Monday, 18 November 2013

Wrap-up from Kingdom A&S and the QPT

Warning, this will probably be a long post. :)

Wow. Something tells me this won't be the last Queen's Prize Tournament.

There's plenty of discussion and comments out there about the day, so I'm going to focus on my small slice of it but I will say that was one of the best, most enjoyable days I've spent at an SCA event - ever.

I'm a behind the scenes kind of guy. I'm also surrounded by a hoard of uber-talented people who tend to get a lot of attention (well deserved), so I sometimes feel like I'm in a bit of a shadow.

I don't enter A&S competitions that often, and the last couple of years I've had mixed feelings from my Kingdom A&S experiences. As a result, I wasn't really planning to enter anything this year. My stick-purse wasn't ready and I didn't really have anything that was completed that would be worth entering. Then the Queen's Prize Tournament was announced. It was just for comment - no judging sheets, just live discussion about the item. And they encouraged us to enter unfinished projects.

For those who've been reading this blog, you know that this pushed me to enter my period leather dye research. It's not nearly done but I figured it would be a good chance to get some input and suggestions on my dyes, plus get out of the shadows a little bit. Following QPT, my plan now is to enter two projects in the Spring A&S competition - the stick-purse, and the leather dyes (which I really only got into in the first place because I wanted to go 100% accurate on my stick-purse recreation).

Interestingly, for the QPT I was grouped with the dyes and pigments, rather than with the other leather items. This actually made for a really interesting discussion with my judges. I had Master Dafydd, who knows a lot about leather and leather tanning, but I also had THL Lassarfhina, who's more into scribal uses of inks and pigments, and Mistress Gaerwen, who is hard-core about fabric dying.

Through the conversation, they really liked my documentation (despite it's tome-like length). I also got some really interesting ideas on how to get some of the dyes to work better:

  • Try grinding the indigo powder even finer so it can more easily penetrate the leather
  • Try soaking the leather in the indigo bath for a much longer time (instead of just painting it on)
  • Use distilled water rather than filtered as the chlorine can react 
  • For the red dye, try applying the olive oil at the 10-ish hour mark when the red is still bright, rather than waiting until it dries out completely and fades.
  • Look at the recipes using Roman vitriol (copper sulphate), might make a nice blue
Since I'm not interested in doing any of the recipes using bodily fluids, I gave Gaerwen a piece of leather for the next time she's doing an indigo dye, so she can see how it works. :)

Outside of the roundtable discussion with my judges, I also chatted with a number of other people about my leather dyes and the stick purse. I know Mistress Ælfwyn referred one of the other leatherwork entrants to me as he had done the iron-based black dye and was interested in information about colours. I had a number of people ask if I could share my documentation with them, which I think is really cool.

I also had a nice conversation with THL Wilfrid & THL Jhone about the dyes and the stick-purse that was found on the Mary Rose. Wilfrid suggested looking at other liquids, like alcohol or oil instead of water, as they might help the leather absorb the pigment. We also cut a corner of the green and red off to see how deeply it penetrated (it tinted the leather all the way through, which is a good sign). 

He also mentioned that the green colour I got was bang on what he would have expected from buckthorn and was apparently called goose poop green in period. So, yay for goose poop green! And, he mentioned my project had given him the itch to go home and try some of the dyes himself, which I think is a really big compliment!

Looking at the way the red dye faded, Jhone suggested that the fading may have been because of the alum wash rather than the dye itself. She noticed that the edges of the leather had more red. This could be because it was more exposed to the dye on the edge, but also because the alum may have collected more on the edge. She suggested I try painting the leather with the alum water rather than dipping it (so it distributes more evenly). The other idea we had was to soak the leather more thoroughly in the alum-water to see if that affects how the dye sticks to the leather.

When I wasn't geeking out I had setup a table to do some leather tooling but I admit I didn't get much done. I did talk about it with some people who came by to see what I was doing, so that's always good. Maybe some of them will give it a try.

At the end of the day I got a really great prize for my participation. Master Dafydd gave me one of the first arrowheads he ever made, which is just really cool. I'll have to figure out something really good to do with it! I'm told he was rather insistent in picking my name. :) 

All in all, having so many really talented people interested in my work, especially since it just started out as one of those side projects I had to do get the stick-purse done, was really cool. Not sure I can say I'm in the shadows anymore. :)

Side note: I've mentioned to my Canton that I might make this research into a class that I could teach. It probably won't be as hand's-on as my leather pouch class, but I'll wait and see where I land after Spring A&S.

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