Remember the human: don’t be that guy at A&S classes and displays.

I was debating if I should post this one, or not.

*watches as the internet gets popcorn*

First and foremost, I am not unaware of my attitude problems, so this is not any way to raise me up above the rest, but rather a reminder for myself, and everybody else, to remember some core values of our society.

I am not a huge fan of A&S competitions, which I think is often reflected in my mediocre entries. And even though I have won Queen’s Champion in Caid, and now I’m baronial champion of Castlemere here in Trimaris, I’m still unconvinced that they are necessary.

I do enjoy displays, however, because it removes the stress of competition, and allows the artisan the chance to outwardly geek about their work, and chat with others informally about it. I love teaching, and I have some new material on deck for Pennsic which I will make a follow up post about.

Having been on both the judge and entrant side of competitions, attendee/displayee (I made a word), student/teacher etc, I feel that I need to speak up about what NOT to say when you’re not the person teaching or displaying.  Judging is in a class of its own, so that discussion will probably wait for another day.

My anecdote:

My last couple of Pennsics in the A&S display have been rough, and I’ve had a couple of hecklers in my classes as well. Now, Pennsic is big. People come from all over the world to camp as neighbors for 2 weeks out of the year, and with that draw, comes all sorts of people from all walks of life. Despite my extroverted personality, I still have anxiety, my husband is the polar opposite being introverted and never stressed (ever.) I understand that there is a spectrum of communication disorders and other issues that individuals face, and it was learning about these issues, as well as coming to terms with my own, that has helped me start reeling thoughts and actions back.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had classes heckled. I’ve had people yell at me for not giving them the ‘yes’ answer they wanted, and I’ve been called ‘wrong’ and other things, and watched students storm out. This is not a common occurrence, mind you, but it has happened. While my brain has told me to throw a chair at them, I’ve never actually done it, because I’m usually standing there, dumbfounded by the outburst coupled with the heat, and wondering why someone would just ruin my class like that. One time, I had a jerk that yelled back at me for the entire first half of my class, that a countess interfered and told him to leave. I could have done this, but I was on a time constraint, and didn’t want to detract from the content for those who were there to actually learn something. This was several years ago, now (I want to say 2011-2012), but I’m still unsure of how to react appropriately when it happen again. I say “when”, because it’s endemic. I’m not the only teacher to get this treatment.

In fact, I get “screamed” at in emails more than anything else. I want to say that for every 10 emails I get with information or research requests regarding my blog content, 1 of them will end with explosions and flames. This is when I stop responding. Sure, I could take them for a walk out to the internet woodshed, but that does me nothing but sate a momentary burst of anger, and will only make the querent more pissed. I save that ranting for social media, which I shouldn’t do either, but sometimes, I need to let the heat out. Again, not just me, I’ve heard similar stories from other blog and site owners. Yikes.

Now, I need to talk about the Pennsic Knowne World A&S Display, and I am going to be blunt. The last year I participated (2016) I met, some of, the NASTIEST PEOPLE IN THE SCA EVER. I have displayed on-off only for few years, but two years ago, I damn near quit the SCA for good because of my Pennsic experiences. I’ve been playing now for 20 years, and I was ready to walk, because a few people did not think before they spoke to me. Going back to the issue of communication and neurological disorders, I tried to be kind, but by the end of the day, I could not, and packed up and left early.

What was I displaying? My thesis. Yeah, it was all machine sewn and I had bought trim on it, but I thought that I could discuss my research behind the garments without getting shredded by the thread counters. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I felt defeated and hurt, and was only boosted by a laurel friend from Atlantia, who actually had to chase off one of the assailants, and several people who urged I present at the International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, which I did, thanks to them. My work was on the table for no less than a minute before I was verbally accosted by someone claiming to be a laurel, (I have my reservations about this. I know a ton of peers, and this was so out of character, I think she was lying as an excuse to be rude,) who snarked me for not doing my own goldwork embroidery. My head spun. I’m not an embroiderer, I am actually terrible at embroidery, so I explained, gently, that this was predominantly an academic project, not an SCA one, and I was limited to one semester for completion. So even if I could embroider, there was no way I could do that much work in my allotted time. She fired back, and said that me purchasing sari trim was “tacky”, and because she could embroider that quickly, I should be able to do it, as well.  I decided to fire back with pulling out documentation from the Book of the Eparch, showing that trim and embellishments were controlled by different guilds than the silk sellers and tailors, so in period, I would not have embroidered or woven the trim used on a garment I sewed, but she wanted nothing of it. She just wanted to be rude. I had to stare at her nearby table the entire time, shellshocked, 3 minutes in to a 4 hour display.

