Progress – Not

There’s been a change of leadership at MedFaire. The new director is a long time friend. Today, we stuffed the vendor contract envelopes. It looks like I will be doing much more administrative work with MedFaire, before, during, and after.

This makes me wonder about the future of the alchemy booth. I still very much want to do it, but it looks more like it would be something better for someone else to do, and I just help out.

Like many other state agencies (and MedFaire is a state agency, or at least a program from a state agency), with the budget cuts, when a job is vacated, they usually don’t fill it. Linda’s job was an exception, someone has to run MedFaire. AnnMarie was a part time assistant and was promoted to Linda’s position, meaning AnnMarie’s job as assistant is vacant and will probably remain so until the budget turns around. So I offered to help as much as possible – an unpaid assistant.

Of course, I also volunteered my ex to help mark the grounds the week before the Faire. I am not above volunteering other people when I know they probably won’t mind being volunteered. This gives my ex a chance to catch up with a couple of his old friends, friends he wouldn’t get to see this year since he’s not attending MedFaire this year in favor of attending a gun show in Tulsa instead.

I got a preview of the T-shirt design this year and will gleefully buy both T-shirt and sweatshirt this year.

And, with greater involvement in admin, I will have less time to even think about having a booth.

I admit the primary reason I wanted a booth was so I’d have something to do between the volunteer shifts, a place to stash my gear, a place to interact with the patrons, a place out of the weather to sit, and a place for the doggies to rest and relax.

I don’t know how much (or little!) time I will have to set up and run a booth at the Faire, and so I guess I will table it for now. Not give it up, just backburner it for now. In a year or two, I’ll look at it again.

Modernizing Alchemy

True, the alchemy of Gosplodey is based on medieval alchemy – the symbols, the equipment, the styling of the booth, the costuming – but it has to be accessible to modern people who want to simply enjoy watching it. It also has to be accessible to those who want to participate.

I, personally, think it’s fun to spend 2 years creating a vegetable stone and I understand the language and terminology used in alchemy. But MedFair is a totally different situation. The people there want to be entertained, amazed, and delighted in 15 minutes. That means it needs to be quick, flashy, intriguing enough to want the audience to want more, and most important – understandable.

Distillation and calcination are the most visually engaging processes of alchemy. The creation of pigments and fireworks the most exciting, so those are probably the best options for demonstrations. I just purchased a copy of Dennis Hauck’s “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy”. It arrived today. A quick glimpse through it doesn’t seem to be as simple and introductory as I wanted, but perhaps with it as the guide, I can craft something usable for MedFaire and put together a chapbook for the apprentice alchemist.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t planning on being ready before 2012! I thought, when this first started, that it would take that long to create stock and design the booth and sew the robes and all. While all of that will certainly take time, it’s the selection of suitable processes that will take the most time.

It is said that the qualities of a good alchemist are found in the person who can cook an egg perfectly. Common tools in alchemy can also be found in most kitchens: glass bowls and cookware (some people wondered why I was so very excited when Pyrex created the Visions cookware – now you know), plastic strainers, cheesecloth, wooden spoons, mortar and pestles, baking stones,scales, glass measuring devices, wine and beer bottles, and corks. Also common ingredients are used: dried herbs, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, salts, lard, vinegar, alcoholic spirits such as vodka, wine, or brandy, and cooking oil. Add fire and with these, we can make tinctures, essences, elixirs, and vegetable stones.

For pigments and fireworks, we’d need slightly more ingredients. Artist sites have better pigment recipes than modern alchemy texts, perhaps because the alchemical processes of making pigments has remained in the artist community while falling into disfavor among modern alchemists.

Making fireworks also falls under the “no longer interests modern alchemists” but was a fascinating part of medieval and Chinese alchemy.

Some of the experiments on this page could fit into an alchemy booth, and this page has links to more. Now to pore through all this material and select the ones that would fit the project the best.

Thought Work

With my hand still out of commission, I have plenty of time to think and do bits of research. I’ve also been communicating with scientist friends who have been thinking along similar lines in different fields of science. One’s a biologist, specifically an entomologist, and she recently started considering a science club for adults involving mostly insects – mantises are holding their appeal for her because as insects go, these are both intelligent and less fear or disgust inducing than many other insects, making them an excellent “first” bug.

Others are doing other things to get adults involved in “citizen scientist” type activities. It’s all very steampunky to me. I know Gosplodey’s is set in medieval times (because of MedFair), and I’m going to keep it there to start with because if I don’t keep it small and limited, it will get away from me, become too big to do and I’ll abandon it because it became overwhelming.

