Posts Tagged a&s

The Midrealm A&S Pentathlon: My Journey, Misadventures, and Resolutions

27 May 2014

This tale starts with a bit of beeswax.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know I was in the SCA briefly in the ’90s. I made a dress, attended several events, flirted with dancing (and a couple guys), went to various meetings, and picked out a name (Katarina). I drifted away, as I had no real purpose or anchor to it. Fast forward to my friend Tracy’s 50th birthday — she’s still in the SCA and she invites me to an SCA event where her birthday will be celebrated. As I’m reading through the event web page (which we didn’t have back when I began in the SCA), I see there are Arts & Sciences challenges. ‘Ooh, this is a new aspect of the SCA I had not noticed before,’ I think to myself. The stars align and I decide to give the SCA another try: I paint a portrait with a fleur in it to enter into the challenge, I make a Tudor gown to wear, and off I go. I have a blast and win the challenge. Among the prizes I received was a biscuit of beeswax. I had no idea why it was a prize at the time, but it had a fleur de lys on it and it smelled good. Duchess AnneMarie re-introduced me to the SCA, and the A&S aspect pulled me in. I was hooked this time.

From that point on, I began making all the things! I think that first year I might have driven some of my fellow baronial members crazy with my incessant blog and Facebook posting of projects and photos. I was just SO happy to have an outlet for creativity. I learned about A&S displays and entered my first blackwork project in it several months after that first event. (I discovered the many uses of beeswax during my first blackwork project!) A couple of months later there was an A&S heraldry competition at a local event that I entered and won. I was having SO much fun! Then I learned that our Barony had an A&S champion. I even though was only six months in at this point, I entered the competition for that anyway. I had my blackwork, woodwork, my first tellerbarret hat, and silk heraldic cloak on display. I wasn’t selected as baronial champion, but something significant happened anyway (because that’s how this works, you know). Master RanthlfR said to me something like, “Great work! I can’t wait to see what you do for the Pentathlon.”

Pentathlon? What the heck is that?

I researched this “Pentathlon” thing and discovered that each year the Midrealm hosts A&S competitions. A Pentathlon is waaaaay out of my reach, I think, but maybe I could enter a thing in the competition. A thing turns into two things when I finish my blackwork caul and my red German goldwork gown (that beeswax got more use!). I get a practice run at entering an A&S competition with the Day at St. Catherine’s Cloister: Demystifying A&S Competitions event, the brainchild of the late Dame Margarete of Stirlingshire (to whom I am so grateful). I meet many people and learn so much. I enter the regional A&S faire, and the person who checks me in enthusiastically is THL Gunnar (our new Kingdom A&S champion) — he mentions that pentathlon word again as he had entered it the previous year. I win a first and second place at Regional and get to go on to Kingdom. My judges comments guide me, I make tweaks to my projects and documentation, and I receive two first places at Kingdom.

The entire A&S competition experience that first year was positive and uplifting. The competitions motivated me to tackle (and finish) difficult projects. The judging gave me genuine feedback from like-minded people who didn’t mind sitting and chatting with me about my passions. The awards encouraged me to continue. Through my judging I met Mistress Crespine and Master Cellach, neither of whom were recognized as Laurels at the time and who both inspire and encourage me to this day. And through the face-to-face time and the written comments — and the other entrants’ work on display — I learn more about the importance of research and communication of process and ideas.

And that bit of beeswax? Somehow I’d brought it with me to each A&S event, though why I cannot say now.

I entered the A&S competition the following year (my goldhaube), but my experience was a bit rockier, the going a little harder. I had put my goldhaube together much later than expected because of a death in the family, but I was determined to do it. I was fortunate that my goldhaube earned a first place. I began judging other entrants at Kingdom A&S this year also, and discovered that not everyone had the same positive attitude about the creation of A&S. My beliefs and conceptions were challenged, and I faltered a bit that day. I am indebted to Gregor and Mistress Crespine for their counsel, which helped me overcome this hurdle.