I was handed a mimosa by my dear friend the Mimosa Fairy, and I thought I could shake it off. I could not. I was pissed. I wanted to throttle her. And then they just kept coming.

“Why didn’t you hand sew this?”
“I had three months, but here is this great paper and document-…”
“That’s not an excuse.”

And then the coups de grace was the woman who decided to attack WHAT I WAS WEARING as being wrong. It was no less than 90F out. I was wearing a tube with pins and had rushed over from the Unbelted Champions Battle. This is when I lost my patience, and told her to screw. When she complained to the organizer (Atlantian Laurel friend) she was told to stop her rudeness, and get out. Apparently, she felt it necessary to critique every woman’s hot weather bog dress, and I just happened to have hit my last straw and told her to scram.

I packed up and left 2 hours early. Not wanting to people anymore, and wondering if I should even bother sticking around war.

The Lesson:

Why am I whining about this now? Because Pennsic is fast approaching, and I don’t want to deal with it again. I don’t want anybody to deal with the thread counters, the garb snarks, the hecklers, and the pedants.

It is HARD being a teacher. It is HARD to display your art. It takes huevos to get up there. Of course I’ve listened to teachers I’ve disagreed with. You wait until after class and offer to send them an email for further discussion, you do not disrupt their hard work because your research experience tells you otherwise. If it’s really bothering you, get up, give them a friendly wave, and leave. That’s all it takes to be civil.

And despite my own quirks, I cannot, for the life of me, understand those that approach people who are willingly displaying their artwork in the heat of the afternoon for hours, and be rude to them, especially a peer. I was told that the reason people were being rude to me was because I wasn’t wearing my coronet. I should not have to have a specific award, or piece of jewelry to command respect. Again, have I seen research and projects I disagreed with, or thought could use some tweaks? Of course. What do I do? Give them my card and a token, and ask them to shoot me an email if they want feedback. THAT’S IT.  You don’t insert yourself in somebody else’s project unless they ask for it. You don’t stand there in pedantic, elitist glory and get to tell somebody that they should have done something differently. Artists always work hard, and no matter their level, are always their worst critic. Being a jerk to them is a great way to ensure that they never display again. Thanks to rudeness in the SCA, I almost stopped writing icons, and I’m definitely not showing machine-sewn work, ever, again, despite the novel of research that accompanies it. I’ll bring it to my classes, instead.

I love giving out little tokens, too. (As much as I love getting them.) It’s a nice way of saying thanks. I have a wonderful collection of fun beads, charms, beewax, and other goodies given to me because somebody admired what I did. Take the time to sit down and make some, or order something you can’t make. Those little thoughts mean a lot.

The bottom line is this, friends: We are all human beings with feelings. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been in the SCA for 20 years or 20 minutes. Remember the humanity. Remember that we all have something going on.

Don’t be that guy at the A&S Display! Don’t be that heckler in the classroom! Likewise, I need to not open my mouth if you ARE that guy, because I don’t know what’s going on in your life, either. Pennsic is hot. It’s wet. It’s stressful. Let’s all be better this year.

-Anna

Addendum: I’ve noticed some remarks across social media of people getting scared about teaching or displaying at Pennsic. I promise you, cross my heart, that this is not everyone at war. If you have a problem with someone and don’t have anywhere to turn, come find me at the display, or, I camp at the North Gate in block N-18, right on the corner. Ask for Anna (or Angela, most people in my camp refer to me as my mundane name), and I’ll make sure we set this issue straight with the university and display staff.

