Documentation

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Do I really have to do documentation?”

A reply from the Minister:

“No. You don’t have to do documentation.”

Did I surprise you? Did you expect me to say that you had to?

You don’t.

Really. If you never want to do documentation you never have to do documentation.

It’s okay.

I know all sorts of people who go through their entire SCA experience enjoying the arts and sciences and never attempting to document their work.

And you know what? They have lots of fun.

That’s my main goal for people. I want people to have fun within the arts and sciences.

But wait. Maybe I can surprise you again?

Documentation can actually be another part of the fun when you’re working within the arts and science. (I know! I was surprised too!)

Documentation has a bad reputation.

People first think that it has to be some kind of difficult and complex research paper. That it is like homework. That it needs to have footnotes or endnotes or an appendix or any number of things.

It’s true. Documentation can be all of those things. And some people really enjoy putting together an excellently written research paper.

You know what else documentation can be?

It can also just be you talking about how you went about your work. Or it can be when you write down notes about how you crafted a piece. Maybe it is the pictures of your work in process. Maybe it is the books or images or items that you took inspiration from to go about your art.

Documentation is all of those things too.

And that’s a big reason for why documenting your work can be fun. It’s your chance to tell your tale. It is your chance to tell the story of your creation.

And once you start putting that all together then you’re able to be a better teacher, too.

You’re not just talking about the “how” of something. You’re adding on the “what” the “when” and the “why” too. You’re helping others, and also yourself, know how something fits into the actual historical context of the time periods we are studying.

When those things start to “click”, and you’re about to share it with other people, then all of your arts and sciences can be really cool in an entirely different way.

Want help? Let the A&S Office know. We’re here for you.

The A&S office will be rolling out a class on how to research and complete documentation soon. We’ll make it available online by web conference, class notes, and in person. But that’s just a teaser. More to come! No details yet!!

And, if you’re willing to document your work, then that can also open up other opportunities for you, too.

Some competitions require documentation or heavily recommend it. Sometimes you need it in order to teach a class. Sometimes you need it in order to submit your research or artwork for publication.

You don’t have to do any of those things. But, if you want to take part in them, documentation gives you that opportunity.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Judging one art form against a completely different art form

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Is it fair to judge one art form against a completely different art form?”

A reply from the Minister:

“Likely. Did you check the rules?”

That’s probably where we need to start. If we’re talking about judging then we’re talking about a competition. And if we are talking about a competition then we are talking about rules.

We’re judging apples and oranges and armor and knitting against all sorts of other things. It may not feel like it is fair.

But are these different art forms being judged accounting to the rules or standards set by the competition?

If so then it’s fair.

Now that’s a simple answer. What is also being asked is more complex.

Does one kind of art form have an advantage over another kind of art form? Or, maybe said another way, will one entry be treated better than another entry?

That’s harder.

First, let’s talk some about how art forms differ.

Some art forms are well researched.

You could say this is an easier entry because there is a lot of information out there. Or you could say this is a harder entry because there is so much information to have to follow.

Some art forms have local experts from which to learn.

You could say this is an easier art form because you have more people to teach you. Or you could say this is harder because you may not have the same experience by figuring it out on your own.

And there are more differences. Some art forms cost more than others. Some art forms have more readily available materials. Some art forms take months or years to learn a skill. Some art forms require learning lots of different skills. Some art forms take lots of space.

Any of these things could be a pro or a con. Some of these things will be good for artists. Some will be challenges.

No art form is equal. And no artist will have the same experience learning and executing an art form.

We need to keep all of that in mind when we are talking about “what is fair”.

Next, let’s look a bit at how judging works.

Your judge will be influenced by a number of things. They will have their own personal feelings, opinions, and tastes. Even the most mindful judge, trying their best to be consciously aware of their biases, will not be able to avoid some level of subjectivity. We’re all human after all.

We need to keep all of that in mind, too, when we are talking about “what is fair”.

So how do we try to help artisans and judges create more “fair” competitions?

We publish rules to set expectations for artisans. And we publish a rubric to help judges give more balanced and equalized feedback.

Nothing is perfect of course. Like I said. We’re all human.

There have been experiences that do not feel good. Maybe of us have had bad judging experiences. Or we have heard the stories. We may have our battle scars.

I’m not going to pretend that unfair judging experiences have not happened. They have. They should not have happened. I understand anyone being critical of competitions and judging. I sympathize with anyone who has felt unjustly criticized.

Our goal is to minimize those poor experiences, or better yet, avoid them all together.

Here’s what I’ll say in closing.

When it comes down to it, entering competitions is not for everyone.

