This post is a result of my cursory research of Lady Mi’s rock crystal necklace, exhibited by the National Museum of China in 2019, and my attempts to recreate it. I don’t plan on ever entering this necklace in competition, but I wanted to share this process as it shines light on how one can recreate something that looks period without using 100% period techniques or materials – and, mainly, on a budget. I’ll link to all the items I purchased for this project, as well as the sources used. Special thanks to Minamoto no Hideaki for helping translate.
Lady Mi, consort of the Fujun official (辅君夫人米氏, 685 AD-755 AD) was buried in what would become the suburbs of X’ian, Shaanix Province. Her tomb was discovered in 2002. She was buried wearing a rock crystal necklace with amethyst and turquoise drops and three blue beads, all strung on silk. The silk had degraded, and archeologists had to search for the beads that had scattered around her neck.
They found 92 crystal beads, 2 amethysts, 2 turquoise, and 3 blue beads. The amethyst and turquoise were set with gold bails.
I’m not a very good cook, or skilled embroiderer, or impactful bard, or a leatherworker, or a cobbler, or a butcher, or a candlestick maker. I can bake with a recipe and a reliable oven, and it’s usually edible.
I play with textiles and fiber, I can pattern something, I can sew something, I can make fabric do stuff if I stare and poke at it long enough.
But really – I’m a researcher and a crafter.
And you know what?
It’s okay to not be All The Things or Do All The Things in Arts and Sciences. I’m a dabbler, because I like to jump down rabbit holes and poke around for a little bit. Sometimes I go rather deep. Sometimes I just stick my head in. But lately, my “how far down” has been tempered by the following:
I have limited finances.
I have limited time.
I do not have the storage/workspace to acquire new sets of tools specifically for new materials.
You do not have to be a one-person workshop for all the things you want to have for your kit. Skilled artisans, guilds, and merchants existed throughout periods, regions, and cultures. It’s okay to buy the thing, or the pieces half-made, or whatever you’re comfortable with. It’s okay to have some aspects of your kit that are more modern in construction than others because you don’t have the resources/ability to make/ability to purchase 100% the real deal.
Case in point: Jewerly
Be it hair bits and bobs, bracelets, or necklaces – I’m not a jeweler. I’m not a lapidarist. I’m not a metalworker. But I can take bit A and bit B, both stamped out of copper and shined up to look like gold and either glue or wire them together. I can use resin to cast a cabochon that looks like a gemstone or agate, pop it in a bezel, and then glue that on. I can buy findings for a Sui Dynasty era necklace that is Bling with a Capital B and pop some real stones into it, but I can’t afford to spend over $100 on actual freshwater pearls to finish it off – so resin will do. And that’s okay.
You Do Not Need To Break The Bank To Have This Hobby.
You Do Not Need To Have Every Set Of Skills.
A particular set of skills will do just fine. The rest can be “store-bought.”
Every year on my birthday, I try to watch Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
I’m not sure exactly when I started doing this. I watched it a lot as a child, again, usually on or around my birthday. I was in love with the colors and images, the Foley art behind the hoofbeats, and pretty much everything about it. Aurora was secondary (though I did love her final dress – and yes, blue is best, and that’s not just because Merryweather is amazing, thank you). I adored Maleficent (haven’t seen the Jolie films and don’t really want to) and Samson (Prince Philip’s horse, who I contend is an ancestor of Maximus).
The plan is to track down the earliest written (because oral would be super difficult to nail down) versions of various tales that later became Disney princesses – to start with, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Cinderella.
This is the kind of research project that bubbles in the back of my brain like a pot roast in a crock pot. I occasionally check on it, spend an hour or so digging for more resources which I skim and save to a file, then go on about my day. The most work I’ve done on it was recreating a pair of Han Dynasty shoes1 which were inspired by Ye Xian’s story – arguably the earliest known/written version of Cinderella.
You found a really awesome object in a museum that you want to include in your documentation. That’s amazing! Good for you, finding that thing!
It doesn’t matter if it is an object, a painting, a sculpture, or some other piece of art – there is a way to cite it. I’m going to be looking at APA in this post, since it’s my citation method of preference (only I push my parentheticals into footnotes because I prefer them). I encourage you to look at your citation method of choice to see how to cite museum (or art) objects. If you run into problems, leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to help, or join us over on Cite Your Sh*t.
The basic layout for your citation is this:
Artist. (Date). Name of object. [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link
For the artist, use their surname and first initial, separated by a comma. Here’s an example.
As with all citations, the key is to give your reader enough information that they can find this. The URL is very important if you can point to the piece online, but if you’re taking your own pictures in a museum, this information is also important. I struggle with images taken at Chinese museums posted online that have no corroborating information regarding where they are from, let alone where they are currently housed.
For information on a label, use this format for your citation:
Label title [Museum exhibit label]. (n.d.). Name of Museum. City, State.
