Monday, 28 March 2016

Kingdom A&S - Thoughts on the Day (Part 1)

I started typing this as one big long post and it was just way too long. So, part one will be just about the day and then I'll move my thinky thoughts to part two.

Kingdom A&S was a really busy day, with entering my girdle purse and judging two other projects. Avelyn was in the kitchen most of the day helping Emelote and John with feast prep so I didn't really see her all day except for occasional runs to the car to bring stuff in for them.

When I wasn't being all judgmental or being judged in turn, I was running around taking pictures. I always feel a certain responsibility for it at local events, but especially when Erik or Alex aren't at the event. I'm the third stringer but I think having pictures is important.

I came away from the event decidedly not super jazzed up, which is unusual. Normally after QPT or A&S I leave feeling all eager to work on new projects and do stuff. This time that wasn't the case. That's why this post is a week after the event - I've been analysing my mind-set to try to figure out what's off. I'll talk about that in part two of this post.

Event Overall
My initial observation was that the caliber of projects overall was really high. When I compare to my first A&S experience (which was really what I was doing all day) I think people have been really stepping up their game.

HE Lucia tried a couple of new things this year, and it will be interesting to see what lessons learned come out of it. First, there were no categories or levels (beginner/intermediate/advanced) for projects like in previous years. That meant everything was judged on the same basic criteria. There were then sponsored prizes for different things, rather than winners of each category. The sponsor set the criteria for the prize and handed them out during the day so it didn't bog down court. I honestly didn't hear a lot of discussion about the change at the event, so I'm not sure how it went over or if there were glitches as a result. It's interesting though because you had prizes for very specific things (best 16th century thing or best thing made from or bearing the image of a sheep), so the mix of prizes was definitely different.

She also introduced an online system for judging forms, which I think got mixed results. In my case it worked fine once I figured out that the wifi signal was too weak in the basement and moved back upstairs. Based on discussions I heard on the day, some people loved it, but I did hear some grumbling. I think some people found it a challenge to find time to fill out the online forms when they were judging upwards of 5-6 projects over the course of the day (and its hard to type extensive comments on a little phone keyboard for many - I brought my bluetooth keyboard and tablet so had an easier time of it).

I also was able to get on the Vigil list early for Marguerite so got in right away. I had made a gift for her and didn't want to be lugging it around all day. :) I bought a bunch of glass jars, and Avelyn did up a bunch of fancy labels for me. We filled them with all of my key leather dying pigments and supplies. My favourite was the jar of rusting metal! I put it all in a basket along with a bunch of leather pieces and bound it all up with some garters/buckled leather straps. The trick is she's only allowed to use them to experiment with leather dying (I had to put the qualifier in because they are mostly the same pigments she uses for her "alchemy"). I gave it the title "Things to help the newly sprouted Laurel to continue to grow". :)

I couldn't get a clean picture of the contents of the basket since it kept closing but here's the basket itself:

Projects I Judged
I was tagged with judging two projects this year. In all there were only four projects related to leather (including mine) so I basically was judging two-thirds of the available projects (the third project was Lucrece's book and was so far beyond my skill level there would have been no point).

Both of the projects were impressive in their own way.

The first project was a pair of early-period shoes (as well as a set of wooden lasts used to make the shoes). Shoes or finicky things to make in the first place, throwing in making a set of wooden lasts on top of it was really neat.

Here's a picture:

Given the hard time I had in sizing the pair of shoes I attempted, the fact that they seem to fit is really great. It'll be interesting to see if they settle in when he's wearing them or if the seams cause any issues.

The second project was an experimental project to re-purpose an old sheepskin coat into three-fingered mitts. In the end the project didn't end up working out, but we think that may be because of the materials, rather than any fault of the artisan. Certainly the research and conjectural concepts were sound. This was only the second time she'd worked with leather so I'm really pleased at the work she was able to do and she's definitely on the right track!

Here's a picture:

My Project
I've already posted pictures of my finished project on the blog, so I won't get into the details of the purse too much here. After I did my spiel on the day about what I did, why I did it etc, the conversation with the judges kind-of went into the related area of period leather dyes and whether the recipes in the Plictho are accurate representations of what was being done, or if the Master dyers would have held things back to keep their secrets. We also talked about whether the iron black recipe would have been commonly used in the period, since they had more industrial dying processes available by then.

Based on the discussion on the day and the comments in my judging sheets, there were only a few things I could improve, including:

  • Some tweaks to my documentation (in particular the pictures I chose to use from the artwork)
  • A period buckle rather than something I bought at the leather store

Overall the judges seemed to be quite pleased with the end result, and with my process of getting there. I'll call it a win. :)

Coming up next: Thinky thoughts on future entries into Kingdom A&S

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Big Reveal - Kingdom A&S Girdle Purse (with pictures)

This past weekend was Kingdom A&S so I can now post the pictures of my project - which I've been talking about for some time.