Later that day in court, I listened intently as the pentathlon entrants’ scores were read and I watched in wonder as THL Heodez De Talento Minotto won the pentathlon and became the new Kingdom A&S Champion. Their Majesties recognized her and she inspired us — and it wasn’t just me who felt that inspiration. While waiting in the line to get our certificates and judging sheets, I heard many people declare their intention to enter a pentathlon one day. “One day I’d like to enter a pentathlon,” I heard myself say. And it was true. What a challenge it would be to enter at least five items in four different divisions. And, to share my inner thoughts a bit here, I thought it would be cool to win. Many of us won first place awards that day, but only one person really stood out (at least for me) as the premier entrant — she won the Pentathlon, was recognized and congratulated by the Crown and assembled populace, and was made Kingdom Champion and recognized at all the events she attended as Champion. I am not ashamed to admit that I love being recognized by my peers. I think most of us do!

And this year? It was everything that came before that pushed me to enter this year. The challenges I’d encountered motivated me to do some deep research, get the answers written down, and share it with everyone through a research paper. And once I did that and had to submit it for the A&S competition so early, I didn’t stop — I just kept writing, researching, and creating until I found I had those five projects. I don’t mean to oversimplify it — I have been gently accused of “making it seem too easy.” It was definitely hard work with lots of frustration, complications, very late nights, and a fair amount of bloodshed (darn carving knives). My beeswax was used and abused! But I also stretched into new areas, learned new skills, and expanded my mind. It was a WONDERFULLY HARD challenge! But … I only entered the pentathlon to accomplish the challenge, not with the intention of winning. Had I been trying to win, I would have entered seven, not five, projects. I also would not have entered any write-in entries (like my research paper or play), as those are judged just once with no option of tweaking in between regional and Kingdom (and those judges comments go a long way toward improving a project). But so what? I’D ENTERED A PENTATHLON. It felt great and I was on top of the world. This was my first try and perhaps next year I’d enter with the goal of winning.

I had a great day at the regional competition, despite my lack of sleep — I was up all night sewing, my trusty beeswax in hand. I had been hoping to get at least second places on my projects so I could go to Kingdom. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I’d gotten four first places and one second place. And those first places had scores higher than any of my previous projects — there were even a few perfect scores, a possibility which had not even occurred to me. That was a great day! Much gratitude to my Regional-level judges: Mistress Melisant Saint-Clair, Lady Godelina Blaubloeme, Lady Catherine of Deva,  Master Odo de Eu, Artemesia Voltera, Master Nigellus le Haie, THL Sarai Tindall, Mistress Gianetta Andreini da Vincenza, Mistress Sarafina Sinclair, Mistress Tyzes “Zsof” Sofia, Baroness Frances Elizabeth Devereux, THL Eva von Oldebrook, Master Maximilian der Zauberer, and THL Halla of Mugmort.

So my projects went on as a Pentathlon entry to Kingdom A&S. I did some updates to my documentation and arrived feeling really relaxed — this was helped by the fact that I felt I had no hopes of winning, so there was no anxiety. With three other Pentathlon entries by highly skilled entrants, two of whom had previously entered the Pentathlon, my chances were very slim and I simply let go of all those hopes and fears that accompany such a competition. I did encounter one little bump when I came face-to-face with my challenge from the previous year, but I chose to address it directly and positively — all was resolved well. That challenge had motivated me to learn more and produce an entire research paper — how can I not see that as a good thing now?

Many, many thanks to my Kingdom judges: Master Cellach Mac Cormach, Lady Colette the Seamstress, Baroness Frances Elizabeth Devereux, Master Avery Austringer, Baroness Katayoun Al-Aurvataspa, THL Aasa Sorensdottir, THL Odile di Brienne, Mistress Anthoinette de Martel, and Mistress Cerridwen verch Ioreword.

(Beware: Rant/Constructive Criticism Ahead. If you dislike such things, skip to the next paragraph!) Despite all this, court that evening was a bit of an ordeal. It was long and hot, for starters. The two A&S champions were chosen early on in court, though without any fanfare and no heraldic announcement — I did not even know they were A&S champions until much later because I could not hear a single word of what was said despite sitting in the fifth row. I was happy to see THL Gunnarr Alfljot (the A&S Champion) and Genevieve of Sternfeld (the Youth A&S Champion) recognized! But even though the main focus of the day was Kingdom A&S, the awards were not announced until 75 minutes after the start of court. And I felt more time and attention was given to the various tournament winners of the day (small tournaments, not Crown Tournament) than to those who I felt were the real stars of the day — the entrants of the A&S competition who had worked so hard in the months and perhaps even years to get here. Due to the lack of time, only names and awards were announced and it was asked that applause be held until the end and the entrants did not go up to receive their certificates (they were given out at the back of the hall after court). I felt upset on the behalf of my fellow artisans — there was a distinct lack of focus and attention on the bestowing of the awards. I want to point out that I do not feel this was any fault of the competition organizers, whom impressed me greatly with their efforts and organization. I know this varies year to year, but should I ever have the power to change this, I would make the A&S competition results the centerpiece of court, with each entrant called up, given their certificate, and asked to remain standing in the front (if they are able) for their friends and family to applaud them and see their faces. Entering an A&S competition is the culmination of a great deal of research and hard work, and NEEDS to be celebrated for the future well-being of our Kingdom and its populace. Competitions motivate, inspire, and recognize individuals to do their best at one of the three pillars of our Society, the Arts & Sciences. The Pentathlon scores were the final piece of court business and — given everything — it just felt anti-climatic … and quite unlike last year. (Rant off.)

