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Archive for the ‘Brass goggles’ Category

Steampunk has come to embrace so many varied arts, well beyond just fiction. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of the artisans who make the stuff that makes us all look so good.

 ***

 Shoptroll: (aka Peter Vanslyke)

 

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.shoptroll.net (but realistically I update the Shoptroll Facebook page way more regularly.)

 

What do you make? 

Riveted seam (no sewing) leather clothing. Mostly skirts, kilts, and pocket-belts.

(Note from Cindy: he also makes bodices, bracelets, gloves, shelves, benches, and just about everything you can make with wood, nails, rivets and soft leather. That’s me and the spouse in SP invasion of RFall our Shoptroll finery.)

 

Do you do this full time or is it a side job? 

Full time. 24-7.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

I think, for me, the two’re inseparably linked. I love non-traditional construction methods (example: to make a skirt, I use rivets instead of thread). I see a great deal of the above in the overall steampunk aesthetic. Descriptions and images of things that at the first seem over-built, stylized, or overly ornamental can too be taken as, say, a plumber’s take on a message-delivery system. Using your knowledge or trade to solve situations that they may not at first seem applicable to…I love seeing that.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

Not going to panels when you’re at a con.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved?

If there is a defining aspect of steampunk, I’d call it creativity. No, really, bear with me as I “define” steampunk here. Every single steamo out there brings something to the table. Every. Single. One. At a comic or sci-fi convention, you have some great artists, writers, actors, cosplayers, etc., but for every one of those folk, there are at least a dozen fans or collectors. (Which, by the way, is great.) In steampunk, that ratio is reversed. Participants create their own character, or their own costume. They all add to the ambiance. most of us have *some* project or other we are working on, be it a light-up Nerf mod, a hover pack , a moving picture, a moving piece of poetry, an airship crew, a presentation, a new novel, knitting, we are all working on things, and most of us will happily enthuse, and share ideas to inspire and encourage one another. That, the building of this thing that we all enjoy together, that is probably my favorite aspect of steampunk.

 ***

 Matt Sabins, of Sabins Gadgeteering Lab, LLC

 matt

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.sabinsgadgeteeringlab.com

What do you make?

Custom costume props, accessories, and jewelry. My style tends towards Tesla-tech, usually with small glowing light effects to simulate strange energies of the Aether.

(note from Cindy: His wristbands and firefly necklaces are out of this world!)

 

Do you do this full timIMG_3955e or is it a side job?

Full-Time, my own business. I’ve tried pursuing conventional means of employment; it never really worked out for me.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

My first exposure to steampunk was the tabletop role-playing game, “Mage: The Ascension” by White Wo Studios. There’s a Tradition of mages called the Sons of Ether whose mad devices and eccentric style were steampunk even before the term had really caught on, and they were my fast favorite. I really love the strange mélange of mysticism and technology that they represent, and I began to try making Etheric devices of my own to use as props. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve been refining my methods with what I could afford ever since.IMG_3667

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

The hardest thing about being a vendor is coming up with product ideas that are original enough not to infringe on other copyrights, but that have sufficiently recognizable value to customers who migIMG_2985ht want to buy them. I often have to restrain myself from exuberant creativity and focus on making everyday stuff with a just a hint of mad science in them.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved? 

My favorite thing about steampunk is that it is primarily fan-driven. There isn’t a lot of popular source material in films and television with steampunk as the main focus. There’s plenty of room to get in on the ground floor as it picks up steam, so to speak. As for the people involved, I’ve found most are quite friendly and well-mannered, and they seem to really like my creations.

***

 So now that you’ve met these two awesome creators, don’t forget to check out their work! Hopefully, these interviews will be a recurring feature, so if you’re an artisan, or know one who ought to be interviewed, send me an email at cindy@cindyspencerpape.com.

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Photo Credit - Night Fox Photos

Photo Credit – Night Fox Photos

Makers? Writers? Are we the same? Are we so very different?

