Tuesday, April 24, 2018

April Post-Conference Recovery

Back to it!

I find that the conference eats up so much of my time every year. I love every little bit, but the decompression afterwards is a necessity. We've certainly planned for next year already (March 23-25, 2019, Monroe County Community College). However...it is so important that I spend this time regrouping and catching up on things I may have put on the back burner. Things like watching my little brother play in a baseball tournament, or going rock climbing. 

In my extra time, I've decided to pick up bullet journaling. Basically it's a book with dots that you turn into whatever you want. For me it has become a planner/goal tracker/list holder. I have all these cute little stencils that make the pages so adorable that it doesn't even feel like they represent work. I may form a Facebook group for my fellow history lovers who utilize historical themes (I have a few pages solely dedicated to that!). Maybe a blog post ahead? This summer?
My handwriting is atrocious. I accept this cruel twist of fate.

Also, the amazing Greenfield Village event is underway. While I do have a decent amount of stock left over from last year, I will need to really push to have enough jewelry/accessories/other to sell all weekend. I also like to add new items, which will include some hair ribbons (if I don't keep them) and painted floor cloths (which may stay with me too). I have to keep an eye on my wrists too; the "sewing soreness" can put me behind if I'm not careful.

All in all I think the last month gave me the breathing room I needed to proceed with the hobby I love. Sometimes you need a bit of time to refresh. Burnout Blues are definitely a thing! It helps that Michigan finally decided to cooperate in the whole "starting spring" department. That last ice storm was hardly conducive to work. She can be such a brutal place when she wants to be...

Good luck with your preparations for the season! I wish you all dresses that didn't shrink in the closet, shoe sets where one didn't walk away, and canvas free of little mice nibbles. Having experienced all three, I don't wish them on anyone else!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s 2018

So we did it again. We did another conference. It was awesome.

This year was such a vast improvement compared to 2017! And although I thought we did well in 2017, we did fantastically better. Maybe it was the better communication. Maybe it was the added signs (a few arrows pointing the wrong way that we fixed....I did that...). Maybe it was the improved menu. Maybe it was the addition of extra workshops. Maybe it was the in-depth look at originals with accompanying 19th century images. Maybe maybe maybe maybe.

Whatever it was, we had fun.

(The following photos are a mix from Andy Assenmacher, Jennifer Long, Matthew Music, Eric Smallwood, Sara Gonzalez and myself. They have taken pity on me and let me use their photos!)

On Friday we mingled at The Historic Sawyer House in downtown Monroe. This included copious amounts of food and punch. We had a real southerner make the punch, so you know it was legitimate punch. Seriously, I ate more than my corset could handle! Some settled into conversations with friends, while others had their likeness taken by Robert Beech.

Rocking Horse Toys and games also brought a selections of period toys and games for people to enjoy throughout the night. There's nothing more satisfying than playing with toys!

Keynote Speakers
As a high school teacher, five days a week you can find me giving a lecture to a group of teenagers. I enjoy my job immensely, and it's part of the reason I adore offering educational opportunities to the reenacting community.


I actually enjoying learning from others WAY more than speaking. Is it a needed break from my day job? Perhaps. Or maybe I know to learn from the best! In any case, here is the line-up of our seminar speakers, and their presentations. They were absolutely fantastic in every way! They prompted deep conversations about how we look at and talk about history.

Elizabeth Stewart Clark
An Eye for Detail: Examining Period Imagery
Our Latest Issue: Original Publications and What We Can Glean From Them

Robert Beech
19th Century Photography

Elizabeth Aldridge
Removing Roadblocks from Research

Jillian Drapala
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly; Female Anomalies of the Civil War

Another addition to this conference: more workshops! Based on the surveys from the previous year, people wanted more hands-on opportunities to learn.

We also decided to add "drop in" to our Sunday schedule. Perhaps someone couldn't make their Friday class, or originally thought they had to leave earlier. Or maybe they spotted a near-complete project across the room on Saturday afternoon and were instantly smitten...whatever the case, these classes were full of happy, hardworking individuals ready to learn!

Collars~Sara Gonzalez

Cravats~Eric Smallwood

Textile Identification~Glenna Jo Christen

Fitting from Patterns
Draping~Elizabeth Stewart Clark

A Beaded Bracelet~Kristen Mrozek

Originals Area
This year we took a slightly different approach to displaying our original, 19th century items. You'll notice quite a few little signs with images and explanations. Possibly an excessive amount, upon reflection. That's because this year Glenna Jo and I set a ridiculous goal:

Let's briefly recall our theme this year:
"How does imagery inform our historical representations?"

What does that mean? If we display a dress with a gathered bodice, a CDV of a woman with a gathered bodice will be featured below. That crazy men's plaid pattern of pants? Got it! Children's shoes? We found an advertisement in a 19th century magazine that is identical! Jewelry? Check. Cool perforated paper? There's the original instructions for that exact project in Godey's Lady's Book.

