The Gazette is starting a new monthly series profiling artisans throughout the Sylvan Kingdom. Meesteres Odriana vander Brugghe has kindly offered to take the helm with the interviews; the Gazette is happy to introduce our new columnist! We encourage everyone to nominate artisans for the column; contact information can be found at the end of the article.

JennWhat is your SCA name and persona?
Meesteres Odriana vander Brugghe is a resident of Bruges in the year 1593. She has spent her entire life in Bruges, even living in The Princely Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde for a few years in her teens and early twenties. She chose to leave the grounds of the Béguinage when she married and now resides near the center of town where her husband teaches music. They have a daughter.

How long have you been in the SCA and what was your first event?
I have been in the SCA 27 years. I don’t remember the name of my first event and spent all but a few minutes in the kitchen. I do remember that my boyfriend at the time (Lord Raphael Anton de la Talbot) got his AoA at that event. I spent the first few years in the SCA hanging out with Lady Adriana Ramstar and a chunk of people from CMU.

What is your main area of study or focus in the SCA?
Food History.

You’ve been involved with A&S on an official level – what did you do and what did you like about it?
I have been privileged to serve as a Baronial A&S Minister in the BMDL, as Deputy Kingdom A&S Minister, and as the Chancellor of the Æcademy. I always saw my role as being one of creating a space or environment where people could then grow, and change that environment as they needed for them to be successful and to grow. I wanted to be sure that artisans had the opportunities that they needed because my jobs as Deputy KMoAS and Chancellor of the Æcademy were about supporting and nurturing A&S in the Kingdom.

My favorite part of all of those jobs was the opportunity to interact with more people than I ever would have if I had not served in those offices. Seeing the extent of how talented and creative people are in Æthelmearc solidified my belief that what we have in our Kingdom is matchless in its quality. I started doing Artisan of the Month when I was Deputy KMoAS because I wanted to share as much of the talent I was seeing as I could.

How has research changed since you joined the SCA?
I can really only speak to my specialty. I joined in 1988 so there wasn’t nearly the amount of historical food information available that we have now. Primary resources were something that you only got to see if you were traveling to Europe and made contact with a museum or were fortunate enough to already be in an academic or professional field that allowed access to those kinds of documents. Now, since there are so many primary sources available, the base knowledge of your average medievally inclined SCA cook is much broader and deeper than it was 25 years ago.

Because there is so much information available, it allows the SCA cook the ability to delve into different aspects of medieval cooking and feasting, including the medieval palate and how it differed from modern palates. Being able to focus on execution of recipes and broaden our areas of research changes how we as cooks perceive medieval food and we can then share that with others. Sharing these insights into the medieval palate forges a stronger relationship with the cuisine and, in my opinion, strengthens our understanding of medieval life in a way that would have been harder to do 20 to 25 years ago because we were just struggling with getting basic information and incorporating that into what we do as cooks.

A lot of people are scared off by the term “documentation.” What advice would you give to take away the fear?
Documentation is my favorite thing in the world. I love research and I love putting together all of the pieces of information in written form. Documentation is merely putting together all of your research in a logical fashion to demonstrate what you know about medieval process and explaining your own process in a logical way. If you have taken one university-level course, you already know the basics of academic writing, which is about half of what you need to know to write solid documentation.

There shouldn’t be fear because you’re relaying information you already know and sharing conclusions you’ve already drawn. It’s like showing your work in math class, you’re just walking someone else through the steps so that they can understand what you did and glean what you learned and know about the particular item or art. Think about it as writing down what you say when you’re all excited about something and sharing the cool thing that you learned while you were reading something. Clearly, there is a bit more to it, but at its core, that’s exactly what documentation is – you being excited and knowing stuff.

What are some things people can do to encourage the arts in our Kingdom?
Filmmaker and writer Kevin Smith made an important point about encouragement in the arts that resonates with me and certainly applies to what we do in the SCA, “It costs nothing to encourage an artist and the potential benefits are astounding. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film…or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist and you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.”

To encourage an artist, it can take as little as leaving a personal token with their A&S entry to let them know that you were there and you saw their stuff or taking a moment to find someone whose work particularly reached you to let them know what they did made a difference to another person. What it takes on your part is showing up – taking a moment out of your event to look at the entries in the A&S display and then follow up on that however you’re comfortable (not everyone is comfortable with face-to-face contact).

If you want to take things to another level, offer to coordinate an A&S display at a local event – create the space for artisans to show off how cool their stuff is. Attend your next local schola or Æcademy – knowing that someone is interested in what you do or what you have to say about your art can make a huge difference for someone. If you’re feeling ambitious, put in a bid for an A&S event (either Kingdom or local) in order to showcase the artisans in your area – if you are interested in ideas for A&S events, please contact me, I have a handout that I can send you, or if you prefer a conversation, let me know that and we can speak by phone or in person (depending on your location).

The most important step is to show up and take a moment to acknowledge what you’ve seen. It costs nothing to show appreciation and you never know when even the smallest gesture will make a massive difference to someone else.

Anything else?
I’m so excited to be doing profiles on the artisans in Æthelmearc again. I’ve said it before and will say it again (and again, and again): I believe that the artisans and scientists in Æthelmearc are the best in the Known World. I am continually inspired and thrilled by what I see in A&S displays, at Pennsic, and at Ice Dragon – at every level. I’ve seen work done by someone who bught something to their first event that inspired me just as much as work done by someone who has been working in their art for decades. We just seem to attract talented people.

How can people contact you to be part of the Artisan Profiles?
I prefer email (jenn.strobel@gmail.com). I encourage recommendations. I travel more than I used to, but can’t be everywhere and know everyone. Also, do not assume that you have to have an A&S award to be profiled. Passionate beginners are just as interesting and worthy of writing about as experienced artisans.