Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bartering and Alms

The barter system is alive and well if you are willing to believe in it. Occasionally I get a request for a commission piece and the request comes from someone who has a skill that I greatly admire and likely do not possess. This holiday season was one of those times.

A friend who is a tremendously talented weaver contacted me about calligraphing a poem for a friend. She sent me the text and some information about the recipient's likes: blue tones and cardinals. In return for this original piece, she offered in trade hand woven trim made especially to match a 13th century outfit I am planning for the SCA. Score!

The calligraphy is executed in opalescent blue ink on bristol board. The hand is inspired by the fonts that Frank Lloyd Wright used on many of his projects. After the calligraphy was completed, I used a wash of blues and pale grey over the whole page. Last, the tromp l'oeil feather and the cardinal tracks were added.

The poem is Alms by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Anne was an aviator in her own right, and was an author of some hauntingly beautiful poetry. Not only did this work out as a nice trade between artists, but I was also introduced to the work of an excellent poet. I call this a win.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The last day of our acquaintance

"this is the last day of our acquaintance. I will meet you later in somebody's officeI'll talk but you won't listen to me. I know what your answer will be"          -Sinead O'Connor
I have decided that it is time for a change, so I am making one. 2014 has not been much of a good year to me. So much grief, loss, heartache, sickness and strife for both myself and my immediate circle of humans. It has been a year of trials and of tribulations, with only small joys to remind us that there may be good days yet to come.

What I have learned is a bit more about myself, namely who I want to be, and conversely, who I do not want to be in the future. I am taking that knowledge to heart and making use of it. What good is a lesson if not applied?

So, today, I am firing myself. This Kristen that is, well, just will not do. 
  • I will work to close away the sadness and self loathing because I do not need them anymore.
  • I will be more proactive about my health and wellness, dealing with issues that have crept in but been ignored. I am dissatisfied with my weight, so that is one of the things I am going to face no matter how daunting it might be.
  • I will keep an eye out for a good partner for my life, but neither judge myself by their presence nor their absence. I am enough for myself.
  • I will try to love myself a little bit more and to find ways to come to terms with the things I cannot change about me and to fix the things that I can adjust.
  • I will not shirk from difficulty. Hard truths and real improvement are not born of comfort and sweet words. What I do, I do to improve myself and thus I will straighten my back, square my shoulders and lift my chin.
  • Each day I will rise to meet the challenges that I may face. I will raise my eyes to meet the people around me. I will acknowledge myself as being at least as good as each of them and worthy of the same respect I would grant another.
  • I will accept that I am a good person: that I am loved, that I have good qualities, that I have worth. I will attempt to treat myself as such.
So now, on to the next adventure.

In short: 
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
     -Sylvia Plath 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gerber Daisies and Black Ribbons

I was recently commissioned to create a piece for a wedding. My friends John and Maurissa were getting married and wanted a piece of art that they hang as a reminder of the joy and friends that shared their special day. At their request I created a set of signature pages where the wedding guests would be invited to add their names and help create a memory.

The wedding colors were black and white and the bride's bouquet was Gerber daisies in pink, orange, yellow and white. They expected to need about 110-115 signature lines and also wanted to include the names of some friends and relatives who had passed on but were in their thoughts on their wedding day.

I should have taken pictures of the pieces after they were matted in black but it was fairly late at night and I was pretty tired.

To the left is a detail from page one. Below you will find all three pages and another detail image at the bottom of this post.

The wedding was lovely: the bride was radiant, the groom beaming, the ceremony was sweet and just the right length and the reception was a great deal of fun with good food and karaoke. I'm glad I got to be there with my friends on their special day.

A Peek Inside My Heart

I do not mind who you love, that is your heart. I do not care to which god you pray, that is your faith. I do not think about the color of your skin or about where your ancestors arose, that is just history and DNA.

We are more than the sum of parts.

If you are good and giving, I will treasure you. If you are honest with me, I will give that to you in return. If you are kind and helpful, I will love you. 

If you are filled to brimming with hate, I have no place for you. If your words are poison, speak them somewhere else. 

Always try to be the best version of yourself that you can imagine. Inspire. Create. Live. Dream. Work hard. Love. Give. Help. Have joy. 

Those are the values that I value and the rest is just noise.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


This heart
is a cramped
and heavy place
best kept laced
tight as corsets
and gallows knots.

