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Archive for the ‘shiny things’ 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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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Project Runway’s Under the Gunn spin off had a Steampunk Challenge on the February 27, 2014 show. For those unfamiliar with this show, it was spawned from the glittery loins of Lifetime’s Project Runway. In this incarnation, notable mentor Tim Gunn (the fashion world’s silver fox) helps three Project Runway Alums to mentor their own designers… yes, it is just like that.

This week they open the episode at Travel Town in Griffith Park. If you are a Steampunk and in Los Angeles “GO THERE!” It’s just a hop, skip, & jump to the Autry Western Heritage Museum.. go NOW.

openingmaterials

Standing beside one of the steam trains at Travel Town, the designers are told they have an ‘avant garde’ challenge with the genre of fashion ‘Steampunk.’ Avant garde is the challenge that has stumped many a designer on the show, mainly because what is ‘fashion forefront’ to one person is not for another. Throw in the added concept of Victorian Retro-futurism and holy steampipes, Tim Gunn… you have some confused designers.

rawmaterialsThey’re given $300 dollars for fabric at Mood and TWO WHOLE DAYS to finish an outfit. (So far in the earlier six episodes they have not had such a luxury).

They’re set free on a table full of parts and clocks… to pull pieces to use in their designs.

wtfBut you can tell that earlier on, this may be a tough challenge for some of the designers. Some of them are excited about the challenge as they like the Steampunk ‘look’ and some have no idea.

One of the designers said they’d seen it before but just hadn’t known there was a name. Hey, that sounds like some of us… huh?

Early on, Natalia talks about ‘functional’ fashion and components and I’m happy. I know she’s going in a good direction.

During the middle of the show when they’re showing the construction and mentor critiques is confusing at times and sometimes my teeth are grinding together. I’m not sure that two days is enough. What I feared happening was the idea that oh look shiny stuff, throw this on! When I’ve talked to Steampunks about their outfits there has been a considerable amount of thought that has gone into their looks. And being part of the culture, they’ve had the chance to look around, research, play, experiment… stuff you just can’t do in two days, especially if you aren’t familiar with the source material.

When it’s time for the runway show, I’m confused about why they have the ‘same’ judges. Project Runway has had guest judges and celebrities before. The week prior they had the Costumer from “Pompeii” come in as a guest judge, but this week there is no such ‘extra’ judge sitting on the panel. No Steampunk fashionistas available? I highly doubt it, but then again, who to pick from the thousands of amazing Steampunk fans?

ashaOne of the judges likens the experience to Paris Couture. I’m not sold on it… but I’ll give you my takes on some of the outfits and you can let me know what you think… why not have some fun? What do you think?

Asha’s dress has some of the silhouette of Victorian fashion, but the neckline strikes me as odd along with the white lace-ish narrow skirt.

stephanieStephanie’s dress was called ‘costume-y’ and they mentioned that it looked like Disney, but here’s where I shrug…

Her belt looks like an exaggerated version of a Medici belt from the Civil War Era.

medicibeltSo really, is it costume or just the judges not really knowing historical fashion? It really comes down to (like every other week) the subjective POV of the judges. Especially when one calls the belt a ‘Mr. T’ belt.

oscarOscar’s outfit was panned earlier by another designer for looking too much like a Saloon Girl… okay, obviously they haven’t really seen much of the Wild Wild West… but we’ll pass on that for now. A judge mentioned that the clock at her center is a bit too spot on for them, but they loved the draping and the hat.

I totally agree that the man is fabulous in construction and I want the hat… NOW… err, please. But then again. I kind of like the clock where it is because Oscar mentioned how the shape and look of the dress was inspired by the train. And yeah… it kind of looks like the front of the train with the hardware there.

nataliaNatalia’s dress is inspired by the concept of a “Time Traveler’s Mistress” – the girl in me says.. Why can’t SHE be the Time Traveler? But that’s just me.

She has engineer’s for parents and something must have rubbed off on her because using clock parts she has literally created a workable pulley that lifts both sides of the front half of the skirt to reveal her underskirt. Way cool.

pulleyShe has now earned some points with her mentor and the head of the show. Go girl! I also appreciate her whole outfit. I like the shape of it that brings to my mind the silhouette of a Victorian Era outfit.

samThere was one outfit that confused me on the dress form, but once on the model, I think I got what he was going for…

the dystopian future that brought to mind Boneshaker’s fashions. 😀 Sam’s would have had more of my support if he’d chosen a different kind of goggle. But that’s just my personal choice.

nicholasI think this next outfit created by Nicholas was more suited to a Mad Scientist creation with the tubes and metallic fabric. The outfit brings to mind a lab coat patchwork that would make Tim Burton proud.

michelleAnother creation, this one by Michelle. I loved the stained glass look of the collar and the coat has a great flair to it in the back.

I do, however question the hair ‘tower’ they created for her head. Not quite sure I can forget that one. It must have given the model and horrendous headache. Poor thing.

blakeThe next design is from Blake, who described his inspiration as controlling time, wrapping around her.  The outfit looked like pieces of different items of clothing sewn together and a bunch of gears and metal pieces sewn or glued on.  I think with more time it might have become something with more ‘clarity’… is that the word I’m looking for? Yes, I think so.

shanThe last design was created by Shen. It is the outfit that WON the challenge. I’m not sure if I completely understand why it won. I was hoping to be more excited by the look of it, but perhaps its just not my idea of avant garde Steampunk fashion.

So… tell me… did you see the episode? What did you think?

Which outfits floated your dirigible? Which ones sank your submarine?

How many days would you think a Steampunk challenge should have had to create complete designs?

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Why Steampunk? I put that question to a variety of talented artist. Asking them why they took their art in a Steampunk direction, these were their answers:

Cherries Jubilee, is not only a talented dancer but she also embellishes fabulous Steampunk designs on shoes, transferring them into wearable art and some of the most gorgeous shoes you will ever see in your life.  I asked Cherries Jubilee, “How did you first get interested in Steampunk?”

“I have been attending science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions almost since the phenomenon started, but I was finding it difficult to do interesting costumes after a while. I could not really pull off the “green slave girl” any more and I had done every female companion to Dr.

Who, so I was looking for something else. I was looking for a more free form kind of costuming – not copying something that had already been done, but creating characters of my own in a style that I could wear into my 90’s if I wanted to. About six years ago, I saw some Steampunk at Norwest Con and fell in love with the idea. They were already talking about creating a local Steampunk convention and I was really excited because I could bring in neo-victorian style and, to some extent, manners into a con culture that had grown more than a little crass. I saw an opportunity to bring couples dancing into the sci-fi culture and I got to wear corsets and really cool granny boots. My only thought was, “Sign me up!”

airship-voyager-sqpenny_farthing_20121Camryn Forrest creates serious art with her stunning snow globes and water globes. She is a snow globe engineer. Her work is whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. So I asked her, “Why Steampunk?”

Camryn Forrest said, “I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.”

Next, I asked illustrator, writer, costumer, graphic artist and founder and vice chiar of Steamcon, Diana Vick, “What drew you to get involved in and take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

 

8383773791_7f5d80f934_bShe replied, “Steampunk is a very creative genre and I like the imagery.”

 

dawn1Dawn Donati creates unique and gorgeous Steampunk Stained Glass art. So I inquired, “When did your first become interested in Steampunk?”

“Along my travels some of the vending I did was in Victorian reenactment I am well versed in the artclothing aspect.  steampunk was a natural progression for me. What intrigues me is the inventions and the people who create them, the stories they tell – the community. The ingenuity and historical knowledge of the artists is just delightful. I have noticed the steampunk movement is growing I see it all over in art, clothing, movies – it’s fun to see peoples interpretation of what steampunk is. Or maybe I’m just so immersed myself such a hopeless romantic for the opulence of this movement there is no saving me.   For my next endeavor I would like to bring stained glass in to steampunk as a noticed art form.  How Victorian is stained glass – take steamed powered concepts add a splash of industrial machinery a dash of filigree embellishment and there you have steampunk stained glass…. well that is what my mind’s eye would like to see.  I am working on my kaleidoscope and a signature piece.”

mlt_headshotThen I asked Steampunk artist – painter, sculptor and jewelry designer – Michael Treat,”What inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

“For me, I think it all started when I began working with materials that are dominant in the 197102921162471135_cgqtnxyz_cSteampunk genre including leather, unbleached fabrics, lace, grommets, eyelets, tack and  wood. Oh–and of course all of those metals! I very much enjoy working with brass, copper, wrought iron and rusty steel with all of their tarnish and patinas. I enjoy working with each material individually, and combining them in new and different ways. As I learned more and more about the genre, and researched what it was about,  I realized that I had found a place to incorporate those elements and the styles into just about anything I had could imagine. I love the Steampunk genre because of the modification process that Steampunk allows, and often even demands! I also really feel a sort of kinship with the American Old West. I admire the optimism that came along with all the hardships and uncertainties of that time period. I also enjoy how that unique creativity, optimism and sense of possibilities and vision is reflected those who live the Steampunk lifestyle today.”

mesteampunksoulsMichele Lynch’s mix media art, art dolls, tree toppers, ornaments, jewelry, paintings and so nevermoremuch more are incredible. Not only the art itself, but I also love what she writes about them. ”The soul sucker mix media dolls or sculptures started after I took a full time job with the soul sucker corporation. I find myself still running from the soul sucker even though I no longer work for that corporation.”

