Steampunk inspiration and resources

Conventions and Special Events

Music to Steampunk By: Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band

“Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band combines the rich musical history of the circus and the vagabond peoples of Europe with the raw energy of avant-garde jazz, the burning heat of funk and the irreverence and fun of today’s Vaudeville for a sound that is somehow familiar yet like no other. Label them anyway you like! Call them avant world fusion, call them experimental big band, call them gypsy steamfunk, call them circus noise! They may be tough to sum up, but it’s easy to tell you they’ll show you a good time and they’ll get a crowd dancing!” Read more

You can catch their next show on March 16 at the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey!


The Pandora Society » The Symposium Ambassador Program

A great opportunity and discount for people planning ahead for the 2016 International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati. I’ve already got my room reserved! Will I see any of you there?

The Pandora Society – Elements of the Past & Elements of the Future » The Symposium Ambassador Program.


Spotlight on Traders: Empire Edibles

I had a wonderful time talking to traders like Claire “Skip” Peacey (pictured below) and giving out bumper stickers at the 2014 Weekend at the Asylum, and I am planning to do more of these spotlights like the one I did for Doctor Geof earlier this year.

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles close upOur steamy business this time is all about delicious food. As you can see, this booth featured beautifully packaged goodies with a Victorian theme. Flavors like absinthe and rose are front in center in a variety of chocolates and cookies, and Steampunk author Kit Cox (aka Major Jack Union) helped Miss Emily Ladybird to design the packaging and presentation. If you are planning a Steampunk event in the UK, or you need something special for a wedding, you should definitely keep Empire Edibles in mind.

Links:

Empire Edibles official site There is a note on the homepage that says the website is being revamped, but there is lots of information there in the meantime.

Empire Edibles Etsy shop

Empire Edibles Facebook page


My Entries into the Indiana and Kentucky Steampunk Societies’ Pin Contest

 

Indiana Steampunk Society design

indiana-state-flag-button-7998698I found out from following the Pandora Society that both the Indiana and Kentucky Steampunk Societies are having a competition this month. Both states are looking for new designs for pins based on each one’s state seal. I am pretty clumsy in the Adobe design suite, but overall I am quite pleased with what I could do.

Above is my submission for Indiana, which substitutes a teacup-wielding robot arm for a torch and gears for stars (source material at left). The Kentucky design is below, and I decided to focus on the motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” rather than the picture on the seal. I was hoping to capture a “Writers and Makers Unite!” sort of vibe. What do you think?

The prize is free admission to either the 2015 or 2016 International Steampunk Symposium, which is held in Cincinnati annually. I am already planning my visit in 2016, and getting to contribute to the Midwest Steampunk efforts would be icing on the cake.

In order to enter I have to post my design on my own site, but voting doesn’t start until Feb. 17 so I’ll let you know how to cast your ballot for my designs once voting commences. Want to try yourself? Here are the details.

 

Kentucky Pin Better lettering

Wish me luck!

 

 


Music to Steampunk by: Frenchy and the Punk

Frenchy and the Punk WebsiteBanner

I missed my chance to see the Frenchy and the Punk performance during Weekend at the Asylum, but I’m not going to miss sharing this dynamic duo with you! “Frenchy” (Samantha Stephenson) was on the panel for the Steampunk on the International Scene session at the con, and she shared that though she and “The Punk” (Scott Helland) hadn’t necessarily set out to be a Steampunk band, the way to community had embraced them was amazing and she was so thankful to be doing what she loves for an appreciative audience.

This “Folk Punk Cabaret” band is currently touring in the US, so if you are lucky you might get to see them this Spring.

Upcoming Tour Dates

Jan 16-18 HRM Steampunk Symposium @ Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

Jan 22 Pond 5, New York, NY

March 6-8 Wild Wild West Steampunk Con, Old Tucson, AZ

Apr 24-26 International Steampunk Symposium, Cincinnati, OH

May 15-17 Steampunk World’s Fair, New Jersey


Spotlight on Traders: Island of Dr. Geof

The HindenBOOB by Dr. GeoffWhile I was in Lincoln for Weekend at the Asylum in September I got a chance to meet several of the Steampunk world’s writers and traders. During the run of Longitude Punk’d at the Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark was also featuring a tea-riffic exhibit of Dr. Geoff’s printwork. And then at the markets for Asylum, I got a chance to meet that man himself selling his wares. We traded stickers and had a nice little chat, and I got to see more of his whimsical work. Most of his work has a military bent, while other pieces dabble in the risque, but for me that is the fun!

The good Doctor also offers a variety of Steampunk-inspired pins and patches to compliment his work on paper, and you can see what he has to offer on his website.


Tips for Makers: You Can Fake it When you Make it Part 3, “Plastic is Your Pal”

Plastic is an incredibly versatile material and it is everywhere. With a little ingenuity and elbow grease you can make it into just about anything.

