Persona, SCA Life

It’s what’s in CIDER you that counts

Last weekend with the Middle Kingdom’s 50th celebration. As usual, Verena ran the Drunken Duck and I, per usual, helped her run it. I am not sure what real relationship as it pertains to the bar is. It is HER bar. I run it when she is gone. Others brew way more than I do and that is what leads to this post.

A while ago, a good friend said of me that I was not a brewer. And to a large extent they were right. I don’t brew. I make cordials. Cordials are fun and easy and by and large not really period. Oh there were some cordials but for the most part it is guesswork on whether any particular one every existed. Oswyn of Baðon wouldn’t have a clue what a cordial was. Oswyn Swann might but since he is now a paper merchant, they aren’t his thing either.

And truthfully, cordials haven’t thrilled me in a while. I have made at least 50 different kinds of cordials in the last 5 years. I have made over 20 gallons of the stuff in that time. I make a pretty good cordial. I have taught about cordials. And I have watched my cordials mostly sit on the shelf in our tavern. By and large, people don’t want them. This weekend, it was mostly mead, ciders, and beers that people wanted. Maelcolm kicked 4 kegs to my knowledge. Dai about 3. Jhondo 2 and some. Bottles of meads were consumed. When people wanted a cordial, it was easier to steer them to Liaden’s very tasty but single flavored berry cordials than try to explain a blueberry lemongrass gin to them. So partly my own fault really.

I really don’t drink much at home. Especially given the amount of cordials I make. I still love my Grand Manier, St Germain, and a few beers and ciders.

So it hit me, why am I making cordials? Just because that is all that I have made? I made a wine to turn into vinegar (yeah I know. I am weird). Then it occurred to me, I could make my own cider. And then turn some of that into vinegar too. And it is something that Oswyn of Baðon might have made. Let me explain.

From one of the classes I teach, the Anglo Saxons knew of four alcoholic drinks, medu, ealu, win, and beor. Mead, Ale, wine, and we don’t know.

But Oswyn, that is obviously beer, you say. Nope. Pregnant women were advised to avoid beor but not ale. That suggests a drink higher in alcohol than ale. While hops were used occasionally in early period, this isn’t the time to distinguish beer from ale yet. There is this word in Old English, beordrunken . It means very drunk. There are several words about getting drunk from mead. None of them mean “very drunk”. So this also suggested beor is stronger than it seems. And in French, cider is bere. So beor might have been a cider, a super cider, or an freeze distilled applejack. And cider in particular is missing from our 4 drink list.

I want to make a cider. I want to make a signature cider for the Drunken Duck. And then I want to turn it into vinegar, because I am weird like that.

Yes another hobby but one that fits into the greater picture. I have been told I lack focus. That is only because you are standing too close to see the whole picture. Trust me, it is all related.

Cider fits in with my persona, fits in with one of the things I do on a regular basis, and helps to give back to those who gave to me. It is all there folks. Wish me well.

SCA Life

A matter of Perspective

I have not been an apprentice very long but one of the first thing my Laurel said to me is “people think you lack focus.” My response was “then people aren’t paying attention.”
I wanted to lay out what I work on, why I work on it, and how they are interconnected.

Let’s start with my history studies. I decided on an Anglo-Saxon persona when I was listening to the History of England podcast and the British History podcast. The earlier podcast at started talking about Alfred the Great. And I was struck by, “why have I never heard of this guy before?” My wife and I loved our visit to Bath. So it was a natural to make my persona from there. At one of my first events, I asked my mentor why there are so many “make and take” classes but relatively few pure history classes? I don’t remember the answer but I then decided I wanted to deep dive into what the late Anglo Saxon world was like.

Before joining the SCA, I started learned to do stained glass. I then branched out into fused glass. As much as I love it, it is a modern art form that I am doing. Did Classical and Medieval people do fused glass? Yes. But I don’t have the means to do it the way they did it. I make plates, tokens, and medallions but they are very modern. So I looked for another art form I could do that was period.

At the first RUM I attended, I took some classes on cordials. It was just after our fire. Cordials didn’t take a lot of space or work. I leapt in. I made scores of cordials. Some of them got to be pretty good. But again, as easy as cordials are, most are not period. So the search continued.

I had all of these small bits of cordials around. What can I do with all of this alcohol? Vinegar! Few people were doing it and it was very important to all eras of civilization. You cooked with it. You preserved food with it. You drank it. You cleaned with it. To date, I have made vinegar out of meads, wines, cordials, beers, ales, and ciders. I have tried to make vinegar out of anything with alcohol in it.