I love Michele’s Soul Sucker world and her art, so I put the same question to her, “Why Steampunk?”

Michele said, “When I envisioned the steampunk soul rebellion, I saw them with mechanical parts to them. I’m not sure where that inspiration came from! But I have always loved movies that had that slight Steampunk feel to them.”

You’ve heard form a variety of Steampunk visual artist as to why they went Steampunk, now readers, it’s your turn. Please comment below…Why Steampunk?

Feel free to share why you write or read Steampunk?

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Toy Maker Workshop

Toy Maker Workshop

Even though the airship has just docked, I feel like I’m floating, so excited to be on the airship when it has flown across the pond. We’ve just arrived in England. I wave my hand enthusiastically, to artist, Doktor A. “Welcome aboard the airship.” I hike up my skirt and stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. “Watch your step,” I call to Doktor A as he follows me into the parlor. I gesture towards the chenille armchair with claw feet. Doktor A sinks into the large cushioned chair.

Then I plop down onto the crimson settee across from him. Enthused, my heart’s racing like a toddler ready for her favorite story at bedtime as I plead, “Please tell us the story of

your Mechtorians.”

Elder

Elder

Doktor A nods his head and begins the tale. “It was during a Cricket match, one balmy afternoon in the summer of 1897, that Professor Maximillian Whistlecraft was informed of England’s forthcoming destruction. His friend and fellow tinkerer at the outer boundaries of science and engineering, one Herbert Wells, had just returned from a brief jaunt into the near future through the use of his Extraordinary Temporal Conveyancer, and had a shocking tale to relate. In only a few short years hence the green and pleasant land of good old Blighty would be overrun by a dastardly Martian invasion force, the likes of which could barely be comprehended. As part of the invasion, Herbert had witnessed the razing of his friend’s own residence near Horsell Common and had hastened at the earliest opportunity to warn the good fellow to the impending danger.” Doktor A raises his voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off.

Amnesia

Amnesia

Self Made Man

Self Made Man

“Professor Whistlecraft had several years to make safe his home and family before the interplanetary scourge descended. He considered simply moving house, but could not bare to pass his doom to another poor unsuspecting soul. And from this initial conviction he vowed to save not just himself but the whole of the English populace. He concluded the best way to achieve this was not to engage the wretched invaders in battle but simply move everybody out of their way.” As he continues the story, Doktor A grabs the armrests with both hands, while the airship lifts off.

“Luckily his previous scientific researches and engineering dabblings had uncovered a way to instantaneously move objects and persons from one place to another. He concluded that with a Translation Engine of a suitable size and power he might move everything in England out of harms way. He consulted books, talked with eminent Astronomers, Geologists and Botanists and decided that the best destination would be a small blue green planet circling a star at the edges of the visible galaxy. He was assured this would be a world much like the Earth we know, but with the additional bonus that due to a peculiarity of its orbit it would have two tea-times.

He realized that he could not expect the good people of England to abandon all they knew for some strange new world on the strength of a single man’s word, no matter how honorable the gentleman. So he concluded that a mechanized workforce should be sent ahead to build all that the future inhabitants would expect of a decent English society, in order to ease their transition.

Shutterburg

Shutterburg

To this end he re-fitted a number of his automated servants, built some new ones and gave them all careful instructions on what to do at their destination. He also tutored his mechanical creations in methods to create more like themselves, to fit whatever purpose was required of them. He sent them off on the eve of the new century to build a new Empire among the stars and await his arrival.

He never came.

Two hundred years later they have never known the fate of their creator and his people. But they go on doing what he instructed. Building a bigger and better and more decent society for all Mechtorians and for all those who may, some day, still arrive.”

“I love that.” I have to ask does this

Asphyx Engine

Asphyx Engine

small blue green planet circling a star at the edges of the visible galaxy exist in your head from time to time, do you find yourself thinking about some of the Mechtorians you’ve created, do you wonder about what they’re up to?”

“I never stop thinking about Mechtorians. They are always alive in the back of my head. Their daily going on ticking away moment by moment. Sometimes they interrupt my life in ways that lead to new ideas for artworks.”

The dainty china cups cease rattling on the tea table as our airship glides smoothly pass the clouds. “What happened to Professor Maximillian Whistlecraft? He worked so hard to set up this wonderful world on another planet so all his fellow Englishmen could be saved.” I pick up the teapot and pour my guest a cup of Earl Grey. “Do you have any idea of his fate and that of his fellow countrymen?”

Lilies On Stage

Lilies On Stage

“The Martian invasion was famously unsuccessful so the plan to relocate everyone to a new home became redundant.” Doktor A reaches out to take the cup of tea resting on its saucer. “I suspect the professor may have received a knock to the head at some point during an escape from a Martian war machine or something and this made him forget what he had set in motion…or possibly the transmat machine in his studio was destroyed in the last days of the invasion thus making travel to the new homeward impossible. Good job it wasn’t needed after all.” He takes a sip of steamy tea then sets it and its saucer on the tea table.

“I love the names you’ve given your characters, such as Montague Grimshaw, Amnesia Primm, and Baron Von Bosch, as well as the bios you’ve created about each one. I know this is a difficult question to answer, but which character is your favorite?”

“I don’t have any favorites really. I like many different characters for different aspects. Some of the earlier ones like Stephan LePodd I think I may never match in their surrealness. Others like “The Self Made Man” or “Harry K. Nidd” represent leaps in technical achievement for me so become important milestones in my body of work.” Doktor A reaches between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, he plunks it into his tea.

Perambulator

Mr. Pumfrey and his Astounding Mechanized Perambulator

“Please tell us more about one of your newest toys, Mr. Pumfrey and his Astounding Mechanized Perambulator. What is the inspiration behind it? What does Mr. Pumfrey actually do with his Mechanized Peramblator?” I brim my teacup full and as the tendrils of steam rise, I take a dainty sip.

“The origins of the toy came from two roots. I did a painting called “Mr. Pumfrey takes a Midnight Jaunt”. Which had a small fellow riding a large tripodic type machine with worm like tentacles in the front of it. Later I did an ink drawing which was a bit of a riff on one of Jeff Soto’s infamous walkers. The drawing became a small run print edition for Dragon Con in Atlanta. Munky King toys in L.A contacted me to see if I was interested in producing an art-toy with them. They were particularly interested in doing some sort of robot driving another robot. I showed them the drawing and they loved it so I drew up some blueprints to make it possible as a three-dimensional object.” Doktor A picks up a silver spoon and dipping it into his teacup, swishes it side to side. “The original painting had the tag line ‘Mr. Pumfrey is looking for a wife. Anyone’s wife will do!’ so you may attach sinister connotations to that…Mr. Pumfrey may be up to no good.”

“Oh my, that does sound quite sinister. It would be a great opening line for a book.” I lift my teacup from the blue willow saucer as the aromatic scent of Earl Grey billows around me. “I have found such strong similarities in the way visual artist and literary artist think and work though the mediums seem so different. Have you ever put your characters and stories into a literary form or do you have any desire to do so in the future?”

Blackwood

Blackwood

“I haven’t really intended to do that, however each character has their own small biography written about them and over the years (I started making them in 2005) the back stories have cross referenced each other and woven a quite intricate patchwork picture of life in Retropolis. Maybe someone will one day take those snippets and expand them into a more formal narrative.”

