A&S criteria

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The Middle Kingdom A&S Criteria is a set of documents defining certain expectations and requirements for judges to look for when judging A&S entries in an A&S Competition or A&S faire in order to award a score. Not all kingdoms have A&S Criteria and few have as detailed a set of criteria as ours. Some Kingdoms have a separate criteria for Novice entries. At this time, the Midrealm has one set of criteria for the faire.

Separate documents exist for each category in each of the five divisions. The divisions are Performing Arts and Letters, Textile and Needle Arts, Technological Sciences, Studio Arts and Sciences, and Domestic Arts and Sciences. An example of a Division and a category is that Performing Arts is a Division, European Dance is a category in that division and has its own document of judging criteria.

The current Criteria rates an entry on 30 possible points in six categories:

  • Documentation (4 points)
  • Authenticity or Methods and Materials (4 points)
  • Scope (6 points)
  • Skill (6 points)
  • Creativity (4 points)
  • Judge's Observations (6 points)

These are the placements for a Faire: First Place: 24.5 to 30 Points. Second Place: 18.5 to 24.4 Points. Third Place: 12.5 to 18.4 Points. Honorable Mention: 12.4 or fewer Points..

Entrants are highly encouraged to become aware with the criteria and the rules before entering a Regional A&S or Kingdom A&S faire.

The current Middle Kingdom A&S Criteria is available at: Middle Kingdom A&S judging criteria


History of the Criteria

Like any good set of rules or guidelines, the Middle Kingdom A&S Criteria is a living document and frequently updated.

The original criteria documents were created by many dedicated and talented individuals, it has been revised and updated several times. Most recently a group of volunteers updated the criteria in the fall of 2003, then the editors took over and the revised critera was available by the end of 2005.

Dates and notes of major or partial revisions:

  • First edition of Criteria
  • First revision
  • 1982
  • 1987
  • 1990
  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2003
  • 2005 - major revisions, new categories for beadwork, glass work (other), casting, wood turning, rug and tapestry weaving.

Interpreting the Criteria as an Entrant

Remember, you are competing against the written criteria, not against other entrants. Also your judges may not know as much about your art or science as you do. The Judge will, however, be looking at the criteria to guide him/her. You, as an entrant, should be able to go through the criteria before the competition and gauge what score you are likely to recieve.

The Criteria is made up of several sections:


While Documentation is only worth 4 points in the criteria, it affects how the judge is going to score just about every other category. The judge may not know as much about the specific art or science as you do; the Documentation is their source of answers to questions about that art.

Basic documentation is easy, remember if you scribble "Widget based on a early 16th century woodcut by Albrecht Durer" on a 3X5 card and place it next to your widget you just went from zero points for Documentation to one point! Getting a better score takes a little work, but it's not as scary as you might think. You can think about Documentation as a conversation with the judge about your entry.

Try to answer the questions:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • and How

Always make sure that your documentation is well organized and easy to read; frequently Judges will have a very limited amount of time to read your documentation and may miss important citations and sources if your documentation is poorly organized. While the criteria is mainly concerned with citations and use of sources for this category, many judges will mark down your documentation score for how well the documentation is presented.

In your documentation, you may want to discuss your own analysis of the finished item. Discuss observations of the process, areas of improvement, and what you learned from creating this item.

When you have completed your documentation, make sure to have someone look it over to see if it needs any more work. If they find typos or have questions about a section, fix it before it gets to the faire.

See the Documentation article for more advice on writing good Documentation.

Methods and Materials

Authenticity, or as it is called in the newest revision of the Criteria "Methods and Materials" is worth 4 points of your total score. Your scoring in this category involves the materials you use, the methods in which you used them and how appropriate the end product is to the time period. Again, your documentation is very important for this category, as it helps to illustrate the process of creating the piece.

Some times you cannot get a period material, either because it's exorbitantly expensive or just unobtainable any more. When you do substitute a modern item, make sure you include your justification for why you chose your substitute in your documentation. For example "I chose to use the modern pigment Titanium White because the correct historic pigment, Lead White, is toxic. Of the possible modern pigments I examined, Titanium White best matched the period pigment."


