Community is everywhere. It’s a notion that can come from physical proximity.. your neighbourhood, your canton, or shire or barony. It can come from shared interest.. the birding community, the fighting community, the A&S community. It can be in person, or from afar over social media (or post cards, or magazines, or discord channels.) All humans, even the most ‘grrr, I hate humans’ sort of introvert crave community on some level. We are social beasts, even if it’s just someone to hate humans with. You will never love everyone in your community, we’re all irritatingly fallible humans, many with somewhat questionable social skills, but that’s the nature of the beast, and ideally when we all put on our grownup pants, we manage to at least get along. (This is not a post about abusive or toxic members of the community, that’s a whole different conversation.)
Some communities come together very naturally in the SCA context. Fighters and fencers need each other to practice. Pell work is all fine and good, but you don’t get very far without other people. Missile weapon folks, they have a lot more opportunity to work alone, but not very many people have the luxury of enough space (or legality) to be able to throw axes or shoot arrows in their backyard, so by and large, they gather where the targets are.
A&S can, and almost often is, done wholly alone, hidden away at home. Workshops and floor looms don’t travel well. Detailed fussy work, be it with brush and pigments or needle and thread require good light, concentration and a lack of the table getting knocked accidentally. Some folks can, and do, bring bits and pieces to work on with others. Craft days, or at events, but 90% of it happens at home. Often just with your own thoughts of ‘well this is crap’, and ‘wtf? That is totally not what the instructions said would happen’. We are, by and large, solitary creatures.. and often with the social skills that come from being solitary creatures. (I get excited and overshare and forget that shutting the heck up is totally a thing I can do. I’m not /good/ at it, but I can do it. Please do remind me as necessary. XD)
And then we all come together… at a display, or competition or class filled weekend, University, schola.. however one wishes to phrase it. Walking into one of those in full swing is like hitting a wall of creative energy.. edged with nerves as often as not. Even the most gentle of judging is still challenging for entrants and judges alike, and if it’s for something big.. war points, championships, pentathlons.. then there’s even more nerves. New teachers (and some experienced teachers) do not teach because it comes naturally, but because they love to share, and are utterly faking it when they look calm and relaxed in front of a group of people.
Probably the best example of this is walking into the A&S display at Pennsic. (Middle weekend, Sunday afternoon! Come visit!) Artisans from everywhere have brought what they’ve been working on, and most of them are there to chat about their work. Some of it is mind blowing in terms of skill and research and depth. Some of it is a tentative beginner foray into something, and you look at the artisan and see a mix of pride at their new skill and a hint of terror that someone is going to be that ‘mean judge of legend’ and harsh on their beginner work. There’s people asking questions and explaining what they’ve done, yet again. There’s the display you can barely get near and the one that most people barely glance at, either because it’s not colourful, or they’re the last on the row.
And I love it. I love every last bit of it. I love the ones bringing the lumpy spinning that they fought tooth and nail to get, and I love the ones who have giant display boards that are the culmination of a decade of research into one specific thing. I love the ones that I know nothing about, but get to watch someone light up with the same passion towards their craft as I do about bits of string. I love chatting with people, I love doing A&S consults when the EK folks will have me. (Have questions about how to improve? Be it your display, your work, your documentation, or how to quell some of the terror of competition.. sign up for a consult! Totally voluntary, it’s usually next to the registration table.)
Phew, I’m not sure where I was going with this, beyond how much I appreciate the A&S community. It’s not perfect, we’ve got challenges and toxic trolls too, but big picture, thank you. ❤
And if you got this far, here’s my elderly calico Dalla in a sunbeam.