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Competitions. Try them you might like it

Competitions: Try one, you might like it!

By Duena Acacia de Navarre

So you have seen the notice in DLV about the Arts and Sciences Championship on persona skills and you are wondering – should you enter?

Why are they run? Is it worth the effort?

Competitions can be scary things, putting your work on display and having other people judge, but it can have some very positive outcomes both for you and for your group or guild, if you do make the effort and take the risk.

Entering a competition: the benefits are more than the prize

Practicing any art is a challenge and no matter how good any of us are, it is a journey we all start on with baby steps. Ask any Laurel and we can laugh and talk for ages about our first attempts (some of us still have them hidden in the back cupboard somewhere). I still remember my first dress, bust darts, wide elastic belt and it looked so nice with a form of embroidery on the sleeve which would have been more appropriate on an 18 century dress :-).

We all learn by doing, and we can't improve without feedback. Competitions are a means where we can seek feedback and maybe tap into a font of knowledge we didn’t know existed. Judges don’t expect perfection, they know we are all learning and one of their jobs it to help people improve their skills, sometimes pointing out other research to look up or people to talk to. They can also challenge us to improve by giving feedback on areas which we might not realise could do with a bit more focus. Most judges are more than happy to discuss why they made the decisions they have, although it is sometimes hard for them to write it down fully on the forms. Take the time and get the reasons from the horse’s mouth, never know what doors it will open up for you.

Displaying your hard work

One of the benefits (both to the group and you) of displaying your work is to inspire others to try it. There is no greater feedback than to have someone come up to you at some stage and say "I saw what you were doing and I thought I would try it too". Competitions allow us to share with you, your research as well as your trials and tribulations as you try to master your art. Competitions also allow others (not just the judges) to examine your entry and ask you questions which we might not have the opportunity to ask at another time.

Competition Documentation: it is worth the work?

Sharing the knowledge and research as well as discovering new things for ourselves is one of the purposes of documentation. We are a historical re-enactment society which means that we make things not just because they look nice but because they help us to understand what people did in a particular time periods. To achieve this we need to research what has survived, what skills and tools they had access to, in order to recreate what they did. Documentation is a chance for us to grow as historical artisans and unlike studying history in school, you get to research the bits that you are interested in which is a lot more fun. Some of it can be very interesting too – like the period dying recipe (which used some very toxic items) and starts with the words "Take your least favourite apprentice", it certainly gives you an insight into life for a dye apprentice.

Competitions don't all have winners and losers

Not all competitions are about winning a prize; some of them are about sharing knowledge. Laurels prize tourney at Rowany Festival for example does not have a winner. The LPT is a chance to display the best of the artisans of Lochac as well as a chance for the Laurels to share their knowledge and research with other artisans as well as encouraging the growth of the arts in the society.

If you want to know about my first dress, yes, I did enter it in a decoration competition (no I did not win) – the feedback I got was that my embroidery execution was very good, but had I thought of doing some stem stitch work which would work to bring up my design ideas better. So I went and looked up stem stitch designs for the period, this started me on journey with that stitch which I am still exploring years later (and still loving it).

St Florian as a Barony does not have a strong tradition of the group entering into competitions…so wouldn’t it be nice if we all made an attempt to enter just one item in a competition over the next year.