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.





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Making Yours the "Social" Event of the Season

How does one fill a hall, exactly?
Making an event happen, I mean really happen, is not simple or intuitive. I'm not talking about being an event manager or event steward, here. I'm talking about event promotion. I'm talking about getting your event in front of people who wouldn't see it without the power of the internet. Now, take away any possibility of an advertising budget. Now add in the additional hurdle of being a group of medievalists.

This is what we, in the SCA face on a daily basis. We have grand thoughts and ideas. We have things we think others will be excited about, but we don't always understand how best to get the word out to others about them.

Please note, not everything in this post is pertinent to every event. Some event stewards and social media deputies may choose to only implement one or two of the suggestions. However, even one or two of them is better than doing no event promotion at all. 

Let me start with a bit of background. Mundanely, I am a small business owner. I began 14 years ago with some cake pans and a website. I started reading and learning and learning and reading. I began to optimize my website for search engines. I eventually learned how to promote my business through various free media outlets. From 2015 - 2016 the gross sales for my business nearly tripled due to optimization and social media promotion. I also did event promotion for Wars of the Roses in 2016, hosted by the Barony of Concordia of the Snows in the East Kingdom. Our attendance was nearly 150% of the previous year's attendance (there were several other factors including weather and a new site, but the event promotion was also involved) I would like to share some of the knowledge that is applicable to the SCA with any and all who may be interested in promoting their own events. 

There's some terminology I'll be using throughout the blog. Below are some definitions to help get you through the basics. Please take note, these are basic definitions and are not necessarily a complete explaination of each item. If you would like additional information, there are many resources available on the internet. 
  • Server - this is where the data for your website will be stored, making it accessible to internet users
  • Host - to store data on a server
  • Platform - program that allows you to develop your website
  • Domain - the specific address for a website (www.eventname.org)
  • Public Domain - copyright-free media
Throughout this post, I am making an assumption that your local group has the following:
  • Group (barony, shire, canton, etc) website
  • Group Facebook page
  • Group Twitter account
  • Group Google + account
If you do not have any of these, discuss with your local group the best way to implement them. Don't forget to consult and follow the Society Social Media Policy as well as your Kingdom policy, if applicable, while doing so.

Now, let's get into the actual event promotion. As an event steward (or social media deputy, if applicable), the first thing to do is to determine if your event should have a website. Ask yourself the following:
  • Is my event a niche event, such as an immersion event, or an event aimed at a very specific group of members?
  • Am I expecting at least 100 attendees?
  • Is my event a Kingdom- or Society-level event?
If you answer "yes" to at least one of these, you should consider creating an event website. If you decide to proceed with an event website, do you want your website to be an "official" website, where you can put all of the necessary information, that will be hosted on your Kingdom's web server (this may not be applicable in all Kingdoms - contact your local or Kingdom webminister for more information)? Or would you prefer to have your site hosted on a private server? 

If you would prefer an "official" website, contact your Kingdom Webminister to determine which programs are compatible with the web server. If this sounds like gibberish to you, that's okay! Don't be overwhelmed! Your webminister will help walk you through what you need to know. 

If you would prefer an "unofficial" website, there are multiple platforms that allow you to host your site without paying hosting charges. I highly recommend Google Sites, as there are many free templates, and it's relatively simple to apply a specific domain to your website. 

PICTURES!!! You want pictures! All of the pictures! If your event is a niche one-off event, find pictures applicable to your event. If you're doing a viking event, find some public domain images of vikings and viking settings. If your event is a fighting event, work with a known photographer and get permission from them to use their photos on your website. The #1 rule to promoting your event is pictures. To reiterate, PICTURES!!!

Also, you want your website to be "mundane friendly." If you use a lot of SCA terminology, have a New To the SCA? page that explains what the heck you're talking about. 

Once you've created your website, make sure your event announcement on the Kingdom list of events is updated with your website. Be sure to put your domain multiple places in your announcement. More often than not, people will skim the announcement looking for specific information. You want people to see your website and go there...and see pictures! (see what I did there?)

While we're on the subject of Kingdom announcements, if your event is worthy of a webpage (see the 3 questions above), and you are located within a couple of hours of another Kingdom, get your event up on the other Kingdom's event listing as well. Often, people are interested in traveling to events in other Kingdoms. Your event may be just the thing to get them there. 

