Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Caroline LaBrie, Canadian Jouster.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline LaBrie. She is one of many Women Jousters that I wished to interview. As sometimes happens, we lost contact with each other, and then remarkably thanks to Facebook, were able to once again make a connection. I have not as of this writing profiled a woman who jousted.-Not for a lack of knowledge of Women Jousters, just the time and the person hadn't yet arrived.

Well that person and that moment have arrived. As you will see in the photographs with this article, Caroline LaBrie is always smiling. Every once in a while we come across a person, who has a genuine sense of Joie de Vivre.-An exultation of spirit, a happiness to be alive. For me it is a real pleasure to introduce her here in my blog. She is also a shinning example of what I call the Modern Medievalist scene that is rapidly gaining 
prominence in Canada. As another put it to me, "Canada doesn't have a medieval tradition, like Europe. But we have a very strong set of European medieval ancestors.-So the traditions, seem to come readily to hand."At any rate, I think Caroline's words and her photographs should tell their own story...enjoy!

(c) Claude Charbonneau

Q: When did you decide you wanted to Joust?

A: In 2000- when I join a group of medievalist who were performing in a show

much like medieval times. I was recruited as a squire then and started slowly working my way up!

(c) Catherine Morin-Michaud

Q: How long have you been riding?

A: I've loved horses for as long as I can remember, I was riding as a child / adolescent in location center but I began to learn more seriously in 2000 when joining the troupe.

(c) Pascal Ratthe

Q:When did you start actually Jousting?

A:In 2005, when my horse was fully trained and ready…so as myself!

Q: Who made your very unique looking armour?

A: Benoit Desjardins from l’Armurerie du Dragon. He was referring on a drawing made by Steve R Gagnon, artistic director and International jouster.

Caroline breaking lances with Damien Martel.
@ The Joust Médiévale internationales de Lachute 
September 2012.

Q: What has been the most surprising thing you have discovered since you began?

A: The bond between men and horses. Gaining their trust, their respect, it is a beautiful partnership and this will always be an amazing thing for me, a gift.

Caroline with her best Equine Friend and Partner for six years "Nemrod."
(c) Jean Francois-Rivard.

Q: What has been the hardest thing for you to learn how to do?

A: I am left handed, when I started doing the games and eventually, the joust, I always had to train a bit more than my partners to gain accuracy. Another challenge is changing from a medieval gown to an armor in ten minutes after a carousel! 

Q: What do you like the most about Jousting/Fighting?

A: The opportunity to experience a few glimpses of what it was like for knights and warrior in the medieval ages. Being able to learn from it and share that great experience with the public. There is also that part about making a dream come true, an inspiration to youngsters to believe in themselves and work hard to achieve their goals.

Caroline at full throttle!

Q: Where do you expect to be in five years from now?

A: I have been lucky enough to joust the past three years with my friends horses since my former horse had to retire in 2009. I’m working with a stallion I intend to buy in a near future and train more seriously in dressage. Working with horses is a gift and I want to keep on learning and bringing up my personal goals in this sport that I love.

Q: Have you found acceptance or have there been resistance to you being a jouster?

A: I was lucky enough to start my evolution in a show where the winning knight was a girl! Even if I never made it to that role before we finished presenting this show, the group was always very supportive.

Q: Is there anything you have yet to do in a medieval context that you really want to???

A:I have a new horse to train, a pure breed Canadian stallion. I hope he will enjoy tournaments and reenactment. As I was saying earlier, I would love for him to learn some Haute-École moves and being able to do some dressage display during the events, combined with the joust.

PS Bonus Question: What do you do to support your horseback and Jousting... What sort of job?

A: I work as an administrative assistant. On the clipboard next to my desk are some pictures of my son, horses and great shots from tournaments to keep on remembering how lucky I am to be able to live the dream!

