Jim Best is the director of youth ministries at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, Illinois. He creates jewelry and clockwork creatures in his spare time and is a member of the Promethean Society. He has a new Etsy shop called Clockwork Curiosities and can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Jabsloth.
Confessions of a Steampunk Jewelry Maker
by Jim Best
I want to begin by thanking Suzanne for letting me stretch my virtual pen and introduce my own two cents into Steampunkapalooza. I apologize for my ramblings in advance, but this is what happens when you give a preacher a podium.
I get laughed at a lot. Okay, some of it I bring on myself, and some of it is just because I am more than a little eccentric, but last year at TeslaCon 2, several people poked fun at me because during the dance, I stopped to pick up little bits of broken jewelry from the floor and put them in my pocket. I get the same reaction when I stop to pick up a rusted piece of metal on the street, or go to the hardware store and peruse the nuts and bolts looking for something interesting. The people at Ace have learned to stop asking me if I need help finding anything.
People a lot smarter than I have talked at great length about what has drawn people to steampunk over the past few years and turned it into the movement that it is today, but for me it came down to one major point. I had spent most of my time doing things like playing computer games or watching TV; activities that, while fun, created nothing lasting. I felt like I needed to be doing more. I felt like I should be adding something to the beauty of the world. Seeing some of the amazing creations of people at steampunk events around Chicago and Milwaukee, I knew I had to try my hand at creating things as well.
The first piece of jewelry that I tried to create was really basic. I wanted a pin that would look like a clockwork bug. I had a nice watch movement to use as the base, but was having problems finding something I liked for the wings. I was sitting at my desk with the idea of looking online for ideas, when my eyes glanced down at a flattened penny I’d been given at the Frenzy Universe booth many years before. I have no idea why I’d kept it all this time, except that when I was given the pressed coin, the girl at the booth told me to “take it and make something out of it.” Holding it up to the watch movement, I knew I’d found my wing.
Since that day, I’ve made a lot of jewelry. Most of it I give away to friends, some I sell, and some just clutters up the house, waiting for its moment. And for me, making the jewelry has really solidified what I love about steampunk. Whether it is making an airship out of a flattened penny, some wire, and some watch parts, or turning some broken metal found on a dance floor into a clockwork beetle, when it comes to steampunk fashion and art, absolutely nothing is useless! Everything can be turned into something beautiful and wild.
This right here is my own steampunk philosophy. Everything and everyone has a purpose! It may not be the expected thing; we’ve all seen pepper shakers turned into ray guns, or mason jar lids turned into goggles. And it may not be what society tells you is the proper use; I’ve seen copper toilet floats turned into mechanical owls, and cardboard and spray paint turned into the fist of an emperor, so none of that matters. We don’t have to worry about what society tells us our place is, or worry that we’re not doing what is expected of us. We are steampunks, emphasis on the Punk! And in steampunk nothing is useless and nothing is junk. We all have a place in the world. We are all useful and all beautiful!