Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An open letter to the Ansteorran College of heralds, July, 2015


This year's Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, though a runaway success, was also an eye opening event  for me. Despite 15 years in supporting roles at SCA events, over half of a decade of director and AD level work outside the society, the truth of the matter is that there are still things that just have to be experienced first hand in order to be learned.

That being said, I wanted to take a moment and present here some observations of mine from the event. I don't consider any of these particularly revolutionary or controversial, but I do think there are some talking points that might be worth offering up for general conversation. None of these are meant to accuse, or even imply any shortcomings from any person or group, but rather to inspire conversation, both within the kingdom, and perhaps abroad.

The teaching of how to actually sit down and physically make award insignia is an underrepresented skillset within the college of heralds. Making the awards that are handed down by the crown and their delegates is just as important as the scrolls that are written and illuminated for the same. I personally believe that heralds everywhere should work to include award making in their educational efforts, and the future stewards of AH&SS should consider an award-making track as a regular feature of the event.

After setting up for the symposium this year, I was fortunate to have access to someone's personal, and sizable supply of banners for decoration. What I can say is that while hanging those banners was no momentary activity (it took several people, a ladder, and a few hours), the return for the investment was well worth it. Nearly everyone I spoke with mentioned the decorations, and several people, specifically new  or newer members commented that the site helped make the event a better one for them.

In short, my advise to anyone considering decorating their event in the future is a hearty endorsement of the idea, if at all possible.

I think Mistress Sara Penrose will be able to verify that my decision to host this year's Symposium on the 4th of July was not universally popular. In retrospect, however, while we did lose attendance of some people, several others commented that the Friday before (which a lot of business and establishments did set as a holiday/day off) afforded them travel time and let them come to the event when they normally would not have been able to.

In the end, the decision to use the holiday was neither pro, nor con in itself, but did "shake things up", as it were, for event attendance. While I am not going to go (anywhere near) so far as to say you should try and schedule on holiday weekends, I would submit that this year's symposium makes a strong case that a holiday weekend is a time-frame worth considering, depending on the event and the audience.

As another point to consider, I deliberately set the schedule so that people could leave site at the close of the event and reasonably make it as far as Namron or Northkeep (Norman and Tulsa, OK) in time to see local fireworks. Additionally, We had a designated coordinator who lead anyone who wanted to go out to the local fireworks display. While the attendance was small, those who made the trip all agreed that the show was well worth it and put a good capstone on the day.

The "Instructor's Library" 
One last thing that I did with some measure of success was to put a table out in the hallways and advertise it as a place for instructors to place two or three copies of their class handouts for people to read if they didn't make it to the class. Totally voluntary, totally open, no one to stand by and monitor anything. By the end of the day the collection of papers was modest, but still respectable. I got a lot of feedback from teachers who were glad to the added outlet, and a lot of feedback from attendees who were glad for the chance to see class notes that they otherwise wouldn't even have known about.

In closing,

All told, the event itself was an amazing success, and I feel like I both learned a lot, and showed a lot of people that I have something to "bring to the table" when talking about SCA event organisation.

As is usually the case, my perspective on things is shaped largely on a very different history than is the "average" in most situations, and I like to think I bring a good contrast of ideas, even if my own aren't always "good" upon detailed inspection.

As I said above, (and I want to say here, just to be sure) this letter is entirely about sharing ideas, and spurring conversation. No part of it in meant as (or should be read as) one-ups-manship, or "I know how to run an event." [just covering my bases with that little disclaimer].

I look forward to seeing what AH&SS looks like next year, and seeing what the event steward does with it.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"the Stick!" (My herald's baton)

Gulf Wars this year past was good to me in more than a few ways. One of which was meeting Taran the Wayward, a fellow voice herald out of Meridies. Quirky and eccentric in all the ways that make a herald awesome, Jim also had a surprisingly practical addition to the voice heraldry game this year when we both showed up to herald the Ansteorran's roses tournament.

Teran, it seems was one of the early subscribers to the school of using a baton in heraldry.

Its hardly a "new" thing, heraldic maces and batons are date-able back to the late thirteenth century, as I understand it.

