Expectations of An Entry

The outline covers the expectations of an entry for the advanced levels, regional and kingdom. However, they are a good guideline of expectations of most faires and competitions in general. The original author of this document was Master Ronane Blackwell, it was resurrected via the goback machine and updated by the current webminister.

I. Entries

Age: There is no time limit on the age of an entry, although an item that shows wear or is diry will not do as well as one that looks new. In KASF, that item can not have been entered in a previous Meridian Kingdom Arts & Sciences Faire.

Appearance: Items should be clean and should not show any obvious wear. Works-in-progress are not appropriate for entering at KASF. Because it is not a finished piece, the judges will not be able to evaluate execution or complexity. On the whole, do not enter a work that is messy or sloppily executed. Neatness does count. If an authentic item would not meet this expectation, be prepared to thoroughly document that aspect of an entry.

Number: It is better to enter a small number of your best works rather than a flood of mediocre ones because it does not show true artisanship. While it is possible to enter two items in a particular category, care should be given to variety and quality.

Category: Only place an entry in one category unles there is a clear division between the two categories. For example, an embroidered Elizabethan cape may possibly be entered in costuming and in textile arts – application if there is a clear demarcation between the two techniques. In the event that you do wish to enter one item in multiple categories, it would be best to consult someone who is knowledgeable about the administration of KASF. It may even be a good idea to contact the Kingdom Minister of Arts and Sciences because that officer has final approval over such entries, especially if there is a conflict with judging time slots. In the given example, costuming and static arts are often judged simultaneously.

Difficulty: Entries at the KASF should not be extremely easy or uncomplicated to make. KASF is for your best work, not something that you can knock out in a day. It is normally not appropriate to enter samplers. Sampler projects are an excellent way to learn new crafts, but even if extremely well done, they are difficult to judge and usually less difficult.

II. Documentation: Documentation of a piece should begin before you make it, not after.

What to document: It is very important to include all the appropriate elements of an entry.

1. Always document time, place, and culture. These three elements are crucial to evaluating an entry

2. The style, pattern, color, motif, etc should be explained and appropriate to the three crucial elements stated above. e.

3. Information about construction techniques should be covered and appropriate to time, place, and culture. Construction techniques: –time and place.

4. Information about materials used in a project should be detailed and appropriate to time, place, and culture. If substitutions were used, that should also be documented. Make certain that any substitutions are logical and appropriate.

Example 1: Linen would have been used here, but I substituted cotton because of the difference in climate, availability, and price.

Example 2: Medieval craftsmen would have used hand tools of the following type (list). I used power tools because of time constraints.

Source materials: It is very important that you evaluate the sources that you use to document your entry. Printed materials, especially web sources, may be inaccurate or biased. It is also important to determine if a source is primary, secondary or tertiary.

Primary Source: Any information coming directly from the period. Examples: artifacts, extant or surviving pieces, original paintings, and original publications. These are the preferred sources for documentation; however, be careful because even primary sources have their own share of difficulties.

1. Primary sources are great to have, but not always readily found. Also, some primary sources are questionable as a resource. Solid secondary sources are as good, if not better than primary sources in some areas. To know if a secondary source is good, check the bibliography. If there has been a lot of primary research done by the author, then it is probably a better source than one with only minimal primary documentation, or one that relies solely on other secondary authors (this is called a tertiary source).

2. Be wary of primary sources with a point of view. The medieval Christian Church is not a good source for costume, although it is excellent for manuscripts. Shakespeare is an excellent source for 16th century social morays, but lousy on factual history.

3. Extant items and archeological sources–these are wonderful sources when available. The only thing to be wary of is possible misinterpretation due to decay of the item or lack of knowledge by curators. There are thousands of items in museums that are misidentified because changes in technology have left us without a reference point. This is especially true with tools.

4. Works of art–although this is an important source, to rely on it too heavily is to be wrong. Prior to the Italian Renaissance, realistic portraiture was unknown. Artistic renderings tended to be formalized and bear little resemblance to reality. This can, and has, led to many misinterpretations, especially in the area of costume. Sculpture is particularly unreliable when it comes to costume.

