Dame Gwen the Potter competing at Kingdom Arts and Sciences, 2011 (© 2011 Wendy McComb)

Dragon's Laire Arts and Sciences and Bardic Competitions; Candlemas 2018

Those wishing to enter the Baronial A&S or Bardic Championships must send a Letter of Intent to the Baron and Baroness and to me no later than Twelfth Night (January 14, 2018.) The Letter of Intent must have the following information in it: Who you are, your contact information, what you are planning on entering (as much detail as possible will make it much easier for me to find judges). If you have questions, please don't hesitate to let me know. When you send your Letter of Intent, I will send you a reply indicating that I have received it.

Please take note that the Bardic Championship this year will follow the new Kingdom format. That is, each entrant will perform during the feast at Candlemas, and the Baron and Baroness will make their decision based on this. This will require minimal documentation.

Those wishing to do a more research-oriented performance art entry may enter the A&S Championship if they so desire.

If you are interested in entering a paper to be considered for inclusion in the Scholars of Dragon's Laire, your letter of intent is also due at Twelfth Night and your paper is due by January 20, 2018, which is 2 weeks before Candlemas. This is to facilitate its reading and discussion by the current Scholars of Dragon's Laire. If you have any questions, please ask me or any of the current Scholars of Dragon's Laire.

Finally, if you don't feel ready yet for the Championship competition, but would like some detailed feedback on a current project, contact me. We will try to arrange this for you, depending on time and space constraints.

More information about A&S documentation in particular can be found in “A Practical Guide to Documentation for Arts & Science Competitions” by Dame Gwen the Potter.

The Baronial Arts and Sciences and Bardic Championships

The Baronial Arts and Sciences Championships, including Artisan (Arts and Sciences), Bardic (Entertainment/Performance Art), and Scholar, are usually held at Candlemas in early February.

The Details:

The following details may change from year to year, but they are generally correct and will help you time your work for your competition projects.

Letters of Intent Due at 12th Night

All potential competitors, those competing in the Arts and Sciences competition, the Bardic competition, and those submitting papers for Scholar, need to submit a letter of intent to the Baron and Baroness and the Baronial Minister of Arts and Sciences no later than 12th Night. Letters of intent should include which competition you wish to enter and a description of your entry.

Research/Scholarly Papers Due on 20 January 2018

The due date for the papers is at the discretion of the Arts and Sciences Minister and Their Excellencies Dragon's Laire. In 2018, the papers are due on the last day of 12th Night, 14 January 2018. This 'early' due date is to allow the judges time to thoroughly read, understand, and discuss the papers.

Artisan and Bardic Documentation

Artisan (Arts and Sciences) and Bardic competitors must submit their final documentation two weeks prior to the competition.

Questions? Need Help?

If you have questions about the competition requirements please talk with the Baronial A&S Minister and/or deputy(s) and the Champions (artisan and bardic) and the Baronial Scholars.

Recently (2016), the A&S Minister undertook to answer some questions about the Championships:

“What IS an A&S Champion or a Bardic Champion?”

At the Baronial level, an Arts & Sciences or Bardic Champion represents their chosen field in the Barony, assists the Baron and Baroness by promoting their chosen field, and help to serve and educate the Baronial populace in their chosen field. This can take the form of sharing knowledge, answering questions about various A&S and Bardic topics, possibly teaching classes or organizing classes, finding teachers, inviting in teachers from outside the Barony, and so forth. It can also take the form of helping to create largess, helping to create clothing for the populace or the Baron & Baroness, helping to create banners for the Barony, or any other effort that assists in promoting the Arts & Sciences and Bardic Arts to and for the Barony and its people.

“I saw the word “Competition” in there. I really don't like to compete with other people.”

The competitions are not actually between people. And they're not between the various entries, either. The competition is mainly between the item entered and how close the entry comes to being similar to the same type of items in period. The winning item is the entry that gains the most points during the judging. So, in essence, the entry is not judged against other entries; rather, it is judged against the period ideal.

“Judging? I definitely don't like to be judged.”

Unfortunately, there is no other metric practiced in the Barony, currently, which assists in choosing the Arts & Sciences or Bardic Champion. But, if it helps, the entrant is not the one being judged, the entry is actually being judged.

