On Art and Generosity

I have long said that one of the best things about the SCA is the generosity of the artists. People in general, but it’s most notable when it comes to art.

This generosity is amazing. It really is. Mind blowing at times. Your friends, your chosen family, your kingdom, people you may or may not know put time, effort, money, and heart into creating works of beauty that we treasure. Pieces of art that we show off in our homes, on our bodies, in our everyday lives. Works that tell stories of great deeds, hard work, or even just special memories that can be as simple as a good day in the park with friends.

But it comes with a downside, and I think it’s not one that is spoken enough about. There’s an unspoken, or rarely spoken about, status quo for artists that indicates you should give gifts, you should be wiling to share your art, and as for getting compensation for it… well… that’s not necessarily a thing. You should do the art because you love it, and that should be enough. Additionally, saying no may not be something that artists feel they can do, because the requestor may take it poorly (if they even do take that answer) or because they feel that not taking it will hurt them in the long run.

Now, this doesn’t extend to things like trades. When both parties are making something the other will use, and each thinks they got a good deal? That’s something else. Also, if this doesn’t apply to you – and you’re able to churn out art regularly without having to worry about the emotional cost? Awesome! Carry on.


(I’ll also be the first one to say that I’ve been guilty of this – I’ve requested art of people and then didn’t properly acknowledge the person making it or try to reciprocate in some ways. I’ve been trying to learn from my mistakes and get better, and it’s a process. I’d like to think I’ve improved on my past mistakes, but I also know that I have a long way to go.)

(I’m also pretty sure I have some gifts/prizes that are buried in my workroom and unfinished.)

So what am I talking about? And why now? Well, much of it comes from having spent the last 12+ months following a lot of creative people in the mundane world, and some talking with SCA artisans. I think that much of the discussion that’s happened in the one sphere can carry over to the other. One thing that seems to be often discussed is that artistic endeavors are not properly valued by and large. And I do mean valued in a monetary sense. There’s a perception that it’s not as valuable because artists have other jobs, this is a hobby, or simply that some work is perceived as women’s work and therefore have less monetary value. (And no, I won’t be hearing arguments against that last one.)

What I’m talking about here is the culture of expecting art, or taking it for granted. Expecting that you’ll get certain art/scrolls/clothing/etc because of your status, or something that you’ve done. That artists have the time and ability to do the work that they are asked to do, without some form of compensation. And the idea that they’re going to be making art no matter what their personal limitations or problems may be does a disservice to everyone, and it’s nothing but harmful in the long run. for many of us, there’s an emotional (or at least psychological) element to creating art, and when that’s forced, it’s brutal and can be really hard to balance out. It eventually reaches a point of burnout, where it doesn’t make us happy, and it’s just a slog. (And eventually, tied into this, let’s talk the strangeness that can be the mindset for one who would like to become a Laurel and getting their work out there.)

Artists are humans, not machines. They have lives and jobs, and when not getting paid for that art, it may fall lower down on the list of priorities. This is fine. this is normal. This needs to be understood. Also, as we continue to take art for granted, artists will be less inclined to make more of it, because why continue to do work for someone that doesn’t appreciate it?

Over the years, I’ve heard stories about nearly killing oneself over clothing commissions to get no feedback/thanks/assistance, of people doing commissions because the person who requested it just couldn’t take no for an answer and then gets really pushy the longer it goes on, of getting asked to do things like largesse or commissions but not being offered anything in return and having it held against them when it’s not possible because of time/cost/etc.

So how do we handle this? Well, I think we need to start by talking about this. We need to have a very serious discussion that addresses the role of the artist and how they work. Artists need to feel comfortable with saying ‘no’, and people need to accept that as a final answer. When art is given or received, it should be appreciated and the maker needs to be asked what they’d like – is just word enough? Do they want art or something, or just favors to cash in later. We’re adults, and while we may not be good at our words, that doesn’t mean we can’t be better. At least we can always work on it.

This post is brought to you by years of hearing artists talk about how much time/effort/energy they’ve poured into projects only to get nothing as a thank you, or half a comment somewhere. And how utterly frustrating it is. I mention above having spent awhile listening/reading/etc non-SCA people talk about taking their work for granted, or undervalued. I think that all of us need to step back and contemplate how we interact with or function as artists, and see how we can help our fellows to enjoy making art, instead of dreading it.