Learning from speakers is fantastic (especially those with images and wit). But many people are visual learners too. Last year we did have a display of original items, though it was difficult to compare those originals to images Glenna Jo and I know we've seen. Having an image right there helped everyone better understand what they were looking at. An amazing teaching tool!

It was one of the most difficult but rewarding things we've ever done.
(Glenna worked much harder on this than I did-she's awesome!)

Now let your eyeballs soak it in!

Vendor Area
I always find the vendors to be an essential part of what we do. Here we have a group of talented, research-driven individuals who reproduce many of the items we use in our impressions today. They are a valuable part of the reenacting community, and should be supported in every way. Needless to say, I spent a bit of money, as did many other eager conference attendees!

I must add that all of these hard-working individuals are very nice, and love to answer your questions. Feel free to message them from the links I've provided here.

Elizabeth Aldridge & Elizabeth Stewart Clark
They are two separate businesses, but shared a table!

*I will do a post about her conference coming soon!

Mrs. Christen's Miscellanea 

Youth Workshop
We explored different topics in our youth workshop this year. With ages ranging from 8-30 (haha-me!), eleven young people congregated to discuss a variety of issues, from making their voices heard to implementing their own ideas within their reenacting units. It was fascinating to hear their hopes and struggles within the historical community as a whole. At dinner, a young person addressed the main conference with many of these thoughts...

And the lady speaking into the microphone? Miss Ava. She is an amazing young woman who did generally anything that was asked throughout the weekend. She manned the front door, participated in the youth workshop, and helped hand out prizes. In the future, I plan to continue utilizing young peoples' talents in every way. They are certainly awesome and are the future of reenacting.

Positivity Board
What is a "positivity board"?

Good Question.

As a society, we can sometimes focus on the negative. I battle with this in my classroom every day, and I know it doesn't necessarily stop in adulthood. I've created a "positivity board" to remind ourselves and others that YES! someone does care about you, and is grateful for your contributions to our community. It was basically a board with markers, sticky notes, and that warm fuzzy feeling in your chest when you see something that makes you happy.

While many of the notes were "thank yous," I saw beautiful writing. The best were written anonymously to speakers and fellow conference goers, offering their support in many ways. It gives me hope that we are going in the right direction, one filled with thoughtfulness and learning. 

I do have a few more blog posts planned. As an event organizer, I feel compelled to share what worked, what didn't, and how we plan to improve each year. People read my blog for different reasons; you might be my Mom showing this post to friends, a curious future attendee, or an even more curious event planner, wondering just how in the heck we managed to pull this off again!
(Mom, I can help you download these pics later, just remind me...)

To me, the best part of the conference is watching groups of people come together in pursuit of knowledge. I witnessed at least one friendship bloom! I'm glad we can create a safe, welcoming environment where everyone can learn, share, and grow together. We left feeling a bit like a family; I know I said goodbye to many people that I wished would stay.

So here we are again. I've had a few weeks to clean out my car, cuddle with some kittens, and pretend that I live a normal life. But here's the burning question...are we doing another conference?

2019 Conference!
Here we come!

Details coming just as soon as I catch another breath.
Take care friends, and have another safe and fun reenacting season!


Sunday, March 4, 2018

My thoughts on education

So I just spent three amazing days full of learning, relaxing, (too much) shopping, and fun. I left early to ensure a safe home arrival as Michigan can be a harsh mistress. As I drove, I received the news about The Civilian Symposium at Gettysburg, and nearly stopped my car in the middle of the turnpike (bad idea).

I am very annoyed that I left early. A bit of chaos in my mind, as I am still a baby in all this. A thirty year old baby with a big event to plan, but near infant compared to the experienced veterans of the reenacting community. Change scares me still.

Let me address here and now my great opinion, my modus operandi, the spokes of the wheel that keep my life turning perpetually. I'm all serious now, if you've not guessed. I do that on occasion.

Education is that great movement, the spirit that keeps moving us forward. We need it to sustain us, to illuminate the darkness of ignorance with a single fact. As a high school teacher, I spend nearly every day trying to engage teenagers in thoughtful learning. Sometimes it's harder than nailing Jello to a wall.

But then it happens. A spark of interest, fingers skimming the pages of an interesting book.

I've felt that at The Civilian Symposium more times than I can count. I'm incredibly sad to see it change. It feels a bit like a friend moving away.

It's a reminder that we should cherish our opportunities to learn and grow! To inspire ourselves and others and rise together as a community of learners. I am incredibly grateful for the two years I was able to attend. I didn't just learn beadwork or drink whiskey or look at textiles. No, I learned to function with new ideas, formulate thoughts with the proper language, see history from a different perspective.

So friends...

Make the eight hour drive

Take the workshop

Donate to the organization

Sponsor a scholarship

Volunteer your time

Support youth in their historical endeavors

Research that difficult topic

Share your learning 

Say goodbye and be thankful

And before I get too mopey, there is still a class schedule available, so that friend will come to visit and enrich our lives as before. I'm looking into that Berlin Woolwork class(click here to learn more).

