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Archive for May, 2010

It’s Memorial Day here, the official start of summer…of lazy days by the beach, summer vacation, and outdoor mayhem. I started to think about what a Steampunk Summer might look like…

You might start out with a pair of Steampunk shades to protect your eyes from the harsh summer sun, like these cuties designed by Steam-Heart.

When you hit the beach you could wear a Brass Bikini. Though it might not be the most comfortable of beachwear.

You could go for long rides on a slim and speedy Steampunk Motorcycle like this one by Choi Minsoo.

Making some Duct Tape Flip Flops and decorating them with cogs, gears, and other things would be fun.

You could take advantage of the weather and wear a cute Steampunky sundress like this one from Clockwork Couture. (Check out all their new stuff, it is fab.)

Or it might be nice to spend lazy days at the beach playing one of Stone Laboratory’s beautiful acoustic guitars.

What would you do?

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Today I am pleased to welcome Jodi from Simply Willow! She makes the most gorgeous steampunk pieces! So join me in welcoming her!

 First off I want to say thank you for joining us here at Steamed! and take a moment to gush over how fantastic your jewelry is. It is delicate and bold and combines nature with mechanical and I think it is fabulous!

Lolita Elizabeth: I will ask the age old question I am sure you are tired of, what got you started making your lovely jewelry? 

Simply Willow: As a young single mother of 4 boys, I needed an activity that provided some alone time for me, something that I enjoyed and allowed me to explore my creativity.  I was watching a craft show with a friend that featured a beader….she bet me that I couldn’t sit still long enough to bead.  I may be high energy and easily distracted, but I’m also highly competitive.  I won the bet and found my creative outlet!  13 years later, my style has developed and grown into the unique steampunk and Victorian styles you see on my website.

LE: Did you start out making steampunk pieces or did they make an appearance later in your designing? 

SW: Steampunk came  much later!  I started beadweaving, moved to stringing.  My designs were very spiritual and off-beat.  I became interested in earthy Victorian styles and was soon hooked.  This style morphed into steampunk.  Steampunk jewelry pieces…fueled by the cogs and gears that are so often used..have an energy and a life of their own.  I often feel like my pieces create themselves!!!

LE: Do you enjoy steampunk in other aspects of your life? Or just your art? 

SW: I have always enjoyed steampunk books and movies, even though I didn’t know it was steampunk.  This was a new term to me when I first “discovered” it on etsy.  When I researched the term…i knew I had to go there.     I’m hoping to attend a con or steampunk ball sometime soon, I’ve already started working on my outfit!!!

LE: What is your biggest inspiration for your art?   

SW: I want whoever is wearing my jewelry to celebrate being female in a unique way, to see the future of a past that never was and embrace the romance of it.

LE: Do you do commission work? Have you gotten any requests for an impossible or off the wall piece?  

SW: I do limited commission pieces, I often find it a challenge to translate their vision into mine.

 I had one request for a necklace that contained a vial of liquid in the middle that gears would turn around as the liquid shifted.   Even though I had studied physics and engineering at one of the best engineering schools in the country…I had a hard time with this one and eventually had to turn down the piece.

LE: Any exciting new pieces in the works?      

 SW: My steampunk sculpture pendant line is my favourite!  Gears, cogs, winders, birds, crystals, keys…you never know what will make its way into one of these unique creations.

LE: Any favorite steampunk movies or books that inspire your work?  

SW: The His Dark Materials books have been among my favourites for many years!   I love the worlds that Mr Pullman has created and often re-read the books for inspiration.   I am looking for new steampunk authors to read and can’t wait to immerse myself in their worlds…

Thank you so much for joining us and I look forward to seeing what you create next!!

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Austin Lane Crothers, 46th Governor of Maryland sporting his top hat

Leave it to a hatter to cause a social stir, which explains a lot to me about why this piece of clothing so epitomizes the spirit of steampunk.

In January 1797, the man, named Hetherington, caused an upheaval in the streets of London by wearing his tall stove-pipe top hat as he ambled down the street. He drew a crowd and was eventually stopped by the police (by the collar no less) and was given a court summons for disturbing the public peace.

