Shoes by Robert

Documentation for A&S Competitions

In addition to making shoes, I also occasionally enter SCA Arts & Sciences competitions with other projects. Having received some compliments on the supporting written documentation submitted for some of those, it seemed worthwhile to publish them for others to enjoy and use as exemplars for their own work.

I do try to keep them to a moderate length and inject some humor where possible. I very much appreciate the judges' time, so I try to strike a balance between providing enough information and avoiding so much that they might have to skim it and miss a major point somewhere inside. If they get a chuckle along the way, so much the better.

Ice Dragon

Every year, as winter turns to spring, the Barony of the Rhydderich Hale hosts an event called the Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon. This event is famous for its A&S competition, one aspect of which is called the Grand Pentathlon, or Pent for short.

The Pent requires an entrant to submit projects that fall into five major A&S categories. One may be cross-entered into two, thus each Pent hopeful will have entered at least four projects. All of the Pent entries are totaled to determine who wins that special recognition. Each category also awards prizes.

My Pent entries' documentation for 2019 (each link goes to a PDF file):

Pears Stuffed with Almonds (culinary: sweets)

14th-Century Men's Purse (animal arts: leather)

Heraldic Glass Window (ceramics and glass: glasswork)

Experiments with Bone Ice Skates (applied research)

Herbed Smoked Braggot (beverages: beer & ale)

The above projects' scores put me into 2nd place for the Pent.

Key Points for Documentation

Discuss your project by covering what you did, how you did it, what you learned from it, and what you would do differently next time.

Of course it's best if you can use period materials, tools, and processes to achieve your goal. However, that's often not feasible for any number of reasons. It's important to show that you know the difference, though, and give your reasons for doing so. For example, if you make something using a modern material because the period one is unavailable, is poisonous, is too expensive, etc., then mention this limitation. Judges are quite forgiving so long as they can recognize that you have encountered obstacles and found substitutes, worked around an issue, and the like.

Give credit where credit is due. Cite your sources and credit the use of images and illustrations. This can be done with footnotes or in-line following the text where you state a fact or refer to an earlier author's publication. For example, see Stuart (p. 23). Then, in a list of references consulted for your project, provide the full details of Stuart's work (title, date of publication, publisher, etc.). If you cite a web page as a source, also list the date you accessed it. Web sites are subject to change, but the Wayback Machine can be used to call up archived versions in many cases.

Adding personal information about your project can make the documentation more interesting. For example, I made my first pair of shoes for my daughter. In another case, I made a stained glass window to place in a window-opening in my house.

Many A&S projects award points for two often-exclusive categories of creativity and authenticity. However, it is possible to achieve both by making a project that is based on a period original yet extends it or modifies it in some way. Documenting this specific aspect of a project will help the judges understand that you know you're being true to the spirit of the original while simultaneously creating something unique, personalized, or modernized.

Proper spelling, good grammar, and clear sentences will help keep your judges from being distracted as they read your work. Have friends and family proofread your material and ask them for feedback. Don't get defensive - learn where they think you could be clearer. You may find yourself too close to your work when it comes to explaining it, and it's easy to miss something obvious to you but not familiar to others. You should not assume a judge knows more (or anything at all) about your topic. If in doubt, explain it out.

Additional Thoughts

There is no particular quantity of documentation that is needed.

You should think about and endeavour to answer a number of basic questions, such as how, what, when, where, and why. Show your knowledge and understanding of the items and materials used, and provide references.

For example, what did you make, how did you make it, when and where was it used in period, why did you choose to make it out of X if it was made out of Y materials in period.

Basically, answer those kinds of questions in your write-up. Your documentation would include details about the original and how and why you deviated (if you did) from a replica (e.g., had to substitute something on account of it not being obtainable, poisonous, too expensive).

It’s totally acceptable to make substitutions, use modern tools, and the like, so long as you convey the information in the document so that the judges can understand that you know about your topic and made informed decisions to vary from materials, methods, etc.

You’ll need to cite references as well. This can include written works, photos of surviving examples, textual accounts, artistic representations from the period: anything to show people reading your documentation that you’re basing your project on something from history, not just, say, basing it on something you think is period, or saw in a movie, etc. Simply provide a list of your sources that helped you along your journey, and mention them at relevant places in your write-up.

One of the attractive aspects of A&S Champs is that you get to talk to your judges face-to-face. That means that if you’re new to competition and documentation, you can answer any questions they have on the spot. If all they have to work with is paper, they can’t know what you might have forgotten to put in there (because it was maybe obvious to you but not to them), or they might simply miss it.

Last updated September 24, 2019.