“Well... I guess I am intrigued. How does an entry get judged?”

An item is judged based on the Arts & Sciences and Bardic judging forms currently used by the Kingdom. These forms are made up of several different sections which assist the judges in asking the same questions for each entry and scoring each entry on the same metric. In the case of the Arts & Sciences, the judging sheet sections are; Authenticity, Documentation, Technical Ability, Complexity, and Presentation & Display. The Bardic forms are broken down first by the type of Bardic entry (spoken word, instrumental, poetry, etc.) and then contain many of the same sections as the A&S forms; Technical Merit, Difficulty/Complexity, Artistic Merit, Originality, Presentation, Authenticity, and Documentation. Each one of these sections has a range of points with explanations about how the points should be awarded and a section for comments from the judges to the entrant.

“Hey... what is this 'Documentation' of which you speak? That sounds suspicious.”

Documentation is nothing more than a 'who, what, when, where, and why' narrative which is written about the entry. It essentially tells the judges what kind of research was engaged in while creating the item, what period sources were used to create the item, how the item was created, where the item occurred in period, when the item occurred in period, and why it existed. Documentation does not have to be any more complex that this but the documentation should answer these basic questions at the very least. Your documentation should also contain a bibliography of all the books and other sources you used when learning about your entry.

“I hate writing! Can I get someone to help me?”

Yes! As long as they don't write the documentation for you. If they are only there to help you in getting your thoughts down in a coherent manner, checking your grammar and spelling, helping you organize your document, etc., it's perfectly OK to have assistance.

“Well, Documentation doesn't sound too bad.... but, hold on... what is this I see about Presentation? What do you mean by that? Will I have to stand up in front of a bunch of people and talk?!?!”

Unfortunately, yes. You will have to present your entry to a set of judges – probably no more than three. Basically, all you need to do is describe your entry and how you created it. And it helps if you think of the Presentation as a way to educate your judges on what you did – in essence, you will be teaching your judges about your entry. But you can write your presentation out on index cards, on a sheet of paper, or on the back of your hand, if you like. Whatever will help you present your entry is OK.

“Hmm... I guess this all doesn't sound too bad. So, let's get to the good stuff! What are the perks for being a Champion?!”

One of the best perks for being a Champion is standing behind the Baron and Baroness during Court. That's where all the action happens at Court and you will have a ringside seat! There's also a really snazzy cloak to wear, with the Baronial colors and emblem, proclaiming to all who see it that you are a Champion of Dragon's Laire!

The Arts & Sciences Championship and the Bardic Championship of Dragon's Laire will be, beyond the list in the previous paragraph, exactly what you make of it. Whether you enjoy entertaining, enjoy teaching, or want to represent the Barony in some other way (and there are many other ways) the 'job' will be yours for a year. The privilege and honor of competing to be a Champion of the Might Barony of Dragon's Laire is well worth the effort.

Sent to the Dragon's Laire Email List on 01/03/2016

Results from the Arts and Sciences Championship, 2016

Dragon's Laire had three competitors for the Arts and Sciences Championship this year! And there was another lovely presentation just given for feedback. HL Arqai, Dame Gwen the Potter, and HL Thangbrand competed for the championship. HL Arqai presented a Chinese Han Dynasty Crossbow lock, HL Thangbrand presented a 10th Century Norse Twisted Bracelet, and Dame Gwen presented a 6th Century St. Menas Pilgrim's Flask. For feedback, HL Audny presented her tablet woven brocaded Band from Mammen.

All the presentations were wonderful. We are really looking forward to seeing our presenters develop over the coming years. In the end Dame Gwen won the championship with her lovely Pilgrim's Flasks!

There was also a Battle Poetry Bardic presentation by HL Ermenrich. Magistra Aelianora presented a scholar's paper on 'Roman Army Training'. HL Annaka presented her paper on 'An Investigation into the Feasibility of Using Gluten-Free Grains and Sourdough Starters to Re-Create Period Bread Recipes for SCA Feasts'. Dame Madrun presented her scholar's paper on 'The Thorsberg Cloak'. And from afar, there was a display for THL Nidda's paper, 'A Fool's Life'.