“You work in different art mediums: drawing, painting, sculpture and toys, in 2D, and 3D art. What challenges do you find in working with such different mediums and what is your favorite medium to work in?”

“I get bored easily doing one thing all the time to like to switch things out now and then by working in different mediums. It keeps things interesting for me. I feel most at home doing dimensional work. I was trained as an Industrial Modelmaker, so this sort of think is what I feel I do best.” Doktor A lifts and tilts his teacup to his lips as he takes a long sip.

Harry Full Door

Harry Full Door

“How young were you when you first became involved in models or in art?” I take a long swallow of my tea, savoring the taste.

“The first thing I can recall sculpting was a Zygon from Doctor Who, in Plasticene when I was about 5 years old. I have always made models and robots and monsters.”

“Did model making and art always run together for you in some way or was there a period of time in which you went from model or toy maker to artist?” I set my cup back on it’s saucer on the tea table with a soft clink.

“I don’t see the difference. I do what I have always done. It’s just now other people call what I do Art.”

Maxwell & Hugo

Maxwell & Hugo

“Speaking of art and your art, it’s amazing how many brilliant artists in the Steampunk community are drawn to unusual mediums for their serious art such as snow globes and water globes, stained glass, dolls, and in your case toys.” Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “What drew you to the medium of toys to create whimsical yet serious art?”

“I was trained as an Industrial Modelmaker. I worked in the mainstream toy world for many years as a “Ble-sky” designer and prototyper for the big toy companies. I have always loved and collected toys and models. It was a natural outlet for my artistic leanings and one which, luckily for myself, has in recent years been accepted as a legitimate art form.” With his tea now cooled, Doktor A took a generous sip.

Bella Snow Standoff

Bella Snow Standoff

“Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your sculptures, paintings and toys? What is your creative process?”

“My characters are generated in one of three ways. I either come up with the written biography of the character and then work out what they look like in rough sketches or ink drawings and then build them. Or I sketch a character and then start to piece together the physical sculpture, all the time altering and refining, at this stage the personality of the piece starts determining their story. Or I find a particular item or piece of junk which inspires the whole creation, look, story and all.”

“It’s always interesting to learn about the artistic procesess for different artist. What about an artist notebook, do you use one to sketch ideas at odd moments of the day or night?”

“My sketchbooks are a mess. Nothing like finished drawings. Just thinking on paper. Notes and snippets to remind myself of ideas, or scratchy little diagrams working out ways to physically achieve something.. They are not really meant for other people’s eyes.” He sets his teacup on it’s saucer on the tea table.

“Sounds a lot like my rough drafts.” I lean forward. “This may be hard to answer but in each piece of your art work, especially in your 3D work, sculptures and toys, you are able to convey an emotion people can connect with, do you have any idea how you do that?”

“No idea. I think it’s the Japanese Shinto philosophy that says an artist or craftsman puts a little piece of their soul into each thing they make…that’s the nearest I can come to an answer.” With his forearms on the cushioned armrest, Doktor A leans back, getting comfortable.

“I fully agree with that philosophy.” I drink the last of my tea. “For any artist interested in taking their art in a toy direction what advice would you give them?”

“These days I would say do it yourself. Teach yourself how to make silicone rubber moulds and cast in resins and make some toys yourself. Show them around. Put them online, photos on social media sites and the resins on Etsy or Ebay. Take a booth at a convention like Designer Con in L.A. or Dragon Con in Atlanta and shout about what you do… and keep doing it, a lot! It’s the only way to get better at it. Show your work to toy companies, if they like it you may get something produced by one. But self made toys are just as legitimate these days as company produced pieces. The art-toy world is a very “grass roots” type of place. If you are good you will find an audience. If you are not good, then stick with it until you are good.”

“Great advise.” I set my teacup on the table. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask, do you read Steampunk fiction and if so what are some of your favorite books or authors?”

“Not really. I have read H.G.Wells etc of course. I read “The Difference Engine” when it was originally published. Other than that it’s only really the “Larklight” trilogy which I actually picked up on the strength of the illustrations. Although does Hellboy count?”

“Hell yes, Hellboy counts.” I couldn’t resist that little play on words.” I lace my fingers together and rest them on my lap. “What are somethings you’d like to say to your fans and prospective fans about your art?”

“I am jolly pleased and perpetually thankful that what I do resonates with so many people. It’s because of the support of my collectors that I can do what I do in a full time capacity. I hope each new thing I create makes people all over the world smile. And that some of the pieces make the odd person stop and think about the ways we see and do things in today’s “society”.

I hear rattling and clinking. I glance at the tea table and see the cups and saucers shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for three short questions. “When you’re not creating art what is your favorite leisure activity?”

“I don’t have much time for leisurely activities. I watch movies when I can. I occasionally take time off making my model robots to relax by making a model robot (or monster) kit from someone else…Hmmmmm?”
Doktor A grasps hold of the armrests, bracing for the shaky landing.

“That makes sense, since that’s what you love to do. Let’s go from leisure to another favorite activity of mine, eating. You’re from England but you come to the states fairly often for shows. When in America, what is your favorite American style food?”

“That would be Root Beer. You can’t get it in the UK. Not the real, good, small brewery stuff.”

“Perhaps I should have served root beer rather than tea. Next time I’ll know.” I hold on to one arm of the setae as we dock again. “What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up?”

“Monsters & Misfits III on September 13th – 26th, and Circus Posterus Group Show at the Kusakabe Folk Museum in Takayama, Japan. Also feel free to click here for all show and event information.

Though Doktor A must go, he has left calling cards for us.

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Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published romances. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter and her cat, Severus.

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Dawn Donati

Dawn Donati

As I stand on the  deck of the airship, I welcome Steampunk Stained Glass Artist, Dawn Donati. With an animated wave, she hikes up her stunning gold skirt then fluidly  leaps over the gap between the dock and airship.

“You’re just in time for tea.” I show her into the parlor where she eases onto the cushioned settee with the claw feet as I sink into the armchair across from her. “I can’t wait to see your unique and gorgeous Stained Glass art. So much work and thought goes into creating glass art.  Please take us thorough the process. Give us an idea of the different elements, tools, skill and creativity involved.”

The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship begins lift off. Speaking over the noise, Dawn answers,”Choosing the texture to provoke thought and the right color to suggest emotion is where I start. I look upon all the found objects I have collected: copper tubing, brass buttons, metal findings, industrial pieces of machines, old clocks I have taken apart, anything I can solder and apply to my stained glass as a sculpture.”

I grab the armrests of my chair as the airship gains altitude. “Your art is so beautiful but I know  glass is a difficult and challenging medium to work in. What drew you to the art of stained glass?”

Now that the tea cups cease rattling, Dawn leans toward the coffee table and lifting the blue willow tea pot, she pours a cup of steaming tea. “The translucency of glass, the fact that it is a liquid and solid all at the same time and the history of stained glass, the story it tells.” Dawn holds her teacup up and smiles. “A stained glass  window in the morning light with your cup of tea looks different at dinner time. That is what draws me to stained glass.”

“How intriguing.” I brim my teacup full and take a dainty sip. “What are the biggest challenges in working with stained glass?”

Dawn reaches her slender fingers between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, she plunks it into her tea “The biggest challenge working in the medium of glass is heat fractures creating three dimensional sculptures, as in boxes, can pose difficult. The end result is worth it. Quite a few of my boxes have moving parts: airship propellers that spin, gears that engage and have a function. Maintaining the integrity of the found object while making it function and remain secure is a standard I strive for when creating my art.”

I take a sip of my earl grey. “And you do that so well.  Your three dimensional sculptures, your stained glass boxes, are incredible. What do you like about the box form?”

Dawn sets her cup on its saucer with a soft clink. “I like to think of my boxes as functional pieces of conversational art. Yes, some can be used as a jewelry box, however I also see them as a centerpiece on a table to spark an engaging discussion. Take the beauty and fascination of stained glass off the window and bring it into your hand.”

“How marvelous. Truly, they are not only boxes but art sculptures. They could certainly spark the premise for a story. Imagine in a fiction tale, what incredibly special object or message might they contain.” I set my cup in its saucer on the mahogany coffee table. “You must have been working with art for a long time. At what age did you realize you wanted to be an artist?”

“I have traveled all over working art fairs, helping vendors. At 14 I was gifted to see metal smithing and pottery done out in the open in the forest  at week long events.  I fell in love with the traveling artists and their craft.”