File:Anton Tirol.jpg
The herald Anton Tirol
from 1510.
Bavarian herald
Joerg Rugenn wearing a
tabard of the arms around 1510

These illustrations (both late period for the SCA) show heralds with various "stick" implements meant to help dictate the business of the herald with exaggerated gestures, and recognized insignia.

The illustrations here are an excellent starting place for anyone who want's the see what was worked with. Anton Tirol's baton is, quite frankly, a mace in all but name, and would have looked as imposing as hell with him swinging it around while directing a court.

Joerg Rugenn, however, was using what we could call today a "wand" that probably would have been mistaken for a prop from one of the harry potter movies. Yet, none the less, I can say from personal experience outside the SCA that the gesturing of an item in a person's hand does help draw attention to them and make their instructions more definite.

I had actually heard of these things ages ago, but never really had a chance to try my hand at any of them until this gulf past. its hard to explain until you've been there and seen it in action, but let me tell you, having a 30" object in your hand lets you make some exceedingly unambiguous gestures to a lot of people a long distance away.

One extremely pragmatic example of this came during the processional into opening court Tuesday morning. I was assigned to split traffic, royals to behind the castle, populace to the front. Not long into the process, one of the mounted royals was thrown from her horse and landed hard on one shoulder. Within seconds her retainers were at her side, but the whole wile the bulk of the attending populace of the kingdom of Meredies was coming down the road. I looked up to see Taran at the head of the line, a huge mass of white white behind him like a slow motion avalanche.

The absolute first thing that flashed to my mind was that I needed to stop that march before it was on top of us and what was a largely isolated medical emergency would turn into a traffic snarl with hundreds of people involved, not to mention the fact none of that was going to help anyone dealing with the injured just then.

I ran forward, past the scene and locked eyes with Taran, perhaps forty yards away, but closing. I thrust both hands up at him, palms open. I know, from experience, that that gesture could be taken a hundred different ways, and have seen people do just that. But I hoped that Taran's knowledge of who I was and my job there that day would help clarify the instruction.

Taran blinked, I remember that. The look on his face clearly said that he hadn't expected this turn of event, and I wasn't even sure if he had seen enough of the accident to even understand what was going on. But... in one blink of an eye, he stooped dead in his tracks, and held his baton over his head, bar style (parallel to the ground).

In one beautiful, glorious moment, the whole meridian procession, and in turn everyone behind them, came to a controlled, dignified, organized halt.

In fact, it could almost have been passed of as 'we planned it that way'.

I'm not saying that was the only way to pull it off. Far from it. But let me tell you, the alternatives can get interesting. Turning around and waiving your hands at the people behind you doesn't always work. Don't ask me why, that's a research paper I'm not qualified to write, but trust me, it doesn't. The human mind is just infinitely able to turn out some things, but the sight of someone gesturing with the rough equivalent of a baseball bat will usually get through most filters very quickly.

The process was repeated, in different forms, several times throughout the week, with Taran directing and introducing people time and time again with great fanfare and silent command using one of his several batons to call attention quickly and effectively.

Directing fighters and matching fighters to marshals during the three hours, one hundred and fifty fighter rapier tournament was more of the same. I was loaned one of the batons in his kit, and let me just say that it was strikingly effective at directing people without adding to the noise of the situation.

So, months later, I set out to replicate what was shown to me, and hope that at events to come, I would be able to use my baton at local events in the north of the kingdom.

I would do a 'in-progress' series of photos, but really, it would be a lot of pictures of me painting a chair leg with white spray primer. ie... boring. So, lets just cut to the chaise and see what my offering looks like.

Ignore the chair... second hand, and
the cats got to it before I ever sat in it. 

I added this brass drawer handle to the end for accent.
In the end, I wanted something that had heft and weight to it, something that would remind me it was there, but not weight me down. I suppose that's the (now former) fighter in me talking, but, it is what it is.

I also wanted something "flexible", where I didn't have to paint over existing art, or leave the head blank. The whole point of the mace head was to put the client's arms on it, so that was what I wanted to do.

With a table leg mounting plate, I can attach just about anything I can fit the plate on. In this case, I took a small coffee table leg, pulled the 1/4" bolt out of it, and used it for my head. On this particular shape, I plan to put ornamental drawings on the side faces, and actual heraldry on the top. But, the parts are a few dollars a piece, so I can get another and make something different if I want.
The mounting plate lets me switch heads out.
Each head will need a new plate, but they are not much
more than $4 at Lowes.