By HeroscapersFirst off, there are toys. At any Steampunk cosplay event you can be sure you will see souped up Nerf guns and squirt guns that look like they walked right out of an H. G. Wells story. But keep in mind that if you want to paint a plastic gun that spray paint will chip over time. If you scour your plastic surface ahead of time with steel wool, sand paper or even a kitchen scouring pad you will create pores for the paint to adhere to and it will last much longer. Kinex is a line of plastic engineering toys so it is a great way to get lightweight and cheap plastic gears that you can paint to look like metal.

At the Form and Function session at The Asylum one of my favorite items was a remote-control Dalek toy that a maker Steampunked by adding metallic paint and little makeshift boiler on the back.

Doctor Quicksilver Power Glove

Major Quicksilver Power Glove

Plastic pipes like the ones you can find at the hardware store are also really useful. Just like plastic guns, they need to be roughed up before you paint them, but they are relatively easy to drill into with a small electric drill so they are easy to embellish. Major Quicksilver had an amazing “power glove” that he built by attaching a leather work glove to the interior so the fingers were flexible even though the gauntlet was rigid. It was enhanced by flexible plastic tubing and a leather strap that attaches to the upper arm.

You can also get the look of rivets without having to use real metal. If you search for “half pearls” on eBay you can find these great little half-spheres that look just like metal rivets, sometimes without having to paint them. The Major warns that you can find one with adhesive on the backs, but they are much more expensive than getting the kind you glue on yourself. And if you are attaching them to EVA foam hot glue will hold them on really well. An audience member also mentioned that dried peas or lentils can also do for rivets in a pinch, as long as you don’t mind a little irregularity in the shape.

Quicksilver flexible hand

Quicksilver flexible hand

Another great use for plastic is if you have to make something hinged. Sure, you can use real metal hinges that require screws but if you want a quick and easy hinge you can just cut plastic packaging like the top from a butter tub or the like into strips. Attach one end of each strip to the pieces you want to hinge and you will have a flexible and lightweight connection. The amazing giant hand at right had metal hinges on one side and plastic on the other. He was able to manipulate the fingers by pulling strings attached to a leather glove on the other side. In case you are thinking of doing something similar, he let us know that the thumb was the most difficult part to get to move, so he used his pinky finger instead, ergo the three-fingered hand.

The good Major also told the crowd all about a wonderful malleable plastic called polymorph. It comes in the form of little beads and you can melt them in boiling water on your stove. After they become gel-like and come together in a glob you have about 5 minutes to mold it into any shape you want. And if you don’t like the result you can just put it back into the hot water and start again. Of course, you have to be careful about burning yourself when you take the polymorph out, so if you use something like welders gloves it will protect your hands. It usually comes as a transparent plastic, but you can add dyes or paint it later. Once it is solid it is a great material to drill into or file.

If you want an antiqued look to your paint jobs you can use a dry brushing technique. This is done as the second layer to add a bit of a weathered look to your surfaces. For instance, if you are trying to get the look of copper armor that has begun to oxidize, you should start with a solid layer of copper paint before you add the touch of turquoise to make it look tarnished. To dry-brush, add a glob of paint to your brush (this is a good use for old brushes) and remove most of the paint on a newspaper, magazine, etc. Even if you remove most of the paint there will still be just a bit left on the bristles, and you can apply this to your finished project.

Do you have any suggestions for working with plastic? Please comment below!

For more tips about creatively cutting corners, you can check out parts 1 and 2 of this series.


Tips for Makers: You Can Fake it When you Make it Part 2, “Foam is Your Friend”

Quicksilver's table-o-goodies

Quicksilver’s table-o-goodies

During the “Creating with Quicksilver” session, the Major couldn’t say enough good things about a material called Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) foam. My only experience with it has been with bedrolls and yoga mats, but he demonstrated several ways to use it when you are constructing costumes.

My Science Box eva foamEVA foam comes and many different colors and thicknesses. There are floor mats that are popular for kids to play on and these often have texture on one side which can add interest. Unlike many plastics, this foam also readily takes to hot glue without extra treatment. It is easy to draw on it with permanent markers, and can be cut with scissors or for more accuracy, a craft knife. It will dull your blade pretty quickly, though, so if you plan to make repeated cuts it is a good idea to invest in a craft knife that allows you the change out the blade easily.

If you do end up with rough edges you have a couple options. You can use something like a Dremel or other electric tool to grind them down, but it will be very messy when the foam starts flying. Major Quicksilver advises running the blunt side of a scissors across any rough parts to smooth it down without the mess.

Indy MogulEVA is especially good for things like armor that need to look heavy and sturdy but you don’t want to weigh you down. There are tons of patterns out there on the web for different kinds of armor, and the foam is great for layering so you can add bulk to your character easily. It is also easy to mold when heated with a heat gun, or even a hairdryer and holds it shape like a dream.

