Choosing a Persona – Workshop Notes

Workshop notes from class given on Creating a persona at Fields of Gold 2018 by Roxy.

This is quite an ironic class for me to be teaching, because I actually don’t have a persona.

A persona, in re-enactment terms, is the name you give your character who is from, and lives in the time period and culture that you are choosing to re-enact. They have a background and history that explains why you have the clothing and accessories and even the name. 

It’s not something that Company of the Staple chooses to focuses on. 

But Company of the Staple is a single time period and culture. Re-enacting only 1376 and only continental England, Staple has some of the strictest requirements about culture and time period re-enactment of pretty much any medieval re-enactment group in Australia.

Why Continental England?

Staple chooses to re-enact an English portrayal, because as Australians, all of our members speak English, and few speak another language. It means that looking at English sources is a lot easier as we can read medieval English and it’s more likely to be translated into modern English. Manuscript images, effigies and various primary sources, are more likely to be in English musuems and on English websites, making it easier for us to track these down. 

And yet, in the 14th century, England, being an island, is somewhat isolated from the rest of Europe. There is trade and travel, but when it happens, it’s likely to go through Calais, the closest port to England on the other side. Since we still wanted to be able to use German, or French or various other Western European sources, if we were from Calais, the major trading port for England in 1376, it would be easier to explain any cross culture aquisations. 

Why 1376?

When we started, we were primarily interested in combat and tournaments. The English manuscript I.33, detailing 14th century longsword techniques and there were various other 14th century tournament groups around. We chose 1376 as it was a time of great change in terms of armour. Maille is still being worn, but we’re starting to see plate armour coming in but it’s not as common as it will be by the 15th century. So it seemed like there was lots of armour choices, from cheap to very expensive.

What’s great about a whole household doing the same time period?

The amount of support you get when an entire group is doing the same time period is quite amazing. It allows people to really focus in on their individual interests (Mine is cooking.) and to use other people’s research to help get into a good position. 

It allows research and resources to be shared. there’s no need for everyone to bring washing up equipment and gear, or cooking equipment. These can be shared, and again, allow people to focus on their individual interests. 

By having only one time period, it saves a lot of time and money. It’s either in or it’s not. There’s no “oh, but maybe I would wear it if I ever made a 9th century middle east outfit”. 

Particularly for me, with my interests in cooking, if it wasn’t narrowed down quite specifically (I do allow myself books up until mid 15th century to see what’s moved), I would have almost quadruple the collection that I already do. (And it’s a very impressive medieval cooking book collection as it is).

We boost each other up. By sharing research and knowledge that we’re all interested in, it makes up excited and interested in our own projects, which in turn, excite and spur other members on. 

Where do I start, to decide on a persona/time period for myself?

Firstly, what are you passionate about? If there’s a particular outfit that you want to wear – then that’s really the start as it’s the starting point for any creation. 

If you aren’t keen on clothing, then is there a particular craft, or martial style that you like, and what time period is that most commonly used in?

Is your household or group interested in a particular timeperiod? Again, having other people around you who are keen on the same time period makes everything so much easier when it comes to research and sharing resources. If you yourself aren’t keen on clothing, maybe join in what others are keen on? Passion and interest beget passion and interest, and the more you can encourage each other on, the greater the heights you’ll reach. 

Have you seen someone else wearing an outfit that you like the look of? Feel free to ask people about what they’re wearing, most people are very keen to talk about what they’ve made and the period that they’re interested in.

Talking to other people who have your time period and culture as they’re interest is the very best place to start out. They’ll have the best books to read, the most relevant websites to visit, and they’ll be able to steer you away from any common pitfalls that you might encounter on your own. If you can use someone else’s experience to avoid making mistakes, then you should do so. 

Seek your passion, and spread that interest wide. 

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