Monthly Archives: May 2014

Hell and Heaven

We all know that artists are their own worst enemies and some of us are worse than most. For a lot of months now, I have lacked that excitement, that wow factor about something I had created. I’ve made a bunch of good stuff (some, very good) but nothing that has made me want to simply hold a finished piece. It almost didn’t happen tonight either.

I have been working on some drinking cups that will fit & function nicely in the SCA. Now that I think on it, my first SCA related project was a cup. A selection of folks were gathered around the Marchmount table & someone asked if I could make a wooden cup. I said, “I don’t know. Let’s find out” and proceeded out to the shop and a short while later returned with a goblet-like thing that now belongs to Lady Ailis.

Anyway, tonight I had a beautiful piece of freshly cut ash on the lathe. The grain was nicely figured and had great promise…until I started working it. The stuff Would. Not. Cut. Cleanly. I sharpened my gouges. No love there. I honed the cutting edge to a mirror polish & took the lightest cut I could. Figured ash doesn’t care. Figured ash does what it wants. I kept going, doing my best and resigning myself to a future filled with much sanding.

Working on the inside was even worse. I tried every hollowing tool in my arsenal to no avail. The torn out grain was so bad that in spots, I could see light coming through the walls. No happiness in Einar-Land could be found. Realising this cup was no longer going to work out the way I wanted, I grabbed a gouge & cut the top half of away.

Lo and behold, the wood cut cleanly. Like, so cleanly that surface shimmered in the light. At this point I could only assume that Loki was up to usual mischievous self, playing with my hands and mind.

Another pass with the gouge…brilliance.
I move to the bottom of the piece, searching for the perfect curve that had alluded me so often in the recent past. And to my utter amazement, there it was; a perfect, sensual, organic curve that pleases the eye and thrills to the hand. (looks over his shoulder, no sign of any of the Norse gods except Odin. I couldn’t tell if he was winking at me or dozing off). Well…damn.

I returned to the newly established upper portion of the piece, determined to continue that precious, delightful curve towards the top, gently travelling in towards the centre. Success.

Now I had to turn my attention back to the inside. It continued to scoff at my efforts to make it clean and fair. In desperation, I picked up my detail gouge to try and get a decent surface. It wasn’t perfect by any means but, it was easily sandable (I know, not a terribly period technique but back in the middle ages, turners didn’t use lathes with 2hp motors, electronic variable speed and 600lbs of Australian iron either).

After I sanded the entire piece, including wet sanding with tung oil on the outside, I stepped back. I was happy.

Parting this cup off the lathe I was left holding it. I checked every surface under different kinds of light, looking for flaws, touching it, checking the curves and proportions. It was…perfect.

I wonder whether a little cup like this will have commercial appeal. It ought to hold about 250ml so it’s hardly big enough for a cider or even a coffee. Scotch perhaps? (I doubt that because scotch aficionados are rather particular about their drinking vessels). For now, it is going to rest with me so I can enjoy it. Maybe I will use it as a mead cup at Pennsic. I don’t think I will sell it because to out a price tag on it would…demean it somehow. Perhaps, I’ll leave it lying around somewhere on Runestone Hill with a note attached to it. I’ll ask the finder to care for this simple cup; to use as his/her own as it certainly now is and just ask that they pass it on to someone special.

Yes, I think that will work nicely.

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Einar goes to war!

This post is a little on the long side so, brace yourself. In fact, go make a sandwich or two and then come on back. I’ll wait for you…

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All set now? Cool, let’s go….

Gulf Wars, a war with no enemies, was held from March 9th until March 16th this year in Lumberton, Mississippi. There was a strong contingent of Ealdormerians making the trek to support our friends, The Kingdom of Trimaris in the war effort. I decided to tag along for the first time.

Now before I go any further, I need to tell you good gentles, that I have lost the notes I made while on site. As such, I’ll probably miss a few things and may even mess up what happened on what day.

I was part of a two-vehicle caravan for the 18+ hour drive. In the lead was Master Dafydd ap Sion, THL Jocelyn Roget de Cranewell and THL Brendan Hunterson. (we lost one of our merry band before we left Toronto but that is not my tale to tell). I was in charge of bringing up the rear; no easy task with Mr. Sulu driving the lead car and Scotty pushing the engines to beyond maximum warp! Have you ever driven from Ontario to Mississippi? Spoiler alert, it’s a bloody long way! We did it over 2 days and it was largely uneventful. We did play “tourist” on day 2 by visiting a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Tennessee. The woodworker in me was intrigued by the designs and use of simple, understated woods.

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We arrived on site an hour or so after troll opened. The folks running troll had obviously done this before because it was a smooth operation. There are a few cabins on site at Gulf Wars, reserved for Royalty and their entourage. I was part of the latter group so that’s where I was staying. Let me tell you, that’s a pretty sweet way to “camp” when you’re so far from home. Getting my cavern of a tent down there would have been impossible so I was grateful that Their Majesties Nigel and Adrielle took my sorry, puppy dog face in and off the streets.

A bunch of us went on a town run for dinner and supplies the 1st night. This included a trip to WalMart and let me tell you something…I completely understand why citizens randomly go off their nut and shoot people from time to time! That place is not fit for humans. Now I know, I am not known as being the most patient fellow in a lot of situations but this had me wishing I had my bow in hand.

