Wednesday, October 11, 2017

An Odd Family Reunion

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of running a 5k with my family.

Recently I took a wonderful opportunity to improve my health with physical activity.

On Sunday I supported a worthy cause financially and physically.

My Dad forced me to run a 5k and it hurt a whole bunch because it was in a quarry.

Me running a race in the 95 degree weather and finding myself amidst pain and trials and tribulations is not the moral of this story. As a matter of fact, my only lesson was to never do something so foolish again. Though I might add that they're already planning next year, with my parents already volunteering us for this torture. *Sigh

Yet something very odd did happen over that weekend. I met some cousins, on my Dad's side of the family, that he was able to "convince" to run the 5k with us. Cousins that I had not seen since I was a little girl (apparently someone accidentally threw me into the air into a metal beam that last time...). We spent a friendly night sharing stories and marveling how my Dad's 1st cousin shared so many Mrozek family traits with him.

When we started talking about my reenacting (inevitable really, when I talk about myself), we came to the conclusion that, not only did they live near Port Sanilac, THEY HAD ATTENDED THE CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT MANY TIMES. You know, the one that I have not missed in about 6 years. We wondered if we had possibly run into each other at that time. Not that we would remember, as we see so many people as reenactors. We laughed and drank copious amounts of water, as I imagine we were dehydrated at that time.

Later she confirmed our suspicions with a picture:

That's me! With Jackie Schubert! Under Carolyn's tent! Probably gossiping about something or talking about food! Here my cousin took a picture, and had no idea she was capturing her family.

So dear reenacting friends, let this be a reminder to you. Our world is VERY small. I recently met some long lost cousins (who will now let me use their shower that weekend...) who already had pictures of me. A stone thrown at a reenactment in California could be a boulder crushed in Maine.

Reenacting changes lives.

And that is all for my odd family reunion


Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s: Monroe, MI March 23-25, 2018

It is here! After discussions, reflection, and more than one raised eyebrow, we decided to make The Citizen's Forum of the 1860's move forward another year. Get ready, this year is packed! We have more seminars, more workshops, more vendors, and certainly a more enthusiastic ME!
Look at all of this awesome learning 

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. They will be out and about in various videos and on the website. I'm hoping to just get the basic information out there!

All seminars will take place on Saturday, March 24th at Monroe Community College. Lunch and dinner will be served, and the vendor/originals area will be open throughout the day. I will write more in the future about each speaker. In the meantime, you can drool over admire their topics!

Removing Roadblocks from Research

~Elizabeth Aldridge

Where do you turn when you have inspiration for an amazing period project but can't seem to fill in "how" or "what" to get from concept to completion? How do you support your persona when you are just starting out? Learn about sourcing elusive "ingredients" for your projects, finding answers to period terminology that make your head spin!

19th Century Photography
~Robert Beech

With many technological advancements in the field of photography, Civil War
soldiers were able to have their picture taken. These tokens could be sent home
to family members as keepsakes. Many of these images can be found today in museums. as well as personal collections. Robert Beech will discuss different photography from the time period, as well as the authentic, wet-plate process he uses to create reproductions.

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

​What is a female anomaly? Who were these women? How can I incorporate them into an impression? With so many opportunities for civilian presentations, there is a great interest the role that everyday women played in the war. From nurses to vivianderes, this seminar allows fellow historians and reenactors to discover women who were not considered the “norm” in society during the American Civil War. Primary documentation will give us the who, what, when, and where, of these female anomalies, the men that supported them, and how you can incorporate them properly at events.

Stitches, Shuttles, and Patent Wars: The Early Development of the Sewing Machine

~Jim Ruley

The practical sewing machine was probably one of the most important inventions of the 19th
century. Not only did it revolutionize the ready-made clothing industry, but it also pioneered
consumer advertising and installment buying. Rather than a single inventor, it was the product
of a number of creative geniuses who also engaged in bitter litigation with each other.
In this lecture we will trace the early development of the sewing machine through the
contributions of these inventors, many of them colorful larger-than- life characters as well. We
will study the legal and financial struggles that accompanied them and see how they shaped the
progress of the resulting industry. Finally, we will examine the different approaches of three of
the largest producers to the problem of sewing machine manufacturing.

Our Latest Number: Original Publications & What We Can Glean From Them
~Elizabeth Stewart Clark

In living history, we sometimes think of magazines such as Godey's and Peterson's as "fashion magazines"... but are they, really? Who was the target demographic of the well-known publications of the era? What can we determine from these primary source documents and the evolution of their content? How widespread was the reach of the "lady's" magazine? And how can we draw on historical publications to enhance our own living history context? Elizabeth Stewart Clark presents a fast-paced survey that will expand your thinking, and set you buzzing forward into your history goals.

Youth Workshop
~Kristen Mrozek, facilitator 

The purpose of this seminar is to create a comfortable space for youth to talk about their involvement with history. We may find that in a larger setting that they are shy or feel intimidated. This time is just for them! Young people are encouraged to gather in a group to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from advice to primary sources. Adults may be present for this discussion; however, they are being asked to step back and allow only young people to speak. This seminar will occur during the Saturday conference time.

A Tour of the Collection
~Glenna Jo Christen

Are you wondering just what you're looking at in that pretty display of original, 19th century dresses? Join Glenna Jo Christen at various times throughout the day as she answers questions and gives thoughtful insights into her collection and original textiles as a whole. Guided tours on mp3 players will still be available.

Workshops are available 8-4 on both Friday and Sunday. You must register for the conference before signing up for a workshop. Registrations costs may vary based on materials.

19th Century Cravats, $20
~Eric Smallwood

Have you been looking for the perfect accessory for the male civilian in your life? This workshop will show research about cravats, and then walk participants through the process of creating one from start to finish.

