Notes for Creating a Kickass Arts &Sciences Display for Competition, 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 awesome project first -Some competitions do mark for display, not all. It would be a good idea to look into the judging forms for your area to see if that's listed, as well as ask around. The answer may also be different at different levels of competitions. A local level may consider it good if you make at least a little effort with some thought behind it. Kingdom level may go as far as looking at not just the display and how 'in context' it presents your piece, but how authentic your own garb while presenting 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 a few 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 a good neutral, medieval-looking 'backdrop' for displaying your object(s); something that people won't and shouldn't even notice beyond "Wow, your display is so nice!", unless they are specifically 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 a competition. It should be easy to look at, not too visually cluttered, easy for people to see what everything is and where find any corresponding info on the object or objects you choose to provide. Everything about the underlying set up on which you display your objects should serve to 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 before anything else, brighter colours before dull, lighter before dark, tall before wide, and patterns tend to 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 in most halls are the typical, modern folding banquet tables, some nicer looking and in better condition 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 the same 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 the object(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 can visually cause the eyes to follow the darker lines instead of focusing on the object. That's exactly how graphic designers get you to focus on things in ads, by using lines to cause your eyes to subconsciously 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 carved tools or accessories, which are a similar buff colour. Even a pale coloured cloth would cause the bone and antler to blend into their background. Navy, on the other hand, causes them to stand out. A few additional points on this: ~If you have multiple objects for a single project you want to keep them all on the same cloth, to maintain visual coherence (having more than one cloth beneath a single project 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 displays the 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 displaying a piece of weaving with supporting samples, you want the weaving to be the one most enhanced by the background) ~If something gets truly lost on the background colour, put a small piece of cloth like a cloth napkin under it, and make sure it is surrounded by the other pieces and samples of that project, rather than to one side, to maintain the idea of it being part of the same project ~period fabric for the item also a good thought, especially anything that would be seen in context 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 using it in some way. A couple of examples, using red (a colour I would consider one to avoid under most 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 several entries including some based around her Russian persona. Since red is a VERY popular colour in her cultural context, the colour complimented her objects rather than overwhelming them, as many would have been seen in close proximity to red in context ~Anglo-Saxon jewellery and embroidery often pair red and gold together, because both are equally bright but complimentary instead of clashing, so a display of gold or brass objects might actually look really good on a red table cloth, and especially so if it's Anglo-Saxon objects! ~But be careful with this, of course. Gold-work with garnet, or a predominantly red garment for example would probably NOT work on red, as the red on the objects would just blend with the background, and you would lose the eye-popping effect of 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 efficient use of the cloth, it can make your table look lopsided and visually confusing. It would work well if you have two tables worth of space to present your projects and can separate them a bit (which has 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 heraldic display 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 high contrast ~if one of the cloth colours that two projects can go on is a piece big enough, one possibility to maximize impact is to spread it across the whole table and put the other colour over top in the centre, or you have two pieces of the same colour, put them 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 in order from most neutral to most eye-catching, so as not to have your most eye-catching background 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 your project. If you're in a very cramped hall, you may not really have room to stand in front with your judges. For another, it LOOKS like a science fair stand. Especially if it's bristol board or cardboard.

~On the other hand, backdrops can be very handy, if the hall is crowded enough that your display may end up in the middle of the room, or the hall is very modern looking, or you're sharing a round or deep table. ~consider the use of banner poles, or some kind of frame (moveable clothing rack, for example) to hang a curtain from; if your fabric is light enough, and you have a wall behind the display, sticky tack (if allowed by the hall) is good. Use the same principals behind choosing your table cloth, though a plain dark cloth works better here than on your table. ~If none of these are an option, don't sweat it. No one expects it, and they'll be looking down at the thing laid out on your table anyway. ~Use period or very culturally neutral containers of period materials ~glass, ceramic, wood, stone, preferably in the period of the items displayed inside; if not, try for something so plain it doesn't look like it comes from any particular period or culture ~use clear glass, not pottery for liquids; makes it much easier to see. If it's an old, modern type of jar or bottle, see if you can hide the modern lid or cap with cloth or replace it with a cork or something ~consider the value of the object in your culture as well; an elaborate, rich dish like a soteltie (subtlety) will look odd on an old beaten up wooden platter, peasant's cabbage soup would look equally out of place in a fine Byzantine glassware bowl

