moar projects!

So the longest-term project in my crafting life lately has been the red dress.  This is a red wool dress that was made at the last minute the night before an event and, well, looked like it.  Last June I picked it apart and started the process of careful measuring, cutting, and all that to put it back together (100% hand sewn, silk thread, bone needle).  I also made google drawings of my body measurements and of the shapes I cut for the kyrtel, so that I’d have a record of what I did and how well it worked.

Well, last night I finished everything but the hem and tried it on.  It’s tight, but it fits, and looks a zillion times better than last time.  There are things I want to finesse about this pattern (a pretty standard Nockert Type I  garment, with the shoulders cut in a bit), and there are a couple places where my sewing did not do exactly what I wanted it to, but overall I am very pleased with it!

I had originally intended to jazz this dress up with tons of Viking-style embroidery based on the Mammen finds, but I’m reconsidering that plan.  For starters, the dress isn’t perfect enough for me to want to spend  THAT much time on the embroidery – and I was figuring a LOT of embroidery!  I think I’ll do some simpler embroidery designs on the dress, and will probably do something pretty elaborate on my Jorvik hat, but I think I’ll leave the red dress alone at least for now.

Instead… MOAR PROJECTS!  I am torn between doing another Nockert Type I garment in hopes of perfecting the pattern, and doing a St. Francis tunic as described by Alianor, which has the advantages of (she says) producing a perfect 13th c. silhouette – and, as you will note, NO DAMN CENTER GORES!  (I am contemplating cutting all my future gowns that have center gores all the way up the front to avoid inset gores, since I simply cannot get them right.)

I dunno.  What do you think I should work on?


on persona development

When I first joined the SCA I wanted to be ‘something celticy’ and ‘early’ ( before 1066 when being ‘celticy’ became less pleasant).  I ended up choosing to be Welsh, and went along having fun, and somewhere along the way decided I cared about authenticity, when I realized how difficult it was to know much about daily life in Wales that early.

Happily, I found a time when  I could be Welsh, but not completely oppressed: 13th century!  Sharon Kay Penman’s fabulous historical novels might have had some impact here, plus Galeran’s persona is also 13th c., so it all works out nicely!  🙂  But you’ll find a number of 13th c. Welsh personas, because it’s about the only time where you know something of your period AND live under a native Welsh prince: Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, called Llywelyn Fawr (‘the Great’) – for more about him, go to the google.

So, 13th c., Welsh… what else?  Well, I already have ‘Llanaelhaearn’ as part of my name – Llanaelhaearn is a small cantref near the northwest coast of Gwyneddd.  Llywelyn and his court also lived in Gwynedd – as did his children!  Those children traveled and married outside of Wales, which gives me a great opportunity to meet this French musician….

So, Rhieinwylydd’s story: my mother was Gwerydd Wen (‘Gwerydd the Fair’), and she was a pretty but not particularly high ranking person.  She caught the eye of Einion, the lord of Llanaelhaearn (not a historical person), very early in the 1200s.  Gwerydd was Einion’s common-law wife (a fairly usual practice in Wales at this time) and I am the result!  Einion brought Gwerydd with him when he traveled to Llywelyn’s court; he made a politically advantageous marriage there but did not give up his relationship with my mother entirely (however, our position at court was somewhat lessened).

In 1207, Siwan (aka Joan/na), Llywelyn’s wife, had a baby girl, Elen.  My mother had lost a baby boy around the same time and so became Elen’s wet nurse.  I was around four or five at the time, and helped my mother care for Elen.  I was very fond of the princess and she seemed fond of me as well. We remained close as we grew older and I was appointed one of her ladies in waiting (possibly my father influenced this choice).  As the daughter of the Welsh monarch, Elen was married an English lord, John de Scotia.  He died without issue and Elen then married Sir Robert de Quincy – another Englishman.  So you see how a nobleman’s bastard daughter from a tiny village on the coast of Wales traveled to England and sometimes had opportunity to visit France!

Someday I might go through and draft answers to all the questions at about persona development. But not today. 🙂

What about you? How much do you know about your persona’s history?

In which Galeran earns a spiffy accolade (and a lot of hard work)

Version the Short: I had the good fortune to claim victory at An Tir’s recent Kingdom Bardic Championships. Now I get to wear a big cloak and carry a shiny horn in court, and more importantly, have the responsibility to perform and teach the art of performance throughout the Kingdom for the next year. You can find some lovely photographs of the event by Talentus here.