There are some foams, like polystyrene, which are even lighter and readily available, but be advised that there is often a chemical reaction with certain paints that can actually melt the foam. It would be a shame to build a whole suit of armor just to have it disintegrate while you are adding the finishing touches! EVA, on the other hand, is great for painting, especially with spray paint. But beware that the more a part of your project has to bend the more likely it is that your paint job could crack and flake.

Here are a few Steampunk examples I found on the web to inspire your own creations.

 


Tips for Makers: You Can Fake it When You Make it Part 1, “Gathering Resources”

I hope you have been enjoying my Tips for Makers series based on the sessions at the Weekend at the Asylum festival so far. “Taming Metal” parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, were for the people who want to use real metal in their props, costumes and gadgets, but that’s not for everyone. Sometimes you want things to look a certain way but you don’t have the time, materials or skills to make it happen. And there is no shame in cutting corners or substituting one thing for another. I know some people are all about the “authenticity” but Steampunk should be a bit of silly fun and lack of know-how shouldn’t keep you from trying your hand at making something cool.

I went to a session hosted by “Major Quicksilver” during my great weekend in Lincoln and he had tons of advice about materials and how to get them at an affordable rate. The most important thing he told the audience was if you see something, buy it right then and there. Don’t wait for a project to start gathering materials, because chances are when you go back to get something it will be gone, or it will have gone up in price. I have been moving around a lot in the last few years so I have been holding off from gathering too much myself, and I can’t wait until I get settled enough to amass the craft room of my dreams.

"Sky "Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

“Sky “Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

But even with my space restriction I can’t help myself from going into overstock and scrap store I come to, and I usually leave with at least one treasure. It may take years before I use it, but whenever I start a new project I take infinite pleasure in going through my materials and rediscovering things that will enhance my work. For instance, I started collecting pieces of chandeliers because they were crystaline and shiny. Then I discovered if you turn them upside down they make wicked mini hot air balloons. Some of the scrapbook paper in this piece were from the first pad I ever bought years ago.

There are lots of random things around your house that can be put to new uses. Pill bottles, for instance, can hold tiny things like beads or screws, and the covers can be used as knobs or dials on a jet pack or ray gun. I made a pair of aviator goggles for my toy poodle and I used the caps from pill bottles as the makeshift lenses. He was never going to let me put goggles on him for real, so it didn’t matter if they were functioning. Unfortunately he and the goggles are back stateside or I’d post a photo, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they are adorable.

Want to add a little brass? The wire used for hanging framed art comes in a brassy color and you can get it for pretty cheap. There are also a lot of old cameras and other gizmos at your local thrift store just waiting for you to take them apart and find all the goodies inside. Drawer pulls which can do double duty as various cosmetic adornments and come in lots of shapes, sizes and finishes and there are often bucketloads of these are scrap yards.

So get on out there and start gathering your resources, you never know when a project will come up!

Here are a few places where I get my arts and crafts supplies. (Sorry UKers, I mostly make and therefore shop in the US).

Ax-Man (4 locations in MN)- hands down the best place to get random mechanical parts that actually function, or just look cool. Glass bottles and beakers, circuit boards, switches, leather scraps, magnets, you name it, they have it and it is SUPER cheap.

ArtScraps (St. Paul, MN)- When I got married I made my own wedding invites by getting cheap art prints and cutting them down to size. They have stamps, fasteners and bulk randomness, plus classes and birthday parties for kids.

The Scrap Box (Ann Arbor Michigan)- This is where I got all those pretty chandelier dangles that I use in my shadowboxes. There is a back room where they charge you by weight so you just go in, load up a grocery bag and it may cost you $5 for a full one.

Scrap Creative Re-Use Center (San Franciso, CA)- This is advertised as a great place for teachers to come and get supplies for their classes. In addition to overstock and bulk goodies, there are magnets, wooden blocks and whiteboards.

Urban Ore– This is a pretty hardcore scrapyard with lots of doors, furniture, marble tiles and other home

Do you have and advice about where to find cool and useful stuff? Please comment below!


Tips for Makers: Taming Metal Part 3, “Torch and Scorch”

Even though it is strongly associated with the Industrial Revolution and the World Wars, welding has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The Bronze Age (in Europe 3200-600 BCE) and the Iron Age (in Europe 800-51 BCE) were both eras shaped by the pounding, heating and joining of metals. But what happened in the Steam era were new techniques with fancy new power sources.

