Beginning Your Arts Journey
So you have just joined the SCA or have just decided to try an art or science. You see all of this fabulous work at Kingdom Arts events and you wonder if you could do that too. Remember every artist has been where you are, at the beginning. Let’s cover a few tips on how to get started in a particular art.
Finding Like Minds
First, remember that artists love company. If you are interested in a particular art start on the Ansteorra Arts and Sciences Guilds and Study Groups page. There is probably a group that studies what you are interested in, and you do not have to be an expert to hang out. Just be willing to read, listen, ask and learn. We all love new people to our art and love to geek out on our favorite thing, but don’t get discouraged if you run across someone with bad manners. It can be frustrating for a list of experts to always get the same basic question, and not everyone has the patience and bearing of a peer. Use the group search and see if your question has been asked before, and read those sections first before you ask. No one minds a question being asked if you say “Hey, I want to learn to make underwater baskets. I was going through past messages and read about the beginning of underwater basketweaving but can I ask a few specific questions about how to get started?”
Another good place to look is the Ansteorran Laurels page. The page lists all of the people who have achieved membership in the Order of the Laurel, the highest honor for artists in the SCA. The list contains the names and study areas of all the Master artists in the kingdom, past and present. Many have included their contact name and would love to help a new person started on their arts path.
I Can’t Find Anyone Interested In My Topic. What Now?
This can be frustrating if you do not know where to begin. Sometimes it is best to take a look at what you want to know about a particular topic. Do you want to make something or study something? If you want to do either, it is best to know if it was done in period. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to learn an art for the SCA and then finding out it is not something period at all. For example, needle felting…felting is totally period, but needle felting was invented in the 1980s. When in doubt, Google the history of what you want to do. Is this something that was done before 1600? Find out on the web. This is where sites like Wikipedia can be helpful. Wikipedia is not a good site to use for real research, but it does give you a general idea of what may be known about a subject.
If you want to make something you will want to possibly learn a craft’s basic skills before you start researching how it was done in period. There are often community organizations, maker spaces, and guilds that are willing to teach classes in the basics of most arts. Classes often have a fee, but it is usually low for beginner classes. This is a great way to find out if you like something before investing time and money in it.
What if you just want to study something? A good place to start is your local library. Most libraries have reference librarians that can help you find books for your topic of choice. If you are in a small town you may want to start at WorldCat.org The World’s Largest Library Catalog. This is a list of books all over the world. This will tell you at a glance how easy or difficult it will be to obtain books on your topic. If you don’t know, even the smallest library can borrow for you from a larger one. Go in and ask how you do inter-library loan. Google Books is another great place to start. One thing to keep in mind about researching any historical topic. History is like a river, new rocks are turned over all the time. A book from 1913 may not be as useful as one from 1998. We are adding to our historical knowledge all the time. It is also great to get more than one book to see if they agree.
Know that being a beginning artist can be both a road and a destination. If you want to know the basics of a lot of pre-17th century knowledge that is great. You can still be an artist or scientist even if you never enter a competition, teach a class or pursue the path of the laurel. The idea is to have fun learning, and you will probably find it infectious.