Version the Long: I had been strongly considering entering this year’s Kingdom Bardic competition ever since last March, when my single entry of Cantiga 322 on harp and voice was so well received by the judges.  I generally dislike competitions in the Arts and Sciences, as I don’t feel that these activities are inherently competitive (topic for a different post), but at the same time there’s a lot to recommend this particular competition.  For one, the judging is highly informed and thorough, and the general skill of the competitors is quite high, so the event is a real pleasure to attend. For two, and more importantly, the position of Kingdom Bard is highly visible and provides the ideal position from which to encourage performers and foster more interest in the Bardic Arts.  I decided that I wanted that particular job and duty, and thus submitted my intent to compete last December.

I’m glad that I did submit that intent, as An Tir seems to have many great performers, but few performances.  This competition was a case in point, as there were only four entrants in the competition (and only two competing for overall best), but more than ten highly competent individuals serving as judges.  Had I not entered, the title would have gone uncontested, and that’s not a healthy thing. I’m not really sure what’s driving the phenomenon, but I’ve rarely encountered music, storytelling, theatre and so forth at An Tirian events, particularly in any organized fashion.  The problem is definitely not a lack of talent, but it may be a lack of encouragement or a dearth of appropriate venues. I hope to work to improve this over the coming year.

In any case, I performed three pieces at the event: the 14th century istanpitta “Tre Fontane” on alto recorder, the 13th century trouvère reverdie “Volez-vous que Je vous chant” on harp and voice, and one of my few SCA bardic compositions, “Laurel Green, Laurel Fair” for harp and voice.  The first two were for the formally judged rounds, the third was for populace’s choice.  The first two received very high marks from the judges, though I really wasn’t that happy with my performance of Tre Fontane.  It is a very difficult piece and some stumbles are almost inevitable, but I had performed it much better in practice.  So it goes. The last piece won the populace’s choice award, and clearly resonated with much of the audience, as I had hoped.

On day two of An Tir’s competition, (yes, it is two days long) each finalist repeats one of their performances for a much larger audience that includes the royalty as well as people that are primarily in attendance for the concurrent Kingdom Arts and Sciences competition.  I reprised the trouvère song (which is better suited to the SCA bardic tradition, more universally accessible and the stronger of my two performances) and definitely nailed it.  I’m very happy with my arrangement of the piece and I performed it as well as I ever have. The grill session after the performance also went well (I’ll chalk it up to the combination of my experience defending a Ph.D. thesis, and the rosewater wafers and hazelnut milk with which Rhi plied the judges).   My challenger Jahnkin de Leeuw chose a Gregorian chant as his final entry and performed exceedingly well.  I was particularly impressed with his control of pitch and tuning  . . . his chosen piece required completely exposed, very long notes. I couldn’t have held such tones nearly as constant as he did!  Still, for better or worse the judges chose my entry for the top prize, and in the closing court I received the cloak and horn of the  Kingdom Bard to wear and keep for the coming year.

I’m still planning out what I’d like to do with the position, but I’m certain that I want to encourage a lot more performances in a variety of genres.  That will certainly involve running some bardic circles and performing in court, but I’m also hoping to showcase some other folks and to insert music into some places where it isn’t as commonly encountered, such as tournaments.  I’d also like to build a greater community of performers, but I may end up with some challenges there due to a potential major division between (self-classified) bards and musicians that I’ll discuss in a subsequent post.

I’ll close with a question for any gentle readers who care to comment.  With respect to the performing arts in An Tir, what would you like to see happen in the coming year? My ear is open to you, and there’s no better position from which to spark some change in that area than the one I now hold.

Monthly Makers

I Keep. Wanting. to DO. Things.  Make things. Work on things.  Talk about things.  And it just doesn’t happen.  I do better with company, for starters; I also need variety.  I don’t have time for a C&I night, sewing night, music night, etc. every week or month.  Too much.  I think it’s too much for everybody else, too, and we lose focus.

I was also reflecting recently that if I were brand new to the SCA and lived in my shire, I would be feel a little lost.  Fighter practice is hard to just jump into, you need so much prep in terms of gathering equipment, and it’s not a practice super focused on teaching, it’s a… PRACTICE.  (Note this is not a criticism of the way things are – practices are important!  Just observing.)  We have dance practice, which is much easier to jump into as a newbie, but it’s also a fairly limited focus.  What if you want to do other stuff? Where do you start?