Stick weldingFor a long time, application of fire or hot coals was the only way to get metal to reach a high heat, and together with pressure (ie, hitting it with a hammer) with time and patience you could create weapons and other items that were made of metal fused together (this is called forge welding). But, at the beginning of the 19th century, the electric arc was discovered almost simultaneously in two different countries and shielded metal arc welding and its versatile tool the stick welder were born a short time later. An electric arc, in the simplest terms, is the shape that an electric current takes  as it “jumps” from one point to another and ignites the gasses between those two points. This burning gas is hot enough to be considered plasma, which means that it burns extremely brightly, can throw off intense UV radiation, can create noxious fumes that you don’t want to inhale and is extremely likely to make your nice unmarred flesh resemble a roast suckling pig if it makes contact so BE CAREFUL.

During the Taming Metal session at Weekend at the Asylum the panelists didn’t get to spend too much time on any one method, but this was definitely Trevor Frank’s favorite. Stick welders are especially easy to use nowadays because of advancements that keep unwanted gasses from the air out, thus creating a more stable and predictable arc. You definitely must use a mask that covers the full face to protect your skin, eyes and lungs. Frank and others mentioned developing something they called “the welder’s nod” because of deploying their mask with a nod of the head. Plasma burns so bright that the eye part of a welding mask has to be so dark you cannot see what you are about to weld when you have your mask on. So the artist can lift their mask, get their pieces into position and right before they ignite the plasma they give a sharp nod of the head to bring the shield down. But masks have also been coming a long way, and there is now a type that darkens to eye shield the moment the arc is struck, thus saving your neck from all that nodding. There are many different kinds of welding, but for the non-professional, stick welding is a great method that their portability and relative ease of use.

There are some welding methods that use open (and extremely hot) flames in the form of torches. Personally, I have used a cutting torch to do some freehand sheet metal art, but I have never actually done welding myself. So in lieu of giving you bad information, I wanted to provide some links to resources instead.

Instructables- Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding tutorial

Welding Tips and Tricks website


Tips for Makers: Taming Metal Part 2, “Treat and Heat”

One of my very first sun-catchers.

My favorite of the sun-catchers that I have made

Last time I covered some of the kinder, gentler ways to work with metal. In this post, I want to tell you about soldering. This is the metallurgical technique with which I have the most personal experience. I have used it to create silver jewelry and to attach transistors to electrical components like circuit boards, as well as making stained glass sun-catchers and sculptures.

Soldering

    • Solder, a metal alloy used to join other metals together, comes in different varieties that have different melting temperatures, and your solder must always have a melting temperature lower than that of what you are joining.
      • There is soft solder (melting between 190 to 840 °F) and hard solder (840 °F and above), which is sometimes called ‘silver solder‘. When working with high-temperature solder it is often referred to as ‘brazing.’ When a joint is particularly delicate (ie, joining two very small things or a small thing to a large thing) or the finished item is going to see a lot of wear and tear, it is better to use a harder solder and more acidic flux.
    • In some cases, once your solder hardens it may actually be stronger than the materials you are joining. (This is also true of wood glue, by the way. It is usually easier to break the wood that you join than the place where it is joined.)
    • Solder is often in the form of wire on a spool that is unwound and cut to the size needed for a particular joint. I have also used soldering solutions where tiny bits of solder are suspending in a liquid (see ‘flux’ below).
    • There are two different kinds of tools you can use to melt your solder. A soldering iron is more or less shaped like a fat pen and is held as if you are writing. Be careful with this kind because once gets hot it stays hot as long as it is on. A soldering gun is shaped like a pistol and has a trigger that the artist presses to heat the tip each time. In both of these cases, the tip of the tool comes in direct contact with the solder and melts it so it can flow into the crack between whatever is being joined. When I making circuit boards, I used a hot air soldering iron that was held like a soldering iron but it had an open tip where air was heated and forced through, so the tip never came in contact with the solder itself. This was used with a very low temperature tin solder that has a high rate of conductivity which made it is ideal for electronics. Some hard solders may require a torch instead of an iron or gun.
    • Before you can solder, you have to treat the joint with flux. This is a slightly acidic solution that takes away residue left from handling with bare hands, and it facilitates the solder’s flow into the joint. It is only mildly acidic, but if it gets into your eyes it can cause discomfort (trust me, I know from firsthand experience.)
  • Safety: It is a good idea to wear gloves when soldering, especially if you are using a soldering iron which stays hot between joints. Stained glass soldering works at a low enough temperature that I have never gotten a blister from contact with the iron, but I have gotten sore, red fingers that last for a couple days. Keep in mind that the longer you have to apply the heat to the solder, the more the surrounding metal will also heat, so you can get burned if you are holding the materials you are joining with bare hands. Also, when flux heats it can sometimes spit like bacon grease in a frying pan, so if you may also want to wear goggles to keep the hot liquid from getting into your eyes.