1860s Ladies Collars, $20
~Sara Gonzalez

You will receive a brief overview of period ladies collars, followed by a basic collar workshop. Learn how to adapt a collar pattern to fit your gown, and make it up by hand in this workshop! Take home sheets with information on variations will be available!
Optional Lace Edging, $5

Textile Identification: Period Fabric Selection for Living History Clothing $25
~Glenna Jo Christen

Join Glenna Jo Christen as she offers guidelines to follow to confidently select period appropriate fabrics for all your living history needs. Mid 19th century fabrics for men, women, and children will be discussed, including colors, woven and print patterns, and fabric weights. Attendees will have the opportunity to see and feel the differences between textiles and receive sources for modern equivalents. The workshop registration also includes swatch cards to help with future fabric selection. All levels of costuming and historical reproduction are welcome!

A Bead Bracelet: Interpreting Godey's Beaded Work Department $20 

~Kristen Mrozek

Have you ever looked at a 19th century magazine and wondered how to make an illustrated image a reality? This workshop will offer a practical interpretation of the Godey's Lady's Book (1859) beaded bracelet. Attendees will learn just what "the usual manner" entails for this simple, but charming adornment. The workshop registration includes all the materials to create 2 beaded bracelets, as well as store a small beadwork project.

Fitting From Patterns, $30 
~Elizabeth Stewart Clark

What do we look for in a great historical fit? Can we use the fit of clothing in interpretive endeavors? How can we get there using published patterns? This hands-on workshop will walk you through the process of fitting a pattern mock-up to your own unique figure, with plentiful individual Q&A time. Gain confidence, refine your skills, and have a great time doing it. Registered participants will be sent a list of pattern base options, and a short supply list; please come prepared to don your own well-fitted, historical-cut corset to get the most out of the workshop. Workshop fee includes personalized pattern consumables and an illustrated fitting tips packet.

Pattern-Making From Direct Draping, $30
~Elizabeth Stewart Clark

If your figure doesn’t work within “industry standard” parameters for whatever reason, you can have amazing historical clothing! We’ll walk through the process of draping a bodice and sleeve directly on the corseted body, all the way to a testable base pattern and personalized paper pattern to use for all your bodice-making needs. We’ll look at the key elements of historical fit, the use of clothing fit for interpretation, and how to use a personalized base for multiple style variations. Registered participants will be sent a short supply list; please come prepared to don your own well-fitted, historical-cut corset to get the most out of the workshop. Workshop fee includes personalized pattern consumables and an illustrated draping tips packet. (If you do not already own a copy of The Dressmaker’s Guide to Fit & Fashion, 2nd Edition, from which the tips packet is excerpted, you may opt to purchase one at a Citizen’s Forum discount of $25, to be picked up at workshop registration.)

Braidwork Sampler, $35
~Elizabeth Stewart Clark

Don’t be intimidated by the gorgeous and seemingly-complex braidwork designs on original historical items! In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn the simple processes of choosing and scaling design elements from historical sources, practice hand-applied braiding techniques with the included sampler supplies, and even dive into your own historical braidwork project using optional template packets and your personal supply stash! Registered participants will be sent a short recommended “stash” list. Workshop fee includes an illustrated techniques workbook and sampler supplies kit.

Optional Braidwork Template Sets, $10 each (each includes US-published, sourced and dated designs): choose from Infant Items, Smoking & Lounge Caps, and Slippers

The Old Mill Tour
~$5 Donation Requested

Located in Dundee MI, (17 minutes from Monroe Community College), this 19th century mill turned factory turned museum offers a window into several time periods. Participants can learn about local history, as well as farm life from the time period.

Optional Ghost Tour, $5
On Friday at 10 pm after the Soiree, conference attendees can take part in a ghost tour. A minimum of 8 people from the conference is required. You can check out to learn more about the ghost tours, and the spooky happenings!

These will be announced within the next few months. The process of selecting, jurying, and accommodating takes time. For now, I'd like to just say we've added an extra room for vendors, expecting 5-10. We'll keep you posted!

Friday Night Soiree
~Historic Sawyer House

Last year we had a fantastic time. We danced to the music of the Peace Jubilee Band, snacked on so
many delicious springerle cookies (thanks again to Jillian!) and chatted under the gazebo. It's fun to spend time in a historic house. It's even more fun to pretend you were there during the time it was built! Similar to last year, period dress is optional. And yes, I have convinced Jillian to make more cookies...

Doll Party 2018
~Samantha McLoughlin

Join Samantha at the end of the day as she entertains with Lydia Ann, her trusted doll confidante. Bring your own doll or toy for a brief discussion and posed photo opportunities.

From the Feedback...

I'm a teacher, as was Glenna Jo, so we both understand that perfection is unattainable. One important tool in the field of education is feedback. As a new conference, we were delighted with any bit of advice given on the surveys, or offered online in the forms. We did our best to field as many as possible to make this year even better!

1. New hotel: The Holiday Inn & Express was built only 3 years ago. From USB ports in rooms to a filling continental breakfast, this will be a great spot to stay comfortable. It is about 15 minutes away from the college. My extremely serious and somewhat cranky Dad drove with me to check out the hotel, and he was impressed. He even cracked a smile under his mustache...

2. Conference Folders: As our survey suggested (with a whopping 98% in agreement), people don't seem to mind if the research from the speakers ends up in a folder or a binder. We were able to save money, and budget that to other things (*upgrade food choices yay!). However, if you are in the 2% group that want a notebook, just feel free to ask. We will have some on hand for you!

3. Lunch offerings on Sunday: If you are staying later for a workshop, we are offering lunch boxes if you don't want to leave to get food.

4. Signage: I've already purchased the materials, and we're setting a date for the "painting party."

5. More Communication: Within 24-48 hours, expect an email from my cheery self giving you information. Feel free to contact me at any time.

6. More Workshops: Last year we had two. This year we have eight. The people have spoken!

7. Sessions will NOT run concurrently: You will have an opportunity to see each and every presentation! I was surprised by how many people asked for this, but the people speak yet again.

8. Seminars with Suggested Topics: Cravats? On a survey. Research topics? On a survey. More time with vendors? Sure, anonymous survey-taker, let's make it happen!

