A Beginners guide to A&S

A&S, or Arts and Sciences, covers any art, craft or science that was done in the Middle Ages.   It’s astonishingly easy to get caught dithering between things to choose. Most events have an A&S component, even if it’s only people sitting around a table working away on projects and chatting, which I love.  A lot of people work on various size projects all the time, dipping in and out of things that take their fancy.   Usually at an event there is someone sewing something garb related or maybe trying some embroidery/needlepoint,  or luceting or tablet weaving.  Someone might be working on some leatherwork or chainmail, while another might be inking or painting or trying their hand at a new script.   All of these are handy, portable projects, and easy to natter with others over as you work.    They’re also things you can work away on and keep to yourself or share with others, exactly as much as you feel comfortable doing.   You might decide that that small stuff isn’t for you, maybe you’ve always wanted to build a siege engine?  Yep, that’s an A&S project.

Every shire has an A&S officer, they will request updates from members every quarter about the A&S work you are doing, completed projects or indeed research or partially completed projects.   It’s just an email, usually, and a few lines is all it needs.  If you find yourself reading up about how to choose arrows, that counts as A&S research.   Making your own arrows is a project.  You can be as brief or as fullsome as you choose.  The Shire A&S officers then make their report to their principality or barony A&S officer, who in turn report to the Kingdom A&S minister  and so the Kingdom can keep up with what’s happening with all members.

The Shires run workshops on various different A&S skills, there will definitely be one that appeals to you at *some* stage.  In a very short time I have been personally aware of classes in armour making, puppetry, dance, cooking skills, felt making, arrow making, blackwork, tablet weaving and illumination.  I’m very much looking forward to some leatherworking and calligraphy classes.

Every year there is a University, where people spend the weekend giving and taking classes in various skills.  Last year I went to the Insulae Draconis Yuletide University, hosted by Glen Rathlin and this year the Kingdom University is being hosted by Glen Rathlin, which will be fantastic.

So what happens to your projects.. Well that largely depends on what you want to have happen.  Most people work on garb at least, so that has a practical outcome – you have something to wear, or bags to put things in, or armour to stop the bruises getting *too* spectacular.   You might choose to make something you can use for feast – napkins, or plates or mugs etc..    You might offer to make a dish for people to share, or entertain people with a song, or a poem you have translated, an instrumental piece or indeed any bardic piece.   The thing I love about all of this is that there is an outlet for your efforts, if you want one, you can use your skills to enhance the experience of everyone and it spurs you on to try and reach greater heights for the next event. 

As additional motivation there are often formal displays and local A&S competitions, and, when you’re up to it, I’ve only just properly understood that there are Kingdom level A&S competitions too.  (I’ll go through this in another post when I learn more about it myself.)  For the local competitions there are usually a formal judging process and also a populace vote – so get used to the idea that your work will be looked at by most people at any event.    Your project should be accompanied by documentation which includes what you have chosen, your name, why you have chosen it, what your sources have been (primary and/or secondary) and how you went about completing the project – including details like what modern materials you may have substituted and why, how you worked out quantities – that sort of thing.

A&S competitions are great because they motivate you to try something, and help you get in touch with people who also like it.  You will get valuable feedback and with luck some people to share tips and tricks with.

Oh, nearly forgot – a lot of the A&S skills have groups you can join on Facebook, it’s worth asking around for a group dealing your chosen field.  Off the top of my head I know of groups for scribes, brewers and minstrels.

(to be continued)

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