Reflecting on this years Arts & Sciences Championship

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

“So, how did the A&S Championship go?”

A reply from the Minister:

For the most part? I think really very well.

(Hint! I am going to save what I am most proud of for the end!)

I am enormously pleased of all our entrants.

There are so many of you that jumped out of your comfort zone to compete. Thank you for showing for the first time. Some of you said “never again” after difficult competitions in your past. Thank you giving us another chance. Some of you display untraditional arts and sciences. Thank you for showing up with something new and different and exciting.

Lots of you really prepared for this event. We noticed. The level of research and craftsman ship was high. Thank you for working with the rubric in advance. Thank you for attending the competition preparation sessions. Thank you for attending one of the A&S Consultation Tables.

Sure, these things may have helped you with your scores. They also helped you make better displays. They made you better researchers. They made you better teachers. It paid off in the experiences you had with everyone at the event. You helped people to learn. That matters more than a score in my opinion. So, thank you for that.

I am so appreciative of all our judges.

We think we significantly improved in our overall results over the past years. What does that mean here? More people had a positive experience. Less people ended upset and frustrated. Overall satisfaction with the competition is higher that past competitions. More fun. More learning. More teaching.

So many people responded well to your feedback and input. Because so many of you volunteered we were better able to balance your schedule. That gave you a chance to spend more time reviewing with artisans and to then give more meaningful constructive feedback. Thank you for being present. Thank you for caring. Thank you for trying your best.

Let me add a specific thank you here to our shadow judges. Last year we only had a few who were learning about this process. This year? Most every team had someone shadowing through the judging process learning about how to critically examine entries and constructively give written and verbal feedback. It was really inspiring to see so many people stepping up to join the ranks.

It has been a pleasure to work with Mistress Sofya Gianetta di Trieste, past Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences, and Mistress Raziya bint Rusa, past King’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. They have been a joy.

I am excited to continue this work with Lord Doroga Voronin, new Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences, and Lady Elena Hylton, new King’s Champion of Arts and Sciences. They are already settling into the role with zeal.

Also?

I am extra grateful for my Special Deputies, Mistress Elysabeth Underhill and Master Magnus Hvalmagi, who managed so much of this process. I asked them to work on a few things to make all this happen:

  1. Refine the judging rubrics
  2. Refine the competition rules
  3. Run the next King’s and Queen’s A&S Champion’s Competition, including registering entrants and organizing judges

They did all of these things with better results than I could have ever hoped. The Kingdom as a whole has benefited from their strong work here.

Now, then…

What am I most proud of?

We asked for people to tell us what they needed. We asked for them to tell us when something wasn’t right. We asked them to tell us what wasn’t working. We asked them to tell us when they needed help.

And they did.

Here’s the deal. We failed some entrants. Simply put we didn’t give some of the entrants the best experience possible. Some we were able to solve for before the competition was over. Some we were able to work through during the day of the event. Some we have been able resolve after the fact. Some we are still working though.

How do we know? Because they told us.

I am most proud that over the last year we’ve been building trust and confidence with the people who want to participate in the arts and sciences so that they could tell us the good AND the bad.

That’s how we learn. That’s how we make things better.

That constructive feedback is so valuable on BOTH sides of the table. They came to us with a chance to improve how we work with participants. They didn’t vent publically on the internet. They spoke privately with their friends and mentors. And then they worked with us.

Some of these entrants plan to stop competing. They are looking to display and teach and demonstrate instead. Some of these entrants are already planning their next competition piece. And some have volunteered to become judges and help make things better from the other side.

All of these things are admirable solutions. We are excited to support these entrants, and all of our entrants, in whatever way they plan to pursue their studies.

What’s next?

We are learning from this feedback.

We’ll capture and continue the parts that we did right, such as the A&S Consultation Tables, advance publication of the rubric and rules, and overall communication efforts.

And we will focus on improving on the rest for example we hope to improve judges training and calibration.

