Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Twelfth Night! (SCA Post)

If you see the SCA post label on this post, it means it is related to my activities as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Feel free to skip if you aren't into that kind of thing. :)  

As a member of the Order of the Laurel (The worldwide level of recognition of mastery in the study and recreation of pre-1600 arts- in my case, for calligraphy and illumination.), it is my responsibility and privilege to take students as apprentices, and "train 'em up in the way they should go."

When I was placed on vigil to contemplate joining the Order of the Laurel in 2011, two newish scribes came bouncing into my tent to beam at me with "You're So Coool!" faces. Which totally freaked me out, because that was the moment that I realized what it really meant to be a Laurel. Lots of people Who Should Know had been telling me all day that I deserved it and that no, it wasn't a mistake. But it wasn't until those two newish scriblets told me how glad they were that I was being recognized, because they thought I was awesome and looked up to me / my work, that it sunk in. It wasn't about what *I* thought about myself and my work. Being a Laurel is about other people.

Right after I was elevated as a Laurel. I had that terrified look alllllll day. Photo by Owen Townes
Her apprenticing contract, which I made
her write - photo by Cheryn Rapp
 In 2012, I took one of those newish scriblets as my apprentice for the art of calligraphy. People had been telling us both for a year that we should get together, because we're both calligraphy-nerds, and calligraphy is one of those arts that is a combination of extremely subtle details and minute corrections to technique = large changes.  We had had several conversations, about what we wanted out of the Laurel / Apprentice relationship.  My own Laurel / Apprentice relationship was extremely close (and continues to be so today, as she's one of my best friends), and I wanted a similar relationship with my own students because it's been such a wonderful part of my life. She lived in a different state, so I was concerned about whether the distance would allow that closeness to build, but thanks to Modern Technology, that was less of an issue.

The apprenticing Ceremony - whereupon I gave her a green belt
marking her as an apprentice.
Photo by Charlotte Hayes of Shutterbug Creations
We have a lot in common. We both can be patient with others and impatient with ourselves, driven with the need for perfection, ferocious with our defense of quality and standards, and unforgiving of little mistakes that no one else ever notices. Luckily, my Laurel taught me to recognize those things in myself, and how to temper them, so that I could pass her wisdom on.
My Laurel is the one with the riding crop. Photo by Bardulf Rouen.
Her SCA name is Isemay the Nimble, and her dedication to improving her skills went past intimidating into almost worrisome. She didn't need me to prod her into harder work, or insane projects, because she jumped into those all by herself. I didn't have to tell her to practice, or even give her technical advice, because it wasn't long before she was better than I was, pulling off pen twists and tricks like she'd been doing them for years.
An example of Isemay's work. Seriously?! This is ridiculous. Ridiculously AWESOME.

She needed me to be a sounding board, and a lot of times, the questions she'd ask weren't because she didn't know the answers, but because she didn't have confidence that her answers were right. My job was to build her confidence, reassure her, and stand in her corner while she fought her own battles. My job was to keep her from beating herself up over the small mistakes, to learn to let things go by so that she could keep going forward, and to help her celebrate the triumphs. It has been a lot of fun.

But unfortunately, everyone else could see how awesome she was too, and this last Saturday, she was also recognized as a member of the Order of the Laurel and a master of her art.

There has never been a moment that I regretted having an apprentice or felt burdened by my duty to her as her Laurel. It has been a great joy and a great honor to be known as her Laurel, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

Congratulations Isemay!


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