Update on French armour and some pitiful musings on a competition
While I was trying to answer a question for a guy in the Netherlands I found a piece one of my own old puzzles. It's cool when the karmic boomerang brings you good things and so quickly. One of the guys I couldn't identify in my post on French armour was Louis de Sancerre, who was marshal and constable of France. Check out some great pics of him, including his awesome haircut and super simple conical vambraces here.
Here they are on display:
At Candlemas (a pretty big event for a pretty arty barony), they didn't win, but they did OK. They got a 45/50 from one judge and I think a 37/50 from the other. At Kingdom A&S they didn't score all that well. OK, one of the judges, and I should be honest, most of this is about my bewilderment with one judge, gave them the lowest score I've ever personally witnessed in an A&S competition. They got a a 30/50 from one judge and a 35/50 from the other. For what it's worth all my judges in both competitions were laurels. Kingdom A&S is pretty competitive, and there honestly were some outstanding entries, so I can understand harder grading. 17 out of the 29 entries scored an 40 or better which I guess is an average of the two judge's scores.
There were some scratches in the finish, and one of the vambraces had a bit of a bend in it from the firing step that I wasn't able to get out. I got dinged a lot by The One judge for not having straps and buckles installed. I provided both a short and a long version of the documentation which I think helped in general, though the long version, at 22 pages was probably too long and technical for a judge to really dig through. I wanted to share a lot of what I learned about metallurgy and historical approaches and should have edited it down to a shorter final copy.
Back to the vambrace shape- in my documentation (which I probably should just entitle TLDR) I explicitly said the vambrace shape was based on originals which were essentially cone segments like Louis up above or the Black Prince, not on the more tulip shaped lines of the Dauphin's harness from Chartres. The latter is a beautiful kit, and I've made versions of the arms, greaves and sabatons. Some arm harnesses from this era have a sharper point to the elbow. Again, I've made those, and have built some tools to make it fairly easy to do, but I cited the Black Prince and Bertrand du Guesclin's effigies, with their rounded elbows as my inspirations. Comments from The One judge lead me to feel I lost some points for not incorporating the tulip shaping, or the pointed elbow. Now I get that if I said I'm trying to create a clone of the Chartres arms, and just cheesed out on the sculpting. But it would have been wrong to shape them like that when it wasn't part of my target piece. It's like drawing a perfectly fine duck and getting marked down for it not having sharp talons and a razor sharp beak. It's a duck, you say, show them pictures of a duck, and make quacking noises (seriously I had essentially this conversation with the judge). The One says "No! It should look fierce!"
Oddly, The One that took off points for the vambrace shape also gave me a 10/10 for materials, which I wouldn't have. Of course it's all subjective, but to me a 10 says you went insanely far out of your way to get the perfect materials- like you smelted your own ore from a historical mine using a period method in a furnace you built yourself from clay you dug out of the Bavarian alps, fired with charcoal you made using a documentable European wood etc. I like having something extra out there to inspire us to go farther, and I'm totally OK with getting a 7 or 8 on that when I buy sheet steel from a supplier. My TLDR documentation talked about the difference in atomic content and crystal structure between historical steel and what I had. In my mind the differences are significant, and only partially justifiable, though you'd literally need an electron microscope to really tell the difference. So some pluses here, some minuses there (neither of which make sense to me) may have cancelled each other out.
There's a section in our judging forms which is ten points on presentation/overall impression. There's less guidance on it than in other sections. The One gave me 3/10 on that. The 5 blank lines that follow, and allow you to give a contestant a bit more detail, maybe specifics to work on had a single word fragment: "Disp." I think he meant the display could be... um, more? Dunno. Frankly it felt like a random kick in the balls. My display was pretty spartan, without a lot of fru-fru stuff. So are most museums and I think they get the idea across pretty well.
So the experience left me frustrated with myself for not doing better, and possibly having unrealistic expectations. I'm sure I can make better pieces, and in a way this is an inspirational challenge. I can make the judge's job easier with improvements to my documentation. It was mostly the work of one judge that has me disillusioned with competitions some, and that bugs me. Honestly I think I'm fairly tough and sure of myself. I'm aware that my value to the world isn't just what I can create or how I do in an art contest. But if something like this happened to most people I think they'd either be intensely angry, or take their toys and never come back. I'm not sure if my statements here are fueled just by self pity, but I'm concerned that this judge might do the same thing to someone else if I don't talk about it. As an occasional judge myself (I ran two competitions just last weekend) I'm determined not to discourage anyone like I've been discouraged here, and this may be my first step in ensuring that other judges don't do it either.