Because she Jousts, never for a minute think she is not a lady.-DS Baker

I would like to think Caroline, for her time, her effort in speaking with me, and making herself and her world available to me. She is a private person and for her willingness to participate in this interview it was a wonderful and delightful gift.-Merci Beaucoup.

For those who would like to see Caroline LaBrie in the lists, I have a You Tube video link for your enjoyment.
This is the Joust-Médiévale internationales de Lachute Held in September of 2012.

All my absolute best!

If you have enjoyed the interview please leave a comment in the space below!

DS Baker. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Armour Smith-Jiri' Klepac of the Czech Republic!

(c) J Klepac

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of interview about Armour Smith's and their amazing products.I choose Mr Jiri. Klepac, because I have known of his work for the better part of a decade. Also like most great smiths, he feels that, "Form Follows Function."-Meaning there was a very good reason why European Armour had the look that it did. To answer the unasked statement, hanging in the air,-Yes European Armour was heavily influenced by clothing fashion, but... it had to remain functional. To that end I have chosen Mr. Klepac's work to be the first Armour Smith portrayed. His work, once finished, has a museum quality look to it. With all that being said, I think Mr. Jiri Klepac's own words and his amazing art should speak for themselves.

Maximilian inspired helm, similar to one owned by Otto Heinrich
Etched Close Helm 
(c) J Klepac

Detail of Maximilian style-Otto Heinrich Inspired Helm.

(c) J Klepac

What follows below is my interview. I hope you enjoy reading it, as I did in asking the questions.

Q: When did you decided to make armour.-Meaning what made you want to make or craft medieval and renaissance era armour?

A: I started at the age of 15. My motivation was originally only to have the armour for my reenactment activity ,that I could not afford buying. Quite soon I realized that forming steel is fun on its own.

Q: Did you go to a school of art and design?

A: Not at all. I studied economics. I read a lot of books on the topic, I like watching the art and design pieces of various styles, this is my only education in this field. Making reproductions is much easier when it comes to design invention than making new pieces IMHO.

Hot Raising a XIV Bascinet.
The Shaping Process

The finished Helm
(c) J Klepac

Q:  Did you ever apprentice yourself to another Smith.

A: No, I have seen many armorers working on their videos and many smiths working. Vast majority of all I know is from the books, fabrication marks on original pieces and trial and error school. I can say that Eric Thing influenced me a lot, showing the gas forge and the basic guide for making helmets in one piece in his article. This text finally made me to start one.

Q:  Where specifically do you get your patterns and armour styles from?

A: I am trying to influence the original style of armour by my own creativity as little as possible. I prefer understanding why they did the piece, in the manner they did, rather than going my way from the perspective of a modern armour smith. I build 95 percent of my patterns myself. Patterning is quite easy for me now, after more that 15 years of experience.

Beginning the Hot Raising Process.
(c) J Klepac
The Shaping process.
(c) J Klepac
(c) J Klepac
The finished Grand Bascinet
(c) J Klepac

Q:  How much time is spent in researching each article of armour you create?

A: Depending on the project. On full armour without perfect documentation, it may be more than 50 hours. I start at the moment, what I think I understand the design and have the production process fully set in my head.

Q: Where did you learn metallurgy?

A: Mostly from machinist´s and blacksmiths´ books, also from my friend who does heat treating for living and was keen to try various methods of heat treating on steel for armouring. Last but not least from the priceless book by Alan Williams: The Knight and the Blast Furnace. I still keep learning, there is so much to know.

Q: How close in the types of metal and in the design do you try to adhere to, when creating say a piece from XIV Century?

A: I try to stick on the original design as much as possible, being affected only by client´ s taste and size and level of my ability to reproduce the piece properly. I use C45 steel (AISI 1045) for most of the projects. I plan to give a try to wrought steel one day. This is a challenge!

XIV Century Globose Breastplate based on the famous
Churburg Castle Harness.
(c) J Klepac

XIV Century Tulip Gauntlets
Also inspired by the Churburg Castle Armour.
(c) J Klepac

Q: Has any of your work appeared in or for museums?

