Steampunk inspiration and resources

Steampunk You Can Wear

Mechanical Menagerie: Dragons

Ever since watching the campy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes I have been thinking about mechanical dragons. I have been sitting on a photo of the new mechanized Malificent-as-a-dragon from Disney’s parade for months, so I went out and scoured the interwebs for some more scaly Steampunk friends to join her. I hope you enjoy the gallery!


Chris Hardwick went Steampunk for Halloween on @Midnight

Chris HardwickAs a person living very far from home at the moment I am so thankful for the internet, and especially networks that post episodes of my favorite shows. It was love at first viewing of the Comedy Central show @Midnight, which is hosted by Chris Hardwick of the Nerdist podcast series. He is fabulously nerdy and a big fan of cosplayers, so it came as no surprise when he dressed up in clever costumes for several episodes of the improv comedy show leading up to Halloween.

In addition to Luke Skywalker Texas Ranger, he also got decked out by Clockwork Couture in a Steampunk Doctor Who ensemble. From a distance, you wouldn’t know he was posing at the Doctor, but as he told the audience, his splendid cravat actually had his name embroidered in Gallfrayan on it. Someone photoshopped Hardwick onto a TARDIS interior and I couldn’t resist posting it.

 


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: Taming Metal Part 4, “Sketch and Etch”

When I was in college I figured out that the most dangerous room on campus wasn’t what you might expect. It was the print-making lab where I spent a goodly portion of freshman year. There were several large and powerful presses that could crush your fingers, a large box full of sawdust soaked in kerosene from cleaning ink off of metal plates, and my personal favorite, a vat of acid for etching copper plates. Thankfully, you don’t have to use something nearly as corrosive and dangerous as acid to do your own etching.

Etched metal is absolutely gorgeous and oh-so-Steampunk. In short, etching is a process where metal is removed chemically or with electricity. The metal is selectively protected by a resistant medium (called the mask or the resist) and the etching occurs on the exposed metal surface.

The oldest method of etching, called intaglio, is the same one I used for print-making. A metal like copper, zinc or steel is covered with a substance that is resistant to the etching solution and the design is incised into the mask with a sharp tool, leaving some of the metal exposed. Then the plate is bathed in a corrosive solution which “bites” into the metal and leaves lines behind. If you are making a print, you rub ink into the lines, wipe off the plate and use a press to transfer the ink to paper. When making jewelry or other accessories the next step is often to treat the metal to give is the right patina or finish, ie color and shine.

To do etching at home, you don’t have to need much in the way of fancy equipment, just some salt water, batteries and some tape. It turns out that the toner used in laserjet printers is a resistant to some corrosive chemicals used in etching, and it is easy to transfer designs that you have scanned into the computer onto your etched thing-to-be as long as you print onto the right kind of paper. So you can draw whatever you want and print it in black and white, and then presto! you get to see it in metal. Sharpie and sticky-backed vinyl can also be used for your mask.

There is an article in the Steampunk Bible about making awesome etched tins, and the author Jake von Slatt has also posted a great page on the Steampunk Workshop website with pictures. You can check out the tutorial here.

I also found a nice youtube instructional video that focuses on jewelry.

Happy etching!

Looking for more ways to tame metal? Check out parts 1, 2 and 3 of the series.


Get Ready to Celebrate Halloween all Month Long with ForWhomTheGearTurns!

model: Candace Miller Photographer: Richard Fournier

model: Candace Miller Photographer: Richard Fournier

That’s right folks, it’s time for a monster mash. One popular way to “punk your steam” is to add elements of the supernatural to the tales from history, offering explanations that incorporate ghouls such as vampires and werewolves rather than what the history books say, as well creating brand new narratives where monsters play a role. Also, the Victorian era saw the birth of Spiritualism, the belief that spirits of the dead could and often did communicate with the living. All Hallows Eve, which has now been shortened to Halloween, celebrates the creepy and costume, and Steampunk seamstresses and seamsters, make-up artists and makers the world over use it as a chance to showcase their talents and share their knowledge.

1872

1872

 

Halloween has always held a special place in my heart, and in fact I launched this blog on October 31, 2013, so October is also my countdown the my first blogging birthday. Join me all month long for reviews of Steampunk movies and books that feature monsters and witches, costume construction tips from the sessions I attended at Weekend at the Asylum, LARP-ing games to give you an excuse to dust off your costume early, and other spooky fun surrounding the history of ghost stories and the practices of Spiritualism.

Do you have a scary or supernatural Steampunk story or photos of your Halloween creations that you would like to see appear on this blog? Send them my way at ForWhomTheGearTurns@Gmail.com. I can’t guarantee that I will post everything I receive, but I would love to get some submissions from readers. Make sure that you include the name you would like your creation attributed to as part of your email.