Just one small cut
an incision of doubt...
and of decision
and this one sharp point
applied with precision.


Unlace my heart
and out tumbles sadness:

 an origami flutter
of folded thoughts
best left pressed in books
or tucked in cellar boxes.

 A scattering of pages,
cigarette ends
and dreams for all my ages.
Here a stamp,
there a heartbreak
with a scar
(oh I remember that night it was so...)

A handful of joy,
a dried bouquet of regret
(yes, I was 17 then... wasn't I?)
and the hopes of days
still promised yet.

All these scraps
and memories
shake out
into just one girl
(didn't she write poems?)

A star
within a cage of bone.

(Quick, lace me up,
or someone might see...)

A girl
with a nova
inside of her chest.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ripples and Grace

An attack of kisses.
Photo by Jared Bluestein
You toss a smile in the direction of a new person, loan someone a piece of garb, thank someone for their service, offer a word of encouragement, give people a chance to vent, lend a hand to cleaning, assist with a task, lead by example and you move on. Perhaps you receive a murmured 'thank you' or a smile in return, but mostly, you think no more on it. What you do not see immediately are the ripples that your words and deeds leave.

For me this was a strange weekend, because I was made to stand in place and have the ripples of my words and deeds pointed out to me, again and again. I was told to listen, told to see and I did. It was passing odd and a humbling experience. I was thanked and complimented by people whom I deeply respect, friends I have known for many years, those who I am still getting to know and also by several I have only recently met. It was a strange experience that left me teary eyed at times and often without any word of response other than a shocked and mumbled 'thank you'.

Compliments of any kind make me rather uncomfortable. I'm not good at receiving them and I know I need to work on that. As someone who believes in regularly giving compliments, thanking people and telling them how much they mean to me, I suppose I must learn to have more grace when receiving the same in my turn. I suppose I don't think myself very special. No work is beneath me. I'm not better than anyone out there. I'm just me, with all my virtues and my flaws which number fairly high. I care a great deal for my friends, I am loyal, I am a hard worker, I don't mind pitching in wherever help is needed. Sure, I have good qualities. But, to be regaled with a laundry list of my perceived virtues, good works and kind deeds left me rather flummoxed. 

The best way I think I can internalize this commentary is that those ripples that I have made in this small pond are all just reflections of the ripples that have affected me. I help because I was taught to help. I am kind to others because I was shown that the opposite was unacceptable. I leave a place better than I found it, because I was taught that lesson by example. I serve with joy because it was requested of me when I accepted a protege belt many years ago. I am merely a reflection of the bright light that has been shown upon me by the many remarkable people in my village. 

So, from now on, when I receive compliments, I will try to do so with grace, remembering that when I am complimented it honors those who have taught me. I am who I am because of them. My pond is filled with the ripples of their actions and each time I am thanked I can silently offer up my thanks to those who have inspired me. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Creatively Tapped

Currently, three of my original pieces are hanging in a staff art show at my work. The show is entitled "Creatively Tapped" which was the suggestion I made of why I should be involved in picking a show name. The other artists on the planning committee found the comment funny, fitting and somewhat ironic and my mouthy retort became a show.

Sprites of Midway, Too Fond of Books and Litany Against Fear will be hanging for one more week in the gallery. Prints of these pieces are available at my Etsy store: Currant Thoughts.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Thalassia's Promissory Pelican

Photo by Jonathan Sidwell
It seems that we learn some of our best lessons from failure. This is a story of reaching for the stars and finding yourself just too short to reach.

We have a beautiful lady with a Greek persona who was to be elevated to the Order of the Pelican. A number of her friends that love her very much wanted to do something super special for her scroll, and I am sad to report that for the moment, at least, we have failed with an awesome project and had to punt with an ok project.

The idea was to make a piece of pottery, namely a Greek kylix. The lady for who the scroll is destined, Thalassia, is a wonderful hostess and really enjoys stuff that is useful- so we wished to create for her a scroll and piece of pottery that she could actually use while entertaining.

We wanted to illuminate it in the red figure style with images of Grecian life that reflect Thalassia's interests. A potter was secured and she tried so very hard, but the kylix just did not want to be. At nearly 12 inches in diameter, the pottery kept breaking in the kiln. The potter was heartbroken. Everyone involved with the project was just sad in general.

It is still our hope to find a potter who can make us a kylix, or that we can piece a piece of bisque that would work for our purposes. Somehow, we are going to make this happen. If you, gentle reader, do know a potter who can produce a 12" kylix bowl, handles and foot- please do feel free to drop me a line!

