Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It's okay to say "No"

Olivia's thought for the moment:

Often, when I ask someone a question, I follow it up with "'No' is an acceptable answer."
  • Would you be able to help me with this project? "No" is an acceptable answer. 
  • Do you have a few minutes we can sit and talk? "No" is an acceptable answer. 
  • Would you be willing and able to take on this role at this event? "No" is an acceptable answer.
I've been told it's unnecessary for me to say that. But is it?

Generally, we are a society of helpers and doers. We want to be helpful. We want to be useful. So, when someone asks us for something, we want to say "Yes." We battle internally for a reason to say "No."

While some may simply ignore my post-script, many others hear it. It's important to me that people understand I will not be let down or disappointed if they say "No." Being honest about what you are willing and able to give from the very beginning, helps to keep from being unable to keep those promises or commitments later on.

The next time someone asks you to do something, really think about it. Are you truly able to commit to this? Are you able to give this the attention it needs? Before answering, remember that "No" IS an acceptable answer.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Lily Pride Azure - Part 3: The Cognizance

Click here to read Part 2: The Gilding

There I was, sitting in the University at Albany library, with a stack of 12 or so books, and a picture in my head of what I was trying to find. The idea, as you may recall from Part 1: The Acquisition, was an overly ornate stomacher and forepart, with paned sleeves, an Elizabethan tall hat, and a train. I started with the first book, flipping through, scrutinizing each painting. looking at each detail of the gown: the overskirt, the forepart, the bodice, the partlet, the hat, the jewelry, the gloves. I looked at each detail, sure I would find documentation for this gown I had dreamed up. Painting after painting, book after book, and each time I found something resembling what I wanted, it was from late 1570's or later. I could not find a single picture with an ornate stomacher on a bodice from the 1560's. There were brocade or otherwise patterned jackets with adorned stomachers, paired with contrasting closed-front skirts. There were also split-front skirts with unadorned matching bodices.

Nothing. There was nothing that would document what I drew. I also quickly became cognizant of the fact that I do not own a single Court gown that actually fits my persona. I have to change every single Court gown I own, to make them accurate to my persona. Every. Single. Gown.

After closing the final book in my stack, and taking a moment to mourn this new realization, I picked up my pencil and began to redraw my gown. I took out the stomacher and replaced it with a triangular design of sharply contrasting trim¹, adorned with pearls and spangles. I also removed the tabs I had at the waist, as these were only seen on jackets. The Spanish sleeves also were removed. I added a 2nd layer of tabs at the shoulders¹. Finally, I added the same sharply contrasting trim from the bodice, to trim the split front and the hem of the skirt².

As this gown was being created for an event in the Barony of Concordia of the Snows, I designed the contrasting trim with a center bead and six beads surrounding it, as an allusion to the Concordian snowflake.

Next step: to create the remainder of the gown, in 5 weeks.

¹Roy Strong, The English Icon: Elizabethan & Jacobean Portraiture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969)
²Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (Oxford: Routledge, 2015), 113

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Immersive Interview

In April I was asked to assist Tacit Darby, and a team of individuals from the Middle Kingdom, with their project to compile information on immersion events. The plan was to collect interviews with people who have planned and executed immersion events, and compile  the data into a website to share with the Known World.

While the website has been put on hold, I'd like to share the article Tacit wrote up. Thank you to Tacit for her kind words and the work she did in putting this together. Hopefully many other immersion event stewards will be able to help with the information database!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Feast: Hall Layout

Several months prior to the The Feast of St. Nicholas, I invaded the library of Master G. Emerson True for information and sources. Having done a great deal of imagery research, I had an idea of how I wanted the Great Hall to feel, but I was lacking in layout specifics and sources. Master Emerson was invaluable in the planning and execution of the layout and service of The Feast.

After riffling through a great deal of books, I found the following excerpt, which perfectly described the picture in my mind.
Wooden trestles and boards... were laid out along one or both of the long sides of the Hall, while the high table stood on a raised dais at one end. At that table, the host and his family and special guests ate their meal.¹
The Banquet in the Pine Forest
Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)
As the expected guest count exceeded what we could accommodate with the borrowed trestle tables, we opted to use the trestle tables for the Above the Salt seating, and the more readily available plastic folding tables for the Below the Salt and off-board seating. For High Table seating, Lord Harvey Wynegoode offered us the use of his brand new 16th century tables for the event. As tables in Tudor times were more heavy and sturdy, due to the Lord's ability to remain in one castle for their tenure¹, these were perfect!

