The name change

Before jumping into new content, I want to address the elephant in the room: Why did I change the name of the blog?

That’s actually two different questions, though. Why did I decide to change the name at all, and why did I change it to Birch & Briar?

Why change the name

Two reasons, mostly: Level 8 Craftling was easy to mishear and misspell, and it was based on a nerdy in-joke that was too obscure to understand (I don’t want to gatekeep nerdy spaces, even my own).

I still love the name Level 8 Craftling. The idea that I’m a Craft-ling, a creature made to craft things, at level 8 in my crafting journey – a fairly decent level but with still a lot to learn (based on level 8 in D&D roleplaying, a good comfortable mid-range place to be) – is so adorable and nerdy to me. It was also the partial brainchild of my partner, DeForest, who passed away in 2012, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

But when no one can spell or really understand your website’s name, that’s… not what one calls ideal. Definitely time for a change!

Why Birch & Briar

The pictures in this post are from my childhood summer home in northern Minnesota, full of birch trees. Where I would play for hours and hours, ending the day with a bonfire and then spend twilight on the docks, curled up in a blanket, listening to loon calls (the most hauntingly beautiful sound in the world).

As with all things, places change. Below are the stumps of my favorite trio of birch trees past, where we would store our marshmallow-roasting sticks leaned up in the center for years, the pointy ends whittled down by my dad with his pocket knife to keep us happy and giggling. These particular birch trees died years ago, but I still give them a pat when I visit (too rarely these days, now that I live in Michigan).

When I was 15 years old, I chose the name Birke as my German medieval name – Birch, in German. It was to become my second name, just as important as my own, given to me by myself, in the community that I still call home as an adult. The Society of Creative Anachronism has given me more friends, family, joyous activities, and opportunities for learning than I can handle, and I love it to bits. So you could say that Birch is just another name for me.

Briar is another one of the names of my heart, encompassing so many things I have always loved. It means deep, dark red roses – my favorite flower (so cliche, but it’s true). It means thorns – being true to myself, a little tactless (thorny, heh) in creating good, strong, healthy boundaries, protecting the wonderfully vulnerable self within. It’s a little androgynous, a little queer, a little #cottagecore. It’s Briar Rose, the Rose Daughter, one of the pillars of the fantasy/sci-fi world I love.

It’s also the name of one of my all-time favorite characters, Briar Moss, who got the chance to rename himself and loves plants fiercely – he doesn’t know it yet, but he will go on to become one of the most powerful plant mages that exist in his world, Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic books.

“This is a chance, lad.” Niklaren’s voice was light in tone for a man’s. “You can pick a name, one that’s yours alone. You can choose how you will be seen from now on.”

Only as long as I stay, Roach thought. Still, the Bag was right. Roach had never liked his name, but no one argued with the title the Thief-Lord gave.

“Choose, boy, and hurry up,” snapped the judge. “I’ve other cases besides yours.”

The docks were too close to risk annoying these people. What name would temple folk like? Plant and animal names, that was it. He imagined robed men and women smiling at him and giving up the key to the temple gate.

Plant and animal names. A picture flashed into his mind: a green, velvet corner – but that wouldn’t do. He needed a tough name, one that would tell folk he was not to be trifled with. He studied his hands, trying to think – and noticed scarred welts across his palm, a souvenir of a vine that grew on a merchant’s garden wall.

“What’s them vines with needles on them? Big, sharp ones, that rip chunks out when you grab’ em?”

The Bag smiled. “Roses. Briars.”

He liked the sound of that second one. “Briar, then.”

“You need a last name,” the clerk said, rolling his eyes.

A last name? wondered Roach. Whatever for?

The judge tapped the desk impatiently.

“Moss,” he said. No one would think he was moss-soft if he just didn’t use it.

“Briar Moss,” said the clerk, and filled in the blank space on his paper. “Master Niko, I’ll need your signature.”

Briar frowned. “Master” was a word for professors, judges, and wizards. The temples called women and men “dedicate.” Who was this man, anyway?

Sandry’s Book, book one of The Circle of Magic quartet, Tamora Pierce

Why Birch & Briar?

Because it’s me: Nature-loving, a little tough, a lot vulnerable, a touch androgynous, willing to re-name and remake myself; roses and thorns and trees and loon calls, driving down roots and calling out to create community; in love with gardening, crafting, fantasy/sci-fi, the medieval and the modern.

Author: Kell

I'm a scientist from Ann Arbor, MI! Leatherworker. Seamstress. Maker of things. Enthusiastic gardener. Board game addict. Nature explorer. Forever seeking my best life.

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