So when the Pentathlon awards were announced, I was shocked and humbled to discover I had won. It is important to note that the scores for the pentathlon entries were all very close — only six points differentiated them. This means we ALL did a phenomenal job and I just got lucky to be the one with the highest score. It is my greatest hope that all the pentathlon entrants feel a great sense of satisfaction of their accomplishment. Many congratulations to THL Gunnarr Alfljot, THL Heodez De Talento Minotto, and Lady Lynette de Warenne for their amazing achievement! And hoobah to all the Kingdom A&S competition entrants and to the competition organizers — especially Master Philippe and Mistress Crespine — to whom I am so grateful!

I’ve been asked if I will enter the Pentathlon again, and while I cannot see into the future, I suspect I will not. Why? Because as the Pentathlon Champion, I feel my role is to motivate and inspire others to pursue their ideas and enter the A&S competition. I’d like to see others enter and win, and as the Pentathlon is comes down to a competition between the entrants, I would not want to inadvertently stand in anyone’s way of winning. Honor before victory is more than the name of this blog.

To that end, I intend to shine the spotlight on other artisans in our Kingdom. There are so many amazingly talented people and I want to get to know them better and share their talents with the Middle Kingdom and Knowne World! Over the next year, I’ll be focusing more on these inspirational people, learning about their arts and sciences, and introducing them to you through my blogs (either here or over at, depending upon their field). Please bookmark my blogs and watch for links!

As for this year’s A&S projects, I have already posted the documentation for my pleatwork smock and my wooden doll over at, and my pleatwork research paper and 16th c. play will follow soon. I will also continuing the posting of my tutorials on the various projects. Thank you to everyone for your support, kind words, and encouragement!

My little beeswax talisman is not forgotten. It’s seen me through every fiber-related project I’ve done in this time. Somehow, I don’t know how, I’ve managed to avoid losing it. It’s a little worse for wear, but still works great! I think everyone who wants one should have one, and I’ll be making beeswax ornaments and talismans for fellow artisans I see doing wonderful things, whether it be at a display, competition, class, or simply somewhere out there. So don’t be surprised to see a little beeswax feather or winged heart find its way to you!

Children in the SCA: An Introduction for Newcomers

1 June 2012

[I’m working on adding information to The Barony of Cynnabar’s Newcomer page, and this is the first of several short and sweet articles I intend to write. – Genoveva]

Our children will lead tomorrow’s Society, and we encourage them to join in the fun today! It’s possible for most children, depending on their age and interest level, to participate in nearly every aspect of what we do in the SCA. The Society is not only a fabulous way to do fun things with your children, but it’s a tremendous learning opportunity for them as well. Yet it’s important to stress that the SCA is a family activity — most everything you’ll do together with your children under your direct supervision. Here’s a brief overview of how you can get your children involved and find their own special place in an SCA group:

Alexander in his pirate garb!

Garb (Clothing) — Dressing in medieval and renaissance-styled clothing is one of the best ways for your child to get into the mindset of “historical recreation.” I urge you not to make the mistake of thinking they won’t want to “dress up” or “they’re just kids, no one will care.” A simple tunic works for both girls and boys, and is easy and inexpensive to make — the tunic can go right over their normal clothes for convenience and comfort. If you’re interested in costuming, get your kids involved in choosing clothing they’ll enjoy wearing and picking out colors and fabrics. When I asked my son what he might like to wear if he were “in the old days,” he answered, “a pirate!” So together we settled on Elizabethan-era clothing of a doublet and breeches. He picked out the materials and even created the trim with tablet weaving (a new craft to learn!). He wears his garb with pride, and looks amazing!