Now with the punting- We had about 8 days left before the elevation. Everyone was jammed up with projects and busy with a lengthy 7 week demo. We were exhausted and creatively tapped, but still we wanted to be able to hand our friend something. I think Finnguala came up with the idea of laying out the text in the shape of the urn. So, at a Ren Fest demo, this scroll was banged out. I took it home and finished the inking and calligraphy the next day.

Urn sketch: Mistress Finnguala

Text: Mistress Gwenllyan

Text layout: (soon to be Mistress) Milesenda

Calligraphy and inking: Mistress Maol

The finished product was simple, but elegant. Pretty in an understated way. We are still making that damned kylix, but for now- at least we were able to hand our lovely friend something, even if it wasn't what we were aiming for, precisely.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Peer Reclamation Project

The Problem:

The SCA has a problem at the highest levels: long term retention among peers.

My Laurel, Master Iefan and me.
Pillars of various communities give, support and help through thick and thin while the aggravations continue to pile up against them. Irritating politics, a bad experience, being passed over for thanks- all of these little infuriations keep building up until one day, the peer realizes they are no longer having fun in the SCA. Maybe they are a knight who has aged out of being able to fight well, a Laurel who now feels irrelevant or extraneous, a Rose who no one asks to Champion, or a Pelican who no longer gets asked to help with projects. However it occurs, it does happen and we lose these treasures of our society in ones and twos, sometimes in clumps of friends who move on to other endeavors.

These exiting peers have vast and remarkable knowledge. They once contributed so much to the SCA that they were named peers, so they are or were experts at something. Since their elevation, the have probably helped as a community leader and likely have a broad skill-set that is so vast, you'd likely never even guess all of the things they know how to do. When we lose one peer, as a Society, we lose the breadth of their knowledge and the wealth of their expertise, but we also likely lose a few of their friends and associates who follow to different venues where they can continue to spend time with their friends. It is like a star that dims and then winks out leaving an empty spot in our Society.

Why Does This Matter?

No, peers are not the only people who matter in the SCA and I would never suggest that. However, retention at our highest levels is important to the continued growth of the SCA and peers often serve as the inspiration and awe that is needed to keep newer Society members interested in achieving and going the extra step. Without them, we lose our institutional knowledge, our oldest traditions and the Society becomes a little bit less for it.

We also lose our friends when peers leave. Once they are gone, people who used to spend time with those peers will likely miss them and then feel something is lacking in their own SCA experience which may cause them to look for new opportunities for joy.

The Peer Reclamation Project

The idea started as a joke years ago, when I started watching friends drift away from the SCA. Some of those friends who left were peers, and I watched the hole that was left in the fabric of the Society as they went away. Sometimes that hole was filled, but often knowledge or momentum was lost, setting an art or project back several years. Sometimes the hole left by the departure of a peer was never refilled, and the SCA just moved forward with a gaping empty space where something cool had one been. 

My Peer Reclamation Project (as I jokingly named it) was a mostly secret task force and ad-hoc campaign to "reform peers gone astray and bring them back as useful and contributing members of the Society". This sounds hilarious and silly, but look past the silliness of the idea and think carefully about the concept:
  • What if we could reach out to those peers who still had connections in the SCA, as they were drifting away and try to catch them? 
  • What if we could find out what made those peers happy and brought them joy and then helped them have chances to be part of those things again? 
  • What if we could set up "play dates" for those peers to work with people who had similar interests or even senses of humor and helped them to make new connections within Society?
  • What if we could keep a peer and help them find a new direction for their time spent in the Society?
  • What if we could retain even just a few of these amazing individuals, and what if they also were glad again?
Answer: we could do a lot more and we could do it better.

So, my SCAdian friend, think about it: how many peers do you know that seem to be drifting away from Society. What knowledge, craft, tradition and friends will disappear with them if they take leave of the SCA? Do you like how that SCA looks to you? Maybe not. 

Think for a moment about the peers that have inspired you over the years who have already left the Society. What did their departure do to their friends, their local groups, their community, their Kingdom?

The Early Years are Important

Peerage can be hella rough on a new peer. Things change really quickly, and not always for the best. From what I have observed, we tend to lose a lot of new peers within 1-3 years of their elevation. The reality of peerage can be like a sucker-punch when you discover that this thing you have worked for is not really a cool accolade but is actually a job and it is a job that often sucks. There is no pay and you are expected to always perform at the highest level, without slowing down or making a mistake.