9. More Vendor Time/Space: Both of these were requests from last year.

10. Lunch will be available for purchase on Sunday. For those of you staying for workshops who don't want to leave the campus.

If you've made it to the end of this post, you should probably just sign up! In all honesty, we've already had one of our workshops mostly fill (within 48 hours!). I would hate to see you miss out on class that you really want to take. Despite the fact that we still have 6 months left until the big weekend, I'm witnessing quite a difference in registrations from last year. I like to think everyone is just so excited to see my happy, smiling reality, it is the hard work, perseverance, and skill of the speakers/staff that make people want to come back!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Port Sanilac 2017

That was a rough week. A really rough one. We finally lost our little Rambo, my best furry pal since my college years. We were absolute bros. I actually have a blog post dedicated to pets in the works. But that will take a bit more time than I'm willing to spend here. And emotional energy, to be honest. He died the day before my (favorite ever!) Port Sanilac event setup, and it was incredibly difficult.

I wasn't going to go. I really wasn't. But then I realized it would be just as hard to be without him at home. So I set off, albeit a bit later, to the event. It was the best decision I could have made for myself!

To be honest, living history was not my ultimate thought during the event. I was still in a bit raw with emotion. And yet I was surrounded by a loving group of people who took me under their wing. I was given a place to lay my head, stuffed full of delicious food, and hugged at the appropriate times. Little children climbed all over me. An adorable puppy licked my hand. My fellow reenactors created this silly scenario with all of us as a high school class at "Shiloh High," complete with class photos.

Sometimes we forget that these events are more than just shows for the public. They are more than playing dress up, or set up, or battle. For me, Port Sanilac was balm to an achy wound. The pictures say it all! (Photos by Meg)

Port Sanilac is always one of my favorite events! This year, it was almost therapy!


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Virginia Floor Cloth and Textiles Company: Floor Cloth Workshop

I had an interesting dilemma this past weekend. Three very fun, very awesome events were taking place at the same time! The yearly Charlton Park Civil War reenactment is one of my favorites. It has a ton of people I think are awesome, And I had been invited to participate at the Motor City Steam Con; while a bit different from my usual historical adventures, it promised to be a wonderful time. Then there was the painted floor cloth workshop. And I knew what I had to do that weekend! Virginia Floor Cloth and Textiles Company
I made this thing

Little known fact: after Greenfield Village this year, my rugs were home to a few wriggling buddies. Which of course spilled all over me when I opened the door to my trailer a week later. (My Dad and I both jumped back in horror-so disgusting!) Those heavy fabric things had seen better days; between mud and bugs, I woefully bid them ado. Then I wondered what I would put on the floor of my tent fly! Along came this workshop, which would address the (now) health issue...

Spread over two days, Virginia and Randy gave wonderful advice, hands on techniques, and research to support their designs and process. Let me just say that when someone hands you documentation at the beginning, you know you'll like it! It was a good time to let my creativity out and about.

They were beyond helpful. Every question answered! And when I (inevitably) messed up lines, Virginia fixed them. She has the steadiest hand I have ever seen. I was so grateful for their help, as the finished product was a spectacular bit of work. The other members of the class were kind and patient; you had to be in order to finish that project! It was such a pretty array of floor cloths when they were all finished.

If I may, this is my HIGH recommendation for taking a class with them. The techniques were solid, documentation was provided, and it was beyond helpful to have someone with you every step of the way. I am a kinesthetic/visual learner, so something like this works well for me. If you're looking for another class, they are doing a BLOCK PRINTING class November 18-19th at Fort Meigs, Ohio. I plan to print some lovely scarves for Christmas presents this year (shhh! no sharing with my family).

Click here to see information about their class at Fort Meigs 
Click here for a google images search with more floor clothes

 Between the floor cloth class, moving, and too many family birthday parties in a row, I may be due just a bit of a break from posting. Just kidding! I have a beadwork post that I'm pretty excited about, and will be rolling out of the blog once my wrist stops hurting so much...


Monday, July 17, 2017

DIY: A Civil War Brooch Under $5

I've been asked on more than one occasion to make a stone brooch. Here I am, fiddling with 10,000 beads or making odd concoctions from a period magazine. In my career as an 1860s "jeweler", I find myself more drawn to complex, challenging pieces. Something with a bit of research that makes me go-aha! I get bored with doing the same thing over and over again, which is why much of my jewelry is a one-time thing (unless I get repeat requests, like with the crosses or basic drop earrings).

With that said, I would like to share the information on how to make one. I've promised at least one person this post, and with summer vacation here I can finally sit down and do it! It is very simple, and I have to say not challenging. Which is why they haven't made it to my shop. So here's a quick post on a DIY brooch that would be appropriate for Civil War reenacting for under $5. *Disclaimer: You will spend more than $5, but the total cost for each brooch will be inexpensive because you buy things in bulk!

Step 1: Buy Stuff

Stones to Use (they come in different sizes!)
Click on links to find them online!
-Black/Green/Red Agate
-And more! (feel free to ask

*Note: Some of these stones will tip you over $5. But seriously, not that much

(Just match in size to the stone) 
Gold was most popular!
Definitely under $1

A bit over $1 a piece

$5 for a pack of 50

E 6000 tubes last forever
You can also find this at any craft store

Step 2: Glue it together
Dab a bit of E6000 glue on there, and push in the stone. It is not a permanent glue (I have repaired several costume pieces from other jewelers like this over the years), but it should hold fairly well. After it dries, glue the pin to the back. Let it dry again.

Step 3:.....Finished!
And there you have it friends! How to make a stone brooch! You will definitely have materials left over! And take care not to glue another bead or setting atop this stone-not only will it probably fall off, but I've yet to see substantial documentation for this method. *It has been brought to my attention that there is a period method where they wire jewelry through the stone. If you can do that, have at it! Otherwise, you're looking at something falling off the top of your stone, unless you sand it down...

Here's a few components I have sitting in my shop; it's funny how I'll spend weeks figuring out a project, and a simple glue won't get done!