Garb Tip #1: I made my son’s garb a little big, so he’s still able to wear it a year later and I estimate he still has a couple more years left before he outgrows it and we pass it on to a younger member.

Garb Tip #2: You don’t have to have lots of outfits for kids — you’ll notice Alexander wears his gold doublet in most of his photos. Kids are generally content to wear the same garb to events, and may take comfort in familiarity of it. Just be sure you can wash their garb in some manner, as kids get dirty! My son’s doublet isn’t machine washable, but the white shirt he wears is … and I wash it a lot!

Beading at Fall Coronation

Arts & Crafts — I don’t know about your kids, but my son ADORES arts and crafts. And the SCA is the perfect place to learn and try new crafts because we’re all researching and trying out handicrafts of all types. Many events will offer crafts for kids to do — things my son has made in just the last six months include a wooden pirate ship, an ornament, a leather pouch, marbled paper, cookies, spinning top, hammered copper, beaded favors, heraldic devices, and a working catapult! Check the Children’s Activities on an event’s schedule to find out what might be available. You can also do historical arts and crafts right in your home or local group — good projects for children include painting, tablet weaving, cooking, and embroidery. Kids may even be able to enter some arts & sciences displays and competitions, including the Youth Craftmens Faire and Prize Tourney in the spring and fall.

Craft Tip #1: If you’re going to an event without formal kids activities, bring along a craft box with historical crafts. I like to keep a craft box filled with clay, beads, and period games (such as pick-up sticks), all of which are easily obtainable at stores.

Alexander's boffer axe

Martial Arts — SCA “combat” is considered a Western martial art, and youths ages 6-17 can get involved in what’s called “boffer” combat. Boffers are padded lengths of PVC plastic with handles, allowing kids to learn combat techniques without being harmed. Kids have armor requirements like the adults, though their rules differ and less armor is required. You can get inexpensive armor by purchasing things like street hockey helmets from a used sporting goods store. If you’re interested in youth combat, ask your group’s Knight Marshall about how to get in touch with a Youth Combat Marshall and start learning!

Fencing — Youth ages 6-17 can also fence in the SCA!  From age 6 to 13, youth use plastic swords that cost about $20, and the same armor otherwise as an adult (gorget, mask, etc) — local fencing groups often will have youth loaner gear so children can first experience fencing for free. From age 14-17, they are allowed to use metal swords like adults, but only allowed to fence youth-approved adult fencers or other youths and are not allowed to participate in non-youth tournaments.  Again, fencing groups will usually have loaner gear for this age of youth also (since it exactly matches the gear for adults, just perhaps a bit smaller). [Information courtesy of Birke, Cynnabar’s Fencing Champion]

Archery — The Disney/Pixar “Brave” movie (summer 2012) brings a resurgence in kids’ interest in archery, and the SCA is a particularly good place to learn youth archery. A number of events encourage youth archery, which has an even lower barrier to entry than youth combat.

Service — A big aspect of being a member of the SCA is giving back to the community, and kids are encouraged to participate as well. Depending on their age, children can assist in group service and crafting projects, help retain for royalty and barons/baronesses, teach classes on arts and crafts they enjoy, and help other children feel welcome at meetings, practices, and events. My son, who is 7 at the time I’m writing this article, has done each of these things as proud member of the Barony of Cynnabar, from simply helping to keep a water cup full for someone who is otherwise occupied and painting shields for an upcoming war to teaching an embroidery class and folding brochures (and encouraging other kids into helping him fold said brochures). Your Kingdom may also offer a Page School to help develop leadership skills and promote the skills and knowledge of the Middle Ages, which is a fun (and recognizable) way for kids to contribute.

Alexander helping wrap presents at a group fundraiser

It’s important to note that there are responsibilities on the part of both the parents and the kids, but I consider them all basic common sense. Parents are responsible for the supervision, care, behavior, and well being of the children attending SCA activities at all times, minor waivers are required for minor children (they are available when you arrive at an event), etc. Children should only attend events with parental/guardian supervision, exhibit appropriate behavior at all times, and must be able to tell an adult their parent(s) SCA name, legal name, and where they can be found. Check with your Kingdom’s Minister of Youth for more details on their Youth Policy.

