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 Lady Thalia Papillon, who entered the Kingdom of Æthelmearc Arts and Sciences Championship with her Blackwork Embroidery piece.
Could you tell me a little about you, your persona?
My involvement with the SCA began when I was living down in western Virginia in the Charlottesville area in the Kingdom of Atlantia with a small local group, the Shire of Isenfir. My first SCA event I attended was the Kingdom of Atlantia Arts and Science Championship. I participated in monthly archery practices, took classes in Arts and Science, and attended weekly dance practice. I moved to Buffalo and joined the Barony of the Rhydderich Hael in 2016 and Ice Dragon was my first event I attended in Æthelmearc. The persona I chose was Viking as the style of garb with apron dresses and strings of beads which I found particularly interesting. The aspects of my heraldry include two of my favorite things, the butterfly (as my mundane first name means butterfly in Spanish) and comedy masks which translated into finding my SCA name which is both French and English that means butterfly in French (Papillon) and comedy masks (Thalia) as English representation for theater in England.
What inspired you to make your entry? Did you have a specific need?
The inspiration for making my entry is my love for doing needlework as I have been doing cross stitch since I was kid, which I learned from my Aunt. After entering several arts and science displays, making largesse to donate to the Kingdom, as well as entering completed cross stitch work into competitions including the Pentathlon, I received encouragement from peers who saw my work with cross stitch to branch out to trying blackwork because of the skill I already had with needlework, to move towards doing work that is representative of the Middle Ages period. I found myself being open to trying a new skill as I have the basics down with doing needlework and felt that I had the ability to be able to branch out to try a different form of needlework.
Did the entry throw up any unexpected issues?
As I started working on the entry, due to the nature of the pattern being a chain-like pattern, I chose to inquire with a peer what would be the best area of the pattern to start with, the length of thread to use, and how to loop it in on the other side so as not have too many loose ends of threads on the other side as it is custom in blackwork for the work to look identical on both sides of the fabric. I am accustomed to starting in the center of the fabric when working on cross stitch so that the design is centered. I found it a bit challenging to start on a different area of the pattern other than the center only because that is what I am used to doing with cross stitch, and had concerns about the design not being even or centered. I had to pay particular attention to the reverse side of the fabric to make sure stitches were going in the same direction as the ones on the other side so that both sides would be identical. I was able to grasp this concept to some degree, however, I would have to continue to work on ending the stitches on the other side so that there would less thread tails showing, which would take some time and continued practice.
Did you learn something specific, something you would do differently, or would recommend others to do again?
This piece was my first venture into stitching a project using a pattern from a period sampler. Something different that I would do is to continue to work on pieces that are from a period reference and have historical significance. I would also like to spend time exploring blackwork to look for other patterns to work on and do additional research of how black work was utilized in the Middle Ages time period.
There are several things that I learned in the course of the virtual judging. I had been under the impression that black work patterns should look the same on either side of the fabric no matter which side was being looked at. It was helpful to find out during judging that the stitching should look identical on either side if the blackwork was being used to adorn clothing such as cuffs at the end of sleeves, etc. The other thing I learned was that if only the front portion of the design was visible that it was not as necessary to have both sides of the stitching look identical.
What did you think of the virtual face to face judging concept?
The kingdom championship was my first encounter with face to face judging for my work. I had entered A&S competitions / displays before where face to face judging was not a part of the competition. I was quite nervous about the prospect of going through the judging process. There were multiple aspects of the virtual judging that helped with my comfort level and nervousness. I liked the fact that I was paired with judges who were familiar with embroidery and also cross stitch. It helped the conversation flow with the judges, as I could share my experiences and knowledge of cross stitch and my experience with blackwork embroidery thus far. It was also helpful to have judges with similar interests to be able to be open with them about my work process and understand their recommendations with expanding my work in terms of trying different materials, making the work more to scale. For example, trying to use a different type of fabric and thread. I also received advice about how to space out stitches with the different type of fabric in comparison to the type of fabric that I had been using for years.
I was very pleased with the four judges that I encountered as they really made the effort to let me know about how detailed and clean my work was, which I very much appreciated as I really put a conscious effort into doing the needlework well. I also appreciated the encouragement from the judges to keep on going with advancing my work and how they appreciated seeing works that are in progress. I was also very pleased with the feedback that I received regarding my documentation, as I try ongoing to make improvements every time with feedback I received from a previous competition. Overall, I was very pleased with the scoring that I received ranging from a 3 to 5 and 6, which I felt was quite an accomplishment for only the first time being judged for an A&S Competition. I felt the overall process from the judging to how the competition was run was very successful and well organized.
What motivated you to enter the Kingdom Championship?
I chose to enter the kingdom championship for several different reasons. I would like to have opportunities to showcase my work and to be able to share with others because before coming to the SCA, the pieces that I worked on were only shared with a few close people in my life. I would like opportunities for feedback / guidance as I have taken the first steps towards branching out in different type of needlework as encouraged by peers. I find that being able to create things with needlework to be very satisfying and uplifting. I have also had the personal satisfaction thus far of seeing how my work can be appreciated by others, and that items that I have had made with cross stitch for largesse have been shared and appreciated by others. I would like to continue in this path be able to learn more and gain more experience with blackwork.
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.