A: Several of my pieces are in the exposition at Kuneticka Hora castle in the Czech Republic, one helmet in museum of Usti nad Labem. Several pieces are also in private museum in Italy. Most of the time I work for private clients.

Q: Of the different styles of European Armour you have created, which era or style has been your favorite to create?

A: I love Milanese 15th century pieces. Second most favorite is German style of middle of the 16th century. I like plain field pieces most.-The real fighting stuff.

XVI Century German Inspired Black and White Harness
(c) J Klepac

XVI Century German inspired Black and White Close Helm
(c) J Klepac

XVI Century German inspired Black and White Gauntlet
(c) J Klepac

Q: What has been the single hardest and at the same time, the most rewarding piece or harness you have created thus far. Or another way of saying it might be, What was your master's piece. The one piece of armour that took you from a talented enthusiast to that of a master smith?

A: I guess, It was a grand Bascinet I made some 5 years ago. It was a big project for me. This project required raising of a really big and deep bowl and a lot of research and engineering to fit pieces together at the same time. There is still so much to learn, which gives me the motivation for the next commission.

Here are some more examples of his work:

Front View XVI Century Spanish/Italian Cabasset Helm
(c) J Klepac

Side View XVI Century Spanish/Italian Cabasset.
(c) J Klepac

For those interested, Jiri Klepac has opened his commissioning que for the month of March 2014. It normally takes a year to reserve a spot in his production schedule...

Jiri Klepac's website can be found at:

His e-maill address is:

He also has a short video on YouTube demonstrating  hot raising a Gothic Helm: -It should be noted the video is in Czech.

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment in the space below the article

All my absolute best!

DS Baker.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

International Jouster Marc Hamel of Canada!

Recently Modern Medievalist, had an opportunity to visit with Marcus Hamel, world famous Canadian Jouster. Here is our interview. Merci beaucoup mon ami.

Tournoi du Lys d'Argent-2011

Q: Marc-When did you become involved in what I like to call the Modern Medieval world?

A: It began in 1994 after we had our first introduction in a medieval event in the capital at an event called "Les Medievales de Quebec" which happened in 1993.

Q:Where did you first begin to Ride/Fight/Joust?

A: Started to learn to fight in 1994 with a Viking group, then in 1995, created my own group "Circle of the Pendragon" with more knightly virtues, than another group created in 1997 "The Brotherhood of Ironmen" Introducing full contact fighters. During that same period I put in more serious horse riding in the hope of one day, I would eventually joust. In 2001, I joined a group of actors who, were doing a jousting show like "Medieval Time," Where I have been able to put more progress in my skills and my horse riding as an introduction to jousting.

Q: Has the Canadian "scene" started to catch on ... Medieval Jousting Events as opposed to Ren-Faires, Gained in popularity?

A: Our country never lived the medieval period, nevertheless people from the French province (Quebec) have this passion for history and their origins. When they saw the first medieval event (1993) They went nuts for it. The Quebec city made ​​another one in 1995 (I Participated in it) and it was great, but MOST of the people wanted something more of Their historical past, so in 1997 the city has made ​​a renaissance fair and it's been very popular ever since.

Jousting in Italy-2010

Q: I know that you served in the Canadian Military. Has your training, helped you to prepare for the rigors of Jousting?

A: My military service (7 years) was in the Infantry. So it did greatly help with the discipline and the focus to reach my objective. I made two overseas tours in my service; 1992 Cambodia and Croatia from 1993 to 1994 and I end up with a PTSD. When I was released in 1996 I was broken, depressed, and very angry, and I couldn't find the peace in my soul. My uniform became my armour. Many years of fighting finally brought me to jousting ..... it's been a long process to heal my wounds, I can assure you that I have never felt so alive, as  when I joust and it makes me very appreciative of the moments I have had, and the people whom I have met.