Secondary Source : Any interpretation of primary material. Any artistic rendition of primary material, such as an accurate line drawing. These can provide a useful and solid background. Watch out for ideas and beliefs that are out of date. Watch out for personal bias in various authors. Secondary sources are very useful in researching a particular style and its peculiar characteristics. Once an understanding is gained it is easy to interpret what you see in a particular piece of embroidery.

1. Be wary of secondary sources with something to prove. If the author has a ‘theory’, everything will be slanted to prove that theory. Gibbons did excellent research, but ultimately held that the Christian Church was responsible for the fall of Rome. More balanced scholars have since decided that the collapse of the Roman economy had a lot more to do with it.

2. SCA articles: It may be acceptable to use these as a source, if they have a bibliography. If they do not, write the author and get his or her sources. A well documented SCA article may also be known to the judges–always a plus. There are two things that you should be aware of when using an SCA article.

First, carefully verify the time period covered in an SCA article, some kingdoms honor a later time period than is officially covered within Society Guidelines. Meridies follow the 1600 guideline.

Second, evaluate the article carefully. Depending on the article, it may be no more useful than a tertiary source. The standards of the publisher may help you to determine that. For example, Tournaments Illiminated probably has higher standards than a local newsletter. If the SCA article was your original inspiration, it is acceptable to include it in the bibliography as a courtesy and then back research the authors work via the bibliography.

Tertiary Source: Any interpretation of secondary material and very subject to flaws and errors. Many judges believe that a source which makes generalized statements without providing specific dates or specific examples qualifies as a tertiary source. Avoid using tertiary sources in your documentation. If you do use one, make certain that you can support any information with examples from better sources.

Bibliography: It is important to list sources used in researching an historical entry. As a general rule, a good bibliography should have at least three sources at listed. There may be more, but less usually indicates that you have failed to document something. Try to avoid obscure sources. If you have found something no one else has ever seen, make a copy of it.

III. Presentation: Documentation and Entry

Presentation of the documentation: Documentation formats are quite varied. It is important to use a format that is appropriate to the level of the faire.

1. Note Cards: As a general rule, note cards are not appropriate for entries at the regional or kingdom level. Note cards are often acceptable at the local level and faires which specifically request their use. Iit is frequently possible to contain all of the necessary information on a note card, with the bibliography on the back. This is especially true in those contests where there is a lot of interaction between judges and contestants. Where there is no interaction, or the item is complex or unusual, you may need more room to discuss it adequately.

2. Booklet: Contestants commonly use a short booklet format. The necessary documentation, bibliography, drawings, and copies are put in a clear theme folder. If you use this format, remember the following:

a. Length: Make certain that your documentation is only as long as it needs to be. It is important that you adequately cover information relevant to your entry without providing too much extra detail. Key facts that are crucial to your entry may be lost if too much information is included in your documentation. Remember that the judges are operating underneath a time limit and do not have time to weed out important information.

b. Organization: The judges need to be able to follow your train of thought without having to look back at previous pages or paragraphs. If your documentation is longer than a page, it may be a good idea to organize it into logical sections with headers to make it easier to find pertinent facts.

c. Font: Typed documents are easier to read than handwriting, even neat handwriting. While not required, it is a very good idea to type your paper in an easy to read font. Keep the font at a normal size and don’t reduce it to shorten your documentation. A small font is terribly hard to read and increases the likelihood that the judges will not be able to find the information that they need. Underline or italicize foreign words, use quotations properly, and lay out your work so that it is easy on the eyes.

d. Writing style: An easy to read prose style is highly preferable. Do not write in a contrived academic style. It can be annoying to read and it won’t impress anyone. Use the active voice whenever possible, and avoid unnecessary adverbs. (Medieval cooks used rice sparingly…” Not–“Rice was used only sparingly by medieval cooks…”)

e. Proofing or Editing: It is important to spell check your documentation. It is even more important to have someone else, preferably not a spouse, to proofread your work. While your documentation is not a research paper, grammar errors may interfere with comprehension. If possible, have two different people proofread your documentation. Different people will have questions about different areas.