Tips for Makers: Taming Metal Part 1, “Glues and Screws”

Friends, makers, cosplayers, lend me your ears! (Or eyes as the case would be) I attended several different sessions during my awesome convention experience in Lincoln, including three that were all about making the cool props, costumes, widgets and gadgets that can add that extra zing to your Steampunkery. This is the first installment of a multi-part tipfest for those of you who like to get your hands dirty just in time for Halloween.

I have taken many art classes in my time, and I was a fine arts major in college before I injured my drawing hand too badly to continue. I still minored in Art History though, and to qualify I took one of my favorite classes of all time, Intro to Sculpture. We worked with a variety of materials over the summer, but my absolute favorite was metal. I love it for two reasons: under the right conditions it is totally malleable, and when you are done it is incredibly strong. And shiny of course, let’s not forget shiny 🙂

Herr DoktorAt Weekend at the Asylum there was a session called “Taming Metal” that was run by a panel consisting of “Herr Doktor“, Trevor Frank and “Dr Quack.” They started with the easiest way to join two metal pieces together and moved to the more involved techniques as the session went on, and they also touched on some important tools and safety tips, and etching advice. The following bullets are based on my notes that I took during the session.

    • Metal can be joined in many ways ranging from “glues and screws” to welding. The stronger the joint you are looking for, the more sophisticated the equipment and the more safety precautions you need to take. There are serious safety concerns when working with torches, both for burns to your skin and to your retina which can result in temporary blindness and serious long-term effects on vision, so NEVER cut corners when it comes to safety. “Metal doesn’t care how old you are, or how experienced you are.”
    • Epoxy often looks like two syringes that are connected.

      Epoxy often looks like two syringes that are connected.

      But let’s start with the easier stuff. Epoxy is more effective than other types of glue for adhering metal to other metal, or metal to other materials. And what is epoxy, you ask? It is usually a combination of two resins that are only mixed at the time you are using them and any extra must be disguarded, unlike glue that can sit on your shelf forever and more or less stays the same (though of course, glues to dry out over time).

    • Any time you are going to use an adhesive rather an a screw, solder or welded connection make sure that you rough up your surface. The little scratches left behind by sand paper or steel wool will give your glue more to grip and create a better seal. And to give your glue its best shot, try to find a way to clamp or weigh down the connection point for at least a day or two while the adhesive sets. To preserve the look and texture of the metal while clamping, it is a good idea to put a cloth between your material and the shoes (or holdy-onny part of your clamp) or use a clamp with rubber covering the shoes.
  • A few shapes that nuts can take.

    A few shapes that nuts can take.

    Nuts and bolts are a great way to hold metal together, but you will probably need to drill holes before you start. Dremels and other small, handheld drills can get through most thing sheets of metal, but watch out for shavings that can be sharp. But, it can be hard to find nuts and bolts that are the right color or type of metal (most are shiny, stainless steel like those at the right) to go with steampunk designs, so you may want to pre-rough them up if you are planning to add paint or use rivets instead.

  • Rivets are cool and very steampunk. Unlike screws and nuts n bolts, rivets are more or less meant to be permanent fasteners. The look a bit like a screw, but the shaft is smooth. The shaft is put through a pre-drilled (or pre-existing) hole and the tail end get smooshed to create a little barbell that holds your materials in place. If you like the look of rivets but don’t want to take the time or find the right tools for the job, I will give you some advice about how to fake rivets for cheap in my “Creating with Quicksilver” post next week.Rivet01

Check out Part 2: “Treat and Heat”


Weekend at the Asylum: The Markets

Europe’s largest Steampunk convivial was the host to several markets and tons of talented traders and craftspeople. There was one open to the general public in Castle Square, but the rest were only available to convention attendees. It was fun to be at the open market because of the opportunity to see all the “normals” mixing with the Steampunk crowd, but the closed markets were a great opportunity to visit booth after booth without being overcrowded.

I got a chance to talk to lots of people and collect several business cards, so I will do some posts on individual folks and businesses where you can get some stuff to add extra steam to your own cosplay. For now, here are some pics of the general hub-bub and the kinds of things you could purchase as part of the convention. Even with the pounds to dollars conversion I found the prices for vintage and handmade goods to be very reasonable. I picked up a utility belt, some art supplies and lovely lace collar for less than 50 GBP total.

 

 


Weekend at the Asylum: Steam Bears

When I was reading through the program for Weekend at the Asylum I was intrigued by the competition category for “Steam Bears.” These are stuffed animals (mostly bears) that were dressed up or modified especially to reflect the Steampunk aesthetic. Maybe if you make the trip to Asylum VII you can enter one of your own!


Weekend at the Asylum: The Great Exhibition

Besides the amazing outfits and incredible sessions, there was also an exhibition of Steampunk arts and crafts during the convention. There were some fun gadgets, punked paintings and imaginative accessories on display all weekend in the Tennyson Suite of the Bailgate Assembly Rooms. Check out the gallery below, and if you want to know about any particular work or artist, feel free to leave me a comment. I took pictures of almost all of the labels for the gizmos and I can pass them on if you want more info.