Overview of the Competitions

The Object Competition

This competition paradigm focuses on breadth and depth of knowledge as demonstrated in a single field chosen by the artisan. For instance, a weaver would demonstrate breadth of knowledge (both intellectually and "in the hands") about weaving in the medieval period by being able to produce woven objects of some skill from a specific times and place. They should know what sort of materials were used, how to select the ones proper to the task, what weave structures were used, and how to produce woven cloth on the tools used in that time and place.

Depth of knowledge would be demonstrated by picking a particular sub-set of the craft, in this case weaving, done in period, based on what is known about how the people of that time structured their craft divisions, and learning the skill necessary to produce the entire range of objects within that sub-category. In tablet weaving it would mean being able to produce bands in all of the medieval techniques to a high degree of skill and to draft designs rather than just copy the drafts of others.

Once this type of depth is obtained the artisan/scientist is able to create original works that completely embody the skills and aesthetic used by the artisans/scientists of the SCA-period. The artisan has become a medieval artisan and is able to move beyond copying extant works and move into the realm of creating original medieval items.

The competition is based on the following core values:

  • Knowledge and use of period materials, period tools, period processes, and a period aesthetic
  • competition designed to educate participants in the required skills of their chosen art or science, in the process of research and documentation, and in identifying and internalizing a sensitivity to the aesthetic of time and place
  • competition based on an absolute standard of excellence, which is determined by those standards found in medieval period (as the SCA defines it)
  • breath of knowledge illustrated by knowledge of the parameters of one's chosen art or science and depth of knowledge illustrated by a mastery of the skill/craftsmanship required to produce a particular object in that art/science and the integration of the aesthetics of the time and place in which it occurs

Each competitor will submit one entry consisting of four objects: one final object that is the competition piece and that is thoroughly documented as to time and place, period aesthetics, period tools, period materials, and period processes, and three objects that demonstrate the development or mastery of the skills required to produce the final object.

Presentation should focus on:

  • skills required to produce the object,
  • what tools and materials were used to create the object and how the tools and materials differ from period ones, if they do,
  • the process of making the object and how it differs from the process used in period, if it does,
  • and a discussion of the aesthetic sensibility of the time and place as it relates to the object,
  • the range of variability found for the object in period; what did the usual example of this type of object look like compared to the most elaborate and sophisticated version of the object.

Judging will be done by a panel of three knowledgeable judges and the assessment made by the judges will follow the attached judging sheet. The standard against which the entry will be judged is that of similar objects found in the designated time and place.

The judging sheet will assess the development of skill, the use of period tools, materials and process, the successful integration/internalization of a medieval aesthetic, and the level of sophistication and elegance the artisan/scientist has achieved based on the same level achieved by the medieval artisan/scientist.

The competitor will have up to an hour to make an oral presentation to the judges and answer their questions. At the judges' discretion members of the audience may also ask questions. The judges will then have 45 minutes to deliberate and fill out the judging forms.

In order to encourage and support a depth based competition the Minister of Arts and Sciences and the Arts and Sciences community will:

  • At our weekly fight practice we institute a "show and tell" for the artisans that focuses on each artisan talking about what they are working on, where the idea or model came from, how it might have been done in period, and what they have learned. This is exactly the kind of information, in written form, that is the basis of documentation. Keeping notes of one's projects will be encouraged. This helps folks to learn the basics of documentation and encourages interactive rather than parallel play in the Arts and Sciences community providing support, encouragement, sharing of knowledge.
  • Engage the Laurels and the Pearls in being more of a resource to upcoming artisans.
  • Create a listing of which artisan does what at what level of skill and which of these folks would be willing to mentor, teach or advise.

The joy of "making" is often lost in the preparation for a competition, although it is the foundation of all artistic creation. Artisans/scientists should have a place where creativity is a higher value than documentation or re-construction. Therefore, an A&S tournament for historically-inspired (but not necessarily documentable) objects will to be held separately from the competition and at a different event thus giving artisans free-reign to express their creativity.

A person adequately prepared to enter a competition of this type will have come closer to the reality of a medieval artisan/scientist than is achieved with the current model. In preparing for the competition the participant will also have learned how to do research, to document, and be well on the way to having mastered a skill. All of which prepare the person to enter a Kingdom competition if desired.