“It’s so wonderful to hear how childhood experinces at art and craft fairs helped shape you into this amazing artist.” I glance at the coffee table at the sound of rattling and clinking. “I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one last question. How did your first become interested in Steampunk?”

Dawn grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing. “Along my travels, some of the vending I did was in Victorian reenactment. I am well versed in the clothing aspect.  Steampunk was a natural progression for me. What intrigues me is the inventions, the people who create them and the stories they tell. The community, the ingenuity and historical knowledge of the artists is just delightful.

I have noticed the steampunk movement is growing I see it all over in art, clothing, movies. It’s fun to see peoples interpretation of what steampunk is. Or maybe I’m just so immersed myself such a hopeless romantic for the opulence of this movement there is no saving me.

For my next endeavor, I want to bring stained glass into steampunk as a noticed art form.   How Victorian is stained glass. Take steamed powered concepts, add a splash of industrial machinery, a dash of filigree embellishment and there you have  steampunk stained glass…. well that is what my minds eye would like to see.  I am working on my kaleidoscope and a signature piece.”

“I can’t wait to see them.” But for now the airship Steamed has landed so I must way farewell to Dawn. But you can visit her anytime. Here are her calling cards: Esty Shop, Webstite Facebook

Maeve Alpin is the author of four Steampunk/Romances: To Love A London Ghost, Conquistadors In Outer Space, As Timeless As Stone, and As Timeless As Magic.

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So far, since becpirate coupleoming a Lolita last year, I’ve been mixing my posts on writing steampunk with chronicling my adventure into the steampunk lifestyle. Discovery #1: Steampunk folks are diverse, warm, welcoming and loads of fun. As one wise gentleman told me the other night, waving out at a dance floor full of corseted and tricorned partiers, “Life is hard, complicated and often messy. This? This is just fun.” (That’s him below with the spouse.) Discovery #2: There is an enormous crossover between the steampunk crowd and the Renaissance Faire crowd. Enormous. Fortunately, a lot of hoops, corsets, skirts and blouses, belts, gloves, jewelry, etc. can do double duty. That makes the crossover a lot more affordable. But this weekend brought me to discovery #3: PIRATES!glenn & don`

Yes, there is an active and organized pirate community in Michigan. How did I not know this?

shoptrollThey call themselves Brethren of the Great Lakes and offer everything from a pirate festival on Lake Michigan to adding color to your random local event. They do lectures on maritime history. And yes, they throw one hell of a party. One of my steampunk friends (left) invited me to an event via Facebook, where he was going to be selling his magnificent leather goods. (Like the skirt I’m wearing in the photo above. See more of his awesome work at Shoptroll.net) That was the first I’d heard of the Brethren. Best yet, the event was right in my home town, so for a change, the spouse and I didn’t have to drive anywhere. pirate kala

During the afternoon, there was a fair inside a local hall, with booths selling everything from clothes to wigs, to pirate stickers to the best handmade caramels I’ve ever eaten. (War Pony Forge: Yum!) There was a pirate art show. A silent auction and raffle raised funds for this summer’s festival. A band played traditional music in one corner. The costumes and company were…piratical, loud, funny and courteous. Also much less smelly than their historical counterparts, an anachronism I applaud. There is no single era of piracy required in the costuming and fun.  A Renaissance admiral chatted happily with a steampunk airship pirate.shiver me timbers

In the evening, the party moved to a local watering hole, where we filled both of their banquet rooms. A rowdier band played rocked-up traditional music, and the event was so much fun that random locals paid their five dollars to come in, just because there were so many people having such a good time. (And there were lots of pirate wenches in corsets–duh.) Also to note was that many of the pirates were also members of the steampunk and Ren-Faire communities. In fact, they make something of an effort to have the pirate events fill in the gaps when there isn’t much Rennie stuff to do. And again, a lot of the garb is compatible. I see much more pirating in my future. Yarrr!

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One of the things I’ve discovered about steampunk fans is a very strong do-it-yourself ethic. When you go to a steampunk event, the first thing you hear is often, “Oh, I love that! Did you make it yourself?”

My answer is usually, “I’m afraid not.” I’m not particularly crafty and I can’t sew for beans. But I love handcrafted and unique items. The raven pendant I’m wearing here is cast bronze by one of my favorite jewlers, Randy of Knotty Jewels. This gorgeous skirt was made by a very talented man named Peter, of Shoptroll. I suppose, with a pattern and the right tools, I *could* have made a reasonable facsimile myself. Maybe. Probably not.

Honestly, I’d much rather patronize a great local craftsman, doing what he does best, than to make a bad imitation on my own. I’m also a huge fan of thrift shops and I’m not bad at adaptive reuse. But…I do feel a little weird about having NOTHING in my steampunk garb that I made myself. So do I need to take up leather working or welding? Probably not. Maybe I’ll find a craft that suits me and run with it. Or I might just stick to crafting stories and practicing creative shopping. 😉

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I have a special treat for everyone today, and I don’t mean the drop of whiskey I put in the tea, Camryn Forrest has boarded the airship today. She is a Steampunk artist, who works with  the enchanting, whimsical and technical art of water globes and snow globes. We take our seats on the crimson settee in the parlor just in time for tea. The engine purrs for take off.

Airship One

Airship One

“Camryn, we’re so pleased to have you aboard the Steamed airship today. Your Steampunk globes are fascinating. Why did you choose this particular art?” I lean toward her. “What draws you to water globes and snow globes?”

 “I am drawn to small items. As a child, I made my own dollhouse furniture – carving little legs for my chairs, making a clay bird in a wire cage, covering tiny books with strips of leather and painting titles on the bindings. Over the years, I’ve collected tiny chairs, souvenir buildings, bone china animals, Micro Machines, Little Kiddles and painted lead soldiers. I loved Hot Wheels and anything small enough to be in a vending machine. Once, I helped my mother with a dollhouse, embroidering tiny bits of cloth for bedspreads and framing postage stamps for wall art. My father use to pour and cast his own toy soldiers and I helped with the tiniest painting details.

Birdcage Gramaphone

Birdcage Gramaphone

A family member repairs and makes snow globes, which has always fascinated me. I always looked for them at fine arts shows, and never saw any. Not a one.  I’m not a pink and purple Disney princess kind of person. I longed for snow globes made for grownups, with the quality and depth of the artwork I loved from other artists. I wanted to see snow globes that made me think and feel the way I do about other art.

Rough Sailing

Rough Sailing

So I took my love for tiny things and my appreciation of snow globes and put them together. It wasn’t easy … I knew I didn’t want ‘snow’ – the crushed white pieces in most snow globes – so I thought it would be cool to use tiny watch gears as glitter. Well, it doesn’t work. I kept that first test globe and the metal gears have disintegrated into a little pile of rust. Shake it and you see nothing but brown.

I had no idea about the types of objects and items which could handle submersion in liquid. There was no guidebook. So it’s been a labor of love, trial and error. I’ve talked to guys at the hardware store about sealants. I’ve tested items for weeks, letting them sit in liquid. The family snow globe repairman, who I sometimes call my snow globe engineer, is my patient mentor. His do’s and don’ts are invaluable. From seeing the workings of hundreds of broken globes he’s fixed, he knows what will work and what won’t. He lets me know when I head too far down the wrong path. You can torture me all you want, but I’m not giving up his name – at his request.”

“Oh, no, dear, I wouldn’t think of it, here on Steamed, we reserve torture for enemies of the Queen, but a snow globe engineer, I like the sound of that, whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. Speaking of which, why Steampunk?” I poured a cup of tea and offered it to her.

“I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.” Camryn took a sip of tea then set the saucer on the round, marble top coffee table.

“An early comment that stuck  with me, about my first series, came from another friend. In a puzzled voice she told me, ‘They are so masculine.’ I took it as a compliment. I love the contrast of machinery and hardware, and the dark colors of steampunk metals and rich wood in a snow globe, an object that is often sweet and cloying, pink and pretty. I wanted power, not pretty.

I don’t consider myself purely a steampunk artist. I’ve thought about it every which way, and the truth is my notebooks of sketches and designs for snow globes precede my awareness of the Steampunk movement, which is fairly recent. (Here is where I must give credit to two people who brought Steampunk to my attention, John S. and Max G., who are much hipper than I will ever be, introduced me to the genre.) The first time I saw something called Steampunk, I felt a huge connection. Steampunk appealed to me in a deja vu kind of way; it made so much sense to me. I felt at home. The craftsmanship, the appreciation of detail, the willingness to take the time to make something by hand … it all calls to my sensibilities.

