Interview with Craig Johnson


What influenced you into getting into armouring?

  • Where to start? I usually blame it all on Errol Flynn. I must have seen Robin Hood a thousand times, not to mention Captain Blood, though Rod Taylor, Knights of the Round Table takes some of the blame as well. I read Sir Walter Scott and Dumas then I found Lord of the Rings. I was also into history in such a huge way I just sucked up every tid bit I could get my hands on.

    When did you begin armouring, and how did you start?

  • As for how did I become a modern armorer, it went like this. I saw these guys at a ren fest; one of them showed me how to make mail. I started making a few bits, then launched into a shirt. At the time I was life guarding so rainy days meant a lot of ring butting. I went back to school that fall and had a Shakespeare class, the prof was very cool and here was a project or paper due at the end of the class. So I talked him into letting me finish my mail shirt for credit. Of course as you all know when a mail project is at hand only a bit gets done until about 72 hours before it is due. I skipped most classes and slept about 4 hours in the ensuing 72 and did my presentation and got an A. Doing a paper would have been a hell of a lot easier. I later swapped the shirt for a sword from Arms & Armor and by the time it was all done; I stopped looking for a teaching job and was making weapons and armor for a living. See what a liberal arts education can do for you.

    How far are you willing to extrapolate from authentic pieces?

  • I have done some weird stuff over the years. I used to say we would do anything for money at least once, but I have seen a few too many drunken Scottish reenactors with the fire of a CLAYMOOOREEAARGH in their eyes to stick to that. I strive to stay in the realm of the historical now; that is what intrigues me and most everything's been tried a few times already so finding some completely new design is not too likely.

    What type of research do you do for your pieces?

  • Runs the gambit for us. I have done straight in-the-style-of from a blurry photocopy to a full blown detailed examination of the original and try to duplicate it to the fullest extent of my skill. In the usual frame of life it falls somewhere in between these two. It also seems as if I always learn some new detail that is important for getting it right just after I finish the project.

    What is your favorite period?

  • 1450 to 1580 or so.

    What is the favorite piece/ suit you have made?

  • Usually it is the latest piece I have completed. If I had to pick one it would be tough. Either an early gothic suit I made for a collector or the full scale Black Prince great helm with crest. Our sculptor outdid himself on that piece.

    Do you have an apprenticeship program?

  • No we just hire people to work when we have a position open and they will eventually learn the whole deal if they want. Just remember none of us are getting rich doing this.

    What is the one piece of advice you would give all starting armourers if you could grab them by the neck and scream something into their face, that would be forever burned onto their soul?

  • Do it for the love of doing it. If it stops being fun you'll have problems. Also take some small business courses and realize there is not a lot of money in this profession.

    What resources would you recommend for the student of armour?

  • Read, read, read, everything you can get your hands on. Listen and learn. I have always tried to learn something from everyone I meet in connection with armor. Never take just one source, especially if it is someone giving their opinion or telling you the "truth" about something. If you ask for the source of their info and they get all quiet and mumble this or that, it is a good warning sign. As for what to read, do what you can to find armor constructional stuff, but also get the journals and the yearbooks put out by the museums and go to any collections near you, sketch the elements, take photos and if the chance presents itself handle originals; this is the best way to really get the weight and construction right.

    What are some of your other interests/hobbies?

  • When I have any free time, my wife usually has me working on the house:-) Hobbies wise I have way too many. At the moment fishing, genealogy, reading, and some swordplay here and there.

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