How Can You Help?

When you work with a new peer, no matter if you are an OD (Old Dragon) or shiniest of newcomers, please remember that they are new at this, don't have a ton of experience and don't have all of the answers. They are still learning and that really is part of the process. Treat them with the same respect that you want to receive. Maybe you can help inspire a peer to be even better.

Peers- 'partying' with exhaustion at 8pm.

The Longer Years

SCA Peerage is much like a job, but one day you realize that you have had this position for a while and there is no hope of promotion or raise. You don't get to retire. That's daunting. Unless a peer can find joy in working with associates or is self-motivating to an extreme, they may start to get bored or tired. After a few years of peers putting an awful lot of time and effort into the club, they might not be as enthusiastic as they once were and may not volunteer to help with things that they have already done dozens of times. They might be bored. There might be some friction with another member. They may no longer find joy in their original area of expertise. 

How Can You Help?
Remember that peers are people too. Be polite. Treat them as you want to be treated. Smile and compliment them as you would anyone else. Ask them what they like and enjoy. Find out what they still want to learn and what interests them. If you have the opportunity to work on a project that you think a drifting peer might enjoy, invite them to help. They probably also don't get a lot of invitations to just hang out with other SCAdians that they don't know well. Invite them for a local movie night, a game of blood-sport boccie, a potluck dinner, game night or whatever. They are people and they like all kinds of stuff.

Can't Catch 'em All

No, we can't get back every peer who has left the SCA. Some of them are too angry and are not over the hurt that made them leave. Some of them will have found other things that they enjoy more than the SCA and will have moved on. Some will have moved forward with their careers and families and may no longer have a space in their life for a club that takes up so much time. It happens. Don't badger people who tell you they are not interested in coming back to the SCA. It won't help the cause and it will likely just hurt your friendship. Sometimes, you just need to understand that they no longer want to be part of the SCA, and that that is entirely ok. Wish them well and try to keep up your friendship as there was probably a pretty good reason you were friends in the first place.

Be Welcoming

Returning peers may have a lot of trepidation and a bit of guilt hanging over them when they return. They likely fear the same situations that drove them away, like miserable politics or negative interactions with someone they did not enjoy their first time around. While they may have spent a few years changing, so likely have the people they left in the SCA. If you see someone returning to play that you used to have drama with, figure out if that drama even still matters. If it does not, why not drop it? Walk on up to the returning peer and introduce yourself and admit that a lot of time has passed. Create an opportunity to start fresh that will benefit both parties.

As pointed out to me by Earl Lorcan, returning peers may also feel a lot of guilt or that they have somehow shirked their responsibilities. Everyone needs time to themselves, even peers. Sometimes you need to get something else accomplished or get some clarity and perspective. Take a moment and let the returning peer know that you are glad to see them back. Don't make them feel more guilty, just make them feel welcome and help them edge back into the Society. 


It's shocking how much perspective time can provide. After just 10 years of peerage, I've seen so much in Society change. I've watched people come, and friends go away. I walk around an event now, and sometimes realize that I don't know any of these new people that I see. When I wander past a campsite, I don't recognize anyone and don't wander in because I don't want to be a bother. How will I feel in another 10 years, 20? I have no idea.

What I do know is that I have met some of my best friends and most amazing family of choice in the SCA, and I don't want to imagine a future where this group of people isn't in my life. I'm choosing to keep myself involved and interested, surrounded by amazing people but I recognize that not everyone has that option. For now, I'm going to make the conscious choice to reach out to other peers when I have an opportunity and make sure that these people that I look up to and respect know that they are cared for, and that I am better just because they are in my life. In working to "reclaim a few peers", I have made and strengthened some incredible friendships and have gotten to know some truly amazing people on a new level. I also get to see those friends at SCA events, so I'm going to mark this as a 'win'.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


A pink color morph of Passiflora incense.
A very rare sighting.
This year I scoffed at the idea of a New Years resolution to lose 10 pounds, eat more vegetables, work more on my garden or something else that won't change my life and that I will set aside in just a few months. Instead I decided to resolve to be a better and happier me by working on my perspective on life. I sincerely believe that when I improve myself, I improve those around me and we all have a better time of it.

