Potential Laurels must display excellence in some aspect of the Arts and Sciences and have the Peerage Qualities required by Corpora:
a. They shall have been obedient to the governing documents of the society and the laws of the kingdom.
b. They shall have consistently shown respect for the Crown of the kingdom.
c. They shall have set an example of courteous and noble behavior suitable to a peer of the realm.
d. They shall have demonstrated support for the aims and ideals of the Society by being as authentic in dress, equipment and behavior as is within their power.
e. They shall have shared their knowledge and skills with others.
f. They shall have practiced hospitality according to their means and as appropriate to the circumstances.
g. They shall have made every effort to learn and practice those skills desirable at and worthy of a civilized court. To this end they should have some knowledge of a wide range of period forms, including but not limited to literature, dancing, music, heraldry and chess, and they should have some familiarity with combat as practiced in the Society. They should also participate in Society recreations of several aspects of the culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Essentially this means that Peers do not break the rules governing the SCA (Corpora) and show respect to the Crown and Kingdom. They are noble and courteous to everyone and not just those important. They demonstrate and support the ideas of the SCA--eg, they dress pre C17th with accoutrements and avoid discussing computers at feasts. They teach. They assist those who are unable to assist themselves. They display renaissance knowledge including dance, music, heraldry, period board games and an idea of how combat works in the SCA. They should be active in the SCA.
Of the Peerage Qualities, some are more important than others--you can be the greatest chess player in Lochac, but if you lack courtesy and willingness to teach, don't start embroidering those wreaths on your cloak! Conversely, if chess has never been of much interest to you, but you've got the Lochac Order of Grace and folks line up for hours to take your classes, don't worry too much about how to become a GrandMaster overnight
"Excellence" is one of those nice vague terms that everybody has a different definition of. In this context, it includes:
There are several ways these qualities can be combined to create potential candidates. They each include the above requirements, but in different proportions:
We tend to look for candidates that make what they make well, and don't just focus on the "spiffy" stuff. A well made 14th C cotehardie is better than a badly made Elizabethan gown.
Likewise, we tend to look for people that are doing new, interesting, and different work, rather than repeating the work of others. Good craftsmanship in a well known period style will score you high marks, but breaking new ground with innovative research and reconstruction techniques that have not been tried before will also do so, even if the resulting work is not as highly polished.
Constructing a reproduction of a period article is important, but so is constructing that article in a period manner.
Research is important. Teaching is important.
And finally, you need a Body of Work. This means you have to be more than a one-trick pony, no matter how good you are at the single style you specialise in. Not that you have to excell in every aspect of your craft, from (for example) making parchment and pigments through to wonderful scrolls in every style from Book of Kells to late Italian neo-classic, mind you! But we do expect you to know something about all of this, and to produce more than single exemplars of your craft.
To expand on this, a costume laurel needs to have a moderate wardrobe of half-a-dozen or more well-fitted, well-made clothes, rather than one or two spectacular costumes. This wardrobe should include shoes, headgear, and accessories--not necessarily all made by the candidate, but demonstrating knowledge of what bits go with the clothes. Having made at least some clothes in other styles as well is also expected.
Likewise, a brewer will need to have made a LOT of alcohol (and invited the Laurels to sample it--this is essential!) in a good range of period styles. Brewing the best period borage beer anyone's ever tasted is good, but not enough by itself.
The Laurels as a group decide if we would like someone to join our Order, and make a formal recommendation to the Crown that the candidate be recognised; the ultimate decision rests with Their Majesties. Once the Crown agrees, the candidate is asked if he/she wishes to join us; not everyone says "yes." There is no obligation to become a Peer, and candidates may take as long as they like to decide. If the candidate refuses, it's not cast in stone--he/she can change his/her mind later and we can all discuss it again. If the candidate agrees, we sit down with him/her and decide when and what sort of ceremony he/she would like. A vigil is often held the night before the ceremony, when the Laurels present at the event, the candidate, Royalty, and a few invited guests discuss the meanings and obligations of Peerage, eat, drink, and generally give the candidate the benefit of our vast experience and advice :-).
There are several ways in which you can come to our attention as a potential candidate. Often we see you with an example of your work -- you may be wearing or carrying something that catches our eye, a scroll may arrive at the College of Scribes, we may hear you playing or singing, or be invited to sample one of your brews (Yes! Invite us to sample your brews! Often!). Arts and Sciences competitions come in handy here, and the Laurels' Prize Tourney (see What Do Laurels Do?) is a particularly good opportunity for us to see samples of work from people we haven't encountered before.
Don't panic if you find someone with a medallion is talking to you about your work! You are not on trial, and we don't write everything you say down in a little black book and laugh about it with the other Laurels behind your back. It may seem odd to be giving this reassurance, but sometimes we get the depressing feeling we are all seen as stuck-up, nitpicking ogres, members of a secret club whose only function is to criticise others.