If you’ve like to help with any of these efforts please let us know.

I know. That was such a short question! But as always I had so much to say in reply!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

What to expect at the King’s and Queen’s Arts and Sciences Championship

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

“What should I expect out of King’s and Queen’s Arts and Sciences Championship this weekend?”

A reply from the Minister:

Are you entering?

Then don’t panic or stress out! You should expect a lot of good fun. You’ll want to show up early, go through event registration, then go through entry registration, and finally set up display space. An hour of your day will be focused on the judging experience. You’ll have a panel that talks to you, reviews your entry, steps away to finalize your score, and then comes back to you for feedback. The rest of the time we hope you have lots of good conversations with everyone else attending. Enjoy yourself! And please, remember to stay hydrated and to eat!

Are you judging?

You’re in for a long day. A good day! With lots of good conversations! But long. We know. And we very much appreciate the work. You’ll also want to get there early. Start by going through event registration and then go through judging registration. Then you’re going to need to pace yourself as your go through the judging experience with each of the entries we assigned you. Enjoy these conversations and the partnership you build up with your panel members. And take care of each other! You also need to make sure to eat and drink throughout the day!

Are you attending?

Thank you for coming! You have an excellent opportunity for lots of learning! Please be aware that the entrants may be eagerly waiting for their scheduled judging time and may need to prioritize those conversations for about an hour. The rest of the time? Please talk to them! They are hoping to have lots of good conversations throughout the day. That means talking to you! So, ask them what inspired them or surprised them or what they thought was hard to accomplish. They will share!

For everyone:

Please thank each other. Especially our event staff and organizers!!

There are a lot of people that have come together to make this day possible. Be kind and understanding of each other. Some people may feel stress or frustration during the day. That’s okay! You can help by giving a smile or a word of encouragement to each other.

At the end of the day we’ll learn who the new King’s and Queen’s Arts and Sciences Champion are. We’ll be happy for those two people! Congratulate them!

Please also congratulate all the other artisans who entered and met many of their own goals for the day. There’s enough joy and pride to go around to everyone!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Approaching difficult or problematic research topics respectfully

A Missive from Master Philip White, East Kingdom A&S Minister.

Within our organization, we encourage in-depth exploration of history through researching and recreating the arts and sciences.

In some cases, individuals may choose to investigate potentially unpleasant or difficult avenues of research. These works could be challenging due to both an historical context (violence or adult content for example) or due to awareness of modern sensibility (symbols co-opted by hate groups such as the swastika for example).

Individuals may also utilize historical resources and extant materials that have become available through problematic means (archaeological finds or colonial acquisitions for example) or that have been published with a contemporary bias (revisionist histories for example).

To set expectations, these artisans are asked to approach their research and work with special care.

They are expected to remain aware of potentially offensive symbolism or messaging within their works and to treat their research and reproductions with sensitivity and understanding (symbols co-opted by hate groups such as the swastika modified into another motif for example).

They are expected to present these materials with proper context and framing so that their historical use and purpose can be understood while trying best to avoid offense and misunderstandings (thorough documentation and explanatory display for example).

This means that a member of the populace may come across publications, displays, classes, competition entries, or other related educational opportunities that may contain materials that are upsetting to participants or viewers.

We ask that everyone, both the artisans and the populace, approach each other with kindness and courtesy.

Should any aspect of the arts and sciences present any individual with any concerns then please contact me directly at moas@eastkingdom.org.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

~p.w.

Supporting the East Kingdom email migration

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

“Should these sunglasses be legal?”

A reply from the Minister:

I get a lot of these questions, actually.

They come along with the “Your source for printer ink at a discount!” and the “Flashlight! Blind your enemies – Insane glitch forces low price!” and many many others.

These are the kinds of questions I really hope not to get! I’d like them to stop!

And you can help!

The migration of our Kingdom’s email services to Google for Nonprofits proceeds apace.

