Monday roundup: end of winter break

My last semester of grad school starts on the 24th, so I have, basically, this past week and this upcoming week to enjoy the break and then it’s back to business. For fifteen weeks. I can do anything for fifteen weeks.

Working on: I’ve got things cooking a bunch of different burners, and I spent all of Sunday puttering around the apartment and poking at least a little at all of them, which was lovely.

The blackwork coif continues to progress. My Laurel is cleaning out her stash and sent me two boxes of fabric, from which I’ve completely filled up the bin of trash linen for my first batch of papermaking experiments; also in those boxes were a couple of yards of burgundy velveteen and charcoal polar fleece which I’ve cut out for a short cape in this style but closer to this length.

Good progress on the woodcut this week; the rough cut is done, it’s all just cleanup from here.

I’ve printed out the index of Motiño and started re-translating it because it’s been f*king five years since I even looked at it and that breaks my heart. Y’all, the index – the index – is sixteen pages, and it’s not a rush job this time, cranking the index out as a rough crib to pick recipes to start getting them tested for a looming feast. I’m taking it much more slowly and carefully, aiming for a page a day of index and a recipe a day thereafter – I probably won’t hit that during the semester, but I’ll certainly plug away at it as I can. At that rate, it’s about two years of work.

I got some good feedback on the household name documentation at populace meeting. I didn’t get any further revisions on it done this week, but I hope to next week.

And – this isn’t SCA per se and I’ll be posting more about it on the other blog, but it is food culturey and gifty – I gave away almost all of the half-quart preserve jars I had in my gift pantry at Twelfth Night with the intent of starting to build up that pantry again, and then Food In Jars went and started this business, and I posted on my Facebook flist about it and like HALF MY FLIST wants to play, which is so exciting! I already had some blood oranges for a new batch of blood orange liqueur, and I’m down to half of one jar of the grapefruit marmalade I made a few year’s back, so there’s my January entry.

Reading: I’m about two-thirds through Papermaking and getting quite a lot out of it, although of course the earlier chapters are most relevant – I’m now into the 18th/19th century stuff, which I’m reading at a pace just a smidgen deeper than skimming, and very much looking forward to the chapters about contemporary artisanal papermaking (“contemporary” being Arts and Crafts era – the book was originally published in 1943, at which point Hunter had been working in the book arts world for thirty years).

Geeking out on: LAPIS AND GOLD IS HERE . LAPIS AND GOLD IS HERE. Also, Elaine Wright’s other book, The Look of the Book: Manuscript Production in Shiraz, 1303-1452, also came in. I’ve barely got my teeth into them but I am mesmerized.

Next up: A lot of continuing on with the same projects. Coif, household name documentation, Motiño, woodblock.

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Monday roundup: new year, looking forward

Working on: Twelfth Night was FABULOUS. I finished everything I set out to finish and the outfit came together and looked smashing and felt great. Had some delightful conversations about possible collaborative projects, including a couple of tentative discussions about possible future feasts, so we’ll see if those firm up into real plans.

I got three coifs cut out and one assembled, and took it with me to start embroidering; I’m working it in red silk based on Lorraine Behrens’ Jane Seymour cuff. I got a band about an inch and a half by six inches done at the event, and puttered at it last night.

I filtered the hypocras and it is LOVELY and also STRONG. It definitely needs time to rest.

Reading: The sad truth is I barely picked up a book this week; I’ve hit bed too exhausted to keep my eyes open, and I haven’t had any time outside of bedtime. Trying to change that this week. Lapis and Gold and The Look of the Book are both in transit on ILL, and I’m really looking forward to sitting down and looking at them.

Geeking out on: Packing for Twelfth Night meant going through my scads and scads of feast gear, some of which is packed up amongst other sentimental mementos and little-used specialty gear, and figuring out what to take for table setting, which was introspective and bittersweet. A lot of thinking about what to get back into use and how, what to repurpose, what to let go. It’s a neverending process, it seems.

Up next: I’m finding it much easier to work on things that involve sitting on my butt in front of the television, so handsewing and embroidery move forward but it’s a lot harder to carve out time for things that tie me to tools and a workspace – the woodblock project, machine sewing, and suchlike. I have enough handsewing right now to keep me busy for a month or two on small projects, so I’ll be cranking those out in due course, but I really, really want to make time and space for the other stuff too. I definitely want to try to get some scroll blanks blocked out and started this week.

