Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | October 6, 2010

Musings of a Rennie – And the season draws to a close…

As the faire season draws to a close, I take an assessment of the year.

I’ve done this since becoming a Rennie, mostly because I want to make sure that playing at faire is fun for me and hasn’t become “work”.

I also want to see what I’ve learned over the season and what kinds of things I’ve been inspired to discover more about.  (How does one read an astrolabe?  Can I make sewing thread? How do you cook a pie over an open fire?)

And if you have been following my series of “musings”, and you are a fellow Rennie, YOU should also be assessing your year!  Come on.  Did you really think there wouldn’t be a final project at the end of the year?

Gotcha.

So let us begin…

Did you meet someone new this year at faire?  Did you introduce yourself to another Rennie?

Yes, I met about a 4 entirely new folks and got better acquainted with about 6 others.  I also met a bunch of people who usually play English at faire – not my usual circle of acquaintances.   Suddenly I’m feeling much more a part of a community.  These new faire folk in my life come from all sorts of places – entertainers, history snobs, vendors, and crafters.   I’m really happy about that.  I get a much broader view of faire by having a diverse group of faire friends.

Did you take a step – even a tiny, little, baby one – to embrace more historical sensitivity?

Oh yeah, baby, oh yeah.

This was the year of more historical clothing.  I learned a ton.  English, Scottish, basic construction techniques…whew!  I made sure to always have my head covered, particularly with a kertch or a coif.  I also worked at finding colors that were more period appropriate.  I’m adopting more use of ceramic and wooden dishes, putting my spinning supplies in more period looking storage…oh phooey…I’ve been incorporating whatever I can.

Did you do any research?

Duh!  Tons.  I’ve written about building a character, dressing, period cooking, costume research, interacting with patrons, camping, feeling new and lost at faire, making connections with other faire folk, being part of a guild, researching crafts and history and other junk.  And in the process, I’ve had to do some fact checking about faire-isms/myths and digging into a bit more history (although I keep getting stumped by the date driven formats of most sources).

On my own little craft tangent, I’ve been geeking out about more spinning techniques and tools.  And I have a new acquaintance making me a distaff!!  I’m so excited.  (NEVER underestimate whom you meet as a patron…I met some fabulous people who are interested in learning from me as much as I’m learning from them!)

I learned a little about the Elizabethan fishing industry when I researched ingredients for a cast iron chef competition.  It is making me think more about the trading relationships and reputations among the non-English in Elizabethan England.

Did you notice someone else at faire for a good thing?  Did you notice someone else at a faire for a bad thing?  What was it?

Good – I noticed more people trying to present crafts at faire.  I also noticed a few vendors who really were doing a lot more interaction with patrons and participants.  That just makes me happy.  I think that all the people who “work/play” at faire can positively influence the feel of the faire if they embrace the playing with patrons.

Good and bad – I also noticed which guilds had better costuming standards – or which ones allowed a mishmash.  Heck, I’m noticing my own household’s  garb tote contents and cringing with a few of the outfits…We’ll be changing things as we replace worn out pieces.

Bad – Some participants who really didn’t care what they looked like or how they presented their products/craft/show in the theme of the given faire.  Made my teeth itch, but I survived.  (Lesson: some people just aren’t going to be interested, so don’t obsess.)

As we start cleaning our kits – clothing, weapons, crafting tools, and camping supplies – and transitioning to the off season, let’s take a moment to think about how we want to improve for next year.

Are you going to read a book this winter?  Would you consider finding just one article or book that is related to the period that you portray?  Or the culture that you are characterizing?  Or the craft or trade or skill that you are demonstrating?

Please, let’s work on everyone getting onto the same page.  Go and read A Compendium of Common Knowledge. Please.  It’s free and online and available for download.  And Maggie ROCKS!!  She even updates it regularly!  http://elizabethan.org/ For those of you who still love holding something in your hands and want to make notes, you can buy the hardcopy from her for your personal library.

Then, go find something that you’re curious about and find out about it.  It can be on anything.  Really.  Think about this as a little light foray into time travel.  May I suggest that you learn about the bugaboos that drive us historically-biased folks crazy?  If you like pirates, please learn about privateers and merchant seamen and how international ships didn’t always get along.  If you like to wear fancy duds, go find any of the historical costuming books (Tudor Tailor, Patterns of Fashion, etc.) that have incorporated true research vs. fantasy fashion .  If you really are into the beer and boobs atmosphere, how about learning about brewing or corsetry or the underbelly neighborhoods and trades of Elizabeth’s London?

Come on…a little reading/research won’t hurt you.   It can be fun to just look at pictures (woodcuts and paintings) and read some Shakespearean insults out loud.  (There are several books out there…I’ve even found some in thrift shops!)  You’ll be amazed at how gently you are being educated about what we want to portray just by repeatedly looking at information.  Just consider all the bad information we’ve learned by repeatedly being exposed to it.