At the end of the day, my goal here is to help me herald more effectively, and after working gulf this year, I honestly think this baton will be a step in that direction. 

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wiesenfeuer Baronial

Baronial this year was a welcome return for me. I have been away from Wiesenfeuer due to scheduling conflicts for too long and had too little to do with my friends down there. This would be my chance to get back and reconnect.

I arrived late in the morning on Saturday to find out that Aurelia, a young and eager rapier fighter and dear friend from Northkeep had already won the bardic championship the night before. The title was close to my heart because I had held it myself several years before, and was glad to see it go to someone with the youth and vigor to do the title proud in the year to come.

The day, I knew, would be eventful for several reasons. First, a good friend of mine was being taken a protege to a Pelican. Second, Aurelia was hotly anticipating placing well in the rapier tournament. lastly, I myself had been recently given the nod from Star principle herald to steward the upcoming Ansteorran Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, and today would be my first chance to touch base with some of my friends on if they were going to make it on the upcoming holiday of the 4th of July.

I think I lasted a grand total of fifty minutes before I got the tug on my sleeve. This time it was Grimolfr, but I think every herald and half the event stewards in the north had said what he was going to say to me,

"Ivo, one of my herald got pulled away, can you help us cry the tournament?"

I don't even mind helping, and anyone who knows me knows this. But the irony of the day for me was that if I had planned on heralding all day, I would have heralded all day. And if I had planned on taking it easy... I would have still wound up heralding all day.

Case in point.

But "grousing" aside I love what I do, and am always glad to be able to do it, and doubly so when it's helping friends.

As it happened, the first order of business was to coordinate with the two champions and see how the tournaments would be handled. One conversation in particular was specifically fun to have.

I've known Vlad for ages, since he started fighting and he and I were at the same practices. He learned to hate my Glaivework because for all it's apparent unwieldiness, I was able to manhandle my phone-pole-that-thinks-its-a-polearm with formidable speed. And I learned to fear his footwork, because once our resident Turk got his bearings, he was nimble as a dancer, and fast as a lightning bolt. Of all my regrets when I hung up my armor, I will say I miss his fights the most. For this reason, I was doubly mad when a mundane situation prevented me from making it to his knighting two weeks before.

With all of this as backdrop, it was good to see the man standing off to the side, shiny new white belt tied on, going over the preliminary steps for the upcoming tournament. We spent just a few moments talking about the format; he called the first rounds (two 20-minute bear-pits) an "unheralded thug-and-mug" to see who came out on top and get everyone amped up for the final 4 parings. The rest of the conversation, few minutes that it was, included the two of us chatting and catching up. I do miss Vlad's humor, and his practicality, he could charm the stripes off a tiger, or stare down a man twice his size, take your pick.

So, leaving the heavy fighters to their tasks, I spoke in turn to the rapier champion, who was a little more laid back and slightly more cavalier about the same setup for his side's fight. They were going to have fun, that was for sure.

On the way back from that conversation, I ran into Aurelia, one of the young up-and-comings in the rapier community, and good friend dating back to Gulf Wars 23, fourteen months before. She was working hard to concentrate on the pending fights, and was absolutely determined to be champion for her excellency of Wiesenfeuer. Aurelia was one of the more unique members of my inner circle, younger than many, especially as a fighter, and with all the vigor her youth carried with it. But, she possesses a focus, and a skill set just beyond her years. Her don is convinced she is destine for great things, and I, for one, am not unconvinced of the idea myself. I wished her luck, admonished her to stay focused, and cautioned her not to balance too much on one event. I'm fairly sure she took all three to heart.

The morning turned into a humid mid-day as the fighters began their tournament.  I got a chance to speak with Liadan then as well, another friend from farther back than I can really recall, today was going to be a big day for her as well.

For Liadan, Ambition is measured by the belief that she will survive another event mobbed by twenty or more children. Her life in the society truly revolves around children's activities and classes. There is no secret to her work, she just throws herself at it understanding that the aforementioned flock of kids could easily consume every waking hour she has, whether or not she wants them. I have watched her truly come of age as the baronial material figure for the hoard of children who descend on events, and her willingness to not only watch the but work with them, teach them, and help them build interesting and fun things speaks well of her in ways that only time and truly show.

