Laurels’ Prize Tourney – The Challenges!

PLEASE NOTE!! Due to a wonderfully enthusiastic response, all challenges are now closed to further entrants. If you have questions or concerns about this, please contact Dreda at molly.eskridge@gmail.com.

We look forward to seeing you on March 25, 2017!

Calligraphy and Illumination | Clothing and Accessories | Fiber Arts | Food and Drink | General Research | Heraldry | Material Culture | Performance and Performance Arts | Science

Calligraphy and Illumination

The Process of Progression
(Mistress Eleanor Catlyng and Mistress Rhonwen glyn Conwy) – Once upon a time, Rhonwen and Eleanor were a part of the sweatshop, um, Scriptorium, of Master Anton of Winteroak. Having since graduated, this event brought us to reminisce upon those days, upon our own growth and passions as scribes, and upon our guidance of other practitioners of this art. How does one progress as a scribe? We identified this as a core tenet that we wished to base our Prize upon. Whether you are a new practitioner or a master, we have designed this Prize with this question in mind.

The Challenge

    1. Identify a period piece of calligraphy and/or illumination which strikes your fancy, preferably one that causes you to try something new to you.
    2. Depending on your level of experience, select an element or elements of the piece to work on emulating.
    3. As you practice, collect these efforts (either the originals or photos thereof). Compare your efforts at a minimum of three points in time to the original exemplar you are working from.
    4. For each of those three points in time:
      • Compare what you did well! Mark these places in some way.
      • Compare something you still need to work on. Also mark these.
      • Write a short narrative as to why you think these noted areas are particularly good or in need of work. Identify next steps to improve upon your work.
    5. Display your final product (or most recent step if you are still working on it.)
      • Include a short narrative summarizing how your reflective process helped you progress throughout the project. Identify a “next step” to work on and at least one idea for how to accomplish that goal.
      • Also include information about your prior experience as a scribe, as we plan to recognize multiple entrants at various levels of experience.

You may choose to focus on illumination only, calligraphy only, or both. The number of elements you choose to emulate is also of your choosing; it may be as little as one line of text or a single visual element, or as much as a whole page. You may use either modern or period materials, but you must use a period exemplar. Additionally, it is fine to overlap this project with other projects you are doing. However, if what you choose is an award assignment, please be careful to hide any identifying words, armory, etc. during your display if the award has not yet been given out.

Some tips

  • If you are doing calligraphy, practice BIG. It is easier to see your mistakes when they’re bigger. Once you are confident that you have the shape of the letter correct, try to shrink it down. Keep in mind that the larger you are working, the larger the nib you should use to keep the proportions correct. As you go smaller, you will need to reduce your nib size.
  • If you are painting, keep in mind color matching as a possible area to work on. Incorrect color matching often leaps out the practiced eye as “not period looking.”
  • When identifying something to work on, keep in mind the guideline of always striving to match it closer and closer to a period exemplar. While improvisation within period styles is perfectly acceptable, practice should focus on improving your ability to emulate those styles so that even when you do improvise, you maintain that period “feel.”

Contacting Us

You are not required to contact us during your process, but we welcome questions about the challenge. Please write to molly.eskridge@gmail.com to get in touch. We are also willing to give you some guidance in how to critique your own work. This is, for many, a learned skill. If you wish this type of support, please send us a good quality digital copy of your practice, as well as a copy of the exemplar you are working from, so that we may model this. A step that we provide comment on should not be one of the three “moments” that you present at the event, as our challenge is to have you learn this skill for yourself.

Eva’s Tiny Scroll Challenge (Mistress Eva Woderose) – Make a tiny calligraphed piece (and illuminated if you so choose) based off of period sources. Enjoy the aesthetic of period proportion and style. If your scribal heart desires, feel free to make use of period materials and techniques. Each piece must have a minimum of 150 characters of text (but could certainly have more).

Please bring with you any sources you based your piece on so that we can have an intelligent discussion about your beautiful work.

Clothing and Accessories

Make an Early Period Glass Bead or Bead String (Mistress Elysabeth Underhill (lissa) – Reproduce a early period glass bead or bead string using a photograph, drawing, or description of a historic bead. If you choose to reproduce just one bead, please make several beads of that type to display. Beads from any culture can be made for this challenge, including Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Merovingian, Islamic, etc. Beads made earlier than the traditional start of the SCA time period are also very welcome, such as Phoenician or Celtic beads.

