Organizing and Presenting Arts and Sciences Research

Introduction

This class will cover six steps on how to gather, organize, and lay out Arts and Sciences presentations so viewers understand their research, process, and final product. Step one with cover gathering research materials, with suggestions of what to include. Step two will cover how to assemble images and text. Steps three and four focus on how to plan a layout using the Golden Rectangle. The final steps cover how to adjust the layout, and edit finalize the display.

Step 1: Gather Research Materials

Research is not a linear process. A scholar may start with a single article or book, and have their research encompass many volumes before a project is finished. The most important thing to present is the reference images that inspired the work.

When deciding what books or articles to include in the presentation, try the note card approach. Place all of the materials on a table, and write a sentence or reference point on an index card or sticky note for every piece of research that relates to the final product. The books with the most notes should be included.

Be careful with the notes. Having too much research can be overwhelming for viewers. Try to limit your project’s references to no more than three or four sources. Keep a full bibliography page on hand if additional information is requested.

Step 2: Gathering and Assembling Images

“A picture speaks a thousand words” is especially true of research. If the presentation is a piece of clothing, show the inspirational renaissance painting or the ancient garment from a peat bog. Viewers can easily see how close the final product is to the source materials. This is the time to use color print-outs or scans.

Not everything done in the past can be re-created in modern times. Lead was a common element used in paint, make-up, and feast gear in period. Modern science has demonstrated the dangers of lead, and other metals are substituted in its place. Note how safety, availability, and expense affected the final product.

Take pictures of the work-in-progress. If the final product is a painting, show the outline sketches, and how it looked as each layer was added. If the product is a garment, show how it as pinned. These details can help someone else create their own version.

Finally, don’t be afraid to show mistakes. If a thing was incorrectly measured or cut, note that, and show the correction. Document the process.

Step 3: Using the Golden Rectangle

The Golden Rectangle is a mathematical ratio found in nature and the proportions of the human body. This ratio is seen daily in 8.5 x 11” pieces of paper, among other things. 1

Ratios

The ratios of the golden rectangle determine the sizes of photographs, art prints, and most frame sizes available in any store.

Applying the golden ratio to larger or smaller layouts than 8.5 x 11” requires some proportional math. This process is called ‘cross multiply and divide,’ and can be used for finding an unknown length for either the larger or the smaller side.

XmultiplyStep 4: Laying out Your Research

The Golden Rectangle is more of a guideline than an actual rule. A thumbnail sketch showing relative locations is more important. Thumbnail sketches are quick drawings made in seconds. Make four or five thumbnails. The images below show an original design, its thumbnail sketch rearrangement, and the resulting information board.

Thumbnails.jpg

Step 5: Putting it All Together1page

This is an example of a single-sheet thumbnail sketch. The resulting board could be 11x17” or 24x36”. Each piece of information is surrounded by a box drawn with a dashed line to show how much room it needs.

This type of design is similar to a magazine page. It has a title, supporting text, and one or two of the most important points repeated in a larger font. Images are interspersed above and around the text.

The 10-foot rule is the most important part of board layout. Place your text and images on the board, walk about ten feet away, and look at the result. Details you miss when working up close become apparent from farther away.

Spread

A folded display is more versatile, and can be placed on a table instead of relying on a wall for support. Folded displays are more complicated to plan because the thumbnail sketches need to show both halves, but they can incorporate side-by-side comparisons easily.

Double-sided tape or spray adhesive are the best ways to attach printouts to boards. Single sided tape can stick the boards together during transport, and should only be used for single boards.

Step 6: Less is More: Editing

Stephen King’s advice for editing is that each draft should contain 10% fewer words. Write the documentation, have a good night’s sleep, and remove unnecessary words the next day. Focus on making project’s concept easy to understand. Understanding leads to engagement. Engaged viewers look for more information, and will appreciate the full depth of the project.

Conclusion

Organizing Arts and Sciences presentations is a complex, multi-step process. It requires assembling reference and process images and text that tell a story without overwhelming the viewer.

The first step requires gathering research materials, and choosing which sources to include. Next, images and descriptive text are assembled. The third and fourth steps are layout considerations, using the Golden Rectangle as a guideline. The final two steps involve looking at the almost complete project, and choosing how to streamline the information presented.

Suggested Reading

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order (2nd Edition) by Francis D.K. Ching ISBN: 978-0471286165

This book is useful because every page has a stunning visual layout. The second edition is out of date and has a lower price.

1 Images scanned from Architecture: Form, Space, and Order.

Sewing a Viking Cloak

VikingCloakThe first thing I entered in an Arts and Sciences competition was my möttull, a semicircular cloak. At the time I was fencing, and had seen other Carolingian fencers wearing short, wrist-length cloaks.

I prefer a circular or semicircular cloak to a square or rectangular cloak because a cloak with corners will have an uneven distribution of fabric weight at those corners.

Thor Ewing’s  Viking Clothing book mentions a reference to a semicircular cloak in the Kormáks saga, and suggests this cloak  design might have been introduced in the Viking age. This type of cloak was pinned at the shoulder.

This cloak was the first time I tried using embroidery floss for the running stitch that edges the garment. It’s such a simple thing, but I’m always touched when people compliment me on it.

VikingDrawingThe hardest part of making this cloak was remembering that the hood would not attach at the center of the neck opening. It felt very strange to me to have fabric extend past the edge of the hood. At Pennsic, I was surprised at how useful it was to choose to cover or free my right arm. If it was cold, I tucked the extra fabric around my body. When the day warmed, I could uncover my right arm and carry things or easily pull my  latest hand sewing project out of my bag.

I scanned this illustration from page 106 of Viking Clothing. It shows a figure from the Oseberg Tapestry wearing a wrapped, hooded cloak that exposes the right shoulder.

The Bog Dress: An Early Sewing Project

CAM00229One of the first things I made for Pennsic was a Bog Dress. The garment is named after the dress recovered from a peat bog. I used Alfrun’s Bog Dress pattern. I really appreciated her attention to details. Her suggestion for sewing the pleats by hand before doing the overstitching was invaluable.

This dress was one of the first pieces I sewed for the SCA, and it has a number of problems that I have learned from.

CAM00231

The biggest issue with this dress is how the arm opening isn’t the same length in the front and back flaps. I overcompensated for the back panel needing to fold over the shoulder. In the next iteration of the dress, I’ll try it on, make sure I can move both arms comfortably, and then cut the back panel to match the front panel’s length.

CAM00234

 

 

I love the way the side seams look, but they were a pain to sew. The next time I make this dress, I’ll sew the front and back panels together first, and then hem all the edges.

One of the marks of a true craftsman is that we will always see more flaws in our work than anyone else. I could rip out seams and make this dress much better. Instead, I choose to leave it as it is. This dress has become part of the record of my sewing in the SCA. I want to keep it, wear it, and show newcomers that nobody starts out making perfect garb!