Building on her friendship with Sir Burk, this weekend I watched as Liadan took a yellow protege's belt from the veteran knight and pelican. This step, I hope, is a precursor of things to come, because I do feel she is destine for many great things.

Not long after the presentation, I heard Vlad calling my name. I looked over and Saw him with some of the other fighters. "I'm needing your services, big man."

"Alright," I answered, starting over. "But I'm not cheep," I added as a joke.

Just then Vlad reached into his leather pouch and plucked something out. With an underhanded toss, he had time to say "catch" before I plucked the bit of silver out of the air on the downward end of its flight. I looked down at the offering to see in shock of it was of the cast coins make in commemoration of Vlad's knighting by his squire brother, Pete. I had been furious that I hadn't been able to make it to the ceremony, and the coins had certainly been gorgeous to behold when I saw photos of them. To have one in-hand just then, and offered in payment by non other than Vlad himself was a small, but important highlight to the day for me. 

Vlad (center), myself (foreground) and another marshal between fights
on the tournament field. 
The tournament itself was nothing even remotely challenging for me. Neither the hottest, nor the longest, by any stretch of the imagination, I called names and did salutes per the custom and quickly got out of the way once the marshals were ready to let sticks and steel fly. The fun with baronial is always watching the locals, the new, the seasoned and the random interacting. People you aren't used to thinking of in armor are suddenly out there swinging like their lives depend on it, and people I'm used to never seeing out of armor look like they are a little more off balance against the new blood than expected.

One of the other highlights of the day is watching those same new people step into their own with their first bold and yet awkward steps into the world of competitive European marshal arts. Its always fun watching the rambunctious, eager and relatively skills rookie go out and fair well in the first round, but then look like a deer caught in the headlights when called into their excellencies  presence right after the fight. we all laughed, we all clapped, and we all remember those moments in our past.

Eight fights (four heavy and four rapier) halved the field in short order, and I turned heraldry over to Castellana, another veteran and longtime friend who's been there when I needed help back as far as 30th year, and beyond.

I got a chance to sit down, re-hydrate, rest in the shade, and catch my breath. The heat and humidity were taking their tole on me, and my voice.

I was going to let Castellana cry the finals, but as it happened, Their excellence Ciaran and Branislava asked me to cry the final round.

As much as I enjoyed watching the heavy fighting that day, my attention was drawn to the final round for the rapier fighters. To my surprise, Aurelia had fared exceptionally well with the rapier fighters, and was poised to face off against  Lord Kazimir in the final round.

Kaz is a calculating man, a chess player to the core. I've seen enough of his fights to know how he thinks and know that he doesn't make a move without having the next two already planned out.

Aurelia, on the other had, had the speed and weight of youth going both for and against her. You body had the speed of youth, reflexes that time would slow if she doesn't stay in practice in years to come. But more than anything else, she lacked the perspective that only time gives. The type of perspective that affords people patience, cunning, and potentially victory. She couldn't call on experience to teach her the lessons she needed to win this fight, so she would have to trust to the words of her don, and the guidance of her friends.

The fleet footed young girl I knew from previous fights was not the one who took the field when I heralded her name. No, the figure who stood out there that day had some new measure of composure that hung on her shoulders like a new coat, not quite well fit yet, but close enough to serve it's purpose.

I called the salutes, took a step back, and yielded the field to the marshals. Watching to see how my friend would do now that the moment had come.

To my surprise, she didn't leap forward with "lay on". Standing her ground, she silently forced Kaimir to come to her, clearly not a strategy he had been counting on. The Pol came forward cautiously, blades met, he thrust, she parried and counter thrust, but didn't follow him as he backed up. They crossed again, and again, each time more and more on her terms.

Then, moment later, Kaz stepped in too far, a clash of blades followed, then it stepped.

The burgundy jacketed figure slumped as Aurelia pulled her blade out of his stomach.

The first point was to Aurelia.

During the second pass, using the same control she had before, Aurelia pulled Kaz in too close again, and caught his left arm. He dropped his weapon, leading to the following exchange in the middle of the field.

