Documentation Series Pt 1 – Getting Started

Starting is probably the most scary part of the documentation process. Knowing where to start, how to start, what comes first is most of the battle.

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Starting is probably the most scary part of the documentation process. Knowing where to start, how to start, what comes first is most of the battle.  Today we will talk about jumping off points.

I am going to presume readers of this series have already done their research on the item they are looking to document.  If not, FULL STOP.  Documentation is all about gathering your data, both historical and actual. If you do not already have that data, there is nothing to compile and present with documentation. Throughout this series there will be information on the data you will want to try to collect so read on for that.

Gathering Data

As mentioned, there are 2 types of data you want to cover in documentation: Historical & project related (I will refer to it as “current data”). For each of these types if data you will want to have the 5 W’s and H covered as best you can; Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. For now know these are the questions you will want to have answers for in your documentation.  Below is a listing of questions that can be answered to cover these main points. Please note this list is not comprehensive, it is meant as a jumping off point. It is also “Item” specific, some of these questions would not be relevant to performance or research paper entries.

WHO (Historical) WHO (Your project)
·        Who owned it ·        Who made it
·        Who made it ·        Who contributed to the creation?
·        Who “did the thing”
·        Who requested it
WHAT (Historical) WHAT (Your Project)
·        What was it made of ·        What is it made of
·        What significance did it have or display (eg. role in society) ·        What were your goals in the making
·        What inspired it ·        What inspired it
·        What tools (if any) were used to create it ·        What tools (if any) were used to create it
·        What did it do ·        What is it supposed to do
·        What function does it serve ·        What function does it serve
WHEN (Historical) WHEN (Your Project)
·        When was it created ·        When was it created
·        When was it used ·        When was it presented
·        When was it displayed
·        When was it presented
WHERE (Historical) WHERE (Your Project)
·        Where was it made (both geographically and locally. ie. At home, in a studio, etc) ·        Where did you make it
·        Where were the raw materials sourced from ·        Where did you get the raw materials/resources
WHY (Historical) WHY (Your Project)
·        Why was it made ·        Why did you decide on this project?
HOW (Historical) HOW (Your Project)
·        How was it made ·        How was it made

Documentation Series – Preamble

Ambrosius_Holbein_-_Signboard_for_a_Schoolmaster_-_WGA11474
Ambrosius Holbein – Signboard for a Schoolmaster c. 1516

Thus begins a series of posts about documentation in the SCA, my process for creating it and the expectations judges will have at various levels of competition.

I hope with this series, people will find some answers, tips and tricks to create documentation for competition in Arts & Sciences in the SCA.  I am a costuming artisan in the Kingdom of Avacal. I have received my Grant Level award from the Kingdom of An Tir for my artistry. I have also been the Avacal Champion of A&S, the Baronies of Montengarde and Borealis’ A&S champion and I am also a Courtier Sargent of Borealis.  I have won prize tournaments and judged every level of A&S competition possible. I LOVE entering competitions, not because I want to win but because I want the feedback given on entries. That feedback is valuable, it shows an artisan where they are at, where they can improve and how people are receiving their work.

Over the course of this series, we will look at the basic starting points of research and documentation. We will also go into detail with ways to ask and answer the relevant questions in A&S documentation.  Throughout this series I will be posting examples of mine (and hopefully others) documentation and talking about the level of competition as well as strengths of the documents.

This is the handout for a class I teach on Documentation in the SCA.  Enjoy!

Documentation Made Easy

Review – Dressed in Blue: The Impact of Woad on English Clothing, c. 1350-c. 1670

There are some persistent assumptions myths among historical costumers regarding clothing colours.  Fictions such as purple was only worn by Royalty, or pink is not an achievable colour in period continue to be handed down from one costumer to another.

It has recently come to my attention that there are some persistent assumptions myths among historical costumers regarding clothing colours.  Fictions such as purple was only worn by Royalty, or pink is not an achievable colour in period continue to be handed down from one costumer to another.

DP280846
 

Virgin and Child with Saint Anne Artist: Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg) Date: 1519 Medium: Oil on wood Dimensions: 23 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. (60 x 49.8 cm) Classification: Paintings Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 Accession Number: 14.40.633

 

If the goller on the girl in Virgin and Child with Saint Anne Artist: Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg)  from the Met isn’t pink, I’m a monkeys uncle.

Often these tidbits are passed on with little thought to their veracity or how much harm they are doing the costuming community.

One of these “facts” recently came to me from a very reliable source (as in, they’ve written books on the subject matter and are professional historical costumers specializing in 16th century England). This “fact” was that blue was not a common colour in period and that only servants wore blue.  Since no one would want to be confused with a servant, no one wore blue who didn’t have to. Well, I can think of more then a few images of blue gowns in 16th Century German art and I’ve made a few myself.  The article Dressed in Blue: The Impart of Woad on English Clothing, c. 1350-c. 1670 by Maria Hayward addresses these assertions and assumptions using many period sources to support her claims.

Summary and points of interest:

  • In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, blue was so popular that dyers specializing in other colours launched a smear campaign against it.
  • Despite high import value and traffic, only 5% of extant pieces of textile were dyed with woad, indicating that either woad dyed textiles were less popular then trade suggests or it’s hard to detect.
  • The York livery colours were blue and murrey. Ms. Hayward speculates that this may have caused blue to go out of fashion during the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Edward VI. Those monarchs would want to distance the House of Tudor from the House of York.
  • The French love affair with the colour blue remained constant throughout the time covered. The author cites the twelve French Ambassadors attending Henry and Anne Boleyns wedding  having worn an abundance of blue velvet and silk.
  • The decline in blue worn by the nobility can be directly linked to the decline in wool worn by that class of persons. The colour never went totally out of fashion, it transitioned out of everyday ware and into costumes and uniforms using more expensive fabrics such as silks and velvets.
  • Although blue wasn’t worn by the monarchy, other members of the aristocracy are noted for it, especially in their household staff. Often the closest staff of the nobility were minor aristocrats in their own right.
  • By the Seventeenth century, city constables, town watches, and apprentices are all noted for blue apparel and uniforms.
    • Apparently the term “Blue Collar worker” goes back much farther then I originally realized.
  • Blue represented Loyalty in a highly superstitious world.
  • Court entertainment often included the colour blue in it’s costuming. The Blue Knight was a feature in tournaments beginning in the mid 14th century. The concept was so well entrenched that even Henry VIII and his team wore blue uniforms on the tilt yard in 1511, 1516 and 1524.
  • Later Masques became all the rage for court entertainment. Blue was a common colour seen in those costumes. It was said to look good in candlelight and often signified the ideals of Chivalry.
  • chatsworthinigojonesdesignsforOS59.jpg
    Drawing of a Lady Masquer by Inigo Jones c. 1613

    Vestments for the clergy were often blue even at the highest level of noble clergy.

 

 

 

Ms. Hayward addresses the cycle of popularity of the colour blue in the late middle ages and early modern era of England in a straight forward manner.  She neither attempts to convince the reader that blue was or was not fashionable but instead provides documentation of who was wearing it, when and why. This paper provides a very solid basis for further research into the use of the colour Blue and it’s fashionableness across England and beyond.