Becoming a Laurel

Here are the bare bones steps you need to become a Laurel in the SCA.
Standard disclaimer: this is my opinion and does not represent the views of all Laurels (or Laurel councils) everywhere.

1. Research something medieval
No, really, crack a book open and really dig into something. Do not sit on your laurels(har har) and default to assuming that google-fu is sufficient. Start with the basic info books (“overview of {thing}”) then delve into deeper information (“Grave finds from {location} including sketches of skeletons and locations of found items”).  If you can, visit a museum.

Also, research something MEDIEVAL. Silk painting** is lovely but it’s not medieval. Expecting to be Laureled for making all the pretty not period things is an exercise in frustration.

“But there are no books about XYZ” Then you’ve chosen a difficult path. You either need to do the research yourself and prove your case or do a LOT of tertiary research (books that mention XYZ but are not directly about XYZ). You’ve chosen the difficult path. Don’t whine about it. Either do the work or pick a new path.

**Silk painting is taken only as a simple example. If your hill to die on is proving that resist methods of silk painting are period then good on you. You get your research and teach the classes and sing the evidence on high.

2. Share your information incessantly
This can be through formal classes, independent classes, posting pictures of the thing(s) you are making, talking to anyone who will sit still about the problems you’re running into and/or how you worked around that problem, making XYZ and selling***/gifting it.

Most of the time it’s not enough to just research XYZ. The exception is those cases where the peerage is granted for “Research of XYZ” (which frankly I see as the exception rather than the rule). So make the thing, perform the piece. Make lots of the thing. Make lots of iterations trying out different ideas of the thing. Share what you learned through these iterations and become the acknowledge expert about XYZ.

Teaching is a significant part of this. This means teaching classes either at A&S or independently. Have a handout, have an organized class, respond well to questions about the class content or about things you may not have considered, have a reason why you do it the way you do it and be willing to share it.

You are your only form of PR. If you and your Laurel (should you have one) are the only ones who know what you’re working on, then you have missed an opportunity for PR. Post on social media, have a blog, teach a class at a collegium, offer to do a workshop, participate in online forums. Be the acknowledged expert in XYZ.

Make sure that folks who do not live near you/interact with you know who you are and what you do. Share pictures of what you’ve made, commentary about how you made it, problems you’ve run into. Network with people who do things LIKE what you do.

Make the thing. I feel that it’s important to know what was done in period, what materials were used, how those materials were created, what materials are right/wrong for the project. When it comes to making the thing you need to know what is the right thing.. but you don’t always have to do that right thing. For example: I know that the proper material for my dress is wool. I know that it is shorn from sheep, washed, combed, spun, woven, etc but it is not necessary for me to go through all of those steps. I am completely okay with buying the wool as cloth.   I also know that the garment would be completely hand sewn but I do not require that a candidate hand sew their garments entirely. I feel it’s important to know what was done.. and to know how what I’m doing is different and to have justifications about why I’m doing something different.  Total transparency, doing ALL the right things will be a gold star.. and I will say that I learned a lot from completely hand sewing a garment.. but having valid reasons for what you do is okay too.

Maat wrote: Someone explained to me once that it’s not about doing everything perfectly. It’s about knowing how to do everything perfectly, making the decision not to do everything perfectly, and knowing exactly why you were making that decision.

“The person who asked me to make XYZ asked for {this thing which I know is not documentable/correct} but they’re paying for it/asked for it” Okay, fine.  Make the thing. Make it they way they asked it to be made.  When you do your PR (and you were going to PR the thing, right?) make sure you call out “I did {this thing} because it was part of the commission but I know that it should really be done {this way}”.  Be explicit.  TADA.

*** I personally have no problem with someone making money on their art but be aware that it can be an issue.

3. Mind your PLQs
If you are rude, flaky, uncommunicative, confrontational or any of a thousand other things this is a consideration. In short, PLQ (Peer Like Qualities) is the short hand way of saying “is this person someone that I’d be happy if they were a new person’s first Laurel they ever met” “Do I think that they will be a source of ‘All Laurels are Mean’ stories?”

We see each other for only a handful of days throughout the year. This means that every interaction is magnified. For example, you meet me, for some reason I’m having a bad day and I am curt with you or (possibly) rude. You leave our interactions remembering that I am rude. It takes 10-20 additional good interactions to convince you that really, that rude interaction was the exception. Because we don’t run into each other every day it takes about 3 years for us to have 10-20 interactions. So for 3 years you are of the firm opinion that I’m rude.. and eventually you change your opinion. Still, it took 3+ years. Now magnify this and apply it to everyone you meet in the SCA. My only suggestion is when you realize that you have been rude/mean/dismissive/confrontational, talk to the person with whom you’ve interacted and do what you can to apologize and make amends.

If you are doing a thing and have a deadline it’s understandable that sometimes things slip. Communicate about that. Let the people who are expecting you to deliver XYZ know as soon as possible that you will not/may not hit the deadline. There’s nothing more frustrating then receiving zero communication (or even worse, assurances that “everything is fine”) and then at the last minute being told that XYZ is not done. Be loud and fervent in communications. Make sure that the people who are depending on you know what is going on good or bad. Then if the thing does slip they can have plans in place to work around the slip.

Lastly, walk the walk. The easiest way to become a Laurel is to imagine what the perfect Laurel would do.. and then do that thing. Over time doing the “right” thing becomes second nature.

“I do all of this and I’m still not a Laurel”
If you are not an apprentice then I recommend you consider it. Your Laurel can help to guide you in ways that will help the Council to see you.

Next, be totally honest and go back and review these suggestions. Either you’re missing a step or a step which you thought was completed is not completed.

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