Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Pent vs. Pent

[This article was originally posted on Lady Lucia de Moranza's blog.]
As a warning, this post is going to be long, light on pictures, and heavy on process geekery. I won’t be offended if you skip reading it. (Heck,  I won’t even know!)
In a moment of brilliance (or stupidity), I determined that I could take my 5 entries from Ealdormere’s Pentathlon and turn around and enter them into Aethelmaerc’s pentathlon at Ice Dragon two weeks later. I wanted to compare as directly as possible, so no change in documentation, no change in project state (other than the bread. I did bake new bread.)
The two experiences were very very different.
Ealdormere groups the five items together, to be displayed together. Items are pre-registered and documentation is submitted in advance to be forwarded to the judges. I think you have to have five actual items, but I can’t find that in the rules anywhere. There are no category requirements and items are not differentiated by the artisan’s award level. The artisan is with their work, meets with the judges for each piece and gives a quick overview to previous pent winners who decide as a collective who wins pentathlon. The artisan receives both comments and numerical scores on their judging forms.
Aethelmaerc puts each entry into its category (cooking with cooking, embroidery with embroidery) and requires at least three categories be represented. Each category is further separated by the entrant’s award level (Orion and lower: Novice. Crucible: Intermediate: Laurels get their own category.) There is no pre-registration of items (only that you’ll be arriving at all, but that’s not required). Items may be entered in more than one category. (ie an embroidered dress could be entered both as clothing and needlework.) It is a blind judging, so no names or identification on any piece or on your documentation only an entrant number. There was four hours between setting up items on their respective tables and returning to pick them up again, judging happened in that time. Artisans only receive comment forms left with their entries, no numerical scores. Overall pent winner for each award level is determined by score total.
I’m vaguely remembering numbers here, but I believe Ealdormere had about 50 entries (individuals as well as 3 adult pentathlon and 1 child pent entry), and Aethelmaerc had about 115 entries (I have no idea if all of those were pent entires or not). Considering our respective sizes of kingdom, Ealdormere might have a few A&S types. Go us.:)
In the interest of full disclosure, I won pentathlon in Ealdormere (along with four sponsored prizes). My knitted bag took second in novice fibre arts, and my counted sampler took first in novice needlework in Aethelmaerc.
I hate blind judging. I’d never experienced it before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it was as frustrating as I feared. Basic questions that came back on the judging forms in AE could have been answered in the first 5 seconds of face to face judging (or often by opening my documentation.) The judge format in AE gave those poor judges not a whit of time to actually READ documentation, especially in the giant categories. My dye entry got an afterthought one liner comment at the bottom of my knitting comment form as the only sign it got judged at all. (Fibre arts took over two full tables. Most other categories didn’t fill a single table.)
In terms of comments and feedback, once I allowed for AE’s nightmare for their poor judges, it was about on par. E’s judges got to focus their comments far more, because I was right there, to answer the basic questions that I might have missed in the docs, or they wanted clarification on. I got useful comments from both kingdoms, I got unhelpful comments from both kingdoms. I got comments I disagree with (which is fine), I got unreasonably picky comments, and I got ‘nice work!’ sort of comments, which feeds the ego but isn’t helpful for growth. (Do not underestimate the value of a wee bit of ego feeding. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just like icing. Great to have, not a well balanced meal.)
Not receiving the numerical scores in AE made putting comments into context very challenging. Is this a minor note for improvement later, or was it a make or break issue for you? Not having met the judges also made it the same sort of hard to read as email critiques. Was that written tone supposed to be informational or hard line? Is this a ‘your basis for this work is wrong!’ or a ‘you are 99% there, here’s how to get that last 1% to get to amazing’.
Probably what I missed most was the camaraderie, however. Between artisans as we hung out by our work and got to geek out together. Between artisan and judge as they got to provide advice and direction and geek out together. I missed being able to put faces to work, to be able to start to recognize other artisans (especially when out of kingdom. I still can’t tell you who the AE A&S types are. I can now recognize some of their work, but not the awesome people behind it.) I really feel for the judges in AE, especially the ones for the big categories (fibre arts and needlework especially). That’s a lot of entries in a very short period of time. It has got to be gruelling and it makes the comments they left all the more impressive, for how little time they had to write them.
I suppose it’s more competitive, to have the blind judging, more fair in the scoring, but missing out on the people interactions was far more disappointing than not winning. I’m glad I did it, I got good things out of both, but I really did miss the personal touch.
If I’ve gotten details wrong, please do let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Comment from one of your Poor Judges: Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa OL, OP. As Master Fredrickr has mentioned elsewhere, you entered a regional Baronial-sponsored A&S competition in AEthelmearc, not a Kingdom sponsored event. I judged the Fiber Arts category, along with two other judges. I'd like to address things other than whether a contestant won or 'lost' in this event. And yes it is 'not all about you, the contestant'. It really is more far reaching than that. In fact, I'd like to turn the focus on those who saw the work entered and the effect that had on the future of A&S in our Kingdom and beyond. The mere fact that entries were present with documentation is very inspiring for all levels of our populace, from the 'wow' factor entries to the simplest 'gee, I think I can do that too' encouragement. I know, from many years of mentoring entrants both before and after this particular competition, that the benefits are far reaching for those who do pull up their socks and enter. Many of these entries become the heart of splendid classes taught in our Kingdom and at Pennsic, for example. Those who complete an entry often are hungry enough to do further research. Yes, it is true, this wasn't a perfect competition. and yes, I wasn't the perfect judge. I did examine your work. I didn't have time to leave comments, But your finely knitted purse was viewed by many and it is possible that more knitters will attempt to do what you so patiently created. This is what the SCA is really about, not a pile of Attaboys, though they are pleasant validation. As you point out, there are many ways to share your work. I suggest that you also take the opportunity to volunteer as a judge sometime, or better yet, arrange an A&S event to have a more complete view of the process. I find it amazing that, year after year, the Barony of the Rhydderich Hael bravely runs this huge.A&S competition in 4 hours with 115 - 150 entries with winners announced in Court. A huge treat for those who see what the SCA hath wrought!