Cosplay at the Asylum: The Costume Contest

IMG_1828You should have been there. The buzz in the ballroom was happy and excited as the DIY models assembled to strut their stuff for a very appreciative audience. I had hoped to get a seat at the end of the runway, but even 10 minutes before the show started it was difficult to find any empty floor space at all, so I had to settle for sitting on the floor seat near the stage. I hope you enjoy the gallery of photos as much as I enjoyed being there, and I also got a chance to shoot a quick video of the models’ final procession right before the judges made their decision.


Cosplay at the Asylum: Out and About

There were so many wonderful costumes during Weekend at the Asylum, so I decided to keep the costume contest participants for another post. Here are some delightful folks from around the convention.


Already Feeling the Effects of Asylum-itis

Major Tinker, the MC for Weekend at the Asylum opened the convention today with a bit of ceremony (and cheer). But he did give one piece of advice to Asylum “virgins” and I am happy to report I am feeling the effects of what he called “Asylumitis.”

image

1. My feet are feeling it! It started with a trek up the aptly named “Steep Hill” street with my backpack strapped on, but today I also moved between sessions on the lovely cobbled streets of Lincoln. There were so many awesome session today that I haven’t been shopping yet, but tomorrow traders here I come!

2. My face hurts from all the smiling 🙂 It was delightful to be around so many Steampunks, and I can’t wait to go to the burlesque shoe tonight. I am sure more smiling awaits.

The lighting in the Assembly rooms was wonky so I had some trouble with pictures, but I think I got some good ones of the costume competition so stay tuned for those! I need to rest my eye for awhile before the fun tonight.

Cheers from Lincoln!


Steampunk at the Piccadilly Market

I admit, I was expecting something quite different when I walked through the ornate iron gates to St James Square. The Piccadilly Market is a more or less permanent, open-air marketplace that operates 6 days a week. There are merry striped tents and merchants selling their wares as one would expect, but I thought it was going to be bigger, especially because of the long list of traders on the market’s website. I was especially excited because there is a section of that website devoted to the Steampunk offerings there.

Different days have different themes, so I picked the day listed as the best for antiques. I don’t know if this means there are no antiques other days, but I was surprised to see that there really wasn’t much there in the way of vintage stuff. But, what was there was pretty awesome.

Annette Jones is a vintage trader and jewelry designer who is only at the market on Tuesdays. Usually she doesn’t allow photography, but she gave me permission to snap a couple shots of her lovely pieces on display. The average bauble was out of my price range (this pounds to dollar conversion is killing me!) but if you are looking for just the right cameo or vintage ring this is a great place to check out. I especially loved the addition of the lovely antique mirrors patrons could use when trying on the pretties

. You can check out her website for more information, http://www.annettejones.co.uk.

The best booth for Steampunk stuff was definitely one by Ahura Collectibles, which was more or less across the aisle from Annette Jones. The only sign on the booth is for kaleidoscopes, but the other half of the display featured gorgeous refurbished early telephones, leather-bound and wood-sheathed spyglasses and a wide array of vintage compasses. I picked up one of the beautiful compasses with a foldable sundial complete with wooden box for safe-keeping for 18 pounds. I had to think long and hard about which one I wanted because they are all unique, but I was especially drawn to this one because it had the word “London” on it so I thought it would make an especially good souvenir. I would have loved a spyglass as well to add to my Steampunk explorer ensemble I have started to compile, but I limited myself to a nautical keychain made of brass.

This booth is at the Piccadilly market Tuesday through Saturday, and at Covent Garden Sundays and Mondays. Find out more at the website, ahuracollectibles.co.uk

I thought I was going to be able to do a large photo spread about this trip to the marketplace, but because it was so small I didn’t really get as much as I’d hoped.

Can anyone tell me any other places like flea markets or vintage shops in London to visit in the next two weeks?


Review: Victorian Vices at Ed Fringe 2014

The Durham-based company, Another Soup, has two back-to-back shows this year at the Space on Niddry St. Both are promenade musicals, meaning that the actors move in and out of the audience to give them an immersive experience. I have never seen a show like these before and I thought the approach was interesting, though better suited to Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls than to a Picture of Dorian Gray. In Sweeny Todd, the ‘ladies of the night’ and other patrons of Mrs. Lovett’s shop wend their way through the audience going through purses and trading hats with members of the crowd, which was engaging and silly fun during a tale of gruesome murders. But the side characters in Dorian Gray were aristocrats (though similarly gin-soaked by the end) which didn’t lend itself to the same treatment, and the larger crowd made it difficult for a short person stuck in the middle of the pack (ie, me) to see most of the action.