Please, the Webministry needs the user information spreadsheets returned from every branch and Kingdom Office or we can’t proceed.

(If you’re about to hold elections for all of your Officers, please feel free to hold off until after that. Migrating everything once is enough, we don’t need to do it twice.)

Our goal is to complete this migration before the end of the reign of Their Majesties Ivan and Mathilde, which means we have to be migrating something at least every other day in order to succeed. That includes weekends, and holidays. But we can’t migrate without users to migrate.

All of our documentation, for users and for local Webministers, is at: http://webminister.eastkingdom.org/…/google-for-non-profit…/

This includes the FAQ, how to reset your password, how to set your From: address (that’s really important), mailing lists, and how to deal with handing over an office to a new Officer, including how to hand off old email.

As always, please direct any questions or concerns to:

Master Joel Messerer (Joel Lord)
East Kingdom Deputy Webminister for Services
gfnp@eastkingdom.org

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Appreciating knowledge and feedback from all givers

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

“Why do some people seem to value praise from Laurels and Maunches more than the rest of the populace who don’t have these recognitions?”

A reply from the Minister:

Receiving praise is a wonderful thing. I expect that most of us appreciate someone saying a thoughtful word to us about our efforts. It’s nice to have someone recognize our work and abilities. It feels good.

Now, lets say that praise is coming from someone who you admire or respect. Like a mentor or a teacher. That might feel even better.

Or, perhaps that praise is coming from someone who is a member of an Order to which you aspire. You might have a goal of becoming a member of the Orders of the Laurel or of the Maunche yourself. Then that might feel really great. It then might feel like someone is telling you are on the right track to achieving your goals.

I can’t fault people for feeling good about any of that. Those seem like reasonable and natural responses to me.

Here is where I would caution people.

It would not be beneficial for individuals to dismiss or ignore people who are not members of those Orders.

Focusing only on hearing from people who are members of the Orders to which you aspire means you are missing out on building relationships and learning opportunities. You’re missing opportunities to grow.

You could also risk developing a reputation that you’re less interested in mastery of your skills and knowledge, teaching others, and promoting the arts and sciences as a whole. Even if it is not your intention, you could risk people believing that you’re trying to reach your goals instead through sucking up to Order members.

Making new relationships is good. Building partnerships is laudable. It is worth not risking alienating people who can help you develop by solely focusing on members of these Orders.

Remember.

Every instance of praise is a learning opportunity.

Not everyone who is a Laurel is an expert in the skill you are attempting. Not every expert in the skill you are attempting is Laurel. Be open to hearing from everyone and you give yourself more opportunity to mature as an artisan.

Now, let me add here to the original question. I know we are not only talking about praise.

I have heard people ask similar questions about why artisans seem to only value constructive feedback given by members of the Orders. Or that there are artisans who will only take classes or attend workshops by members of the Orders. If those people do exist then they are missing more opportunities to learn and grow. We have lots of individuals who are capable in their own right to teach classes or provide constructive criticism without being members of the Orders.

My suggestion?

Treat everyone with respect. If someone is taking the time to give you praise (or even feedback) then listen to them. And, thank them.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Unpacking hard feelings about A&S competitions

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

“My friend is really upset after entering an A&S competition. They are very angry and are saying they will never enter an A&S activity again. What can I do to help?”

A reply from the Minister:

First off, thank you for offering to help. It is hard to see our friends get upset or angry or sad or frustrated. So we want to help where we can. That’s commendable.

Second, A&S competitions are not for everyone. And really many kinds of A&S activities are not for everyone. Please do not try and convince someone to do something that’s not right for them. They may be best served never participating in an A&S competition again. And, that’s okay. There are lots of ways to enjoy A&S. Let your friend have fun the way that brings them joy.

Now.

If we think about it, many of us have probably experienced this situation ourselves. Right? So it may help to answer this as if we were in the same situation ourselves. What would we do? How could we be a good example? Can we then coach people into the same steps?