Will you need to replace some of your costuming?  Can you plan on replacing that worn out piece with a new, more period appropriate look?

Note that I didn’t insist on authentic construction or materials?  Nope.  I just want you to consider getting the right look, not that you have to handsew the silly thing.  (But if you want to, right on!  Knock yourself out!)

Will you share what you know?  Will you question what you “know”?

Can you talk to the people that you play with?  Can you ask people in your guild when they started doing something in a particular way and why?  People who ask questions learn so much more than those how don’t.

Here are my goals for next year.

  • I will replace costume pieces for my household with more historically accurate looking pieces.  I will pay attention to fabric choices, color, and styles that are better suited to the personas that we play. I will see if the library can get ahold of better historical costume books.  I will try to find a used copy of  The Tudor Tailor.
  • I will learn about spinning flax.  This is a biggie.  I think it’s time that I learn to make linen thread and yarn because it was so basic to the lives of the period we portray.  I will not be intimidated by the horror stories modern spinners tell about flax spinning.  Come on, for women to have spun this for centuries, there MUST be some clever coping strategies.
  • I will consider knitting a pair of period style stockings.  We’ll see if I actually manifest them, but I’ll at least consider it.  I’ll have to locate some wool that is appropriate.  I might even spin the wool for the stockings.  (Hmmmm…then I’d have to figure out what to do with the stockings.   I don’t think my character would be able to use them.  )  Last year I bought proper steel knitting pins, and then last week someone else gave me a second set.  I have no excuses (…well except that I have my mundane Xmas knitting to finish) to not use them.
  • I will strive to understand more about the history of the period I’m playing in.  Not the whole darn period or all topics, but a couple of areas that would impact the life of the character that I play.  Hmmm, I think I’ll be looking at trade history of  the  Highland Scots, and how the west coast inhabitants may have gotten around. Someone showed me a cool book about housekeeping in Tudor times.  It had information on how to clean things, how to make things, how to keep vermin at bay.   (I think it’s called The Tudor Housewife.  I’ll have to check. )
  • I want to finish my project about foods that a commoner would have had access to.  It has been slowly growing for 2 years, so it’s definitely time to be made into a useful list of some sort – like for choosing ingredients for the Cast Iron Chef competition.
  • I will make an effort to meet a few more people who’ve I’ve admired (from a distance) for their approach to performing at faire in a historically sensitive way.
  • I will share what I’ve learned – in person with people I interact with and with people who read my blog.  I’ve had guildmates ask me about the clothing, food, and other research I’ve been doing.  This is exciting because now I know that my guild is interested in what I’ve been doing and want to start increasing our “historicity”.  I want to see if we can get the guild to start calling each other by our faire names at meetings and MIMIFIs so we can begin to get comfortable with each other’s personas.  I’m also working, at my guild master’s request, on updating our guild handbook.  Another person also suggested that I consider writing up an article/class for newbies (and possibly guildmasters) about  surviving the first year.  We’ll see.  (I’m back to looking for a job again.  Any leads out there?)

One last thing.  Last week I was given an affirmation about my blog that I wasn’t expecting.  A friend of mine was in a local fabric shop and saw a woman purchasing some wool for a kilt and found out the woman was shopping for garb for the local big faire.  The stranger told my friend that she had been inspired to take on a corset project because of a blog post she’d read.  My friend asked if the blog was by Aunt Magaidh.  Affirmative.

When my friend told me about this, I was incredibly humbled.  And it has made me all the more concerned that I try to be as honest, detailed and clear about what I write.  I appreciate all the support and feedback from my fellow Rennies.  Thank you.

So, if I don’t see you at Folsom Renaissance Faire (http://www.folsomfaire.com/) in a week or so, I’ll be hoping to meet you next season!  Let’s send this year’s faire season off with a loud GLE MHATH!!!  (English translation: HUZZAH!)

Aunt Magaidh

 

Aunt Magaidh with patrons - it was early and I hadn't gotten a chance to remove my shades! Hey, I'm not perfect!

 

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Responses

  1. Sounds like you had a great year at faire, and working to an even better new year. This is great. Keep up the momentum.

    Huzzah!

  2. I love you, your spirit and your passion. I have both of those books on my shelves, you are welcome to borrow them 🙂

  3. I’m so excited I found this blog! What wonderful goals. I’m a beginner spinner, hopefully some day I’ll get a spinning wheel. I’m excited to see how next year goes. Maybe we’ll run into each other.

    • If you come to Northern CA Ren Faires…Ardenwood, Valhalla, Folsom…come looking for me. I’ll be in the MacIain encampment. You can sit and spin for a while!


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