I resolve to love the little things that are good: to raise them up high and point them out to the world, to acknowledge even the smallest good deed or tiny flower that makes my life better. A delicious curry, a wash of roadside flowers, a smile from a friend. These actually are the best parts of life and I will celebrate them rather than overlook them.

I resolve to cherish my friends and give gifts of time and service over gifts of things: I will make the lives of those around me better through giving of myself and my talents rather than creating more clutter. I will be a better friend and in return I will have better friends who will do the same for me.

I resolve to not wallow in sorrow and grief and anger: when those emotions wash over me I will turn away from them and put effort toward finding something good instead. When sadness sweeps in I will push it aside and ask the people in my life for a thing that makes them smile and I am sure my smile will return.

I resolve to remind my friends that they are good and important and needed: when they are in need I will help them, when they are sad I will hold them and when I can do anything to make their lives better or easier- I will.

I resolve to not giving my time, thoughts or efforts to those people or things in my life that do not deserve them: people that cause strife, those who are cruel to others, projects that don't benefit anyone at all- these will not get my time and will not be allowed to burrow into me like cancer. They don't deserve my time and they will get none of it.

My art is hanging in an art show.
I resolve to be better than I have been. I resolve to choose happiness. I just have this one life and at the end I will think it much too short, so now is the time to fully inhabit every moment, to fully live every day and to fully love all of those who love me.

At the end of this year, if I stick to this resolution I am certain that I will be better for it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

To my ladies...

Unto the ladies of my SCA household, my lady friends, my lady co-workers, my lady friends I have yet to meet, the young ladies that orbit in my life, and ladies everywhere, I send you greetings and many blessed wishes. I also wish to ask you a personal favor:

Stand up.  Stand up straight. 

Roll back your shoulders and raise your chin. Stop looking at the ground and raise your eyes to the world. You are beautiful and amazing and there are people out there who want to know you. Stop your hiding in plain sight. Each moment, fully inhabit and fill the place where you stand. It is yours.

Be you. Believe in yourself, and be certain that someone believes in you. I believe in you. You are loved. You are needed and you are necessary. More people care about you than you will ever know. When the chips are down, your friends will be there for you and they will help you.

If you cannot stand up, ask for help. I will stretch out my hand from next to you, from across the room, from across the miles and from far postmarks. I will help you. I will step beside you and hold your hand on the hard days. I will stand behind you and whisper affirmations in your ear. I will stand in front of you and clear the path. I will catch you when your knees wobble and fail. My strength is yours.

My hands are your hands. When they ache, when they need, when they are heavy with exhaustion: I feel that. Your heart is my heart. When it aches, when it weeps, when it is filled to brimming: I feel that. Your head is my head. When it swirls with doubt, when it knows the right path, when it is filled with trouble: I feel that.

You are amazing and you are flawed. Be willing to grow and evolve. Be ready to become a better you. Find those women and those people who make you a better person and embrace those improvements. You are strong and tough and capable. Your happiness is an option if you choose it.

All that we have in this world is each other: our friends and families and especially our lady friends. Be there for each other. You deserve a good life, rich with friends and love and success. Reach out a hand to help someone else and know that when you need it, a hand will reach out to you. Be a good friend and you will be rich with good friends.

Yes, I mean you. I am here for you and so many others are with me, ready to lend what is needed.

Now, stand up.

To my lady friends: Thank you, each of you for helping me to stand up and meet the world. You give me strength, you dry my tears, you whoop with my joys, you whisper the affirmations, you hold me close. I am better for knowing each of you and I could not do this without you.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Walters M. 168 page

A quick border based on Walters M. 168.16R, by Willem Vrelandt. The manuscript is a 1430's Book of Hours with nice, simple borders. These are just perfect for fast projects. I think I put about three-ish hours into this, start to finish.

Masters of the Dark Eyes Missal page

I think I do some of my most fun work at Ren Faire demos. I pick something pretty that I want to paint, take lots of breaks and always have someone to talk to. I knocked this bit out at Hoggetowne Medieval Faire 2014 over two days.

Inspiration comes from
Walters Ms. W.175, known also as the Masters of the Dark Eyes Missal which originates in Utrecht, Netherlands at the end of the 15th century.

Neat book with a fabulous name. If you'd like to take a longer look at the many, many sumptuous illumination pages from the manuscript, you are in luck as the Walters has digitized the whole manuscript. Click for sexy, blingy images.

