Monday, 21 April 2014

Thinking about research accuracy

I read an interesting article today in the Ottawa Citizen about the rise of fake peer reviewed journals and how they are affecting the scientific world. This was of interest to me from a work perspective since we're always having to answer questions based on "new research" that shows X or Y. But I also thought about it from an SCA perspective.

I pride myself at being pretty good at research. I've been able to dig out a lot of little tidbits of information on my leatherworking projects over the years. I mainly use book resources and museum artifacts as my base, but I also often do some pretty heavy online research, which helps me find artifacts and other people'e research. That being said, I'm not an academic, and I'm certainly rusty when it comes to using research journals as a major source of information. But this worries me.

As an amateur historical organization, I'm not sure how many people use research journals as a source of information. But if this trend is happening beyond the science journals and has been happening in the humanities as well, it's going to make our lives that much more difficult. Given that most of us are not professionally working in these fields, it's probably harder for us to tell whether a specific journal is a good source or not.

I guess it means the same rules apply whenever you're doing research, including online and through the journals. It's important to remember that just because someone wrote it down doesn't make it true.

When I'm doing research somewhere where there's a high risk of inaccuracy (for example, online) I mainly use sources as a way to point me to primary sources and artifacts.  I try not to base my opinions on other people's theories unless its backed up by solid evidence. I'll look for links to other more authoritative sources and then work back from there. Often I'll find references to books I know are good, or references to work or artifacts from museums in Europe. I'll then try to find those references or contact those museums for more direct information about the item.

I think applying these same techniques to research journals is probably a good idea.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

General A&S To-Do List

So many ideas and projects floating around, I'm updating my list of things to work on so I can keep track. Some of these have been on the list for a loooooong time. :) These are not listed in any particular order.

  1. Replace Avelyn's favour (likely make a second more sturdy one for wearing in armour as well)
  2. Develop carving pattern for my heraldry and badge
  3. Figure out how to fix Avelyn's armour/finish new lamellar or alternative
  4. Start work on designing new leather leg pieces for Avelyn's new knee armour
  5. Do "commissioned" children's archery glove for Eluned
  6. Do "commissioned" belt favour (with award badges) for Robert the Blue
  7. Figure out shoe pattern
  8. Start research for leather tooling project
  9. Start research for survey of period belt hardware (buckles etc)
  10. Finish stick-purse
  11. Try blue dye recipe from Plictho using lye 
  12. Develop period leather dye class for next Practicum
  13. Follow-up with Dragon Dormant about possible leatherworking class interest
  14. Fix Avelyn's boots
  15. Make silk personal and household banners for camping season

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A busy day at Kingdom A&S

So much happened at Kingdom A&S this weekend, I'll try to sum it up in a logical way. Overall it was a terrific event and the site was bursting at the seems with so many people entering the competition. In particular, there were a lot of Skraels in attendance this year which is nice to see given the event was on the other side of Toronto.

Important News

My biggest news from Kingdom A&S came outside of the official activities for the day. Mistress AElfwyn and I have been talking a lot about leatherworking, the arts and sciences and the SCA in general since before QPT and at A&S she officially took me on as her apprentice. This is a really big deal and kind of blows my mind.

We did the ceremony in a gap in the judging schedule in the afternoon, so the low-profile ceremony I was expecting turned into pretty much the entire event watching us. Eep!

For those who couldn't hear what we were saying, this is approximately what was said:

AElfwyn: I will provide you with the wisdom of my council, my guidance, and my protection.  You will have a seat at my table and shelter in my hall. 

In turn, will you pay heed to my words and follow my direction? (I said yes) 

Will you strive to increase your skills, learning from the wise, that you may better teach others?  (I said yes)

Will you share your knowledge openly and fairly? (I said yes with a bit of a smart-ass remark about my level of knowledge)

Before these witnesses here assembled, I will be to AElfwyn faithful and true. To study and faithfully apply myself to the development of my craft in the arts & sciences, in service, and in all the courtly arts. I further pledge to defend her and her manors and household in peace and in war, and through her the Crown of Ealdormere;   and never, by will nor by force, by word nor by work, do aught that is loathful to her, on condition that she keep me as I deserve, and that all remain faithful to the agreement made here this day. 

Given that AElfwyn won the Technological Sciences category, I think I'm going to have to up my game. :)

My Project - The Leather Dyes
The culmination of over a year's work sort-of came to fruition this weekend at Kingdom A&S. I say sort-of because the project is nowhere near done, as there are many more recipes to try and other colours to produce. But, that being said, the formal part of the work is done and I've presented it at A&S, so I can now continue the work at my own pace between other projects, and work on developing my leather dye class.

It'll be interesting to see the comments on a my judging sheets, I had AElfwyn and Master Dafydd as my judges so I know they'll be fair and give me good suggestions to improve. If I had it to do again I'd probably take a different approach to my project for A&S. Based on my initial conversations with my judges, and the way some other people handled the transition from QPT to A&S, I probably would have been better off producing an item made with leather dyed using my period dye. Of course, that was always the plan as I took on this project as part of my overall stick-purse piece. But the stick-purse just wasn't ready to go for this weekend.

In the end, I expect I would have scored higher that way but I always knew it was one of those projects that falls between core research (AKA a research paper) and end product, so wasn't the type of thing that would necessarily do well in a competition. But I've certainly generated some interest and discussion about the topic, which is a good thing. I go back to a conversation I had with Master Wilfrid about how surprised he was that I was able to show a green leather dye was available in period. To me, that's the point of this project.

I'll keep the approach in mind for next year though, as Her Majesty confirmed she plans to sponsor QPT again this year.

Some Gotcha Moments

Not specifically leatherworking related but I wrote my first two sets of scroll texts for this event and got to see the response to the scrolls live and in person. Lady Augusta had contacted me to do these ones personally, which was super awesome! She did a great job on the scrolls too.

The first award was for Avelyn. She was called up by Their Majesties during morning court and received her Scarlet Banner. She was rather shocked. I wrote the text to touch on a number of things, including her heraldry (which has a comet sinister on it, which is interpreted as an omen of doom), some references to her Pennsic fighting experiences and her interest in the Coppergate Helm (her blog is called Y in the Well as a reference to where the helm was found).

The second scroll was for Lady Emelote. She was called up in afternoon court to receive an Award of the Orion. She was bouncing she was so excited. In her text I touched on her sewing and cooking, and tried to reference some of her projects (including the 30 dishes for 30 years of Skrael that she served at Border Spat).

I'll post the scroll texts as soon as I have the final versions for those who'd like to read them in full.