Brief documentation that proves the historic origins of your bead or bead string is required. This documentation can be as simple as a photograph of a bead from a museum. However, I would encourage all entrants to think about how they can challenge themselves to write more detailed documentation for their entry. Providing information about the type of bead chosen, the social context in which the beads were worn, and how they were made in period is highly encouraged. Need help writing documentation? No problem! Simply e-mail molly.eskridge@gmail.com and she will connect us.

Not sure how to get started with your research? Also not a problem! I am more than happy to suggest resources, and to help you acquire resources if needed, so that you may begin to research and recreate historic beads. If you have a slightly different idea of what you want to do, just let me know, and we can discuss. The main goal of this challenge is to get people researching, making and displaying period beads! Remember, even the simplest beads can be documented. This article may help new bead makers think about how to approach this challenge.
Note: I would appreciate receiving documentation that is longer than a couple of pages a week in advance, so that I may review it more thoroughly and provide better feedback. Please send to molly.eskridge@gmail.com.

Making Old Garb New (Mistress Cassandra Grey of Lochleven) – There is that one piece of garb that you have had forever, but that doesn’t really fit with the rest of your wardrobe. And yet, you don’t want to part with it because you love it. Make a new version that incorporates what you have learned since you made the original; bring them both to the event, and be prepared to explain what you have done to improve the piece and yet still keep what you love about it.

!!Due to a wonderfully enthusiastic response, The Under It All challenge is now closed to further entrants!!
Under It All
(Mistress Agatha Wanderer) – Make an article of underwear appropriate for your persona. This garment might be any of the pieces of underclothing worn beneath the main layers of your clothing. If you can, use period-appropriate materials and sewing techniques in the creation of your underwear. Documentation might include period images of people in underwear or images of extant underwear, as well as images of the garments that were worn over them. Do the shapes and forms of your underwear affect the structure of the overgarments or vice versa? Show us your undies!

Fiber Arts

Handweaving Challenge
(Maîtresse Nicolette Bonhomme) – Please choose one of the following two options:

– Weave a piece of fabric from a period draft, using a 2-, 3-, or 4-harness loom.
– Create a draft from an extant period pattern.

I would like to know about why you chose the draft or pattern you did, what you learned while creating, and I would like to see your work! The final fabric result for the first option does not have to be large, but the draft for the second option should be complete. I have many resources that I would be happy to share, and would be happy to answer questions and offer assistance at any point in your process. Please contact molly.eskridge@gmail.com to get in touch.

Knitting Challenge
(Mistress Angharad verch Rees) – Please create a version of an extant knitted item. This could be anything created in any culture during the SCA period (pre-1600). This includes, but is not limited to: socks, pillows, bags, hats, mittens, vests, jackets, etc. Please note that this is a knitting challenge, so naalbinding, sprang and other fiber arts are not included. (Sorry Norse folks!)

You may change up certain elements of knitted items to something appropriate for your use. For example, if you’re working on the knitted pillows from Spain, you can alter the swastikas into another geometric shape or switch them out entirely and use an element from your own heraldic arms. Knitted items designed to be worn may also be adapted to fit properly.

You are encouraged to provide written documentation for your piece(s). That documentation should include a list of resources, photos of the originals if you have them and the pattern you used. Be prepared to discuss why you made your choices of material, color, texture, fit and the method you used to develop the pattern. If you use someone else’s pattern, be prepared to discuss any changes you made, as well as any problems you had with the pattern. Written documentation should be emailed a week in advance of the event to give me the chance to read everything thoroughly.

Richard Rutt’s A History of Hand Knitting is an excellent starting point, but it should not be your only resource.

Please note that it is not necessary to spin your own yarn for this challenge nor is it required that you do any dyeing.  If you’re having trouble finding resources or materials, working up your own pattern or gathering your ideas, or just to send the documentation, please contact molly.eskridge@gmail.com to get in touch.

