By Elska á Fjárfelli, November, 2021

Entry documentation can vary from a hand-written index card to elaborate step by step journals, often copiously illustrated. Both have their merits, and it is up to you to decide which is best for your project, and for you. Some artisans excel at documenting their journey to share with and instruct others – and others, not so much. We at the Kingdom A&S office are much more interested in seeing projects happen, entered and shared, than to push papers. We enjoy any and all paperwork you, the artisan, feel comfortable compiling and sharing – and of course, we also happily guide those interested in bringing their project to the next level!

But where to start?
A first good step to entering any competition is to request a copy of the judging rubric beforehand. We at the Kingdom A&S office have developed several judging rubric options which are available to use throughout our Sylvan lands, both to ease the organization of A&S events and to offer standard judging guidelines artisans can familiarize themselves with from one event to another. Not only can the judging rubric be used as a guideline on how your project would score beforehand – giving you the time to tweak it before the big day – but the criteria questions are also an excellent start to entry documentation.

If you are not familiar with documentation writing styles, start by treating the criteria questions as an interview, and answer each question in a conversational style. Sometimes artisans are under the impression that competition documentation needs to be at the same level as college papers, but that is not at all what we are looking for in the context of the SCA. When presented with a cool new thing, most gentles will primarily want to know how closely it resembles SCA-period exemplars and how we can learn to do this cool thing ourselves! Even if you only, perhaps briefly, discuss what inspired you and how you made it, you are already mostly there.

How this works practically
Each judging rubric considers several aspects of each project. To help the judge and artisan, each topic is described in further detail and accompanied by several questions. Answering – per category – those questions that apply to your project would help you make sure your documentation covers at least the necessities, if not more.
Methods
The methods, techniques, and processes used in a project can affect its ultimate appearance and historical accuracy. They should be explained and justified, especially if documented in historical context but not literally followed.

Are the methods of construction correct for the project?
What are the reasons behind the choices of constructions?

Other questions you could consider:
Did you describe and explain the process or method used to create the project? Does your documentation show how competent you are with period-appropriate skills, techniques, and processes? To what extent did you use them? How much did you vary from them, and did you explain your choices? It’s perfectly acceptable to use modern tools, techniques, or methods in an effort to save time or money or because of health or safety concerns, but judges need to know that you know the trade-offs and reasons for doing so.

Materials
The materials and tools used in a project can affect its ultimate appearance and historical accuracy. Please explain logical and reasonable substitutions of modern materials when there are issues related to, for instance, safety, cost, or availability.

Are the materials & tools used for construction correct for the project?
What are the reasons behind the choices of materials & tools?

Other questions you could consider:
Does your journal show how competent you are with the period-appropriate materials and tools used to create your entry? To what extent did you use them? How much did you vary from period, and how well is this deviation explained?

Historical Accuracy
Describe how period-appropriate the project is. This can include creating a piece based on period elements, but not inspired from a particular exemplar. It can also include recreating lost elements needed to replicate a specific object or process using techniques of experimental archaeology.

Does the project replicate or vary from the historical example(s)?
What are the reasons for deviations?

Other questions you could consider:
To what extent do the elements of the project create a pleasing “whole” while maintaining the “flavor” of a period piece? If there is no exemplar, why could it be plausible?

Quality of Workmanship
This is the difficulty, challenge, and level of ambition represented by the project, as well as the period-appropriate skill set and the level of craftsmanship involved. It is not required to produce all components from scratch yourself: in period, different artisans often created different elements used in a given object.

Please briefly discuss who did what then and now to indicate you are aware of the division of labor.

Other questions you could consider:
How creative did you have to be to complete your entry? This can mean producing a piece based on medieval elements, but not inspired from any one object or process. This can also mean recreating lost elements needed to replicate a specific object or process using experimental archaeology techniques. How complex is the project? How challenging are the materials and techniques? What is the level of skill and/or commitment needed to bring the project to fruition?

Research and Project Planning Journal
Your documentation should tell the judges what the project is, how it was made, what was used, and how it is historically authentic. It establishes the historical context of all aspects of the project, as well as its relation to other objects or processes of its type. When evaluating sources, take into account the number of resources available in a given area, and how relevant the sources are to the project.

What is the historical background of the project?Are historical exemplars presented and referenced?
Can the project be recreated using the (step-by-step photo) journal?

Other questions you could consider:
To what degree does your documentation describe the process to create your entry? How thoroughly did you research your project? On what is the project based, how was it made, and what materials were used to make it? Could another artisan recreate this project based on your journal? Are your choices explained and justified? Is the information organized and cited? What is the quality of sources used to validate the historical context of the project?

Assistance (for youth entries)
How much help did the entrant get from their parent or instructor?

How well does the entrant / parent indicate any division of research, labor, and journal keeping between adult and youth? It’s helpful to keep track of who did what as the project progresses (youth did measuring, parent used power tools, etc.).

Summary

To recap: we found the following documentation layout to be especially effective for judges and gentles to help navigate information while under time constraint during an A&S competition, which can be noisy and hectic.

  • Front page: title, image of project, preferably side by side with inspiration piece (don’t forget your name and contact info)
  • Title page: then-and-now comparison (two columns: what they did in period, what you did; no detailed explanations; one page)
  • Introduction paragraph: why did you choose this project and what did you hope to get out of it – the thesis statement
  • Body of text: explain the project from start to finish and describe how you did what did, and how medieval people would have done it; include photos and illustrations to help explain all aspects and show your progress – this will help others follow along if they want to recreate your steps and will help judges evaluate your logic and efforts
  • Conclusion paragraph: what did you learn, what will you do differently next time
  • Citations: footnotes, endnotes, or in-text: decide how you like to refer to your sources and use them whenever you make a claim, include a quotation, or show an image that was not made by you
  • Appendices: indirect background, cool tangents, additional photos, exploration of rabbit holes, etc.
  • References, Bibliography: a list of books, articles, web sites, museum exhibits, etc., that you consulted before and during your research and project creation (must include title, author, date, page numbers, URLs, etc., so that someone can track down the source)

If the above is more involved that you are comfortable with, many of our artisans have had good success in documenting their work using the EZ-DOC system, a free cross-kingdom resource. Its one-page document can be printed and filled in by hand, or it can be filled in electronically and then printed. (Note that there is space on the back if needed, or you can attach other material to it for presentation during the competition.)

Would you like to read more? See Now What?! Effective Documentation for Competition, which discusses these topics, and more, as well as includes several links to helpful non-Æthelmearc resources. And if you have any questions, any at all, please contact me. I love documenting my various projects but I love it even more to help others document and share theirs!

Nov 26, 2021 @ 9:23 am