The next step is to create an event on your social media pages. Google + and Facebook both allow you to create events. Make sure to put a picture on the event page that will catch the eye. Also, make sure your event website is very easily found on the page. Next, invite all friends you think may be interested in attending. Share your events with your local group, surrounding groups, and your Kingdom group. Encourage others to invite their friends to the event as well. The more invitations that go out, the more people see your event. Additionally, be sure links to all of your social media sites are on your event website.

Now, for many events, particularly those hovering around the 100 person range, this is enough. However, if you're really interested in getting attendance, the next steps are crucial. 

At least once/week, create a post in the social media event pages sharing specific information. Are you having merchants? Highlight a merchant or two each week. Are you having court? Share the time court will be expected. Are you having dayboard? share a sneak peek of the dayboard menu (2-3 items are plenty). With each of these, make sure you include a photo and a link to the website. When you share your post with the Local and Kingdom groups, they are far more likely to be read if they have a picture, than if they do not.  If you do not have a Social Media Deputy in your local group, ask for a volunteer to handle these posts for you, as the task can become cumbersome when you're handling organizing the entire event. 

Timing for these posts is also important. Posting at 6am or midnight doesn't do you much good. Very few people will see it. You want to post during peak times: 8am, 12:30pm, 5:30pm, 8pm. Think about the times you're online the most: maybe before work, during your lunch break, after work, after dinner. These are the best times to post and get your post seen. Optimal time is from around noon - 6pm. These are the times you want the bulk of your posts to go out.

If you're interested in getting a large amount of newcomers find out if your local community has a community calendar that will allow you to add events. Many newspapers and local publications will offer these free to the community. Get your website on there! If you do this, please make it VERY clear that we are unable to accept credit cards at this time (if applicable).

This is the next big thing: get social media support from your local group members! When you share the event post on your personal page, local group page, and kingdom page, the exposure is limited. However, when others share the post on their personal pages, they significantly increase the chances of your post being seen by others. The more your posts are seen, the more intrigued and excited people will get about your event. 

The closer you get to your event, the more you want to post. If times change, post about it. If you're going to have visiting royalty, post about it. If the weather looks like it's going to be amazing, post about it. If it's going to rain, post about it, reminding people to bring an extra pair of socks or two. Anything that may affect your potential attendees deserves a post. 

If your event is a recurring event, be sure you have someone in charge of taking quality photos for next year's event promotion. Also, if you are able, have someone in charge of on site social media updates (don't forget the pictures!). Twitter is a particularly good platform for this. This may seem like a waste of time. I assure you it's not. Many people who were unable to attend this year will see the fun people are having and will be more likely to attend the following year. 

When I say, "Event promotion is not simple or intuitive," I truly mean it. There is a lot of information and it is not the easiest to manage. However, once you get the hang of it, it becomes much easier. I wish you the best of luck with your future events! If you have any additional questions on event promotion, I'm happy to share all of the knowledge I have in the area!

Bonus: Did you notice I used this blog post for event promotion? No? Look again! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Cookbook

Lord Joel of Vestfell, Feast Steward for The Feast of St. Nicholas in Queen Elizabeth's Court, researched, collected, and assembled recipes and sources for these recipes into a wonderful cookbook.  The list of dishes is below, along with a link to view and download a PDF of the full cookbook for those interested.

Many thanks again to Lord Joel and his team for their incredible work in preparing and presenting this amazing feast!

Grand Compound Sallat
Plum Porridge



1st Sitting 
“Sallat Course” 

Above the Salt 
Grand Compound Sallat 
Boiled Sallat 
Carrots and Parsnips Simple Sallat 
Preserved Sallat 


Below the Salt 
Compound Sallat 
Boiled Sallat 
Quelquechoses
   
Butter with holly leaves
and edible flowers
Carrots and Parsnips Simple Sallat 
Preserved Sallat 


2nd Sitting 
“Soup Course” 
Above the Salt 
Cony w/ a pudding in his belly 
Quelquechoses 
Plum Porridge 


Below the Salt 
Jacobins Sops 
Quelquechoses 
Plum Porridge 
Cony with a pudding in his belly
Artichokes & bread