SO.  Thing of the month club, voila!  My goal is to host or coordinate a get together – with THEME – once per month.  It will be different every month.  It will be a different time every month, depending on schedule.  It will NOT be a class, it will be a general get together for working/chatting/sharing knowledge/asking questions, but nothing super formal.  It might be a sewing day; it might be a charter painting party; it might be a potluck dinner party where we all bring a dish from a single period source; it might be a bardic circle or period music night (note the same :)… etc.  But it will be scheduled, I will do it whether anyone else shows or not, and it’s open to anyone.

If you’re interested, please join the google group:  I’m thinking the first meeting will be the last weekend in March, leaning towards a C&I day but that’s TBD.  Hope there’s interest! 🙂

catching up

I have been so busy running around with events and whatnot that I have not posted about twelfth night!  Or more specifically, that I’m a protege now….

I’ll try to keep this relatively concise (not my strong point); but last summer I talked with Vicountess Nadezhda Volynskaiia about becoming her protege.  I think she was a little surprised (the look on her face when I brought it up was pretty awesome!) but we spent several weeks chatting on and off about different pieces of it and eventually decided to go forward with it.

Before I go on, I should say that there are a lot of really awesome peers (pels and otherwise) around here.  I approached Nadezhda because a. she’s not primarily a herald (I want to branch out, if I can ;), b. she does a lot of stuff that I want to do more of (officer, event staff type stuff), c. I like her!  As our conversations continued, it was important to me that we saw the fealty relationship in pretty similar ways and had similar expectations.  I also like that she’s such a straightforward person; I am never worried about not getting honest feedback from her.

ANYWAY.  We had our ceremony at Twelfth Night; for our contract, we ended up using a text almost identical to that recently drafted by my dear friend Master Nikulai Ivanovich of Atlantia.  He and Nadezhda both have Russian personas so the text he had drafted was extra appropriate!  Fortune verch Thomas did some really fabulous calligraphy to write out our contract, and everyone who witnessed our ceremony also signed it.  I really like how so many people who are an important part of my SCA journey were able to be a part of this!

Protege ContractThrough this my certificate I, Rhieinwylydd verch Einion Llanaelhaearn, in presence of these witnesses, in good faith and without duplicity do pledge my fealty as protégé unto Nadezhda Volynskaiia, Companion of the Order of the Pelican and Viscountess of An Tir.

I hereby give myself to your service, saving only those responsibilities which I bear to my family, to my career, to my Shire, to my Principality, and to my Kingdom.  I promise to study and faithfully apply myself to the development of my skills in service and in the courtly graces; and seeing misfortune and grief and to all needy, if it is possible, to help them; to learn not to steal, not to lie, not to slander, not to offend, not to malign, not to remember evil; to greaters be obedient, to equals loving, to lessers and the wretched be welcoming and kind.

And I, Nadezhda Volynskaiia, for my part promise to honor and respect you in word and deed; to teach you those skills which I might possess; to provide you counsel and to listen when you provide me the same; to provide support, opportunity and guidance for all your endeavors; to learn from you as much as I give; to provide you friendship; and to safeguard you in our mutual friendship.

This certificate to be reviewed yearly on the occasion of An Tir’s Twelfth Night, and to stand as long as we both shall agree, until the Monarchs demand your fealty directly, else as long as the world should stand.

Given certificate in the Barony of Adiantum, in the month of January on the 253rd day of Anno Societatis 45 (being the 8th day of the year 2011 C.E.)

My copy is framed and hanging on the wall by the staircase, so I see it several times a day and can be reminded of the promises I made and also of all those who signed in witness and support.  It’s… pretty cool.  To say the least!

And I’ve been a protege all of about six weeks now.  Mostly, it hasn’t made much difference – I had plenty of drive and motivation beforehand, and all that.  I am more conscious of what I say and how I interact with others, knowing that my deeds reflect on Nadezhda as well.  I have had a couple people act differently around me, or make specific mention of my fealty relationship when introducing me… which is another reminder, so not a bad thing.  So far I like it fine – only thing is I think I may have a heart attack whenever Nadezhda is called before TRM.  Hopefully that fades before too long!

aphrodisiac feast

Having finished the embroidery project, I am now deep into planning mode for my upcoming event, The Battle of Coeur du Valentine’s. Because I am CRAZY  (and because no one else would do it), I am both event steward and head cook.  I was worried it wasn’t going to come together for a few days but I did some fast (and somewhat superficial) research and I’m feeling better about the whole thing at this point.