Scope is worth 6 points of your total score. Scope is about what you are attempting. Various factors that increase scope are the level of complexity of the piece, availability of sources, number of elements, time required, etc.

Be aware if you are producing something fairly simple, you are likely to score low in scope. To increase this score consider the amount of time you have to devote to the project and ways that you can add to it; For example, using hand-made pigments and inks versus using purchased paints and inks or adding an extra dish to your cooking entry.


Skill is worth 6 points of your total score. The skill score, like Scope, is tailored to the particular art or science. Skill determines how well you created the piece. You will be evaluated on how well the product is finished. Sometimes you may decide to make a more simple project to increase your skill score even though that will impact your scope score. For example using a modern aid to obtain a more polished finish.


Creativity is worth 4 points of your total score. Creativity is NOT the opposite of Authenticity; it is possible to score perfectly in both! Where did you have to guess or make changes from your source material? Don't forget to point out your creative touches in your documentation so the judge doesn't miss them.

Judge's Observations

Jusge's Observations is worth up to 6 points of your total score. The purpose of this section is to rate the piece as a whole; do all the elements mesh together well? This is the "Wow" factor score and the only part of the criteria where the judge is allowed to let their opinion weigh in their judgement.

Interpreting the Criteria as a Judge

It can be very helpful for entrants to give a trial judging of their own piece or to just keep in mind how a judge would look at it when writing their own Documentation.


Look for specific examples rather than general statements. Good citation of arguments and consistent reference to sources. Use of Primary sources (If Primary Sources are available). Some subject matter experience is very helpful here for helping to determine what are good sources for the project.

Remember to judge them on THEIR research, not yours. If they come to a different conclusion than you might, you shouldn't score it down if it is well defended and plausible given their sources. (But by all means, point out in your comments sources they are missing!)

Frequently judges will score entries down for lack of color pictures or putting the documentation into a binder. While organized documentation should score higher than disorganized or hard to read documentation; this is less important than citations and good analysis.

Methods and Materials

In the 2005 revised critera, this section has been re-named Methods and Materials.

The Methods and Materials score deals with the choices of materials and methods by the entrant. For some areas there are very little primary sources available and that should be taken into consideration when judging. For example, if there are no period writings about technique for the particular art most of the methods used by the entrant will have to be extrapolated.

Reasonable substitutions should not affect the entrants score (and this can be a gray area as every judge has a different idea of what is a reasonable substitution.) Do they defend their choices of materials well in their documentation?


Try not to look at the piece as it is, but what the entrant was envisioning from the start from what is written in their criteria. This section is used to determine the depth and breadth of the work. How hard was this to do?


This is the section where experience in the field of the entry is the most helpful. In this section, you are determining how well the entrant completed the piece.


Creativity is *not* the opposite of Authenticity! Is this an original work? Did they do anything innovative or creative in the production? Did they have to fill in the gaps of missing sources with original thinking or experimentation? Don't forget about creativity in the process as well as in the end product!

Judge's Observations

This section is designed to cover how all the other sections fit together; what is the overall effect of the piece?

This is your one spot to let your personal feelings through; if you like the piece you're judging, score high!

Dos and Don'ts


  • Read the entrant's documentation thoroughly - The answers to any questions you may have may well be present in the documentation, but may not be obvious at first glance. Entrants frequently complain about being marked down for items that were explained in their documentation.
  • Know the difference between a Primary Source and Secondary Source.
  • Ask for help if you are not sure how to interpret a specific line or wording in the criteria
  • Let the Faire coordinator know if you have any food allergies or aversion to alcohol when signing up to judge cooking or Brewing/Vinting entries
  • Keep an open mind to new and different techniques and approaches.
  • Make comments frequently; it is especially good to make a comment whenever you give a less than perfect score to answer the inevitable entrant's question "Why?" And if you can't answer "Why?" maybe you should change that score, eh?


  • Judge an entry you are uncomfortable judging; it's okay to say no!
  • Judge a project based on your own research. Personal research and/or experience with a project certainly aides in interpreting skill and scope and helps you give useful comments. However, entering into judging with predetermined ideas of how a project should have been done and/or how the final result should appear can result in you unfairly penalizing the entrant.
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