Arts and Sciences

Crafting

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Photo courtesy tworavens.org

Whether you build, forge, weld, or anything else, there’s a craft in the Society for you!

Crafting is one of the most common activities in the Society! Our artisans study and create works from nearly every type of craft from the Middle Ages. Collectively, we call the study of the various production, research, and performing crafts, “arts and sciences.”  At many Society events, you will be able to watch artisans recreating these crafts and often take classes and workshops where you can learn to do them yourself. Some of our events are entirely dedicated to demonstrating and learning medieval crafts!

There is a beautiful feeling of joy when I attend an event and actually see some of the banners I have made for people being used. To see them flying in the air, welcoming one and all to a event, makes me smile. — Madame Cynthia du Pont

Construction Crafts

Construction crafts play a big role in our activities. Many of the pieces of armor that you see our combatants wearing were handcrafted by those same combatants or other artisans in the Society and the handiwork of the construction crafts adorn nearly every facet of Society life.

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Photo courtesy tworavens.org

Leathercraft is a very common activity, both those projects that end up in completed pieces of armor and other more artistic endeavors such as leather costume components, pouches, and other accessories.

Metalwork and casting are also common crafting pursuits, from the platesmithing and mailsmithing that results in metal armor to beautifully cast jewelry and coins made of pewter and silver to ornate coronets and crowns worn by our nobility.

Woodwork in the Society creates a multitude of useful and beautiful items, from simple and functional chairs and boxes to hand-tooled medallions and signs, to intricately fashioned thrones and even full castle facades and buildings.

Sciences and Other Arts

Many Society members explore a varied list of sciences as they recreate the Middle Ages. These sciences include botany, astronomy, stillroom crafts, cartography, siege engineering and physics, mathematics, languages, and many more. Some of the most fascinating classes and workshops found at Society events are on topics as varied as charting the heavens with an astrolabe to  creating your own tallow candles.

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Photo by tworavens.org.

The fine arts and more are also well represented in the SCA. Many Society members take up painting and drawing as their chosen pursuit and produce beautiful works of art from Renaissance-style portraits to triptychs portraying medieval life. Members study stained glass and glassblowing, sculpture, wirework, and more as they recreate every aspect of the Middle Ages.

There are literally hundreds of arts and sciences you could take up in the SCA. Even more than watching others perform these crafts, the highest importance is placed on sharing the knowledge behind them with others who want to learn. If you see someone doing or working on something that interests you, just ask!

Costuming

From the simplest tunics to the most amazing Renaissance ensembles, a love of medieval clothing runs throughout the Society!

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Photo by tworavens.org.

‘What should I wear?’ is one of the very first questions from people experiencing the SCA for the first time. The short answer is a comfortable tunic (long enough to be a dress for ladies) and pants (a belt is optional). As a person new to the SCA, we understand that you can’t simply run down to your local store to purchase these items, but have no fear! You have options. One office in the local group is the Chatelaine (also called Hospitaller or Gold Key), who acts to welcome newcomers and to help you get started. One of their tasks is to maintain “loaner garb,” a trove of medieval-style clothing in various sizes which are available for loan until you can create your own wardrobe. Once you are properly outfitted, take advantage of your first few events to check out different styles of costuming. The SCA covers over a millenium of history and offers a wide variety of clothing promising to suit every taste and whim.

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Photo by tworavens.org.

‘How do I get that garment?’ is frequently the next question asked by newcomers. The short answer is, you buy it or you make it. The SCA features a number of talented and skillful costumers who take commissions as merchants and will sew garments for you should you wish. If you enjoy creating, you also have the option to learn costuming from any of the very skilled and talented costumers across the area. Their passion often inspires them to teach at events, at project nights, even one on one and frequently at no charge. Most basic garments require little effort if you have a sewing machine and can follow a line. There are also Costuming Guilds available, with the purpose of promoting costuming, teaching and advancing research. Every member of the Guild is happy to answer your questions and share their time and knowledge with you. They can guide you on what garments are appropriate for your chosen time period and location, help you with fabric choices, aid you in creating patterns as well as the technical skills needed for advanced costuming.

