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Posts Tagged ‘Steampunk Art’

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.

website

Online store http://www.spookypop.bigcartel.com/
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Forum
Instagram: Doktor_A

~                                           

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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I, Maeve Alpin, stand on the dock of the airship, clutching my purple hat, as my hair streams in the blustering wind. Thrilled to meet Steampunk author, Heather McDougal and discover more about the intriguing contest she devised to celebrate the release of her new Steampunk novel, Songs For A Machine Age.

Her contests entrants created works of art depicting the Steam Beast, a mechanical character from Songs For A Machine Age. She opened the contest to various mediums, whatever the entrants were best at: sculptures, computer created, hand drawn, painted or mix-media. The artist sent in high-quality digital images one for 2-D work and 3 for 3-D work. The deadline fell on October 28, 2012.

“Welcome, Heather.” I shove my hat on my head and take her arm in mine. “Watch your step.” We stretch our legs in a long stride across the wide gap between the dock and the airship, to board. I lead her into the parlor.

Heather McDoural gracefully lowers herself onto the crimson settee, featuring elaborately carved lion head legs and claw feet.

I sink into the chenille upholstered armchair and lean forward. “I am fascinated by an art based contest. How did you come up with that idea?”

“Well, I  come from an art background with an MFA in sculpture.  Writing was something I wanted to do as a young person, I got distracted by other skills for a long time. I earned a degree in fashion design and worked in the garment industry for several years, and then went back to school to study textiles. Once you’re in the art department, it’s pretty hard not to try all kinds of things, so I ended up learning to blow glass and weld and so on, and finally ended up with this sculpture degree. However, my thesis won me extreme praise where my sculpture had only been reasonably good, and this made me revisit writing.

Also, this book is all about a culture of makers. Three hundred years before the narrative, they  were in the middle of an industrial revolution and someone invented a truly horrific manufacturing technology. I won’t tell you more about it, except that it was the catalyst for a revolution in which all machinery was banned, with the exception of handmade devices with purely aesthetic value. So as a result, skill in making things has become a highly-prized commodity.

It seemed appropriate, then, to  bring art-making into the promotion of Songs.”

The engine purrs and the blue willow teacups shake on the coffee table causing a clinking, rattling sound as the airship lifts off. “With your varied but strong artistic background, I can see why you were inspired to write a book with this wonderful premise of ‘all machinery was banned, with the exception of handmade devices with purely aesthetic value.’ Speaking of machinery, the subject of the contest is the Steam Beast, a mysterious, mechanical character. Tell us a little bit about him.”

“He was created by Pelle Vidersen, a woman who lived around the time of the Revolution, who had the unusual skill of being able to create Devices that have sentience, have life. This is a dangerous skill and she wasn’t supposed to use it, or even have the skill – and there were grave consequences. But that’s all in the prequel, which I’m halfway through writing. Suffice to say, you see a great deal more of him there, and get to know him pretty well. In Songs For A Machine Age, he is seen as much less of a person, more of a strange Device that no one could possibly recreate.” Heather grabs the settee with one hand as the airship rises.

“I can’t wait to read about him in the book.” Since the china cups ceased rattling, I picked up the tea pot and poured my guest and myself a cup of Earl Grey. Wisps of steam rose up rom the blue willow cups.“How did you come up with the Steam Beast? Did something particular inspire you to create him?”

“Interestingly, I came up with the name first! The world of songs first appeared in a project I started called Neddeth’s Bed, an experiment in blog storytelling. In it, the protagonist goes to sleep most nights and dreams she is in the body of someone else, someone who is writing on a machine. So she tells her story to that person, who writes it down (as a blog). It’s an exercise in world-building and in dual storytelling — you begin to understand the person she is occupying as the tale unfolds.

This is where the Steam Beast first shows up, as a sort of one-off device in the Midsummer Festival.  Somehow, he caught my attention, and when I started this book, he wouldn’t go away.  I grew more and more interested in him, wondering about his back-story, until I found myself writing the prequel, just to get him out of my system.” Heather reaches her slender fingers between the plate of fresh lemon slices and the cream pitcher. She picks up a white cube from the sugar bowl and plunks it into her tea.