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Monday Roundup: quiet year’s end

Working on: Continuing, from last week, on Twelfth Night stuff. I finished the embroidery on the pillbox hat last night (yay!) and have maybe an hour of sewing on the underdress and the assembly of the hat left, and then I’m done with this outfit.

While I was at the sewing machine doing interior construction seams on that dress, I also did the last couple of seams on a velvet flat cap; all that’s left on that now is closing the last interior seams and adding attachment points for feathers.

I’ve got a batch of what’s shaping up to be very good hypocras steeping and it needs to be filtered sometime this week, and a batch of apple cider that needs racked YESTERDAY (literally, I didn’t get to it yesterday).

Reading: Nothing SCA-related. (See the other blog tomorrow, though, for my first book review in months.) But I’m really looking forward to what I have lined up: Dard Hunter’s Papermaking and a stack of food history and food culture books.

Geeking out on: Not really a lot of geeking this week. A fair bit of low-key Pinterest skimming on various subjects, but mostly just sewing.

Up next: Last week’s “small stuff, mostly Spanish” is shaping up into an actual Project, as I’m thinking about the components of a Spanish outfit that I’ve already got or are low-hanging fruit to have a complete and ready-to-wear outfit.

  • Black and burgundy bodice: needs laces, probably 3-4 hours on the lucet.
  • Finishing the flat cap: not more than an hour of work
  • detaching the poorly conceived bodice from the perfectly acceptable skirt of the black dress and re-hanging the skirt on a waistband: probably 3 hours.
  • coif: probably 3 hours to assemble a plain one, plus 20-25 hours for a blackworked one.
  • Repairing one of John’s shirts (mainly buttons/ties): probably 2 hours.
  • Overgown: 2-3 hours of cutting and interior seam construction and then… I dunno. How much time is involved in finishing will depend on how silly I get with it.

So a lot of components, but each one represents only an evening or two, except for the blackworked coif and the overgown. I think I’ll get the overdress and two coifs cut out tomorrow, knock out this raft of little projects in between working on the overgown, including one plain coif so that I have something finished, and then take my time on the blackworked coif, and it will probably keep me lightly busy through January.

I also definitely want to do some work on the woodcut this week. A chunk of tomorrow is going to be reorganizing my desk, getting the sewing machine activity out of the way and the sewing machine put up for a while, and getting that surface on a woodworking footing. And I’d really like to spend some time doing some backend work on the blog.

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Monday Roundup: Twelfth Night or bust

Linksmų Kūčių!

It’s Christmas Eve, or, for us heathens with no small children or other compelling reasons to participate in the dominant cultural celebration, “a paid day off to do as I damn please.” And what I please is making art, reading, and cleaning my house. And quite actually literally opening packages of spices and silk just arrived from India.

Working on: Twelfth Night is looming. I got back from the post office ten minutes ago and the silk for the underdress  is already in the wash; I now have all the components of the kit in my hands. There’s not more than about 12 hours of embroidery left on the hat. I’ll finish, but it will be close, and I don’t have the leisure, really, of taking an evening off to do something else (or nothing at all). I don’t love that feeling. No deadlined projects for me for a little bit after this.

A library patron gave me a gallon and a half of hand-pressed fresh cider, and I’ve started a batch of hard cider from that, which is happily bubbling away on top of my fridge. And the spikenard and long pepper that just came in, along with spices I already had in the house, are going into a bottle of decent port for hypocras that I’ll start later today.

Reading: Making Books came in and damn, it’s spectacular. I absolutely recommend it as a foundational technique sourcebook.

Also reading Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s history of the relationship between astronomy/astrophysics and the military; the chapter I just finished is about the role of celestial navigation in the Renaissance world. In the course of cleaning up my RSS feeds and old bookmarks I found a couple of SCA and medievalist blogs I intended to follow and have now done so; next week or the week after I might do a blog roundup.

Geeking out on: Still processing Rembrandt and thinking about metalplate intaglio. I put some Arabic calligraphy and illumination books on ILL order and am super excited about those coming in – right now all I have on hand to work with for period pigments are the small amounts of paint I made in two colors at the class at Battlemoor, but single-color Arabic illumination is beautiful and appropriate, so that’s where I’m starting.