It turns out there is not much depth to vinegar. It was important. There are whole industries that revolve around it. But the actual making of it isn’t too complex. But my vinegar obsession is directly related to my cordial making. And the next phase of my journey with this is directly related again. I want to make my own wine and turn that into vinegar. I will eventually grow my own grapes and turn that into wine then to vinegar. These things are related.

All along the path, I am looking at how does this fit with my persona? Is Oswyn of Baðon a historian? A vintner? A glazier? He was educated at Bath Abbey. He knows his history. I don’t think he was a glazier. But maybe a vintner and a vinegarie.

I was asked about a year ago if I would like to sell my glassware as part of the Starlight Syndicate. I was flattered. Several of my closest friends are part of that. But it was clear that I couldn’t do it. Glass, at least, what I do, is too expensive. I would have to sell for ~$100 or more and have $1000s in inventory. I couldn’t afford that. But it did get me thinking, what could I sell?

I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would take a lot of licensing and inspections. Then it hit me, paper. We make handpainted awards, so why not handmade paper? And it occurred to me that Oswyn Swann might be a stationer. So we are going down that road now.

All of this looks like a mess. To some extent, it is solving the maze of my personae. Sometimes you follow a promising path in a maze but it turns out it is a dead end. If you step back a bit, you will see it is all interrelated. It all goes towards, “what can I give back? What can I contribute?” I give away a lot of what I work on. Some have claimed or implied I only do it for some sort of fame or glory. Do I enjoy the whatever fame comes with it? Of course I do. Who doesn’t like acknowledgement for what they do? But I don’t do it for the fame or glory. I do it because when I needed it most, the SCA was there. The people in the SCA were there. What can I do to make it a better place? That is why I do what I do. That is what they have in common.

Paper, SCA Life, Uncategorized

Then you need a partner and a plan

So in It starts with research, I showed the model I did of a 16th century European papermill. I put up that display at Dragonshire 12th Night / Festival of Maidens and I was honored to get Mistress Gianneta as my patron for this endeavor.

Let’s back up a bit. Why am I doing this? About 8 months ago, maybe close to a year but I don’t think so, Dr Best asked if I was interested in joining the Starlit Syndicate. I was flattered. Many of my close friends are part of it; Lucretia, Gunnar, Heather, and yes even Dr Best. He pointed out that the shop has generated several laurels which is indeed true. The issue? What should I sell? I guessed that he thought about my glass work. I declined. One I wasn’t going to Pennsic that year. Two I don’t have any inventory to sell. I did some number crunching and I just don’t think I can sell my glass. It costs between $50 to $75 for me to make a glass bowl. I would have to sell them for at least $100 and I just don’t think people will pay for that. Plus I would have to have many $100s to possibly $1000s of inventory to sell even a small number of bowls. I just can’t afford to do that.

So I looked at what could I sell? I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would require licensing and inspections and then to sell across state lines would require more regulations. That is not worth the hassle. I already decided glass was out. Plus, the glass I do is really not medieval. So if I wanted to sell something, it would have to be something new. I didn’t want to be full time merchant but it would work well for my Oswyn Swann persona. So I want to do something to give and something to sell. See Words on Paper for more.

The plan then. I got a papermaking kit for Yule. Most parts are there. I need to rig up a cheap press. Ideally, it should be a screw press. I also need a drying method. The papermill display used a drying loft. But that is not very portable and takes up more space than I have. But I do need to dry many sheets at one time. I could build a drying box. It is still not portable. But there is an older technique that would work well. I can get flat surfaces and either heat them or let the sun do the work. And I need to look into a glazing hammer. But I have everything I need to do a proof of concept.

The plan is to pull some sheets. There is a small amount of skill needed. Once that goes well, upgrade equipment. Then I will start with already beaten fiber with sizing. Then move back to already beaten fiber without sizing and adding it as I need to. I might on occasion create my own fiber but that requires even more equipment and time. Things would have to go very well for me to afford that.

Watermarking will be a thing and branding as well. I have brands already decided 🙂

SCA Life

I swear . . .

I think about oaths a lot.  I take oaths very seriously.  I am often surprised how not seriously some people take oaths.  Here are some thoughts.

In the SCA, we are attempting to recreating the Middle Ages as the should have been, or could have been.  So we give oaths and we value chivalry.  Or at least give lip service to that.  I am sure there are many people who actually also treat their oaths seriously but there are visible few who don’t.

In our modern society, there really is only one oath that has consequence.  If you are called to testify in a judical proceeding, you will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth.  If it is then discovered that you lied, you can then be tried for perjury.   Just about all other oaths have no real consequence.  The oaths of marriage are easily dissolved.  The oath of office for public service or the military are often overlooked.  Again, as long as the people vote for you again or your superiors don’t care, the oath is hollow.