Food and Drink

A Drink from Honey (Mistress Morgaine ferch Cadwr) – Mistress Morgaine challenges you to learn about mead through research and making. If you consider yourself new to brewing (and if so, you are particularly encouraged to participate) or wish a more straightforward task, please refer to Charles Butler’s Feminine Monarchy. Those who wish a greater challenge should refer themselves to the works of Dioscorides. For either case, please find, research, redact, and make a honey based fermented beverage from that source. Be ready to discuss, in person and/or through your writing (please send written documents in advance if possible), what you have learned. This may include the historical context that led to your recipe being in the document you chose in the form it is in, how this reflects the larger world the drink would have been consumed in, what you made and how, and why you made the choices you made with respect to producing your drink. Be ready to taste the results of your and other’s efforts. Success is defined by what you learn. All who accept this challenge will be offered a reward to recognize their efforts. I will be pleased to offer clarification and support to any who desire taking this challenge. Please contact molly.eskridge@gmail.com for Email for questions and correspondence.

Foods for Special Days (Mistress Johanna Dudley) – Please bring us a food that may have been produced for a fair, festival, feast day, or holiday in period;onstruct something along the lines of a street food that would be probable for a chosen time and place. Examples might include waffles, pretzels, fritters, flat breads such as socca or fougasse, crespelles eaten on St. Joseph’s day, or traditional cakes such as coca de llardons for midsummer or St. John’s eve, or sweetmeats like those still sold at priories along the pilgrim’s route to Santiago di Compostella.*** (Here are some places you might look for ideas: paintings or illustrations, accounts, diary entries, literature, legal documents, church documents.)

Please tell us about how you found it, what you needed to figure out and/or change to make it now, and anything else you found
interesting as you worked! Is the dish still prepared and eaten today? Where and by whom? How has it evolved? Can you suggest plausible reasons why special ingredients may be included? Anyone from novice, expert, or youth categories is welcome to enter. Novices are those over 16 years of age who are new to period recipes or cooking, experts may be familiar with period recipes and sources, youth under 16 years old (note that youths may have an adult research partner). Entries will be judged for documentation, adherence to period form and ingredients, workmanship and taste, and complexity. A ‘best challenge-answer’ will be chosen from each category. Please send your documentation to molly.eskridge@gmail.com by March 18.

***Please do not make items containing fish or shellfish due to allergy.

Mistery of Grocers of our City of London (Master Alesone Gray of Cranlegh) – Part food, part science, make something that would have been purchased from a London Grocer. The Grocers controlled the raw ingredients, quality of services and the people who sold the medicinals, confections and spices to the public.You may create anything specified in the 1447 London Grocers’ patent. This includes any electuaries, syrups, waters, oils, ointments, plasters, powders, and all conserves and confections. You may also opt to write a paper of 10 pages or more on the topic of research and making something from the patent. Documentation should include a period recipe, modern redaction, all ingredients, process, failures, success and the things you learned. I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for process.

Research papers should be submitted in advance – please send to molly.eskridge@gmail.com by March 18.

Recipe? What’s That? (Master Magnus Hvalmagi) – Very frequently, those of us who brew or cook tend to center their reconstructions around researching and redacting a particular recipe. That’s all good and well, but what do you do when there are no texts available in the era in which you work?

Your challenge is to research, document, and recreate a period consumable (food or drink) without relying on an extant recipe. This could be an attempt to experimentally recreate bread from an artifact find, a beverage from residue on a vessel, or an item that is mentioned in a text but for which no detailed instructions exist. If you have no idea how you might answer such a challenge, feel free to ping me (molly.eskridge@gmail.com) and we can chat about it! Also, if you’re unsure whether or not a particular text constitutes a “recipe,” talk to me and we’ll figure it out!

Your documentation should include an explanation and/or example of what you’re trying to reconstruct, the historical provenance of the thing, a survey of whatever evidence you could find to guide you, and detail about the process you used to reconstruct it. If your documentation exceeds 5 pages (excluding any bibliography or photo appendix or somesuch), please submit it at least a week ahead of time.

The Water of Life (Mistress Caryl de Trecesson) – Can you make “the water of life”? Thomas Dawson provided a pretty detailed (for the time) recipe for his version of the well-known medicinal cordial in “The Good Huswife’s Jewell” of 1596. The recipe is available online as the sixth one on this page and, yes, this is the one you’re being challenged to make. Judging will be based on how closely you can adhere to the recipe (will you include all 31 ingredients, or only 5 or 6? will you include the mutton? the loaf of bread?), how well you can justify each of the differences, and, of course, on taste! Please also make sure your challenge entry is neither directly poisonous nor gets you arrested for illegal distillation. I can answer questions and provide additional guidance and/or just chat about the challenge via email; please contact molly.eskridge@gmail.com. Documentation should at the least be a list of ingredients so others can easily see what’s being shared, but be prepared to discuss your process as well. Multiple prizes may be given! You may also send documentation ahead of time to that same contact email (cutoff is March 18), especially if you’re providing all of your explanations in written form and/or if you’re sending your entry to the event with someone else.