The lighting situation was also more favorable to Sweeny Todd, and faces were never lost behind the shadows of the audience, where Dorian Gray could have benefited from even one light in Dorian’s chambers when tall patrons between the single bank of lights and the small but lovely set sometimes totally obliterated the well-executed efforts of the cast. The audience is expected to stand and move about during the shows, as well as occasionally dancing with the actors, something I wish I had known before spending the whole day at the National Museum of Scotland and then seeing the shows one after the other. By the time I got home my feet were killing me! So be prepared if you are planning to see them both. (People with health issues are welcome to sit during the performances but they will definitely miss some of the action.)

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

So let’s take them one at a time.

Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls is adapted from a serialized tale called The String of Pearls: A Romance, which took place in 1785 and was first published as a serial in 1846-47. The story has been adapted for stage and screen many times over, but in case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the short version. Sweeny Todd is a barber on Fleet Street in London. He kills his victims (sometimes through breaking their necks and sometimes giving them too close a shave with his straight-edge razor) and then disposes of the bodies by giving them to his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, to bake into meat pies at a time when meat is very scarce in the darker corners of the city. In Another Soup’s version, the story takes place in the 1850s during the Great Stink and the Cholera epidemic of 1858 but the main plot is still the same. Depending on the adaptation, Todd and Lovett are business partners, friends or lovers, and in this version they are most decidedly the latter, sometimes carrying on their affair while the main action of the show takes place elsewhere. It is Todd’s affection for Mrs. Lovett, who commits the first two murders, that leads him to help her with the cover up and makes him her “supplier” for her meat pies. Business is booming so Lovett needs an assistant, which eventually leads to their discovery and downfall.

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

The music was played by a live band including an accordian that sometimes was in the thick of it with the actors. The enthusiasm of the cast was infectious and the singing was well blended and balanced. I enjoyed having the sound come from all around me when the actors were sprinkled throughout the crowd. Todd and Lovett were very well cast and did a splendid job, as did the playful smaller parts. Unfortunately, if you are right next to the band you lose a lot of the lyrics, which were in general much stronger writing than the dialog. The music is clearly the focus of the show, but when the actors don’t have mics it can be hard to follow.

For the best experience, I would suggest that you stand near the corner of the room where the two sets come together so you can get the most out the singing but still hear the music clearly. Be prepared to move during the show and come back together in a different configuration. I loved this aspect because it allowed people who had not had as good of a vantage point in the beginning to see more of the show later. So even if you start out at the back, be patient and you will get a chance to see, plus more of a chance to interact with the side characters. The crowd for this show was smaller than for Dorian Gray, and I think the group of 30 or so in the audience is the right size for the venue.

_2014VICTORK_AJXAfter about a 30 minute break where we rested our feet by sitting on the stone steps outside, we went back in for round 2. The Picture of Dorian Gray was the first show I found on the Ed Fringe docket to write about for Victorian and Steampunk inspiration and I was the most excited to see it. Sweeny Todd I had seen as a musical before, but never Dorian Gray and I was intrigued. The story centers on Dorian, a lovely youth seduced by the delectable debaucheries of the Victorian age, his mentor, Lord Henry Wotton, and the painter of his portrait, Basil Hallward. Upon seeing his portrait, he wishes that he could always stay as young and beautiful as it is, and in wishing makes a pact with the devil. Dorian falls in love with an actress, but later rejects her when she wants to quit the stage, which leads to her suicide. When he later looks at the portrait, it has changed and started to become ugly to reflect the decay of his soul while he remains the same.

The three main male roles were perfectly cast, though I think the strain of so many performances was starting show in their voices (and who can blame them!). The music and especially the female chorus voices were lovely (and the “sisters” steal the show), though they sometimes overpowered the male soloists who were singing very low in their ranges, which makes it harder to project in a room without very good acoustics. They were all very true to their roles and stayed in character, even when I saw one audience member start to giggle in Henry’s face during a dramatic moment in the closing number. So, well done to the cast for making the most of a less than ideal situation.

The crowd was larger, and I think on the whole taller, which meant I could not see nearly as well as during the first show. At least half of the action takes place right in front of the band, and so directly in front of a bank of stage lights which also made it harder to see. I would love to see this show again staged as a traditional musical where I could get all the action from start to finish. (I think the best place to stand for this one is near the free-standing gas lights on the near wall as you enter the space.) Because I knew the basic story already (though I haven’t read the original yet) I wasn’t surprised by the turns of events, but I didn’t feel that the dialogue did enough to move Dorian from one stage of his thinking to another. I would have liked to see him first fall in love with his painting and then become jealous rather than his first reaction to be disdainful. I also liked that the homosexual undertones were brought to the forefront, but I found the scene where Dorian and Basil kiss to feel strange and I expected to see Basil more swept up and given hope rather than saddened. But on the whole the acting was very good even if the actors made different choices than I would have.

