Monday, August 20, 2018

My Baby, My Precious!

Three good friends stopped by yesterday, two together, one after they left.  Many great conversations were had, but one note in particular was extremely helpful to me in putting certain things I've been struggling with in context.

In art school, the whole "My Precious!" thing regarding the art object I created got drummed out of me, and for good reason. It is an object, and what people say about or do to that object is not something that can hurt me. I can take that information and use it appropriately, or file it in the category in which it belongs.

Sometime in the last few moths or years I've reverted to "My Precious!" and didn't realize it until recently, and couldn't understand why my feelings were getting hurt when someone criticized my work. In a theoretical conversation about spheres of control, Cori pointed out that I have lost so much over the last few years in terms of my physical independence (illness, loss of the driving, not being able to work, etc.) and the arts and crafts are one of the few things that I am 100% in control of, that they have become much much more important to me in terms of my time and emotional investments.

Elisabeth pointed out that most people in our hobby feel that way about the things they create, in fact most people who have not been through art school do; that object is My Baby. My Baby may be ugly, a bit stinky, scream real loud, and have some kind of rash happening on their head, but it's MY baby, and My Baby is the most beautiful precious wonderful baby on the face of the planet and I will cut you if you say differently.

There are of course ways to help someone with their baby without insulting them; "What a precious little baby, very lively! He seems to be a bit gassy, have you tried burping him on your knee vs. on your shoulder (alternate technique)? All of mine had cradle cap, they grow out of it eventually (practice/time). Look at your beautiful little face and tiny human hands, you are just too cute for words!" Shortened to the point of rudeness there, but parents know what is wrong with their kids, or they know something is going on even if not exactly what, but we don't barge in on their parenting and tromp all over telling them what for and expect a good reaction. So treat the art like someone's precious newborn, including your own. Yes, newborns are ugly, so is new art (mostly, except mine, he was beautiful - JK, he looked like an angry old man with a rash, but he got pretty over time, and once we figured out the milk allergy he became healthy and beautiful). Same with arts & crafts; they improve over time. And like children, they may be far from perfect for their entire lives, but they are still My Baby! and that is important.

My friends have good insight, and these are important things to remember.
They also got to meet the fuzzy bunns, which is even more important; just ask Tootsie, she'll tell you.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Bad Laurel! Go lay down!

I had the unfortunate experience of being the victim of uninvited criticism on the first book I’ve ever made. 

Two days ago, I posted a ‘look see pretty’ album on Face Book of the book I made for my friend Sadira, 8th Baroness of Thescorre to commemorate her term and stepping down.  I made the album public so that I could share it in the parchment group.  This individual, a total stranger to me, took that public setting as an invitation to critique my work without asking first.  She offered the appropriate compliments “BUT…” and then proceeded to tell me what I had done wrong in the book cover. 

I appreciate her enthusiasm, extensive knowledge, skill, craftsmanship and desire to help me learn more about this topic.  “But…” she did not ask before offering this critique, which was outright rude.  I reminded her, gently but firmly, that it is polite to ask for a person’s documentation before offering commentary; at which point she insulted my researching abilities without having read anything (it was neither requested nor required for her purposes), reminded me of how wrong I was and how right she was, accused me of wasting her time, and then continued to expound on the proper way to do things.

If she had stopped and said ‘yes, of course, I would love to see your documentation’ I would have happily sent it to her, and she would have seen that I do indeed understand the different elements and processes of book covers in different time periods, and that I made some design decisions that deviated from the initial plan based on factors ranging from ‘oh shit’ mistakes to incorporating modern symbolism in a not-quite-historic way. 
I lost my temper, but I considered my words carefully because the people who matter were watching; and those aren’t Laurels (more on that later), they are untitled gentles, new Lords and Ladies, and artisans who cannot be afraid to show a new work for fear of being bitten by Attack Laurel (excepting her excellent self The Attack Laurel).  Yes, I totally Lost. My. Shit.  I told her she was rude and pointed out that she barged in uninvited, made uninformed assumptions about me and my work, and that she needed to ask permission before offering critique.  I also told her that if she says that sort of thing to people at A&S shows that is a Problem.  As you can imagine, she did not take it well.  I injured her pride after she insulted my intelligence.  (For those not in the know on how A&S shows work; this lady essentially came to my picnic uninvited, told me my potato salad was made wrong and there’s only one way to make it and here’s HER recipe, declined to read my recipe, and then got mad when I reminded her that it’s polite to taste something before declaring that you don’t like it. And then stormed off with the statement that she’d only serve her potato salad to her friends and family from now on, so there).

My friends who happen to be Laurels and other assorted Peerages came to the defense, with full alphabet soup, and I cannot thank them enough.  My friends who are not Laurels rallied and complimented and asked good questions politely to demonstrate good and proper behavior.  