I look forward to trying out a few more pages from this gem. I'll be turning them in for general Kingdom use, so if you end up on the receiving end, drop me a line!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Corwyn's Ring of Chivalry

Someday, the day will come. On that day I will have an idea and someone will tell me no, or I have gone too far. Fortunately, that day hasn't come yet.

So I made a scroll for a friend who is legally blind and I made it as a giant eye-chart. My partner-in-crime, Mistress Gwenhwfyr ber Cain, did her math ninja thing and figured the correct proportions of each line and what eye strength it represents and I merrily lettered away. So, it's not so much calligraphy as trying to look like a printed font.

On the upside, he found it amusing and when pressing his face to the scroll, he could read the letter 'E'. Success!

Ring of Chivalry for Baron Corwyn

Each good deed and kind word is a tiny spark and as those kindnesses multiply they become a beacon by which we can know the worth and chivalry of a man. As Corwyn Moray shines exemplar with his many acts and deeds, the ladies of the Barony of Wyvernwoode would bestow this Ring of Chivalry. So done this 3rd day of January, AS 48

So, that was fun.

Reflections on the Arts and Sciences Competitions

Photo credit: Jared Bluestein
I'm a Laurel, so I take judging Arts and Sciences Faires pretty seriously. I don't think I have missed a Kingdom A&S competition in the last 14 years or so.

As an artisan, it's my pleasure to supply fair and honest critique while always being polite. As a person, it is a humbling experience to watch another artisan progress year after year and find their strengths in their art. As a Laurel, it's part of my job to judge kindly and train new judges to do the same so that entrants feel welcome to enter their projects in the competition.

Not everyone has the same approach, but here's what's worked for me.

Maol's Quick Guide to Judging Art/Sci

1.) Be Nice
For anything you feel that needs to be said, there is a nice or polite way to say it. If you can't find a way to be business polite, then go see the A&S minister, turn in your judging forms and take yourself out of the hall. Go for a walk, enjoy the event, but don't go back into the hall to judge. Sometimes we're in the wrong head space, having a bad day, something has set us off or we are just pissy. That happens, but it is no excuse for being unkind to an entrant.There is never an excuse to be mean. You can be honest without being a jackass.

A good test: Do not say or write anything that you would be unwilling to say or write if the artisan was sitting next to you.

2.) If there's a huge, glaring problem- offer to judge with critique only
Sometimes a novice entrant or a person new to the SCA will have had very little guidance before entering an A&S competition. Misunderstandings happen. Sometimes you'll be presented with an entry o judge, but when you sit down and critically look at the piece or the documentation, you may notice a huge problem. Perhaps the documentation is scant, or just entirely incorrect. Perhaps the entrant misunderstood a process or incorrectly translated a part of a recipe and has entirely missed some critical process or understanding. These artisans are excited enough to try entering the competition, so help them get it right. A quick chat with the A&S minister can usually make a problem very clear and together you can find a way to supply critique without giving a dismal score that will forever keep the entrant from returning to a competition.

3.) Invite people to judge with you
If someone looks interested in how the competition runs or how the judging process works, invite them to ride along with you. Take some time to explain the process and how you are judging and you can judge an entry while training a new judge. If someone has expressed reservations about entering the competition, ask them to come along with you as you judge so they can gain a better understanding of what judges look for and how the process works. In that case you have just helped to train a new judge and prepare an entrant for competition. I find that team judging works nicely for training new judges. Take a few minutes to talk about the judging form and ask your new judges if they have any thoughts. Their insight might surprise you.

4.) Judge up, not down.
When scoring, don't look for places to dock points. It puts you in a negative frame of mind. If your judging form is a rubric, read upward on the points scale until you find the score that best fits the entry and documentation. If you aren't sure and are hovering between a 7 and an 8, judge upward and award points, rather than detract them. Be positive and approach each entry separately as something worthy of regard.

5.) Welcome artisans to be a part of the judging process.
During judging, some artisans don't like to be present because they are stressed. That's understandable as many of us have huge problems laying a piece of our fragile artist's soul on a table and then waiting for it to be graded. If the artisan is willing to sit with you, you have a new teaching opportunity. As you see places where documentation or a skill could be improved or refined, you can show the artisan what will help improve their work, their docs and their score for next time.