Since we’re talking about writing for the SCA, I’d say it’s reasonable to mention when you visited, or at least what exhibit the item was part of. This will take into account traveling exhibitions, which are often listed with their dates on a museum’s website long after they’ve left.
I’ve got plans to revise the banbi documentation for publication over on the Tang Dynasty Garment Construction section, so you have a more easily accessible “how to” on this garment.
In My Sewing Bag: Socks! At Meridian Grand Tournament, I cut out and stitched my first stab at a Tang Dynasty sock, but it was too tight across the bridge. So at Menhir, I recut with a bit more room there and am currently seaming them up for another try-on.
And before you eyebrow at me, no, this is not my “check it off the list” post for February. I’m working on two – how to cite museum objects and do’s and don’ts for contacting libraries/museums/academics with questions.
Every now and again in a discussion about A&S regarding how one can share their skills, be seen, passively teach, and get feedback, the subject of A&S Competitions arises. It always starts with something along the lines “oh, but I don’t like competitions,” followed by all the reasons why. The “competition” aspect of it. The “judging” aspect of it. In many cases, the person had a negative experience with a competition, and are now shy of every entering one again.
I’m not going to try and rebut all those things. Feelings are feelings. What I want to do here is share my own experience both as an entrant and a judge in A&S Competitions. I’ve entered in competitions in both Northshield and Meridies, and helped as a judge in the latter. I can’t speak to how A&S Competitions work in other kingdoms.
I’m writing this for people who aren’t sure if they should enter, but I’m also writing it for judges – because we need to always remember and keep in mind what it is like to sit on the other side of that table.
One more caveat regarding the “competition” aspect of things. Yes, some kingdoms (like Meridies) have “regional” and “kingdom” labels for their competitions, and rules about how often you can enter the same thing. Yes, there are competitions at big war-events (Gulf, Pennsic, etc.) which are used to determine War Points. In this context, an A&S Competition is a lot like a Science or County Fair. You enter your project in a lower level, then progress up until you get to State (Kingdom), then Nationals (War). But this is such a small sliver of what A&S Competitions are or can be, that I don’t really want to address it (nor do I have any real experience with it), so we’re going to acknowledge it (in this paragraph) and then set it to one side.
So, why do I like A&S Competitions?
For me, an A&S Competition is a framework in which I can get specific feedback about various aspects of a project – my research, execution, substitutions, and scope – without feeling like I am monopolizing someone’s time. It’s a way for me to get actionable comments on my work – things I can go and fix – as opposed to “oh, that’s neat!” Yes, there is a number associated with those categories, but personally, my reptile brain loves a number. If that’s not you, I still encourage you to put your work out as a display and try to arrange a time to meet with someone at the event to discuss it with you.
It’s also a way to passively teach. At Magna Faire (2019), I put my equipment for my Tang Dynasty Games class in for display, so that it wouldn’t just sit in a bag the rest of the event. Also, that way people got to learn about games even if they weren’t able to come to the class. Win-win!
Yes, anytime you put your stuff out there for someone else to view and comment on, it can be scary. But I promise you – the only person you are in competition with is yourself. And while that perfect score is something my reptile/completionist brain loves (and received at Menhir 2020! Eek!), it’s still just a number given by people on a day, subject to all sorts of variables.
When it comes to judging, as both a judge and an entrant, I 100% recommend sitting down with your judges during your time slot. You get the chance to talk to people about your entry, answer any questions, and offer clarification for confusing points. And take notes on this! Yes, the judges will write down comments for you on their form, but taking your own notes on things that come up (maybe that need a bit more clarification or fleshing out) can be very useful later once you’re out of the post-event haze.
Judges want to learn. We want to geek out with you about your project. We want to help you grab the next rung in the proverbial project ladder to make your Thing even cooler than it already is. We’re cheering you on! Are there scary, mean, or intimidating judges? Sure, because we’re people. But that’s also why I suggest face-to-face. And if that’s still scary, ask someone (your Laurel, if you have one, or a friend) to sit with you during judging to be some emotional support. If someone asks why they’re there, be honest. Sometimes someone who has a sharp edge doesn’t realize it is sharp until someone says “OW” loud enough for them to hear.
It’s also important to have a network of support for your A&S – people you know well and who know you well, who can give you honest feedback without being mean. People who want to see you do well, so they will let you know what you can do to improve. Sometimes this is a single person (your Laurel, perhaps) or a group of people standing in your corner and cheering you on while also helping you get better. These are the people who you can check in with before and after a judging session so that you’re not left gutted and raw.
That being said – JUDGES. Read documentation – and ask for it ahead of time if you want more time with it. Talk to the entrant – encourage face-to-face judging in your kingdom if you don’t do it already. Understand that even negative feedback can be given in such a way that it encourages and builds up the entrant rather than tearing them down and making them regret entering at all.
