Quivers & Quarrels Interview with Lady Rekon of Saaremaa

Over the summer and autumn of 2015, I interviewed Lady Rekon of Saaremaa in multiple sessions for an article in Quivers & Quarrels, the magazine devoted to archery within the Society for Creative Anachronism. The article is published now, so I’m glad to be able to post the interviews, which contains some information that didn’t fit in the article (which in turn contains my own words, not found here). Even both together do not do justice to this amazing archer and human being, but they do shine a small light.

Lady Rekon of Saaremaa: I worked [Renaissance] Faire in the late eighties and early nineties, along with my high school physics teacher and his wife, who gave me and my then boyfriend a ride from Hollywood. I was not able to drive all through those years because I have a seizure disorder. My favorite part was the workshops before Faire opened. It was like Collegium Caidis, but for three weekends in a row, all focused on Elizabethan period. You had to take certain classes in things like costume and language, and you could choose others [like] science in the period, country dance, [and] music.

Interviewer: Were you teaching at that time?

Lady Rekon: I was a student, not teaching yet. My physics teacher taught. It was awesome. Then the customers would come along and ruin my fun! [chuckle] I was a booth worker.

Interviewer: What drew you towards the early period portrayal that you do now in the SCA?

Lady Rekon: In my college classes I studied archaelogy and wasn’t as fascinated by that time period as I was with the earlier times. Then I left Faire for a while and came back for a few years in college, riding with a friend. My mentor in college was an expert on Bronze Age Spain. It was pretty cool. Then we got a new professor, and he studied Viking-age Iceland, and that was freaking awesome. I remember him telling me that the long-houses were made with thick sod walls, and they had herringbone patterns. Like, who bothers to lay sod so the walls get cool zigzag patterns? Who goes to that trouble? Just that level of care that had to go into construction, which should be purely about physics and geometry and science. But in Iceland and a few other Viking cultures, they diverted some serious thinking and work into making it beautiful, too. And how cool that they could still see it today!

So when I finally found the SCA after my divorce and all, and after I got a driver’s license, I was going to play Viking era Irish, which actually covers my heritage. Literally half of the area I live in plays that, so I went looking for something more rare.

Interviewer: I think I get it. Estonia would give you the chance to explore the early northern culture while not defaulting into what was most known about already.

Lady Rekon: Right. I’d be able to learn what other people were doing, and it would be relevant for me, but I’d also be able to teach other people what I knew, and it would be relevant for them. We’d all expand our knowledge set. Plus, largesse is a big part of the SCA. I realized that even without knowing a lot about Viking-age Ireland, and without them knowing a lot about Viking-age Estonia, we’d all still be able to make things for one another without having to go too far afield from our comfort zones. The Vikings called the Estonians “east-Vikings,” so clearly they thought of us as similar enough, at least on the coast.

By the way, I researched the heck out of my garb before my first event. It was linen and accurate, with an accurate wool cloak trimmed with tablet woven trim, clasped with a silver penannular brooch I made myself. [But I was kind of shy and didn’t really know how to start conversations.] So for six months or so, everyone thought I’d just moved in from out of town and wasn’t friendly. The Baroness finally asked and then everyone was much nicer.

Interviewer: Then at some point you discovered the combat arts. How did that start?

Lady Rekon: I wanted to get into armor, but that was taking a while and I had a really bad first practice, so I tried archery. I had made really crummy bows as a kid, so I thought it’d be fun. I still have my armor for heavy fighting, but then I dislocated my shoulder. That was several years ago. At the time I didn’t have insurance, so I tried internet-heal-thyself. Got it back in and lived with it, but it really wasn’t quite right. Eventually I got insurance, which meant I could have an MRI and physical therapy. I got to the point where I could shoot again, by by then I was more into crossbow, which is a tiny community.

Interviewer: This sounds like a really eventful few years for you. About when was all of this?

Lady Rekon: This all started in, I want to say 2008? I became Academy [of Archers] Regent in like 2009, busted the shoulder in 2010, stepped down in 2011, got insurance and started shooting again in around 2013, tore my rotator cuff in early 2015. Oh, I was also on the Pennsic Champions archery team with my crossbow in 2013 and became Nordwache crossbow champion either that year or the next. I think it was that year. I beat Paganus [Grimlove, her partner] to get the Nordwache championship, by the way. I got my AOA after I started archery. I was new to archery, though, maybe only three months. It’s all kind of a blur, really. I do remember I made a functional crossbow less than two inches long the year I got my AOA.

Interviewer: And how long did you remain Regent?

Lady Rekon: Regent changes every two years; I followed Christina O’Cleary and was followed by Paganus, who was followed by Baron Jon Thomme, who is current Regent. I stepped down on the same day I apprenticed to Mistress Melisande.

Interviewer: She’s also a jewelry maker? Or pewterer? And what is her full SCA name?

Lady Rekon: Nope to both, she is a cook and an embroiderer but she loves me anyway ; ) she is Mistress Melisande de Frayne from Starkhafn. I am her first apprentice. My sisters are Emmeline Dernlove (a Herald who does almost all the strings) and Kythera Contreras.

