Once upon a time, back in April of AS 41 (2007), in the far reaches of the Northern Region of the East Kingdom, a not-so-young new mother breathed a sigh of relief that both she and her twin daughters had survived the girls’ first year of life. Her confinement had been long, and the year since their birth had been grueling and included not nearly enough sleep. While her heart was filled with love of her daughters, not-so-young Albreda was feeling isolated, and longed to get back to the Society that had filled the years of her youth with such boon companions.

While she was excited to take the children to their first event nearby the following month (that’s her daughter, D, at her first event, to the left!), she knew that excursions farther afield were going to be few and far between for quite some time to come. She’d see friends at sporadic local events, but she longed to connect more regularly with other artisans so her mind might be filled with research and plans even while her arms were filled with sleeping children. She spoke to a few talented artist friends that month, and was sorry to hear that so many were being discouraged by their experiences with competitions across the realm, and heard that the creative spark was likewise being snuffed out in friends across the Knowne World; dragged down by documentation and politics. With sadness in her heart, she measured her children for their new tunics, and *had an idea*…

What if there were other artisans who perhaps also couldn’t make it out to events often, and/or who wanted to share their ideas and developing projects with other artists who would support them on their way, and be interested in hearing what they were discovering? What if they could all geek out together, and make a new kind of artistic community, where anyone was welcome, from total novice to exalted Laurel, but without the structure and pressure of households or competitions or awards. The community would understand that people had lives, and that artisans were still artisans and could be valued members of a community even when they were incubating ideas (and babies) instead of finishing projects. A community where who you were, and supporting who you were on the way to becoming was considered more important than what you made along the way.

On May 1st of that year, as AS 42 was dawning, an idealistic and still somewhat sleep-deprived not-so-young new mother named Albreda Aylese began telling a few friends about this crazy idea of hers, and by July of that year she had put the final touches on her Challenge, and sent the following missive to a few groups of friends to see what they thought, hoping that perhaps twenty or thirty other people might be interested in joining her. Her plan was simple: get people together to support and share with each other, and give everyone a long-term goal that they could still dream about during the times when life gave them no time to do anything else, but which was far enough away that they’d hopefully eventually have time to bring those dreams to fruition…

Unto all good gentles of the Known World does Lady Albreda Aylese send greetings!

The Society for Creative Anachronism celebrates its 50th year on May 1, 2015, and that will be cause for much celebration.  I am starting early, and I hereby invite you to join the party!

Challenges have long been a part of Scadian culture, and I thought that a challenge of 50 things seemed appropriate for our 50th year.  Since years in the SCA are counted as Anno Societatis, (year of the Society,) or AS, and Arts and Sciences (the lovely canopy under which so many of my interests rest) is oft abbreviated A&S, the A&S 50 Challenge was born.
The A&S 50 Challenge can take one of two forms; either Depth or Breadth.  The Depth Challenge is to create/do 50 of any one thing – make 50 pairs of shoes for your Shire, pen 50 scrolls for your Kingdom signet, cast 50 coins blanks, make 50 pieces of garb, judge 50 competition entries, teach 50 classes, perform 50 songs, or even write a 50 page research paper; if you want to take your current work to a new level, doing 50 of it is bound to carry you a long way towards that goal!  The Breadth Challenge can be about either trying new things,  (either completely new to you, variations on things you have done before, or even new to your household, local group, or even Kingdom), or about creating a complete persona package (things that your persona would know about, have, and know how to do).  Both individuals and groups may enter, and can choose to complete as many Challenges of either type as they please!

The purpose of the Challenge is twofold; to learn and share of our learning, and to create and share of our creation.  While we are edifying and beautifying our fair lands, we will also be serving both our populace and The Dream, and helping to make the SCA the very best it can be as it enters its 50th year.

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That all sounds very grand, and grand is good, but please allow me to speak plainly…

Most of us in the A&S community struggle to get past the novice/intermediate level; not knowing how to proceed, who to talk to for advice, what the latest research says, what about our work could use improvement or how to make those changes.  We lack a clearly marked path upon which to journey towards excellence, and we lack support along the way.

The SCA has a huge resource base that can light our path; our Laurelate and members of Kingdom A&S orders.  They are veritable fonts of wisdom, but they aren’t mind readers (they don’t know who we are, or what we want from them), and have limited time and resources themselves, much of which they need as they continue along roads of their own.

Thus, one of the main purposes of this Challenge is to meet other travellers, and perhaps, to begin to walk together, and show each other the way.  Each of us, no matter where we are on our journeys, has something to share with our fellow Challengers; complete novices can share enthusiasm, beginners can share discovery, intermediates the processes by which they solve problems, and experts can share of their experience and resources.  Hopefully we can blaze, mark, and illuminate trails, not only for each other, but also for those who have yet to even set their feet upon the path.

Being new at something is an amazing experience; enthusiasm and that sense of discovery are just plain contagious.  The second goal of this Challenge is to get everyone feeling this by trying new things.  There are SO many Arts and Sciences that were practiced in period that we just don’t see much of in the SCA.  People DO practice these diciplines, but often in isolation (and, unfortunately, frustrated obscurity) because they think others just aren’t interested in them, when, in reality, most people just haven’t been *exposed* to them.  Trying something, even just once, even if it doesn’t give someone a fully working knowledge of a given art or science, CAN give one a better appreciation of the work, and the people who do it, both in an historical context, and within our own Society.

When you put these two goals together, you end up with our motto “to learn and share of our learning, and to create and share of our creation.”  Our Society is full of passionate, skilled and knowledgable people, all of whom share our Dream.  It is my hope that this Challenge can make it just a little bit sweeter, a little bit richer, for all of us.

Yours in Service,
Lady Albreda Aylese,
Shire of the Mountain Freehold,
Kingdom of the East
July 6th, AS 42 (2007)

And the rest is history…

Word soon spread, throughout not only the Kingdom of the East, but the whole of the Knowne World, and the new A&S 50 Challenge Community needed to build a Yahoo hall in which to gather. Challengers signed the ledger there letting her know who they were, where they lived, and what they were passionate and curious about. Soon people were finding one another just as Albreda had hoped, and the numbers of Challengers kept growing. Soon the *still* sleep-deprived even-less-young mother was becoming a mother again, so she endeavored to find a skilled and willing representative in each Kingdom of the Knowne World to take care of her Challengers there, while she hand-sewed a maternity shift, and tried to catch up on sleep….

From there Challengers formed their own supportive subgroups, often by Kingdom, and some soared brilliantly, while others worked more quietly alone, each coming and gaining support and sharing their learning and creations with one another as desired. After many long years of mutual support, shared resources, and much joy, the days were accomplished that AS 50 was before us, and with it the dawn of the 50th year of the Society…