The officer present at the scene described the offence as follows: “Hetherington had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.”

Hetherington’s top hat literally made front page news. The London Times wrote “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.”

And was the reporter in the Times ever right. While Hetherington wasn’t the first to create the top hat (that honor goes to George Dunner a hatter from Middlesex in 1793), it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Eventually the top hat would come to be equated not only with the industrial revolution itself as ordinary captains of industry became the millionaires, but also the upper echelons of society.

At first they were used by the military. From 1803 to 1812 the Jaegers in the Imperial Russian Army used them as part of their uniform (but then dropped them in favor of Litwka Shako along with the other units of foot soldiers). (Cheeky nod here to the Jaegerkin of the steampunk comic Girl Genius…)

By 1830 even the working class man had a top hat usually made of felted rabbit fur. Those of the upper classes were crafted from felted beaver fur, beginning a huge upswing in the beaver fur trapping trade in North America. Those made as part of the uniform of policemen and postmen were created from black oilcloth to be suitable for outdoor wear in rain.

Beaver fur eventually gave way to silk for the upper classes. The black top silk hat was crafted from cheesecloth, linen, flannel and shellac. A skilled milliner, using various types of flat-irons, “baked” the shellac into the linen around a five-piece wooden hat block and covered with black silk plush, which came mostly from France. So expensive was the silk, that only the master tradesman (foreman) was permitted to cut it.

The hat was finished with a 2½ to 3 cm wide cloth hatband, which was later replaced by one of ribbed silk. For decades (nearly a whole century) the top hat was to go through several permutations. During this early Victorian time – i.e. approximately 1830 – top hats were extremely tall, some even reaching nearly eight inches high. The period of 1840-1850 saw the glory years of the top hat where it reached it’s tallest height. Prince Albert took the top hat from being a mere fashion statement to a symbol of urban respectability by donning the top hat in 1850.

Later in the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901, the height was reduced to between six and six and a half inches. Around 1890, the top hat also received a larger crown, so appearing more tailored or ‘nipped in’. From around 1920, top hats were around five inches tall. That still applies today.

The spring loaded Gibus, or opera hat top hat that could be pressed flat by hand for easy storage, then popped back into shape, was invented by a Frenchman name Antoine Gibus in 1812 and patented in 1837.

The gray top hat has been used for wedding ceremonies since 1960 and actually comes from the Ascot horse races. It is around five inches in height and is made from wool felt. Today felt top hats are still made.

Custom top hats for steampunk fans vary from leather to felt, silk to vinyl and come in such an array of shapes, sizes, textures and styles that it’s as unique as the individual wearing it.

Fortunately for us, the top hat isn’t dead. It’s just found a new form of popularity among fans in a new generation.

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Today I have another Steampunk book review for you. But first we have a few book releases this week.

The Young Adult Steampunk adventure The Boneshaker by Kate Milford (who visited during Steampunkapalooza) is released tomorrow. I can’t wait to pick it up.

Breath of Heaven, Cindy Holby’s (aka Lolita Cindy) new historical romantic fantasy also comes out tomorrow. The cover is beautiful, isn’t it?

Ancient Whispers by our very own Lolita Marie-Claude, aka Marie-Claude Bourque, also comes out tomorrow. It’s paranormal romance and looks to be an amazing read.

Also, this isn’t precisely Steampunk, but who doesn’t love Ghostbusters?

Now on to today’s book review.

Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Imagine a world quite unlike our own–a great, industrial city where there are sky trolleys, winged messengers, and the city itself is run by a supercomputer and council of untouchables. In this city the caste system is alive and well. Those of the highest caste hide behind masks and robes. Even entering from one part of the city to another could be problematic depending on caste. Only the Icarii are free to move about from section to section and mingle among the castes.

