Welcome! I'm Ilene Johnnestoune, a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Come join me on my wanderings, as I share my interests both within and sometimes slightly outside the SCA.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Adding a Little Presence to the Period

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending Darkwater’s Village Faire event.  This has always been one of my favorites, since the emphasis is on classes rather than fighting.  This year it was going to be especially exciting, since Gavine and I would be learning the ropes as Vicar & Vicaress, in preparation for stepping up at Trident Tourney in January.

Now I’ll be honest, while I think all the styles of combat we practice are very cool, I seldom make time to go and watch the lysts.  Being service and arts oriented, I’m usually doing something that keeps me away from the field.  While I am Baroness that will obviously change, which is why I found myself lyst-side for the Baron’s Champion Tourney.

I don’t know very much about heavy weapons, and I’m really thinking I will have to find somebody to teach me the highlights so that I understand better what I’m seeing.  Even my uneducated eyes, however, could see that the caliber of fighters for this lyst was much higher than what we normally see at Baronial events.  So right from the start, I was already impressed.

Now, you might be asking yourself what’s the big deal about a lyst with good fighters in it?  We see that all the time, why are you writing about it?  Good question!  While the fighting was excellent and entertaining, it was things around the lyst field that inspired me to write.  As I looked around, I started noticing how few camp chairs were present.  Most of the people watching the lyst were sitting in wooden chairs, or on the ground.  One entrant had a small arming pavilion set up with his chair and gear inside.  Another had his and his consort’s chairs set up side by side, with their banners behind them fluttering in the breeze.  So many of the mundane items that I’ve become used to seeing everywhere, just weren’t present.  I was surprised to realize just what a difference all these little touches made to the atmosphere.

I find myself lately seeing more and more people taking those little extra steps to create a better period presence when they are at events.  I’ve always been a fan of this, but thought it was only something that you could do if you had been in 20 years, or had tons of money to spare.  That’s absolutely not the case though.  We have people here in our Barony that have only been playing a year, and they already have period wooden chairs that they use.  That they made themselves.  For relatively little cost and effort.  Proof that period presence is something that can be done without spending a lot of money!

One of our fighters here in the Barony (L Aidan) who is a big source of inspiration, has done something with his weapons that I found amazing when I noticed it during the lyst.  When he taped his swords, he did so in a way that makes it look like it comes to point.  It’s still round rattan, but the silver tape he used, and the way he tapered it at the end, gave the optical illusion that it was a regular sword.  That is such a simple thing, and yet the look it gave him when he took the field was remarkable.  Now granted, this fighter has also gone out of his way to create armor and garb appropriate to his persona so that he presents a complete look, but changing the way you tape your sword is a small thing that anybody could do. 

Another person that has become a huge inspiration to me is HL Philippe.  He is the fighter who set up beautiful wooden chairs lyst-side for both him  and his consort.  He then took the time to bring their banners from camp and stand them behind the chairs.  I believe they also had a small wooden box between the chairs to act as a table.  Looking across the field and seeing this, was like looking through a small window into the past.  He is also the person who has been teaching anyone who wants to learn how to make period chairs and tables, and has been doing workshops to help people make them.  Having spent time at a lyst sitting in both a period chair and a camp chair, there really is a huge difference.  With the camp chair you end up feeling more laid back, relaxed, and casual because of the way you sit in them.  With the period chairs, however, you sit more upright.  This lends itself to shifting to a more persona-focused mindset.  I’m not sure it’s really something I can quantify, but there is a different feeling.

I know, that’s all well and good but how can you start doing things like this on a limited budget?  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, since I decided a while ago that I wanted to start increasing my period presence when I’m at events.  Here’s some ideas that I’ve come up with.
  • Clothing.  One of the simplest ways to increase your presence is to wear clothing that is more accurate.  You can learn to make a period style of pants, instead of wearing sweat pants or pajama pants.  Wearing a tunic?  Take the extra effort to make a period style tunic, instead of a t-tunic.  I’ve made both, and there’s not much extra work to the period style.  Not to mention, when you make things to your measurements, they will fit better and you’ll be more comfortable.  What you wear doesn’t need to be fancy, or complicated.  It also doesn’t need to be hand-sewn to look period.  It’s more a matter of making it so it fits you properly, and is a period style.
  • Chairs.  Camp chairs are one of the most commonly seen things at events, and are one of the most glaring examples of modernity.  One thing you can do is cover it.  A spare wall hanging, a tablecloth, a sheet, even a simple piece of fabric will do the trick.  Another thing you can do is look at getting a wooden folding chair.  These can be found fairly inexpensively at stores like Walmart or Target.  They’ll give you that wooden chair look without much time or expense involved.  If you’ve got a woodworker in your area, talk to them about making a period-replica chair.  A lot of SCA artisans are willing to barter for their goods, so if you don’t have money to outlay see if this is an option.
  • Beverages.  This is one of the places where I know I need to improve.  It’s very easy to just throw a bottle of water or can of soda into your basket or pouch, then drink directly out of it.  If you just take the time to pour your beverage into a mug, and dispose of the bottle/can, it can make a huge difference.  This doesn’t cost you anything but a little extra effort.

 There are lots of other ways that you can increase your presence, such as getting period shoes, having banners hanging in camp, using a pavilion instead of a modern tent.  Some things are pricey, some are not.  The point is that you don’t have to start with the big expensive things, you can start with the small things and work your way up.  I’m noticing that while the grand gestures help a lot to set the stage, it’s all the little details that help you feel you’re living the dream.

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