Raygun Shaken

Raygun Shaken

On the other hand, I was already making artwork that looks like the work I do now, long before the term “steampunk” entered my experience. I admit that I’m very influenced by Steampunk icons and images –  obviously I would not likely have airships and ray guns otherwise – but some of my work, such as the Escheresque staircases, and the glass heart series, are simply sculptures I wanted to make, regardless of the style. Steampunk purists, if there is such a thing, can argue amongst themselves what makes artwork steampunk or not. I’ve been called a Steampunk tourist, and I accept that with a chuckle. I’m grateful the steampunk “natives” allow some of us to visit their world now and then, and soak up the culture. When I contribute, it’s my own vision, and if someone appreciates it, I’m glad, but I would have made it either way; that’s how my mind works.”

“Believe me, when I look at these globes I see you, their creator, more as a tour guide then a tourist. They are Stempunk to me. In my opinion your passion to contribute your own vision is the essence of Steampunk.” I dropped two sugar cubes into my cup and stirred. “A lot of work must go into making your vision real. How long does it take you to create a Steampunk water globe or snow globe?”

Camryn leaned against the velvet cushioned back of the settee. “You can measure that two ways: how long it would take to make a snow globe if I knew exactly what I was going to make, and how long it takes when I go through trial and error, mixing different elements, sculpting/molding/remolding pieces to the right size and shape, and getting distracted, leaving pieces half-done to work on something else. The simplest answer is, I might produce one completed snow globe every two weeks.

Uncharted Skies

Uncharted Skies

Last spring, I wanted to make a metallic hot air balloon — not much more than an inch tall. I worked on this concept for several months. I made balloon shapes too large to fit in a globe or too ornate or too simple. They just didn’t look right. I wanted a feeling of adventure, not a circus ad. Finally one day I completed two balloons that came out well. Then I went through another process to decide what to put below the balloons. One has a wire basket, with more nautical details such as an anchor and ship’s wheel. The other is a tiny clay sailing ship with metal sails. Then, I installed the balloon sculptures with each raised a little. One is carried on wispy tendrils, intentionally vague – they might be ocean waves or they might be the tentacles of a sea creature reaching up. The other has cloud-like shapes below the ship. So those globes, from start to finish, took all spring – several months. I hope the next time I’m inspired to make a hot air balloon, I’ll be able to use what I have learned to streamline the process a little, but I don’t know.

Circular Logic

Circular Logic

I timed myself once, to answer the question, ‘how long does it take?’ Another globe, Circular Logic is basically a Ferris Wheel-inspired curious invention of spinning gears. The entire family went away for a weekend and I stayed on task with that one sculpture, working 18 hours with almost no breaks to complete the intricate machine. With no one home to tell me it was time to go to bed or I should eat,  I kept working on it, having a great time. I survived on Mountain Dew and pretzels. That gives you an idea of the range of time I will spend on any one globe. Usually I’ve got five or six sculptures partially begun and will work a little here, a little there, so it’s hard to know how long any one can take.

Love Complicated

Love Complicated

I rub my lips together. “My next question may be as difficult to answer as how long does it take. Which is of all your wonderful creations, which globe is your favorite?”

“Tough question, it depends on my mood. I thought Love, It’s Complicated and the Always heart were very simple and beautiful. Deadline featured a tiny antique typewriter, which is one of my favorite items, and now belongs to a former journalist, so I have great memories of that one.  It has a lot of details, such as copy editor’s notes and a message hammered into metal “paper” curling out from the typewriter platen, that only the owner can see now, making it cool in its own way. Ray Gun One was a challenge to myself to make a believable raygun, and it always makes me smile.

Rain Gear

Rain Gear

But actions probably speak louder than words. The only one I have on my desk, is Rain Gear. I absolutely LOVE the jaunty little step from my headless robot stomping in rain puddles. I am intrigued that a pair of metal galoshes can project emotion. So I can babble all day about which ones I love, but Rain Gear is the only one I’ve kept for myself so far.

Snow Globe Array

Snow Globe Array

I glance at some of her snow globes , arranged on the crisp white table cloth on the round table at the side of the settee. “Rain Gear is  intriguing. Actually, they are all incredible, but as a writer the one you just described, Deadline, fascinates me. Speaking of writing, when any author looks at your globes, I’m sure your creations trigger a slew of story premises and plots. I just have to ask you the question always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

“I am both a writer and a visual artist, and while I have occasionally dealt with writers’ block, so far I have never had artist’s block. Case in point: by just writing the phrase ‘artist’s block’ I thought of a way to illustrate that in a globe, maybe with a cube with six different archetypes shaken like a die. Perhaps a Magic Eight Ball for creative types. But I digress …)

Images and ideas tumble around my brain like a shaken snow globe, whirling and spinning, balancing precariously atop one another. One weird thing is, I keep notebooks where I dash off snow globe ideas as they come to me, sketch little scenes, capture a pun to name the globes, but I rarely go back and look at the past ideas. When I’m in the workshop, the materials themselves suggest new shapes and landscapes.

I recently got up at about 3 or 4 a.m. whirling with ideas I wanted to capture and I spent an hour or so dashing them on paper. Then I turned the page BACK to see the previous entry and it said ‘Drink deeply from the stars.’ I don’t know what I was going for with that phrase, but I want to ponder it and make it real.

There are so many snow globes I’d like to make. I will get inspired by a word I hear, or a shape, a shadow, a snippet of a song or the way someone repeats a phrase. The nose of an Elmer’s glue container, the little orange cap, inspired one of my first airship sculptures.  I ‘saw’ the glue bottle for the first time, clearly, and thought, ‘that’s the nose of a zeppelin.’ I have no idea where that thought came from; I’d only seen Elmer’s Glue a thousand times before. That flash of inspiration prompted me to sculpt a shape that would pass for an airship.

Any small thing can capture my attention, such as a piece of twisted metal in the street, a broken toy, the way a stack of coffee stirrers is displayed at a shop. I love wandering through hardware stores, looking at random pieces of plumbing pipe, nuts and bolts, repair kits for garbage disposals. Recently, the back of my office chair fell off. Instead of inspecting the damage to the chair or putting it back together, I spotted a strange gear that had come loose, and thought, ‘Where can I can more of these?’

Shoes Your Weapon

Shoes Your Weapon

I am also a word person. Words can start a chain-reaction of images in my brain. When I heard the old Gene Autry song, I began to mentally sketch a man climbing down a ladder through a manhole opening into a dark and murky place. Back in The Sad-Hole.

I love verbal and visual puns, such as Shoes Your Weapon – which is a cannon made from a Victorian laced-up boot. I’m working on one called Too big for his bridges. I love merging words and shapes, and twisting tired clichés so they are fresh. I crack myself up, and I pretty much create everything selfishly because it inspires or amuses me. The ideas bombard me constantly. I’ll be reading a book (Cloud Atlas, at the moment) and suddenly I’m reaching for my notebook to capture a passing thought.”

I pick up my porcelain cup and take another sip of sweet, warm tea. “I can feel your creative energy as your talking. Exhilarating. Speaking of globes sure to inspire writers, your airship voyager water globe is another work of art sure to trigger story ideas.

Airship Voyager

Airship Voyager

I blame a writer named StoshK for that one. StoshK wrote a short, complimentary blog about my snow globes and included a note that I should realize more airship snow globes were needed – just a little joke in the article. But, it stuck with me for some reason, in a positive way.

Then, a museum asked for several pieces for a special exhibition, and one was my original airship StoshK liked, which had sold. I couldn’t get the original back to be loaned for the museum exhibit, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll just make a new one.’

The new airship refused to be a duplicate of the first. It felt darker and richer, and I wanted it to be more powerful in a way. I wanted the ship to have gone places, done things, survived hardships, led adventures.  I had seen Steampunk images of great airships carrying sailing ships below a zeppelin and dismissed them as too intricate for something as small as a snow globe. And as I sat in the workshop trying to remake the first airship, I kept creeping toward the idea of a sailing ship below.  It just felt right to go that direction.