6.) Explain yourself
There is nothing more infuriating as an entrant as looking at your judging sheets and have no idea why you received a particular score. If the entrant is not able or willing to sit with you during the judging process so you can explain your critique and make suggestions for improvement then leave you contact information and invite the artisan to contact you if they have more questions.

7.) Don't be a dick
For entrants, Art/Sci can be a remarkably positive experience or it can be a soul-sucking drain that makes them want to flee from the very word 'competition' and throw their art in the nearest murky body of water. Don't be that judge who gives a terrible score, mean commentary or makes snarky comments that get overheard by the entrant. No one needs that crap and you'll just be the one who looks like an ass in the long run. Respect that the entrant has volunteered their time and skill and then has put their piece forward for critique. Lastly, never use the excuse of docking a point on an entry because in your estimation "nothing is perfect" or "I would have done this one tiny super-obscure thing differently". It's just a point. Again, imagine how you would feel if you were then entrant and if you have any doubts, see #7

Maol's Quick Guide to Entering Art/Sci:

1.) Look at Judging forms in advance.
Judging forms tell you precisely how judges will be scoring you. Look at the categories and questions that the rubric asks and make sure that you answer each one thoroughly. Use the rubric as a guide to understanding on what merits and documentation your piece will be judged. The judging rubric is essentially an entirely acceptable crib sheet that you are encouraged to use.

2.) Don't assume judges know what you are talking about
Good documentation is made up of answers to the following questions: What did they do in the middle ages? What did they use in the middle ages? How did they make this in the middle ages? What did you do? What did you use? How did you make this? What are the differences between what was done in the middle ages and why do those differences exist. Sure, you may know everything there is to know about the citrus trade, hybridization, uses and propagation in the middle ages, but your judges may not be so conversant with it. Supply the answers to the questions that the rubric asks and make sure you provide the info the judges need.

3.) Don't assume judges are mean or terrible people
Judges are just folk. They may have some special knowledge and insights, but to be honest they are just people. They probably want more coffee, find the chairs uncomfortable, wish they could be out in the sun and probably like candy. They are likely not terrible people. Be helpful by making sure that the information you provide is easy to navigate and well laid out, that your piece is appropriately and neatly displayed, and that you have done you best to secure a good score with your skills and documentation.

4.) Stay and listen to your critique
Unless you are unable to attend the competition or have a medical condition that prevents you, be strong enough to stick around and listen to your judges. You'll likely make some new contacts in your field of art and will have the opportunity to pick the brains of experienced judges and artisans. Take notes on what they say and suggest and you won't have to try to decipher bad handwriting on a cramped judging form later.

5.) Be positive
Go into the A&S competition with the expectations that you will receive honest critique on your work and documentation and suggestions for improvement. If you take a positive attitude in with you then you will likely have a positive experience. If you are certain that the experience will be terrible and awful, your prophecy will likely fulfill itself.

6.) Don't be a dick
For judges, Art/Sci can be a remarkably positive experience or it can be a soul-sucking drain that makes them want to flee from the very word 'competition' and throw their red pen and themselves in the nearest murky body of water. Don't be that entrant who freaks out, sobs uncontrollably, shouts strong language or makes snarky comments that get overheard by the judge. No one needs that crap and you'll just be the one who looks like an ass in the long run. Be a grown up. Accept your critique and take it in the spirit it was intended. If you have a problem with a judge, go talk politely to the A&S minister who can usually clear up the issue with little effort. Respect that the judges are volunteers giving up their time to provide critique and are missing their event to stay in the hall and judge.

Lastly, if you do miss a perfect score by just one point from one judge, just take a second to breathe. Go to that judge and politely ask them what they would recommend you do to improve that deduction. If they are obviously just being a jerk and claim to "never give perfect scores on principle", then brush off their commentary and go hang out with your friends. You're awesome.

Wyvern's Heart for Draig

Wyvern's Heart for Draig Ui Meic Theire inspired by a leaf from Walters Museum MS W.185, known also as the Doffinnes Hours. I found the original to be simple yet elegant, more appropriate for a man than the usual flowers and bling I am naturally drawn to. The illumination for this was quite speedy: sketched, painted, and detailed in about 3 hours. My favorite detail is the trefoils in the white work on the right hand bar. I really need to put in some more calligraphy time as I feel my skills are slipping quite a bit. Award presented by Baron Segdae and Baroness Madeleine at Hero of the Chalice in Jan 2014.
Here's the presentation:
Photo credit: Jared Bluestein