Since it’s a valentines day themed event (sort of…) I am planning a feast of medieval aphrodisiacs!  I had two good sources that helped me figure those out… the book Eating Right in the Renaissance by Kenneth Albala, and the Tacuinum Sanitatis (Medieval Health Handbook).  Medieval food and health were very much linked, and the whole concept draws on the theory of the four humors, which is much older than the middle ages; goes back to Greek medicine, primarily Galen.  I did read some Galen, for background, but the Albala was probably the most helpful for giving me the theory.

As I understand it, while the ‘sanguine’ (hot and moist) humor is the one that produces the desire to reproduce, in the end all nutrition leads to sperm production.  And it is definitely about reproduction, not about pleasure!  The Tacuinum in fact ‘defines’ coitus as ‘the union of two for the purposes of introducing the sperm,’ and says that the optimal kind is ‘that which lasts until the sperm has been completely emitted’ and that it is useful because ‘it preserves the species.’  There’s romance for you!

You’ll notice this is rather male-focused… well, so were the middle ages, and it never seemed to be a concern whether the female was sufficiently ‘in the mood.’  I am guessing this is both because reproduction can happen whether she is or she ain’t, and because much of the medieval mindset was that women were too lustful anyway.  So don’t encourage them, right?

ANYWAY.  While some foods are more better (that’s a technical term) for instigating sperm production, all nutritious food preserves the body and leads to sperm production.  ‘Nutritious’ here basically means meat over veggies, and processed over raw.  But a feast of spam wouldn’t really appeal to the modern palate ;)… so for my feast, I’m focusing on the following: foods identified in the Tacuinum as aphrodisiacs, foods identified as being of hot and moist humors, hot and moist cooking methods, animals/meats that are known for fecundity (‘you are what you eat’) and spices that ‘fire the blood.’  My tentative menu (which may be cut to fit the budget once I do my price-checking) follows; I’ve tried to identify why each item is included.  Feedback is welcome!

  • On the table
    • red grapes (H&M)
    • olives/garlic/salt (garlic=A, salty foods whet all sorts of appetites)
    • a truffled (A) liver (H&M) pate based on mortrews, served with crustrolles
  • First course
    • pottage of chickpeas (A)
    • blanched asparagus (A,HM) with pinenuts (A), onions(A) and new cheese(HM) (my least medieval recipe – blanched asparagus with herbs is documentable, but this gets all the other bits into it)
    • chicken with cameline sauce (fire the blood with spices)
  • Second Course
  • Third Course
  • Intercourse: a salad of watercress(A,H&M), herbs(A), nasturtiums (A), pine nuts (A) with a pomegranate (H&M) and olive oil (H&M) dressing
  • Dessert: Marzipan balls (you are what you eat) – plus almond oil=A

Due to time constraints, I’m using many already redacted recipes, which is sort of a bummer… also, I don’t think I’m going to get the paper that I wanted for this written, but I might do it later.  Or I might just summarize and let people enjoy a tasty feast!  …so, do you think it sounds tasty?  And based on my summary do you think it gets the ‘aphrodisiac’ concept across?


not so sekrit project

Someone poked me a while ago for not posting recently.  Well, I didn’t want to post about what I was working on, since it was a surprise.  But now it’s done, and you are welcome to go look and review and offer comments!

In fact, I really hope you will offer comments.  I put a lot of thought into making this a period-appropriate piece, and since the Embellisher’s Guild sponsored a competition at 12th Night, I entered it there before giving it away as planned.

Total. Waste. Of. Time.  I got the feedback ‘love this pouch! you do great work!’  No comments on my two pages of documentation (i.e. about a page and a half more than most folks), on how well I did approximating a period piece/not, no responses to the various ‘things I wish I could change/want to learn more about/need more practice in’ section.  Srsly.  What was the point of entering?  Extra frustrating given that this has been my experience in almost every A&S competition I’ve ever entered.  How am I ever going to improve if no one does anything but blow smoke up my ass?

Oh well.  They just extended the deadline for single entries at Kingdom A&S, so I have until the end of the week to decide if I’m up for having it there.  A little nervous – that might be the other end of the spectrum and more than I want to deal with.  Thoughts?

(Ohyeah.  And I’s a protegé now.  Which is why I’m posting all about art stuff. 🙂 )