Well, I hope I've been able to help you get a brooch on a budget! These things are so inexpensive/little time/no skill to make that I feel almost wrong putting them in my shop.

Good luck, happy jewelry making! And look forward to a very crazy beading post coming ahead!


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Discovering "A Bead Bracelet" and other Musings

Between moving to a new place, starting preparations for the 2018 Citizen's Forum, and the half attempts at exercise, I've scarcely had time to work on any projects. Most of my things are packed away in boxes stacked so deep, I'm afraid to look at them. If I die in a suspicious box toppling incident, we could call this post prophetic. However, one bead project made the move separately, so it was out and available to work on: the fated Bead Bracelet!

Ever since I've been able to poke around primary documentation, I've stumbled across this gem of a homemade project. I'd look in awe at the simplicity of "A Bead Bracelet". I've seen them before in someone's shop; it was a few years ago, and I can't remember who it was! In any case, I wanted one and was convinced that I could figure it out...

Godey's magazine. v.58 1859 Jan-Jun.


Materials.- Some large-sized chalk beads, 3 or 4 sizes larger than seed beads, or shell pearls may be used, or turquoise, and No. 10 steel beads, or uncut jet beads; either will look handsome. No. 20 cotton. A fine needle.

1st round.— Take three-quarters of a yard of cotton; thread thereon 18 beads; tie these up in a circle, not too tight, but sufficiently loose that 20 beads might be tied in, if they were requisite; leave one end of the cotton, about a finger in length; tie the knot of the circle securely.

2d.— Place the circle of beads on the point of forefinger of left hand, with needle and cotton in front; thread a bead *; pass it close up to first circle; make an overcast stitch over the cotton, between 1st and 2d bead; with the point of the needle pass up close to this a bead of 1st circle; hold it tightly; thread another bead. Repeat from * till there are 18 beads in the 2d row; then pass the needle and thread all through the 1st circle of beads, and tie in a secure knot to the end left on; pass the needle and cotton again through 2d circle; tie in a knot to the end of cotton, and cut the ends off, so that the knot is not seen. This running the cotton through the beads makes them firm, strong, and even. This forms the first link of bracelet. To make the second, after threading the 18 beads, pass them through the 1st link; then proceed as before. Link as many of these circles together as will enable the bracelet, when joined, to pass tightly over the hand. To join the 1st and last link together, thread the 18 beads, and, before tying, pass the cotton through 1st and last link; then tie, and proceed as before. When each link is complete, a 3d row may be added, if desired, worked in the same way; but, of course, the preceding row is immovable, which is of no consequence.

The Process
Wherein the Heroine discovers she has no patience...

I would normally consider myself a patient person. I'm patient while I teach students. I'm patient while letting others cars pass in front of me during rush hour. I'm patient when my significant other can't find something that would bite his face off if it had teeth. 

But this one would not budge. I tried every which way but could not figure it out. For years I fiddled with the beads, needle, and thread, only to throw them down in frustration. The directions didn't make sense! The beads just didn't fit well together! It didn't look like the picture!

Then one night, the directions all of the sudden made sense. I bolted upright in bed, scaring both my fiance and sleeping dog. Here's how that conversation went:

Fiance: What is it? What's wrong?
Me: I figured it out!!!! (Runs to crafting room, collects supplies. Returns to room)
Fiance: NO! No more crafting in bed! (Fiance recalls time when I used his side of bed as pin cushion)
Me: No pins, just beads, I swear! (Fiddles with thread, figures it out)

As the original directions state, I needed to use beads 3-4 sizes bigger than seed beads. I started with a size 6 regular round bead. Obviously, this did not work. I tried a size 11 seed bead. This did not work either. *Sigh*

The far left green one is a tiny, original bead. The far right blue is a size 6 regular bead.
The other green and the pink are two other wrong sized beads for this project.
The blue in the center was just right Goldilocks!

But then I went back to re-examine my originals with beads. Look how TINY they were! My beads were much too big. But what beads are slightly bigger, have a flat-ish shape that will mimic the picture, and take multiple passes with the needle and thread? I settled on a chance find at a craft store: Czechoslovakian glass seed beads.

And it worked! Not only do the beads lay correctly, but the general shape and size fits aesthetically with the overall look of the chain link that was a popular 19th century motif.

I did make a few changes. First, this bracelet does not stay well as a whole, continuous piece. With this large amount of beads, it kept falling off my wrist. To fix this, I added a clasp to make the bracelet more fitted. I imagine one could use ribbon too, but the clasp was more permanent and made it more wearable. I've decided I will offer both finishing types in my shop, though I strong reccomend the clasped piece. As a person who has completed many a Godey's project, sometimes the instructions don't match practical usage of an item. 

Are you tempted now? You can totally buy them here in my shop.

I'll be offering more color options as new beads come in. They're quite adorable, and at least one family member has attempted to snag one for modern wear. At the very least, my fiance has not complained of errant pins on his side of the bed, so he approves of this project.

Until next time friends, where I play with more beads, move boxes around the apartment, and generally make a nuisance of myself in some way. Just ask my fiance.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A (not so new) Method to Teach Disinterested Youth

It has been a few months now since that crazy time I called The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s. And after Greenfield Village, I find myself yearning for a break. So I did that for about 24 hours and became incredibly bored. Even if you don't see me doing something, I'm probably thinking about doing something or planning on doing something soon. Me doing something all the time is essential to who I am as a person; it fulfills me.

The something I decided to do was teach an entire class of my high school students about beadwork. Remember those adorable little dragonflies/butterflies? They all made one.

For our last few weeks of the final semester before summer vacation, the alternative high school where I teach does something a little different. Called a "Skinny," it eschews typical academic classes (except for online or credit recovery) and offers a more authentic experience of learning. In one group they learned to change a tire. In another they learned how to cook. I've taught sewing in the past, as well as a whole session entitled "Monsters and Myths." I'm afraid I've inspired an entire group of future Stephen King writers or Alfred Hitchcock directors.