Signs Signs labelling the objects and any steps in the process you are displaying are the BEST!!!! Things to be aware of: Font: ~Readability is WAY more important than using a cute period-ish font. People should be able to read it easily, without even thinking about it Font Size: ~Signs for the object category or entry should be big enough to be read at a glance by someone standing a couple feet away from your table. They'll draw people in when they see an object they're interested in or never heard of before. ~Signs for different specific parts of the entry or display, for process stages, etc, should be smaller, so the main sign is the first one seen Colour of signs and font: ~Neutral as possible, with just enough of a colour difference to stand out from the display background, they don't need to scream "LOOK AT ME!!!!!" :D ~Neutral font colour that shows well against the colour of the sign

How to lay them out: ~Main sign for the entry or object category should be in the centre and either raised, near the back, or close to the front of the display to catch people's eyes ~Smaller signs should be as close as possible to the object they represent, without blocking the view (especially for competition, remember your judges are probably seated in front of the display, make sure the signs don't block the view from that position either.)

Excellent additions to any display (so long as they don't clutter up the display): ~Samples of the type of object at each step, or as many as feasible, depending on the nature of the samples, if they clutter up your display, you can tuck them under or behind the display and bring them out when showing people how to make the object ~Previous attempts; if this isn't your first time making this object, and it's not perishable, bring along any previously made examples. You don't have to display them, but they're very handy for showing how you've progressed, what mistakes you've made or incorrect processes and ideas you had and what you learned from them, and especially to show newer and possibly intimidated people that you didn't start making this stuff perfectly. :) ~If parts of the object or repetitive tasks of the object were done using modern techniques, have a sample done in period fashion to show how it would differ or be the same, and to show you have knowledge of how it would have been done ~ Consider the Context of the object in its time and place. ~For example, if it would have hung on a wall, try to find a way to hang it, for the first impression. Remember to do it in a way that allows judges/interested viewers to see it up close, and from different angles, or that it can be taken down and put back up easily. If it needs to be taken apart to show the inner workings, make sure that can be done. ~If it is something that would be worn on a body, try to display it that way; eg. a dressmaker's dummy, a display head for hats, even a person (if they don't mind potentially partially disrobing in public if you need to show construction) ~Consider the Visual Impact of the height at which a project is displayed. ~If you have something you want to feature prominently that has a lot of supporting objects, think about putting some kind of stand under the table cloth (or additionally draped) to raise it physically above the supporting objects. ~If one of your projects (on a table with several separate projects) is tall, try to find it a place where it doesn't visually draw attention away from the projects beside it. ~ Consider including a Work in Progress; if you've already started on the next one of this type of object, bring it along. If you can, consider using it to demonstrate the technique. ~ Consider finding a way to do a Demonstration of the Technique even if you don't have a piece in progress. Showing is always better than telling.

~If you have access to the Books or Photocopies you used at the time of the display or competition, and you're not worried about their safety, bring them along. ~But make sure relevant passages (on photocopies) are highlighted, and books are bookmarked with marked tabs for exactly what information are to be found at each tab. You don't want to be fumbling for a specific page in the middle of a presentation.

Please note, this is not about how to write good documentation, but how to effectively use it to enhance your display or competition entry. ~If for competition, there should always be at least one copy per judge, and one copy for you (set aside). If the judge asks you a question about something in the documentation and you can't quite remember what they're inquiring about, you don't want to have to ask them to hand you their copy to look. Also, if you have your own copy you can take notes on it. ~Bring EXTRA COPIES of documentation (you can skip expensive colour pictures if you want). Odds are good you will find at least one or two people who are so into what you're doing, they'll want to take something home to read more closely and follow up on. ~Some kind of 'business' card with your real and/or SCA name and contact info is also very handy. And a pen. So they can write down on the card why they got it from you, so when they find it back in the bottom of their basket or garb bin they know why the heck they have it and who you are. ~Use an annotated bibliography for competition. Remember, your judges may not be familiar with your sources; annotating what they are, why they were helpful, what information you got from them, anything that would help them determine whether it's likely to be a good source is helpful. ~This is especially true for obscure sources and sources that are, or appear to be only peripherally related to your object. ~This is especially, especially true of internet sources, which are still often viewed with suspicion or disdain. If you know your source would be perfectly acceptable if you'd had it in a dead-tree version, make sure they have no reason not to realize that it is such a source ~Have the documentation read over by someone who isn’t so close to you that they practically live in your brain, and can hear your voice when they read your words

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