We were at 12th night coronation a few weeks ago, held in a smallish medieval town in Germany called Miltenberg which is a really pretty place. We hadn’t wanted to come really because we had just been in Miltenberg the weekend right before for New Year’s Eve ( and left the town standing after an hour’s worth of large fireworks)  but there were some things to do at the event namely Marcus taking over as Baronial seneschal and he felt we needed to be there for this and he was not wrong in this thinking. So we booked a hotel and made plans. It was a good event in spite of various annoying things and weird somewhat unhappy undercurrents going on. It ended up that with some small negotiations I ended up taking on my 3rd SCA apprentice at the event. I waited a long time before I took anyone under my wing after the 1st.

Like, I suspect, many new laurels we wait a bit shedding the role of apprentice ourselves to slip in to the role of “master”. Ailitha was always my minion though long before I was elevated so that was a no brainer. She calls me MamaB and we conspire together. She comes and goes as she pleases and I spoil her rotten but she has mad skillz and I am delighting in watching her grow as an artist as well as a young woman. I may not be her blood family but I could not be more proud of her if I was. Since her SCA goals are radically different than most people’s ( that is she’s enjoying the hobby when she has time rather than pushing to be on a fast track) I don’t feel the need to kick her butt to get her going but rather let her find her own way in and out of the scribe world with some hints and nudging along the way. She is one of those rare creatures who just gets it and if I need to point out flaws she nods and makes corrections without feeling hurt or disappointed which makes my job so easy I get spoiled.

I waited several years before I took on a 2nd apprentice and that was for completely different reasons. I am a calligraphy and Illumination laurel and Gunhild is a late period costumer. But the needs were different. She needed someone to nudge and push and introduce her to how stuff is done in the SCA ( not how costumes are done because she knows more about this in her little pinky nail that I do in my entire universe) but she needed backup. Someone she could count on to be there for her and help her learn the ropes. She wanted someone who was close by and I think that we are friends really helps a lot. I felt she needed a laurel’s attention, someone to point out her work and show case it. I may not have mad costuming skillz but I do possess an uncanny ability to blog like a fiend when I want to. So I post her work and make her explain about it, document it, and nudge her to teach etc…there are things we are working on but it takes time to prep a shy person to get up and teach in front of other people, especially when there is a language barrier there as well. So really I feel more like a guide than a “master” in this case and we have a lot to teach each other. It’s a nice relationship and we’re comfortable with it in a good way.

Now I have a 3rd apprentice and this is where the number stays. For me, three people to teach, guide, etc… is enough. She marks a bit of a change for me in that she will be the 1st apprentice I have taken on who was not a close friend first. In fact, all things considered, we hardly know each other in real life because we’ve only met at a couple of events and really only two of those ( including the one where we signed the indenture) did I get to spend much time with her. So for me, in terms of a master apprentice relationship this one probably comes closest to the norm. ( not that I think there is a norm for this but you get what I mean). This is not to say we won’t become great friends or anything like that so don’t misunderstand me, but right now she is my apprentice and I her master and we are learning what that means. It’s going to be a fun journey (I hope).

It’s a huge responsibility. You take on a close and somewhat personal relationship to guide, teach and take care of another human being in an artistic field. In essence suddenly one has the power to make or break another person’s love for an art, their artistic development and how they eventually will teach and pass on their knowledge to others. This is a big deal and I can’t stress that enough. It is not a relationship I ever took or take on lightly. I think a great deal about how to best teach, how to best give positive critique,, how to best be both mentor and friend and how to push the apprentice ( all three in this case) forward so that in the end they exceed the teachings and excel beyond my skills to go on and pass along to the next person. The student should surpass the master. If that doesn’t happen then I haven’t done my job right. and make no mistake this is a job. ( a fun job)

One of the most important things I think that anyone in this mentor position can teach a person is when and how to say no.

I’ve touched on this before but lately I have been hearing a lot about how when people who do stuff for free say no I can’t do that they have been getting crap for it. Bullied about it and coerced into reversing their “no” to an okay I’ll do it.  

This is one of my pet peeves.

It took me a while to learn that no is also an answer.

And that is exactly what it is. Nothing more and nothing less.

When you ask if a person can do something for you and they say no it doesn’t mean “I hate you”, it doesn’t mean “You suck” it also doesn’t mean “no really I mean yes but I need to be convinced”  It just means no, negative, nein, niet, nej etc…

In a society such as the SCA we run  on volunteers and there are the doers and the takers just like in any group. Unfortunately lately I see a lot more takers than doers and hear a lot of bitching about people saying no when a yes was the desired answer.

This is like beating a dead horse with a stick to make it go faster. It doesn’t work.

All this sort of behaviour does is drive the doers away.

I teach all of my apprentices to say no- guilt free. If they can’t do something, can’t work an event, can’t make 10 scrolls in a week, can’t sew your dress, can’t do the dishes can’t or don’t want to ( fill in the blank) then they can and should say no. Politely. I also tell them that if they get flack for this then they should direct said person giving them flack to me and I will deal with it. My way of dealing with things would be slightly less polite if things escalate to a point where I have to step in.

I get that it is disappointing to hear the word no especially when a person is expecting a yes. But in a volunteer run group it should be expected and accepted. There are a lot of people waiting in the wings who would liked to be asked and rarely are because it’s easy to rely on the few who have been working their asses off.

So some advice for the takers. No means no. accept it and move on.
some advice to the doers : Say no when you don’t want to do something because I guarantee you when you say yes all the time eventually you will hate what was once a lot of fun. It is okay to take some me time, especially if you are learning a skill.

Once you have all mastered the art of saying and accepting no we’ll move onto lesson number two which is how to say Thank-you. 

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