General Research

Research, Research, and Then Research Some More (Mistress Elysabeth Underhill) – Is your true art in the SCA the “art” of research? Do you love writing papers and documentation? Do you typically find yourself exceeding the documentation page limit in competitions because you have so much contextual and historical information about your project that the judges “must” see. Are you doing data analysis or conducting a study or experiment? If any of these situations applies to you, then this is your challenge!

Bring your research to the Laurel’s Challenge. Research should be presented in the form of a paper with sources and a citation system of some type. There is no page limit- write until your heart is content. Challengers are encouraged to bring multiple copies of their work to hand out to interested people at the event.

BUT–You must also think about how you can present your work to those who are at the event and who may not have the time to read your entire paper. Would a poster work, a handout with visuals, a video, a demonstration? If you want to talk about possibilities please e-mail molly.eskridge@gmail.com to be put in contact with me, and we will chat.

Please send your documentation to molly.eskridge@gmail.com in advance of the competition if possible. As this challenge is been offered late in the game, if your paper is not finished well in advance of the event, do not worry. Bring your work to the event. We can talk, you can display your work, and then I can take your paper home and offer feedback after the event.


Keeping your heraldry close (Mistress Brunissende Dragonette) – Use your heraldry: create and bring an item displaying your personal heraldry (or the registered heraldry of a group or household you belong to) in a way your persona would have done it.

Examples of medieval heraldry can still be found in buildings, ornamental elements and extant clothing but also daily objects. What would a person from your chosen place, time and rank have used?
Note that some cultures had no real equivalent of the core European use of heraldry. If that’s where your persona arises from, tell me about the differences and maybe how your personal would label their personal things.
Please be able to document the method that you have chosen; if that documentation exceeds five pages, please send it to molly.eskridge@gmail.com a week before the event (March 18). And if you have any questions, please send them to that same address at any time.

Material Culture

Archery or Hunting Theme
(Mistress Ygraine of Kellswood) –  
Make something with an archery or hunting theme, or something that an archer, hunter or falconer would have found useful or valuable. Your item can be from any time in our period of study, or any culture, but must be based on a real artifact (either extant in a museum, or shown in period artwork) and the technique and materials must be appropriate to the item. Almost any A&S discipline can meet this challenge, as a project can be based on any aspect of these lifestyles and activities, and participants were from all social strata. I encourage you to get in touch with me to discuss your ideas, and I am happy to assist with your process. I want to know a month ahead of the event (so, by Feb.25) if you are accepting my challenge, and written documentation should be emailed a week in advance of the event to give me the chance to read everything thoroughly. Please contact molly.eskridge@gmail.com to get in touch.

From Moscow to London (Master Aleksandr Ruslanovich Kievchanin) – In 1561 by the English calendar, Anthony Jenkinson, a member of the Muscovy Company (an English merchant company chartered to promote trade between England and the east), returned home from Moscow.  Ivan Vasilyevich, Grand Prince of Moscow, had sent a letter to Elizabeth of England proposing marriage.  Knowing the court of the Grand Prince to be a tempestuous place, my father, Ruslan Isidorovich, secured a place for me among Master Jenkinson’s companions and I left Moscow on the long journey to London.

Bring me something I encountered on that journey.  It could be a song I heard, an article of clothing worn in one of the many countries we passed through, a local delicacy I sampled… or anything, provided it falls along a route from Moscow to London, and is appropriate to the time.  Present it in persona and — oh yes — remind me which route we took… there are several in common use.  Please provide some brief documentation (no more than 500 words) to accompany your submission; documentation should be submitted via email to molly.eskridge@gmail.com by March 19 so that I may review it before we meet at the event.

A Piece of Elizabeth’s England
(Mistress Morwenna Westerne) – Mistress Morwenna is a gentlewoman of Elizabeth’s England. Please create an item of a sort that would be familiar to her. This could be anything — a sweetmeat, a poem, perfumed gloves, a decorative coconut, &c. — as long as it could have existed in the British Isles in the latter half of the 16th century. Presentation should be, if possible, in persona, and documentation should be light.