I did indeed put my work ‘out there’ and this sort of thing can indeed happen when you do that.  It’s a risk of releasing imperfection into the world; but perfection is no protection against harsh and unwanted criticism either.  The real tragedy is that if she had followed the proper forms of asking for my documentation, and treated me as an equal, we would both have a new friend right now.  We could have geeked out to our heart’s content and, like a marble fountain bringing clean water to a city square, I would have poured out all of the respect and admiration her skill and knowledge deserves.

Ask first, my friends.  Talk to the artisans whose work you are looking at like they are your equal, because they are your equal.  Do not let arrogance overtake your enthusiasm.  Forget your regalia and theirs, and learn from them before trying to teach them.  If you are just waiting for someone to stop talking before you can plow over them with what you have to say, you are doing this for all the wrong reasons.  Taking pride in your work and your knowledge is awesome; self-aggrandizement is not.  I will remember this exchange and guard my own words and actions so that I myself do not repeat her mistake.  And I do understand how easy it can be to override someone in enthusiasm for a subject you love.

I have thick skin.  I’m fine.  I’m delighted with my first book with all of its flaws.  It was made with love and a lot of swearing, for my friend who I both respect and admire for many very good reasons.  Neither love nor craft are perfect; and that’s OK. 

Have the Courage to try new things, and to continue even through adversity.
Do not be afraid to demand Justice, but also be Just in your thoughts and words.
Have Mercy and try to understand where the other person is coming from, especially when you are angry.
Be Generous in your thoughts and actions, and do what you can for others as you have the ability to do.
Have Faith in your own ability and theirs.
Be Noble in all things, especially when it is hard.
Have Hope that you will learn from these experiences.

Yours in Service, Love, and Friendship
THL Abigail Kelhoge

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A&S Faire and Queen's Prize Tourney; Parchment

It took me a while to decide if I was going to enter the Queen's Prize Tourney at A&S Faire with the parchment, or be an assessor (June 23rd in the Hael, Lockport, NY). 

The parchment is a cool project, but it tends to be stinky, and there is enough of a 'hurk factor' that I was unsure about sharing with the world at large.  After a lot of encouragement I decided to enter with as complete a display as possible; but contained as much as possible.  Mistress Elska a Fjarfelli, empress of awesome displays, sponsored me and her advice was invaluable. The only element missing was a small stretched hide because I didn't have enough lead time to make sure it was dry and not smelly. 

Anything that smelled was sealed as tightly as possible, but there was still an odor of sorts from the jars.  Unless I'm doing a full mini-demo, the "specimen jars" will be staying home.  I must say that the frilly lid covers helped reduce the psychological ick factor by a lot.  It suddenly went from Igor's Laboratory to Aunt May's Kitchen unless you were right up close.  Putting them in a box also minimized who had to see them; unless you were right in front the jars were not immediately in view.  This also provided a top shelf for sharp objects.

The try-it station with parchment, paper and perg along with metal pen nibs and feather quills was a huge hit.  I also provided paint and brushes, but there weren't any takers on that.  Some people decided they preferred paper, some loved the parchment, very few liked the perg over the other 2.  (Note the beautiful cutting board made for me in one of the Artisan's Exchanges; I've never used it for food, but it has become an integral part of my scribal kit).

The goal of displaying this was two-fold: show how parchment was made in period, and give a bunch of it away.  Both goals were accomplished.  I distributed a lot of parchment, and had to excuse myself in order to eat and use the lady's room; though other artisans said the same, so I would call the whole event a success.  I got to geek out over my gross stuff with people who appreciate both process and final product.  What I did not expect, and specifically did not anticipate, is that our beautiful and inspiring Queen Siobahn inghean ui Liathain would find it just as fascinating as I do.  She decided to award me the Queen's Prize, and I am thrilled to know that my work is appreciated by more than just the scribes who write on it and the illustrators who paint on it.  The scroll by Rhys Penbras ap Daydd is very nice, and the gift basket from Her Majesty has some really wonderful things in it made by various artists; hand dipped bees wax candles, a lovely ceramic cup, a silk & wool needle book, a paternoster, and a spindle with some sample fiber to add to my collection.  Elska's sponsor gift to me was a knife to work the hides.  I will try it very soon.  My friend and good advisor, Elisabeth brought me two gifts from Germany; a bear and a coo-coo clock.

Special shout-out to Rhys & kitchen crew: OMG AMAZING sideboard.  Researched, documented, labelled and positively delicious.  My mouth went from one exquisite flavor to the next and I cannot even begin to tell you in words how much I loved everything I tried.