We started small since most students had never even attempted beadwork. I seriously budgeted time for the first lesson, as I thought I might have to keep them from getting distracted with breaks or other amusements. I am amusing most times. But after a brief lesson about the historical significance, each and every student shocked me...
Every kid the entire hour worked. I offered a break and they refused. I offered my usual amusement and they shooed me away as a distraction. Little did I know that this hands-on class of Victorian beading would sweep the school! Soon students from other classes filed into my room for a taste of the beading life. And like the first budding of spring, trembling butterflies and dragonflies emerged...

There are many more than this, but unfortunately they flew away before I had a chance to capture their likeness! I had one student in particular use the butterfly for another purpose. As her mother suffered from lupus, she decided to make a butterfly in purple to match lupus awareness. This one actually got me a bit choked up. 

Towards the end of the semester I actually had a former student come in to teach a class on a bead loom. Remember those adorable beaded bracelets I make? After another historical lesson I made each kid a wooden loom and brought Tristen in to teach. Her family owns a very awesome craft store in the area, so she really knows her stuff. It went well and there are 10 billion beads all over my room. Also, a special shout out to Kay Cogswell, who originally designed that first loom for her workshop at Genteel Arts last year. I wouldn't have been able to afford this project otherwise!

You may be wondering how this all fits together with the blog. Well I discovered that a group of youngsters that had shown no previous inclination to history really enjoyed learning about history. Except with their hands, rather than in a lecture format. Our discussion of tremblers led to a discussion about bonnets, which led to a discussion about 19th century customs, which led to a discussion about morals and values of a different time period. I stepped back from my role as a teacher to become an actively quiet facilitator, fanning the occasional interested student if the quiet lingered too long. For the first time in awhile, I really felt like a teacher.

How can you use this information, you history-loving person? You, the member of a historical society looking to create a youth program. You, the reenactor looking to create a younger membership base. You, the parent frustrated by your child's lack of interest in history. 

Let me give you an advice list, compiled by my own trial and error:

1. Don't assume kids hate history. THEY DON'T. They hate sitting in a classroom for hours. They hate memorizing facts. They hate tests and quizzes and trifold boards. A poorly-run classroom setting can beat the passion out of a child (Side note: I don't do tests/homework in my class) They enjoy eating campfire food, climbing trees, firing cannons, riding horses, and all sorts of other nonsense. 
2. Give them chances to fiddle. To inspect closely, examine the details. To break something or cut it to pieces. You know that cannon your child keeps staring at? Get up close. Talk to the unit in charge of it. If possible, let your child touch it, understand the process. And if you're crazy enough, soon enough he/she will want one for the front yard...
3. Make moments teachable. That kid who just plays video games all day (ahem, I do find myself trapped in a Mech Warrior cycle...)? Relate it in some way to hands on history and watch them explore. What was the precursor to the modern computer? How did people originally sum large numbers without a calculator? What is the 19th century equivalent of Facebook? 

The discussion about butterflies went so many places!

As for my was awesome, and I'm so happy I did this. Despite the huge mess and pile of disorganized beads, I want to do it again. More importantly, the kids want to as well. I hope you can take a bit of my advice and find a way to further bring young people into history. If all else fails, candy works too :)


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Greenfield Village 2017

Ah, the post-Greenfield exhaustion. I trudge to my classroom, barely able to keep my legs moving forward. From mosquito bites to an achy back, it's the closest thing to a reenacting hangover I've ever experienced. And yet, I go back every year for more!
Pictured: Exhausted and Exhilarated

That's because despite all, this reenactment is worth it. This has been my 7th year at the Greenfield Village Civil War event(3rd as a vendor), and it still surprises me. Just when I think I've seen everything, I find one more thing that makes the event exciting all over again. It could be the fantastic blue dresses in the pavilion. Or that new style dress a friend is showing off. Perhaps it was the delicious noodles I devoured at the Eagle Tavern. There are 10,000,000 things to do at Greenfield Village, and I realize that I've only done a few of them.

Dresses from Pam Yockey's collection
Tears from Kristen Mrozek's eyeballs

This year, as I have in others, I worked to improve the items at my vendor tent. The butterflies and dragonflies were a big hit, with many spectators purchasing them. I asked one woman why she bought one so quickly-apparently both butterflies and dragonflies are often considered a sign from a loved one who has passed. It was fantastic to see so many people stop and do a double-take, reenactors included. The fact that I raised over $100 so far for Crooked Tree Arts Center in honor of Kelly Dorman makes it all the more special. Looks like there's a kindergartener who will get a chance to go to summer art camp! P.S.-You can also donate here.
And they also look fantastic on leaves

Another awesome thing from this year: seeing my goddaughter and her younger brother grow. I've been fairly absent in their young lives for the past four months due to a hectic conference and hectic vendor preparation. The little ones are past the point of tiny mewling creatures; they have personalities, opinions, and all sorts of odd things about them. I'd have to say I prefer older children, or at least at this stage of being. Little Cynthia even helped out around the shop! Becky did a fantastic job on their clothing, so they made perfect assistants. Even if Cynthia's main job was to do quality control on the mud in front of the tent...
 Loving on her brother!
She actually let me do her hair...
Kids are strange sometimes
Last two photos by Lee Cagle

I almost forgot about the shop! As usual, it was a very successful event. It's awesome to see reenactors from everywhere wearing my jewelry. It's awesome to see spectators from previous years wearing my jewelry. One little girl came in and gave me my own blurb about 19th century coral! There's a gaggle of well-dressed young ladies that swear by my stuff, and they parade it around Greenfield as a form of advertising. 

Photos by Lee Cagle

 Another important part of my vendor tent is showcasing a few items that are spectacular from my own collection. Samantha sent darling doll Dolly just in time (yes named after Grandma Dolly!), and Jamie's red pence jug sat just beside her. People asked if they were for sale on numerous occasions. Consider this my very loud, very outspoken sponsor ship! Find Jamie here and Samantha here online.
Another bit of Jamie's work at Greenfield
Dolly definitely made friends!