Kawaii Kon 2014 descended upon Waikiki, HI the first weekend of April and there was fun to be had by all… cosplayers and mundane alike!  I was one of the mundane, suffering to walk the halls in everyday dress, leaving the cosplay to my son (Doctor Who 10 & Tulio).

I began the weekend with the ‘Ye Olde Intro to Steampunk Panel’ on Friday night. A number of local Steampunks came together to present a basic user friendly introduction to the Steampunk culture… there is only so much that can be covered in 50 minutes, but we did our best.

My part of the informational section was talking about Writing Steampunk and Steampunk: Hands Around the World.

Two of the other panelists, Abby and Rick from “Ricks Steam Punk Etc,” spoke about ‘making’ Steampunk gear.

Being a costumer/crafter I’ always fascinated by discussions on the subject and squirmed out of my table seat to find a seat on the floor to watch. They talked about three types of Steampunk Making and I thought I’d see how they compared to Steampunk Writing. Why? Cause I’m crazy like that… 😀

Photo Credit - Night Fox Photos

Photo Credit – Night Fox Photos

Three types – Scavenging * Modding * Tinkering

Scavenging – finding items that have been discarded and using it for your own purposes

Modding – taking an object created for one purpose and making it fit another

Tinkering – taking bits and pieces and cobbling something from the ‘ground up’

***

Writing as Scavenging – I know I do this all the time.

  • Find a starting line I jotted down at an earlier time…
  • Find a scrap of paper that I’d stuffed into my handbag with a few lines of dialogue…
  • Find a writing prompt or an image that strikes my fancy

Nothing wrong with using what wasn’t needed before and make it useful now… or keep it for another time down the line.

Writing as Modding – 

The first thing that comes to mind is mashups & re-imagining & re-setting. We see it all the time,

  • a modern retelling of Emma by Jane Austen hits the silver screen as “Clueless”
  • Tee Morris’ “Aladdin and his Wonderfully Infernal Device” mixing Steampunk and Aladdin together
  • taking a Victorian Era story and setting it in a Steampunk world of advanced steam-driven technology
Photo Credit - Ricks Steam Punk Etc

Photo Credit – Ricks Steam Punk Etc

Writing as Tinkering

Using the basic building blocks of fiction, but for those new to Steampunk, it might take a little bit of effort.

  • Science – using Steam era science can be new to some, but I highly recommend looking for information on what was already in use in the Victorian Era… you might be surprised!
  • Multicultural Influences – colonialism/imperialism from the Brit standpoint was to ‘Make the World England!’ but that doesn’t  mean that England was isolated while it affected other cultures. The use of Indian silk, Chinese err.. China, etc. What elements from other cultures will transplant themselves in your settings AND characters?
  • From the Ether/Aether – who says you can’t just ‘come up with something’ and write about it. Again, my favorite word in writing is VERISIMILITUDE! If you can make it SEEM real… in fiction it IS real!

Part of the fun that keeps me writing is the discovery of new people to inspire me, new ideas to explore, and new concepts to investigate, I hope you find the same things appealing and inspiring…

So… get going and create!

Keep in mind that there are just my thoughts at this moment… if you have other thoughts… please add them to the comments I’d love to discuss this further…

Ray Dean – Living in Hawaii has few perks when it comes to Steampunk – the main idea is the Victorian Era History that is so readily available…  

**sorry for the posting delay, had an issue with the laptop… crashes galore.

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uniforms Lolita Cindy here, phoning this one in. I’ve got a hard deadline in two days and on the third, I’m headed off to Pandoracon to participate as a panelist on the writers’ track. So wish me luck!