Up next: Small stuff, mostly Spanish. I have fabric set aside for three coifs (two unadorned, one with blackwork), I have a skirt that needs set into a new waistband, and I’d like to start the work of unpicking Juan’s caramel-and-chocolate doublet so I can refit it for me. Also, with Twelfth Night behind me, I’ll have time and leisure to do some scribal practice/scroll blanks, and work on the woodcut.

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Monday Roundup: goals-not-resolutions

One of our awesome Outlands artisans has started, on the Facebook page for the GOA-level arts order, posting a Monday “what are you working on?” prompt to encourage us to share, inspire, get inspired, encourage, and support each other. I’ve been participating for a few weeks now and found myself really actively looking forward to it.

I’m also thinking a lot about what I want 2019 to look like, and as I said on the other blog, I’m thinking about it as the Year of Finishing What I Start. I want to keep on track for long-term goals, I want to be intentional about what I volunteer for and what I commit to, and I want to be productive but also have fun. And I know that I do all of that better when I document, document, document. So I’m going to start posting my Monday prompt responses here, to keep a running tab on what I’ve got going on and where I’m headed.

My overarching goals for 2019 are:

  • Start building capacity for and mastery of block printing on fabric and paper using contemporary ink.
  • Start collecting materials and experimenting with papermaking and with period C&I.
  • Acquire 1 10×10 popup and mod it to use as a Taller Osorio classroom tent.
  • Get el Taller registered as a household.
  • Start building 16c Spanish garb kit.
  • Make incremental improvements to Central Asian and Baltic garb and ambience kits.
  • Some “giving back to the community” projects – gifts, largesse, prizes, scribal.
  • Maybe a feast?

Written out like that, it looks like a LOT, but actually, I already have a fair bit of this stuff. I’ve been working with period ink for a while now, and I have a pound of gum arabic on order  arrived and unpacked about ten minutes ago, and already have theoretical knowledge on making paints will be starting to acquire pigments nxxt, so it’s just a matter of getting some practice and experimentation in before I step up to do a scroll in period materials. I’ve got a couple of items of Spanish kit and fabric earmarked for a bunch more.

Working on: I’ve got things cooking on a couple of different burners right now.

My big project is a new Central Asian kit for Twelfth Night (Jan. 5th); the entari, trousers, and veil are done, I’m embroidering a hat right now, and waiting for fabric to arrive for the gömlek.

I’ve bought some birch boards and new carving tools and am working on a woodblock based on a ceramic painted tile from the Alhambra; this will be the floorcloth for the Taller Osorio classroom tent. And I’ve sent my household name and heraldry documentation to our baronial herald to take a look at in advance of submission in January.

Reading: Nothing SCA-ish right now, I’m trying to clear out my current library checkouts (current read: Ursula LeGuin’s final collection of essays) but I have set aside Dard Hunter’s Papermaking as the second book I’ll read in the new year, and have just purchased David Buchanan’s Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter and Making Books: A Guide to Creating Handcrafted Books from the London Centre for Book Arts.

Geeking out on: Rembrandt’s prints. Rembrandt is post-period obviously but not by all that much, and I’ve been to the Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker exhibit at the Denver Art Museum three times in the past two weeks, getting something new out of each trip. I’m focused on woodblock work right now, but I want to do metalplate intaglio work at some point, and so I’m just soaking it all in.

Up next: It’s all Twelfth Night all the time right now. I have this hat to finish and underdress to make, I have gifts to make and organize. Once that stuff is done, I want to focus on the Spanish kit, and I’ve got a couple of low-hanging fruit projects: a skirt that’s already made, just needs the waistband re-hung; a flat cap that’s about 75% finished; a blackwork pattern picked out for a coif (and I will probably make several coifs in a batch, some for me, some to give away). I’ve also got some tablet weaving on the loom that I need to finish, as it’s a stalled project for a friend. All of that will likely keep me busy until school starts back up in late January.

This post is longer than most of the Monday posts will be; the goal is just maintaining a brief roundup and checkin each week. I’m excited. I’m having a lot of fun right now with everything I’m working on, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at Twelfth Night, I’m starting to feel like I’m getting my groove back.