Putting together a puzzle at an event without organized kids activities

You may be wondering if your child will be interested in all this. I’ve experienced a wide variety of interest levels in children in the SCA, from “barely there” to “totally engaged.” The biggest common denominator in whether a child takes an interest appears to have a lot to do with their parent’s own interest level and encouragement of it in their child. If this is just “your thing,” and you’re dragging your kids along without any input or encouragement, it’s very likely they won’t enjoy themselves or be “bored.” If, on the other hand, you actively involve your children in planning activities, choosing events, packing, and helping out, you’ll find they are often active and engaged. That said, as children get older is a natural and healthy for them to seek our their own interests. Even in those cases, it’s healthy for children to experience “boredom” because it prompts them to seek out things, within their current context, rather than wait for you to entertain them. Don’t be afraid of boredom — it can lead to quite amazing things, given adequate supervision, of course. Teenagers can be a whole different scenario, and I don’t feel qualified to speak to that situation yet, so I encourage you to check out the SCA’s article on “Your Teenager and the SCA – Some Answers for Parents.”

I, for one, am over the moon happy about discovering the SCA and experiencing it with my son in the Barony of Cynnabar within the Middle Kingdom. It gives us quality time together doing something we both enjoy, it educates and stimulates his young mind, it teaches him how to behave around adults, it helps his interpersonal skills with other children, and it makes him feel involved in something bigger than our small family. I encourage all parents and families to get your kids involved in the SCA!

If you have questions about kids in the SCA, I’m happy to answer questions from a parent’s perspective, but please note that I am not a Youth Minister nor can I speak to SCA policy. Feel free to share this article with others (with proper attribution please).

My First SCA A&S Display Experience at Vikings Come Home

19 September 2011

I had a great time at Vikings Come Home XX (20) in Traverse City, MI this weekend. For the first time, I brought along a finished project (the blackwork favor I made for Gregor) to include in the A&S display at this event. I had a reasonable idea of what to expect, having read a lot of things online, though firsthand experience is always most helpful.

I arrived later than nearly everyone (a 4-hour drive on the morning of the event will do that) and was both the last pre-registered person to show up and the last person to set out their project in the A&S display. When I arrived at the display, I discovered that they were having a Jewel Competition for any project that had documentation — the idea is that folks could pick up a jewel from a pile and place them in little cups in front of a project if they liked it. I think this is called a populace bean count vote. I wasn’t aware they were doing this — I was just intending to put my project on display. So after I set up my favor on the table, I did not put out a cup. Besides, nearly all the jewels from the main pile were gone at this point — I saw only a few left to give out. No one was really around at this point, so I left to find my friends from Cynnabar.

My Blackwork Project at the A&S Display

When I came back by the A&S display about 30 minutes later, I discovered someone had put out a cup in front of my project and there were now two jewels in it. That made me feel really great! Someone liked my work! I wandered off, but later was nearby again for a demonstration of glass beadmaking (really excellent and fun!) and saw another person taking several photos of my work. Cool! I wish I could have spoken to people to see what they thought, but I’d never approach anyone. I was hoping to have the chance to talk about the project, and discuss the projects of other people, but I just arrived too late. I think at Pennsic you had the opportunity to sit down with your work and talk to folks who came by … I’ll definitely have to do that next year. I love talking to others — I learn so much from them.

By this point, it was almost time for court, so I came back to the display to collect it. As I approached the building, Lady Helena mentioned that Donnershafen’s Minister of Arts and Sciences, Lady Diamante da Berra, was looking for me. ‘Oops, I must be late picking up my project,’ I thought. But when I got to the display, I found her standing in front of my project, reading my documentation. She said she was really impressed with both my work and my documentation, and asked if she could keep the documentation, or if I could e-mail it to her. I gave it to her, of course. She also said that my project had collected five jewels, and that she wished she had more time to look closer at it. That was very kind of her! She indicated a red ribbon with a bead on it that she’d placed there as a token — how cool was that? That ribbon is going with my other SCA treasures.

All in all, it was a very positive experience, and I am eager to enter an A&S display again. The only thing I regret is not putting it out earlier, as I don’t think any of my friends of Cynnabar had a chance to see it (they’d visited the display earlier in the day), and I value their feedback highly. I would enjoy the opportunity to talk A&S more! That just means I need to go to more events, now doesn’t it?

Here is my A&S Documentation as a PDF (or, if you don’t want to view a PDF, look here) — I’d REALLY love any feedback anyone has to give on it, as I want to be sure I am doing it right. Thank you!