3rd Sitting 
“Meat Course” 
Above the Salt 
Roast Venison w/ sauce 
To Bake a Mallard 
Lamb Carbinadoes 
Artichokes 
Roast Venison with sauce
Pork Carbinadoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts 
A dish of green peas 
Pottage of Cherries 


Below the Salt 
Roast Beef w/ sauce 
To Bake a Chicken 
Pork Carbinadoes 
A dish of green Peas 
 Pottage of Cherries 


Wardens in Conserve
Quince Jelly and Jumbles
4th Sitting 

“Banquetting Course” 

Quince Jelly 
Wardens (Pears) in Conserve 
Marzipan from Mistress Alesone 
Manus Cristi from Mistress Alesone 
Commits from Mistress Alesone 
Jumbles

The Cookbook

Photos: complements of Katie Morton and Sheena Johnson











Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Feast of a Kingdom

Four years ago, I had this idea about an Elizabethan immersion event, comprised of an all day feast with loads of entertainment! Three years ago, I started planning it. Bit-by-bit, pieces came together. Master Valentine agreed to be my Deputy. Lord Joel agreed to be our Feast Steward.Master Emerson agreed to be our Master of Ceremonies. From there, things came together beautifully.
The first project was making the feast tokens, the linen napkins and serviettes. Concordia truly stepped up here and made this happen as a community. All 58 of these were hand-hemmed by Master Emerson, Mistress Pakshalika, Lord Jonathan, Lady Janna, Jeremy, Lady Ruth, Master Magnus, Lady Finnguala, Lady Anne, Stephanie, Mistress Ose, and Lady Jacqueline. (I believe this is everyone. I apologize if I missed anyone.) Lady Ruth offered to embroider all of the above the salt napkins (and even insisted on doing them all after I told her our expected number had doubled!), and Lady Anne, Baroness Maria, and Mistress Heather Rose embroidered the below the salt napkins.
The next project was the invitations. The wording was done by Lady Katrusha, Master Emerson, and Mistress Heather Rose. The calligraphy was done by Mistress Heather Rose, and the illumination was done by Mistress Heather Rose, Lady Lorita, and Lord Faolan.
Master Valentine used his extensive network to reach out to experts from all over the kingdom to organize and cultivate our entertainments.
We began with His Excellency, Baron JP who organized the Duel between Lord Robert and Master Grim. Their seconds were Lord Mikulaj and Lady Elewys and the marshall was Master Caine.
Master Philip came up from Østgarðr to organize both the dance practice in the morning, and the ball in the evening.
Our instrumental musicians were organized by Mistress Sabine de Kerbriant of the Barony of Bhakail. Our Musicians were: Mistress Deonna von Aachen, Mistress Judith Fitzhenry, Master Kobayashi Yutaka, Lady Alison Winter, Lord Udalrich Schermer, Lady Ysabel da Costa, Lord Drake Oranwood and David the Creepy Bard. Our musicians hailed from Concordia, Østgarðr , Carolingia and Bhakail.
Our vocal artists were organized by Lady Sólveig Bjarnardóttir. Our artists were Lady Cecelia, Lord John, Lord Robert, Lord Drake, Lady Janna, Gwennen Mel, Sarah Byrd, and Margretta Wunderin, and Master Grim. Our vocal artists hailed from Concordia, Anglespur, Malagentia, Østgarðr
Our masque was organized and run by Catrin o'r Rhyd For of the Barony of Carolingia. Our Masque performers were Master Alexandre d'Avigne, Maester Gaius Quintillius Alopex, Duchess Thyra Eiriksdottir, Lord Gundormr Dengir, Lady Agnes Edith Godolphin, Margretta Wunderin, Mistress Cassandra Grey, Pomestnik Andreiko Eferiev, and Piero Quagliati. Our masque performers hailed from Principality of Insulae Draconis and Barony of Carolingia.
The games of chance were organized by Master Valentine and Master Grim, and run by Master Grim, with the assistance of Lord Robert. The prizes were painted by Mistress Heather Rose of Concordia and Thory Vedardottir of Carolingia. Words were done by one who wishes to remain anonymous. The gambling coins were designed by Baron Ian of Tadcaster from the Shire of Draca Mor.