The musician's gallery was typically set in a balcony, or second level at the foot of the Great Hall, when one was available.² As our site was an old church, it was built to accommodate the musician's gallery.

While stools and benches would have been appropriate seating for such a feast, we did not have access to a large number of these. As such, we opted for the limited number of wooded chairs the site provided, for the High Table and Above the salt seats, and the plastic folding chairs for the remaining seating.

The kitchen at our site was located in the basement. Accordingly, we would need a formal staging area. This staging area is called the buttery.
At the far end, opposite the dais, was built the carved wooden screen, with its doors onto the screens passage. This passage led from the kitchen and the buttery to the Hall.¹
Boards were also used in service of medieval feasts¹. These would be laid out with the platters and covered bowls filled, with the bounty of beautiful board to be enjoyed by the guests These boards would be carried from the buttery to the head of the Great hall, and placed on trestles for service. As we had a limited staff and were concerned with the stability of trestles, we chose to place the boards on more sturdy desks.
The Peasant Wedding
Pieter Bruegel (1567)
¹C Anne Wilson, The Appetite and the Eye (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991)
²Maggie Black, Medieval Cookery: Recipes & History (Swindon: English Heritage, 2003)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Lily Pride Azure - Part 2: The Gilding

Click here to read Part 1: The Acquisition.

In Part 1 of our journey, we learned I was able to acquire 8 yards of blue cotton velvet, 3.5 yards of synthetic, but deliciously rich green and gold brocade, and approximately 1.5 - 2 yards of silk satin for the gown. While not all of these are period appropriate, the period correct fabrics are not currently in my budget. 

Most people might start with construction of the gown, when working on a project of this magnitude. Not I. Instead, I decided to start with the show piece. I cut a piece large enough for a stomacher, of the synthetic, but deliciously rich green and gold brocade with a medallion piece to embroider. I chose a cream silk embroidery floss (splendor silk) that matched the luscious wedding gown silk for the embroidery. I chose a split stitch for the design. Split stitch can be found in extant examples in Opus Anglicanum and is thereby, period-appropriate for 1560 England. 

About 1/4 of the way through the design, I decided the deliciously rich gold was not gold enough. It needed spangles. 

Now is the moment I will take to give a brief history/fashion lesson(ish): spangles vs. paillettes vs. sequins. This topic has plagued fashion historians for some time, as, from what I have found, there is no truly globally accepted, definitive definition for any of these terms. Generally, what I have found is "sequins" covers the gamut of small sparkly adornments which are individually attached to garments and other pieces of decorative fabric. Sequins can be metal or plastic; they can be round or square, or any other shape; they can be flat a faceted. Spangles are usually round, flat, and most often made of metal (again, this is not universal). Paillettes are also typically round and flat, but can be made of any material. 
 Back to the task at hand. I ordered spangles from Hedgehog Handworks (I'm so sad they're closing!). I ordered sizes #12 and #14. I decided to put #12's at the end points and #14's at the intersecting points. It was a ton of work, but also a ton of sparkle. And this project is ALLL about sparkle!!! The center medallion has approximately 20g of gilt paillettes. It was worth every hour of work, every stitch. 

My next step would be the trim. But, before I create the trim, I aught to determine how much I would be needing. So, I suppose it's time to create the gown. Though, if I'm going to be creating the gown, I may as well compile the correct documentation. (Yes, I realize how backward this is...now!) I suppose it's time for a trip to the University at Albany Library. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Lily Pride Azure - Part 1: The Acquisition

There is no denying my most recent project is a peacocking project. There is nothing subtle or subdued about this gown. It is, in fact, my most ostentatious piece. And, I love it.

As they say, the beginning is a very good place to start. for 4 years, I had plotted and planned an immersion Elizabethan feast event. I knew I wanted to create a new outfit to showcase at this event. It had to be amazing. It had to be blue, preferable with white and gold, as those are our Baronial heraldic colors. It would be a work of art. 

I had a general idea in my mind of the design I wanted. (I wish I had taken pictures of the many, many sketches and modifications I made to this gown throughout the process. There were SO MANY iterations.) From the onset, the idea was an overly ornate stomacher and forepart, with paned sleeves, an Elizabethan tall hat, and a train. I know, you're thinking, "that's definitely not what's pictured" and you're right. That was the first iteration. We'll talk more about this later. 