On another note, the spouse and I have officially joined the ranks of the HMS, RAF Defiance, based out of Royal Oak Michigan. I’m joining the crew as resident naturalist, and the tall, dapper gent with me is Rear Admiral Pape, currently aboard on part of a hush-hush diplomatic mission. The real story is, since his jacket came with that insignia, he had to come up with a story to match it, so he didn’t usurp the authority of Captain Sir Benjamin Despard, who so kindly welcomed us aboard.

Creating uniforms from scratch was a fun, long-term project for us. We assembled them piece by piece, either from thrift shops or clearance sales. Here’s the break-down.

Mine: skirt (split riding skirt) clearance from Recollections. (That they happened to have one clearance piece, my size, even in short, still amazes me.) This formed the basis for my uniform. Jacket was from Torrid, also clearance mail order. Corset, underneath, is my old Corset-Story basic black. White blouse underneath, straight out of my closet, black tie filched from one of the offspring. My standard steampunk boots are vintage Salvation Army My hat was $8 at an Army surplus store, and I picked up the hatpin there too. It’s a French parachuting insignia. The ribboned medals I’m wearing are from Spectra Nova and others are from random thrift finds. Total cost of uniform, roughly $100, over the course of 6 months or so, and most of the parts can be worn separately, the coat even in real life.

The hubby is wearing a vintage Detroit Fire Chief’s coat, found at the local antique mall for about #30. His US Navy pants, $7 or so at a thrift shop. Medals again are random thrift bits, and his Royal Canadian Mounted Police hat was all of $20. White shirt, black tie, black boots, straight out of his closet. The goggles were bought so long ago, I don’t remember where or how much. Total cost, maybe $70.

We’ll be rocking these as representatives of the Defiance at Pandoracon. I hope this post sparks an idea or two for anyone who’s been hesitant about costuming. Get creative. Thrift shops are your friends!

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Natalie Zaman is kept busy by pointy things.  Pencils. Pens. Needles (the knitting and sewing variety). Arrows. She also has an eye for the sparkly, and likes black. She’s the co-author of Sirenz and Sirenz Back in Fashion.

 

Steampunk Robots

by Natalie Zaman

As an aspiring manufacturer of gaslight fantasy, I’m always looking for resources—not just the reading kind, but the living kind—the kind you can hear, taste, touch, experience… However the essence of Victorian science fiction is no easy thing to come by in Suburbia, save through various media and my own invention. But the aether will surprise you, sometimes when you least expect it. It found me on, of all things, a school field trip—to the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

Very well… perhaps it’s not so surprising that one would make such an encounter at a celebration of, well, science—but in an arena filled with Frisbee throwing robots?

1 Team 4531 on the Field

Can you spot the Infernal Device?

I was playing spectator, waiting for my daughter’s team to play their match when I saw the first sign.

Unmistakable.

Indubitable.

A top hat.

I blinked, and then all I could see were numbers, steel and plexi-glass, all well rooted in the 21st century. The match I waited for finished, and I went out into the hallway, only to meet this chap.

2 Steampunk Chap

Fancy meeting you here.

So there was a Steampunk-themed robotics team—one whose members possess the sartorial sensibilities of a crew of airship captains. I wanted to know more, but first, a little bit about FIRST, the instrument of fate that brought us together:

Started by inventor Dean Kamen and Dr. Woodie Flowers in 1989, FIRST’s acronym explains its mission: For Inspiration and Recognition In Science and Technology. Each year FIRST teams build a robot to accomplish a specific challenge. This year it was throwing Frisbees and climbing a pyramid.

3 Bringing the Robot onto the Field

Getting ready for competition.

4 Drive Team

Technology needs a human element. Enter, the robot drivers.

 

Team #4531, STEMpunk (another fitting acronym, though not exactly “steamy”: Science Technology Engineering Math + punk) hails from Mishicot, Wisconsin. They earned their spot at the World Championships by being the 2013 Wisconsin Regional Highest Rookie Seed team and winning the 2013 Wisconsin Regional Rookie All-Star award.

