Part 59 - Q&A V: The Return
by Lord Thomas the Black


 Q&A V: The Return

            Welcome back to another edition of Blackmaille! Another year has come and gone, so it's time for our annual Q&A article! Whee!

1.) How do I get started in maille?

            Well, you're reading "Blackmaille", which is a good start! Seriously, though, I originally started writing these articles as a beginner's guide to maille. Go back and re-read the first few articles, which cover the different types of wire, cutters, mandrels, etc. re-read those with an eye towards your project, and you'll begin to see where you need to go from there.

2.)When is your book coming out?

            I wish I knew! "Chainmaille in the Current Middle Ages" has been in the works for years now. The book itself is written (Vol. 1, anyway), and is awaiting the photos involved. This is the lengthy part, however, as I've only recently acquired a digital camera, and all the pieces covered in the book will need to be made and photographed. After that, I'll need to find a publisher and begin working on vol.2.

            All of this is on top of writing "Blackmaille" every month, SCA Baronial/Kingdom largess projects, running and SCA guild, and my own riveted maille projects. Whew! I'm tired just writing all of that!

3.)Will you make a coif/hauberk/whatever for my Scout troop?

            Normally, I would love to. I was a scout in my youth, and I think it's a great organization doing a lot of good. Unfortunately, for the reasons listed above (see #2), I just can't. I have too much on my plate. If it's for a thematic event ("Knights of the Round Table" or whatnot), contact your local SCA group. They love doing demos like this, and we love talking to kids about what we do. If your group's in the Kansas City Metro area, I'll try to free up some time in my schedule to drag as much maille as I can carry out to your event!

            Another thing you might look into is making it yourself. I put together everything I needed for my first hauberk for less than $100.00! Plus, not only will you be able to say "I made this!", you can show the scouts how to make their own! Maille is a great group project, as you can get them started, and just check up every now and then to see how they're doing. They'll hum along happily on it all by themselves!

4.)How do I get started doing Renaissance Festivals?

            That depends on what you want to do. First, find a renaissance/medieval festival in your area. Preferably as close as possible, as you'll need to be "on-site" as early as 7-8am most days. This is not the time to be driving more than an hour. Trust me on this: I used to drive from Topeka, KS to Bonner Springs, KS for the KC Renfest (an hour and a half each way), and it takes its toll on your body, your car, and your wallet.

            Now, if you want to be a performer, most renfests have a website, so look for the "participants' page". There you'll find what you need to do and where you need to go to audition for any of the roles the renfest has available. Do what the website recommends, and show up on time!

            If you want to be an artisan, there's a couple of ways to go about this, depending on whether you want to sell stuff, or just demo. If you want to sell stuff, there's usually an "artisans page" on the festival's website, so just go there and follow the directions, same as performers. Alternately, you could go to the festival, find an existing artisan who does what you'd like to do, and ask if you can "apprentice" with them. This usually involves helping with setup/teardown of the shop at the start/end of each day, cleanup, and other menial tasks in exchange for being taught the trade. This gets your foot in the door.

            To demo, it's even easier. The best option is to hook up with your local SCA group. Most festivals have an area set aside for the SCA, as it's the largest re-enactment group in the country. The SCA are friendly to newcomers, and they love showing the public what we do. I started out demoing for the SCA, and over the years built my demo into what it is today.

5.) I read in your "Behind the Scenes" article (Blackmaille #54) that you write articles several months in advance. Why this far ahead?

            There's a couple of reasons for this. First and foremost, the earliest articles (#1-7 or so) were all cranked out in the same 3-4 week period, so by the time #1 was posted, I had a roster of 7 or so already done. This was because I had a lot of info to get out, and it all had to be "compartmentalized" into individual articles.

            Fortunately, that gave me some leeway when later articles would take longer to produce, or if I'd run out of ideas (it happens!).

            The other reason for the gap is the time necessary to produce an article. As you saw in Blackmaille #54, a lot goes into each article. If I tried to do all that every month, I'd burn out. Of course, I'd get to enjoy the "whooshing" sound deadlines make as they go by, but in the end, I'd lose readers, since you fans wouldn't know when (or if!) new articles would be posted. This way, it's always around the first of the month.

6.) If I had a suggestion for a future article (or wanted to guest-write one myself), what do I do?

            I'm always looking for new ideas! Send your ideas to me at , subject line: "Blackmaille Ideas". If I use it, you'll get credit. If you want to guest-write an entire article about some aspect of maille I haven't already covered, email me at the above address, subject line: "Blackmaille Guest Article". If I like the idea, and have an upcoming gap in the schedule, I'll email you back with the specifics (deadline, format, etc). When your article is posted, you'll get full credit as author!  

            So ends another "viewer mail" article. Thanks for joining me for another month of "Blackmaille"! As usual, any and all hate mail, fan mail, questions, or comments can be sent to me at:

                                                c/o Thomas Beckett
                                                13628 Belmead Ave
                                                Grandview, MO  64030 

Or you can email me at:

            See you next month!

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