I loved the idea of taking a ‘ship in a bottle’ and making it an airship in a bottle (snow globe), both balance and contradiction. Once the idea got stuck in my head, the only way to release it was to make it real. I  worked on it until I solved all the technical problems that made it seem impossible.  When I look at Airship Voyager now, I am sure it has been places and seen things, it feels real to me.”

Point of View

Point of View

After setting the cup back on its saucer, I clasped my hands together. “It’s incredible, I love it. You mentioned your interest in phrases such as ‘point of view’ and your globe by that name is pure genius. An incredible piece of art. I can’t imagine the time and  work that went in to creating such a marvel. I often find life is like climbing a staircase sideways. Then, when you turn the globe upside down or on its side you get a different view. It’s like several globes in one. I could look at it all day.”

“I’m glad you mentioned Point of View.  It’s a departure from what most consider pure Steampunk – but again, I make what interests me and try not to edit myself by sticking with a single style. I’ve always loved Escher, but I didn’t set out to make that globe consciously as a tribute. It snuck up on me. While working on a tiny Plexiglas escalator for a postponed project called Reincarnation, I briefly set the stair sculpture on its side. Suddenly, looking at the stairs from a different direction, reality shifted sideways. I realized the stairs went up,  down, and sideways depending on where I placed the figures.

Crossroads

Crossroads

From there, I was obsessed for a while, with Point of View and a similar globe, called Corporate Ladder (I may be the only person who finds the idea hilarious.) Then I put a family of fishermen on a criss-crossed stairway, and added poles, and called it Fishing the Black Hole as the fishing lines broke different planes in the design.

But my favorite in  the series is Not a level playing field in which I put football players into Escher’s uneven, gravity-defying world, and had the wide receiver at one angle, the quarterback throwing into hyperspace, and would-be tacklers reaching into a new dimension. I think I’ll go back to that idea again sometime, because it was fascinating to realize in a snow globe, I am in charge of the law of gravity. It’s a heavy responsibility, running around breaking the laws of physics.

I’m working on a new stairway series now, but instead of plexiglas, I am using old computer circuit boards to make the stairs – still with little figures breaking the plane of perception and ignoring the laws of gravity. It has a ‘Tron’ feeling to it, being inside the machine. I always sensed  little figures inside my laptop ran around retrieving files and saving my work, so I am comforted to see them.”

I shift one arm to my side, while resting he other on my lap. “Speaking of breaking the laws of physics, I have to ask you about Tesla.  I love that you appreciate his scientific work for its artistic quality as well as its contributions to modern day life and our future. What artistic qualities do you see in his inventions?”

Tesla Coil Copper

Tesla Coil Copper

The shapes used in Tesla’s inventions and machines are so beautiful. They are meaningful to scientists, but even if they produced nothing, I would be inspired. I love his wrapped copper coils and the visible bursts of light and energy. The proportions of the upright Tesla coil are like a man-made flower, a blossom of energy. I’m drawn to the straight lines, the encircled columns and the unpredictable element of electricity. The copper and brass is stunning. Simply beautiful. He blended symmetry and balanced assymetry in an unspeakably gorgeous and inspiring way.

I think, at some place beyond my understanding, Tesla’s work tapped into the very nature of the universe. In the way that an insect’s wings or a cross-section of a tree or the Grand Canyon is perfect, there is something perfect about the shape of Tesla’s inventions, pared down the essence of what works.

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

I shut my eyes a moment as I think about it. “Art and science merged as one. Incredible.” Blinking my eyes open, I see the tea cups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I lean forward and ask Camryn my last question. “What water globes and snow globes are you working on now?”

“I’ve been toying with one called I Love Sho, an homage to footwear, which I seem to collect in real life. The interior has about a dozen tiny shoes in an abstract sculpture: boots, heels, slip-ons … it’s just something fun, and I’m addicted to visual puns.

I also just combined the horn of a tiny gramophone with a glass heart. In contrast to some of my intricate sculptures, it is simple and yet very appealing. I had a long and complicated title for it, but then I shorted it to one word, Listen. When I look at it, I get a pang. It will be hard to part with it.

On a lighter note, I am working on rocket ships and space themes. I have a rocket ship going into a black hole and another with a decked-out Steampunk flying saucer hovering over what might be the moon. I wanted to make a special globe for TeslaCon, with rows of flying saucers at a drive-in movie, watching ‘Trip to the Moon’ (the 1902 movie), with the rocket-in-the-moon’s eye image popping off the screen in 3D. I’ll do it someday, but I couldn’t work out the technical details yet. The drive-in screen was only about ¾” wide, for example, which gave me about a half inch for the rocket. But it will happen in some form. It’s too appealing not to try.

A recent breakthrough for me is the double-tiered globe. I made the first one for a display for the Sacramento Steampunk Society, after an inspiring conversation with one of the members, Doug Hack (perhaps better known as Alexander Watt Babbage.) The water globe sits above a columned base and has liquid-filled pieces as well as air-filled space in the tier below. By breaking the plane of the glass globe, and continuing the design into the open space, it opens a new frontier for my work.”

“The airship has landed, drawing the interview to a close. But before you go back to your studio, I want to share your calling card with all our readers.”

http://camrynforrest.com/
Camryn Forrest Designs

Also five of her  pieces are on display at the Glass Museum in Sandwich,MA, from November 19 to December 30, 2012, as part of a special event on the history of snow globes.

Readers if you have any questions are comments on Camryn and her globes, please post them below.

Maeve Alpin

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Artist Michael Treat

Artist Michael Treat

The airship just landed in Minnesota at the twin cities. I’ve loved Minneapolis and St. Paul ever since the Mary Tyler Moore show and today we’re here to welcome aboard Steampunk Artist Michael Treat. “This way, “ I say and we are soon in the parlor and he’s sits on the  hand carved, chenille upholstered settee.

I slide down into the matching cushioned side chair and offer him some freshly brewed coffee rather than tea. “ I notice you’re known as a coffee snob and you created a fabulous collection of wine and coffee art. Since most writers are heavy coffee drinkers and people love to go to coffee shops to read, the literary world also considers coffee to be pretty important, so I have to ask, what is your favorite coffee or coffee shop?”

Holding the porcelain coffee cup, he takes a sip. “My favorite coffee is most definitely light roast. Ideally, I prefer something above a New England roast and a tad under a Full City roast. I usually prefer beans from Latin America; Guatemalan, Bolivian and Peruvian beans are some of my favorites. Lately I’ve been brewing coffee from the Dominican Republic. I also enjoy coffee with African origins. Rwandan coffee is fabulous. I’ll only drink dark roast if I roast the beans myself. I produce a really nice Italian roast all my dark roast friends love.

Whenever I can get them, there are beans from the Yemeni Republic that are limited to a few harvest weeks in the summer months that are THE BEST I’ve ever tasted. The soil and altitude they grow at are unique and the quantity is extremely limited. I like to sit and watch the beans change colors inside the glass roasting chamber with a new, brilliant color about every fifteen seconds or so. Now that I made my previous artistic hobbies into my job, home roasting coffee has become a hobby of mine that I truly enjoy.

As for going out for coffee, Minneapolis is full of great coffee shops. My neighborhood has a few that I frequent including Fire Roast Mountain, The Riverview Café and the Blue Moon. There is also a wonderful biker themed coffee shop in Uptown Minneapolis that is open late called Bob’s Java Hut. One of my new favorite haunts is in St Paul called Quixotic where they handcraft each cup you order.”

“How  yummy. Apparently coffee goes as well with art as it does with reading and writing.” The coffee cups rattle slightly as the airship lifts off. “I’ve been wondering, what inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

He set his cup down on the mahogany coffee table and leaned back against the deep red cushioned seetee. “For me, I think it all started when I began working with materials that are dominant in the Steampunk genre including leather, unbleached fabrics, lace, grommets, eyelets, tack and  wood. Oh–and of course all of those metals! I very much enjoy working with brass, copper, wrought iron and rusty steel with all of their tarnish and patinas. I enjoy working with each material individually, and combining them in new and different ways.

As I learned more and more about the genre, and researched what it was about,  I realized I had found a place to incorporate those elements and the styles into just about anything I could imagine. I love the Steampunk genre because of the modification process that Steampunk allows, and often even demands!

I also really feel a sort of kinship with the American Old West. I admire the optimism that came along with all the hardships and uncertainties of that time period. I also enjoy how that unique creativity, optimism and sense of possibilities and vision is reflected in those who live the Steampunk lifestyle today.”