By Sunday night we were all drained. I pushed myself to attend the party at Lovett Hall, though I did not dance on those two aching feet. Afterward, I showered and scurried back to the vendor area. A torrential downpour after the ball led to me sitting underneath my vendor tent fly, balling my fist at the heavens and demanding it to stop. While I can't scientifically prove my loud protest had any effect on the weather, it did cease and Monday was quite spectacularly without rain during tear down. Which of course is every reenactor's greatest wish.

And just like that, I packed the trailer and went home. I sort of miss my camped out spot, though being a few feet away from a piping hot shower reminds me that I am a 21st century girl through and through. A special thank you to so many people; literally everyone in the 21st Michigan, Mary for feeding me awesome stuff all weekend and helping out, the Morgan family for watching my tent for bathroom breaks, Rosalia keeping me company near the creepy Santas (that's a whole other blog post), and my family for their good stuff like water and food. Let this be a reminder to myself that no matter how important I think I am, it is a solid foundation of love and support that makes it all possible.
And the funny lolz

So I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Thank you to all the men and women who gave their lives to protect this beautiful country, and to all those who continue to do so in any capacity. You are in our thoughts as we celebrate your acts of bravery and cherish your sacrifice.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

So you've lost your mind and want to plan a conference/event...

It was the busiest of times, it was the busiest of times...

More than a few people were surprised to find that the bulk of the conference planning/execution had been done by Glenna Jo Christen and I. Work that should take a team of 5-10 people...we scrambled to make it happen (with delegated help to some individuals, like Bill Christen or my Dad) In hindsight, we will be adding more to our team for next year, but I'm a strong supporter of the "less is more" idea. Plenty of people are wondering how we made this happen, and I am happy to oblige with my thoughts/process. We all benefit if we share information.

So this is my bit of advice, my one cent (No two cents yet-I need two years for that). Remember, I am still learning to plan. I consider this to be a big part of the planning process-reflection. It's good to know what we did right, and what we need to improve upon. Because no matter how much you plan. Something. Will. Go. Wrong. It's not IF, it's WHEN. The measure of you as a leader can be found in those moments, as you frantically set up a flash drive or race to the store for extra punch. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and realize that nothing is ever perfect. Beneath each section I am including a *Note to remind myself for next year!

Kristen's Guide to Conference Planning
Ready yourself for Reflection, Advice, and Slight Sarcasm

1. Find a core group that works REALLY well together.
This has to be airtight. Glenna Jo and I were/are almost always on the same page. We think very similarly on most things, complimenting each other in many of our skills. She taught me to let go of certain things, and I gave her a focused mindset. While you don't need to always agree on everything, this would NOT work if we argued. We definitely disagreed, but no arguments. If you have a person on the board that is rude, disrespectful, or controlling, your job just got 10 times harder. If you have someone dismissive, inflexible, and/or dishonest, I reccomend their removal if at all possible. There's no room for mean on your board, and you don't want that to be the face of your organization.

*Note: Delegate more, stress a bit less
*Note: Extend team to more awesome people
*Note: Take team on rock climbing adventure
for team-building exercise. Here we go Glenna Jo!

2. Get your paperwork in order
No one likes this part, but it's definitely necessary. We operated as a 501c(6), which is a non-profit that promotes industry/business, so donations are not considered tax deductible. (Check out this article to learn more). These are essential things to know before planning anything:

a. What role will each member play? Have a clear, confident leader that will listen/be flexible and will be able to delegate with very clear expectations for what needs to be done.
b. Will you be a non-profit or a business? This can change EVERYTHING
c. How will purchases be handled? We were small enough to handle this directly
d. Who will do taxes? Me, with some help :)
e. Which insurance will you use? Highly recommended, and usually inexpensive for an event.
f. What paperwork do you need to operate? FEIN, meeting minutes, bank statements...oh my!

*Note: Research different insurance options

3. Find the right place that meets your needs
We chose Monroe County Community College for many reasons. They kept our registration cost affordable for attendees ($110 for the weekend), had on-site catering, and included locked space for our vendors. I am very leery of a space that is not locked. This becomes a major liability for everyone involved. Make sure to find out in advance if a space has locks if you are storing valuable items!

Also make sure your hotel/space is adequate for your needs. We went WAY over our allotted room block, and then had issues with the hotel we recommended. Not only will we not be using that hotel again, I plan to meet with the hotel management personally to ensure that all of our needs our met. That's a big improvement planned for next year!

The janitorial staff was FANTASTIC, and I received a brief training on how to use the AV equipment from the tech person. If you are using AV equipment, you should have someone onsite that knows how to use it in 5 different ways. We didn't have to worry about some of the heavy details, like setting up the internet or cleaning a bathroom. That saved us a lot of time and headache.

*Note: Include 1-2 other people in next year's AV training
*Note: Hotel changes

4. Plan things down to the minute, including spare time
When I first made the schedule, I only planned 5 minute breaks between seminars. This would have been a BIG problem. After all, people need to use the bathroom and such. And no breaks means the entire schedule is thrown off! Which of course frustrates everyone. I planned for "down" time, when people could go shop or just chat; we called them "Vendor Hours." Have the schedule readily available for people to reference all day. This means signs and stuff.

*Note: Add Vendors Hours in the morning and start just a smidgen later
*Note: Post more signs about the schedule in more places
*Note: More road signs and a more specific map to venues
on website and pre-conference material.

5. Ask for advice from people who know better
If you are in charge, you probably know by now that you don't know everything (if not, you are lying to yourself and probably need to remove yourself from the board). The mark of a good leader is that she knows when to defer to those who are more knowledgeable on a subject. Even the most seasoned planner finds something that turns into a question mark. This year we had many question marks, with tons of people to help with the answers. Honestly, we can always improve and grow, so advice should be a big part of your planning process. You don't have to USE all of it, but just jot it down for future reference.