And there is a reason our modern society went this way.  If there was honor in the real Middle Ages, it quickly was used for nefarious purpose.  Old Anglo-Saxon laws allowed those of high station to swear an oath as proof they didn’t do something.  I am sure originally it was felt that honor would rule the day but it probably didn’t take long for someone to simply swear they didn’t do something and suffer no consequence.  As society evolved, it was clear that most oaths didn’t mean anything.

Back to the SCA then.  I talked to a few friends about this.  Advice I got ranged from “some people just don’t think they are in the wrong and therefore believe they are true to their oath.” to “for some, taking oaths is just part of the game.”  And of course, there are many who believe the oaths they take.

Back when Sir Seto was on vigil, I made a replica of Oathbinder in stained glass for him.  I gave Oathbinder a motto (maybe it already had one).  I felt all good swords should have a motto.  I put on the stained glass, “No one may speak falsely within my reach.”  I intended a double meaning.  One, that the magic of the sword would not allow you to speak falsely.  Two, the fact that a naked blade was presented to you, you would be unwilling to speak falsely under threat of beheading.  It may be foolish to hope for a magical blade that made it impossible to say that which is not true.  Oaths would be binding then.  You literally could not say words that you didn’t believe.

In some way, the modern business culture of mission statements and values is like oaths.  We are encouraged at my company at least to reflect on that mission statement and corporate values daily.  How will I engage in teamwork today?  That kind of thing.  We should do the same with our oaths.  We should mediate on those words.  For me, since I am only a member of the populace, I would think “to serve where I might according to my knowledge and ability.”  How will I do that today?  For those of you who do reflect on your oaths, I applaud you.  We need more who will “champion the good”, “protect the innocent”, “work for the common good”, and “promote the diverse arts.”

For those of you who don’t really reflect on your oaths, maybe you should.  Your word should have meaning.  When you take an action, you should reflect back, did I act in accordance to my oath?  If not, what will you do about it?  I really wish there was a good mechanism for enforcing or giving consequence for violating one’s oath.

Just some thoughts about oaths.

SCA Life, tablet weaving

My love-hate relationship with tablet weaving

Before we got into the SCA, my wife and I went to Ren Faires more and we (mostly she) made our own clothes.  To help with that process, I decided to learn tablet weaving.   I figured, people have been doing this for 10,000 years, surely I can figure it out.

Needing help with those clothes is what brought us to the SCA.

I don’t mind weaving but there are certain things I don’t like.  I don’t like warping my looms.  That takes a lot of time and I often do it wrong.  Even for patterns I have done before!  Simple patterns are good for me.  I can get lost in the 4F/4B and etc.  But patterns which require turning certain cards and not others quickly frustrate me.  And of course, those are the interesting patterns!

I have finished my last round of glass and I said I would work on my garb.  I need to make new garb and accessories and those things need trim.

I am trying to decide what trim to make and trying to find patterns that I like and actually like doing.  My universe is small.  I have even considered buying some trim from others who (hopefully) enjoy doing the more complex patterns.  But the other part of me wants to do it myself.  So simple patterns here we come!

Wish me luck!

Here are some of the trim I have made in the past.

SCA Life

It is the simple things

This weekend was Simple Day.  It was a very enjoyable weekend.  And I re-learned, it is the simple things that matter.

  • The joy and ease of setting up camp with additional hands.  Quickest ever.
  • The joy of seeing a local group doing local things – begging a macaroon, giving out a baronial award, enjoying each other’s company.  That kind of thing.
  • The joy of good doughnuts.
  • The joy of watching parents and children enjoy the day together (mostly looking at you Adam).
  • The joy of a new(ish) person to the SCA meeting and geeking out with so many people.
  • The joy of managing to perfectly peel one egg.
  • The joy of walking into a room like you are Norm on Cheers!
  • The joy of hugs from close friends.  Especially Llew.  He gives good hugs
  • The sad joy of hugging friends who are hurting and hoping that it helped.
  • The joy of the blessings of the weather gods
  • The joy of chatting with friends about just whatever.
  • The joy of unexpected gifts from one’s SO.
  • The shame-faced abashed joy of forgetting that one has not ever introduced one’s SO to their Majesties and subsequent ribbing that resulted.
  • The joy of people using the photos you took at profile pics.
  • The joy of teaching eager students
  • The joy of learning that one’s efforts are worthwhile (apparently my vinegar makes good cheese)
  • The joy of good food, good friends, and good song.
  • The joy of meeting new people and remembering their names!
  • The joy of going home again after a good weekend.

Simple Day is probably not all that simple to run but it is the simple things that matter.

SCA Life

What the Filk!

So refer back to “the (bardic) circle is unbroken”

The (bardic) circle is unbroken

if you need to.

I have dabbled in a few things.  Andreas offered to proof some poems I wrote.  Still waiting Andreas.  So much for Norman efficiency (I jest).