We both set our cups down and I refilled each with the steamy dark brew. “It’s wonderful you were drawn to Steampunk with your art for the same reasons most writers are drawn to the genre.  In fact you are a writer yourself as you write comics, what similarities and differences do you find in the creative process between literate and visual art?”

“Drawing is a skill that is incorporated into just about everything I do. Whether it’s technical or totally expressive, being able to draw has served my creative process well. I’m a fan of graphic novels because they challenge writers to present the fundamental elements of a  story to the artist to then fill in the visual needs of the piece. I still enjoy text based novels as I like to create my own images in my mind to complement the story. It’s also fun to see someone else’s interpretation of a writer’s ideas or to be the person who gets to share your images with others and help create the story for that new audience.

I took a class with Allyson McGhee (NY Times best seller and Pulitzer Prize Nominee for Shadow Baby) in 2004 and completed an alternative assignment: a comic page with two or more characters discussing a pair of broken glasses. I chose that assignment over an essay about my job; at that time I was a corrections officer in a maximum security prison.

The next day I showed it to the class and Allyson and my fellow writers received it with unexpected praise and enthusiasm. At the end of the course, she told me, “I know you want to write novels, but you should really consider doing something with your cartooning and your ability to draw well.” That advice stuck with me and I began to seriously study cartooning and comics. In 2005, I even ended up creating a comic strip versions of the chronicles of Gary “The Walkingman” Hause on his website.  Walkingman Cartoons

He showed me The Adventures of The Walkingman. “This is better than my favorite Penney Dreadful. Indeed, you ar quite a talented writer as well as an artist. Keep it up and you can’t go wrong with advice from award winning, best seller author Allyson McGhee.” We both set our cups down on the coffee table and I brimmed them full of more strong coffee. “You work in all these different artistic areas comics, jewelry, sculptures, collages and paintings. What is your favorite?”

“While I enjoy each artistic area in it’s own right, I think I enjoy comics the most. I get to make one thing and technology does the rest – thank you Mr. Guttenberg and your printing press. I also like that it’s the first art form that I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with other artists/writers and not do all the work on my own. I also enjoy working on projects that defy one clear category.”

“Your comics are soo good, I can certainly see why you enjoy that medium but all your art is fabulous. I especially find your Bonzo sculpture intriguing. Tell me about it?”

“Bonzo was a 1/6 scale scratch figure I started without any clear picture in mind. At that point, I was just learning how to work together the brass, copper, and wood bits you see in the piece. His creation covered two projects for me: making a from-scratch steampunk-themed robot figure and creating a vehicle in the same scale/size. He has a driver/partner whose a cyborg that has some fun accessories I made totally from scratch as well.

Bonzo, an original steampunk creation of Michael Treat

Bonzo, an original steampunk creation of Michael Treat

Bonzo and his driver, B Scott Quigley, are a delivery and conveyance team. Basically, they’re like a Victorian era version of FedEx and your local cab company combined into one.

I learned a lot from creating these two including metal and wood working, leather craft, basic mechanics, and image reduction, a technique which I used for making tiny gages on the instrument panels.

People who see Bonzo are most impressed with his head sculpt but it was actually the easiest part of the piece to complete. The hardest part was his core. Putting that together was tough! And his hands. They’re totally functional. But a whole other story.”

After another sip of the rich, smooth coffee, I set my cup down. “A Victorian era FedEx, I love that. You mentioned you began Bonzo without any clear picture in mind.  Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your sculptures, jewelry, and paintings? What is your creative process?”

“I do a lot more of that now. I like to have as clear of a plan of what it is I’m trying to accomplish before I execute the creation process. However, there are times when I just have to pick my material and my tools, and just allow a piece to manifest.”

I grabbed my fan off the table and with a flick of my wrist I spread it, fluttering it in front of my face. It gets a little stuffy in the airship. “You are so talented.  I was wondering how young you were when you first became involved in art?”

“My talent was first noticed in third grade when I got a drawing published in a school paper . I drew an armored car that I used to see driving by the school yard daily. Drawing for me was just something that happened, until I decided to take art seriously and pursuit it professionally, most of the art I created just sort of happened. Now, I work in such a way that I regularly create a space for my creative process to happen on a daily basis.”

I shut my fan and placed it in my lap. “You put that so beautifully. It’s the same process for writers, at first we write when in the mood but to write professionally you have to make your own mood. It’s hard to explain that sometimes to non-writers or beginner writers but you said it so well. Apparently that’s another way in which visual art and literary art are similar. Speaking of your art, your wonderful creations, what are your personal favorites and why?”

“Generally, I don’t get too attached to my own work. While I’m proud of what I produce, for me it’s sort of like being a chef who prefers to cook for the enjoyment of others and have someone else prepare a dish for him or her at the end of the day.

I do have one specific coffee collage that I created that I do really like. It has an old west/Victorian/Steampunk feel to it.

Kitchen Art: Coffee Mug Collage No. 5

Kitchen Art: Coffee Mug Collage No. 5

More recently, I’ve been doing some cityscape work, for the LoLa Art Crawl, an event by a group to which I belong called the League of Longfellow Artists, I created two cityscapes. I was inspired by Checo Diego’s “You Are Here I” and “You Are Here II” drawings. With that inspiration, as well as being inspired by the skylines of the Twin Cities, I created a pen and pencil sketch of each skyline and transferred those drawings to 40″ x 60″ canvases. I find that I can look at those two pieces and feel happy with how they turned out. I also very much enjoyed talking with people about those pieces, and I really enjoyed going through each skyline with natives to the area and picking out points of interest that I incorporated into the drawings.”

LoLa Art Crawl, Site 14: Merlin’s Rest: Mike Treat, Smirking Tiger, with St Paul Cityscape and 2 wine paintings.

The cups began to rattle again. “We are landing. Let me ask just one more question. It’s about your Etsy gallery, I love the name Smirking Tiger and your logo is so simple yet stunning, what inspired you to come up with that name and logo?”

“The name of my Etsy shop, and my business, is a good example of how my artistic skills can benefit others, but not necessarily my own immediate needs. My wife, Brenda Peterson, and I brainstormed to come up with a name for my business. After deciding on Smirking Tiger, it was definitely a challenge to determine how to draw a relatively simple representation of a smirking tiger for the logo. It was tough!

I probably sketched two full pads of ideas out with hundreds of rough images and ideas, eventually getting to the point of doing some decent finished works of tigers, but it still didn’t seem quite right. I was missing the mark on  my goal of creating a simple, eye catching image that evoked curiosity and piqued people’s interest in what this whole “Smirking Tiger” thing was all about.

That’s when my wife showed me the Chinese symbol for king, and a description that said the following: “Facial markings on the tiger’s forehead resemble the Chinese character for King (and interestingly enough, the Korean character for Queen), therefore, the Chinese see the tiger as the King of Beasts.”  Here is the picture that she originally showed me.

King Tiger

King Tiger

Since my astrological sign is also the tiger, my wife then suggested I modify this symbol to incorporate the smirk where the straight lines originally were. I was approaching a deadline when I needed to finalize my new logo. I put aside my perfectionism and went with her idea. I worked in the smirking expression form and a couple of physical characteristics of what a smirking tiger might look like.  From there, my new logo was born. What I originally considered my “temporary” logo, I’ve now adopted as my personal brand and avatar.”

 Smirking Tiger logo.

Smirking Tiger logo.

He grasped onto his settee and I onto my chair as the ship rocked slightly. “What a wonderful story, it makes the logo even more interesting. I hate to say it but we have landed. I must bid you farewell so you can return to your studio and create more stunning Steampunk art.

Michael Treat creating a wine painting at the LoLa Art Crawl

Michael Treat creating a wine painting at the LoLa Art Crawl

But I and all the Steamed readers can always visit you at  Smirking Tiger on  Etsy,  Smirking Tiger on  Pinterest and your Smirking Tiger Steampunk Figures on Pinterest as well as Smirking Tiger Steampunk Jewelry on Pinterest plus Smirking Tiger on Facebook & Smirking Tiger on  Twitter

~

Maeve Alpin

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Ah, ‘tis the holiday season. And if you’re like me, you’re still likely pondering a few gifts for the harder to please people in your circle of friends and family. Well, if they love steampunk, may I humbly offer the following ideas to sweeten your holiday season?