Me? I would start with a self-assessment.

Why am I upset? What am I angry about? What’s got me frustrated? Start there. If you can put words to feelings then you can start to take action.

Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

Did you read the rules one way? And then they were implemented another way? Or maybe even changed on you as the competition was happening? Then that’s a problem with how the competition was run. You can talk to the organizer or the A&S Office about that.

Did you get a judge that gave you difficult feedback? You can talk to them. Or talk to the organizers. Or talk to the A&S Office.

Did you not like having your entry judged? That’s okay. You don’t need to enter competitions. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with how the judging works. Maybe it is just not right for you. Try a display or artisans row or something else instead.

Did you show up late and not get the time you expected to show off your entry? That’s not on the activity then. That means you need to arrive in time to get all the feedback you’re hoping to receive.

Did you want to make a deliberate display of expertise or knowledge (i.e. “show off”) to some judges or senior A&S community members? Judges are there to give you feedback and help run a competition. They are typically not signing up for a class. While judges do hope to learn you may want to sign up to teach a class instead.

Did you expect to win? But then you didn’t? Wanting to win is good. Ensuring a win is outside your control. Be reasonable to yourself and reset your expectations. Never walk in expecting you have it in the bag. Try to win, sure, but also go in looking to learn.

Did you expect a different score than you received? You can talk to the organizer or the A&S Office about that. You may need to have your entry rescored.

Those are just a few examples.

Basically.

Figure out why you’re upset. See what you can do to fix it.

Talk to your judge. Or the event organizer. Or the A&S officer. Or a friend.

The A&S Officer could be your Local A&S Officer, or the Regional Officer, or you can even come to me as the Kingdom A&S Officer. We want to see things working out and people happy.

Not sure of who to talk to? Ask for help.

Not sure if you are in the right place? Check.

Get a second opinion and see if there is something else you can do to fix the experience.

Here’s something I suggest not doing:

Going on social media sites to complain. It may feel good to vent. It may feel good to have some affirmation from your social network. You’re also not respecting the people who volunteered to run the activity or be your judge or try their best. Go to them first and give them a chance. Venting online doesn’t actually help you or them.

Here’s what I would like:

I’d like to see entrants and judges working well together. That means constructive criticism and active listening going on between people showing respect and valuing each other.

That’s a reputation we can support throughout our organization.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Visibility for service folks

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

“You write about how artists can display their works or enter competitions. And I know the fighters can enter tourneys and fight in battles. What can service minded people do to share what they’re working on?”

A reply from the Minister:

That’s a fair question. Does it seem odd for me to answer as the Kingdom A&S Minister? I think not.

Why? Because I am very interested in the East Kingdom teaching more and learning more. I think there is much we can learn from how artisans work in sharing their experiences and then do very similar things with people who are focused on service.

A note before I begin.

This isn’t about showing off. This isn’t about sucking up. This isn’t about gunning for an award.

True. These things below can help your renown. You may have increased visibility and impact within the Kingdom. It can make it easier for people to recommend you for recognition.

But that’s not the point. That’s a side affect.

Now, back to the question.

Basically much of what I’ll suggest comes down to documentation. And, if there is anything we know about in this office, it is documentation.

Think about your process. Thing about what you’ve done. Think about what you’ve learned. Document it. Then share that with other people.

What do I mean of documentation?