A friend may suggest one of us look at your work, or take photos or borrow something to show us. Please never hesitate to point someone out to one of us, or to your Baron and Baroness, Seneschal, or Arts and Sciences officer, who can contact us for you (this sort of thing is part of their duties). We are more than happy to encourage potential Laurels! Even if the person you are asking us to look at is not very far along in his/her craft, we can suggest avenues to explore and introduce him/her to other people with similar interests.
You yourself may show us your work, or ask for advice. Please feel free to do this. We are always interested to see what people are doing and have a good talk about sources for information and the nitty-gritty of actually making things. In fact, we are so eager to do this that occasionally we have been known to give advice before it's asked for :-). Please remember, though, that giving advice means we may sometimes need to tell you we think you're on the wrong track with something. Don't get upset if we do say something negative--all it means is we think that bit isn't quite right, not that we think you're stupid! If none of us ever made a mistake, we'd be angels, not Laurels! (And I haven't noticed any of us with haloes lately...)
Bearing in mind that we are only human, if you would like to show us your work and get some feedback, it's best to arrange a time to do so rather than trying to catch us in the middle of a busy event, when we may be too distracted to give you our full attention. Likewise, sometimes our mundane lives are very busy, and we may not have any free time for a couple of weeks. So don't be put off if the answer is "yes, I'd love to see it, but not right now" -- just arrange a later time.
Finally, we may get a written letter of recommendation. We wish that this would happen a lot more often than it does, since it's definitely the best way to ensure we take a discreet look at someone's work. Again, photos are encouraged.
We send you a Laurel in the mail. No, you don't get to pick which one. :-)
Returning to reality, whoever noticed you will mention you at the next Laurels' Meeting, describing the work that caught his/her attention, reading out the letter of recommendation, showing the photos, etc. Any other Laurel who knows of your work is invited to comment. You will usually then be placed on our Watch List. All this means is that we make a mental note to look at your work when we get the opportunity to do so, and see how it is coming along. If we see or hear that you would like some help, we try to arrange it. If we think you would benefit from it, one of us may ask if you'd like to work with him or her as a student or apprentice.
If you are active in your craft and progressing well in it, we may move to the Discuss List. Otherwise, we either leave you on the Watch List, or if you aren't really doing much, we take you off the list (essentially putting you on hold) until something else brings you to our attention.
When you are on the Discuss List, we take a closer interest in both your work and your general doings in the Society. We look for evidence of excellence (see above) and the Peerage Qualities. If we think you are heading up blind alleys, we take positive steps to steer you in more fruitful directions. If you are breaking new ground, one or two of us start trying to acquire enough knowledge in that field to have some idea what you're talking about.
From the Discuss List, we recommend you to the Crown when we feel you are working at Laurel level and ready to cope with being a Peer. If after a while you don't seem to have progressed in your work, you may get dropped back to the Watch List, or even put on hold--taken off the lists--as before (eg, if you get an attack of Life and stop playing for a while, or decide your main interest lies in something other than the Arts & Sciences.)
Candidates move around on the lists all the time, depending on how active they are. We try very hard to actually discuss all the candidates on the Discuss List at meetings, and to at least briefly review those on the Watch list, and our time is limited. Being on one or the other list is only a rough guide to how likely you are to find yourself being asked if you'd like to be a Laurel. Some candidates go almost straight from Watch to being recommended to the Crown, when we suddenly realise there's a lot more to their accomplishments or body of work than we were aware of. Others go quickly to the Discuss list, but stay there (or bounce between Watch and Discuss) for several years as their level of mastery in their craft and activity in the Society vary.
So if you are ever "reliably informed" you are "on the Laurel list," it is cause for neither panic nor celebration. If you ever come into possession of Laurel meeting minutes (it has happened a couple of times), PLEASE do not tell any of the candidates they are on our lists. It always does more harm than good.
If someone feels there is a good reason why you should not be a Peer, this is also discussed at meetings. If it is a problem with your work, we try to arrange help or tutoring. If it is the Peerage Qualities, this is more difficult. We have become very wary of sticking our fingers in peoples' lives, in case we do more harm than good. All we can do is try to guide you by example, by encouraging your positive qualities, and by the odd word of advice now and then.
However, if the problem is essentially that you've done something really stupid (e.g. opened your mouth and shoved your foot in it up to your neck, totally lost it in combat, been a boor and an idiot when you were drunk), this does not necessarily mean you'll never be a peer. All of us are human, and we do understand everyone has their off days. We firmly forget things like this, provided you don't keep on doing it. However, you have to realise some time must pass before we're convinced you're now the sort of person we can point to as a good example :-)