 

 


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.

 

 


Victoria and Albert Museum Part 2: The Clothes

The primary reason I wanted to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum was because I heard about the amazing displays of fashion through the ages. There is a really great circular gallery with men’s and women’s clothing, and right now there is also an exhibit on wedding dresses, though that has an extra charge where the rest of the museum is free. It would be a great place to do research for costumes, both to get visual inspiration as well as great background info. My best pictures were mostly of dresses, but there are lots of great suits, boots and hats for the menfolk as well.


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.


Don’t Miss Longitude Punk’d at the Royal Observatory

Prime Meridian GlobeThe Royal Observatory is probably best known for being the home of the Prime Meridian, but I went there to check out an amazing Steampunk exhibit dedicated to “the longitude question.” Thousands of seamen lost their lives because they couldn’t be sure where they were when they were in the open ocean, so the British Parliament implemented a competition in 1714 and offered a reward of 20,000 pounds to anyone who could figure out how to calculate longitude when out to sea. Little did the Longitude Board know that it would be 50 years before anyone could find the answer.

The exhibit, Longitude Punk’d, is set up as a series of submissions to this contest and is intermixed with the Observatory’s collection of real and sometimes bizarre submissions. There are many buildings in the Greenwich Observatory complex, and this exhibition takes advantage of the historic Flamsteed House that sits on the grounds. There is normally already a gallery dedicated to longitude in the house, but for now the Steampunks have taken over that gallery as well as several other rooms as well as the courtyard to show their amazing contraptions and costumes.

The Commodor employed kiwi birds to keep him informed about his position.

The Commodor employed kiwi birds to keep him informed about his position.

Throughout the house you can read “The Rime of the Ancient Commodore,” which is a whimsical epic poem about one of the artists’ alter ego and his unique quest for the answer to the longitude question. His theory? Animals know exactly where they are, so if you can learn to talk to animals, all you have to do is ask for directions 🙂 Make sure to take the time to watch the series of short films embedded between display cases to meet the artists and find out the ideas behind their amazing creations.

The exhibit costs 8.50, but you also get admission to the Cutty Sark and the complementary and more serious examination of longitude at the Maritime Museum called Ships, Clocks and Stars any time within a month of your first visit. It will run between now and January 2015, so don’t miss your chance to get punk’d!

But even if you aren’t in town in time for the exhibit, there is a ton to see at the observatory for fans of the Victorian era, and I am going to post soon about their permanent galleries as well so stay tuned.


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?


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!

 


Steampunk “Under the Gunn”

I was only 8 years old when reality TV got its kickstart in the form of MTV’s The Real World in 1992. Since then the genre has given us a variety of ways to put people in a cage and observe their movements, whether they be conniving their way to love or rising above the competition to claim fabulous prizes. I will admit that I followed the love lives of plastic people like Bret Michaels and Tila Tequila with the rest of the sheep (I comforted myself by imagining I was doing an exercise in Anthropology), but for me the reality shows that have always been the best and continue to surprise me are the fashion competitions.

I’ve already shown you what Steampunk treasures guilty pleasure America’s Next Top Model had to offer, and last night Project Runway: Under the Gunn stepped up to the plate with the prompt to create “avant garde looks in the Steampunk aesthetic.” The designers were given $300 to spend on fabric and 30 minutes to dig through gadgets, clocks and other hardware to give their looks some mechanical flair. While a couple designers did struggle with the concept, I was really impressed overall with the extent of their knowledge and clever interpretations.

Click on any photo to open a larger slideshow.

During the show, Lifetime.com invited viewers to “play along” by voting on different questions throughout the episode. The first poll asked if viewers liked Steampunk, and I was delighted to see 76% of people said that they did. Lifetime has the whole episode available here, as well as a great set of photos of each garment with zoom capabilities here.

More photos from Episode 7.

Did you know that Steampunk has found its way onto Project Runway before? Here is a collection from

Michelle Lesniak Franklin, Seaon 11 winner

Michelle Lesniak Franklin, Seaon 11 winner

Michelle Lesniak Franklin, Seaon 11 winner, in the workshop with Tim Gunn

Michelle Lesniak Franklin, Seaon 11 winner, in the workshop with Tim Gunn


Of Coke and Culture Clash

Twit storm

I don’t know if you all caught the Coke commercial during the Superbowl that is that causing such a ridiculous fuss, but the controversy stems from a rendition of America The Beautiful in multiple languages from the mouths of people who were various shades of brown. Apparently there has been a “twit-storm” as I like to say, as people have texted in to Coke to let them know that American songs should be sung in English, because apparently that is our national language or something (it is not). If you would like to alternately point and laugh, then feel enraged, you can read a sampling of the ascerbic word from the interwebs here (most of which have terrible spelling and grammar because they are written by lazy native English speakers).