Taya is a young Icarus, couriering messages across the city with the help of giant metal wings. A daring mid-air rescue causes her paths to cross with the Forlore brothers–charming Alister is a member of the highest caste and part of the council, but the brooding, surly Christof has forsaken his birthright and lives among the cities poorest as a clockmaker. Taya is plunged into a web of murder, mystery, intrigue, civil-unrest, and top-secret computer program. She’ll have to decide who to trust and who’s side she’s on, her life–and the fate of the city–depends on it.

Pagliassotti’s world is rich and alive, full of detail and nuance but not in an overwhelming way. You can almost feel the grit of the mines and hear the rustle of the fine robes and the hum of the Great Engine that is the heart of the city. This world is truly a fine example of genre blending–and genre bending–combining elements of fantasy, scifi, romance, steampunk, and clockpunk and not quite like anything else out there. Gadgets abound, from sky trolleys and metal wings to the Great Engine itself.

Clockwork Heart is a fun and exciting read, hooking me from the very first page. It felt a little heavy on the romantic elements in the beginning, but not enough for me to put the book down. The pace quickly picks up and we’re launched into a wild, intriguing story with plenty of twists, turns, and gadgets. Taya, Alister, and Christof are all compelling characters and the ending felt satisfying. The world building is unique and vibrant. The only thing I’d like to see is a sketch of the “Icarus Dress” that Taya wears to the party thrown in her honor. This would be a great escapist read to take on vacation or any time you want something a bit different.

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We had the fabulous OM Grey on last month, now we have a Visiting Lolita who’d going to review Avalon Revisited for us.

Candace runs Candace’s Book Blog and is an avid reader and Steampunk fan.

Description of Avalon Revisited by OM Grey:

Arthur has made his existence as a vampire bearable for over three hundred years by immersing himself in blood and debauchery. Aboard an airship gala, he meets Avalon, an aspiring vampire slayer who sparks fire into Arthur’s shriveled heart. Together they try to solve the mystery of several horrendous murders on the dark streets of London. Cultures clash and pressures rise in this sexy Steampunk Romance.

You ever read a book and when you finish you feel as though your home? That you found your genre? Your niche? You found a book that just really ‘hits the spot’? That was Avalon Revisited for me. I’ve read some Steampunk. I love historical fiction in itself, but throw in paranormal AND gadgets and it’s just taken up a notch further. Gail Carriger’s books really introduced me to Steampunk, though when I think back I realize I’ve read Steampunk, I just never put the Steampunk name to it. Once I did I found I wanted to know everything about it!

So Avalon Revisited was one of those books that as soon as I heard of it I knew I wanted to read it. It took me awhile before I put in my order in to amazon but I started the book the day it arrived. I’m very glad I did as it was the perfect book for my mood.

It’s a nice quick read, but yet not TOO quick. Meaning there was plenty of story there without becoming tedious. I love how it was put together and how the Steampunk aspect came into play. Lots of mention of gadgets and a nice little ride on an airship made this one unique to me. I’m a huge paranormal freak so the combination of two of my favorite things came together perfectly. I don’t think I really was expecting this one to be so good. The characters were well developed and lovable (though I’m not sure she really wanted Arthur to be lovable exactly…) and the story flowed very nicely. I was able to picture the characters, the scenery and the time period quite well and I loved Arthur’s history and his ability to love after he was sure he couldn’t love again. I really loved the humor that was thrown in as well. Some of the things Arthur says (or thinks) really gave me a chuckle.

So not to say there weren’t any mistakes, as I did catch a few, but they just weren’t important. They didn’t bother me or take away from the story. One thing that I didn’t love was the end wrapped up a bit abruptly, in my opinion. It wasn’t a huge issue for me though and I really hope that Grey plans to continue these characters in another book. Overall this book far exceeded my expectations and made me want to find every paranormal Steampunk book out there. Luckily I have a couple of other Steampunk novels here waiting to be read.

Great job O.M. Grey!

5/5 stars

On my blog, Candace’s Book Blog, I’m having a giveaway of Avalon Revisited. So stop by and enter!
Contes<a t open to US residents 18 years and older
Ends June 15th

***

Thank you so much for stopping by, Candace.

Has anyone else read Avalon Revisited? (It’s on my list). Please, tell me what you think?