So consider this a special thank you to all those who have worked to make the Symposium possible, even the people that put out the cookies. Because food is probably the second more important thing in my life...


I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.  
~Eartha Kitt

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bead and Bugle Work: Flowers

I am just now realizing the how little I've posted in the past few months. Between conference preparation, a nasty virus (that took about two months to lose), and general family stuff, the blog has been put on the back burner.

But I'm back with a project!

These little lovelies were easy to complete. Surprisingly, the directions were well-written (unlike MANY of the projects I've encountered...). They are adorable, fidgety things meant for ¨the decoration of ball-dresses or for wearing in the hair.¨

They are a little early for our time period, though I've found other primary sources that suggest beadwork with bugles could be found later than the 1850s. That blog post is slowly coming together. For now, I give you pictures and instructions!

Godey's Lady's Book, September, 1854: BEAD AND BUGLE WORK

VERY pretty flowers or sprays may be made of bugles for the decoration of ball-dresses, or for wearing in the hair. Black, white, gray green, purple, and pink bugles, well adapted for this purpose, may be obtained at any of the bead and bugle-makers, or rather retailers; for the greater part of those we use are imported from abroad. For flowers we use two sizes, the one about an eighth of an inch in length, or rather better, and the other one-third of an inch long. A bright, even-looking bugle, large in the tube, should be chosen—an ounce of each kind will make a fair-sized spray. Besides, we shall require beads rather larger than a mustard-seed—this size is usually solid, and sold in bunches; a bunch will be sufficient. The solid or grainlikebeads are preferable to the hollow, pearl-like bead for these sprays, not being so fragile, and the new style of canvas work in beads has created a supply of the size and sort needed. The other requisites are wire and floss-silk, the wire, as before said, being chosen to match the color of the bugles. These covered wires are to be obtained at artificial flower-makers, and are sold on reels; the green can be bought in knots at wax-flower makers. The floss-silk at any Berlin wool repository. The leaves are made of small bugles. About nine leaves will make a small spray. There are, however, various patterns of bugle leaves, many of which will suggest themselves to any one practising the work. We will, however, give a cut of another by way of illustration.

This one is made exactly on the same principle as the other, but the larger bugles and beads are employed in it. Thus in the top loop or point of the leaf, we thread a long bugle, a bead , a long bugle, a bead , a long bugle, a bead , and then another long bugle, and bringing them to the centre of the wire, twist it immediately below them for a quarter of an inch. The two next loops are made each on their separate wire in like manner, and then the two wires are again twisted together for a third of an inch. The second pair of loops, or base of the leaf, are made by threading first a long bugle, and then a bead , then three bugles, and a bead twice, and then a long bugle on each wire, and fixing the loops by a twist to each, and then twisting the two wires together as a stem. When complete, each leaf will require putting into shape.

The bugle flowers are of two kinds, double and single, and are composed of bugles of both sizes, and beads , and look all the handsomer if finished off with a larger bead , one the size of a pea in the centre.

Take about three-quarters of a yard of wire, thread on it a bead , a long bugle, seven short bugles, and a long bugle; push these to within two inches of one end of the wire, and then pass the longer end of the wire again through the bead from the outside, inwards, or towards the bugles; draw it up gently and closely, and the first loop or petal of the flower is formed. Thirteen loops are required, and each one is made in the same way, the wire being always put a second time through the bead , entering it from the side of the loop last made, and being drawn closely up. These loops or petals stand up, and overlay each other; when all are completed, the two ends of the wire are twisted together to form the stem, and the circular, cup-shape of the flower is thus finished up.

When the flower is to be double, a second cup, or circle of up-standing loops must be made; but this inner portion contains eleven instead of thirteen petals, and there are but five small bugles instead of seven in each; in all other respects it is exactly similar. The stem is passed down through the centre of the outer cup, and a large bead being threaded on a couple of inches of wire, and maintained in its place by a twist of the ends of the wire, is passed through the centre of the two cups, and the three twisted wires are wound together into one neat stem with floss-silk.

Single flowers look best small; therefore the inner cup, with the central large bead , should be used for them. Various fantastic groupings of beads and bugles may be combined to form other flowers, or to simulate buds. We give a cut of one of them, which is made of long bugles, short bugles, andbeads , threaded on four wires, and arranged in diamonds. About four flowers, two single and two double, a couple of buds, and nine or ten leaves, make a very pretty spray if tastefully grouped and neatly bound together with floss-silk. The size we make them of course depends upon the purpose for which they are required; for looping a dress, five leaves, a bud, and two flowers will be sufficient.

For mourning, black, white, or gray bugles make up very prettily. Green bugles, too, have a very brilliant effect, and elegant sets of sprays or wreaths may be made by following our directions, at a merely nominal price compared with the cost of them if we were to order them to be made. Besides, the work itself is a graceful and pretty employment for the fingers, and calls for a certain degree of taste and imagination, and is very suggestive. We therefore recommend it to our readers in full confidence that it will amuse and interest them.




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