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Notes on Creating an Eye-Catching Display for SCA Demos and Competition

Notes on Creating an Eye-Catching Display for SCA Demos and Competition

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Published by Brenda Gerritsma
Just some thoughts from a someone in a visual arts field on ideas to make a stellar first impression with your display
Just some thoughts from a someone in a visual arts field on ideas to make a stellar first impression with your display

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Published by: Brenda Gerritsma on Feb 04, 2013
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07/26/2014

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Notes for Creating a Kickass Arts &Sciences Display forCompetition, Demonstration, and Exhibition in the SCA
(with additional notes on documentation presentation)Display:
Some brief notes specific to competitions:
-An awesome display is not as important as the piece being entered, concentrate on an awesomeproject first-Some competitions do mark for display, not all. It would be a good idea to look into the judgingforms for your area to see if that's listed, as well as ask around. The answer may also be differentat different levels of competitions. A local level may consider it good if you make at least a littleeffort with some thought behind it. Kingdom level may go as far as looking at not just thedisplay and how 'in context' it presents your piece, but how authentic your own garb whilepresenting is to the period and culture of the piece being judged-Never underestimate the importance of a first impression. On the other hand, don't get too work up about this stuff. It will enhance your display, but most of it isn't
necessary
, and using just afew of these display tricks at a time will still make your display look cool.
Introduction:
One of the easiest and best things you can do to improve the look of your display is to create agood neutral, medieval-looking 'backdrop' for displaying your object(s); something that peoplewon't and shouldn't even notice beyond "Wow, your display is so nice!", unless they arespecifically looking at the construction details of 
how
you set up your awesome display.Display should welcome visitors to explore the items on display, especially if it's not acompetition. It should be easy to look at, not too visually cluttered, easy for people to see whateverything is and where find any corresponding info on the object or objects you choose toprovide. Everything about the underlying set up on which you display your objects should serveto enhance the focus on the project itself; nothing should distract attention away from them.Important things to keep in mind are that humans focus on certain things first, faces beforeanything else, brighter colours before dull, lighter before dark, tall before wide, and patterns tendto cause the eye to move along the lines of pattern rather than focus in one spot.
 
Tables:
Start from the very foundation of the display. Displays generally require tables. The tables inmost halls are the typical, modern folding banquet tables, some nicer looking and in bettercondition than others, but frankly, looking exactly like the modern things they are. And if you just place your objects on top of the table, you will have a display that looks like a bunch of objects on a modern table.The best option to avoid this would be to simply bring your own period, or period-looking table,if you have or can borrow one. But this is not an option for most people outside camping events.Even those with tables might find it difficult to pack one in a car.
 A much less space-consuming option is table-cloths. Choose one that displays the object(s) well.If you have more than one project, consider each separately, if they would all look good on thesame colour cloth, GREAT! If not, consider separate table cloths.~Neutral is best; a solid, not-too-bright colour that doesn't catch the eye quicker than theobject(s) on it, like pale colours, or dark, dull ones.~It's best if it is also without patterns to lead the eye away. Even a grey-on-grey plaid canvisually cause the eyes to follow the darker lines instead of focusing on the object. That's exactlyhow graphic designers get you to focus on things in ads, by using lines to cause your eyes tosubconsciously move to where they want you to look.~Consider the colour of your object(s). Unbleached, undyed cotton is a very neutral background,and good for colourful weaving and dyeing, for example, but not great for bone and antler carvedtools or accessories, which are a similar buff colour. Even a pale coloured cloth would cause thebone and antler to blend into their background. Navy, on the other hand, causes them to standout. A few additional points on this:~If you have multiple objects for a single project you want to keep them all on the samecloth, to maintain visual coherence (having more than one cloth beneath a singleproject and lead to a first impression that the objects are separate somehow)~If there is no one colour that best displays your objects, go for the one that best displaysthe majority of equally important objects (eg, a collection of different tools, of  jewellery items), or the colour that best displays the main piece (eg, if displayinga piece of weaving with supporting samples, you want the weaving to be the onemost enhanced by the background)~If something gets truly lost on the background colour, put a small piece of cloth like acloth napkin under it, and make sure it is surrounded by the other pieces andsamples of that project, rather than to one side, to maintain the idea of it beingpart of the same project~period fabric for the item also a good thought, especially anything that would be seen incontext on a piece of fabric (eg, Viking beads)
 
~Consider the culture of your object, and how it would have been seen in its context in period. If there is a colour that is often closely related to the culture your object(s) are from, consider usingit in some way. A couple of examples, using red (a colour I would consider one to avoid undermost circumstances, as it is bright and eye-catching enough to overwhelm most projects):~ I once saw a very effective use of a red table cloth used by someone presenting severalentries including some based around her Russian persona. Since red is a VERYpopular colour in her cultural context, the colour complimented her objects ratherthan overwhelming them, as many would have been seen in close proximity to redin context~Anglo-Saxon jewellery and embroidery often pair red and gold together, because bothare equally bright but complimentary instead of clashing, so a display of gold orbrass objects might actually look really good on a red table cloth, and especiallyso if it's Anglo-Saxon objects!~But be careful with this, of course. Gold-work with garnet, or a predominantly redgarment for example would probably NOT work on red, as the red on the objectswould just blend with the background, and you would lose the eye-popping effectof the pieces.~Consider how to maximize visual impact of multiple projects on different coloured table cloths.While grouping projects that look good on the same coloured cloth together is the most efficientuse of the cloth, it can make your table look lopsided and visually confusing. It would work wellif you have two tables worth of space to present your projects and can separate them a bit (whichhas other advantages in terms of presentation; see below), but if you have only one table:~Consider the visual impact of heraldic display, even if your object's culture is not a heraldicdisplay culture, as the theory behind such display is a good source for inspiration on this.~If you have three or four projects, two of which look good on one colour of table cloth,and one or two which need a different colour, try for two colours with highcontrast~if one of the cloth colours that two projects can go on is a piece big enough, onepossibility to maximize impact is to spread it across the whole table and put theother colour over top in the centre, or you have two pieces of the same colour, putthem on either end.`~alternating between the colours might also work ~If you have only one table and need to use more than two colours consider arranging them inorder from most neutral to most eye-catching, so as not to have your most eye-catchingbackground overwhelm the most neutral. Remember that in most western cultures left to right,with the most impactful thing on the right is a more comfortable visual for most people.~Steer away from science fair stands~Seriously, just don't. For one thing, it limits where you can stand when presenting yourproject. If you're in a very cramped hall, you may not really have room to stand infront with your judges. For another, it LOOKS like a science fair stand. Especiallyif it's bristol board or cardboard.

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