For now, if you’re an artist – do something selfish, just for you. If you’re a commissioner/lover of art – buy something premade from someone who does good work and don’t question the price of it (unless you think it’s too low – then talk to the artist!). Buy it and show it off.

Nalbound Hat with Appliqué for Ceara of Novgorod

The final hat!

I’ve been promising this for too long, and here we go!

So, back in August, a request came to my Laurel that clothing be made for her sister-in-law, who was getting jump-laurelled. I was asked to make the hat, and while it’s been awhile since I finished any nalbinding, I was more than happy to do so.

With much cursing and frustration (I’ll be honest), the result is honestly one of my favorite things in the last few years.

Continue reading “Nalbound Hat with Appliqué for Ceara of Novgorod”

Let’s Talk Glass!

Some of the results of a week of intensive glass fun.

So, a few months ago, at the end of April, I learned how to make glass. It was more geared towards a studio setting, but there’s plenty of knowledge to be had and damn it, I’m still nearly overloaded on it. The reason for that is simple, and it’s the fact that I adore glass. I love it in all it’s forms, in how much you can do with it, and how varied the applications are.

Some of the photos and things I learned there are below. It’s caused some dangerous rabbit holes to start to form, and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk Glass!”

Long Time, No See!

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It’s certainly been a chaotic time since I last updated this page, and there’s been quite a bit that’s happened on the art front. (Also personal, but let’s not go there.)

Namely, my utter love of glass has been renewed, and I’ve also been doing more research  into specific regions. Mostly looking at Northern Europe and Hedeby/Haithabu, but I’ve also been looking at Hallstatt. In general, it’s time to start working once more on the art and research and figuring shit out.

Onwards!

On Event Information – Namely on Facebook

Why yes, it’s been awhile. I have projects to update here, and stuff to talk about, but as it happens life comes up and so here we are some time after the last post with a grump. One related to the SCA, to advertising for events, and to communication thereof.

When I joined the SCA, the way one found out about events was on the Kingdom website, through Yahoo Groups, and Southwind (our monthly newsletter). Facebook existed, but by no means had the overwhelming majority of communication moved there. Now, about fifteen years later as things have changed, I find myself getting more and more frustrated with how information is disseminated about events. (I cannot speak to other kingdoms, so this is limited to my experiences here in Atenveldt. This post is also not about anything other than event listing and information associated with said events.)

Before we go further, there’s something that I think bears repeating. Endlessly.

Facebook is not designed with you in mind. You do not pay for the service, and you do not bring any form of monetary value to the company other than as a pair of eyes that can be sold. Therefore, there is no value in making the platform easier for you to use.

Let us start by saying this: not everyone uses Facebook. The reasons for this do not matter, but those who are posting events/things need to be aware that not everyone will see information pertinent to the event and so you run the very real risk of people not being aware of what’s going on. Even if an event is public, finding it on Facebook without an account can be… challenging.

For those who do use Facebook, it can still be quite hard to find information on events. Upcoming things are not always pushed to those invited/attending (unless you’re willing to pay, and even then) so it can be hard to miss the information as it comes. Additionally, Facebook’s feed moves quite quickly and depending on what platform you’re using what you see could be quite different.

With these basic issues, why keep using it? Honestly, I think that mostly it’s because it’s what people are used to. They’re used to finding events on that platform and having them accessible there. I suspect it’s also got to do with a perception amongst many that events will run themselves, and people will attend no matter what. So sharing the event information is perhaps a secondary concern.

It shouldn’t be, though. Getting the event details out to people is the most important part of making sure they attend. They let them know if the event needs anything (like prizes) or if there are any details that would necessitate changing their plans or schedules (like certain parts of an event being held on certain days). Our kingdom is small, but traveling from one end to the other can be four to five hours, and that requires logistical planning – especially when one has commitments for their job, life, etc to work around.

Now, is there a perfect way to get everything to everyone? No. There’s always going to be someone who complains about not seeing event listings, no matter the location they’re at. But we shouldn’t say ‘well, this hasn’t been used or worked properly for awhile’ and move to a service that limits access to it.

