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.
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!
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.
I first saw these birds years ago in a store in San Francisco. I made a point of always visiting that store whenever I was in the area just to see the gorgeous and ever changing array of songbirds. I didn’t know who made them until today when I found Mullanium.com! Below are just some of the many examples of birds on their website, but because they are decorated and perched on found objects each one is unique.
Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Pier 1 is definitely not somewhere I was expecting to be blogging about, but I found some really charming metal sculptures that were shaped liked bicycles. I took the pictures a few weeks ago so you can probably still find them in stores, and definitely at the Pier 1’s website.
There were also some lovely antiqued clocks that were probably 2 feet in diameter that looked like giant pocket watches, but those pictures were on my mother’s cell phone instead 🙂
Have you ever fun across something that reminds you of Steampunk in an unexpected place?
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I found this awesome figure (garden gnome?) from “a loft full of lead.”
I was visiting a friend over the holidays and told her about this blog and what Steampunk is all about. Her reaction?
“All of that stuff that I really like, it has a name! And that name is Steampunk.”
Welcome to the fold, sister.
She was so inspired after our little chat that she created a beautiful, hand painted decorative plate, which is available for $250. You can reach her through her Lost Bohemian Facebook page.
And in addition to drawing and painting, she is also a world-class crocheter. I found this adorable scarflet for $40 just today on her website. Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
My parents just bought a townhouse so my mom wanted some help shopping and I was happy to oblige. We went to Hom Furniture and I found a surprising amount of decor that could be considered Neo-Victorian or Steampunk. I took some pictures on my phone of my favorite items. This particular Hom store also had a pseudo-balcony that was lined with cupboards that looked like library shelves so it helped at to the Steampunk feeling due to all the books in the interior design.
This table below and the side table set above really caught my eye.
But most of what I found was wall art like the pieces below.
I was doing some Pinterest trawling for inspiration for a Steampunk mask and I ran across a tutorial for a beautiful Venetian-style lace mask at http://www.UrbanThreads.com (pictured above). I don’t have the equipment to machine stitch the lace myself, but I started to poke around the site and found a plethora of hand-stitchable design packs for as little as $4. You can check out the whole sets of hand-stitching designs here and machine-stitching designs here.
There are a variety of tutorials for DIY Steampunk on the site, many of which could be adapted for the non-embroiderer. Here are pics of some of my favorites, but you can find all of their tutorials here.
“Once upon a time scientists and inventors dressed up in outlandishly old-fashioned clothes and employed outlandishly old-fashioned technology in their contraptions. Turns out, what’s old IS new again, as Mo Rocca is about to reveal:
Welcome to the annual Steampunk World’s Fair in Somerset, N.J. – only an hour’s drive from Manhattan, but in spirit over a century removed from the present day.
One attendee said her prominent corset was comfortable: “Oh yes, absolutely. It’s very supportive and it encourages good posture.” Like a sports bra, noted Rocca.
Corsets and goggles and gears, oh my! And weaponry of all shapes and calibers, like the steam-powered ray gun. If you came unarmed, or under-dressed, dozens of vendors fill the fair with suitable steampunk wear.
By now you’re probably wondering, what IS steampunk?…”
Check out the whole 2012 article as well as a great collection of links at :http://www.cbsnews.com/news/steampunk-yesterdays-tomorrow/
They also featured the Steampunk World Fair in the video below.
I have heard some hemming and hawing about the costumes in NBC’s Dracula because they aren’t “period” enough. Personally, I think that is part of what makes it steampunk rather than a period drama and therefore way more interesting. I watched a special about the making of the Tudors and I think the costumers on Dracula are taking the same approach: It’s not about historical accuracy, it is about making the audience look at clothes and get an impression about the person wearing them. For instance, records about the real Anne Boleyn show that she was on the forefront of fashion in her day, but how do you capture that for an audience that doesn’t know the difference between silk and satin?
So the costume designers made a compromise between authenticity and modern designs to appeal to the audience and give the impression of her changing status as her look evolved. The same goes for music in movies like Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby, these aren’t the original songs or even the original genre of music, but the point is to capture the excitement of the time and place and draw the audience into the world of the film.
And the same goes for NBC’s Dracula. The men’s clothing is absolutely gorgeous and connotes the huge wealth that Dracula and the Order Draco control. Except for during the occasional ball, Mina’s clothes are much plainer than Lucy’s, which brings their different social statuses into focus. Here are some costumes and sets for you to drool over.
One place you can always count on for period pieces and beautifully constructed costumes is the Masterpiece Theater on PBS, and The Paradise is no exception. Set in an 1870s shopping Mecca, this series is a veritable parade of inspiration for Steampunk fashion. The hats alone already have my mind whirring! And as the visionary store owner, John Moray says “how can such beautiful women ever have enough beautiful things?”
Before the Victorian era, all clothing was sewed by hand. The industrialization of the garment industry led to a growing collection of “ready-made” dresses, but the upper class ladies were slow to move away from their couture gowns. This is one of the hurtles that the staff of The Paradise must overcome, and fast-thinking shopgirl Denise is able to make the “hard sell” from the very beginning.
“This isn’t a shop. This is a kind of heaven!” cries one of their customers. Keep in mind there was no such thing as Harrod’s or Macy’s in the form we know it today until the 1890s, so the convention of a store that caters specifically to women and their buying power was all but untapped of at this time.
You can see full episodes on PBS’s website by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page for Episode 1.
You have to sign in via Facebook or Google to see this amazing video series by PBS, but then you have access to all 45 windows into the media and how it influences our culture. I also really enjoyed their piece on how fandom and fan fiction are a dialog with society.
I have been a big fan of Modcloth.com for the last year or so and I highly recommend it for women’s clothing.
Today I also found some some adorable home decor using the keyword Steampunk. I may try to make a few of these myself and I’ll post my results if they work.