When I visited their pit (home base where repairs are made) to ask “Why Steampunk” (they were the only team at the Dome with Victorian flair after all), I was enthusiastically informed that scientific spirit of Steampunk manifested in its gears and cogs and wheels, “fit.” It is a perfect combination. In addition to the science, there’s the “handmade” aspect of the program; not just the robot (which the students design and build themselves with the guidance of mentors), but outfits, accessories, swag and environment, all concocted by the students…

5 Pit CrewSome of the extraordinary gentlemen of STEMpunk. And yes, there are ladies too.

And then there’s that swaggering bravado, an essential trait of all budding venture-capitalist-scientists:

6 Team in Tees

Whether in standard issue team tees…

7 Team in Stands

 …or full regalia, the gears are always turning.

The robot is still waiting to get a Victorian veneer—a goal for the future. That’s the thing about brass-works, clockworks, gears, chains and other trappings—they’re heavy, and the rules are strict when it comes to weight limitations. It will be a challenge, but if anyone knows about the blending of form following function, it’s STEMpunk. Lest you think that their garb is purely for show, have a look at the nifty safety glasses that are a part of their everyday work wear.

8 Goggles

Cleverness! The eyepieces screw off so the dark lenses can be removed, leaving the wearer with fully functional safety glasses.

Little details like this—or big ones like how things work (students learn and use mathematical and scientific concepts as well as training on a variety of machinery), lend authenticity and tactile touchstones to a story. I was fascinated by the melding of past and present so well done by team #4531—but there are hundreds of other teams with varying themes and in various stages of formation—there’s lots to learn on all sides.

If your novel has scientific or technological elements, involvement in FIRST could be a mutually beneficial form of research. My own light involvement in my daughter’s team gave me a better understanding of scientific concepts (and my algebra is admittedly improved—who knew it would be useful in re-sizing photos?). Teams need volunteers both in and out of the shop—writing and communication skills are key in promoting and growing interest in the program and for raising funds (things that so many authors become good at by default). If you have the time and like working with young people, think about volunteering for FIRST—then get ready to inspire and be inspired.

And you’ll never meet a nicer bunch of kids.

~Natalie

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Charles Dickens and his wonderful books with strong fleshed out characters, exposing serious social issues, influence authors to this day. Also,  A Christmas Carol still influences Christmas celebrations. Most families include A Christmas Carol in their holiday tradition by reading from the book out loud or attending a play of it or watching one of the film versions on TV.

In Galveston Texas they go one step further, bringing the images in Dickens’ book alive in the annual Christmas festival, Dickens On The Strand. The 2012 Dickens On The Strand is even more special than usual as this year marks Charles Dickens  200th, Birthday, he was born February 7, 1812.

Here’s a merry ode to the festivities, just imagine Glen Campbell singing it to the tune of Galveston.

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

I still hear carolers singing

I still hear carolers singing

I still hear the bells ringing

I still hear the bells ringing

I dream of old fashioned fun

I dream of old fashioned fun
In Galveston

In Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

I still hear the children laughing

I still hear the children laughing
Still see the gentlemen so dapper and dashing

Still see the gentlemen, dapper and dashing

Still recall Queen Victoria waving to everyone

Still recall Victoria waving to everyone

As her carriage rolls down the strand

As her carriage rolls down the strand

In Galveston

In Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

reenactment of a civil war camp

reenactment of a civil war camp

With period nurses in white uniforms

With period nurses in white uniforms

See me hold a civil war replica gun

I held a civil war replica gun

At Galveston

At Galveston

At Galveston

At Galveston

Steampunk is recognized at this Victorian celebration with steampunk square, a steampunk costume contest, a steampunk street ball, and steampunk attendees and airship crews march in the Pickwick’s Lantern-light parade. It’s fun for the whole family and I had a blast. And the food and the shopping was incredible.

For additional steampunk photos taken at Dickens on the Strand, click here

Here’s another Christmas treat, for S. J. Drum’s A Very Steampunk Christmas, click here

May your Christmas be a steamy one, even if you didn’t make it to Galveston.