“It’s interesting that once these characters latch onto our minds,they won’t leave us until we write their stories.” I hooked my fingers in the handle of my teacup and lifted it off the delicate saucer. “You sent the contest entrants a never before seen segment from the prequel to Songs For A Machine Age, in which the Steam Beast is worked on by its creator.Can you share that segment with us? Please! We’d love to read it.”

Rhea Ewing's winning Steam Beast

Rhea Ewing’s winning Steam Beast

“Of course! Here you go.”

“Pinzen,” said Pelle, “It’s time to grow.”

Pinzen came out from its nest among the plants in the corner, moving gracefully.  It was definitely ready for more synapses.  She squinted at it carefully, thinking that perhaps its carapace needed to be larger, after all.  She wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be around to keep wrapping its brain, so this installment might need to be a larger one than usual.  It was good she’d planned ahead and had the new carapace already.

She moved across to one of the boxes under the work-counter.  Lifting the lid, she inspected the contents carefully.  She’d been saving this material for years, since the days when she worked in the automaton factory and smuggled the threads out, piece by piece, in her shirt.

“Hello, Pelle.  Did you see my toy?  I fixed it,” said Pinzen.  “I took two toys and made a new one.”

“Hmm?” said Pelle.  “Good for you.”  She was inspecting the threads in the box, laying them out in careful skeins on a clean part of the counter.  It was essential that she keep them absolutely dust-free and straight or they could cause crossed connections, which could lead to insanity.  She had built Pinzen with great care, and was proud of how sane it was.

Pinzen moved its claws, impatiently.  “Pelle, did you see it?”

There was a long silence while Pelle went on examining the threads carefully, pulling out the occasional one.

“Pelle!”

“What?  What is it, Pinzen?”  The machine was acting strange, shuffling its limbs.  Pelle frowned, distracted by the task ahead of her.

“Did you see my new toy?”

“New toy?”  Pelle turned around.  “What do you mean?”

“I took apart two of the toys and made a new one.  And I’m working on that one over there,” its claw lifted to indicate an intricate sprawl of wheels and cogs on a sheet of paper in the corner behind the door.

The thing he’d made was completely unlike anything she’d seen before.  She pulled over a stool and sat down to look at it.  The fluted columns gleamed, and there were several keys or levers clustered together on one side.  She reached out and pressed one of the keys, and leaned away with an “Ah!” of surprise and pleasure when the steam-letter rose into the dimness of the room and hovered for a moment before wafting away.

“How did you know what shapes to make?” she asked, pressing another key.  Another letter came out, and she marveled at their perfection.

“I made them to look like the shapes in that package,” it said, pointing to a book that she had left on the counter.  “I noticed they repeated themselves, so I counted how many kinds of shapes there were, and made one of each.”

“It’s lovely,” Pelle said, fascinated.  She pressed several keys in a row and a floating nonsense-word hung in the air between her knees.  How did he do it?

“Did you use my tools?” she asked, suddenly.
The machine went very still, and there was a silence.  “I did use one tool, Pelle,” it said.  “I am sorry.”

She shook her head.  “It’s all right, Pinzen.  I am amazed at what you’ve done.  I should have explained to you why you weren’t allowed to touch my tools.  You see, they are very old, and if they break I won’t be able to replace them, ever.  So I need to be very careful with them, do you understand?”

“I understand, Pelle.”

“You clearly have a talent for making things.  If I could get more materials, I would let you make many more wonderful things.  However, I am old, and I can only get a few things, very slowly.  So you’ll have to keep yourself busy some other way unless I can find things for you to use.”

“May I use the same tool to reconfigure my other toys?”

“It depends.  Which tool was it?”

“The long thin one, with the green handle.”

“Yes, you can use that one.  If it breaks, I can get others.  But now, Pinzen, you’ll need to sleep, so I can help you grow.  All right?”

“Yes, Pelle,” it said, and went completely still.  After a few moments she put her hand on its carapace and felt it: it was growing slightly cooler.  Good.

She got the new carapace from its shelf and took it outside to wash it.  The trouble with this new society, she thought to herself, as she rinsed the dust away and dried it with a soft cloth, was the imprecision of everything.  It was so hard to make precise machinery when there were mice getting into everything and the water went unfiltered and there were no factories, making parts.  Everything had to be done from scratch, including, at times, the actual foundry-work of heating and mixing the metals.  You had to be truly dedicated to make anything.