Our phenomenal kitchen was run by Lord Joel, who truly earned the title of Feast Steward. While Joel had several metaphorical balls of fire launched at him, he and his persevering team made it through, and served up a feast that was not only delightful on the tongue, but also delisious to the eyes. His team consisted of Master Aethelhawk, Mistress Siubhan, Marion, Mistress Judith FitzHenry, Harvey, Magnus, Grim, Kelton, Aife, Jill Silver, Riva Silver, Phelan, Eloise, Maria, Finnguala, Emerson, Muirenn, Irene, Isobel, Duchess Thyra, Mistress Cassandra Grey, Lady Cecelia, Mistress Alesone Gray of Cranleigh, Anjuili and March, as well as some non-SCAdians: Pete's mom, Sarah Katz, and Chris Persans.
What would a feast be without staff to serve it? Our team of servers were Lady Finnguala, Lady Cecelia, Baroness Maria, Lord Temyl, Lord Robert and Lady Elowys, with help from Erik, Aidan, Ally, and Charlie. Special thanks to Erik and Aidan for being our Messengers for the day, we put them hard to work sending messages throughout the event site!
With the event being what it was, gold key was also something that needed serious consideration. Lady Katryne Morgant outfitted several people who contacted her prior to the event. and also helped to provide additional outfits for some who needed clothing at the door.
Gate was organized and run by Lady Anne, along with her team of Kevin Sibley, Eleanor Grey,  Aurelia Colleoni a'Buccaforno, and Elena de Los Libros
Our set-up team consisted of Master Emerson, Master Magnus, Lord Guy, Lady Rebekah, Lord Rhys, Lord Joel, Lord Harvey, Mistress Annastrina (Barony of Bergental), Lady Cecilia (Barony of Bergental), Mistress Pakshalika, and I'm sure several others who stepped in to help out.
Our tear-down team swept through and cleaned the entire building in less than 2 hours! I said we'd by out by 11, and we were! This is thanks to our amazing team, consisting of Their Excellencies, Baron JP and Baroness Lylie, as well as Sheena, Shane, Erik, Aidan, Master Grim, Lord Mikulaj, Lord John, Lady Janna, Master Emerson, Lady Isabel, Lord Harvey, Lord Joel, Lord Robert, Lady Elewys, Mistress Annastrina,
In all, the event had "staff" from Concordia, Anglespur, Østgarðr, Carolingia, Bhakail, Principality of Insulae Draconis, Bergental, Panther Vale, Shire of Quintavia, Malagentia, Stonemarche, Shire of Draca Mor, and Shire of Mountain Freehold.
To say "thank you" does not truly express the gratitude I have for all of these people, and the many others who supported this dream of mine. In particular, I would recognize Master Valentine for the amount of effort and time he dedicated to making this event everything it was, even through the time of growing his family. Additionally, I would like to recognize Master Emerson for his assistance, from my invasion of his personal library, to all of his expertise on etiquette and feasting, to his help with all of the set-up and tear-down of the event.
I am humbled by the graciousness and generosity of so many over the past few years of planning, organization, and execution. We as a Barony, and as a Kingdom made this event happen. So, again, I say a thousand times, thank you!
Humbly yours,
Lady Olivia Baker
Event Steward
The Feast of St. Nicholas in Queen Elizabeth's Court



Sunday, October 23, 2016

Every Journey Begins Somewhere

People often complement my garb and level of authenticity in it. I've heard people say they wish they could make garb like mine. I've heard people say they don't have the talent to make clothes like mine. However, I didn't start with this garb. It's taken years of practice, research, and more practice, to get where I am.

Let's start with a picture for some perspective, shall we? This is me just before I began in the SCA. When I began, I didn't know what a 16th century English woman would wear, let alone what fabrics or construction techniques she would use. I didn't know that linen and wool were the fabrics of choice. I had never even considered embroidering anything. To be quite frank, I didn't care know, either. I could sew a straight line with a machine, and I could darn a sock, but I did not hand-sew things by choice.