If you find yourself questioning if it is “fair” or “right” for your work to be judged against someone else’s different art form then that competition may not be right for you. Look for a different competition that you feel better about. Or try another kind of arts activity altogether. That’s okay!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Greetings

From the desk of the Kingdom A&S Minister:

Greetings from Master Philip White, East Kingdom A&S Minister!

One of my goals for this office will be to help provide transparency and understanding about “how things work” within the arts and sciences communities of the SCA and within the East in particular.

My hope is that this will help us all learn more, teach more, and enjoy more.

Basically?

I want us to have lots and lots of fun, make really cool art, and share about the sciences.

To help with this goal, I will be making a series of posts here answering common questions I get asked. Questions about lots of things! About the office, activities, competitions, classes, recognition. Anything and everything could be on the table.

I have my first question already. I’ll be working on that over the next few days and posting it soon.

The more questions I get asked the more I’ll be able to post about.  If there is something you’d like to know more about already then send it my way! More to come!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

What’s my job?

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

What’s your job anyway? What does being Kingdom A&S Minister mean? Are you in charge of all the A&S in the Kingdom?

A reply from the Minister:

Let’s start with a description of the office from Kingdom Law:

The Kingdom Minister of Arts and Sciences:

* Acts as advisor in all matters pertaining to the Arts and Sciences within the Kingdom to The Crown and subjects of the Kingdom, and supports study in those areas.

* Supervises the Lesser Office of Chancellor of the East Kingdom University.

* At the request of The Crown, works with the Kingdom Chamberlain to coordinate and supervise the creation of regalia.

What does all that mean?

There are the simple parts of helping The Crown, helping the Chancellor, and helping the Chamberlain.

There’s also the administrative part of helping all of the local and regional A&S offices and the Kingdom Guilds. That means being a resource for them as well as supervising reporting and activities.

It does not mean the office is “in charge” or any and all arts and sciences that happen in the Kingdom. The office is charged with supporting those activities as best it can.

What would I like to do?

* Help people have fun.

* Encourage learning.

* Encourage teaching.

Sounds simple right? I hope so! Should be possible with your help!

Along the way I expect there to be some really masterful works of art and some ingenious scientific exploration. That’s awesome, too, but not my primary goal.

Fun first. Learning and teaching next. Hopefully excellence comes as a result of those.

How you can help me:

* Volunteer.

* Share your ideas.

* Hold me accountable.

I think that is going to be a good start. Let’s work together!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Hosting A&S in your local group

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Do I have to get permission from my local A&S office in order to arts and sciences stuff in my local group?”

A reply from the Minister:

Short answer?

No. Of course not. Please go out and make the arts and sciences happen!  Meet with your friends and do cool stuff.

(Keep in mind anything not approved by the local branch is not an official SCA activity.)

Long answer?

It’s not about permission. It is about being a good neighbor.

Here’s what the rules say about how society events are defined.

“All Society events must be sponsored by official branches of the Society, registered with the Seneschal of the sponsoring branch, publicized at least to the members of that branch, and conducted according to Society rules.”

So, if you want to be “an official SCA” activity then you do need to work with your local group according to that group’s rules and customs. Otherwise you activity would not be considered “an official SCA” activity. That’s okay, too.

Now, how to go about it a good way? Check in with your local group and find out what is going on. What’s happening around town?

Talk to the A&S Minister, the Seneschal, and the Crown’s representatives. Talk about it at your local meetings. Check in with the other people running meetings.

You’re going to want to play along well with everyone.

It means you can get help from the group. And that you’ll be able to help them too.

You can coordinate about avoiding schedule conflicts. You can talk about sharing resources like meeting locations and materials. And you can talk about the interested populace members and where they would want to go to things.

You local A&S Officer is not a gatekeeper to who gets to do A&S activities. They’re your resource. Work with them!

Have fun! Teach! Learn!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

King’s or Queen’s A&S Champion and Laurels

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Does being chosen as King’s or Queen’s A&S Champion mean that you will be made a Laurel?”

Let’s pause there. This question actually pops up in lots of ways. Here are some related examples of this question:

“If I win this upcoming A&S Competition will I be made a Laurel?”

“If I get chosen as a King’s or Queen’s Champion for *fill in the blank* will I get the *fill in the blank* award?

“If I get this volunteer officer/event position will I get the award I want?”

There are any numbers of different ways that this question comes up.

Today, I’ll answer the question I received and use the A&S Champions only as an example. Mainly because that’s the office I work in. My reply is unrelated to any current, past or future Champions.