On our 1st full day on site, a few of us trotted to the merchant areas. Her Excellency Septentria, Anneke The Furious, and I paid a visit to Greybarr to settle some business about a bow and then she took and introduced me to Boots by Bohemond. I needed/wanted some SCA-appropriate footwear and I was told that Bohemond was the man to see. Folks, let me say this… You could not ask for a better shopping experience than dealing with this man. Period. Bohemond researches his designs to make them period but, user friendly for 21st century feet. He makes his footwear himself and backs up what he makes. Best thing is that he is one of us. He’s a Scadian. Knight, Laurel, all round good guy.

Monday saw me playing the role of Entourage for His Majesty. We found our way to the stables where He would meet and get acquainted with His mount for Opening Ceremonies the next day. My job was to hang to the Crown while he rode and passed inspection with the equestrian Marshall’s (which he did). I didn’t wind up getting banished or anything so I must have done my bit to make His life easier. 🙂 Which brings me to Tuesday and Opening Ceremonies…

At Gulf Wars, the Royalty from the represented kingdoms ride into OC on horseback , through the town, on to the battlefield and the castle. The pageantry is something to see. Behind their respective Soverign marches the armies of the different Kingdoms and whoever else wishes to be part of a parade. Around 15 or 20 of us Ealdormerians made the trek to GW and we formed the (now) legendary Ealdormerian Cavalry.

Ealdormerian Cavalry, going to war
Ealdormerian Cavalry, going to war

The “legendary” part does not come from the fact that we stampeded the opening ceremonies, making a general spectacle of ourselves after Their Majesties Ealdormere declared the Kingdom’s support of Trimaris in the war. No, the “legendary” part arises from the fact that we did this while on our hobbie horses. You can see one of them, escorting Her Excellency Septentria, in the photo. Oh, and check out my poofy pants and fancy new booties!

wpid-storageemulated0DownloadGW23-194-of-717-XL.jpg.jpgThis is us, post stampede, wondering if Their Majesties are going to banish us nice they catch us or…Knight us all.

***Note*** It is now early May and I am still writing this post. What this means is that I no longer have any recollection of what happened on what day of Gulf Wars. So, from here on out, I’m just going to wing it and if I get the days wrong…well, I’m sure the Earth will continue to spin. ***End note***

I took care of most of my shopping needs early in the week but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Midnight Madness in the merchant area. For me, it was a wonderful torchlit stroll with friends. Much laughter was had, pocketbook lightening occurred, marauding yet somewhat whimsical cats raced among the lanes and music happened. My advice for anyone attending Gulf Wars, Pennsic or (likely) any other war is to be sure and “do” Midnight Madness. It’s entertaining as hell, whether you are serious shopping or just noodling about, trying to make sure your Baron doesn’t wander off and trade a Canton for some “magic beans”.

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This is a partial view of the rapier ravine battle. Ok, the battle is actually to the right of the frame. THIS is a partial view of the back porch of the Calontir encampment. What we see is good folks enjoying something like dinner-and-a-show, Calontir-style. There was gumbo, mint juleps and pie for everyone. It was delightful and one of my absolute favourite memories of any SCA event.

wpid-20140313_190230.jpg Our Sovereigns, yucking for the commoners before entering The Royal Court of Calontir. They don’t like to have fun.

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So, this happened. It was awesome.

The only other wars I have been to are the War of the Trillium (300 +\- people) here in Septentria and Pennsic (13,000 people or so). Trillies is its own local wonderfulness. A good chunk of Ealdormere comes out and because it’s in my home barony, it’s a nice close. It is also the most laid back of the wars I’ve attended.

Pennsic is a world of its own. Literally and legally, it becomes an actual town during its 2 week existence because of its population. The selection of classes offered at Pennsic University is astounding. The merchant area is so big and diverse that you could arrive on site with nothing more than a credit card (or bucket of cash) and completely outfit yourself for war including clothes and accessories, armor and weapons, food and shelter. The battlefield of Pennsic is where legends are born. Basically, it is a complete escape from the modern world, a place of non-stop action and wonder as well as a place to do absolutely nothing but sit under a tree (unless you are camped on the Serengeti), a place to revel in good companionship.

Gulf Wars is somewhere in between. With attendance of between 3,000 and 4,000 it’s smaller than Pennsic and on a much smaller piece of land. Folks are packed in pretty good at GW. The good thing about that is you are never far from where you want to be. The merchant area is much smaller here but, it seems all of the best vendors from Pennsic come to Gulf Wars. I’ll take quality of quantity. I also got the overall vibe that GW is a little more relaxed than Pennsic (but not even close to Trillies).

Would I do Gulf Wars again? Absolutely, but it won’t be on my yearly rotation. There are only so many events I can afford each year and Lumberton Mississippi is a long, long way from the Northlands. Taking distance out of the mix, which would I rather attend? Tough call but I think I would have to lean towards Pennsic. Sitting by the lake with a breeze, the sound of the drums (when I don’t to stab the perpetrators for sheer volume and lack of rhythm), being able to take all of the gack and set up a home are heavy draws for me. But, for me at least, Pennsic is an emotional place. I get all the feels there (with a large dose of the bad ones) and that is not good for me. Gulf Wars allowed me to leave most of the feels somewhere else. THAT was a welcome thing.