Examples of Good Advice that we received:

-Elizabeth Stewart Clark sharing her experiences with workshops/weekend events
-Bill Christen, chiming in whenever he had something to share
-My Mom, on food and display
-My Dad, on building/setup/arrangement/safety
-Ken Giorlando, my reenacting Dad, with blog outreach (and Stephanie too! And Katie!)
-The sewing group I visit weekly, offering tips on making websites workable
-Janitorial staff, on table setup
-Culinary staff, on food timing
-Vendors, sharing their previous experiences at events
-Speakers mentioning their prior engagements
-Literally everyone at The Sawyer Homestead
-Friends/family who have already planned major events

*Note: Organize this advice better
*Note: Ask for more!!

6. Treat your vendors well
If you choose to have vendors on site (sometimes this is not possible). TREAT THEM WELL. I think sometimes we take for granted how important they are to the reenacting community. The vendors we had this year were incredible; their dedication to research/craft should be rewarded with all the money we can give them. These are the people we need to be supporting, not the tent selling rayon snoods or the overpriced, sad attempt at jewelry (this is my research area, and sometimes I shudder at the inflated cost of glued together items). Also, vendors are people. Here's some advice for working with them, which you can take with a grain of salt, as your vendor space/time may be different.

-Give them a good chance to make money. Make your table price affordable, but still enough to cover your costs for the space. Remember some people will travel very far.
-Don't lie to them about how many people you will have. Don't say 180 when you actually mean 80. While you may want a vendor to attend, don't lie to them. They may not come back another year when you can actually meet the promises you made the first time.
-Give them extra space if you can! Most vendors need more than one or two tables.
-Make all expectations clear. Times, space, payments, and etc.
-Food/water should be close by. Bonus points if you can provide a snack! In my own experience, I've forgotten to eat now and then :)
-Provide a person to watch their booth for a short time, especially if they are alone.
-Be flexible. They made the choice to be there, and it cost them time and money. Don't give them ridiculous hours, or set unrealistic expectations. They are people, they need to eat/sleep too.
-If possible, let them attend a session (figure out the monetary portion of this in advance).

I LOVED that the vendors could sneak away to go check out a session at our conference. We want these people to continue to grow in their research. They are needed in so many places, and it's sometimes difficult to justify learning when the business is the source of income. Make it easy for them!

*Note: Talk to the vendors who couldn't make it this year-there will be more!
*Note: Reconfigure space to be more efficient.

7. Treat your presenters well
What does it mean to treat a speaker well? This can be so many things! Remember, these people are the experts, the ones disseminating information. For quite a few, presentations or research is a big part of their livelihood. Depending on your financial situation, look at the following for ways to help make everyone happy!

-PAY THEM. Or at the very least, offer to pay them, even if they are offering their services as a volunteer (and let them attend the conference if possible). Even if it's $10. I have turned down payment many times because I understand the financial situation of these non-profit organizations, and I consider doing so a donation of my time/resources. The fact that it was offered shows that my time and effort is of value to the organization. They are telling me I have value to them.
-Or find other ways to compensate. This can mean paying for a hotel room, providing money for travel, or some other thing you work out. Food is a big motivator for me!
-Remember to make food available. We provided lunch/dinner on Saturday.
-Be flexible. If a person has an emergency, be prepared to fill that time slot.
-Provide adequate technical support. They will be busy teaching, and might not have time for this. If you have more than one presentation going at a time, you need more than one computer/projector!
-Give them the time/space/resources if possible. Don't put classes back to back; don't book the same speaker for hours without a break. Ask if they need anything.
-Check in on your people. While it is your job to network and meet people, don't ignore problems at your event. You are in charge, you need to handle it or designate a person to do it. You are the wall of water that stands between your event and the fire!
-Ask them afterwards what they liked, and what could be changed to improve anything.
-Write them a thank you (or some equivalent). Because it's just polite and my Grandma said so :)

*Note: Review speaker surveys

7. Create a program that fits your needs
Now for the meat of your conference. Unfortunately, I can't give you these ideas because we are probably going to be different (but do you want to bounce some ideas off of me? Comment below with your email...) We were so lucky to have a long list of potential speakers to choose from! Here's more detailed advice:

-Research your intended audience. We wanted to reach out to reenactors of different age groups/genders. Since finances seemed to be the biggest issues for youth, we made their registration less than half ($45) of the regular cost. The topics also reached out to men and women, from clothing to the trial of the Lincoln assassins!
-Choose dynamic speakers!
-Include the in-depth research. A Pinterest board is not research, no matter how many "experts" try to cram that down your throat. I've seen many boards with wrong items touted as "period accurate." It's an idea board, not a primary source.
-Make visual elements mandatory. This can be a powerpoint, handout, or other things beyond just the spoken word. Most people are VISUAL learners, and they need keep their interest and further enhance their learning.
-If possible, give options. People love being able to have a choice! Though in hindsight, most people wanted to attend both presentations we offered at the same time. There is a line between choice/no choice. We will work on this for next year.

*Note: Work on youth workshop for the weekend
*Note: More opportunities for learning material culture

 8. Create opportunities for interaction
I already mentioned that people are visual learners. This is another observation from this seasoned teacher; people like to move around. And they like to touch things. Ever notice the "Do Not Touch" signs at museums? Those are there because someone already touched something. As human beings we feel the need to have tactile interaction with our environment. So plan for that!

-Provide opportunities for hands on workshops. These were really popular for us!
-If possible, have an interactive display, with items that can be touched upon request.
-Mike Mescher provided some games, not only for his presentation, but at our soiree Friday night as well. Everyone loved it, and they had a chance to get up and move around.
-Did I mention the dancing? Jackie Schubert graced us with her presence as a caller, and the Peace Jubilee Band provided the music.
-Vendors can provide an excellent opportunity to examinr a reproduction of an original. Bob Sullivan has replicas you can handle and Lucy's hairwork pieces gave the tactile experience of hair jewelry. And I'll be darned if I get my hair caught in one of Mike Mescher's toys...

