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Hot off the Press: your Group Entry contribution can now also be entered to count towards your individual Pent! But what say you? The Passing of the Ice Dragon Arts & Sciences Pentathlon has a Group Entry category? Yes, indeed, and if you have ever wondered about tackling a large project but could not imagine doing it all by yourself, then perhaps a group project is something for you!

Then and current Majesties King Gareth Kincaid and Queen Juliana Delamere modeling their Norse wardrobe, made through collaboration as part of the first Royal Wardrobe.

Æthelmearc has seen a number of arts and sciences group projects over the years, some as part of kingdom largesse and some as part of arts and sciences competitions, notably Ice Dragon. My first exposure to group projects was when I was asked to join the first Royal Wardrobe Project, organized by Baroness Elisabeth von Hahn. I loved the format, meeting with fellow artisans, the sharing of ideas and techniques, working as a cohesive group to create an outfit fit for Kings and Queens – something I could never do on my own. Of course, we learned some valuable lessons, like, take your own measurements, and it really is OK to ask for help. Another aspect that quickly came to the foreground is our modern assumption to have to do everything from scratch ourselves.

Another artisan involved in the Royal Wardrobe Project, Mistress Abigail Kelhoge, explains eloquently: “It was rare for people in the middle ages to create an item “sheep-to-shawl.” This was, of course, done in many households just like it is today, especially in isolated areas with plenty of natural resources. But even that had limits. Someone might be perfectly capable of cutting a tree and making a table and benches, but they might not be able to forge the nails. They would go see a blacksmith for that. One can certainly raise chickens for eggs and meat, but salt and spices must be traded for. As people move up the social hierarchy, less and less is made sheep-to-shawl, and more division of labor happens. The spinners are not the weavers, and they are not the dyers, nor are they the tailors, and they are not the clients who buy the clothes. This is not to say that people didn’t sew their own clothing, they did. But beginning to end of the process was rare once we get to the merchant class and tradesfolk.”

Not only is a collaboration of artisans to create a finished product together a great way to experience medieval artisan Guild practices, it also helps modern artisans to learn to work with others. This helps us play to our own strengths, and you will undoubtedly learn about stuff you might not have thought of otherwise! These are wonderful opportunities for our community at large to build better material culture and expand on our knowledge base.

Inspired by the Viking wardrobe we created for Their Royal Majesties King Gareth Kincaid and Queen Juliana Delamere through the Royal Wardrobe Project, something I could never have done alone, I wanted more! But how to do a similar cooperative project, on a smaller scale but still as part of a (motivating) challenge? Then I learned about Group Entries at the Ice Dragon Arts and Sciences Pentathlon. Now that looked intriguing. I researched something I’d had my eyes on for years and found two other artisans (victims…).

Master Robert, Baroness Aranwen and Mistress Elska happily in court at the Group Entry at the 2019 Passing of the Ice Dragon.

Master Robert of Ferness (then THL) and The Honorable Lady Aranwen verch Rhys ap Gwalter joined in the fun; Master Robert in charge of researching and recreating footwear, Baroness Aranwen in charge of the recreating the decorative “belt,” and I did research and assembly – as well as making a butt-load of large amber beads – to recreate the fascinating Wardrobe of the Princess of Zweeloo (2019). Baroness Aranwen exclaimed enthusiastically: “I truly enjoyed working as a team!!! My part was the creation of a lampwork and soapstone belt. It was quite a challenge as I had to learn new techniques to complete my part of the project. Working with Robert and Elska was fun. I also learned about their art in watching them create their part of the project. What a delight to see it all come together. I would recommend working on a joint project to everyone: expand your horizons and meet new friends!”

The Ice Dragon Pent has had the option of Group Entries for a long time, but I’d not seen any entries before and at first had no idea of its existence. Perhaps our awareness of medieval artisanal specialization “Guild Edition” is fairly recent, or perhaps our need to do all the things to be taken seriously as an artisan runs deep. Or more practically, perhaps doing a group project is an awful lot of work, if none of it can be applied to one’s individual Pent scores? Well… have I good news for you! Group Entries were completely separate from the Individual Pent, but starting this year individual components of a group entry can now also be entered separately by their individual artisans, which will then count towards their personal Pent scores! The Pent identifies multiple artisans collaborating on a single project as a group entry, which can include projects made with separate elements but always part of a cohesive objective.

The Viking Ship group entry by Silva Vulcani.

To find out more about Ice Dragon Group Entries in the past, I asked Cori, [idpentguy@wnysca.org] the current Ice Dragon Pent coordinator, for memorable entries. She remembered that the College of Silva Vulcani (associated with the California University in Pennsylvania) did several group entries, including a dance performance. Gabrielle de Winter of Silva Vulcani shared that they used it as an opportunity to allow people to try new things: college students are generally poor and often just starting out in the arts and doing group projects was a good way to encourage them. She found it allowed them to try a competition without feeling like the whole weight of it was on themselves alone. “To gain some confidence, to feel part of the group: and to feel a little pride in Silva Vulcani, as we worked together as a group to accomplish something. I think we have won twice. It was always nice to bring that award home, to say, hey, look at what we can do together!” She reminisces “one year we got together in one of the  buildings and made a marzipan Viking ship together. It was all done by hand, on a stove in a dorm common room. We took turns stirring while some of us formed the main body of the ship and others formed the shields. We even made extra shields for people to eat. Lady Sorcha and Lady Ragna headed that up, but several of us helped. It was… interesting. Most of us will never look at marzipan quite the same again!”

Project Karl, by Maisterin Fredeburg and Master Clewin

Then there was the entry I had even heard rumors about, not realizing it would, obviously, have to have been a Group Entry! In 2010, Maisterin Fredeburg von Katzenellenbogen (then THL) and Master Clewin Kupferhelbelinc entered “Project Karl.” Yes, their son does indeed go by that name! The Group Entry consisted of their from scratch-built baby (Karl), his from scratch-made food (breast milk), his clothing (block printed tunic), a toy (Viking carved wooden horse), and an article about nursing clothing. At the time, Karl was 10 months old and, Maisterin Fredeburg shared laughingly, “One judge gave me a 7 out of 10 for workmanship. Which has become a running joke!”

Whether you are inspired to create a Royal Wardrobe, an Ice Dragon Pent entry, or just want to have some fun, the successful outcome of a group project generally benefits from setting expectations beforehand. Mistress Abigail has some practical thoughts to share on the matter:

1: Have a clear division of labor. This way everyone knows what is expected of them and when, and nobody is waiting, and unnecessarily delayed.
2: Have a clear timeline with micro-goals so that projects progress in a sane and reasonable manner WITH group check-ins AND a contingency plan in case something gets mucked up.
3: Outline administration and budget project expectations. Things like “save receipts” or “keep a list of materials used” and who that needs to go to and when.
4: Don’t hesitate to poke people or ask for updates. Balance this with not harassing them, especially if it’s volunteer work and people have jobs & family responsibilities. That should be accounted for in the timeline.
5: Do not hesitate to ask for help if your contribution turns out more than you can handle; either due to an overestimate of skill, of equipment, or just plain life.
6: Choose your team mates wisely. Make sure you can all work together, and if someone has agreed to do something (keep track), don’t hand it to someone else without asking first (which is how feelings get hurt).
7: And know where the finished items are going before you begin!

For more on group projects at the Passing of the Ice Dragon Arts & Sciences Pentathlon, please visit the website here.

Mistress Elska wearing the Princess of Zweeloo wardrobe at the 2019 Fiber, Fabric & Fighting.

Now go have fun, and make all the things!