I encourage you to take the leap and enter a competition. It’s a great way not only to improve your work but to share it. Sure, they’re not for everyone, but neither do they deserve the bad wrap they often get.
They shall have made every effort to learn and practice those skills desirable at and worthy of a civilized court. To this end they should have some knowledge of a wide range of period forms, including but not limited to literature, dancing, music, heraldry, and chess, and they should have some familiarity with combat as practiced in the Society.
Nobody said you had to be good at chess. Just knowledgeable and, well, practiced. I’ve never been a good chess player. I’m bad at that sort of spatial reasoning, and I have a hard time thinking several moves ahead. I enjoy chess, but as a casual player.
But as someone who has spent the last four-ish years eye-deep in the Tang Dynasty, playing chess doesn’t really fit. But playing Go does! And Go is pretty much chess. It’s about territory control and capturing enemy pieces to score points.
We played Go in the Extra-European Salon at the Meridian Grand Tournament in September, and I was so very thankful that someone who was much more knowledgeable about the game helped me think through moves and played a few games with us. He recommended using puzzles to help hone your skill. I feel like I’d have to do a lot of puzzles to hammer the trickier concepts into my head, but hey – that’s Go.
This is one of those things that I’ll get better with in time, which means making an effort to play a bit on my phone every day, or carting around my 9×9/13×13 board and bags of stones. Maybe I’ll make a small 9×9 board on a piece of fabric and bug people at events to play with me. Maybe.
To date, I have had a hand in writing three songs in the SCA. Two of them are silly. Two have corresponding illumination. One is based on a period poem and requires context. None of them get performed often, in part because I don’t attend many bardic circles, and within those circles, reading the tone of the circle to know what is best to present for the continued enjoyment of the participants/listeners is a challenge in regard to these songs.
So I’m presenting them here, if only so I keep a record of them in one spot.
The first was in answer to the Bard, Scribe, Illuminator challenge at the 2012 Northshield Bardic Madness. The theme was to do with animal puns, so Mistress Orlaith Ballach Inghean Fhlain, Larkin of Schattentor, and I wrote a filk of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic about the Great Bears of Northshield. I apologize for the lighting – this was in the last Fyte, which was the Feast Fyte, and I’d feel bad about doing a new recording without Larkin.
Chorus: (With the number lowering with each iteration) Four Great Bears went out one day To prove for good and all Who was the Greatest of the Bears To Grace a Northshield Hall
Fiskr [Fish] set out at a healthy pace But then he began to flounder
Ia took a breath to prepare But then she found that she lacked consonants [consonance; there is an infamous CD of Ia singing filks] Skjaldvør [called Wyndreth] had the breeze at her back But the wind went out of her sails
Tarrach began to take the lead But then he met up with a T-Rex [Tarrach was Northshield's second King, and had previously been King of the Middle - and would often sign T. Rex]
The second song is All Griffins Are Girls – A Heraldic Primer, which I wrote with Baroness Katerinka Lvovicha in either 2013 or 2014. She tells a story about helping someone at a Heraldic Consult table with fish heraldry, and to make a fish not look dead and hanging to dry, the attitude needs to be naiant. And, being Northshielders, we latched onto the conceit that Griffins are Girls. The words are here!
You might want to turn the sound up a bit on this one, or you can watch the video of us trying to remember the words and do the motions on the fly at a Bardic Madness post-revel.
That same year, for that same event, I answered a challenge for pieces based on period texts, etc. I chose Yehuda Halevi’s My Heart is in the East. (And I’ll eventually put my hands on the illumination again and upload the image.) I don’t have a recording from the event, but I do have something I recorded with my phone. This is the sad one. This is the one that requires context.
Yehuda Halevi was born c. 1075-1086 in Al-Andalus. He was a physician and philosopher and considered one of the greatest Hebrew poets. Halevi wrote The Kuzari, a pillar of Jewish philosophy, and was part of the “golden age” of Hispano-Jewish culture and life in Granada during the 11th century. He died in 1142, shortly after arriving in Israel. He lived during the entire First Crusade, and much of his poetry is marked by his longing to go to Israel. His text is below – I used severaldifferenttranslations to guide my own adaptation of his verse, in English, to music.
My heart is in the East But I am at the end of the West. How can I savor food, how can it be called pleasing - How can I render my vows and my bonds While Zion lies in fetters And I am in Arab chains?
It would be too easy To leave behind the bounty of Spain - So precious is the dust Of that desolate sanctuary.
Having been likely written at some point either during or after the First Crusade, Halevi’s poem carries a lot of emotional weight. What struck me was the intense, mournful longing, which I tried to bring into the music. Given the continued turmoil in the region, I opt not to sing this song unless asked, so that I can provide the proper context. And since I don’t go to many bardic circles due to having small children, I don’t get asked often at all. And honestly? That’s okay. It’s an emotional song for me, as much as it was good practice in taking existing words and figuring out a tune for them. It doesn’t need to be on any bardic circle “greatest hits” list.