A reply from the Minister:

Short answer? No. It only means that you will be either the King’s or Queen’s A&S Champion.

Long answer?

No. But does it help? Maybe.

Once you are receiving recognition like this then there is a high chance that you are already “playing at that level”. Think of it like Crown Tourney. If you enter as an unbelt but you are finishing in one of the final rounds then you are probably on the right track. Maybe you are not there every day but you were there at least that one day. You’re headed in the right direction. The same could be said for A&S.

Now, past that demonstration of your skill, that keep the following in mind.

The only people who can decide to make you a Laurel are the King and Queen. They make their decisions based on feedback from the Order of the Laurel and from the populace.

Each King and Queen will make their decisions in different ways. The thing that is the same? Only They can make that decision.

But I said being chosen could help, right? I did. Here’s how.

First up? The Crown get’s to know you well as an individual. That’s really valuable.

And that part above… “They make their decisions based on feedback from the Order of the Laurel and from the populace.” That part too.

If you become King’s or Queen’s A&S Champion then you have a lot of opportunity for renown.

Through your hard work, study, research, and practice you were able to show your work well at the Champion’s competitions to then be selected as Champion. Just right there, at that event, you already get a lot of attention. You could have started out with 20 people knowing you at the event, and by the end of the day, now 100s of people know your name and your skills and your behavior.

And then, in your role as Champion, you will be traveling throughout the Kingdom to Royal Progress events. You end up meeting even more people through your tenure as A&S Champion. Some of those are Laurels. Some are other artisans. You meet people you wouldn’t normally meet because you are traveling to places you wouldn’t normally go and working with people you wouldn’t normally work with. That’s a lot of people.

Now renown is not enough. Becoming a Laurel is not a popularity game.

All this takes work, right? You still need to be doing excellent research and projects. Teaching and learning. Demonstrating peer-like-qualities.

You still do that all that. It is just now that lots of people from all over the Kingdom see you doing this. And it makes it easier for people to know who you are. And know all about that hard work you do.

The spotlight is now on that person as King’s or Queen’s A&S Champion. Your peer like qualities and skills in the arts and sciences, whatever form they take, will be seen by the Kingdom.

So as you see, when you think about it, that’s the same for any role you take. Be it a Champion’s title, or as an officer’s position, or as an event volunteer.  Be it for the Kingdom or for your Barony or for some other group.

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Encouraging friends in A&S

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“My friend made this really cool thing. Should I convince them to enter the really cool thing into an A&S competition?”

A reply from the Minister:

Maybe?

First? It sounds like what you really want to do is give your friend a complement. Do that!

Here are some good examples of things to say:

“You’ve created something special.”

“This is beautiful! You have a great eye!”

“I’m totally impressed with your skill!”

“You’ve really improved over time.”

“I am so excited to see what you’ll be doing next!”

Basically? Say something with honesty. Make your complement with meaning.

You can stop there. Nicely done!

Bus what about entering it into an A&S Competition?

Generally speaking, A&S Competitions are not designed for “really cool things.”

There are lots of cool things in the SCA. We celebrate them, we enjoy their use, and we commend their creators. That’s all well and good. We should do this!

They come in all shapes and styles, true, but A&S Competitions basically focus on the elements of historical accuracy through research and demonstrated skill. That “really cool thing” may not have been made with those basic ideas in mind.

And there is the potential problem. The “thing” and the competition may have different goals.

Now, lets say your friend does enter that competition. And then the “really cool thing” receives a low score.

That score may be justified based on the rules of the competition. Since they didn’t make the “thing” for the competition it may not do well. The “thing” is still “really cool” but now there is a poor experience associated with it. And that doesn’t make your friend feel good.

Remember? You just wanted to help your friend feel good.

So, stick with that complement.

Separately, you may want to *also* encourage your friend to enter a competition. Why? Because competitions can be good ways to learn and to teach. And they can *also* be fun.

To do that? Make it a conversation.

Learn more about competitions. Learn about judging. Talk to artisans and ask them about their experiences. Encourage your friend to make and entry specific to a competition instead of the other way around.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

A&S: More than competitions

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“I don’t want to have to do competitions. What else is there?”

A reply from the Minister:

I love this question. You know why? Because there is SO MUCH else out there.

But I don’t want to start there. I think there is a part of this question that’s left unsaid. Let’s start with that answer.

First?

You don’t “have to” do anything. I’d like you to have fun and enjoy the SCA. Then I’d like you to learn things, and make things, and teach things.

And after that?

When I hear that “have to” part it sounds like the rest of the question, the unsaid portion, is “in order to get the recognition I want.”