Ask me anything!

So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.

Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history  questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.

If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.

Got a question for me?

Hit me up at syrakousina at gmail.com.

Hello, Caid.

I have successfully transferred my domicile from the East Kingdom and the balmy tropics of New England, to the sunny and never-changing perfection that is Southern California.

I do have updates I need to get done, but I’m also planning for San Diego Comic-Con, and Pennsic AT THE SAME TIME. Yes, that’s right, I’m flying to Pennsic, which should be an interesting experience because I’m a lunatic and think this is  good idea. I will also be teaching ONE class, due to streamlining my packing. (Help!)

That one class is entitled, “An 11th Century Byzantine Noblewoman’s Closet.” It’s a snippet of my research for my master’s thesis, and I look forward to sharing my knowledge. It is currently scheduled for August 6th at 1pm in A&S 8. I plan to have the handout posted within the next couple of weeks.

I hope everybody has a great war season, and I look forward to seeing many faces at Pennsic War. 🙂

 

Pennsic class materials posted.

As always, I have posted my class materials on Google Drive. Don’t forget to visit my Classes tab to access handouts and modules from previous classes.

The Orient Express: Did the Byzantines wear Persian?: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4jf5ZhBMl5xY3phVU5FSFlyVlk/view?usp=sharing

Deconstructing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Tunic Under the Stairs”: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4jf5ZhBMl5xWGVQSVNoWDBSejg

Color images: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4jf5ZhBMl5xazJuSHZDY0gwdUE/view?usp=sharing

 

If you would like a high (or higher) res image from the handouts, shoot me an email. 🙂

Deconstructing the “Tunic Under the Stairs” at the Met.

***NOTE: AS OF JANUARY 2016, THE TUNIC IS NO LONGER IN THE GALLERY. THEY HAVE ANOTHER EXHIBIT ON PAINTED LINEN WHICH IS VERY COOL AND YOU SHOULD GO SEE ANYWAY.***

***OH LOOK, ANOTHER NOTE: AS OF FEBRUARY 2016, THE PATTERN I MADE IS INCORRECT AND WILL BE UPDATED THANKS TO SOME KEEN OBSERVATIONS BY SOUTH-RUS.ORG, WHO HAVE BEEN NICE ENOUGH TO SHARE THEIR VIEWS WITH ME. THIS IS STILL A PLAUSIBLY CORRECT PATTERN THAT MAY WORK BETTER WITH MODERN FABRIC WIDTHS ANYWAY, SO DON’T THROW OUT ANYTHING YOU’VE MADE SO FAR! JUST GET READY FOR THE NEXT VERSION. 🙂 ***

This is a class I’m teaching this weekend at East Kingdom University, and will also be giving at Pennsic.  So if none of this stuff makes sense, find me in the meatspace at these locations, and I can explain a method to my madness. ❤

IMG_1882

[All photos on this page were taken by me on my last trip to the Met in 2012, except otherwise noted.]

This tunic is a part of the permanent exhibit in the small Byzantine gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is, as the title of this class details, directly beneath the Grand Staircase of the museum, and sort of nestled in its own special world of Coptic shinies. It is dated to 7th Century Egypt, and boasts a unique method of tailoring brought to the West via the Sassanian Persian Empire. This particular style of “fit and flare” tunic may have been what influenced later examples in Medieval Europe.

The first thing I’m going to invite everyone to take a look at is the overall construction. It’s not too dissimilar from what we’ve come to know as a Birka tunic in the SCA, sans the underarm gussets that are commonplace in that design. There are side gores to widen the bottom for ease of movement, and the sleeves taper gently toward the wrist. The neckline is heavily influenced by Asiatic designs, and boasts keyhole design that fastens on the shoulder. The neckline and sleeves are finished with a blue and cream patterned silk tape, and the garment’s primary embellishments follow the traditional Roman-influenced patterns of the time. The roundels and clavii (vertical stripes) are woven from red colored wool, and appliqued onto the white linen tunic.

 

First: Some terms!