If you only choose one Victorian Vices show to see, I would say go with Sweeny Todd for the dynamic staging and charismatic Todd and Lovett. Dorian Gray was very well done, it just didn’t work as well in the space. If you have comfy shoes, they are great to see back-to-back for a great night of entertainment. The soundtracks for both shows will be available soon, and I highly recommend them!

Both shows are running from now until the 23rd, so don’t miss your chance to taste a little vice.

Get tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com

Learn more about Another Soup at their website: www.anothersoup.co.uk


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Weekend at the Asylum

I think I may have just snapped up the last affordable room in all of Lincoln last night as I made my arrangements for Europe’s largest Steampunk Convivial, Weekend at the Asylum. If you were thinking about going but you are still on the fence, make sure to get your tickets ASAP! They sold out of the Saturday only wristbands in the last day or so, and the Empire Ball was already sold out weeks ago. I am sorry to miss the ball, but I did get tickets for Lady Elsie’s Fashion Gala (a formal fashion show followed by dancing and socializing) as well as a burlesque event so your favorite Steampunk Roving Reporter will be able to bring you plenty of shenanigans well into the evening during the convention, which runs Sept 12-14. I will be tweeting and posting all weekend, which is also the last weekend of Steam Tour.

The website for the event run by the Victorian Steampunk Society is woefully short of details, but you can get event descriptions and buy tickets here.

Going to be at convention and want to meet, and maybe even pick up youth very own airship bumper sticker? Leave me a comment and we’ll be in touch!

Bumper Sticker to go with my Steampunk Zine!

Bumper Sticker to go with my Steampunk Zine!

 


Gearing up for Steam Tour: My Steampunk Edinburgh Fringe Fest Itinerary!

Profile pics 056-001I admit it, I am actually wiggling in anticipation of how awesome Steam Tour is going to be. I booked all my shows for Ed Fringe, ordered my Britrail pass and I am dreaming of all the delicious pub grub in my future.

So here’s the plan for week 1:

 

 

 

_2014JEKYLLH_T7_thumb۞ Jekyll and Hyde
Main Theatre @ Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall
Headlock Theatre

  • Sat 9 August, 21:30

And after the performance, let’s meet up for a cocktail at the Jekyll and Hyde Pub nearby! I’ll wear my goggles so you can find me, and I’ll bring some “My Other Beep Beep is a Whoosh” airship stickers along for purchase, just one pound per awesome bumper sticker to show off your steamy side 🙂

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls۞ Victorian Vices – Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 18:00

_2014VICTORK_AJX۞ Victorian Vices – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 20:00

 

۞ Whisky Tasting
Bennet’s Bar @ Bennets Bar
Bennets Bar

  • Tue 12 August, 14:00

Dolls of New Albion۞ Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera
Venue 45 @ theSpace @ Venue45
Clockwork Hart Productions

  • Tue 12 August, 22:45

 

 

 

_201421STCEN_P3۞ 21st Century Poe: Moyamensing
The Vault @ Paradise in The Vault
Marty Ross

  • Wed 13 August, 17:50

۞ City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour
Outside St. Giles Cathedral @ Black City of the Dead Signs
Black Hart Entertainment

  • Wed 13 August, 21:00

NPG Ax27656,Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,by; published by Herbert Rose Barraud; Eglington & Co.۞ Arthur Conan Doyle Experience
The Sanctuary @ Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

  • Thu 14 August, 14:00 (x2)

 

 

 

 

_2014MORGANW_PV۞ Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks
KingDome @ Pleasance Dome
Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent U

  • Thu 14 August, 19:00

 

۞ Dorian
Upstairs @ Greenside @ Nicolson Square
The Egg Theatre Company

  • Fri 15 August, 10:20

_2014DRACULB_PN۞ Dracula
Pleasance Beyond @ Pleasance Courtyard
Action To The Word

  • Fri 15 August, 21:20

And in addition to the various performances and lectures, there are also several art shows that I can’t wait to check out including Urban Twist: Papercut Artwork and Craft Scotland Summer Show.

 


The Noble Art of Tea Dueling

From mookychick.co.uk

From mookychick.co.uk

Yes, you heard right, I said “tea dueling.” I just found out about this sport because a friend of mine took second place at CONvergence this past weekend in MN (Congrats Michael Sherman!). I am gutted that I had to miss it and MN Comic Con this year because of traveling, but maybe I will get to see some tea dueling at Weekend at the Asylum in September.

Basically, a duel is a game of chicken between two competitors who have dunked cookies into hot tea. Their challenge is to be the last person to get the whole cookie into their mouth before it breaks, so they try to pysch-out the competition before their biscuit ends up in their laps. Sounds like good old civilized fun. Here is a video from DragonCon 2013.

Find out more at the website for the American Society of Tea Dueling at https://www.facebook.com/americanteaduelling