It sounds like there is an implication that entering competitions equals receiving recognition. That to meet some personal goals you’ve set for yourself that you “have to” enter a competition.

Let me be clear.

That’s not how it works.

Some people enter lots of competitions and never receive recognition. Some people never enter competitions and receive lots of recognition.

One does not equal another.

Now then.

Are you looking for recognition? I’m totally okay with you having goals.

Want to be well-known? Want to receive an award? Want to be worthy of inclusion in the Order of the Silver Broach? The Maunche?  The Laurel? Awesome. I’d personally say those are all fine goals.

You are free to work towards any of those goals. Or completely different ones. Or none of them. That’s all up to you!

Do what makes you happy.

Please do not think that you need some sort of recognition to have found success or happiness in the SCA. I really mean it when I say I just want you to have fun. That’s the only way you can “win” in the SCA.

That’s just like competitions. You never have to do one.

Want to make your goals? There are other ways than competitions to get there.

You don’t enjoy a competitive atmosphere? But maybe you still want feedback? Or maybe just a chance to learn and to teach? No trouble.

There are lots of other activities and venues! Participate in those!

Try something local:

*Hold a class on a weeknight. Invite everyone that’s local to you.

*Set up a display at your local event.

Try something around the region or the Kingdom:

* Travel to a different group than you normally would. You meet new people. The more remote areas will welcome you in particular.

* Look for an Artisans Row if you do not have one locally. Set up for a whole day of just doing your thing and talking to people about how you do it.

Try something outside of the East:

*Teach a class at Pennsic. Enter the A&S Display. Host an event in your camp.

*Travel to a Known World Event. Teach there!

*Go to Symposiums and Colleges in other Kingdoms. Expos yourself to different ideas and experiences.

Try publishing:

*Talk to your local Chronicler. They may love having content for the newsletter. Likewise for the branch website.

*Try setting up a blog. Or your own webpage. Post pictures and post of your work.

*Submit to the East Kingdom Gazette. The staff is wonderful. They will help you get your work ready for publication.

Try art as a service:

*Donate your work as prizes for other activities. Is there a competition going on? Maybe you can make something for the new Archery Champion? Or the person with the best feast table decorations?

*Give largess as an individual. You can grant people gifts for doing great works or impressive acts.

*Make largess for local nobility or the Royalty to gift. Label it so that people know that it was your work.

*Serve as a scribe or make award medallions.

*Make things for other people. They don’t need to be a Royal or a Nobel. They can just be your friend.

At the very least?

*Set up at an event and do your thing. Do it at the list field. Do it during Court. Do it during feast. Maybe people will stop and say hello! And maybe they will not… but at least you’ll have gotten more work done!

All of these activities are things you can do. Do them!

Recognition can come from these activities as well. Along with chances to learn. Along with chances to teach. Along with chances for fun.

Are none of these happening in your area? Then organize them! Help someone else organize them! Travel to them!

(And don’t get me wrong. I like competitions. They can be great opportunities to challenge yourself, to learn from judges, and to teach people.)

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Illness and commitment

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“I’m not feeling well. I’m getting sick. But, my class/activity/entry is really important and I can’t skip it. I can still go, right?”

A reply from the Minister:

“No. Stay home. Heal. Don’t get others sick. There is always another event.”

So, here’s the deal. That was my question to myself. That’s what I was asking myself Friday night while getting ready for Coronation.

I knew I wasn’t feeling well. I knew I wasn’t getting better.

But I wanted to see people. I wanted to see my friends receive awards. I wanted to be present for a Laurel ceremony. I wanted to represent the A&S Office at the event. And I love being present for the Coronation ceremony.

I was also committed to running dance. Something I had been looking forward to for months. I do not get a lot of opportunities to lead dance so I was very excited to work with the musicians and dancers in creating a wonderful time.

Yet I knew I would have to make that hard call.

I warned my pit director Friday night that I might not be coming. And I asked another dance instructor to be backup for me just in case.

Saturday morning I woke up and knew I wasn’t ready. So I sent everyone my regrets and well wishes for a beautiful day.

I knew I wouldn’t be the best representation of myself. I knew I wouldn’t be able to have fun or help others have a good day.

And I stayed home.

Nothing is so important that we cannot make taking care of ourselves the priority. None of us are so valuable that we should risk the health of other people.

It can feel that way. It can feel really important. I know.

And it can be frustrating. And it can be disappointing. And on top of those unhappy feelings you can feel miserably yucky and achy.

So stay home. Heal. Take your time.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

(And, yes, I am feeling better. Thank you for the well-wishes!)