Then she shook her head.  It didn’t matter now; they didn’t need the ability to make precise machinery. Those days were gone. Nobody wanted machines anymore, no matter how brilliant. It was only her own silly need to go on making things that got foiled.

Back inside, she wiped Pinzen down carefully, then spread out a clean sheet and laid the machine on it. It was completely cool by now, and she set to work opening its carapace and setting aside the pieces. The connections between the brain and the limbs were kept intact, and in the center of it all the power source remained, obscured by the network of brain all around it.  She disconnected the limbs and put in extenders, sealing the connection tightly so it would last as close to forever as she could make it. Slowly, carefully, she began laying the intelligence threads around and around, sheaf after sheaf of them, matching ends, tying and making careful selective clipping; layer by layer, its brain grew bigger like a ball of yarn.  As it grew she said the words which bound it all together, made it whole. It was dangerous, doing this.  She had not dared to speak over a machine other than Pinzen for many, many years.\

When she had used up the last sheaf of threads, she covered the whole thing with a fine gold filigreed network like a hair-net, snapping its two halves over the ball to hold it all in place.

Then there was a last round of clipping – creating the synapse points – all around the outside, through the holes in the filligree.

Now it was time for the carapace.  Would it fit?  With tired, shaking old hands she drew the pieces of the new carapace toward her and tried to fit it all together.  The limb-connections had moved a bit, and she had an exhausting fiddle trying to get them to come out in the right places; but eventually, worn out, she put in the last few bolts and the new Pinzen lay before her, much larger than before.  And hopefully more intelligent, too.

She shook off the fear she may have made a mistake and he would wake up insane.  It was too exhausting to contemplate.  Shakily, she got up from the stool and went out to get a cup of cha.” Heather picked up a demure spoon from the coffee table and dipping it into her teacup, she swished it side to side, taking care to not touch the sides.

“It must have been amazing to look at all these different depictions of a character you created in your mind? Did they capture what you imagined? Were some extremely different? Tell us a bit about that experience.”  I pinched a slice of lemon, picking it up, I breathed in the invigorating citurs fragrance as I squeezed a few droplets into my tea.

“Well, the first thing I found was a lot of the artists who heard about the contest simply sent me a picture of some previously-created artwork on the off chance that they’d win. A sort of “what can I lose?” attitude. I can understand that attitude, because a lot of artists don’t get much money or recognition for what they do; however, it really wasn’t what I wanted.” With a soft clink, Heather set the teaspoon behind her cup on the saucer. “I had to sift through those people, sometimes checking the portfolios on their websites, before I could get too excited. But then, some things would come in and it was clear the person had created it specifically for the contest. That was amazing. And when Rhea’s picture showed up it was very clear, hands down, she would be the winner. I waited until the deadline, of course, but I just didn’t see anything else that so perfectly captured that moment in the book.

Of course now that I’ve gone through the process, I can see things I would have done differently. For example, early on I would have posted the contest information in art departments in universities and art schools all around the San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live. Art students are always looking for some money. They have time and they have talent, or at least most of them do. It would have been a good way to get a bunch more original entries!

Also, I would have started earlier, researching places to let people know about the contest. I think it would have been useful to get some personal contacts in those communities beforehand. Simply writing to places that seemed appropriate wasn’t enough; there was little response, and I suspect they couldn’t really vouch for the fact that I really would give the winner $200. If I had had the idea earlier, I could have spent some time getting to know them, so they would hear me when the time came.

Still, it felt truly marvelous to be able to give back to the art community. There was such a wide variety of entries, and the feedback was exciting – people who had never really read anything remotely resembling Steampunk or Clockpunk before, or who were trying new techniques. And Rhea was so excited to win, it really made my week! I still feel good, thinking about that.

Best of all, I think I reached an audience that maybe wouldn’t have heard about my book otherwise.”

I lift my teacup and breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the steamy tea. “So Rhea Ewing is your winner. Congratulations to her. What medium was the work in?”

Rhea Ewing created a  2-D piece, my guess would be charcoal and  pastel. You can see more of her amazing work on her website.”Heather picked up her dainty cup from the blue willow saucer.

I brought my teacup to my lips and took a sip. “Can we see the winning piece?”