I have two very tentative starts on two filks.  I can normally make a line or two fit but my humor is a brief thing.  After attending the Martial RUM in June 2018, I had dinner with Dai and Lindan (Bill and Brenda Sutton).  Part of the conversation was on writing filks and Brenda offered to give me a hand.

The first filk is based on the Grand Pubs of Yorkshire.  I was sad to learn that it is not a period or even close to period song.  I might sing the original some time.  It is a nice piece about beer and home.  I can relate to that.  The filk will be the Grand Pubs of the Known World and I started doing some research.  Of course, Verena and the Drunken Duck will appear in it.  I understand that there is the Broken Harp in Calontir, The Cock and Bull Tavern in the West (I know that song too), The Green Dragon at Gulf Wars, and the One Paw Tiger.  I may not be able to get everything in but I think it will be pretty good if I can.

The second filk is based on Gaelic Storm’s Girls Night in Galway.  I did the original scan on that shortly after it came out.  Girls’ Night in Pennsic.  I had to ask around about what that entails.  The only time I heard about Girls’ Night at Pennsic was the first time I went to Pennsic.  I believe Katerina and Roana went out and invited Gertie.  Not sure what trouble they got into so I asked Roana about it.  A lot of this filk will be similar to the original but hopefully fun.

 

Glass, SCA Life

Making fused plates – Hadley edition

Here is how I make my glass plates from the beginning.  I was given a drawn sample of what Hadley’s submitted arms were.  I then made this mock up to work from.

I chose the glass and went to work.

Starting with the green.  I had this scrap of glass from a previous project.  I cut it to size.

 

I didn’t have the blue so I clean it, measure , and cut it to size.

So those two are very easy, just straight cuts.

I line them up and put them on a piece of clear glass to give the final piece its needed thickness.

Next come the circles.

This was my first attempt on the white circle.

 

Not too bad until I try to break it out.

I am shown a trick this time.  Score the circle and push it out on top of a surface that can give slightly (like a couple of cloths).  Turn the cut glass over and push it gently to run the crack.  If you look above, you can see where the crack ran from the circle to the edge and that is okay.  Nice looking circle there.

Do it again for the clear glass on top.

This is another trick I learned.  Others said to draw on the clear like a stentil and fuse that.  So I did.

 

It was much easier than I thought.  Having done it for this piece, I am reasonably sure I can do the same for Willows, Oaks, and Cavendish Knots.

 

I then cut out the stars and crescent on the ring saw.

As I say, it isn’t art until you bleed on it.  I made art.

And the final plate ready for the kiln.

The final piece.  You can see the paint smudged in the lower roots.  In hindsight, I should have wiped that off and started again but I was nearly finished when I hit a bit of water in the paint.  Overall, I am pretty happy with it.  It is the plate I have shown the most technique with and solved (with advice) a problem that was limiting what I could create.  Enjoy it Hadley 🙂

Glass, Persona, SCA Life

Making fused plates – abridged

I will have a more detailed post later about a different plate I did.  But here is a quick post about how I make my 12″ x 12″ fused glass plates.  This one is for my device as a sample plate for my display.

I had already cut the glass before I got to the shop.  My device isn’t that complex, other than the swan.

So first thing is again, glass likes to be ~1/4″ thick when it melts.  There are ways to force it.  But for my purposes, just use two sheets of 1/8″ thick glass.  I am spraying hairspray onto a clear piece to bulk out the plate.  I will then put the blue and green pieces on this clear piece.

Yep.  Just plain ole cheap hairspray.  I am told I use too much so I may need to cut back a bit on it.  It does burn off but on large pieces of glass, it has to get out somewhere. If it can’t, it makes bubbles.  So I will cut back a bit.

Adding the blue and green.  You can also see the swan on an irridescent white piece of glass.  I was normally use white for the swan but I had a scrap of irridescent.

The pieces of glass are supposed to be 12″ square but they rarely are.  And sometimes my cutting isn’t the best either.  This is just a hair off center (less than 1/8″).  It will have to be good enough.

Now for the tricky part.  I use a ring saw to cut out the swan.  Just Elmer’s paste glue to glue the paper to the glass.  The water in the ring saw quickly saturates the paper but it usually holds it in place long enough.

There are a few spots to be touched up.  Because the glass will melt in the kiln, most of the small imperfections will smooth out by themselves. I touch up the spots I can get to with the ring saw or a normal grinder.  But I am not too worried about it.

And there we go.  Ready for the kiln.

This will be part of my Artist’s Display.  I have been advised that I need to have examples of my own work.  Since I give so much away, I need to make a few pieces that I don’t give away.  Where we go.  My device is pretty simple.