Aurelia: "You are wounded, would you like to yield?"
Kaz: "Well of course not."
Aurelia: "I had to ask. You could always make this easier on yourself and surrender."
Kaz: "So could you."
Me (from the sidelines): "Yes, but she's not down by one point."
Marshal: "heralds are supposed to remain neutral!"
Me: "I am. That's a simple statement of fact."
Kaz (mumbling): "Dammit all, he's right." (or something to that effect, anyway)

It came down to the wire, ultimately, with Kaz finally going on the offensive and pressing in. But the effort was too little, too late, Aurelia had controlled the fight from the start, and the last blow was hers.

When Kaz acknowledged the final blow, I thundered the announcement across the field. Aurelia was winded, tired, and coming down hard from an adrenaline crash when she came before their excellencies to be named the victor. Giddy and exhausted she made her way off the field to  celebrate and rest. It was a hard earned victory.

In retrospect of the day, the victory was a fitting cap to a stellar showing by the young bard and fighter. She had worked hard, and these, as I recall now, would be her first major championships. And in true Aurelia style, she would have to hold them both at once. It felt good to see something good happen to a good person, the whole thing helped set the tome of the rest of the event for me.

Later that afternoon, I hovered in the back of court, talking with various people, catching up with old friends and making new ones. At the front of the assembly, The King of  Glen Abhann, and the Baron of Small Grey Bear sat in state next to their host, the Baron and Baroness of Wiesenfuer. They Spoke id Diamond wars and the friendship between the two kingdoms. From the back, I quietly strategized and theorized about classes and officerships with Tressure herald, Richard Stewart. The well traveled warhorse and I have, at times, vastly different perspectives on heraldry and the kingdom, and our contrast in ideas often drew us to each other for wonderfully interesting conversations.

I would joke later that the feast had to be earned by those strong enough to reach it. The feast hall was at the top of the hill, the tallest point on site, and the walk was not for those unaccustomed to walking. The whole time the sky was threatening rain any minute, with thunder audible in the distance for most of court and for hours afterwards. I helped Richard carry some of his feast gear, and when both of us made it (sore and winded), to the top of the hill, we found seats and enjoyed the chance to rest.

Neither my son nor I had actually planned to eat feast, but we were invited to sit as guest next to Liadan  and her daughter. We borrowed plates from a king sole at the table with us, and my son and I shared my mug. A haphazard affair, but a friendly one to be sure, and the whole thing was good company to be sure.

The day ended the way it had started, slowly, with good spirits and a quiet trip across site. But it was an exceptionally good day for many of the same reasons that Gulf had been good to me this year.

A friend who needed a high-point in her line not only received it, but earned it with her own hard work.

Good things do happen to good people. 

Aurelia (center) with the champions Cloak for Bardic, and the baldric for Rapier. 

Another friend took an important step, not only to strengthen her relationship with a mentor, and improve herself, but knowing her, her efforts will improve the society around her.

The generations seek to both teach... 
and learn from those around them. 

And lastly, I got to reconnect with old friends, 

and make a few new ones. 

Wiesenfeuer Baronial was a good event, for all the right reasons. 

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gulf Wars 24

You know, as much as I wanted to write about this year's Gulf Wars, the truth of the matter is that the war itself was, and is,  only part of the story. Last year was, effectively, the opening chapter in what I now see to be an adventure in its own right. In retrospect, it really did have all the hallmarks of a good adventure story; a calling, an interesting cast of characters, a challenge... and dare I say antagonists.

This year, a lot of the "magic", the "shiny" had worn off though. There was a lot less grandeur, a lot less majesty to the proceedings.

But I learned a long time ago, that that is what happens when you are knee deep in the "trenches" of heraldry. I remember when I first started heralding tournaments in Anstorroa, I felt like a bull in a china shop, terrified I was going to break something beautiful. But time taught me that first of all, the pageantry of the glory of the listfield was not fragile enough for one well-meaning rookie herald to "break" it, and that once you learn the ropes of the system, that same glory is conveyed and propagated by blood, sweat and tears on the part of everyone who walks out there.