Here are some examples:

  • Event Stewards: Hold a post-mortem. Talk about what worked well. Talk about what could be improved. Take notes. Write them up! Share them with the group to make the next event better. Share them with other groups so that they can learn from you too.
  • Registration: Did you figure out a great way to run gate (troll)? Did you write up an excel spreadsheet that was good for tracking for pre-registration? Did you come up with a process that made things move quickly and efficiently? Write them up! Share your spreadsheets and forms with others. Offer your work to others so that they don’t have to repeat it.
  • Leadership Roles: Were you able to plan well in advance? Have a timeline that you worked on with people? Were you organizing through web tools or other project management teams? Talk to others about these tools and help them learn how to use them too.
  • Team Lead: Promote the team members you worked with and highlight their skills. Recommend them to others. Give them word fame.
  • Local Officer: Share your reports with your local groups. Publish in the newsletter. Share them on social media or on your local website. Let everyone know what’s going on in your group and how everyone is participating. It doesn’t have to just go to your Seneschal and up line officer. You can share things with everyone.
  • Landed Nobles: Share with people what it’s like to lead a local group. How is leadership different than what you expected. Offer to help other newer Landed Nobles in their jobs. Type up a handbook or guidebook on how you did the job and share it with your successors or with other Landed Nobles.
  • Royal Staff: How are you running things? Write it down. You’re in a job that changes every six months. And it is different from Reign to Reign. But some things are worth keeping and continuing. Share it with the next reign. Share it with other people on the Royal Staff.
  • All Volunteers: Did you have a job description? Did you know what you were volunteering for? Then write a job description up. Is your job different than what you expected? Then write that up too. Figure out what you’re actually doing in your job. And figure out what you’re doing that you think is above and beyond. Write that down too.

You get the idea. There are so many ways this could be done. From people running tourneys or battles to people working on voice heraldry to people working in the kitchen.

No job is to “obvious.” No job is too “behind-the-scenes.” No person is too “visible.” No person is too “remote.”

We have a lot of hard-working, talented, and smart people in the East. We are rich with opportunity to learn from each other.

How could you share it?

Here are some examples:

  • Update your East Kingdom Wiki page: Share some of this information there. You can write up some of your “best practices” for others to read.
  • Keep a blog: Write up short (or long) posts about what you are learning. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t.
  • Engage in Social Media: Start a conversation about what’s worked for you in your job. Ask others about how it might work for them. Ask them what they would do differently.
  • Publish: Write a handout. Write a handbook. Write a set up guidelines. Whatever the thing is type it up into a document so that others can learn from you.
  • Engage in Print: Write up articles for your local newsletter, or for the East Kingdom Gazette, or for SCA websites.
  • In-Person Discussions: Teach a class. Lead a round table. Set up a session. Run a consultation table. Whatever the thing your doing meet with people in person and talk to them about what you’re working on.

Again, these are just examples. And, again, no job is too big or too little to talk about. We can all learn from each other.

It’s up to you to share. This isn’t something only for people who are peers. This isn’t something only or members of well-known households. This isn’t something only for people living in highly populated areas.

We’re all making the East run. We can all be a part of teaching and learning.

Those of us in the far reaches make it happen. Thos of us who can’t travel make it happen. Those of us engaged more behind-the-scenes make it happen.

Your work is not something you need to be embarrassed about. You are allowed to feel good about your hard work. Share it. You have people that want to hear from you.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Complimenting work without adding pressure

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

I get asked, “Why aren’t you a Laurel yet?”
I know they mean well, but, at the same time it is frustrating. How should I handle questions like these?

A reply from the Minister:

We’ve probably all heard something like this at one time or another. We may have even asked it to other people ourselves.

Variations of this question include “If you lived in another Kingdom you’d already be a Laurel” and “Oh, I thought you were already a Laurel.” There’s a number of ways this can come up.

And, it could really be asked of a person about any kind of recognition.

So, there are two people here. And, I’d like to write to both of them. First, the person who gets asked this kind of question. Second, the person who asks these kinds of questions.

I remember getting asked these questions too and getting told these things. It *was* frustrating. I agree!

I didn’t have any control over the award system. There wasn’t an easy to follow checklist to know what I was missing. There wasn’t a list of people that I needed to convince to support me for elevation.

And these things are not changing. There will not be checklists or the like. They can get more transparent. And that’s what is happening. I know I figured things out more by talking to more people and having lots of discussions and learning.

But, back then, how was I supposed to know?