The trouble is, with all this time to think and very little ability to actually do right now, Gosplodey’s is taking on a tendency to swell up and expand across the ages. I can so clearly see how well this would fit in at SF conventions as a steampunk thing (the aforementioned “Mad Scientist”), and how well it would suit anime (the Chinese and Japanese both had alchemy, the Japanese is less well known: Renkinjutsushi or 錬金術師) as the work is very suitable to the concept. And alchemy is making a huge modern comeback (although mostly as spiritual and self-transformational philosophy). It spans the ages. And thinking about it is letting it get too big.

So, I’ve been desperately dialing it back down to just the Middle Ages, and just in Europe, because if I let that roam, it will grab the Middle East and Egypt and again grow too big.

Even keeping it just in the European Middle Ages is tough – there’s the charlatanry, the lead-into-gold aspects, the spagyrics, the fireworks, the endless distillations. Much of alchemy is actually spent waiting and observing as the materials tick along through this experiment or that. Distillation and rendering and such are lengthy processes. I should have remembered that.

Spagyrics, however, is comparatively fast. And creating explosives is also much faster than creating vegetable stones and elixirs.

To make a reasonable display and demonstration, we’d have to spend a lot of time bringing things up to the final moment, and then just showing that bit. We could talk of the work leading up to that moment. I wonder if the time-consuming aspects of alchemy might not be off-putting to most people?

Purpose

Now that I’ve settled in to this new location, it’s time to get down to business.

I named this blog “gosplodey” for a reason – I intend to develop a hobby into a very small once a year public demonstration at an event called the OU Medieval Fair for the nefarious purposes of having fun, having something to do when I’m not working on the staff, and to share my interest with as many people as possible. I doubt I’ll make any money at it. Indeed, I’m pretty sure it will be a financial sinkhole – I have to purchase/rent a tent, acquire tables (I have 1, it’s a start), stills that are portable (I have 1 portable still – a start but not enough), other lab equipment, chemicals and bottles and jars and other such “consumables”, create signage, develop interesting patter, find some visually appealing and possibly mildly explosive experiments to patter on about, create costuming for myself and any assistants I can attract to help with this, find some way to reimburse said assistants – if only to feed them, and print up booklets and make little give-aways.

Yeah, it’s going to be a real money drain.

But it’s going to be fun!

FenCon Preparations

Now that I have the car all checked out for the trip (and that’s always a dreaded ordeal because mechanics are only open 4 short hours on Saturdays and I’m not wasting vacation hours during the work week for something routine like oil changes and tires rotated and balanced), it’s time to get ready for the rest of the trip.

Most of the time, all I have to do is pack a couple of changes of clothes and Itzl’s potty pads, food, dishes, ID, bed, blankie, and clothes.

This time, because I need to test a couple of recipes and get pictures for a Steampunk cookbook I’m writing, I have to do much more.

I need to pack enough tea cups, saucers, and cake plates to provide for the invited guests (more can show up, but they must bring their own tea cups and plates). I need to pack 3 teapots, the tea kettle, the sugar and creamer (no lemon dish – I don’t do lemons and my guests this time will have to have cream instead of a choice of lemon or cream), the serving dishes and utensils, the tablecloths and napkins, and the camera!

These, I can pack in advance.

Thursday night, I will bake the Time Tarts, ginger snaps, tea bread, and prepare the rest of the treats and pack them so we can head out Friday.

Some of the tea treats will be made at the hotel. I have figured out how to make deviled eggs in a hotel room, so I may add those to the tea treat list. We are in the south and it just isn’t a party without deviled eggs. And I will make the finger sandwiches there, too, because those really need to be fresh.

I LOVE my Lawn Buddy rolling cart. Granted, it was made for lawn work, but I have adapted it to be a rolling tea box – it can carry the tea cups and pots and such safely and I can load the top with other tea things. I really ought to steampunk it up and maybe I will have time this weekend to do so… Right now, it’s lawn green and tan. Perhaps I can paint it? And attach tubes and gears to it? I have plenty of PVC left from painting the bedroom (don’t ask, but trust me wen I say PVC pipes were essential in painting the bedroom). I have gears. And old watches. And I’m going to a flea market in the morning. maybe I can find a broken cuckoo clock so I can rob it of the cuckoo? I could make it look all time travelly. All I need is sufficient metallic paint. I may have enough in my paint box.

I have 2 decent steampunk outfits, if I can find my black boots. One looks a bit more piratical than the other, and since Sunday is ITLaPD, I ought to wear that one then and the other one Saturday.

I also need to bring my notebooks on the Gosplodey Alchemical Laboratory to discuss with my partner-in-crime, who will be there (yay!).

It will be a busy weekend. Good busy.