Clavii (Singular: Clavus. Greek: Potamion/a.) The vertical stripes that are seen on late Roman/early Byzantine tunics. Originally denoting rank, but later becoming simply decorative.

Coptic: The Copts were and still are native Christians to Egypt. Some believe it to be the Church of Mark the Evangelist. (Catholic is Peter, Orthodox is Paul.) We use the term “Coptic” to denote anything coming out of the Byzantine-occupied Egypt and parts of Ethiopian prior to the Fatimid Muslims taking over in the 8th Century. It’s really kind of a misnomer to use it for clothing, since a lot of the styles involved heavy influences of Hellenistic Greece, including pagan imagery.

Roundel: A round applique or embroidered design on a garment.

Sassanian Persia: The last Persian Empire prior to the spread of Islam by the Seljuk Turks. 224CE-651CE. Were a huge influence culturally on the Roman Empire.

 

Now let’s break it down…

Check out that curved underarm!

A term you’ll probably hear me use a lot during this class is “conspicuous consumption.” Nothing in this pattern shows attention to conserve fabric. The underarms are deliberately cut in an arc to make it more comfortable and reduce bunching, versus inserting a gusset. This provides a smoother fit but does not really conserve material, as the body needs to be cut to accommodate this. A teardrop shape is cut out of the rectangle to create the curvature of the underarm and slight flare at the bottom.

tunic_underarm

The sleeve is attached around mid-upper arm, and it tapers toward the wrist. There is trim covering this joint, and some additional embellishment at the lower arm closer to the wrist. There is also a roundel on the shoulder between the clavus and this joint.

 sleevetrim

Those tiny side gores!

I was thrilled to discover a Byzantine-period tunic with gores than really worrying about the size of them in question, as such things can be easily adjusted. This garment was tailored for somebody much smaller than the average person today. In fact, even my 5’2” size 0 jeans sister could not fit in this. But it’s not much of a secret that people 1500 years ago were smaller than we are today. I still like this though, because it shows that a wider flare for movement was still necessary, and it eliminated the bunching of the traditional rectangle tunic for wearing under layers. Unlike a solid gore that we see in some tunic patterns, this one is actually two small right triangles, individually sewn to the bottom already-flared skirt portion of the garment, and then connected via the side seam. The gores are set in lower on the hip, than rather on the waist.

tunic_gore

Let’s talk the pretty parts (or what’s left of them, anyway.):

As previously mentioned, the embellishments on this are pretty standard for the Roman influence left in Egypt at the time. First we’ll take a look at the silk tape. Here’s another instance of conspicuous consumption, where the wearer is affluent enough to have a touch of Chinese silk on the hems and collar of their garment. Although silk is more comfy against the skin than wool, these are also the parts of the tunic that will see the most wear and tear. The maker of this probably knew that silk, although more expensive, was arguably more durable, but at the same time, more difficult to launder. The only think I really noted on this was how it was attached to the garment.

It is not a folded bias tape that goes over and protects the raw edge, but a trim added as a facing on the outside of the garment, The hem was created from whip-stitching the top of the tape to the raw garment edge, which was folded in toward the inside of the tape. The bottom of the silk is attached with a running stitch. There are some visible larger whip-stitches in a white thread on the outside, but my guess is that this was a later repair work to keep the silk tacked down where the original stitches may have disintegrated. It does not run the entire neckline. The sleeve treatment is the same method.

tunic_neckline_crop

silk_stitches

As far as the neckline closure goes, there is nothing remaining that suggests what type of fastener was used. It could have been a simple toggle and loop or a tie mechanism that was ripped off ages ago. Some modern Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical garments do still have ties on the shoulder, but the Chinese-style toggle or button being in use is just as plausible, considering the Persian origin of the garment.

Unlike the silk tape, the roundels and clavii appear to be tacked down using JUST a whip-stitch.

roundelstitching

The seam treatments used on the overall construction of the garment appear to be a mystery. I saw no evidence of flat felling or thickness that would indicate a French seam. The conservators at the museum appeared to have pressed the seams flat, at least the ones joining the side gores, but that’s all I could really notice. There is a seam repair on the bottom of the right sleeve (photo left) that shows the same chunky whip-stitches present on the neckline, so my guess is that it is also later repair work. Seam finishes weren’t always used in period, so it’s okay to assume that it could be raw linen edges. I do not suggest leaving a modern interpretation this way, our fabrics are made differently, and mainly because a washing machine will rip it to shreds.