Right now, I'm at that "blood, sweat, and tears" stage of the relationship between myself and Gulf Wars. Gulf isn't about being "shiny" any more, it's a machine that needs people pushing, pulling, twisting, and shoving at it's inner working to make it happen. I was asked almost two years ago to come forward and help be one of those people.

This year, I did a lot of what I had done the year before, I cried the Ansteorrian Roses Tournament, the Champion's battle, and I heralding site several times. I worked heralds point, and I wound up not seeing much of any of the fighting.

Also this year, I cried the Diamond Tourniquet, the Meridian Roses tournament, and wound up walking all of the know-world-camps in one night.

 Like last year I reaffirmed old friendships. And like last year, I made new ones.

But... unlike last year, this year showed me that there is more. More to do, more to see... more for myself to become. Talking about Gulf wars as a single event would be to short change it.

But to talk about each part as it fits in to the overall arch of my other heraldic activities.... that would be a much, much more accurate conversation to have.

And one that I intend to have over the next few months.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

KA&S Heralds table

Alright, so a few weeks ago I might have mentioned that we should have a herald's consultation table at Mooneschadowe's provincial Games / Kingdom A&S. And I might (maybe) have said I was interested in coordinating the effort.

Yeah, well, once that was set up, I then quickly found myself with my one commitment backing out (he had a sick kid), and a couple of "maybes" from some other heralds. It was going to be an interesting day, no mater how the chips landed. I just had no real idea exactly how that would be.

As it did happen, things were an amazing sort of crazy for the whole day. First of all, I was backed up by the likes of like Northern Regional Herald, Kenneth MacAlister, as well as Andreas von Meissen, Grimolfr Einarsson (Baronial herald of Wiesenfeuer) and HE Tostig Logiosophia, as well as the combined efforts of the "Heralds Point Off-Site Support" Facebook group. What started out looking like a token effort turned into a non-stop heraldic marathon with a steady stream of clients coming in. Some were just starting their heraldry, others had a good working idea of the arms they were after but needed conflict checks. A few were looking to track the progress of active submissions (and Lord, did we have a time tracking one of those down), and a few more were just there to talk shop.

I've never run, or even really helped with a consultation table before, All told I figure I'm kind of spoiled with having such a  good result for my first time, not to mention solid internet access.

I really have to hand it to everyone who showed up. If it wasn't for the help that was there, it would have been a much, much different place, but as it was, the table was a runaway success.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk

Monday, February 2, 2015

The end of a chapter, lessons learned, and an adventure to begin.

The last week has represented some substantial changes for myself within the SCA. Detail will become better known with time, but I think one thing needs to be talked about initially since it is relevant.

If you look at my signature, you'll notice that I do not cite myself as a "freelance" herald anymore. Effective immediately, I am stepping back from my work in this field.

I will honor all existing agreements with current clients, fear not. And I will be glad to answer any heraldic questions I can. I still look forward to helping at consulting tables, talking arms and names, and even doing functional blazoning and illustrative work for people.

By no means am I washing my hands of heraldry, voice or book.

However, my previous modus operandi of spearheading a person's heraldic situation and tracking it through "the system" to the final decision is officially coming to its conclusion today. As I said before, I will honor my existing agreements, and see it to that the people to whom I promised results get those results. No mater my current situation, I am still bound by those agreements.

I'm sure some of you think you know the story behind this, but rest assured, you don't, at least not all of it. This decision is many-faceted, and born more of internal reasons than external, but trust me, there is no lack of outside influences either.

Part of the reason I am blogging this is to highlight some of the things I have learned, and to reiterate how important it is for any herald to take this things to heart.

1. This is your client.

It doesn't matter who you are, or what you do, for the moment that someone is talking to you about heraldry, every word out of your mouth speaks to your credibility. Be honest both with them and yourself. Be resource both for them and for you. And keep your promises.

2. Use all resources at your disposal

Today more than ever, an individual with an internet connection through his smartphone has the ability to get as much done faster with minimal training than some heraldic consulting tables of a decade before. If you want to do heraldry, you would be well advised to subscribe t resources like Facebook's 'SCA Herald's Chat' page, 'Baby Heralds of the SCA', and any of your local kingdom groups in any social media setting. Other resources include Yehuda’s heraldy chart, Parker's heraldry, Mistholme, and of course OSCAR. These are but a few of the readily available online and electronic resources that anyone, officer or freelancer, can have at their disposal. If you din't have these, or have access to them, in my opinion, you are shorting yourself some critical tools.