3. Photocopies: Some entrants use photocopies to supplement their documentation. Photocopies can not stand alone as adequate documentation. In some Kingdoms the judges require this. In Meridies, attached photocopies are only necessary when:

a. You have copied or heavily relied on a picture of an actual medieval item.

b. The source you have relied on is obscure or unavailable to the judges.

c. The piece you have produced is unusual and might be unfamiliar to the judges.

Presentation of the Entry:

1. Static Entries

a. The piece should be arranged and displayed attractively.

b. If the piece is small, it should be mounted in some way.

c. Any display or container should have a period look, although it is not necessary to document it. Don’t make huge displays. Space is frequently limited.

d. Make sure that your documentation is clearly identified with the piece. Either attach it, put it under the piece, etc.If using the booklet format for documentation presentation, it is very helpful to display a picture of the entry on the cover of the booklet.

2. Performance Entries

a. Always remember that you are a part of the entry. You should look and act appropriately for a medieval person. You should be wearing appropriate garb, and if entering a costume, appropriate accessories, undergarments, and hairstyle.

b. Present your documentation to the judges first.

c. Give a very brief overview of the piece. Do not apologize for its shortcomings. Do not tell the judges everything that is wrong with it. In costume contests, you will be expected to talk at some length about the piece, but it is not necessary to reiterate the documentation in its entirety.

d. Present the piece. The judges are your audience–play to them.

e. Ask the judges if they have any questions.

f. When you are done, say thank you and leave.

IV. Potential Problems

A. Judges are not all knowing and you know more about the type of item than the judges do. Adequate documentation can avoid this problem entirely.

B. If you forgot to bring a) documentation, b) the accessories for your costume, c) part of the entry, don’t enter the piece. Wait until next time. This will help ensure that all the time and care you devoted to producing a piece of artwork receives due recognition.

C. If you do not understand the judging results or if your piece did not place as well as you thought it should, stay calm and go talk to the judges. The judges will be happy to meet you and to discuss your entry with you. It is possible that the judges missed something in the documentation or it is possible that you didn’t include the information that you thought you did. Whatever the case, remember to stay calm and friendly. Temper tantrums, rudeness, and hostility don’t help anyone. Remember, that the judges are critiquing your skill or research in order to help you grow as an artisan. The judges are not criticizing you as a person.

D. If you feel that the judges who critiqued you were unnecessarily harsh or unfair, contact the fairecrat and explain the situation. Once again, remember to be calm, cool, and collected. .

E. Be honest in your documentation and do not try to bluff your way through something. If you do and the judges call you on it, the correct response is “I’m sorry, I must be mistaken on that. This is an area where I need to do more research.” then, don’t ever do it again.

F. If a judge tells you that something you found in your research or something that you did in the piece is wrong, politely ask the judge to explain why. Ask the judge about his or her source. It may be a good opportunity to learn something new.

G. If you feel that the local judging system is skewed, discuss this politely with the local fairecrat. Fortunately, the system used at Meridian Kingdom A & S is reasonably fair, and most of the judges are familiar with it.

V. A final word

A. Entering A & S is supposed to be a learning experience for both the contestants and the judges. It is a place to share information, learn new things, and get excited about the beautiful things that everyone else is doing. If you have a thin skin, or a lot of ego tied up in your work, don’t enter it in contests. The SCA is a place to share research and techniques, it is not academia. There is no rush to publish first. We are an educational organization. You cannot educate yourself or anyone else if you are stingy.

B. The pieces that you produce should spring from your desire to make or do beautiful things. If the only reason you produce is to win ribbons at an A & S Faire, then you have a self esteem problem that winning a bunch of little ribbons is not going to fix. The satisfaction of doing arts and sciences in the SCA is a reward unto itself. Prizes are nice; they represent recognition by others that you are doing good work, but they should be kept in perspective.