At the very least – having complete information on the Kingdom’s website means that anyone can pull it up and look at all the information they may want or need. Email has the advantage of being able to be filtered so it can be received and viewed as desired. Facebook is going to be the choice for many, so I’m not saying we abandon it entirely, merely make sure it’s used equally with other options to ensure that the information gets to everyone equally.

New Year, New Stuff

So, I swear, this isn’t dead. It’s been a weird second half of the year, but I have at least completed some things that I’m pleased with. My Laurel was Queen, so that meant a chunk of brain energy was diverted there, but at least I got some work done. Did her Queen’s Grace scrolls, and worked on clothing for various people, as well as turned out some naalbinding. Must do more naalbinding.

I also went for Kingdom Arts and Sciences Champion. It was… Oh, let’s not lie – it was an unqualified disaster. For a variety of reasons. However, I’m really glad that I did it – even if it means that there’s now a larger plan in the works for the 2019 competition. One sort of started over dinner the night of the competition and that I won’t regret as much (even if the book I’m eying for the matter is currently pushed back for the second printing).

I’m actually pleased with the documentation that was submitted, though – so I’ll be posting that in the next few weeks.

The highlight, though, was that I returned to my first love of SCA art. Lampwork. Gods, that’s so much fun…

And now, the Estrella prep continues.

Spring Project Roundup

Atenveldt Coronation is done and behind us, which is good. My laurel, Ian’ka, and her husband, Ivan, stepped up as Queen and King, and so things were pretty busy. When it’s members of your household who are reigning, things are always mostly on.

Okay, really busy. But we made them work and it came together really well. And then I ditched my household at Champions to hit the Iris van Herpen show at the Phoenix Art Museum, which was very much worth it.

Anyway, back to the art and projects. Somewhere in the middle of all of the madness, I decided that I’d like to start making a list of things that I’d finished. After all, it really wasn’t much, right? Last year, I was horrible about making things and getting them finished. The weasels were breeding, and I needed to find a way to help counter them.

It ended up being a pleasant surprise, because so far, here’s what I’ve made this year.

Continue reading “Spring Project Roundup”

On Brain Weasels and Their Ilk

In an effort to make sure I’m talking about more than the actual art I make, and also about process, let’s talk about brain weasels. (which, incidentally, are what’s kept this post in draft form for too long!)

 

Anyone who thinks there is little of anything but joy in art really has no experience in the field. Yes, it can be fun and rewarding and relaxing and enjoyable, but it’s never always that way. Ever.

Brain weasels (a term I first heard from a dear friend) are a general blanket term/idea for those ideas that sabotage being able to complete work.

Continue reading “On Brain Weasels and Their Ilk”

Thoughts On the Standards for a Laurel

(there have been a few edits made for clarity)

I’ve been thinking for some time about what the criteria of a laurel are. Mostly because that’s the path that I’m on, and I feel like having a clear-cut goal is a really good thing. A standard that you can reach to feel as if you’ve made it, and be pleased with yourself.

That out of the way, my criteria are simple: could you have made a living, in-period, out of your work. Put another way (thanks, Wolf!) – ‘would people in period spend the money they need on food on what you make/do?’

I am aware that this is perhaps rather strict, and a narrow definition, but hear me out.

Continue reading “Thoughts On the Standards for a Laurel”

Reset Time

I tend to view my year as Estrella to Estrella. It gives me a nice, solid, easy, timeline that I can follow and helps to make sure that my projects are completed completely in time for when they’re needed. (At least in theory.)

 

(This is almost a month after war – I am well aware of that fact. But I’ve been both busy and getting some things taken care of, and the Plaurican is now off at Gulf, so… yeah.)

Absolutely nothing was done by me at War. Seriously. It was *excellent*, and while I feel kind of guilty, it was also exactly what I needed here. The brain is still in a state of flux (I’ve learned – though experience and lots of professional help) and so that’s also been the cause of the laziness. Sort of letting everything reset, and realizing it was good.

So, anyway – I ended up spending a large chunk of time hanging out with people I like, talking art and food, my A&S plans, and A&S in this kingdom (and others) in general. I’ve got a rough idea of what I want to do over the next year and some things that I want to put into place. I’m going to try and make myself remember to write about those and work on setting into motion.

 

So this is just a check-in post, really. A reminder that I’m here, and that I do have work I need to do and plans to fulfill. For now, though… I’ve got a naalbound hat to finish.