“Yes!” Heather tilted her teacup to her lips and drew in a long sip, then set it on her saucer with a melodic clink.  “Here is the winning piece.” Heather Mc

I placed my cup back on its saucer and leaned toward Heather. “I know the winner received $200.00 and a signed copy of Songs For A Machine Age. What a wonderful prize. But you didn’t stop there, you picked three runner ups who received a signed copy of Songs For A Machine Age. Who are your runner ups? Can you describe their art submissions or can we see them?”

“One is a pen-and-ink drawing by Joanne Roberts,

Joanne Roberts’ whimsical drawing

Joanne Roberts’ whimsical drawing

another is a blueprint by Simon Forster,

Simon Forster’s Blueprint

Simon Forster’s Blueprint

and the last one is a small sculpture by

Ken Bessemer.

Ken Bessemer’s sculpture

Ken Bessemer’s sculpture

I feel lucky to have such a variety!”

As I’m perusing the art of the runner ups, I hear rattling and clinking. I glance at the coffee table. “I see the teacups are shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for just a few more questions. Since this contest is about Songs For A Machine Age, what is the back cover blurb?”

“There is a place where fabulous clockwork devices fill festival streets with color and sound.

Where the Gear Tourniers, in their places of high learning, keep alive the memory of the cruel horrors of an industrial past, now overthrown.

Where skill of the hand and grace of the body are markers of true belief…

Elena Alkeson has been on the run for six years. Wanted by the fanatical Duke of Melifax for witchcraft, nowhere in Devien is safe, as her gift for sensing impending disaster comes with a price: she can’t keep her mouth shut.

…Until she meets Fen, who shares a similar gift: the gift of seeing inside mechanisms and knowing what they do. Elena and Fen must flee for their lives, going to the capital City of Helseve to seek asylum, and, perhaps, a life in which their gifts can be used for good. Amidst the machinery and brilliance of the Autumn Festival, Fen and Elena find friendship, danger, and some powerful allies.

But Melifax and his sect, the dour Browns, are determined to bring the people of Devien into a new age, an age of moralism, conformity and mass production, ensuring that the beauty and pageantry of Devien and its Devices will be lost forever.

I find most blurbs to be a bit over the top by nature, but this one’s not too bad.  I’ve also had a friend describe Songs as ‘A capital ‘R’ Romantic Clockpunk adventure, in the spirit of Dumas or the Scarlet Pimpernel, full of personal and political intrigue.’

Publisher’s Weekly said this about it: “Disagreement over technological progress drives social, religious, and political disorder in McDougal’s fantasy debut. Elena Alkeson is on the run from the Duke of Melifax’s followers, the Browns, after her talent for spotting the weak points in structures got her branded a witch. She finds kindred spirits in the Findswather family; the eldest Findswather son, Fen, has the ability to ‘see the workings of a thing.’ Browns support the Duke’s migraine-vision–fueled belief that people should work together in assembly lines to create larger works. Elena, Fen, and others fear this would bring back the awful
‘production-slavery’ of the Ancients as well as the loss of art, independence, and real craftsmanship. While Elena and Fen try to help the Gear-Tourniers and the Curator, a mysterious figure in charge of historic machines, the Browns, plot to bring down the rebels. A large cast of characters and complex world-building fuel the intrigue and action in this intricately plotted fantasy.”

“What a wonderful review.” I flashed Heather a broad smile. “I have to compliment you on the cover. I understand you actually created the cover art yourself.”

“Yes, since graphics is something I do for a living. I asked the publisher if I could submit a cover, and he said ‘Sure, but we might not use it.’ But he liked it so much he did use it, and in  fact I’ve done some other covers for him since then.” Heather holds on tight to the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing.

“We’ll we’ve landed but before you go, please share your calling cards with us.”

“Here is the link to my longtime essay blog, filled with all kinds of things Steampunk and otherwise and my website.You can also find me on Facebook.Find the book on Amazon.One might also be able to order the book from one’s local bookstore’s website. I encourage people to try it.”

With the airship Steamed landed, Heather and I exchange goodbyes, but please comment or ask questions below.
~ ~
Maeve Alpin is the author or three Steampunk books, her forth, CONQUISTADORS IN OUTER SPACE, is coming Februay 1, 2013.

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I’m waving my arms enthusiastically, to artist, Michele Lynch. “Welcome aboard the airship.”