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Never the war I expect, always the war I need.

I didn’t go to Battlemoor last year for a variety of reasons – there were a lot of obstacles, no one particular one insurmountable, but what brought it all together was that it was the first year on the new site, and I had been – Juan had been – so, so invested in the old site for so long, that I was just not emotionally prepared for the enthusiasm of other people for the new site.

This year, I knew, it would be business as usual. And I could deal with that.

And in so many other ways, this year was just easier. It wasn’t the first week of the semester! I have a car and the freedom that goes with that! I have a camp family I feel safe and welcome with. I have some direction in my SCA life and things I’m excited about and things to do.

I had in my head a vision of this being the Battlemoor when I came back – had all of my own shit together, contributed meaningfully to my camp, showed up and carried myself like a Peer and competent adult person, didn’t need help and in fact had the emotional and logistical agility to help others. Started paying forward all of what so many people have done for me for so long now. Was myself again, my best self, the person I want to be.

It didn’t work out quite like that.

My car blew a timing belt on the way to the event. I didn’t know until a few hours ago what it was, I just knew I was dead on the side of the road, but that’s what it was. I got safe, I got roadside assistance activated, and then I posted to Facebook that, “whoops, no Battlemoor for me,” and as far as I was concerned, that was that. But one of my close friends had not yet left town, and we were able to coordinate, and in twenty minutes in my mechanic’s parking lot I sorted through my car and figured out what MUST go and left everything else behind. The food and garb and basic bedding went, and I was able to grab a popup tent from my daughter on the way out of town. The period tent, servingware and kitchenware, a lot of camp conveniences stayed behind. I spent the entire weekend going, “I have – oh, no, fuck, I don’t have that with me.” A lot of people helped me out, a lot. I apologized a lot. There was a lot of MacGyvering, and that’s kind of what I do, so it was ok.

Because I was just bloody emotionally and physically exhausted before I ever even got there, I didn’t do as much as I wanted to. I missed the parties both Friday and Saturday night, and I had had my heart set on going to them. I missed most of the fighting.

I did get to watch a little bit of the rapier Artisans’ Tourney and just a few minutes of the Sword and Shield of Battlemoor, which was lovely. I took some really fascinating and timely classes and had some really great conversations around A&S work I want to do. I was able to get all the food to site, and I was able to cook dinner for my campmates on Saturday night, and that was low-key  and delightful. I got to spend some real time with a couple of my dearest friends who I have hardly seen at all this year and their delightful out-of-kingdom guest, including just sitting in the middle of an unused road at the far end of site, our chairs all in a row, watching the sunset over the mountains and talking. I helped feed several hundred people breakfast on Sunday morning, and that was a joy. It was just a quiet, slow, unambitious, introspective event.

It was a very difficult event for a lot of people, and because of the seeming overwhelmingness of my own problems I wasn’t aware of a lot of what was going on and was not as helpful as I could have been to friends who were struggling, and I’m sad and regretful about that. I would really like to not be in crisis mode myself all the time; I would like to have the emotional and resource resilience and agility to help others. I think that that resiliency, and willingness to bring it to the moment of need, is important in a Peer, and it is a source of shame to me that I don’t have it.

But I think that, more importantly, we bring whatever we have to the moment of need, and if there’s one thing I can offer from this rollercoaster through hell that I’ve lived for the last few years, it’s a certain transparency about how I bring my values as a Peer to the challenges of life inside and outside the SCA. Dignity is important; dignity can be armor. Grace under fire, as I said this weekend, is a peer-like quality.

But I am reminded that it is okay to be human. We all struggle in large and small ways, we all experience crisis and grief and disaster and fear. It’s important for Peers to be an anchor for our community members, to model and teach compassion and hospitality and competence in helping.

But it is also important to model and demonstrate and teach that it’s okay to be human, to model and teach being on the receiving end of compassion. It’s hard to ask for help; it’s hard to need it. Asking for help, and receiving help, with dignity is a learned skill.

We are teachers. We can’t teach what we don’t know. We must also learn to set aside the armor at times.

be kind

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Finding north

I wrote this a few months back, and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since because I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it.