*Note: Add more workshops. Definitely.

 9. Know your tech
I know I already mentioned this in several places, but I think it deserves its own section. It is my belief that having a dedicated tech person the day of your event is absolutely necessary. The college provided a person for us, and I learned how to use the computer/projectors (with Bill Christen also figuring this out). Here's a few things that would require a tech-savvy person:

-Website building, make it easy to navigate and transparent! People should know EXACTLY how much it costs to attend your event, with possible accommodations/prices listed.
-The AV equipment-keep your presentations in 3 accessible places: flash drive, email, and hard drive.
-We had audio tours of our original items. This requires techie experience.
-Taking pictures or videos for advertising.
-Advertising through Facebook events, blog posts, or other online tools
-Your space should have WIFI. This is just me talking; I use my computer for notes.

How long does it take you to pull up a presentation? Can you set it up in presentation mode? What happens if the projector stops working? Who will step in if you can't be there at the exact moment? If you can't answer these questions, then you may find yourself out of luck if there's an issue!

*Note: Revamp website
*Note: Make registration easier

10. Signage like crazy. Communicate like crazy
This is one BIG area that I want to see improvement on for next year. I have a very keen sense of direction, but this is not true for everyone, and I needed to be more aware of this fact. Sometimes a new place can be confusing, so plan on people asking about the odd roundabout or 12 way stop downtown. Also, I plan to contact attendees to make sure that I communicated effectively.

-Communicate times/locations very clearly.
-Communicate parking very clearly. People don't want to leave with a ticket!
-DO NOT claim that you are endorsed by someone if you are not. Even if you're friends with them, or think they are your inspiration. This is known as lying.
-Do be honest about how much it costs, and what the requirements are for attendance. 
-Signs, signs, signs. We only put up 2 this year. I'm already planning the 5-10 direction signs, and the spots they will be. That one was a big learning experience!
-Post your schedule all over the building.
-Make contact with every person, either via email/Facebook, snail mail, or phone call. I talked to so many people in such a short time!
-Let people know if/when they can get their money back if they can't attend. I've see people complaining about this about a recent event. Here's my (now) two cents; do whatever you can to leave a person happy with their experience with you. That is both good business as well as the soul of politeness and civility. My Facebook feed was filled with negative comments about this event because people were genuinely annoyed about money.
-Ask for feedback.

*Note: More signs
*Note: Return policy clearly stated

11. Invite young people
Connecting with youth is one of the main goals for our conference. It's the big complaint/concern many groups have: why aren't young people joining up? This typically devolves into one of those "young people don't appreciate history" discussions, which bother me to no end. Because in my experience (with most exceptions in the reenacting community), young people are odd little creatures that don't even appreciate themselves. How can they love history with us if we're already bashing their age group? This year we had quite a few young people attend, and here are some of the things we did for them.

-Lowered registration for teens/young adults. Seriously, money talks. A kid will have a hard time paying $110, even if he/she is really excited to attend. Now $45? That's some babysitting and mowed lawns. It also makes it doable for families who want to bring their youngsters.
-Topics that may interest young people will attract them. Who knew? The dolls were a hit, and I had one youth survey talk about how much she loved it!
-Ask for input. I called out for ideas from the young people in my unit.
-Put them in charge of things. A few young ladies helped me hand out prizes, manned tables, and were all around gophers. Adorable gophers.
-Visual/tactile learning opportunities. Seriously everyone loves these.

*Note: Youth Workshop next year
*Note: Continue gophers

12. Compile/Review Surveys
So you did it! You pulled off the conference/event/thingy! Good job and I hope not too many things caught fire! If you've decided to do another one, then this is a great time to reflect. Do this relatively soon after so you don't forget (my Dad got very sick this year, so I had to delay a bit).

Hopefully, people filled out those surveys. People gave us so many good ideas. Ask about everything, from the food and hotel to the topics and the workshops. Don't expect to please everyone, that's impossible. But if 5 people mention a lack of signage...well then you better add more signs! You can also use the good reviews for promotional material. I actually got teary eyed from a few of them, they were so nice. HINT: If you liked something a lot, tell the organizer. It makes her feel really nice :)

13. Treat yourself well
And last, but not totally least, be good to yourself. I noted that in my first blog post after the conference. I was so anxious, nervous, and just not well for a few days. Luckily I have a dedicated family that took care of my basics so I didn't expire in the meantime. Here's a few things that I tried to relax/ensure I survived this conference.

-Eat food. I stopped eating for a few days, with disastrous results. Even if it's just a ton of comfort food, you need calories to get through all this work. (Glenna noted here that "at least some people do" I am making a mental note to make sure we both cram food down next year :)
-Sleep. Heck, take a melatonin if you need it.
-Massage. Yeah, my aunt took me to get a massage. It was awesome, and helped.
-Take a break from the event sometimes. Go home, pick another project, or just watch TV. Life will continue afterwards.
-Don't leave things to the last minute. Plan, plan, plan! Do as much as you can as early as you can. You'll worry less if you do.
-Tell people if you feel icky, and let them help you if needed.

In Conclusion...
If you made it to the end of this post, than you are definitely planning an event! That's cool; tell me about it in the comments, I may be able to make it out your way. I'm a huge fan of educational things, and would love to see them more often at events. After all, we improve together!

This post was essential to the entire process, as it made me reexamine everything. It's easy to get into a work mindset, and even easier to become especially protective of an event you plan. Don't let that come between you and success. One big part of planning is realizing that you made mistakes and can do better next time. Learning is a lifetime journey! I hope my ramblings have somehow helped. Feel free to pick and choose what you'd like to use, as every event is different. What works for one site might not work for another. Happy planning friends!


***BIG NOTE: Here's a special shout out to both Genteel Arts and Genessee Country Village, as I attended both of their conferences. There's a reason people keep going back to them, year after year. Also, I will be going back next year to each, so expect a few more blog posts. I'm including links to both sites; keep checking this summer to find out about classes/conference information.


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