The point system is one of the great bug-a-boo’s new judges have about Ice Dragon scoring. Stop worrying! Everyone has rated other things in their lives on a scale of 1-10 or 1-100. (“4.2 from the Russian judge”; “she was a perfect 10”).
The 60 point system for Ice Dragon is divided as follows*:
*This is for most Letter categories. NOTE: Rubrics are based on a total score of 30 which is then doubled by our computer staff for the final total score of 60. Rubrics judges need to read over the rubrics before they show up to judge. (Post-1400 Costuming; Cooking; Needlework; Armoring; Illumination; Calligraphy) To see rubrics for each of these categories, click here.
DOCUMENTATION, despite being the most feared aspect of the Pent for entrants, is the easiest to judge consistently. Starting at the low end of the scale, if the entry has a 3x5 card stating what it is, you can give them 1 to 2 points. If the entrant has a well-written, well thought-out set of documentation, with specific reasons for changes from the original, or use of non-period materials or methods (originals were poisonous/allergens/dangerous/too expensive), but shows a clear understanding of what WAS used in Period both for technique and materials, then full points should not be lost for deviating from Period practice.
Obviously, a lot of documentation does not mean good documentation. A stack of Xeroxed pictures with no explanations of where their sources are from is not good documentation. For various examples of actual documentation, see documentation.
Rule of thumb guidelines:
Any documentation: one-two points
Citing one secondary or tertiary source three-four points
Citing two secondary or tertiary sources four-six points
Citing one primary and one secondary source seven-eight points
Citing two primary sources nine-ten points
Quick reference for documentation quality:
A primary source is a source directly from the Middle Ages (ec. a manuscript from 1409 giving a recipe for rabbit glue for gold leafing (cite the shelf mark of manuscript and provide a pix of page or transcription by well-accredited scholar), or a Holbein portrait of one of the Tudors used as documentation for a specific pattern or black-work trim…or better yet, the accession no. of a trim piece in a named museum. Archaeological studies often report on extant objects that are directly from the Middle Ages and datable from the context they were found in. A visit to a museum to study an accessioned object would also be considered a primary source (include that accession no!). NOTE: There is disagreement among judges over the exact definition of primary sources. Please use your own judgment in this.
A secondary source is once removed from sources in the Middle Ages or Renaissance (ie. a modern or Victorian translation of a Middle English workbook… using someone’s college research paper or web publication on 15th century portraits as a basis for choosing color for garb.) Many secondary sources are good to excellent (ie. Mistress Thora Sharptooth’s excellent webpages on things Viking), but many more are not. Victorian sources, in particular, have many inaccuracies that are only showing up under today’s scrutiny. Another problem that surfaces are drawings taken from originals. Often, the artists have put more of themselves and their own timeperiod into the copy than existed in the original, altering or leaving out important details. Good secondary sources have bibliographies that point to where the author got his/her information.
Tertiary sources, as you may guess, are even further removed from the original. A how-to book on tablet weaving that mentions it was used in Viking times with no specific examples or even much of a bibliography would be considered (at least) a tertiary source. While it’s fine for telling you how to make that warp edged tablet weaving for your Viking dress, it doesn’t give any reason for you to make it (ie. NO concrete examples that the Vikings used tablet weaving at all, much less in this particular fashion). The book’s statements could just as easily be the author’s own unsubstantiated opinion. Tertiary sources often are missing bibliographies entirely. They often are also vague about where their medieval images came from.
WORKMANSHIP is also fairly straight forward. Most of us can tell good workmanship when we see it. Rating it on a scale of 1 to 10 is not too difficult. Be sure to feel, smell, hear and taste, as is appropriate, for quality as well. Remember to consider, though, how a finished object was produced in its timeperiod. Some objects were quickly made from cheaper materials and some slowly made from the best materials. Does the entry reflect its economic level and timeperiod? It is easy to use modern taste and look only at perfect control of materials. Workmanship varied in Period, too – if the documentation explains the economic level, this should be taken into consideration.
AESTHETICS is a very personal topic for judging. Every object has its own charms and charisma or lack of it, just like people. Some judges I know go by what they themselves, like. Others try to judge by what they think the general populace would prefer. In other cases, judgement is made on the Medieval aesthetics stands, if well understood. Any of these ways are acceptable, but I suspect that the former is easier.
COMPLEXITY seems a clear-cut issue. It isn’t as easy as you think. Many people go into a competition and see a plain Viking tunic next to a beaded and bedecked Tudor costume and immediately believe that the Tudor is more complex. Actually, they may be on a par, You also have to consider the effort put into the piece. If the Viking tunic was hand-woven from hand-spun wool, dyed with natural dyes, and decorated with linen thread made from homegrown flax, the complexity of the piece made equal or exceed the Tudor gown with purchased trim, modern-made material and plastic boning. Basically, complexity is a counting of steps needed. Some objects, by their very nature, have less complexity (bone needles, for instance.)
CREATIVITY, the act of creation, is present in all the entries for Ice Dragon. Creation involves planning, obtaining harmony within varied elements of an object, and problem solving. In Ice Dragon’s past, there has been a suggestion that objects that are perfect re-creations of Medieval examples should be docked creativity points. This is based on a misconception that we are capable of producing an exact copy. The assumption is that an exact copy involves little or no creativity. But a huge amount of planning and problem solving goes into copying ‘exactly’ and is in fact, worthy of creativity points, even if the creator does not seem to have deviated from color, shape, form or materials (see Authenticity, below). This is the opinion of the Pentocrat, and each judge must make their own decision on this.
