There is a saying; “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”. That’s where I’ve been for quite some time, nothing good to say. Perhaps I’ve reached something of a critical mass with thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure but I know one thing; I need to write. Let’s see how this goes, shall we?
POLE LATHE UPDATE!!!: It’s complete and rather functional. I had it up and running at our Althing last September. That is what I committed to when I challenged into the White Wolf Fian. Thing is, I withdrew from the Fian before my “due date”. Too many things were happening out of public eye that really rubbed me the wrong way and I realized that it was not the right group for me to be involved with. So, I withdrew my challenge. The pole lathe was (and is) still very important to me and I didn’t want to be known as another person with a failed Fian challenge. I’ll post more about the lathe when I find my pictures of it.
Since I last wrote, I have taken part of two Arts and Sciences events; our Queen’s Prize Tournament and Spring A&S Faire. For QPT, I decided to enter a demonstration of how to carve a wooden spoon; basically I was going to carve a spoon at the event and the process, combined with the techniques and the result would be my entry. To say this was unusual for and A&S event would be an understatement. I’m not sure my judges really knew what to do with me! Performance pieces are surely not unheard of but when a musician plays or sings a piece, it is not so they can be judged on how well they teach it. That’s sort of what I was asking my judges to do. The reason for this was twofold: #1, I wanted to give a demonstration at an upcoming event and I needed to know if I had any business doing so and #2, I wanted something to keep my hands busy all day.
What I came away with was…I have no clue if I have any business demonstrating what I do. I was told that I am doing good work and that I should keep it up. Also, the notion was planted in my brain that the process of how things were made in period is just as relevant as reproducing the artifacts for us. It is through the period processes and techniques that we truly learn why items were made the way they were and gain better understanding of the intricacies of the materials and tools used. Now, Master Wilfrid of Sweflingham has been trying to drum this into my thick skull for a while but somehow, it stuck at QPT.
For our Spring A&S Faire, I made a 16th century candle lantern using Norse era tools and techniques. Why? Because doing it using 16th century tools would be too easy, I didn’t have the time or interest in creating one of those tools (and probably not the skill, if I’m being honest) and besides, my persona is Norse. This would be a challenge, which believe an A&S entry should be.
I’ll write more about my actual entry at another time but suffice to say, I busted my ass and really stretched my tool skills on this thing. I even had a catastrophic failure on one component and managed an effective repair using period techniques. I was quite pleased with that bit, including my research into those techniques. My documentation will never be “scholarly” but I know I put more detail into this one than I ever have before. Loads of pictures and description of how and why I did things. I will post it here some time in the fall. This year at Pennsic, I will buy the horn I need to complete the lantern and I do not want to post until the piece is finished.
Neither of these events were good experiences for me. I cannot say what I have been able to take away from either of them that furthers my understanding of tools or techniques, suggests new areas to explore or ways to improve my research and documentation abilities. I feel like I came away with…nothing. I literally do not know what my next steps are in order to improve. Are there better ways to use my knives to do certain things? Is something missing in my knowledge of different woods? Maybe I am misinterpreting my sources or outright wrong about what I’m saying or doing? Why bother working so hard on documentation if there is no evidence to suggest it is looked at? Maybe I simply do not understand how A&S and its judging work?
One thing I am fairly certain of is that I am unlikely to enter another A&S-centred event any time soon. It just doesn’t seem worth the stress. This stuff is supposed to be fun and for me at least, the fun has been sucked out of this aspect of the game.
But what do I know? I just make shit.