With the fluttering noise of the engine, the airship docks in Seattle and I step out to the platform to greet our guest today, Steamcon founder and Graphic Artist, Diana Vick.
She easily glides across the gaping space between the dock and airship and holds out a hand elegantly gloved in black leather. I slip my bare hand into her gloved one to accept her strong, friendly handshake.
Diana steps over to the cushioned settee, which with the lion head legs and claw feet, and takes a seat.
“Nice gun.” I lower myself onto the soft chenille upholstered armchair across from her. “You know I love your art. How did you become interested in and get started in graphic design?”
“My mother is very artistic and she encouraged me when I was young. I have always enjoyed doing art. I’ve dabbled in a lot of different artistic outlets including animation, comics and collectible card art. I try to do things that I find fun. I am almost entirely self-taught and doing the graphic design work for Steamcon has been a challenge. I learn a new skill each time. I enjoy it immensely but I have difficulty working for business clients because I end up feeling drained too quickly.” Diana slips her gloves off her slender fingers in anticipation of teatime.
My hands are already bare as I am almost improperly casual aboard the airship. “What is your creative process, for instance do you use an artist notebook to doodle ideas that come to you?”
“A lot of my work begins in pencil and then I use pen and ink. Lately though, I have been doing more photo manipulation and digital art. I wasn’t born into the computer age, so I am slowly learning ways to make it work for me.”
“I can definitely relate to that. I was a space-age rather than tech-age kid myself.” The airship begins lift off. As the engine purrs, the china teacups on the coffee table rattle, and I grasp the armrests of my char. “What drew you to Steampunk?”
Diana eases back onto the crimson settee in a comfortable position. “Steampunk is a very creative genre and I like the imagery.”
“What is that wonderful quote you have about Steampunk, historical accuracy and goldfish? I understand you have several items available with that quote and the design you made for it.” Now that the teacups cease rattling as the ship flies smoothly, I pick up the rosebud teapot and pour her a fresh cup of Earl Grey. I grasp the fine bone china saucer with the teacup resting on it and offer it to her.
Diana leans forward, taking the saucer and the teacup from my hand. “The quote is “Steampunk needs historical accuracy like a dirigible needs a goldfish. It’s a playful way to say while you can have historical accuracy; it is fiction and fantasy so it isn’t necessary. Some people get so uptight about things, and it isn’t really that big a deal. I do have the quote available on t-shirts, mousepads and other things in my Zazzle shop, Steamporium” With her hand, she glides the cup to her parted lips and takes a sip.
“I love it, but it’s just one of your many wondrous Steampunk designs.” When I pour tea for myself, tendrils of steam rise from the cup and blow warm on my face. “Do you have a favorite?”
Diana’s eyes beamed and the corner of her lips curled into a smile. “Stormchaser is probably my favorite. One of the Hard Rock Café Steampunk girl pins is based off of her. One of these days I may take the time to write the story behind her and her crew.”
“That would be an interesting tale. Speaking of Stormchaser, she, like much of your art, is anthropomorphic. Going back to Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel Grandville, anthropomorphic art is big in Steampunk. You have some wonderful anthropomorphic pieces such Explorer, Phillea Fogg and Steambunny, in addition to Stormchaser. What do you like about anthropomorphic art? What is your favorite animal to draw as human?”
“I was an anthropomorphic artist long before I ever got into steampunk, so it was natural for me to incorporate the two. Disney’s Robin Hood is one of my favorite movies and I love to draw foxes. I am currently working on an anthropomorphic steampunk coloring book. My anthropomorphic work is available from my other Zazzle shop. It contains a lot more than just steampunk as well.”
“I like foxes as well.” With my cup and saucer on the table between my chair and the settee, I reach between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer cup of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, I plunk it into my tea. “You are the founder and vice chair of Steamcon, 2012 marked the fourth Steamcon. I can’t imagine all the work involved in putting that on, what are some major challenges?”
“The biggest one is that we always try to keep it fresh. Each year we try a new theme, look for new speakers and endeavor to make it all new and exciting. We try very hard to make it a different experience every time.” Diana took another dainty sip of tea, then she set her cup and saucer beside mine on the short table.
“What are some of your favorite things about Steamcon?” I picked up a polished silver spoon and stirred my tea, creating a tiny maelstrom in the cup.
“I love the fact that almost all the attendees feel the need to dress up and join in. You just don’t get that at most general science fiction conventions. Most people will wear their street clothes to an event, but steampunk events seem to challenge people to dress up. I believe in the anitpajamification of the world and especially America, so I do what I can to encourage it.”
” I totally agree. And, what a quaint word, anitpajamification.” I lay the teaspoon behind my cup, on the saucer. “What was the theme for Steamcon 2012 and some of the events that went with it?”
“Our theme was Victorian Monsters. We had Rasputina as our musical guests since their music is appropriately spooky. We had monster and monster hunter costume contests, panels about séances and the supernatural, a brunch set in Transylvania. It was fun to explore a darker theme.”
“That sounds like a lot of fun. I see the Steamcon theme for 2013 is Steampunk Around the World. Tell us about that?” I curl my fingers around the dainty handle of the teacup, lifting it to my lips, I take a sip, savoring the taste, a subtle nutmeg flavor with leafy undertone and a slight tang of citrus.
“For Steamcon V we are focusing on multi-culturalism in steampunk, also travel, steam transportation and global exploration. We are inviting steampunks from around the world to show us what steampunk is like in their country.”
“That sounds fabulous, so much fun. Also , I noticed the two Hard Rock Café cloisonné pins you created to commemorate Steamcon. How did you come up with the design?” I return my cup to it’s saucer on the table with a soft clink.
“For the Steamcon pins, the design was based on the theme of that year’s convention. For Steamcon III: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I designed a giant mechanical squid embracing a submersible. For Steamcon IV: Victorian Monsters I designed a mechanical bat. The Hard Rock has also created four steampunk girl pins based off of designs that I did. All of these pins were limited editions and exclusive to the Seattle HRC.”
“I love the designs. What process did you go through to submit the pin designs to Hard Rock Café and to get them created?”
“Actually, I happened to meet the HRC retail manager at the time and asked her about the possibility. Since Emerald City Comic Con had done one, I figured it was an interesting possibility. She got me connected and I submitted a design the next week. We chose the Historic Seattle Preservation.”
“In addition to Steamcon, your pin designs and other graphic art, you are also work in costuming, prop making, jewelry making, and makeup design. What type of challenges do you find in working in so many different type of creative areas?”
“I tend to just do my own thing. If something interests me, I will try it. I don’t look to others to teach me, so sometimes I make mistakes, but often I find new ways to do things. I will experiment to see what works best.”
“I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. In working in so many different creative areas, which one do you like best?”
Diana snugs on her gloves. “I love the synergy of them. When I do my own costuming, props, makeup and jewelry, all the parts often work well, making a whole character. When people comment on any one facet of it, I can be proud of my skills and choices.”
With the airship now docked once more, our chat comes to an end. We rise from our seats, walk out of the parlor and exit the airship, but you can visit Diana Vick anytime at her blog, Tea & Automatons, or her Steampunk Costuming Gallery.
Maeve Alpin, who also writes under the name of Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 17 romance books, including four Steampunk/Romances. The latest, Conquistadors In Outer Space was just released. She lives in Texas with her son, her granddaughter, and her cat Severus.