Interviewer: Switching subject a little bit. Since your injury, you’ve kept an active part of the community, even before you started recovering, right? I hear noises about you having done things for the community, and for individuals in it, and also I suspect you of having created archery equipment during that time. Because you really do make all the things.

Lady Rekon: [laughs] I have fletched arrows, but they sucked. I have made mini-crossbows, one of malachite and silver that — heaven forgive me — I sort of wish I had kept for myself. Also, in 2008 I started an archery club at the middle school where I was teaching. They hosted the Kingdom Archery Championship in 2009, in garb. They loved it. They even shot wooden arrows that they raised money to buy, so they’d be following our rules.

Interviewer: That ties in with your… former?… career. Well, actually, with your basic nature, as a teacher and passer-on of knowledge. That’s one of the things I admire about you, that made me want to do this article.

Lady Rekon: Thank you. Now I’m blushing. The kids actually begged me to start the club, you know. I brought my archery gear for Sports Spirit Day and they would not let it go. So I researched and got the district and administration to approve it. Did you know that archery in schools is statistically safer than badminton?

And then I got laid off. That’s when the depression hit, or the recession. What are they calling it? That.

Interviewer: Ouch.

Lady Rekon: Yeah. But I keep busy, in between looking for another job. I’ve made prizes for archery events, marshalled, autocratted events, and helped make presentations for the Academy.

Interviewer: Those things you just mentioned, plus making all the things, that’s what’s earned you most of your various service awards, right? I want to highlight that, because it’s a big part of what makes you such an inspiration and so integral to the Academy of Archers, and the kingdom as a whole.

Lady Rekon: Those things were a part of it. I also was chatelaine for the Barony of Dreiburgen for a couple of years very early on, and chief lady-in-waiting, and served on a few royal guards, and made and gave a metric bleep-ton of largesse. I made the largesse because it’s hard to believe in royals and barons if they don’t have the fancy stuff to hand out. I especially took on Conrad II and A’isha’s reign.

Interviewer: The things you do for others, and the beauty that you make, go hand in hand with the archery. You’re a very… striving person. You are always on a hunt for excellence.

Lady Rekon: Thank you! I really truly love the dream we have of this chivalry-based society that cares for each other and creates magic space where creativity and learning matter.

Interviewer: I remember that when we met, it was at the Big Gay Largesse Party for the Inspirational Equality supporters. By then, you were already quite deep into largesse giving. Like, how many events have you made site tokens for? And how many have you not even charged for, even including the materials sometimes, I hear?

Lady Rekon: Quite a few. I don’t remember how many. I almost never charge unless I’m forced to. I am collecting pewter stuff for the 50 year A&S Challenge. I ran into something I didn’t even remember making. I’ve made site tokens for a few events, Mistress Mary verch Gwalter’s vigil tokens, rings for at least five reigns. Personal tokens for several reigns. And that’s just pewter. I literally have no idea how many intaglio gems I have carved and given away. My first set of largesse I had to deliver in a chest that took both hands to carry.

Interviewer: You work in so many media. Pewter, paint… I  know you’re early-period, but I keep wanting to call you a Renaissance woman.

Lady Rekon: I do fake Renaissance jewelry in resin, too, actually. I make period action figures. Jointed dolls. My survey entry on the subject took first place Artisan at Pentathlon two years ago. I carve stone — I made a crazy reliquary. I keep and breed period chickens. Paganus and I also garden together, including period plants. I have gathered mineral pigments and ground them for use as paints.

Interviewer: Wow.

Lady Rekon: I like making tiny things. I also would love to get into period music and musical instruments, but… well, there’s only so much time. And of course I researched the period machine that was used to make intaglio carvings, and got a friend to build it. So that is cool. I need to get that out and start carving with it.

Interviewer: And didn’t I see that you had made that gorgeous what-do-you-call-it for this last Pentathlon, that big machine thing?

Lady Rekon: Roger Wells made that. I researched and helped. It’s a lapidary lathe.

Interviewer: Lapidary! That’s the word. I knew it wasn’t a wood lathe. That was a thing of beauty. I would really love to include pictures of that, and at least one picture of each art you do. Archery related or not. I think people would love to see what a benched athlete can accomplish when not doing their sport.

Lady Rekon: It was part of my Pentathlon display. My blog has pictures, and there should be some on the Caid Pentathlon page, too.

[Interviewer’s note: Please do go and look at Lady Rekon’s blog. Not just that lapidary lathe, but everything there is well worth investigating.]

Interviewer: How’s your shoulder now? Will you be able to resume archery in the near future?

Lady Rekon: I still miss shooting. My doctor swears he’ll get me back on the range; he understands how much it means to me. Rare in a workman’s comp doctor. I’ll also resume unarmored fighting in a few months.

Interviewer: Thank you so much for talking to me about all this. I can’t wait to see you on the range again. Here’s to healing!