Bucking a trend

In some circles, there is often a veil of secrecy surrounding what people are working on. I’m talking about within the Arts and Sciences community.  This is most prevalent when people are preparing to enter (a project) in the Kingdom A&S competition but it also happens with our Queen’s Prize Tournament (a non-competitive A&S event geared towards less experienced/recognized artisans). Don’t even ask about the secrecy of the WWF as it is on its own level. What I have tried to understand is, why keep secrets?

One of the reasons I’ve heard for this is a desire to have a “Wow!” moment. I suppose this is natural for many people. Many of us enjoy seeing people’s heads turn and jaws drop when our work is revealed. It would be a great boost for the ego, no doubt.Some revel in this. Fine. I’m don’t think I am one of these but hey, whatever floats your boat.

I have been told by some that they are secretive because they don’t want to give some kind of advantage or hint to other competitors. The idea being that if competitor A discovers that competitor B is forging some tool as part of their entry, they (comp A) had better up the game by smelting their own iron ore before they make a similar tool (textbook one-upmanship). I guess since I don’t “get” A&S competitions (right up there with judged sporting events, just stop) I am not able to “get” why this is a consideration. But, it is for some.

Some people think their projects are some kind of PhD thing where competition is fierce and other makers/researchers are cutthroat thieves. Ummm, ok? More glory to them, I suppose. (A whole lot of us need to lighten up).

Having said all of that, why do I feel some small need to keep my A&S doings remotely quiet? I’ve got two projects brewing that I haven’t talked about very much. I know one of my issues is that I am slow in my work. Really…slow. Remember that pole lathe? Yeah, like that. Glacial. My fear is that I will talk about what I’m doing and someone (anyone) will come along and say, “That’s cool. I want one of those for my kit, too”. Then,over the course of a weekend, they’ll build or make it. Why does this matter? Shouldn’t I be thrilled that I’ve inspired someone else and gain someone to talk to and share ideas with that has real experience? That would be the right and noble thing, right? The truth is that I am left thinking that the project isn’t that important anymore and I walk away from it. This nearly happened with my pole lathe when someone told me, “Person A built a pole at such-and-such event from a log. It took him an afternoon”. That was one of the more discouraging things I’ve ever heard.

The other thing that gets stuck in my head is that if I talk to others about what I’m planning, they usually try to help by steering my efforts. This could be as simple as loaning me a tool or providing me with a source I didn’t know about previously…and these are awesome things! It is when the talk turns to, “You should do this thing with your thing. It would be amazing!” that I get frustrated. That, and the inevitable, “We have no evidence that they did/knew/had this” and thereby dismissing my efforts. This one causes me to lose my shit because it assumes that the speaker knows everything there is to know about a certain topic. It becomes especially frustrating when the speaker is one of the more knowledgeable people in their field. I mean, if you want to say there is no evidence of Vikings having used duct tape to repair their sails, that’s fine. I’ll give you that. But, a better approach might be, “I’ve never heard of X doing Y. Let me know what you find or can you point me to a source?”

Despite all of this, I have decided to share what I am currently working on. I do this because I like to think what I’m working on is pretty cool, has merit and will certainly offer a different perspective on a couple of things. I think that is worth more than any wow factor or well-meaning helpers causing me to want to claw my eyes out. At least, it is for me. Besides, since I will not/cannot-bring-myself-to enter any sort of competition or tournament any time in the forseeable future, I need some place to put my stuff out there. I would like to do this beyond a post or two after KA&S or QPT followed by deafening silence as often happens.Besides, a lot of people cannot attend the events mentioned and thus don’t have the opportunity to see/learn what is out there. If I don’t blog about it, my work will be in the same boat.

Currently, I have two real projects on the go. One has to do with glass beads from the viking age and the other is all about quivers for archery. I don’t have much to share regarding the beads just yet. I have picked the brain of the guy who REALLY understands the data and come up with a good plan of attack but, I have no beads yet. Suffice to say that in the SCA we don’t “do” viking beads very accurately. More on that one later when I have something to show you.

The quiver project has excited and frustrated me. It all started with wanting a more plausible or accurate quiver for my dishevelled Norseman persona. All anyone ever seems to talk about are arrow bags (as “shown” on the Bayeaux Tapestry), arrows being tucked ino ones belt and the bag variants found upon the (very much not Norse) Mary Rose.This has been frustraing. When you step outside the Norse and Europe, you can find very different designs like the fan-like quivers used by the Mongols and Tartars or basket-woven ones from the Orient (to name two). “Cloth bags, belts and ground quivers are all we have from early Europe”, is what I’ve been told. That’s fine on its own, but there actually IS more to see and learn from.

First, there is the leather artifacts found at Haithabu. These were published in Die Lederfunde von Haithabu by Von Willy Groenman-vanWaateringe in 1984. Since this was published in Amsterdam, I assume it was written in Dutch. Honestly, I don’t know. For my purposes, it doesn’t really matter because I have something of a translation available (more on that in another post). The point is that we have an extant example of leather quivers (thinking is the artifacts are from two quivers) from the 11th century in the heart of the Norse culture (thereby disspelling the idea that all we have are cloth bags, belts and ground quivers). I will begin patterning it over the next few days so I can recreate it. This will be a real challenge for me as I have never patterned anything and my knowledge of leather work is minimal. Still, it’s a cool starting point!

I’ve also found and article which shows fragments of a wooden tube. The way the tube was found amongst arrows, the remenants of a bow and, human skeletal remains, clearly indicate the tube was a quiver. This find is from the 4AD at Nydam. Earlier than my typical area interest but hey, an all wood quiver! It really earns bonus points for having been turned on a lathe. I mean, how can I not attempt to recreate this? There are other details about it that I will talk about later as I gather pictures and put thoughts to page. (Remember my post post about splitting a cherry log? That was the start of the wooden quiver).

I’m unsure exactly where this quiver project will lead me. At this time, I have these two quivers to work on and I’ll probably do one of those fan/horse quivers from the Monguls. I’ve also found a few examples from feudal Japan which I’m trying to gather more information on. Anything I were to do with them right now would be pure conjecture.

Through all of this, I want to accomplish a few things… I want to show that we have more than cloth bags, belts and ground quivers, that other finds are NOT purely ceremonial (which I have also been told) and then, try them out! I am curious if there are pros and cons of different styles beyond simply material availability.

So there, I’m sharing. After this long, rambling diatribe, aren’t you glad? No more of the “SOOPER SEEKRIT” stuff. To each their own but I am very happy to buck that particular trend.


3 thoughts on “Bucking a trend

  1. Thank you for sharing what you’re working on! While I’m part of the crowd that enjoys the secrecy, it is not necessarily for the ‘wow factor’ reveal, or the ‘I don’t want the competition to get ahead’ but moreso: I don’t like showcasing my failures…and if something doesn’t work out and I haven’t told anyone about it? Only I am aware of it!

    This is partially part of my own self-perfection issues, but it makes me feel much better about my work when I can present something that I’m actually proud of, instead of having to explain why something didn’t work out, or why I’m disappointed in my efforts. I recognize that failures help us learn, and that others might be inspired by my work, but I’m simply ‘not that selfless’ and need to keep things on the down-low for my own personal mental health.

    1. Yeah, I entirely get that. Lots of folks are in a similar situation. I guess I’m fortunate to not be one of you. Heck, the last A&S oriented event I entered featured an unfinished lantern with a repair job done by using wire to stitch together a piece of wood. Clearly, I don’t give a damn (but maybe I should?).

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