild of the Silver Rondel:
The musicians were Lord Sympkin of the Moor playing hammered dulcimer, Lady Elena y Delyn playing harp, and Lady Katherine of Glastonbury, also playing harp. The dancers were Master William de Cameron and Mistress Katherina Weyssin.
We performed an improvised Canary before Their Majesties and the populace to begin the feast. The dancers had four solos each. William de Cameron got spontaneous applause from the crowd for his fourth solo – seguiti battuti at double speed, then fioretti and a capriola.
The musicians played beautifully – lovely sound, excellent tempo, and a delightful variety through a long dance (about 8 minutes).
The performance was very well received and was a great deal of fun to be part of. It was a wonderful opportunity to show some of the skill that exists within our guild to a wider audience.
The Excellent Mistress Anne, Lochac Hospitaller, has challenged the Kingdom to create memes to promote our game to non-SCAdians. These two caught my eye as being at the heart of why many artisans in Lochac find us and stick around.
The Barony of Southron Gaard is currently running a Baronial Variety Pentathlon Challenge, and you are invited to participate, or to follow along in admiration.
From the challenge website: “Each entrant must complete five projects that each meet the requirements of at least one distinct category of the thirty available. The projects must be begun after Baronial Anniversary 2017, and completed by Baronial Anniversary 2018. Projects must be submitted to the A&S Officer – summaries and photographs as appropriate, reviews of comestibles/potables by consumers and performances by those present etc. Submissions/progress submissions will be featured on [the challenge] blog by the A&S officer throughout the Challenge, if approved by the submitter. Spot prizes/awards will occur throughout the challenge, and successful completion of the Challenge by Baronial Anniversary 2018 will earn a special token from their Excellencies’ hands at that event. There will be a special display of projects as they are at that point during the A&S Display at next Canterbury Faire, and a display of the available projects at Baronial Anniversary 2018.
For any who are not members of the populace of Southron Gaard, Her Excellency has decided this Challenge is also open to entry from those not resident in our fair Barony, as it is not your fault that you are so disadvantaged.”
A Challenge blog has been set up to showcase entries as they come in – there’s already a few items up for display
So, follow along and see what the SG populace is producing.
We’re currently seeking people to fill the following roles of Deputy to the KMoAS:
Cockatrice Editor – taking over from the very competent THL Elisabetta Foscari. This is a great chance to actively contribute to A&S in Lochac, by ensuring our quarterly journal continues to provide a place to share good research in the Kingdom. Elisabetta will mentor the successful candidate through their first edition so you’ll be in capable hands.
Sciences Deputy – a new role. This role will start by examining the “sciences” aspect of Arts and Sciences in Lochac, determining if there are ways be can better support and promote Sciences. This was a theme that emerged from last year’s A&S survey. They will also work with the Society Deputy for Sciences, Galen Of Ockham to see how Lochac can contribute to his work.
Knowledge Management Deputy – a new role. This role will look at how we share and archive the various bits and pieces of A&S knowledge and teaching that our excellent artisans generate – trying to ensure that distance is not a barrier to being able to learn from others, again a theme that emerged from last year’s survey
Each role is described on the Roles page on this site.
The Cockatrice editor is a 2 year appointment. The other two roles are appointed for as long as the current KMoAS is in the role (currently to Midwinter 2018), but could be confirmed by the next KMoAS.