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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 Renata Rouge, who entered the Kingdom of Æthelmearc Arts and Sciences Championship with 11th Century Naalbind Accessories.

11th Century Naalbind Accessories
11th Century Naalbind Accessories, including a beef bone needle and wood bobbins.

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

My persona is actually 14th century French but because our family participates in historical Scandinavian reenactment outside of the SCA, I’ve spent more time in the last ten years researching various aspects of Viking age Scandinavia and the cultures they interacted with. Guess you could say I spend more time there than in 14th century Calais! While both of the pieces in my entry were at the tail end of The Viking era, 11th century, only one was definitively Scandinavian (Finnish, more precisely.) However, because naalbinding forms were so prevalent across the world for so many centuries, I would expect that my 10th century Scandinavian self probably was aware of, if not accomplished in, the art form.

What inspired you to make your entry?

Oh, the mittens! When I saw other recreations of them, I was just so excited to try them myself. To me, they resemble Wonder Woman’s costume and I just had to make a set for my daughter! The hat was actually a practice piece for a hat I’m making for a friend in my shire. But it turned out better than I expected and really, you can never have enough hats!

Work in progress on the Eura “Wonder Woman” mittens.

Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?

I hit road bumps with both projects. With the mittens, there are only fragments to go by and we can’t even say with certainty that they were, in fact, mittens. I believe they were but recreating an entire piece based on fragments has its hurdles. With the hat, we have a completed extant piece but so little information on it! No one knows where it came from, who actually made it or whether it was inspired by Middle Eastern nalbind or Scandinavian nalbind. The only historical use for the stitch itself is this one hat. With both pieces, there was a lot of drawing inferences and trying to connect the most logical dots. But experimental archeology is the fascinating part for me!!

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

Mostly my learning experiences here were method based. The wool fiber I used for the hat was a bit too thick for the Trier stitch so next time I know I need to use a smaller fiber. I experimented with different yarns on the mittens and gained insights into how different wools behaved, regarding torsion, tension and splicing. I also finally convinced myself that stitch counters are important, lol!

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

I have had a unique perspective on face to face judging; I’ve been an entrant, a judge and as former KMOAS, I have coordinated face to face judging for the Champs competitions. My personal learning style is such that I tend to prefer face to face judging for myself. I just am better at explaining and talking than writing, for the most part. I did worry about the virtual aspect and my Laurel and I did a practice session in Zoom just to work out the technical aspects and to get more comfortable with the online setting. I think this actually opens up more opportunities for artisans, to be honest! It is hard to organize judging for 15 people in a one day event and the judges wind up spending the entire event working. I know that can be rough on both our judges and our entrants. Spreading it out over the span of a week was very nice!!!

Early stages of a nalbound project: the possibilities are endless!

What motivated you to enter the Kingdom Championship?

This year has stunk for all of us. I started out tracking my hours spent teaching and making art at the beginning of the year but then when the world shutdown, I got depressed and really stopped doing much with my needlework. I have two terminally ill parents and my own house to take care of and family and home obligations just took so much of my time this year, on top of not being at events. I used the competition as a goal to get back into my art and it really did help! And I started crying when I began seeing everyone’s faces when judging began!!! On top of that, I did get really helpful feedback and support!!!

Renata Rouge keeps a website appropriately called Embroidery with Ren

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.