I went to a household gathering last week, the first gathering of the clan since Battlemoor of last year. (I didn’t go to Battlemoor this year, for a whole host of reasons that center on time, money, and emotional energy.) And I had a wonderful time, and I’m so glad I went, but I also found myself at one point just sitting in the dark empty back yard sobbing my head off.

I’ve been out of the game for so long. I feel so out of touch. There are new people coming up, doing amazing work and getting attention from the peer community, who I’ve never met. There are people who’ve been friends with my friends for twenty years, who’ve moved into kingdom from elsewhere or begun playing again while I’ve been out of the game, there have been divorces and remarriages while I’ve been gone, there are all of these new faces in what I think of as my established social circles. The children are all a foot taller than when I saw them last. I feel so lost.

Here’s the thing:

If I had been elevated before I was ready, I could have taken some time to process and reflect and figure out what that was going to mean for me and embrace my peerage in my own time.

If Juan had died, I could have picked up the pieces and moved on with the help of my friends and chosen family.

If I had started grad school, I could have put my SCA life on hold and come back to it as though I’d never left.

If I had moved to a new group, I could have connected with friends in the new place and found my feet pretty quickly.

But for all four of these things to happen at once –

The game as I knew it is gone forever; there is no coming back from that. There is only moving forward.

And as I can see the end of grad school from where I’m sitting, as I think about what life after graduation looks like and where the SCA fits into that and what I want to do with my SCA life – and I just don’t know.

I’ve simultaneously changed kingdoms and taken a break before, but that didn’t come with the attendant pressure of coming back as a peer. In fact at that time I was specifically and intentionally presenting myself as a new arrival, someone very conscious of not knowing the terrain. I can’t do that anymore.

As long as I couldn’t figure out how to finish that post, I couldn’t bring myself to update this blog at all, because I wasn’t going to let it turn into a series of unfinished ideas and whinging and unproductive navelgazing. I wasn’t going to talk until I had something to say or some idea of where the SCA fits into my future or whether there is any point in continuing to document this journey at all.

Somehow, in the intervening time since I started that post, I’ve begun to make sense of it.

At that time I was more or less going on momentum, trying to continue to do and enjoy the things that we did together, and it wasn’t working. It brought me no joy and just made me lonely and sad and confused. I’m beginning to understand that I cannot live my life exactly as it was when he was here, except with the big gaping hole where he used to be. I can’t fill that hole.

It’s strange to say I’ve only just begun to grieve, two and a half years on, but in some ways it’s true. The first year I was just too shattered to do anything except keep my head above water – stay employed, stay in school, pay the bills, survive. The second year I was consumed by a frighteningly black depression. It’s only now that I’m starting to actually do stuff, I’m figuringing out how to hold space for memory and legacy and continuing to do the things I used to enjoy in Juan’s company and continuing to bring to life some of the plans that we made, within the framework of something new and different.

I’ve been waiting for that to take shape, and I think it has. I have a new, big, forever kind of project, the kind of project that has the potential to hold my interest and generate a constant flow of smaller projects for the rest of my life. Something that he would have adored if we’d ever gotten around to it, that we danced around the edges of, but was not actually part of our life together in a significant way.

I’ve been possessed, recently, of a fascination with moveable type, printing, and Renaissance book arts, and particularly the spread of printed literature in vernacular languages and art printmaking across Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.

I’ve been circling on this for a long time.

I’ve played around with block printing for years, probably decades. I took an history of incunabula class in grad school that I loved madly, and I did bookbinding in college, and of course I’ve done C&I for a few years now too. I got very deeply into papermaking for about a year and a half… twenty years ago? More? I always wanted to get back to it and never did. I love books as objects, I love typography, I love slow fussy detail processes, I love everything that goes into this. I can put all the late-period Spanish knowledge I acquired to use. I can make useful things. I can teach. 

One of my dearest friends started talking about this on Facebook, and a bunch of us who have all had this sort of ambient, latent interest in the subject for a long time said hell yes! in one voice, and formed a working group, and have been geeking on it for about two months now. And with this one thing, it all came back. I’m interested again, in a way I haven’t been in a long, long time. I’m making garb. I’m going to events. I’m talking to people and making plans. I have points of navigation again.

 

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