Her mix media art, art dolls, tree toppers, ornaments, jewelry, paintings and so much 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.”

Michele Lynch's Steampunk Souls

Michele Lynch’s Steampunk Souls

Michele jumps across the gaping space between the dock and airship, landing onboard, facing me with a sunny smile.

“I and all the Lolita’s of the airship steamed are also devoted to escaping the soul suckers, so we had to have you aboard.” I show her into the parlor where she eases onto the cushioned settee with lion head legs and claw feet.

I plop down on the chenille upholstered armchair and lean toward her. “You also wrote, ‘Our story begins in a far away land where a steampunk princess ruled her kingdom with creativity and kindness, but a soul sucker invaded her kingdom feeding off the souls, and letting loose his Shoulds and Regrets. Enslaving the people and holding the princess prisoner in his tower, the castle of corporation.’ And your art work tells the story from there. All of us here on the airship Steamed love stories and it fascinates me when they are told in means other than words, such as with your fabulous art. Why did you choose this particular art?” What draws you to mix media, especially art dolls?”

Red

Red

Michele laces her fingers together as she rest them on her lap. “I think it chose me. I had a long drive to the castle of corporation every day, and time to think about how evil the Soul Sucker was. I began to imagine a rebellion and what those souls would look like. I could clearly see them in my mind, until I knew I had to create them. I love mixed media because it’s not limiting. I can incorporate all the different skills I’ve learned over the years.”

The engine purrs and the china teacups on the coffee table rattle as the airship begins lift off. “What inspired you to take your art in a Steampunk direction?”

Michele grabs the settee with one hand as the airship gains altitude. “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.”

Nevermore

Nevermore

Now that the tea cups cease rattling, I lean toward the coffee table and lifting the blue willow tea pot, I pour Michele a cup of steaming tea.“In addition to being an exquisite artist you are a genuine muse. I can’t imagine any author looking at your art dolls and art and not having them trigger story premises and plots. I have to ask you the question that is always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

She lifts the porcelain teacup and takes a dainty sip. “A movie plays in my head with these characters and for some reason they come to me and tell me their story. After that it’s up to me to give them life. I try to live up to that task!”

“That is exactly what a writer experiences when they create characters, from that point on we are committed to tell their story. To bring them to life. Your dolls do an incredible job of bringing these characters you create in your mind alive. How did you learn this amazing type of art?”

“I am self taught. I have always had a passion for learning new techniques and trying different medias.” Michele reaches her slender fingers between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer cup of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, she plunks it into her tea

I brim my tea cup with steamy tea. “Of all your wonderful creations, which is your favorite?”

Rose Red & Snow White

Rose Red & Snow White

“I think it’s always the current one that I’ve just finished! So right now it’s Rose Red & Snow White.” Michele picks up a polished silver spoon and stirs her tea, creating a tiny maelstrom in the cup.

I took a sip of my earl grey. “Is it hard to part with your dolls when someone buys them, it seems it would be?”

“Actually it’s not for me. I usually make a connection with the person buying the piece and I know they are going to a wonderful home where they will be loved.”

“I ‘m sure that’s the case. It’s hard to look at your art dolls and not fall in love with them.” I place the cup on my saucer with a soft clink. “Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your work? What’s your creative process?”

“I do usually sketch out the pieces, however most of the time it is a loose sketch and I know things will change as I go along.” Michele sets the teaspoon behind her cup on the saucer. “I figure out most of the piece in advance so I know how to begin constructing it. Also the clay I work with dries pretty quickly so I need to know the direction I’m going before I begin sculpting. Although like I said that can change along the way.”

“The similarities between literary and visual art are so intriguing. To put your process in writing terms it’s like you plot the work out but leave room for an element of surprise like a combination of a plotter and a panster.” I pick up my cup and saucer and breathe in the subtle, aromatic scent of the tea. “Do you sketch or doodle your ideas in an art journal to as they come to you?”

Michele brings her teacup from her saucer to her parted lips and draws in a long sip. “I use a basic recycled sketch paper book. I usually date the page and also put the name of the file I use from my computer that is the finished photo of the piece. I keep all of the books and it’s fun to look back on the original sketch and how it evolved. Besides the sketches I also jot down ideas in the book.”