DSCN0034

Maeve Alpin 

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As the Steamed airship lands in Phoenix, Arizona, I go to greet my two guest. They step across the gaping space between the dock and airship to board, with a graceful, fluid glide. Both are dancers of

Diosa with sword & Katara in top hat

the Osiris Belly Dancing Company, Diosa, the director and her co-dancer, Katara.

I show them into the parlor where they ease onto the cushioned hand carved settee with lion head legs and claw feet. I sit across from them in a chemille upholstered arm chair.

“Welcome aboard Steamed. It’s so good to have you.” I lean toward Diosa as she sets her sword on the marble top coffee table.  “I love your dance company’s name, Osiris. Of course he’s the Egyptian god of the dead. Also, George Mann wrote a well known Steampunk novel titled The Osiris Ritual.  Why did you chose the name Osirus?”

Diosa flashed a bright smile. “I chose the name Osiris as a result of a series of my own personal experiences through belly dance. Enthralled by dancing with double veils, I later aspired to dance with seven veils, attributed to the myth of the “Dance of the Seven Veils”. After researching the history of Inanna and Ishtar and their descents into the underworld, I thought it fitting to use Osiris, also known as the keeper of the underworld. The name became a symbolic transformation of spirituality, where a dancer could abandon inhibitions and masculinity, empowering her feminine expression, as if to shed the facades created to hide her true self.”

“How intriguing.” The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship lifts off. I rub my lips together as I think of my next question. “On your website you say the Osiris Dance Company has its roots in Egyptian Cabaret. As I and some of our readers may be unfamiliar with the term, can you tell me more about what that means?

Diosa with the Osiris Dance Company

Diosa with the Osiris Dance Company

Diosa nods. “Our roots are bound to a more refined style with ballet and jazz influences with arm positions and traveling movements. Body movements are smaller, intricate muscular movements lending to a more intimate venue like night clubs or in this day and age, at coffee shops. Costumes also tend to be more intricate with a two piece sequined, beaded, and rhinestone bra and belt. The music style may have more dramatic orchestral elements with lavish musical styles.” 

I poured  Diosa a cup of steaming tea. “How old were you when you started belly dancing?”

Disoa picked up both cup and saucer, holding them in her lap.  “I began belly dancing when I was 28. I was entranced by the majestic and fluid belly dancers at the Aladdin in Las Vegas with their glitzy costumes and the wonderful live music.”

I brimmed Katara’s porcelain teacup full. “What drew you to this beautiful, exotic genre of dance?”

Katara took a sip of tea. ” I took my first belly dance class at the beginning of my senior year of high school – I was seventeen. It was  the embodiment of grace, beauty, sensuality and womanhood. So I found a studio, and my first teacher – who happened to be Diosa!”

I picked up my own teacup, took a hot, refreshing sip, then shifted my gaze onto Katara. “Tell me, When did you first fall in love with belly dancing?” I dropped a cube of sugar into the teacup. “Also , when did you first fall in love with Steampunk?”

Katara set her teacup  on the marble table top and leaned back against the red settee. “I first saw belly dancing when I watched one of our local belly dance legends, Yasmina’s, public access show once as a little girl. I was fascinated! Then, I saw another local legend, Jasmine, perform in a cultural week at my high school and decided I had to find classes in the dance style. Steampunk, I first found several years ago. I was completely intrigued with the way Steampunk blended historical fashions with modern designs. And it gave me an excuse to break out the corsets and bustles.”

Leaning forward I picked up a sliver spoon and stirred my tea as I asked Diosa, “What intrigues you about Steampunk? Why did you decided to blend it into your belly dancing performances?”

