The manner in which arts & sciences projects are shared with the general populace can sometimes be just as important as the project itself. Not all projects come with an inherent visual interest to draw the people in and make them take a second look. For those projects lacking a certain panache, an eye-catching display can make up for the difference. Where some Kingdoms do not look further than the object entered, other Kingdoms incorporate presentation as an important and valuable teaching tool in their arts & sciences tool box.
A small bowl of brown goo, no matter how difficult producing medieval soap is, is just not very captivating and easy to miss. Add a pitcher of water and a washing basin, with clear instructions on what it is and how to wash with it, and everyone will remember washing their hands with sheep tallow soap. Similar for a 20-page, corner stapled, research paper; looking boring and easy to get passed over. But there are ways to dress it up that will help attract an audience.
Below are some tips that are found to be successful for enhancing a display
- Table cloth: use pieces of period looking (perhaps even hand woven) fabric or cloth as a base for your display. Handwoven goods would certainly not be necessary, but a nice cloth for the area under your display is advantageous. Pick a color that does not compete in tone and contrast with your project, and try to avoid busy prints or fabrics with too much shine.
- Display Cards for each item: Often at larger events like the Pennsic A&S Display artisans will present multiple items spread out on the table. It can be difficult to tell where one individual’s display stops and another begins. Using a table cloth can help establish territory, as can the use of small, identical cards with a brief bit of information about each item.
- Elevation: Raising some items will make them easier to see, or can enhance the composition of the entire display. It can also make items in the back of a display easier to reach. Have your primary object in the middle of the display, at the highest elevation.
- Accessories: If your display is period painting and you want to show your paints, they would look nicer in period vessels. Even if what you have to use is not perfectly period, something less modern than plastic cups will still serve you well and not distract from your medieval craft.
- Cards: If you will not be sitting with your display for a long period of time, you should make sure that there are (business) cards with your contact information for people to take with them, or that at the very least your contact info is easily visible on your documentation for a quick picture by phone. Someone might want to contact you later about how you did something or they might want you to come teach at their event. They are also exceptionally handy for networking (geeking) with other artisans with whom you might want to later share resources or information.
Helping Your Audience Helps You
- Lighted magnifying glass: We all know that many display halls do not have optimal lighting. Additionally, it is not uncommon for individuals who only use glasses to read to forget to carry those glasses with them as they wander around an event. If your work is detail oriented or small in scale, it can greatly help your audience to provide a magnifying glass alongside your work.
- Font: Make sure that documentation and display cards make use of legible fonts that are large enough for the average person to read. There are so many lovely medieval-oid fonts out there and it is quite tempting to use them, but most often they just end up confusing. Opt for simplicity.
- “Touch Me” Signs: More often than not, we love for people to handle our goods. Occasionally, however, we sometimes have very delicate items that are just better off not being handled. A small sign that lets viewer know that it is safe to touch will encourage them to take the time to really examine your work, and likewise, a similar sign letting people know that the item should not be handled can preserve a fragile piece. And of course, signs listing ingredients of food items are a matter of safety for many individuals.
- Multiple copies: This way, when someone is interested while someone else is reading, there is another copy to refer them to without interrupting the first person.
- Binders/Folders: A stack of paper stapled together can actually be mistaken for a handout and someone just might walk off with it. Even a simple plastic folder can denote that the material is part of the display and meant to be left there.
- Organization: If your book or documentation is thick, adding tabs to the edges of the pages for each section can help people navigate to the portion they are most interested in.
- Stand: A small easel serves two purposes. The first is that it elevates the documentation and makes it easier to reach and the second is that this allows more space on the actual table for your art.
- Professionalism: I think many of us have pulled something out at the last moment to add to a display. This might mean hand written insta-documentation, and there is really not much to do about that. Aside from that though, your documentation should look like it was meant to be presented to the public. An overstuffed binder with loose pages falling out and large chunks of irrelevant material is never appropriate for a display or competition.
- Process: Do not forget to include process information in your display. People LOVE to see how you created something, and including some of the items (such as spun yarn before the weaving) can really help them better understand how you created your work of art.
But whatever level you end up playing at, don’t sweat the small stuff. Do not spend too much time obsessing about your display – it is easy to get lost in the idea of building an eye-catching display, rather than utilizing it as the tool it is to better showcase one’s own work.
Edited from “Presentation” by Mistress Álfrún ketta, original (with more photo examples) found here.
Have more questions?
Ask the SCA Arts & Sciences Entries and Displays (UNOFFICIAL) (private) Facebook group.
Examples of beautiful and effective arts and sciences displays: