This morning facebook kindly reminded me that it is my anniversary of joining the Order of the Laurel in Lochac, which has led to an impetus to communicate some thoughts swirling around in my head for a while – “what’s been happening” and “what now?” and “whereto for this site?”.
These thoughts also coincide with the various posts around the costume blogosphere on the myth of perfection and choices around online privacy. Jen Thompson’s post alluding to not posting as much because of life struck a chord. Not that my life has been sad for the past year, more that it’s been a year of re-grouping on the historical craft front, and serious increase of career opportunity, which has led to a reduction in feeling like I had a space to discuss my thoughts as they were not specifically on-topic for this blog, or in the case of more academic explorations, would not live up to my vision of where I’d like them to be.
So, then, in order:
What’s been happening?
In March last year I got a new role with the Department I work for, and it’s been amazing! A return to the job I want rather than the job that pays the bills and is OK. This means that the creative energy and project management energy that found an outlet through SCA activities has been absorbed into this space instead. I come home and don’t want to write costume plans, or send admin emails, or organise large costume sew-a-longs for my Barony, since my new job involves wrangling people across my branch into doing things that are part of their job, but not the primary focus of their job.
At the same time I’ve been deepening my understanding of research that impacts on the topic of this blog. Reading through editions of Medieval Textiles and Clothing journal, reading articles on the Northern Renaissance trying to understand its beginnings and boundaries, it’s uniqueness and it’s overlap with the Italian Renaissance. I’ve been reading about the life of Margaret of Austria, and some of the other powerful women in Europe at this time. There are a lot of them, they’re just not English so we English speakers don’t hear about them as much.
I’ve been learning to read French (and a bit of Dutch). I was learning both concurrently, but even my brain decided that was too many new symbols to be learning at the same time, and most of the primary documents I will want to read in the near future will be in French – as that was the language of the Burgundian and Netherlandish Hapsburg court, and I want to look at French scholarship around that court. Dutch can wait until next year.
I’ve gained three apprentices, and I’m really, really enjoying being their friend and mentor. They’re all very different and wonderful in different ways. Kim makes tasty historical food and blogs about it at Turnspit and Table, as past of the Historical Cook Fortnightly, as well as being a good seamstress. Safiya is the A&S officer for her College, and finding her feet in terms of A&S but is deeply interested in Persian clothing (whole new research area! Yay!), and Anna (the College’s previous A&S officer) joined us two weeks ago and is going gangbusters on German Women’s clothing of the same period that this blog covers, with a goal to have a complete outfit or two for Pennsic.
I’ve been focussing on my health. At the end of last year I was sick one week in four for about four months, which was unpleasant, and in general my fitness had suffered for my art. I’m now doing pilates two nights a week in an effort to get my strength back up to the point that running seems like an achievable thing again. Pilates has been AMAZING, and I encourage anyone with a sedentary hobby and job to invest in a good class to counteract the hours sitting and stitching.
I’ve also been focussing on our home and ways it can work better for us. We’ve now been in that place for 4 years, when the original plan was 2 years only, and I can’t see us moving for at least another 2. This means there are a variety of rooms that need to be re-arranged, things to be thrown out or re-organised, such as my crafting space and fabric stash. Most of it is now in boxes sorted by type, rather than in odd piles where-ever there was room. My craft table still needs a bunch of work though, so it’s actually useful.
I’ve set up a new crafting circle, as the one that I was part of during my formative years in costuming is now no longer able to meet on a regular basis. On reflection I realised how valuable this had been to me and to refinement of my skills and I want to be able to offer this to my apprentices. Since there’s no space in my apartment for more than two people to craft at the same time, I’ve joined forces with the Company of the Staple, who do amazing research and reproduction of the late 1370s, for regular sharing of knowledge, skills and pizza. This should accelerate the production back up to 2012 levels.
Men’s clothing. My kit is (mostly) up to scratch, but my partner’s could do with some work (I’ve previously written about his excellent woolen shorts). I’ve got a 1520s suit cut out, with a goal to have it completed for an event in July.
Better accessories for me. Shoes, purses, hose, smocks etc. I’ve got enough gowns and hats, but could improve these aspects of my kit.
A 14th century outfit for each of us. I might occasionally want to play with the aforesaid Company of the Staple (because they have the magic combo of being excellent people who make amazing food) and as they are a living history group then an outfit up to their standards by September is one of my goals. Both for me and my partner.
Costume goals notwithstanding, the answer to “what now?” is to continue to re-balance my life, continue to revel in the new career direction and continue to return to being fit. It’s been really interesting and useful to pull back, re-assess and re-balance after a couple of years of intense immersion in this hobby.
Whereto for this site?
This has been tossing around in my head for a while. I feel like the site’s at a cross-roads.
It could continue to be the place where I document my costume projects, but I suspect they’re going to be less frequent and start to be not quite as specific to the Low Countries in 1480-1530.
It could become a definitive resource site for Renaissance Clothing in the Low Countries, but that would take a lot of work and who am I to claim that role as a non-native, historically trained but not professional historian? I set that goal for the site at the end of 2014, but then work became more involved than it had been for a number of years.
It could become a hub for various Low Countries costumers across the internet, but first I’d have to find them and do a bit of work on engagement and collaboration (which is pretty much what my day job is all about).
In the end it will probably morph into a balance of all three.
Some decisions have been made, for instance sometime in June/July this site will get a dedicated URL and move off the wordpress.com platform, so that we can do some interesting things with it. I’ll be introducing some new aspects to the range of topics covered by the blog which I hope will be interesting and start it on the path to fulfilling the second and third options.
Which leads me to: what would you like to see on this site? What do you value the most? What gaps do you wish it could fill in your interest or knowledge? Any thoughts greatly appreciated.