So, what does this tunic mean?

My overall interpretation is that this tunic is a transitional garment. It deviates enough from the blocky earlier Roman design into a more tailored fit. This would eventually make its way into the European continent and evolve into the “standard” for hundreds of years. Compare this other style tunic, contemporary to the one above. I definitely prefer a more tailored fit than wanting to deal with the bulk and folds that this rectangular cut would create.

fashion1
Tunic photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Pattern:

I have drafted a simple pattern to use to make a tunic in this fashion that’s already posted here on the blog at https://annasrome.com/2014/01/03/byzantine-patterns-they-are-here/.

Happy sewing!

A review of FutureLearn’s course on “Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier”

Readers of my blog will probably recall a post I made not long ago, well, six weeks ago to be exact, on my beginning of a course on FutureLearn. I reblogged a post “Who built the wall?” when the course started, and now I feel urged to share a poem by Rudyard Kipling, “The Roman Centurion’s Song”. It’s that feeling you get when you finish a good book, that emptiness that comes with completion. I guess I didn’t expect to feel this way, but that’s a good thing! That means that FutureLearn and Newcastle University have done their jobs. For a free online course, it was OUTSTANDING.

A little bit about the breakdown of the course:

Each week had about 20 short sections to complete. They ranged from short videos, to articles, and quizzes. The quizzes don’t count against your grade, they were just a learning tool. Every 2 weeks there was an actual test, culminating with the final test at the end of the 6th week (That one had some curveballs in it.) My favorite part were the little forensic challenges that happened every other week or so. You would be given an archaeological find of bones, and then try to determine cause of death, gender, etc from the clues given in an article. It was a great insight into the grim world of forensic archaeology.

The Vindolanda tablets were totally awesome. I had heard about them before, but never actively went seeking them. I really suggest taking a look at them here. Learning a bit more about the religious syncretism that occurred at the wall and methods of worship was also incredibly fascinating.

In addition, the discussions that were had were also great. Each section has a discussion area that functions like a social media platform, in which one could post an answer or topic of discussion and receive answers, sometimes even by the staff at the University, who was actively engaging with the MOOC the entire time.

Here’s Newcastle University’s blog of their experience: https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/numoocs/

I do believe you can still check out the course. Go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall/ and see for yourself. I may have also totally taken the bait, but Newcastle University may be on the list of schools I look into for my PhD. But that’s a ways off yet, let me finish my MA first!

Thank you to the staff at Newcastle University and FutureLearn for offering this experience. I’ve already enrolled in an upcoming course, also through FutureLearn, on the archaeology of Portus which is being given by the University of Southampton, another UK school. I look forward to checking that out in January. 🙂

 

 

 

 

I swear, I’m not dead.

I started my MA degree this fall at the University of New Hampshire, and needless to say, it’s been keeping me a bit busy. I am doing what research I can, and hitting all sorts of amazing conferences, such as last weekend’s New England Renaissance Conference in which the topic was Credit and Debit in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Totally a fascinating topic I never even thought to look into before.

In 2 weeks there is an event in the Barony of Carolingia, our neighbors to the south of Stonemarche, called Voyages of Discovery, and A&S Colloquium. It is a mundane clothes dress academic conference with Scadians in mind. I will be presenting my paper on Suetonius’ biography of Domitian, and my analysis using contemporary sources. It’s one of my undergraduate works, but it was my writing sample to get into graduate school, and apparently did the job.

I also plan to prepare my propoloma article from here on this blog for publishing in Ars Scientia Orientalis, the East Kingdom A&S Journal, much like my silk paper was. So yes,  even though I haven’t been crafty, I’ve still been busy!

 

I do have some slow-coming work in progress on Byzantine outerwear. Look for that in the coming weeks.