I knew they meant well. They were giving me a compliment. They thought that I was ready for recognition. That was nice!

It was also a reminding me that I hadn’t achieved my goal. Sometimes it felt like I was failing. Or that I wasn’t passing some test. In some ways it felt like a backhanded complement. On one hand they were telling me that I was deserving and on the other hand they were reminding me that I wasn’t. Like I said. Frustrating!

It sounds like a simple question. Yet, it is a complicated and difficult answer.

So, how would I reply?

Honestly and tactfully. That wasn’t always easy to do. And sometimes I was better at it than others.

I found a good reply to be “Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Other replies could be:

  • “I’m on the path and looking forward to when it happens.”
  • “I’m still learning. There is more work I want to do in my field.”
  • “I’m getting to know the community and the job of being a peer.
  • “I’m not interested in being a peer. I know it is a job and my focus is other places.”
  • “I don’t know why so I’m still figuring that out myself.”

All of these things could work. And more. As long as you reply with positivity, honestly address to your circumstances, and stay tactful you’ll be fine.

Remember. They’re likely giving you a compliment. Be nice in return.

Now, to the people who feel tempted to ask these kinds of questions?

You likely really want to give your friend a compliment. So, do just that! Help them avoid the confusion and frustration and awkward reply. Don’t put them on the spot!

Here are some good examples of things to say:

  • “You’ve got a lot of talent!”
  • “You arts are 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!

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

So, stick with that complement.

Separately, you may want to *also* encourage your friend working towards a certain recognition. Why? Because receiving recognition can be fun and rewarding too. Accepting the responsibilities of peerage or another recognition can *also* be fun. You may want to help them with that.

To do that? Make it a conversation.

Learn more about that recognition. Talk to people holding that recognition already and ask them about their experiences. Share with your friend what you’ve learned and ask if you can help them along their path. Be a partner with them on their journey.

And, remember, you can also write them in for award recognition. Maybe that’s all that is missing!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

~p.w.

Curtailing the urge to provide unsolicited feedback

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

“I just realized that there’s some constructive criticism I think an artisan needs. I want to walk over to them and share my feedback. How’s the best way to do that?”

A reply from the Minister:

This is a great follow up to my post yesterday. There I talked about how to give feedback when someone walks up to you and asks for it.

This question?

This reads more like we are talking about unsolicited feedback. And we’re going to ask you to please not give unsolicited feedback.

Here’s the thing.

Do you already have explicit permission to give feedback to an artisan? Are you the artisan’s peer or mentor? Do you work closely with the artisan and already have an established relationship?

If you can’t say “yes” to any of these questions with absolute confidence then please pause and reconsider.

There are other, better times, to give people feedback. Wait for those times.

Artisans will display their work at events, they will ask for comments on social media or through their blogs, they will enter competitions, they show up at A&S consultation tables. Those are better times to work with artisans on constructive feedback.

Wait for times that you have permission. Wait for consent.

That’s when an artisan is in a good frame of mind. That’s when they are more likely ready to hear your feedback and be able to take action on it. That’s when they are more likely to learn from you and to grow.

It is unlikely that an artisan will want feedback “in the moment”.

Did you just hear wording for a scroll you think needed work? Maybe you had suggestions for the illumination? Or comments on the calligraphy?

Finding that scribe right after court would not be the right time to give feedback. They are a volunteer. They just did some work they are proud of for someone else. Let them enjoy that. They didn’t enter an A&S competition.

That’s not the time for unsolicited feedback. Please do not do that.

Did you just see a person walk by in clothing that had some construction issues? Maybe a questionable fabric choice? Fit challenges?

Walking over to that person unannounced is not the right time to give feedback. They are also a participant in the SCA so of course they are wearing an attempt at historical clothing. But? They may not be as focused on historical recreation. They may just be wearing clothes that they really enjoy wearing. They didn’t enter an A&S competition.

That’s not the time for unsolicited feedback. Please do not do that.

