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      SKILLS & CRAFTS    

Here is information about some skills, crafts and trades that members of CROFT have opportunity to explore and become proficient in.

The possibilities for exercising skills and crafts are enormous, let your imagination flow. So many things were invented or developed between 400BC to 1746AD, the time period which CROFT represents – glass, porcelain, firearms, pencils, ink, manufactured pens, concrete, paint, stains, dyes, toys, games, just to name a few.

As the Arizona Renaissance Festival (ARF), the major event that CROFT supports, is Renaissance themed, (though does not specify an exact year in history), CROFT members' skills, crafts and demonstrations mainly represent the mid 15th - 16th Centuries.

Talking about topics such as Clothing of the period, or the construction methods and designs  of  Buildings and Houses is just as much a demonstration as a hands on activity. Many people want to hear how our Celtic ancestors lived, what they did, how they did it – they are fascinated by us and what we portray. We have many young people in our group who could tell their story. What did a young lass or lad do on a daily basis, what was their life like?

Perhaps a talk on the types of skins and furs and how they were used - no need to make anything – just talk about it with samples. So many people do not know the difference between them - what is the difference, where do they come from, what do different animal hides feel like, what are their uses? Or the various natural fibers that were available - wool, linen, silk - how they were gathered, prepared, dyed, spun and woven.

There are so many areas in which to develop and enjoy craft skills and trades.
The List of Skills and Crafts names over 75 different activities. Some examples:

Fibercrafts

Spinning, weaving and felting, knitting and sewing were essential for producing every sort of fabric item from clothing to ships' sails. Embroidery and blackwork were used to decorate fabrics; 
tapestry to create wall hangings for both beauty and warmth.
Fibers were twisted or braided to produce cord and rope, then knotted and spliced to make netting and ships' rigging.

spinning inkle loom weaving   

Do you like to knit, sew clothes, embroider, sew tapestry, make lace, make felt?
Are you interested in how wool, linen and other fibers were spun, dyed and woven in different ways to make cloth, belts, braid?
Would you like to learn - or teach - about making cord and rope from fiber, even from straw like súgán, the traditional Irish straw rope?

Metalworking

A Blacksmith makes many kinds of weapons, armour, tools and other objects out of metal. He heats the metal in the forge to make it soft, and then hammers it on an Anvil to shape it. Smiths over the years specialized as armorers, bladesmiths, swordsmiths, nailmakers and chainmakers, branching out from the trade of general Smith. Blacksmiths also often were the farrier, making and fitting horseshoes to the many horses that transport relied on in that period.

The bronzesmith, silversmith and tinsmith made everything from everyday utensils to cheap ornaments and exquisite jewelry; both by hammering and by casting in pewter or silver and gold. The coin minter struck the coinage that was essential for trade, from everyday purchases in the market to international trade.

blacksmiths    knifesmith    bronzesmith

Blacksmithing is at the heart of CROFT craft skills. Would you like to try your hand?
Perhaps you have an interest in copper, bronze or silver smithing, making clasps and brooches patterned on Celtic originals, or minting coins or casting badges?

Leather working

Leather was indispensable throughout the CROFT period. It was really the only tough, flexible, waterproof sheet material available.
Leatherworkers' skills were in high demand. The crafting of clothing, boots and shoes, purses and bags, saddles, straps and sword belts, and bottels and jacks were necessary items for Medieval life.

Period shoes are always hard to find; perhaps you could make them? There would be a ready market. Belts and purses are essential for the CROFT period and easy to make. Carved, stamped and painted/dyed decoration adds appeal to plain leather items.

Weaponry

The gun was invented and developed during the period we cover; but knives and swords, chain mail and shields and targes were still important weaponry throughout the period which saw war and conflict.

Are you perhaps a black powder shooter? Or have an interest in edged weapons, armor and shields? You could demonstrate the range of armory of the period. Would you like to learn how to make a Scottish targe or chain mail?

Home Crafts

Domestic life depended almost totally on the skills - and hard work - of the householders. Gathering and growing foods in season, preserving and cooking the food; making, washing and mending clothing; making everyday utensils and toys out of wood and horn, from spoons to toys to barrels and boxes to furniture; baskets and brooms; making soap and candles or rush-lights. When our Celtic ancestors fell ill, they had a wealth of natural remedies; but in severe cases might visit the barber-surgeon or the apothecary.

cooking   lacemaking   papermaking

Try cooking over an open fire; make candles or soap as our forebears did. Carpentry and woodworking can include wood-turning, carving, spoon-carving, toy-making, coopering and furniture. Or else weaving baskets and making brooms? If you are not so good with your hands, present the folk remedies of those times, the work of the apothecary or even the bloody-handed barber-surgeon. 

Arts & Crafts

Celtic life was not all hard graft or war. Irish, Scots and Welsh are all renowned for their music and dance. Visual arts, painting and drawing, and the decoration of everyday objects, have a long history in the Celtic world. Exquisite gold, silver and bronze jewelry and artifacts, the bright colors and fine calligraphy of manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, show the artistry of Celtic craftspeople down the ages.

dulcimer      Harper   dancer  

Do you enjoy traditional music and dance? Or drawing, sketching, painting? Making paper, preparing parchment and then fine writing and calligraphy. binding the results into a book? More simply, Celtic peoples made symbols and ornaments by braiding and weaving straw into “corn dollies”.
An important member of every Celtic community was the “seannachie” (shan-a-kee) or story-teller; who kept the old legends and stories alive. Could that be you?


For many of us, much of the interest comes from researching the Skill or Craft which we plan to demonstrate. You should be able to speak to how it would have been done during the period in which we are portraying. If you have to use modern equipment or accessories as part of your demonstration; many items of modern equipment or tools can be converted to look like period items or covered in such a way that they appear period and are still functional. In addition, many items can be crafted out of wood, steel or leather to appear period without much effort.

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