AUTHENTICITY reaches its highest level when an object is made that is very hard to separate from an actual Medieval object. While this sounds easy, it is actually almost impossible to EXACTLY re-create an object. (ie. even if a liripipe hood is hand spun from fleece, hand dyed with natural dyes, hand woven on a counterbalance loom, hand sewn from the layout of a period extant example, that hood is still NOT exactly made from Medieval fleece, which has been lost in modern sheep breeding; is still NOT exactly woven on a Medieval loom; is still not sewn with a properly sized Medieval needle. Also, consider a person setting out to make a perfect copy of a manuscript page. This would entail finding the right breed of sheep to make the vellum; the exact pigments from the exact locations ground to the exactly matched fineness for each color; the exact right brushes; to say nothing of laying out the images in the right order and making the exact match of ink and correct application of gold leaf. We might come close, but exactly? Probably impossible if one looks closely enough.). Does that mean that Authenticity can never be a 10? For this competition, we suggest mercy – a 10 is possible.
AUTHENTICITY and CREATIVITY go hand in hand, believe it or not. We must achieve a balance between them.
One last set of comments regarding authenticity. You can often get a feel for the authenticity of an item from its documentation when you are not fully familiar with that particular type of item. This makes the documentation very important. A judging headache is the item with insufficient documentation and a very close re-creation mimicking a Period item. If your specialty lies with this technique, then you have the option to score higher than the documentation might indicate. If you are not familiar with that item, then it must ride on the quality of the documentation.
Pooling your judging: It is possible to pool background knowledge of objects and techniques during the judging. Feel free to ask other judges in your group or in the judging room for their opinion on an unfamiliar item. If George knows Mongol armour from the period of Timur and Frank knows what Teutonic knights were using, then by all means, talk to each other. “Talk” does not mean brow-beat, intimidate or lead by the nose for scoring outcomes. “Talk” means quietly and briefly sharing specific information. Neither does talk mean finding out what George’s scores are and copying them or copying his comments on the comment sheets-we want YOUR input in this competition. We seek a variety of viewpoints.
Cross Entries and Judging dangers associated with them:
Be sure to check on all the Letter categories associated with a cross entry. This means looking in the documentation box AND the table for 3x5 cards associated with a ‘missing’ item. Generally the missing item is displayed with a different letter category. It has cross over. Remember that you are scoring for one specific letter category and must go by what is provided for just that category. An item can be very strong in brass work, and well documented, but poorly documented in leatherwork, though well done. If you are the leather judge, you must follow what is provided for leather, and pretty much ignore the beautiful brasswork. That’s for the metal judge to consider.
The SCA is a small place. If you are a Laurel or Fleur, you may be quite familiar with a number of artists’ works. You are likely to be judging objects from those you know. This will come down to personal integrity. We ask that you do not judge under the following conditions:
1. Your spouse, family member or significant other has entered an item in your category.
2. You are entered in the Pent yourself, even if you are judging a category you have nothing in.
3. You feel you cannot be objective while judging work you suspect is familiar to you.
If every judge at Ice Dragon excused themselves because they recognized (or suspected they knew) the work of certain contestants, then we would have virtually no judges for Ice Dragon. We ask that you remain objective and judge entries on their own merits. There is no harm in judging the work of people you know as long as you can maintain objectivity. This is also true in the case of artistic styles or time periods that are your ‘personal favorites’ (ie. your favorite costume period is Tudor and you are judging a 1340s tunic).
Working with Entries:
When you are working with items for judging, please be sure to handle them very carefully with clean hands and gentle fingers. Huge amounts of blood, sweat and tears go into these entries and they deserve our care and respect. Also, be particularly careful to return the entry and its documentation to their place on the tables and in the correct documentation boxes for the next judge to examine.
Comment Sheets: (or how not to crush the contestant like a bug)
The comment sheets are a very important service provided for our entrants. Many many contestants treasure each comment you find time to make. These comments often lead to major improvement in a contestant’s new work. Unfortunately, they can also lead to contestants swearing they will never enter a competition again (and they keep their word, unfortunately.) The comments sheets should always start with encouragement and admiration. Every object has a good point. Find that and emphasis it. Then work on one or two issues that could make their next entry better. If you have further sources that they would enjoy, suggest them or leave a way for the contestant to contact you for further information. Then finish with further good comments on the existing effort. This doesn’t need to be long. However, a simple “good job” is not quite enough. Most contestants want to improve their work. Help them but avoid being blunt. If you have any doubts about your wording, have someone else look it over. (The pentocrat is available for this.)
Score first, however, and go back and work on your comments. Time is of the essence.
Fairness in Judging:
Is it possible to have the judging at Ice Dragon come out totally fair? There are so many uncontrollable elements that I suspect the answer is no, not quite. We judge a vast variety of objects and squeeze them into a few categories that result in the “apples and oranges’ syndrome. Our judges, by the very nature of our modestly sized Kingdom, do not come from far far away. They may be familiar with some of the work. Picking a ‘winner’ is inherently unfair in competitions with many fabulous pieces, performances and studies, each of them quite fascinating in themselves. We do our best, as judges. The outcome of our effort is the increase in quality and the ongoing development of researchers who, in the over 30 years of the Society, have been making a mark on both the academic world and the increased public understanding of the Medieval experience. Vivats to all the brave souls who put their hands up to judge and may the gods bless the brave and intrepid contestants.
Mistress Rhiannon y Bwa (and Mistress Cori Ghora, who provided much of the wording so long ago)