Decide roughly what you want to make, keeping in mind your skill level and time available. Look up things like “book of hours”, and “medieval illumination” as an example. Find painted portraits, confirming details like who painted it, and when. When you have your vision, it’s time to design. — Cait O’Dhuibihir

Within the SCA, costuming choices are as wide and varied as its members and there is something for every personal style. Whether your tastes lie with the simplicity of the Anglo-Saxon chiton of the tenth century or the fitted European cotehardie of the fourteenth century, with the Celtic knot work embroidered garments so popular in the Viking Age or the grandeur of sixteenth century Elizabethan fashion, you will most assuredly find a costumer who shares your passion and is willing to guide you. Costuming is one of the most effective vehicles to transport us visually from the modern to the medieval world and so costumers feel pride in creating wearable art that adds to the medieval ambiance that is so enjoyed within the SCA.

Heraldry

There are many ways in which the historical art of heraldry plays a role in the Society. Heralds help participants research and construct medieval names from historical sources and design and display heraldic imagery known as devices (commonly called “coats of arms”) and badges.

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At our events, heralds often serve as a “master of ceremonies” and can be found delivering announcements, introducing tournament combatants, reading proclamations and scrolls, and more.

Heraldry is the visual, personal shout-out of the Middle Ages. It proclaims to everybody, “This is me!” “I am here!” “Rally ’round, my followers!” Use your heraldry at every chance you get to let your presence be known and to add color and pageantry to our events. — Freiherr Albrecht Waldfurster

Calligraphy and Illumination

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Photograph by Melanie Fischer.

Some of the most evocative artifacts that have survived from the Middle Ages are beautifully crafted scrolls, books, and manuscripts. Scribes in the Society maintain this art through calligraphy, the writing styles of the medieval and Renaissance world, and illumination, the practice of painting and inking artwork alongside the writing.

The scribal arts are a common facet of Society life, since most awards and honors given to recognize service and skill are accompanied by handcrafted scrolls which document and celebrate the honor. Scribes also use these artistic techniques to memorialize the history of our Society, to beautify documents and manuscripts for Society use, and more!

Vocal and Instrumental Music

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Photo by tworavens.org.

Bards and minstrels of the SCA perform a wide variety of music from the Middle Ages, from sprightly Renaissance dancing tunes to beautiful, medieval choral works and everything in between. Our performers also write and perform a great deal of original music composed in the spirit of the Middle Ages, ranging from marching anthems for their kingdoms to bardic ballads about beloved figures. The voice has been used in performance for thousands of years and many of the instruments that we still play today have their roots in the medieval ensemble. It is not uncommon to hear the strings of a guitar or the lilt of a recorder around any given campfire.

One of the things I love best about performing arts in the SCA is the bardic circle at events. After the fighting is done, and the feast hall is cleaned, folks will gather to celebrate the best about the SCA in songs, stories and poems. Some might be about those who came before us, while others might be from period sources, but it matters not if you are a “Barbara Streisand” or a “Jerry Lewis” type–anyone is welcome and everyone gets to perform if they want to! Come join the circle one night! — Baroness Flannait inghean ui h’Eighnigh

Storytelling and Oration

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Photo by tworavens.org.

The concept of the storyteller held a prominent role in both the entertainment and the education of people in the Middle Ages. The bards and skalds of old were the keepers of their cultures’ histories and legends. In the SCA, many performers dedicate themselves to collecting the tales of both the historical Middle Ages and the Current Middle Ages and recounting them over feast and campfire. Whether through prose or verse, you can always find a bard willing to share a bit of Beowulf or tell a tale from the latest war.

Dance

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Photo by tworavens.org.

Dance is one of the most popular pastimes in the Society. We are fortunate to have documents from the Middle Ages that not only give us the music for the popular songs of the day but also steps to dance to them! The dances that we recreate have a wide variety of styles and levels of difficulty, ranging from simple circle dances with only a few steps, to rhythmic dances from the Middle East, to complex Italian dances with dozens of steps. Don’t worry if you have two left feet, a lot of these dances are easier than the Hokey Pokey!

Dancing is taught at dance practices (held by some local groups) or at SCA events, and grand balls are held where you can learn new steps and dance the night away!

Even More Performing Arts

Many other performing arts from the Middle Ages can be found in the Society, from juggling and magic to theater and Commedia dell’Arte! You can be a medieval star in the Society!

[Text from SCA Newcomers Portal. ]