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Inspiration and Advice at the Great Hall

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Lord Edward Ranulf displays his mustards and sauces.
Photo by Magistra Niclaa de Bracton

By Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
Editor-in-Chief, Pennsic Independent
Once again, artisans from around the Known World came together in the Great Hall to show off their work at the annual A&S Exhibition—but this year, they had a chance to receive focused feedback from a fellow artisan. Lady Kataryn Mercer told me that the “A&S Consult Table” is a new idea that has been done in the East Kingdom, and now has been expanded to bring in expertise from all kingdoms at Pennsic.
“We are giving artisans the opportunity to get the kind of feedback they might get at a high-level competition without the stress of competing,” she explained. This might take the form of assistance or feedback with documentation, presentation, craftsmanship—anything the artisan might desire. “It helps the artisan to grow and the A&S community to train new judges.” Judges—or more correctly, consultants—volunteered after a call went out online, and came from five kingdoms.
Baroness Lucia de Moranza of Ealdormere, a past Kingdom Pentathlon winner, volunteered to act as one of the “consultants.” “It’s been interesting to see the interkingdom anthropology. Competitions differ widely from kingdom to kingdom,” Lucia said. But useful feedback crosses kingdom lines, “and people don’t bring bad work to Pennsic.” She added that she is interested in starting a similar program in her kingdom after seeing how the A&S Consult Table worked.
Lady Adele Lochlane of the Kingdom of Atlantia acted as one of the organizers of the event. She mentioned that about 90 artisans displayed their works on Sunday. Also new this year, participants had a chance to get their creations photographed by a professional photographer.
With 90 entries to choose from, it’s always difficult to choose just a few to highlight, but these were some that caught my eye:
Michael Rhys Armitage from the Middle Kingdom was exhibiting several icons. He started painting in this style, using oils, raised plaster with incising on plaster, and gold gilding, two years ago when his squire brother won Crown. “Sir Nikolai had a Russian persona, so I adapted an icon of St. Michael to portray him instead.” He subsequently did two more icons of Midrealm kings, including the fascinating St. Christopher and St. Stephen icon on display Sunday. “Because of a mistranslation, St. Christopher is portrayed as a dog-headed saint in the Eastern tradition.” St. Stephen was transformed into King William, but the dog-headed saint was left as-is.
Hungry for more? Lord Edward fitzRanulf of the Middle Kingdom whetted appetites with his display of mustards and sauces to sample. He’s been making mustards for ten years and described the process: “Take mustard seed, grind it, and add vinegar. It will taste awful. Allow it to age, and add bread crumbs and other ingredients, such as ginger, pepper, cinnamon, sherry, sugar, or honey, and it is transformed.” Being a fan of cinnamon, I sampled the camelyne and hippocras mustards. They were indeed transformed and not at all awful. He was also displaying eight sauces—seven from period recipes—noting that the camelyne, ginger and green sauces were the standard universal medieval sauces.
Ishiyama-roku-I Gen’tarou Yori’ie of the kingdom of Æthelmearc displayed a selection of braided cords in the style known as kote-uchi, a Japanese technique similar to fingerloop braiding only recently rediscovered a few years ago but documentable to period. “This technique had been lost to general knowledge—it was often a ‘family secret’ as it could bring in a lot of money particularly given how much cording would go into Japanese armor. The technique can use up to 15 cords if done by one person, even more if done by two or more.
Jorunn nic Lochlainn from the Kingdom of Atlantia has been making gloves for over 30 years, and used the exhibit to encourage people to attend the 4-hour-long class she is teaching on Tuesday. “I want to teach people how to make period gloves—encourage people, make it easier for them, and help them get a pair that fits.” Her exhibit included slashed German gloves, Elizabethan gloves with extended fingers, gloves commissioned as gifts, and a pair of sealskin gloves. After learning the technique in Thule, Greenland, from an Inuit artisan, she was gifted with the sealskin to make her own. Her class will also talk about the role of gloves in history and society.
All of the artisans I talked to were very pleased with this year’s event, and especially hoped the consult table idea would take off and grow. If you would like any more information on A&S consult tables, contact Lady Kataryn at kataryn@kitsclothingcollection.com, or find her on Facebook as kataryn.mercer.