So, off I went to find fabric. First and foremost, let's talk about the correct fabric choices. From my 9 SCAdian years of knowledge accumulation, I've determined silk, wool, and linen were the primary fibers used in 1560 England. (For sources, open any book that discusses Elizabethan clothing, agriculture, merchant trade, etc.) I also know brocade and velvet fabrics were available at the time. ** Through my travels I determined silk velvet ($18.00/yard was the least expensive I found it), and silk brocade ($52.00/yard in a pattern and color I liked) were not possible. That said, If you have never had an opportunity to pet silk velvet, you absolutely need to do this. Trust me. 

Moving on, I was gifted some stunning green (acrylic?) velvet by Mistress Annastrina, with whom I am apprenticed. I absolutely love it, but it isn't the blue I was hoping for. So, I kept putting off the gown. And putting it off. And putting it off.... I got a message one day from a friend who was heading to an estate sale. Though, this was not just an estate sale. It was an estate sale for a civil war costume shop (bare with me here) that was going out of business. Well, if anyone was going to have the fabric at an affordable price, it would be them. Upon my arrival I immediately bypassed the 30 or so other bins of fabric, and headed straight for the lone velvet bin. They had brown, red (nope, I don't need to buy more red. I have plenty of red!), navy. I took out the navy to see how much there was. It was still not the ideal color, but we were now 4 months from the event and I NEEDED to start making this gown. There were only 4 yards of navy blue. I was sad, nearly defeated. There was an extra piece of brown under the blue. It seemed to be on the bottom. I picked it up to confirm.

There. Under the brown. A small bundle of a brilliant cobalt blue. This would surely not be enough to make a full gown, but I was once again hopeful. I took this 3 yard segment out of the bin. Then, the next bin over was labled "scrap velvet" THERE! More of the blue! a 4 yard "scrap" and a 1 yard scrap! This would be enough! I would make this work! I was, of course, hoping for 10-12 yards to make an appropriate fullness of my skirt. However, I would take the 8 yards and be happy. 

The next fabric I needed was that for my stomacher and forepart. I ventured out to Springfield, MA to head to Osgood's. After an hour and a half walking through the warehouse, I made my way to the clearance bin. I pawed through lots and lots of different bins until I came across this green and gold bundle of some kind of synthetic, but deliciously rich chenille and satin brocade. I picked it up  and said, This doesn't go at all, but I want to embroider and bead this like crazy! Mistress Annastrina, who had come on the trip with me, replied, "Why doesn't it go? Ignore your modern sensibilities for a moment. Put some white embroidery on it, and white trim on the gown. It will go beautifully." I thought to myself, "You know, I think she might be right!" 

The only thing left, fabric-wise was the trim. How fortunate am I to have such a kind and generous Laurel! She had a vintage cream silk wedding gown she was planning to use to trim her gown and said I could have a chunk of it for my gown as well! 

So, I had acquired 8 yards of blue cotton velvet, 3.5 yards of synthetic but deliciously rich green and gold brocade, and approximately 1.5 - 2 yards of cream silk. The total cost for all of this was around $40.00! 

Now, the real challenge would begin!

Click here to read Part 2: The Gilding.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Art Before the Artist

We did this thing at The Feast of St Nicholas in Queen Elizabeth's Court back in December that I think some in the bardic community may like and some may not. Regardless, I would like to share, as it was so incredibly well received by the attendees.
The event was an immersion Elizabethan feast. The setting was a reclaimed church (think cathedral). We wanted to provide the full atmosphere and allow performers a chance to make music in this amazing space. To that end, we offered the musicians and vocalists an opportunity to perform in the church's balcony. While it was not bardic performance, per se, it was indeed performance. The focus was on the music instead of the performer.
The comment I received the most about the event (other than the comments about the amazing food) was, "The music was perfect! It wasn't intrusive and it added to the atmosphere. We were able to enjoy the performances (instrumental, choral, and solo vocal) without having to stop everything we're doing." Many of the people attending this event were not necessarily involved in or even interested in the bardic community. However, many of them expressed a new found interest.
As bards, we often enjoy presenting our art in a way that garners us immediate gratification and validation from our audience. However, sometimes we should consider how to expand our audience, itself. Sometimes, making it about the performance instead of the performer is the better choice.