Mike Loades conferring Marc Hamel before entering the Pollaxe Combat
The Phoenix Joust-2012
(c) Leslie Chappell-Britt.

Q: How many countries have you visited since you began jousting.

A: As a jouster I have traveled to Belgium, France, Italy, England and the USA. This year I'm going to Poland, France and England again.

Q: Who made your armour?

A: I have built my own armour 6 times. I've never been rich, but I am very passionate about jousting. So I built my first one in 1996, till the last one in 2011. Now that I have better means, I am clustering this year four armourers: Francios Le'Archeveque, Serge Lavigueur, Eric Dube and Jeffrey Hedgecock. These people are very good friends, who are much more talented than I am For my latest armor, I wanted to have pieces for sentimental value as well as pieces that are historically accurate.

Q: Did or does your horse like to Joust?-For those that might not know this is an activity that a horse might not want to do...

A: As you said, it's not easy to bring a horse to like jousting. I think it's a long process that doesn't need to be rushed. Some horses will never tolerate  armour no matter how long you train them. From my point of view ( I don't have the ultimate truth) you need a horse without fear, then you need to built a solid trust, then you can think about bringing your armor along. My new horse (Canadian/Quarter Horse) is in the beginning of his training put he's has a lot of potential, I'm not rushing things so his progress is very promising.

Q: What is the single hardest skill you have had to master.

A: Keeping cool or frosty, in the heat of the moment.

Medic attending Marc
Tournament of the Phoenix Joust-2012
(c) Amanda Mielke-Camera Wench Photography.

Q: Where do you expect to be in your sport in five years?

A: Hopefully in five years, I want to be able to teach others how to joust.

Q: Where did you learn how to fight with a sword?

A: I took lessons from sword master Jonathan Verville, he is the trainer for the Battle of the Nations Quebec team, and he learned from a French sword master Franck Cinnato. When I went to Belgium for my first ground combat tournament, I realized that we were using the same treaty/style as the Europeans did in their basic sword/foot combat.

Q: We heard you have had some success of lately, tell us how the international jousting scene has been treating you?

A: As I like to say, I've been a lucky bastard  . But more seriously I am a very respectful person especially of other's who have created the events I joust in, and when I joust I do the best I can to be safe for the horse. I try to ride as well as my opponent and his horse.. I help whenever I can when I'm on the ground just like any other squire or ground crew to make an event successful. So I guess with that kind of attitude, I receive nothing but great respect from the international jousting community. To me jousting and ground fighting are really cool means to meet great people with their passions and history.

Jousting in Italy with Fred Piraux of Liege, Belgium

I want to thank Marc Hamel for his time. Marc's first language is French, then English. So I appreciate his taking the time to translate his replies.

Here are some video links from Hamel's jousting and foot combat.

Marc Hamel crossing lances with Dr. Tobias Capwell, Tournament of the Phoenix Joust-2012.

Marc Hamel and Luc Petillot Fighting with Pollaxes, Tournament of the Phoenix Joust-2012.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coming to this blog soon...!

I have several new posts in the works! I know the site has lain fallow for several months. I won't bore you with the details but, suffice to say I will be bringing several new posts to the site in the coming week or so. I have two interviews with Internationally Ranked Jousters to complete and a possible story on the Genetics of Medieval Horse Breeds to work up.-Which might help inform and or dispel any misinformation of certain types of horses.

Also-I have a new co-editor for my Facebook Community Page. His name is Russell Jensen. We have relaunched our Facebook page, and it seems to be a big hit! Thank you very much for your support, and those critical messages of "Keep Going!"

One last favor I would ask. If you come the Facebook page, and you see something you like, please leave a comment. Every comment left, makes it easier for you to find us in your search engines. Also please don't hesitate to tell us, what you want to see. We can't be every where and, Russ and I both have our time periods that we favor. So, let us know and we will do our level best to post something you might want to read!

This by the way... is our Avatar on Facebook.

All my absolute best!