ANST - authenticity vs aesthetics

dennis grace amazing at
Fri Aug 15 14:56:22 PDT 1997

Greetings good Baron Bors. Aquilanne here.

You respond to Stefan's post with:
>Well said- this is the main reason why I no longer enter into A&S

I'm sorry to hear this. I've always believed that A&S competitions should
and can be largely positive experiences for those who involve themselves.
I've found that most negative experiences come about from interacting with
unclear parameters, criteria, and general expectations of either entrant or
judge, or both. Thus the need for a clear-cut set of criteria for entries to
aspire to and judges to judge by.

>I have been to the museums in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  Most of
>what I saw  would not even get a comment on a judging sheet at an A&S
>compition.  And if it did get commented on, I'm certain it wouldn't be

I understand your concern here, but we have to remember that museums display
most any item from such a distant period that they can get their hands on.
Just because a piece is in a museum doesn't mean that it's "art," it means
that it survived. A&S competitions are just that: competitions for *arts*
and *sciences* not period mundane drudge-work, which many everyday
utilitarian tools and items were. Which is why your next statement is,
understandably, true:

>Very few of the artisans have the talent and ability to turn
>out a Tara Brooch but it seems that is exactly what the judges in our A&S
>compitions want.

Yes. We want to see artisans strive and grow and make beautiful and
well-crafted arts representative of period arts, and see folks research and
strive to recreate period practices of science.

You further lament:
>I could turn out a pretty good rendition of the Tara
>Brooch, with the help of modern technology, (computer graphics,templates,
>acid wash and modern firing kilns) but these resources were not available at
>the time when the originals were made. I have heard individuals say " but the
>ancients would have used these resources if they had them" but THEY DIDN'T
>HAVE THEM.  Most of my garb is hand sewn, not all of it, just the stuff I
>make.  I refuse to use a sewing machine on my garb.  I takes me alot longer
>to make it but I appreciate it much more, thus my stinky old fighting tunic,
>hand sewn and falling apart, is much more "period" than a machine sewn
>Elizabethian gown.

You have some very valid points. I think a set of criteria which takes into
consideration how heavily period or modern materials/techniques are used in
the production of an item would asuage many of these valid concerns. OTOH,
if you remember from my post answering Stephan's post, we *do* live in a
modern society. It's unlikely many of us have the time and or money to: use
a horse and wagon to get to events (or means to keep a horse, for that
matter); or use runners to deliver our messages to each other; or spin
(gotta know how; can't take credit for someone else's thread) and weave
(gotta know how and have access to a loom or afford to own one and have room
for it) and dye (gotta understand dying technique and make your own dye,
can't take complete credit if you use someone else's period dye) all the
fabrics for our garb; make your own pigments and inks and tools and
parchment for scrivener's arts; tan leather and make the tools for working
leather; etc, etc, etc. We can strive towards recreating things as
authentically as we can, and reward those extra efforts in an A&S
competition; but to expect that the authenticity alone of a rough wooden box
or bowl should win out over an equally labor-intensive (even with modern
help) piece that is a good facsimile of period work *and* aesthetically
sound isn't in keeping with the whole concept of competing in *art*. A&S
competitions should encourage and laud a range of efforts at a range of

>But would my tunic win an A&S compitions against the
>gown? I think not, but as far as accurratly re-creating , it should.

Now, if you want to design a competition with governing emphasis on
authenticity, then you can have something like a 'goat to coat' type
competition where use of period materials and techniques are of much higher
value than aesthetics, if you want to even give points for aesthetics at
all. In fact, that's a great idea. Maybe I'll see what kind of interest I
can drum up here in Bryn Gwlad for doing something like that; I bet there'd
be some takers.
>I entered, against my better judgement, my carved feast box at Squires (had
>to enter something for the overall compition).  I thought it best represented
>what I preceived as a typical 13th-14th century box such as I saw in the
>European museums.  Comments ran from rough work, needs finishing, ect.  to
>needs a more period clasp (which it does).  The point is that my hand made
>and hand carved beautiful ( in my eyes) box was panned.  What won the
>compition, I cannot remember, but I bet it was very "pretty" in the eyes of
>the judges.

I'm sorry your experience wasn't more positive, but from all you share, I'd
have to say it was largely a matter of mismatched expectations due mostly to
unclear communication. You expected period-ness to count for more than
aesthetics (or at least more than it did), and the judges expected
aesthetics to count for more than you did.

>  This is so very true and again the main reason why I no longer enter A&S

Well, I hope that, if I'm successful in putting together something like the
"goat to coat" thingy I mentioned above, that you will participate. It
sounds like you have a lot to share, and I think it's *very* important for
those who create to set an example of involvedness for others.



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