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Today we welcome Anna-Marie York from SteampunkFamily.Com

Anna-Marie York writes adventure stories for www.steampunkfamily.com.

A New Year’s Resolution, with brief discussion of William Morris, Steampunk Anti-Hero
by Anna-Marie York

If you are considering a resolution for this new year, consider this one:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

These are the words of William Morris, an unlikely steampunk hero. Like other steampunk heroes, he was born in the nineteenth century (b. 1834, d.1896). Unlike steampunk favorites Jules Verne and Nicola Tesla, Morris lived out his life in England, a subject of Queen Victoria. He was a writer of prose and poetry, a painter, designer, manufacturer, and activist, and his fabric and wallpaper patterns are so popular they are still available today. He was associated with the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement.

When steampunks discuss our influences, Morris is seldom mentioned, and for good reason. The man was a luddite. He worshipped nature and abhorred the gears and pistons of industry that so fascinate us today. He once wrote, “Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization.” He looked back to the Middle Ages as the ideal era of mankind, and both his visual art and poetry is redolent with nostalgia for those bygone days. He loathed mass-produced, commercial crap and longed to return art to every day life. He was a hands-on designer, learning block printing, tapestry weaving, calligraphy, illumination, embroidery and other arts himself before teaching the employees of his decorative arts firm to execute his designs. He spent his life trying to bring art back to industry.

Now we’re getting somewhere! A do-it-yourselfer with nostalgia for a bygone era, appreciation of more primitive, hands-on technology. He and his friends even dressed up in costumes from the era they admired and took pictures of each other. Sound familiar?

So back to our new year’s resolution, courtesy of William Morris, steampunk hero.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

This is a steampunk impulse, to be sure. It is the spark igniting a thousand case mods. The challenge is to bring the steampunk aesthetic into your everyday life. And although I encourage you to become an artist, and to support artists, I don’t mean to suggest a rarified state only to be achieved by the fantastically talented or super wealthy. As Morris said “…I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few… ” Like Morris, I believe art and beauty are goals everyone can reach.

Let me leave you with a simple example. This is an object that is useful for dental hygiene.

Although it is useful, it is in no way beautiful. So why should you look at it every day? You shouldn’t have to. You probably have your shoved in a cupboard under the sink. My sink has no cupboard, so I did this.

The bottle is either from a thrift shop or pulled out of the recycling. The glass on top once admonished me not to mess with Texas, but two minutes with a razor blade fixed that. So, rather agitating my spirit by staring at a hideous plastic advertisement every morning, my eye is soothed by an object I know to be useful AND believe to be beautiful.

Happy New Year, Steampunks.

~Anna-Marie York
www.steampunkfamily.com.

Morris Wallpaper copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

Case Mod by Pith Helmet Provisions

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