3 Network.

Nothing has taught me more about this fact that my first six months of work in book heraldry. A good herald lives or dies on the strength of his connections with others. First for education, but then also for verification, reinforcement, and feedback. Don't ever underestimate the social aspect either, there is something just unbelievably therapeutic about being able to bitch with someone about something both heraldic and annoying and having someone there who can absolutely understand your frustration. And lastly, your friends are the shoulders you can call on to carry the load when you can not. You can turn to others and say "My car broke down, my pet died, there is a leaking pipe under my sink, and the bills are due... can someone please help these three people so that they don't have to wait another month for their submissions paperwork?" As heralds, we are a team, and if you forget that, you forget a resource that is there and wants to help you, trust me, for all our faults, I've never asked for help at a heralds point and not gotten at least three offers.

I write these things because they are important to me. But also, I am fully aware that I am probably the loudest  (and least tactful at times) advocate for some of them. Circumstances being what they are currently, I will probably not be in a position to soapbox on the subject like I used to. I'm sure this will do wonders for the average noise volume on the net (ie, things might actually be quiet for a change), but I didn't want there to be any confusion about how strongly I still believe in these.

And finally, just before those most removed from me think the worst, the changes I speak of are not the product of any ill deed, coercion or outside pressure. The truth be told at the core, I am still striving to do what I feel is important, but at the moment, there is just a little transition involved.

Believe me, my adventure as herald is far from over, and in fact, I'm rather looking forward to the next chapter. 

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Minister of Arts and Sciences, and Marshal for Archery
within the Province of Mooneschadowe,
Companion to the Order of the Star of Merrit
within the Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Meetings, marshals, and more friends.

This weekend my family and some of our household traveled south yet again for our semi-annual pilgrimage to Elfsea in order to attend The King's Roundtable, also called "redtape" by those of us who have, or do hold office within the society. Free, and divested of any medieval trappings, it is, as it always has been, a  chance for officers at all ends of the kingdom to coordinate about the next six months worth of activity.

Trust me, the meetings, thought productive, are every bit as boring to the uninitiated as they probably sounded at first. Frankly, I'm not holding back any information out of some security based sense of loyalty to the SCA. Rather, I just don't think you need to hear the highly repetitive litany of "okay, so lets  go around the room and introduce each other" and then that moving on to "And what do we want to see next reign that we didn't see this one?"...

I love my kingdom, I really do, but we do SO put the "Creative" in Society for Creative Anachronisms just a little too much some times.

From a fictional standpoint, there is one observation I have for anyone who could even possibly be holding a meeting in the foreseeable future.

Bring an agenda!

You think I'm kidding? Just get one or two motor-mouths in there with you, especially ones who have rank and/or precedence over you, and see how much talking you actually get in.

This isn't a slight on anyone... trust me, a meeting is as much corporate culpability as it is productivity. That being said, I did watch more than one sitting officer get walked over by well meaning, but dominate personalities in the room, and it just wasn't a pretty site.

Moving on...

As expected, news of the rapier peerage vote at the BOD filtered into the Greater Officer's meeting, and I have to admit I was a little surprised at how that turned out. In summary, the proposal to create a 4th peerage was voted down heavily. Furthermore, the BOD, in its public statements, heavily suggested that peer-level combatants in rapier be elevated to the rank of Knight. Anything past that is speculation and interpretation.

More to the point, today, our own crown posted the following.

Unto the Populace of Ansteorra!
We acknowledge that our populace has many questions about the ruling on the additional peerage and subsequent rule changes. At this time We are seeking clarification on these items and wish to have a full understanding before addressing this with Our populace. We politely request that any discussion by Our populace on this topic remain civil and courteous.
With appreciation,
Lochlan and Michelle, King and Queen of Ansteorra
Sven and Antigone, Prince and Princess of Ansteorra

So, yeah, the topic is far, far from over.

I'm frankly not looking forward to the future on this topic. Emotions aren't running high, they are overflowing like lava from the top of a volcano, and I am really worried about who is going to get hurt when final decisions are made.