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All-in-one computer created by Mr. Steampunk Jake Von Slatt

My word processing transmittal machine (nee computer) and I have a love-hate relationship. I want to love it, but it hates me. Which means after seven years (good Lord, has it really been that long) that it has been requested by the family that I search for another word processing transmittal machine and Internet accessorial unit for our domicile. (Read, the family wants a new computer with a better Internet hookup, yo.)

Gorgeous computer desk created by Bruce & Melanie Rosenbaum

I am happy to oblige them. Lo and behold, I came upon some most excellent specimens. Such as the all-one desktop computer built as a mod by Jake Von Slatt  or the utterly amazing full sized, wow-my-eyes-couldn’t-get-any-bigger-version by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum (who have completely done their house in steampunk finery which gives me yet more ideas for modifying the attic which will be our rec room/bar/guest room once the damn plaster dust settles (have I mentioned how much I hate sheetrocking?).

Incredible Datamancer.net HP Laptop

But then I absolutely fell in love with a laptop, which could not be finer in it’s steampunkery and clockwork-loving goodness. No, I know it looks like an incredible music box of some sort, but Datamancer.net has created this laptop that not only fully-functions, but literally has a clockwork mechanism that uses a key to turn the computer on! Talk about taking it to the next level. No simple switches here.  Clearly, if I want a computer with such steampunk savvy, I shall have to buy hubby a bandsaw for father’s day, learn to craft with brass and copper (beyond just using solder to fix copper pipes) and dip further into my creativity.

Damn, you know, if I could only sew a computer this nice, I’d do it. But really, I’m thinking that pleats, buckles and brass buttons, with a fringe of lace aren’t going to do too well. *sigh* I suppose we all have our own talents. That’s why I’m going back to the keyboard. I have books to write.

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Happy Monday.  I have a new book review for you today.

First off, congratulations to author Paolo Bacigalupi . His novel The Windup Girl won the 2010 Nebula Award.

I’m also having some major tiara envy.  I saw this on Etsy. Isn’t it darling? I know, I own two clockhand tiaras, but there’s something about this one I really like. Maybe it’s the snowflake?

The Steamed blog (and my upcoming book) were also mentioned on the Romantic Times blog. Squee.

I have a few more copies of issue 6 of Steampunk Tales. If you want one, just let me know in the comment box.

On to today’s book review. I have to say, I do adore these books and I can’t wait for the next one.

Changeless by Gail Carriger.

The fearless, yet well-dressed and ever-so-proper Alexia Tarabotti is back in this second novel of the highly entertaining Parasol Protectorate series. This time, Alexia is off to Scotland with her bratty sister, her best friend Ivy and Ivy’s collection of horrid hats in search for her missing husband and to solve the mystery of why supernaturals in London are loosing their powers.

Like in Soulless, adventures and entertaining characters abound in the wild romp into the Scottish highlands. Alexia travels aboard a dirigible, uses an aethographic transmitter, brings her rather unusual parasol wherever she goes, and befriends the inventor Madame Lefoux who (gasp) wears trousers. There are also Weres in kilts (who doesn’t love a Were in a kilt?), plenty witty banter, marvelous gadgets, and more world building (the octopi from book one are finally explained).

Ah, the gadgets. Where would a Steampunk story be without the gadgets? Besides the aethographic transmitter and dirigible, there are dart guns, glassicals, and a parasol fit for a Victorian 007 (I want one!)

The new characters are very colorful, such as Madame Lefoux, but we still see our favorites like Ivy, the Professor, and the wildly flamboyant Lord Akeldama. The relationship between Lord Maccon and Alexia starts out as sweet and funny, but as the end approached I found myself wishing I could smack him with my parasol.

Like the first book, I found Changeless to be an entertaining read with a well thought out Steampunk world, clever characters, and witty dialogue. The combination of Steampunk and paranormal is what, to me, makes this series so much fun.

The ending has a twist that may not set well with some readers. I didn’t mind and it made me wish Blameless were out sooner than September so I could find out what happened next (though I still want to smack Lord Maccon.)

Happy reading.

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