“Our group is always intrigued by doing something new and off the beaten path. We’ve done marionette pieces, Alice in Wonderland, and tough girl themes. We trained so much in traditional styles, that I think we all just wanted to do something completely different. ” Diosa picked up the teapot and poured more of the steaming brew into her gold rimmed china cup. “When we started dancing at Comicon, we were actually thrown into the Steampunk genre when we were invited to perform at the Steampunk Ball. I consider our dance style to be belly dance fusion, but we blend steampunk into our costuming for those specific venues.”

Katara leaned forward to pick up her teacup.  “Personally, alternate histories always fascinated me, and the way Steampunk blends science fiction with Victorian themes intrigues me.” She took a dainty sip of her tea. “But, really, it’s the opportunity to play with historical fashions and blend them into something interesting and modern. As far as adding it into my dancing, it seemed a natural progression. A new way to tell interesting stories with dance and some really fun costumes.”

I shifted my back against the soft, cushioned  arm chair  “Why do you think steampunk and belly dancing blend together so well?”

Diosa with fan

Diosa with fan

With a flick of her wrist, Diosa snapped her fan out and fluttered it in front of her face. “Steampunk and belly dancing blend together so well because they both thrive from innovation, whether it’s creative choreographies or outrageous costumes.”

Katara with fan

Katara with fan

Katara set her teacup down and flicked her fan open as well. “Belly dancing has always been seen as an exotic, mysterious art form.  I believe that speaks to steampunk – it allows a blend of ethnic and intrigue that melds well with the mixing of sci-fi and history that makes up so much of steampunk. And it brings in a new kind of cultural interest – which was a big part of victorian life.”

I grab my own fan from the coffee table and open it with a flick of my wrist as I ask Diosa, “What are some major challenges of choreographing Steampunk Belly dancing performances?”

“Like any choreography, picking the right music and costuming are a couple of the major challenges. The music is my muse, so if I find an inspiring song, the choreography comes pretty easily.”

Katara of Osiris Belly Dancing Company

Katara rests her fan on her lap. “A major challenge is to bring elements of the steampunk world into a middle eastern artform. Personally, I’ve always leaned toward a more fusion style that blends the traditional dance with different styles (anything from theatrical to jazz to modern), so it wasn’t -too- much of a stretch for me, but being able to embrace that science fiction/period element was definitely a challenge.”

I fluttered my fan and leaned back, fixing my gaze on Diosa. “What Steampunk bands, in addition to Abney Park, do you  think play music which fuses well with belly dancing?”

Diosa set her fan beside her sword on the marble table top. “Music reminiscent of the time period can lend itself to that specific style, especially when blended with the theatrics and costuming. I’ve seen dancers perform to music I considered fusion, though their costuming style was steampunk. I haven’t really figured out what categorizes a band or music as being ‘steampunk’ other than the fact that they specifically note themselves as such or the artists are wearing steampunk apparel.”

Katara brought her teacup to her red lips and took a slow sip. “Well, Abney Park is one of my favorites. I also have performed to a Professor Elemental piece or two. A good many of the steampunk bands utilize instruments that are good for dancing to. Beats Antique is fabulous, as well, it’s a band that is a ‘belly dance band’ that works great with steampunk.”

I point my fan at Diosa. “Do you have a favorite steampunk song for belly dancing?”

Diosa rest her hands in her lap. “I don’t necessarily have a favorite steampunk song, but I would lean more towards songs by Beats Antique, Bass Nectar, or Beirut. I love the ‘carni’ influences as well as the fusion of dub-step.”

Katara - comicon

Katara – comicon

Katara set her teacup on her porcelain saucer with a soft clang. “I love dancing to Hans Zimmer’s “Discombobulate” from the first ‘Sherlock Holmes’ soundtrack. I’ve done a really fun ‘Hyde’ piece to it.”

“A Hyde piece sounds amazing.” I dropped my fan onto my lap and grasped the carved arms of the chair as the airship rocked slightly.  “You have performed at the Wild Wild West Steampunk convention and Comicon. What differences have you found in belly dancing at those types of steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy cons rather than other venues?”