Another thing that came of this display was a conversation with Edana the Red, in which she suggested creating a guild of parchment maker's to facilitate donations.  I've approached my fellow parchmenters and the Signet's office, and we may be able to get that going.  My ultimate goal for the scribes of AEthelmearc is to see more of us working on the correct period substrate.  While I know that I personally cannot supply parchment to every scribe for every scroll that goes out, one every now and then is worth the work. 

This week and next, I will not be making more parchment, I will be using what I have made to create something beautiful for someone who is dear to me, and I hope it turns out lovely, and that she loves it.  After that, I will put another hide up on the stretcher, and we will see how that comes out.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Clothes Fit for a King and Queen, Morgan Bible Style

I had the honor of working on an outfit for TRM's Gareth & Juliana this past fall.  The project ate my life, and somehow I forgot to blog about it. 

I proposed the Morgan Bible outfits and both of them liked the designs so we went ahead.  All garments have extant supporting garments, though heavy modifications were made both to bring things more in line with the manuscript and due to budget constraints.  My team was excellent, and I'm very happy with the finished results.

You can read the documentation for the Morgan Bible Royal Wardrobe here.

My personal contributions were research & pattern making, cutting and machine sewing, some hand sewing on the tunic & gown, 52 little red dots with couched silver embroidery thread on Gareth's cloak, the hose,  belts and sewing the trim on their cloaks.  I also made some fingerloop braids for ties as there was a mix-up in delivery.  I love her beaded belt most, but Silvester's trim takes the cake on these outfits.

Sassain Woman's Jewelry, 600 AD

Odkatla needed an angel for one of the past rounds of the AEthelmearc Artisan's Exchange, and since my gift was done and I was sitting out the next round, I was glad to step in.  The artisan's exchange is an opportunity to learn about cultures and times I may never otherwise have known existed, and this was certainly the case with the angel gift.  It was supposed to be a Red exchange, which means over $25 in materials and documentation, with historic accuracy playing a large part.  Due to it being an angel gift, time was critical, and materials were not quite as important, so I worked with what I had on hand. 

Sometimes ideas come slowly, but in this case, idea, research and product happened so fast I barely had time to process it before the gift was out the door.  Sometimes I just know when something is right, and this was very right, even if the materials were imperfect.  I made a bead necklace and a personal pendant seal with her heraldry.

The necklace was based on one that was listed in Christie's Auction House, of graduated carnelian and bronze beads, but I used glass, bronze and stone that I had on hand.  I strung them on copper wire.  No one knows what the originals were strung on, and no one knows exactly how they were strung as most of the finds were either scattered or restrung in the 1800's to fit tastes of that time.  We can look at the sculptures to get an idea of how the original jewelry was worn.

This sculpture shows multiple necklaces, with a ring seal.  Another in the same museum shows a pendant seal on a ribbon or band.  Personal seals were incredibly common for both men and women in Sassain society.  While most were made from stone, I opted for polymer clay.  I half baked it and then finished carving it.    As it turns out, Sala collects seals, and she was delighted to have one with her own arms.   Unfortunately I was (and still am) out of silk ribbon, so the theme of plastic held fast with a polyester ribbon. 

Note: I did not note what museum this sculpture is from in the file name.  Photo is not mine and I was not able to trace it back to it's original site. 

1325 Brooch Blank

This project was a bit of a tangent for me.  I will eventually get back to the actual project, but the brooch was a test run for what I hope will be a group project.  Duke Timothy is interested in metal casting, and I am not.  I am however interested in making the clay or wax models to make the molds to cast the metal for the final objects.  Ultimately the goal is belt buckles, but they are more complex than the brooch - but similar concepts.  For this run, I used polymer clay.  It will work with some finagling, but it is not the best material for this purpose. 

The original brooch is in "Dress Accessories, 1150-1450" by Geoff Egan and Francis Pritchard, which details the finds from the London digs.  My version is not nearly so nice as the original, but I learned a lot, and I think I can achieve the goal of 'better next time.'


Occasionally a person has to do something completely silly to refill the well of creativity. 

Battle Snails were my answer to this problem.  I had been rolling along just fine for a few months, and then I got sick with the flu from hell, and even though I was back on my feet and had a gazillion things to do, I just didn't have the uumph to get going on them.  So I took a few days to go off on a complete lark and made these little manuscript marginalia characters come to life in polymer clay, acrylic paint, super glue, and some snail shells. 

The first little guy is in my first ramshorn's shell, so it's rather sentimental.  I never had a problem with ramshorns, I was able to separate them before any issues occurred, so each one lived a very long, very solitary life.  I'm glad to have given the remains of my non-affectionate pet new life in this silly sculpture. 

The second is a rabbit of war riding a battle snail, and it's just as creepy and delightful as the manuscript.  The shell is a purchased marine snail, I'm not sure what kind, but I liked the green.  It was a happy accident that the base ended up looking like a medieval shoe.  I should have made the rabbit into a pen holder.  Next time.