The Right Tool for Your Job (Master Angus Pembridge) – What tool would a craftsperson or laborer use every day? What is a tool that is always to hand, perfectly ordinary but also perfectly indispensable? Consider that tool, and then make it and tell me about how you will use it, how it will fit into your persona’s everyday life. Your documentation should include examples that guided your choice and creation, and address any points where you diverged from the original example; documentation should be submitted via email to molly.eskridge@gmail.com by March 19 so that I may be fully prepared to discuss your work with you at the event.

Performance and Performance Arts

Create a Moment in Time (Mistress Lakshmi Amman of Sri Ranganatha Temple) – Please bring to the Laurel’s Challenge a moment out of time for us to enjoy. Instead of explaining your art, please be your art. Pick a piece of performing artistry and present it as you would if you lived in the day it was made. Bring as much creativity to bear as possible to making the audience feel as if they have been transported to a magic moment of an SCA era. [Read more about Mistress Lakshmi’s challenge.]

Design a Mumming, Disguising, or Masque (Mistress Catrin o’r Rhyd For) – Design a mumming, disguising, or masque in honor of a person in the SCA or an occasion that happens in the SCA. Describe it to me, or if possible, show it to me – there is performance space available, but you may also use dioramas, dolls, drawings, diagrams, or other such demonstration materials. (Video is an option, but you must provide a way to display it, as the site does not provide audio-visual equipment.) For your documentation, please bring a list of primary or secondary sources used and a list of any period mummings, disguisings, or masques used for inspiration. Be prepared to explain your choices.

Document, compose, and perform a composition using a musical form from prior to 1600. (Master Peregrine the Illuminator) – I encourage both sung compositions and played compositions. I encourage working with other musicians to perform multi-part works, working with poets to create new words to fit sung compositions, and working with calligraphers/illuminators to notate the composition in an authentic manner. I ask that a copy of the research, composition (in modern notation), and copies of the works that inspired yours be provided to me two weeks before the event, that I might properly study it before discussing it with you. Your documentation should include copies of similar works (or parts of works) composed prior to 1600, to show the form you are using. Please contact molly.eskridge@gmail.com for email for questions and correspondence.

Performing a Period Text (Mistress Anne of Framlingham) – Please bring us a performance of a text that existed in our historical period, either spoken or sung. Modern English translations of other languages (including older versions of English) are welcome, but please bring us a text that would have been known to our ancestors. Bring their own words to life for us! As documentation, I would like a citation that will enable me to easily find your source text; if you choose to do your own translation, please also provide me an explanation of your process and choices. Please send these in writing to molly.eskridge@gmail.com by March 18 so that I may review them prior to your performance. On the day, you need only bring us the performance itself.

A Poetic Dialog (Master Christian Lansinger von Jaueregk) – Compose a poem in a documentable style that is a dialog among at least two characters. Perform the piece such that the audience can differentiate the different ‘voices.’ This can be done by having a cast read the piece, or one person doing the different voices. For documentation, the type of poetic structure and examples from period will suffice.

The Robert ap Huw Manuscript (Master Lucien de Pontivy) – I would like to hear a performance, on the harp, of any piece from the Robert Ap Huw Manuscript. As an approach to the challenge, I recommend that you acquaint yourself with the range of references available and develop familiarity with the notation in the Ms. The challenge has four components: A PDF or scanned copy of your modern notation transcription of the piece; a sound file of your performance of the piece; a live performance on the day of the event; discussion to follow.  On the sheet music, please specify, by name, the piece you choose to present. The sheet music and sound file constitute the only documentation necessary. Please plan to email me the electronic files at least 2 weeks prior to the event; please send to molly.eskridge@gmail.com. At the event, please be prepared to perform the piece and discuss your interpretation.


Astronomical Instruments (Master Anton of Winteroak) – Make one or more astronomical instruments of a types that existed prior to 1600, and use them to make astronomical measurements, and then calculate planetary (or if opportune, cometary) movement against the background stars over a few weeks or months. Please document your inspiration, your creative process (including ways in which you differ from the original, and why you made those choices), and your degree of success in using the instrument for its intended purpose.

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