More locally, word from society is that the society minister of Arts and Sciences will be asking for more "quantitative" numbers regarding the arts. I'm not "thrilled" with having to put qualities and numbers to something like A&S, but I can understand the need to have "something" more than "good" and "bad" at the upper levels of leadership.  There are a few guilds locally who are rather resistant to giving any accounting of themselves beyond past-tense "we met" type reports. I'm not inclined to pick any fights, but something like this is a culture shift.. and if nothing else, Mooneschadowe embraces change very slowly.

Somewhat tangential to that, I managed to get final word on my archery authorization, I am now officially the marshal for the group, meaning we can once again start holding practices. It will be good to shoot some more, that is for sure.

On another official note, I got to sit in on the herald's decision meting, which was quick and painless, truth be told. The plenary meeting following lunch was also good, with some enthusiastic conversations being had on several topics. It looks like I might be roped into some projects within the college, but I am not opposed. While I am not an officer, I'm certainly not opposed to helping "the system" when we have common goals.

Finally, I have to say (but without compromising any private details) that the highlight of the weekend was making a lot of new friends, and building on old relationships. These, truly, are he building blocks of the society.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Minister of Arts and Sciences, and Marshal for Archery
within the Province of Mooneschadowe,
Companion to the Order of the Star of Merrit
and Freelance Consulting Herald
within the Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Papers, pens, markers, and lots of e-mails...

Okay, it's been an  interesting week for me, heraldically, with a lot going on in the book herald aspect of things. More, in fact, that I really expected to see happen. 

First of all, I Finally managed to complete the documentation for a Reconstruction job I started the middle of last year. My client had a name and device submitted following Gulf Wars of two years ago, complete with a check, and the whole packet was lost by the local herald, along with all notes. After Much (and I do me "much") conversation online, and with the gracious help of Mistress Adelaide de Beaumont, we were finally able to reconstruct my client's name with satisfactory documentation. Fortunately, we did have record of her check being deposited in the local account, so that much, at least, was already taken care of.

Second. one of my other clients ran into some turbulence when her submitted arms were found to have a conflict with a previous college of arms ruling. (details located here). There was some mad scrambling on my part, but with some online collaboration, I was able to submit a corrected drawing without slowing down the process at all.

As a side note, I want to thank (and call out) Mistress Sofya La Rus from the Great Kingdom of Calontir for pointing me to "the Mistholme" as an improved heraldic reference. The information there was both very helpful when researching my situation, and doubly helpful when talking with my client about how we needed to proceed. This is definitely a page I will keep marked for future reference.

Third, (now this is not in an chronological order, just the way my mind orders all of this), I was going over the latest Letter of Returns and Acceptances, more or less moments after it published, when I noticed that I recognized several names in "accepted" list. So, I got to tell a couple of good friends the good news. None of them were my clients, mind you, but I do enjoy being able to give people good news when I can.

Fourth , I got to do a "on the fly" consult when another friend IM'ed me and asked if she was reading a blazon correctly. The photo she sent me wouldn't load, so I pulled out my heralds kit (in the middle of a cub scout committee meeting), sketched what the blazon looked like, colored it in and then shot her back a photo via text message saying "The photo wouldn't load, but this is this generally what you were asking about?" She was very happy for the confirmation.
Fifth, I got to send four submissions up to Asterisks this week. Now, I didn't personally send them up, not being an officer that was a job for the local senechal (we're between heralds at the moment), but I did put all the papers together and an itemized list for the recipient so there as no confusion.

And finally, I decided to spruce things up a little with my submissions. I included with the packet a letter of introduction to the new Asterisks herald. Nothing too fancy, mind you, just a bit of explanation of who I was and so forth. Since I am a bit of a unique entity in my kingdom, confusion is something worth forestalling where I can.

So, I write the letter, like what I see, and decide "what the hell" and add a line drawing of my arms and crest. After it was printed, I colored it in with crayola marker. The final result was rather striking, I have to say. 

-okay okay... this was the first draft, the one I sent in corrected the typos I missed-
I definitely think I will be doing this type of thing with letters and writing more often in the future.

HL Ivo Blackhawk