Did you just attend a feast that had some modern elements? Maybe you didn’t like the timing for when the different elements are served? Maybe you questioned some of the ingredients?

Finding that cook right after feast would not be the right time to give feedback. They are a volunteer. They just did lots of work they are proud of for an event. They are likely tired, coming down from a stressful day, and still working on cleaning up. They didn’t enter an A&S competition.

That’s not the time for unsolicited feedback. Please do not do that.

That’s just a few examples. I think you get the point.

Unsolicited constructive criticism is one of the main causes of unhappiness for people in the arts and sciences and sometimes even in the SCA. It makes people frustrated. It makes them not want to play.

Please do not do it. Please.

Instead? Pause. And wait for a more appropriate time.

Remember that person and wait for a better time to start the conversation. Wait for them to enter an A&S competition. Wait for them to attend a class you are teaching. Wait for them to start a conversation with you some other time in the future.

You can also talk to their peer or mentor. You can talk to someone else who is used to working with them and ask that person about giving constructive criticism.

Or, you can seek consent to give feedback. There’s easy ways to do this without hurting feelings or causing misunderstandings. Something simple works.

“Thank you for your work. I really enjoyed it. I’d love to talk to you more about it sometime. This is the kind of art I’m really interested in. I’d like to get to know you more.”

Try something like that. Let them decide to come to you. Let them ask for help or feedback.

Do you have some other concern? Something more serious?

Don’t get caught up in the moment. Unless we’re talking about something actually life threatening, then please, still, pause, and wait before giving feedback.

Safety is important. The integrity of our organization is important. If you think there is a health risk (such as hazardous materials) or a legal/ethical issue (such as plagiarism) then please talk to someone. Depending on the circumstances you might approach the artist of you might also consider talking to an officers We can help.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Be honest about what kind of help you’re looking for.

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

“How can we help people understand that when they say ‘What do you think about my work?’ there is a difference between asking ‘I would like affirmation!’ and ‘I would like constructive feedback!’ because they are very different things?”

A reply from the Minister:

You know what I do?

I ask.

First? I always try and remember to ask. It doesn’t matter if I am standing in line at gate or I am judging a competition. I ask. It doesn’t matter if it is a friend or a stranger. I ask.

I start by asking.

“What kind of comments are you looking for?”

Something like that.

I don’t know what I am looking at. Is it their wedding dress? Is it something they made for their sick friend? Is it a first attempt?

I don’t know unless I ask.

And just because it is a display or a competition I still don’t assume. Sometimes people set up a display or enter a competition for different reasons. It is not always to have someone give their display or entry a hard look. And so I ask.

And by asking that gives me a chance to start a conversation. There’s a lot more we can and learn from each other if we’re actually talking and listening to each other.

Maybe they are looking for me to say “That’s really cool!” or “That’s really pretty!” and that’s all they need or want. That’s okay! Getting simple positive feedback can be good. Not everything needs to be detailed yet constructive feedback.

And maybe they are looking for some pretty specific help on only a certain part of what they are creating. That’s okay too. Sometimes we are able to give that kind of feedback too.

Now, that’s all on us, right?

We, given the position to offer feedback, are also in the position to figure out what kind of feedback we are giving.

It would be great if people asking for feedback would know how to articulate, up front, exactly what they are looking for. However, that doesn’t always happen. And, especially with newer artisans, they may not even know the difference.

If someone is asking us for help then we can help them first by asking what they are looking for from the start.

Now, what if you’re on the other side? What if you’re the person asking for help?

Think about what it is you’re looking for. What do you want? What to you need?

Be honest about what kind of help you’re looking for. Figure that out. And ask for that. If you’re not ready for constructive feedback then please do not ask for it. If you’re wanting some detailed criticism then ask at a time where we can give you a thorough and thoughtful answer.

That will help the person asking and the person responding.

If we’re talking then we can both figure it out from there. So let’s work together on it.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.