Diosa answers first.  “We have found styles vary and interpretations of the dance is very different. We have observed some burlesque styles that lend to more of a strip tease, where others are theatrical and humorous. Some groups still hold true to their own traditional styles, whether it be tribal or cabaret, but I have not observed a specific style that would be considered ‘steampunk belly dance’.”

Katara adds, “The biggest difference, to me, tends to come from the audience. It’s refreshing to have a group of people who are new to belly dance reacting to the performance  as well as appreciating that someone could blend something like that with what they themselves love: steampunk.”

I snap my fan shut and lean back as I nod at Diosa.  “What do you like most about performing at steampunk/sci-fi/fantasy cons?”

Diosa tilts her head. “What I love most about performing at these different venues is the invitation to create from an entire fantasy world, whether it be super heroes, manga characters, cult television show favorites, or even our own made up characters.”

Katara reaches up to adjust her top hat.  “I love being able to take belly dance and make something new with it. Being able to combine this beautiful art form with a style I already enjoy, be that steampunk, pure sci-fi, or fantasy, is great for me. And being able to share it with the community that completely embraces it is amazing.”

I lean back in my chair, relaxing and enjoying the company of my guest. “What do you think is the status of Steampunk belly dancing in the United States? Is it growing, changing?”

“From what I have seen, it is a small light in a world of dancing.” Katara spreads her hands as she speaks. “The belly dance community is aware enough of Steampunk to love it, but may not have quite ‘gotten it’ yet. It is definitely finding its niche though, and starting to get a following. An example: about a year ago I performed in a belly dance show completely themed ‘Steampunk’, people loved it, and the community really came out for it.”

Diosa

Diosa

Having picked up my teacup and drinked the last of my tea, I set it on the table. “I have to say the steampunk costumes of the Osiris Dance company are perhaps the best I’ve seen. Exquisite. Who makes the costumes for your dancers?”

Diosa smiles as she answers. “Both Katara and I create our own costumes. Sometimes we’ll make our own individual costumes or design/make costumes for the troupe. I made the ‘western-influenced’ costume pictured here, though I’ve made Domba-inspired tribal costumes made with tassels and kutchies for our troupe. Katara also designed and created her ‘Victorian-influenced’ costume posted in this interview. She is also a professional seamstress and takes on the bulk of our costuming, such as our marionette doll pieces (I love my ruffles!).”

Katara flashed a broad smile. “First – thank you! Because, I actually make a good percentage of them. My ‘real job’ is as a professional costumer, so it just made sense for me to help the troupe out in that sense. Diosa also does a lot of the work, making a lot of her costume pieces. So, we have almost complete control of our designs.”

I leaned forward in my chair, toward Diosa. “Did you find choosing dance as a career a hard or easy choice?”

I was a hobbyist at first, but eventually it lead to dancing full-time. Dancing inspired me to get my Associate’s in Exercise Science, as well as certification as a personal trainer. It’s not an easy career, as dance becomes hard on the body, just like any athlete. You need to be knowledgeable in muscle work, nutrition, history, and aware of new styles and moves. You constantly need to be on your A-game. When you are dancing upwards of 15 to 30 hours a week, your body can easily become overworked and more prone to injury. I danced full time for over a year, and as much as I love the dance, I was exhausted. I believe awareness of the dance and culture here in Arizona is sparse, so paying venues are difficult to find. Presently, I am a full-time school teacher, but I continue to perform in my spare time, and I also find joy in teaching belly dance 2-3 times a week.”

Katara nodded. “It sort of crept up on me. Granted, it’s not my only career, but considering how much of my life ended up being dedicated to dance, it just made sense.”

Katara & Diosa - comicon

Katara & Diosa – comicon

I laced my fingers together. “What advice can you give to anyone interested in becoming a professional belly dancer?”