The Performance Competition

This competition used to be known as the bardic competition.

This competition focuses on the demonstration of both breadth and depth of knowledge and skill of a chosen pre-1650 type of performance art. Breadth of knowledge is demonstrated by choosing an example of a specific performance art, locating it in a specific time and place, and then contrasting and comparing the chosen example to the same (or similar) form(s) elsewhere both before and after the chosen time frame. Depth of knowledge is demonstrated by presenting a performance of how your specific example was done in the chosen time and place.

Each competitor will submit one entry consisting of:

  • The performance of the chosen example of a performance art that is thoroughly documented as to time and place and period aesthetics and style.
  • Three supporting (and shorter) performances that demonstrate either the required skills to adequately perform the competition piece (e.g. ability to sing on key, the ability to sing the required modes or scales, the ability to sing harmony)
  • or supporting (and shorter) performances that illustrate the variations within time or place of the performance form you have chosen.

Judging will be done by a panel of three knowledgeable judges. Judges will assess the level of relevant skills demonstrated in the performances, the use of appropriate aesthetics and performance style, the completeness of the documentation, and the level of sophistication and elegance the performer achieved. Competitors will be expected to meet a minimum skill level in order to be eligible to become champion.

Each competitor has up to an hour to make the presentation to the judges and answer their questions. At the discretion of the judges the audience may also ask questions. The judges will then have 45 minutes to deliberate. Additionally, each competitor may be asked to perform their competition piece in evening court by Their Excellencies.

Research/Scholarly Papers: the Scholars' Assembly

The Scholar's Assembly focuses on scholarly research, the examination and written presentation of an aspect of pre-1650 culture or history unaccompanied by either a made object or a performance. Research papers for the Assembly should demonstrate both breadth and depth of knowledge about the chosen topic. Breadth of knowledge is accomplished by locating one's topic firmly in a specific time and place, and comparing that local knowledge to what happened elsewhere both before and after the chosen time-frame. Depth of knowledge is demonstrated by presenting the range of what is known about your topic in your chosen time and place, including conflicting interpretations of the experts, identification of the limits of what is known, and the speculations of the experts. You, too, may wish to speculate about unresolved controversies about your topic but it is not required. If you choose to do so be sure to explain why you have come to the conclusions you present.

Those desiring to submit and present a paper at the Scholars' Assembly (and hence become a Scholar of Dragon's Laire) are required to submit a letter of intent to Their Excellencies, the Arts and Sciences Minister and the Assembly Coordinator by the deadline set for the year in which the Assembly is held, generally sometime in late December or early January. In 2019, the letters of intent are due by the end of 12th Night (13 Jan). PDFs of the finished research paper are due to the Arts and Sciences Minister and the Assembly Coordinator several weeks before the Assembly (which is at Candlemas in 2019). In 2019 the PDFs of papers are due on 20th Jan 2019. Submitted papers will be reviewed by the Scholars of Dragon's Laire. Papers will be judged against a set of scholarly standards, not against each other. Those papers meeting these scholarly standards will be accepted for presentation at the Assembly and their writers will become a Scholar of Dragon's Laire. Please note, the Assembly is NOT a competition; since it is the intent of the assembly to build a community of scholars within the Barony, every writer/scholar who is accepted to present their paper at the Championships (and does so) will be named a Scholar of Dragon's Laire and they will remain a Scholar and be invited to submit a paper every year, if they wish.

Scholars' Paper Format Specifics:

  • Length: approximately 2200 words (roughly 5 pages of text without illustrations).
  • Font and spacing: 12-point font and either 1.5 or double-spaced.
  • Margins: 1″ top, bottom and sides. Number all pages except the title page.
  • Bibliography: A list of everything you read, including the references you have cited. This can be annotated but it is not required.
  • Citation style: There are many to pick from. Choose one and stick to it.
  • Illustrations: illustrations, tables, and figures should be numbered consecutively (figure 1, illustration 1, table 1) and referred to in the text the same way.

Judging Forms

These are the forms that will be used to judge the competitions:
  • Dragon's Laire A&S Evaluation Form: Object - DOC or HTML
  • Dragon's Laire A&S Evaluation Form: Performance - DOC or HTML