Quick summary for those who may have missed it. I decided that since this year is five years since I first entered Kingdom A&S, and that the event was back in our Barony the same as it was that year, that I would recreate my original project. I thought it would show the progress I've made in the past five years and might help people who may not be so confident with their first attempts (because looking back on my first entry all I can think is "What was I thinking?". :)

That year I made a new type of purse I'd never tried before, a basic kidney purse. The first 5-6 posts in the Kingdom A&S tag will give you the story on that original purse.

But of course, I couldn't just do the same pouch. I upgraded the complexity of the pouch, add better finishing and decorative techniques and used historically accurate materials (with a couple of exceptions I'll talk about later).

So, without any further ado, here's a picture side by side of the two finished pouches:

As you can see from this top view, there's a few major differences that you can see. For one, the stitches along the top forming the flab and connecting the various layers of leather is significantly cleaner. The white trim I think really makes a huge difference and makes it pop nicely (the trim was a suggestion from one of my judges for the original pouch). In Purses in Pieces, Goubitz also shows that many of the purses had buckles and straps, which I like since it will help keep things from falling out.

What you can't necessarily see as well from this angle is that there's actually a double pouch on the new purses.Underneath the black pouch you can see, there's a second pouch with two small pouchlets on it. This is a totally documentable design and added a lot of complexity (and storage space) to the purse. Here's a picture of the second level of pouch .You can also see the draw-strings on the pouchlet on the right, I hadn't yet done the one on the left.

Materials-wise, there's a big difference as well. The original pouch was commercially bought chrome-tan leather in a black-ish colour (turns out I was pretty close to what was produce-able in period, so that's kind of nice). The new pouch is dyed black using my vinegar black recipe from the Plictho, same as I used for previous projects.All of the stitching was done using waxed linen thread on the new pouch, as compared to artificial sinew on the original.

For the white leather, I had to make a substitution for cost/availability reasons. Goubitz indicates that pouchlets on these purses would usually have been made using either chamois leather or fabric.Given that I can't find chamois that isn't the super-stretchy auto detailing stuff, I made a substitution to use alum tawed leather, which is period appropriate. But (and there's always a but), it would have cost me $400 to ship a skin of alum tawed leather from the one place I've found it in the US - thanks to the crappy Canadian dollar right now. So I used some chrome-tanned white pigskin that I had on hand, which is almost identical to the colour, texture and thickness of the alum tawed leather.

Here are some in-progress pics (pics with red leather are the prototype that I made of the design, which Avelyn will be using).

Next post will be more about the day at the event.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Quiet day at Practicum

Oops, noticed I wrote this but never posted it. Guess its been busy. :)

It was a fairly quiet day for me at Practicum. I didn't have time to pull together any classes to teach this year because of my surgery recovery. Since there weren't really any classes that interested me (it was a Norse theme this year and I tend to do later period stuff) I decided to setup an all day leatherworking workshop.

Of course, this meant basically packing up all of my books, tools and gear and moving it from my basement to the site, which filled several bins. I needed a dolly to haul it all in.

I essentially spent the day working on my Kingdom A&S project and people could pop by, try out tools, flip through my leatherwork library and ask any questions they might have.

I was able to introduce a newcomer to leather tooling and stamping (and they got to take a scrap of leather they stamped back home with them) but other than a few good chats with a few people who had some specific questions it was mostly me doing my thing and people popping by to visit between their classes.

I was able to line up a few judges for the Baronial Championship at Break the Back (thanks all who've volunteered so far) and talked to some people about their entries.

I would say I'm about half done the work on my Kingdom A&S project.  I have to sew on all of the trim pieces and then do the final assembly. It's going to be tight since I also have to do up the documentation for whichever project I end up entering. (Note since this was written I've almost finished, just a few last pieces to do and then the documentation).

There were two highlights for me, both at court.

First, I was able to witness His Excellency Giovanni being elevated as Ealdormere's first member of the new Order of Defence peerage. Giovanni and Lucia were Baron and Baroness when I started fencing (or maybe Xristina was Vicaress at the time but they were certainly my first Baron and Baroness). One of my first really positive memories of fencing at events was my first Pennsic (and I think their first as Baron and Baroness) when they asked me to represent them as Baronial Rapier Champion until they could hold a tourney ( I wound up being their champion for more than a year). I was severely outclassed at the Champion's tourney from a skill perspective, but I think I held my own in the Q&A and swimsuit portions of the competition. ;) I didn't win one bout in any of the three tournaments I entered but I wore the Hare proudly. Of course, the next year was the famous "I want that bunny dead" incident during the town battle. You can ask Lucia about it, she tells it better than anyone else (and the myth keeps growing with every telling, as all good stories do).

The second highlight, and with all respect to our new Master of Defence, perhaps the biggest highlight, was seeing my Lady Avelyn totally gobsmacked as she was called into court and inducted into the Order of the Wain. She was only there because she'd written the text for an award scroll (of course) and wanted to see it presented (she was aiming for a record puns per inch of text). But I guess the surprise was on our new Ladyship. :) It's so well deserved, even if she has trimmed down the number of officer positions she currently holds from the previous high of 7 simultaneous positions.