Continuing the freshly-minted tradition of virtual sharing in these times of plague, the Kingdom Office of Arts & Sciences once again reached out to our fabulous Arts & Sciences Championship artisans to share their work with the populace at large on a more personal level. The virtual Kingdom Championship was also a juried competition, and included a week’s worth of face to face judging – with judges especially selected for their knowledge and background – as well as an online populace “meet and greet the artisans.” Master Hrólfr and I, your Kingdom Arts & Sciences officers, enjoy finding new ways to inspire and motivate our artisans in these trying times and we are happy to see the Championship ran so smoothly!

Today’s interview is with Dominicus Varangopoulos, who entered the Kingdom of Æthelmearc Arts and Sciences Championship with a Newbie’s First Candles and Tapers.

Could you tell me a little about you, your persona?

Well, I am still a newbie, so my persona is still a bit fuzzy. The general idea is an 11th century second-generation son of a Varangian who married well and has become part of the military class in and around Constantinople. It seemed a great way to open up a breadth of research opportunities that really interest me.

On the left are the candles as dipped by Dominicus, on the right are historic examples: bees wax candles found at the Alamannic graveyard of Oberflacht, Seitingen-Oberflacht, Kreis Tuttlingen, Germany. Dating to 6th or beginning 7th century A.D., they are the oldest survived bees wax candles north of the Alps..

What inspired you to make your entry?

A specific need, and a mundane life need in fact. In what I’m told is an entirely backward method for submitting A&S projects, this one began as simply recycling candle stubs for my church. We use candles and tapers in our Liturgy (which is in fact period correct, dating from the 5th century) and there was a mundane need to find something to do with the stubs of consecrated candles. I’d begun making tapers already when I saw a notification that there was a championship. I jokingly mentioned that I’d started making a period craft, and (in the middle of finals, I might add) I was encouraged to submit an entry. And I have to say, knocking out my research and documentation in only a few days on top of final exams absolutely would not have happened without the dedication of the event organizers. Hrólfr really went above and beyond in that, and I’m glad he was recognized for his efforts.

Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?

At the time of submission I’d blown up one pickle jar, that count has since doubled. I thought that I’d solved the problem, but apparently I haven’t yet. Honestly, if I were doing this on any scale – and I may, some day – I’d invest in the proper materials. I can’t say enough how much easier having the proper tools makes things.

A commercial wick dipper rack costs a little over $50, Dominicus used about thirty-four cents of wire and threw this together while watching “The Addams Family”.

Did you learn something specific, something you would do differently, or would recommend others to do again?

I really learned not to be afraid to just jump into A&S. I was up alongside some real heavyweights who had really put the time and effort in, and it was made very clear that while I didn’t win (I’m still honestly a bit fuzzy on whether or not anybody “wins” A&S events outside of championships) what I presented was clearly valued and appreciated. The judges made it clear that while I was a novice, there was strength and merit in much of what I was doing, and also room to improve. I enjoy the combative aspects of the SCA as much as the next big bearded guy, but I’d really recommend that anyone hesitating from trying A&S? Get out there and give it a shot. It’s got its own brand of thrills.

What did you think of the virtual face to face judging concept?

This was my first A&S event, so I can’t comment on what worked better or not. I will say that other than the obvious limits of the medium – I’m considering trying mead brewing for my next entry – it worked quite well. The judges were very considerate and gave concise, to-the-point critiques while being utterly unafraid of encouraging me and offering very helpful advice. Some of the lessons learned, of course, were things that can really only be learned in the doing: how to prepare one’s spiel, for example.

What motivated you to enter the Kingdom Championship?

Honestly, I was doing a handcraft that needed doing as a way to keep my hands busy and my mind calm during finals and someone stepped in and went “That’s a cool thing. You should show that to people.” The intent wasn’t for an A&S project, I just found that I was solving an ancient problem in very close to the ancient way. In my Church, that’s kind of a given: we’ve been saying our Liturgy the same way for longer than the language my parish uses has existed. You know that you’re doing very ancient things with a long, long chain of custody. But the research that I did connected me to an artifact almost as old as our Liturgy, and seeing that artifact was nearly identical to the product that I had made connected me to that ancient world in a new, deep, wonderful way.

Are you interested in reading more about the entry after this appetizing interview? You can! All entries including documentation and images are available at the Kingdom Office of Arts and Sciences website.