“You work in all these different artistic areas jewelry, dolls, paintings and more. What is your favorite?”

Wanted

Wanted

“My favorite depends on my mood lol, which is why I do so many different expressions of the Steampunk Souls. I never get burnt out on doing the same thing!”

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. “Are there different challenges between creating the sculptures of art dolls and creating jewelry or paintings? What are some of the challenges?”

“I think the dolls are more challenging, the armature needs to be able to support the doll and the pieces that I incorporate. Since there isn’t usually any symmetry the doll has to balance. There is also always the challenge of making the doll pose-able.” Michele set her empty cup on her blue willow saucer.

“It can imagine there is a lot of hard work involved in sculpturing the art dolls, especially since they have to be pose-able.“ I lift the tea pot and pour her a fresh cup. “How long have you worked as an artist?”

Liza - Octopus Girl

Liza – Octopus Girl

“Oh wow, I think at least 10 years? Maybe longer. But it wasn’t until 2010 that I found my true style. It was this year, 2012, that I was able to make the leap to full time artist.”

“How wonderful. Working as a full time artist is quite an accomplishment. How long does it usually take to create a Steampunk art doll?”

“This is a tough question because it depends on the piece I’m doing. Some simmer in my mind for a while, and some come to me fully formed and demanding to be created immediately. From there it takes me anywhere from 3 days to a week to complete a doll.”

With my tea now cooled, I take a generous gulp. “I can appreciate what hard and steady work it takes to create your art dolls in such a prompt time period. What advice do you have for artist interested in working with art dolls and mixed media?”

“Do what is in your heart, don’t try to mimic someone else. When you do this your true style will emerge and your creative heart will sing!”

“Wise and heartfelt advice.” My cup makes a soft clinking sound as I set it in its saucer on the mahogany coffee table. “What do your family, your children, and your husband think of your art?”

Don't Tell

Don’t Tell

“LOL, they think my imagination is a very scary place!”

“I think so too. I love it. Speaking of family and children, how young were you when you first became involved in art?”

“I have been involved with art since I can remember. My mom always bought me paints, clay, crayons, etc…there was no other gift that I loved more, besides books!”

I lean back and set my forearms on the cushioned armrest, getting comfortable. “Speaking of books, do you like Steampunk literature, if so what is are some of your favorite books or authors?”

“I have to admit I’m new to reading Steampunk literature, and would love to know everyone’s favorite books and authors!”

“Yes, everyone please post your favorite Steampunk books in the comments for Michele Lynch, also the Lolita’s of steamed have written some interesting books, and we have a Steampunk reading list in the airship’s library . Michele, what are some things you’d like to say to your fans and prospective fans about your art?”

Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller

“I hope my artwork evolves some type of emotion in you and you can feel the characters personality in each piece, when that happens there is a connection between me and the person who purchases the artwork, and that is pure magic! There is nothing I love more!”

“You do an amazing job at creating an emotional connection to your art dolls, you truly bring them alive.” 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. What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up? What are the dates, places, times, and websites with further information on them?”

Michele grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the shaky landing. “I’m teaching at two national doll conventions in 2013. Artistic Figures In Cloth & Clay in Ohio April 25-28 www.CyndysDolls.com, and All Dolls Are Art July 25-28 Austin, Texas www.alldollart.com. You can also find my artwork at these galleries, http://www.popsantafe.com/works/search/183 , http://www.swoongallery.com/ , http://www.augusteclown.com/original-art.html , http://www.dollirium.com/ and I have two shows coming up at Tasty gallery in March and May http://www.shoptastyart.com/#/home/

The airship Steamed has landed so we say our goodbyes. But you can visit Michele Lynch anytime at her Website Etsy Blog Facebook Pinterest Please comment or ask questions below and please post list your favorite Steampunk books  for Michele Lynch,

Maeve Alpin, Steampunk/Romance author 

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To the tune of Here We Come A-Carrolling

Here is:DSCN0219

Come A Steampunk Writing

In Ebooks so green

Come a-typing

about robots on steam.

sin city 3Gear, cogs, and brass for you.

And to you swift airships too.

And may editors send you

contracts for the new year.

Best wishes on your books in the new year.

Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year

Steampunk Alchemy Christmas Tree

Pinterest Steampunk Christmas

Maeve Alpin

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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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