Diosa cocked her head. “Be consistent—find a local teacher you can study with weekly and progress your training by attending master teacher workshops and/or online videos. Do your research—is this career for you? Can you support yourself financially in your area? Dance, dance, dance—find venues you can perform at to get your name out into the community and connect with your audiences. Abandonment—get rid of all your inhibitions. Your audience can clearly see if you’re embarrassed, fearful, or preoccupied. Let loose in your dance! Teach—there’s no better way to improve your own technique than to teach others.”

Katara tilted her head toward me. “Take every class you can find. All kinds of styles – every kind will help your overall dance ability. And take every opportunity to perform you can find. Get as comfortable in front of an audience as possible and learn how to perform to them. Your technique is important, but if you can’t connect to the audience, you’ll lose them.”

I see the teacups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. “What future aspirations do you have for the Osiris dance company?”

Diosa inclined her head toward me. “I would love to continue challenging ourselves with choreography and storytelling. We have learned a lot working with each other all these years, from staging to personal space, I hope one day we can specialize a class teaching duos our choreography and how to dance with each other.”

Katara tilted her head in a nod. “I want to keep improving and creating some of the most interesting performances around. I really love the more theatrical pieces Diosa and I have been coming up with lately. It’s the sort of thing I’ve always wanted to do! And I do hope to compete out of state again.”

Well maybe I can squeeze in one more question as I clutch both arms of my chair for the airship landing. “Speaking of competitions, what dance competitions or live performances do you have coming up, when and where?”

Diosa grasps hold of the arm and back of the settee, bracing for the shakiness of the landing. “Our upcoming performances are the Tucson Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention on March 8th and the Phoenix Comicon Labyrinth Masquerade Ball on May 24th.”

The ship has landed so we say our good byes. Diosa picks up her sword and fan and dances off the airship along with Katara, but you can visit them anytime at their website. Please comment or ask questions below.

Maeve Alpin

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Although I may be familiar to many of you from my guest posts on Steampunkapalooza for the last two years, today marks my debut as a regular contributor. I recently had the delightful opportunity of meeting several of my fellow Lolitas at the Romantic Times Convention in Chicago, and I couldn’t be more excited about joining their number. For any gentle readers not acquainted with my name or work, my name is Cindy Spencer Pape (three words, no hyphens) and I write the Gaslight Chronicles from Carina Press, along with a variety of other, non-steampunkish, romances, though we won’t be talking about those here.

In the real world, I’m married to a wonderful man who indulges my love of dressing up in silly costumes and can maintain his equanimity when I muse out loud about how to describe the sound of a cudgel striking a human head, how one would build a steam-powered ice maker, or what to call a secret order of vampyre hunters in Victorian London. Being something of a mad scientist himself, he actually encourages me. Furthermore I have two college-aged sons who remain remarkably unembarrassed by their mother’s occupation, which is really as much as one can hope for. As I write, two spoiled-rotten dogs lounge at my feet and an iguana who considers humans his personal servants is glaring at me from across the room. It appears his luncheon is a few moments late. Beyond that, I live a deceptively ordinary suburban life in southern Michigan, and survive by passing amongst the others unnoticed.

My Gaslight books are a willy-nilly mix of steampunk, gaslight fantasy, mystery and romance. As a child I was told that my too-vivid imagination would get me in trouble one day. Instead, it gives me the opportunity to have endless amounts of fun, writing fantastical stories about a world that might have been. One of my favorite plotting techniques is to take as many disparate ideas as I can, toss them in a mixing bowl, bake and see what comes out. Ultimately, those end up being madcap tales populated with oddball characters against a backdrop of fantasy, science and history.I’m certain I’ll be talking more about the series as time goes on.

You can find out more about me and my books by visiting my website. I also love to meet new friends on Facebook and Twitter. I’m charmed to meet each and every one of you, and hope that if anyone has any particular requests for future posts, you’ll let me know. Toodles!

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