Perfect for a Mad Scientist's kitchen

Let’s look beyond the mundane of another top hat, a pair of gloves or even a new sparkly set of goggles. For your mad scientist in the kitchen, how about a brand new test tube spice rack? Not only can you see the spices, making the kitchen all that more colorful, but you can actually tell when you are almost out of something as opposed to opening the jar and finding there’s only a residue left half way through your favorite recipe.

Eggnog tea from Market Spice

And of course, who doesn’t know a devoted tea drinker? How about ordering them something completely holiday infused—say eggnog tea? Oh, yes, it is real. And very, very tasty without so many calories! (Well, unless of course you add eggnog to it, which I’ve been known to do.)

There are also such flavors as Cranberry Cream, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Holiday Spice, Chocolate Mint and of course the favorite from the Seattle from the turn of the centry (last century, dears) straight from Pike Place Market, Market Spice which has both the appeal of an Earl Grey with its orange flavor and the strong hint of spices including cinnamon which makes it naturally sweet. 

See, teapots can be fun.

And as long as we’re talking tea, you might as well consider purchasing a beautiful new tea cup and saucer or teapot. There’s so many to choose from, but select well. Find out of the person is a serious tea drinker (in which case you ought to get a six-cup tea pot and a cozy at the very least) or a lighter tea drinker (in which case you could get by with a smaller two-cup size teapot). 

Cutest cupcake, follow the link to find out how to make it.

Holiday festivities would not be complete without some cake! And check out how delightful these little cupcakes with top hats, gears and goggles are! I also happen to have a lovely recipe for eggnog bread. (And let me tell you that it’s a lot more appealing than the authentic plum pudding I tried to make one year. It said to boil it in a sock. I did. A blue sock, which turned my pudding an odd, not very appetizing color! But once doused with brandy and set ablaze, no one seemed to care too much.)

Citrus scents, and oh so cute. Stocking stuffers?

Or perhaps they’d like a shiny new raygun? Or what about body and bath goodies with steampunk flair? These Key to My Heart soaps are both scrumptious to smell and have a fun key to remember them by long after you’ve enjoyed the last bit of lather.

And of course books!!! I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to go out and find a new steampunk story to share with friends and family. Whether it’s a bound edition of Girl Genius or one of the new stories for a young adult like Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, sharing a story is a gift worth giving.

Here’s raising my tea cup to you in hopes that your holiday shopping steams ahead!

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Shelly Brooks, the artist behind Mystic Pieces, is a true mechanical tinker as she assembles her artful pieces with time travel and beauty, whimsical and sweet, yet as hard core Steampunk as one can be in current society.  Shelly began her art at an early age, fostering her creativity by majoring in Art History in college. An opportunity to work at The Laguna Art Museum in California, kept her in touch with the art community. She had a passion for creating jewelry and over the last 12 years has continually enjoyed her hobby by turning it into a way of life. 

Her creations are wildly inventive, adding the subtle with something raw and basic like the inner-working of timepieces. She takes the usual and turns it into the unusual. Inspired by the Victorian Era and the Industrial Age, Mystic Pieces finds a perfect juxtaposition of old and new, taking apart watches and repurposing gears for fashion sake. A mixture of destruction with the soft romance of filigree and sparrows adorns her art. “Sometimes I just stare at one of my pieces, until it hits me on how to transform it into a treasured work of art.” And art it is, a wearable piece of delight that is displayed in full view. It’s the hidden things that bring the love of Steampunk to everyday life, which keeps one bound in the passion of the genre while still living in a conventional world. 

Besides finding her work at 6 retail stores in Phoenix, Az, www.mysticpieces.net, Mystic Pieces has two upcoming shows in Arizona; the Tempe Festival of the Arts, Tempe, AZ  Dec 3-5 and the Wild Wild West Steampunk Con, Tucson, AZ Mar 4-6 2011

“Life expands or contracts in direct proportion to one’s courage.” ~Anaïs Nin 

Shelly Brooks
www.mysticpieces.net
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Copyright © 2010 Mystic Pieces. All rights reserved.
Proud member of the Etsy Steam Team
SRAJD (Self Representing Artist in Jewelry Design) member #2668

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Thanks for all your great suggestions on my previous post.  So, I decided that the first accessory I’d make for my Steampunk Princess costume would be a raygun.

I started with a little mini Nerf gun.  It’s about 6 inches long and was about $3.  I’ve never done anything like this before.  I also spent more money on paint then on the gun itself.

Since, it is a formal raygun, and orange clashes with my ballgown, the first thing I did was paint the whole thing with gold acrylic paint and take off the black hook. I obsessed a lot over  painting it.  I think I may have over-painted parts of it trying to make it perfect.

I painted it with another coat, mostly trying to cover the raised writing, which didn’t work very well.  Also, I probably should have waited until the first coat dried completely, but I got impatient.  Next, I added accents with metallic golden-brown paint.  I also painted the foam bullets which didn’t turn out to be that good of an idea, especially since by painting it, the gun became unusable anyway.

After that, I added a couple of coats of clear varnish to keep the paint from chipping.

Since it is a formal rayrun, I decided it needed a little something extra.  After all, a lady’s raygun says a lot about her.  Since my clockhand tiara has pearls on it, I decided to buy some self-adhesive pearls.  I added another coat of varnish to help keep the pearls on.

So, there it is, a raygun fit for a princess.  Now, I just need to figure out how to affix it to my wrist.

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First off, I’d like to wish Lolita Elizabeth a happy release day. Her new book, “Love in a Time of Steam” releases today. You can find it here.

Now, on to today’s topic, one of my favorites, shiny things,

Have you seen the incredible gear rings from the folks over at Kinekt? They are the first company to introduce the concept of moving gears as jewelry. Yes, they have rings where the gears really work. Talk about distraction, lol.

Today I’ve asked them to come on and tell us about their rings. They’re even going to give one away to one lucky reader in their choice of size ($165 value, tell your friends, they have sizes 5-14). There’s a form to fill out at the bottom of the post in order to win. Will you keep it or will you give it as a gift to that special someone?

To understand exactly what I’m babbling about, you can see the ring in action here.

Very cool, huh?

What inspired you to develop the gear ring? It’s not your usual piece of jewelry.

Kinekt Design creator, Glen Liberman, has always been fascinated and inspired by small mechanisms and their complementary movements. Glen felt there was a void in the market so he teamed up with kinetic designer Ben Hopson to develop the Gear Ring, a product “complex enough to play with, yet simple enough to wear.”

We’ll you’ve certainly got an interesting product. What sort of research/work went into designing it? How long did it take?

The Gear Ring took slightly over a year design. There were mechanical complexities to it–making sure which metal would hold up the best over time due to the friction of the gears. Many, many prototypes were made. We made much use of SLA printer and Solid Works software program. We had to figure out how many gears on the ring would look the best, how much play should the gear ring have, etc. If its too precise or tight, the gears won’t move as freely. There was a balance between form and function. Finally, we agreed to where it is today. During this process, we were able to get the ring protected by numerous patents pending (both design and utility), as well as other Intellectual Property rights, both in the USA and Internationally.

That sounds complicated, lol. Can you tell us a little about the rings?

The Gear Ring is fabricated using 316L, which is the highest quality surgical stainless steel in the jewelry market. Stainless steel is highly durable and resistant to tarnishing, fading, scratching, and rusting. It won’t bend or break and is hypoallergenic for those with metal allergies. We have sizes 5 to 14 and the ring is for both Men & Women. Our rings are covered by a lifetime warranty. If the item becomes damaged or if there seems to be a manufacturer’s defect at any time we will gladly exchange it for a new one.

Nice. So, how can I get one?

Easy. You can either purchase directly from our website or call 1-888-600-8494 between 8:30am to 8:30pm eastern time, Monday-Friday. Comments, returns or all other questions can be sent to our email address — hello (@) kinektdesign.com

What other projects do you have in the works? Necklaces? Tiaras? I would simply adore a tiara with real working gears.

Yes, Kinekt Design seeks to bring you forward-thinking design objects and products that fuse together a modern aesthetic with physical interaction. It can be any objects and we are working on other jewelry related as well as non-jewelry products. Stay tuned.

Very cool, I can’t wait. Thank you so much for joining us. So, now for the important stuff. The contest runs until Saturday, August 14 at 11:59 pm PST. One winner will get a Kinekt gear ring in their choice of size. Please tell your friends.

To enter to win the ring, please sign up for their newsletter by filing out this form.

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