When I first joined the SCA, I joined as a "Rennie" (as we are referred to). I wanted a place to wear more fun Renaissance clothing. I was young and shiny, and knew nothing about the Society. After joining, I was given both positive and negative feedback on my clothing choices, among other things.. Very quickly, I realized there was more to the SCA than just wearing the clothing I love. I began to look through paintings. I began to read about fabrics, techniques, trim, accessories, etc....

I made gown after gown, researching more and more after each one - changing and improving, making each piece a little more accurate. I fell in love with the Armada Portrait and began working to put the pattern from the sleeves onto a red velvet stomacher (after learning what a stomacher is, of course).  I used couched bead-work to create the effect, though I didn't know that's what it was called until many years later. I did it because I though it looked cool. Would I make that same choice today? I'm not sure. I'd need to look into the fabrics and applications of patterns first. Though, with what I know now, I believe it is plausible, given: we know the pattern existed in period, velvets were used in period (though the one used here is synthetic - sometimes compromises must be made due to budgetary constraints), and couched bead-work is prevalent in the mid 16th century as well.

I continue to learn and grow, just as we all do. I am happy to share when I am able. I find teachers and students in nearly every person I meet.

The next time you look at someone and feel overwhelmed by the authenticity of their garb, or the terminology they use, or the knowledge of their art, or their skill with a weapon; remember they, too, started somewhere. They did not join the society as a Master, Mistress, Baron, Baroness, Duke, Dutchess, etc; they began as a bright-eyed, eager student, excited to do something that makes their heart light up. I bet if you ask them about their craft (whatever form it may take), their heart will still light up.

We love to share our crafts, and we share our crafts with love. 



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Lily and the Peacock

I am happy and proud to announce I have taken a student in the area of clothing research and construction. At Wars of the Roses, it was officially announced, Lady Anne de Basillon is formally my student. I have committed to impart my knowledge to her and to learn and grow with her.

If you see her doing something well, please tell us both. If you see something that may need improvement, please tell me. I thrilled about this next step in our relationship and excited to see what the future holds for us both. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What's in an Order?

I'd like to take a break from my regular crafting posts to talk about a subject I find important. I was having a discussion with a Peer of the Realm, the content of which is irrelevant at this point. In that conversation, we realized that a person we both felt was beyond deserving of a particular award, had not received said award. The conversation went something like this:
Peer: Wait does [person] have their [award]?
Olivia: Yes. I'm sure they do. Do they? It's not listed on the OP. Let me check the Wiki. No, it's not their either. And they keep their page very up to date.
Peer: How is that possible? I was sure they had their [award] years ago.
As I delved further into the matter, I discovered that the person in question was not well-liked by enough of the order to receive the support for the award. This, my friends, I find disconcerting. While the person in question can be quite abrasive at times, there is no denying, they are deserving of the award, based on the standards presented on the East Kingdom website. 

The more I thought about this, the more I thought about another conversation I had a year or so ago regarding someone who was receiving an award. This conversation went something like this:
Person A: Did you know [person B] is receiving their [award] at [event]?
Olivia: Oh? I didn't hear. That's wonderful! And certainly well deserved!
Person A: Uh, really? But they don't do anything to deserve [award]. They just do [thing].
Olivia: Actually, if you really look at what they do, they do [thing], [other thing], [another thing], [one more thing], and all of that is on top of the [thing] you mentioned. Given the parameters of [award], they're well within what is considered deserving.
Person A: Oh, yeah, I guess. I didn't really think about that. I just...well, I had a bad experience with [person] and I guess that sort of sways my opinion.
Now, to be clear, we're not talking about Peerages here. We're not talking about an award that requires specific personality traits to be found deserving. We are talking about Kingdom-level awards, which are typically presented based on merit, experience, etc. 

So, then, why? Why are so many of us so focused on our personal feelings that we would withhold an award from a deserving person? By the same token, when we do have strong negative feelings about people, why are we not keeping our personal feelings out of the discussion? These are merit-based awards. They should have very little to do with how well a person is liked. 

To that end, I ask you to truly consider each nominee based upon their merit. How is a particular award recipient defined? Does the nominee fit those parameters? If you don't feel the person is deserving of an award, is this because their work is truly not befitting? If you have a negative opinion of a person, is this truly the time to air those grievances? 

We should always remember, the words we use toward those not in our favor are a direct reflection upon ourselves. 

~O