The short answer is yes. An emphatic, eyes slightly wide with incredulity, yes.
YES, you should cite SCAdians, if you:
are basing your work off of theirs;
learned something from them and are using that in your work; and/or
they helped guide your process.
Let’s go backward through that list, shall we? But first – some rules.
For websites, handouts, etc., use modern names in your citations, with SCAdian names in [brackets], or however your citation method of choice handles screen names. But also be mindful that, depending on how you’re going to publish/disseminate your work, you should let the SCAdian know/get permission to cite them and let them approve the citation. This is for safety. If the SCAdian would rather you not use their modern name, abide by their wishes.
If you’re directly quoting, put what you’re quoting in QUOTES and cite where you took the quote from (blog, website, handout, etc). If it’s a paraphrase, still cite where the information came from.
Alright – on to that list!
If you reach out to someone for help with your project, this citation can be informal, but even as such should be included. Example:
I struggled with what sort of finish to use on the underarm seam given the curve. My previous research suggested that [redacted for length]. I reached out to my laurel, Mistress Una Barthsdottir, and she suggested I do a flat-felled seam and make the stitches smaller the nearer they were to the apex of the curve.
I didn’t make this decision on my own. And this is the sort of thing – conversations with others to get suggestions on how to proceed with a project – that you should note in your project journal. Which you have. And which you use. And which you consult when writing your documentation. As an apprentice, I speak with my laurel about most of my projects. You can cite personal communications (inline only, for APA, but you could adapt the citation to your reference list too if you felt rebellious – but check your citation manual of choice) if you feel like the citation needs to be a bit more formal. Example:
Mears, C. [Una Barthsdottir]. (2019, September 20). Phone conversation.
If you find a source via someone else’s research, it doesn’t make you look bad if you cite the other SCAdian as how you found it (such as a blog post or handout) – cite them right along with the source they pointed you to. Example:
I am very thankful to have found Hypatissa Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina’s [modernly Angela L. Costello] work on Roman clothing, and through her Sebesta and Bonfante’s compilation of essays on the topic (2001).
Costello, A. L. [Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina]. (2013, February 13). Fundamentals of Roman dress [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/59611236
Sebesta, J. L. & Bonfante, L. (2001). The world of Roman costume. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Lastly, if you’re basing your work off of someone else’s research, cite their research. I recently tried to make Yuan Dynasty honey lemonade, using Þorfinnr Hróðgeirsson’s recipe and method that he derived from a poem and his knowledge of Chinese cooking. I did absolutely no research or reading on my own for this project, apart from looking at what he did and what he said he’d do differently the next time he made it. So I cited him. And then I reached out to him with questions. So I cited him again. Example:
Story, A. [Þorfinnr Hróðgeirsson]. (2018, April 29). Yuan Dynasty bochet lemonade [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://brewing.alecstory.org/2018/04/yuan-dynasty-bochet-lemonade.html
Story, A. (2019, September 18). Direct message interview.
So yes. Yes. YES. Cite SCAdians. It does not make you look silly. It does not make you look lesser. It makes you look like a member of a community that learns from one another as opposed to one in which people scrabble, scrounge, and steal from one another in an attempt to… I don’t even know what, honestly.
Whether you’re just hanging out field-side for the day or camping for the weekend, coolers are necessary if you want to keep/serve cold beverages or food. But a standard blue/red Igloo/Coleman cooler can be unsightly in an SCA encampment.
Sure, you can make a box cushion/cover for it, but then every time you go to open the cooler, you have to take the cover off. You could paint it, but it’s still going to look like a cooler (though there are some really neat ones out there!)
I’ve seen boxes build around coolers, or boxes built and lined with polystyrene to act like coolers, but that takes a level of woodworking/crafting skill that, as I’ve said throughout this series of posts, might be outside the scope/skillset/resources of folk.
That’s a BYHOLMA chest from Ikea, with two standard styrofoam coolers tucked inside. I didn’t want to use styrofoam, because styrofoam, and found that Igloo is now making a biodegradable cooler, and it’s gotten decent reviews (I got mine at Target for $8).
I already have a chest-type basket that I thought would be big enough, but it is too shallow by an inch or so. (The BYHOLMA measures 72 x 50 x 50 centimeters.) I’m not sure if I want to try and find a big enough chest (do I need another basket chest?), or if the cooler will be fine tucked under the table as is. I think eventually I’ll upgrade my basket, but given that the BYHOLMA (which is no longer available from IKEA) sold for $70, I think I might wait until baskets go on sale at Michaels or Home Goods.
I might go by Home Goods before this weekend to see what they have. Baskets are one of those things.