Most models, steampunk or otherwise, look something like this

Most models, steampunk or otherwise, look something like this

So in the spirit of inclusiveness to counteract the mindless drones I have created a gallery below of Steampunk images that reflect influences from different cultures and often feature non-traditional models. Though some Steampunk purists may feel that something cannot in fact be considered Steampunk without Victorian England as it background, there is a growing movement to include people and settings from around the world. I have a lot more information on this topic as well in my post “How to Punk Your Steam: Make it Multicultural.”

 

Click on any thumbnail for larger images.


Some Steamy Offerings From Lost Bohemian

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.

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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.

Lost Bohemian scarflet Lost Bohemian scarflet


Chappie, It’s Cold Outside!

By Lazy Pirate

I live in the frigid North (ie, Minnesota) and the temperature was -9 yesterday. This made my thoughts turn to warm drinks, roaring fires and cool coats to keep winter at bay. If you are in a cold climate, I hope this gallery of steamy coats and my recipe for a Hot Toddy will warm you right up! This drink dates back from the 1700s and was definitely enjoyed during Victorian times.

Hot Toddy
1 cup hot water
1.5 ounce whiskey or brandy
1 spoonful of honey
cinnamon stick
lemon juice (optional)

Pour hot water into your mug and stir in honey until completely dissolved. Add liquor of choice (using whiskey adds a smokey flavor, brandy is sweeter). Add a squirt of lemon juice if you choose (I am allergic so I never do but that is the normal way to make one) and stir with cinnamon stick.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images.


Be Still My Clockwork Heart

Mo T via FineArtAmerica

For the most part, I find the valentine heart shape to be overused and cliche in the same way putting the word “dream” on everything is super lame. But, I had faith that there were Steampunk artists out there that would give me some interesting, evocative and beautiful heart-themed art and jewelry to enjoy so in honor of the impending feast of St. Valentine I created this gallery of Steampunk hearts. Most of these lovelies are available for purchase. Click on the thumbnails to open a larger gallery or hover over the them to get the artists’ names (most are from Etsy).


Steampunk Sourcebook: Cephlapods

By Nozuma Shibatas

What is it about our many legged friends that makes them a popular trope in Steampunk? 

۞ Monster Cephlapods have been the major focus of several classic works of Science Fiction and Fantasy such as H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the 1830 Tennyson poem The Kraken. There is also a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story called Horror of the Heights that features a flying tentacled monster. In more recent times both the Kraken and Cthulu-like monsters have made appearances in Hollywood blockbusters like Hellboy and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (though you also get a good look at the Kraken after it is death in Pirates of the Caribbean: World’s End).

۞ Their bodies are also reminiscent of complex machines. The long skinny tentacles are like wires or tubes and their movement is powered by water, not unlike steam vehicles. As a bonus their bodies kind of look like they are wearing a helmet and goggles all the time, and if Steampunk had an official symbol I’m pretty sure it would be a pair of goggles (or maybe a gear).

۞ Brian Kesinger, the talented artist behind Otto and Victoria and the book Walking Your Octopus: Your Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephlapod, did an interview for ComicMix.com, and when asked about his choice to draw an octopus as a couture pet he answered:

Kesinger“I find octopuses extremely fun to draw. It is a real challenge inventing eight different things for them to do in every image. They are nature’s original multi-tasker and they certainly have captured the imagination of a lot of people. Along with the squid and other Cephalopods, octopuses seem to be a sort of theme animal for steampunk so when I set forth trying to render an image of a high class Victorian lady and her boutique pet the choice was obvious. What was not obvious was how popular Otto has become since I first drew him a year ago. He has inspired fan art, tattoos and I’ve even seen girls cosplay Victoria and conventions around the country! And for that I am so grateful and it keeps me drawing octopus.”

Cephlapods are fascinating creatures that are about as far away from human as you can get.

۞ I used to work at an aquarium so I got a chance to spend lots of time observing octopus and my personal favorite cuttlefish. These invertebrates can move in three dimensions, jetting around the water column and feeding on smaller animals.

They are also totally visually stunning. Undulating tentacles aside, many of them can change color and shape at will, which makes them masters of disguise. Want to have your mind blown? Check out the PBS documentary below for more information about cuttlefish camouflage.

I’ve collected just a sampling of the Steampunk art featuring our many-legged friends out there on the interwebs. In most cases you can get the artist’s name by simply hovering over each image and you can open a gallery of larger images by clicking on any thumbnail. If you see something that is mislabeled or you know who is behind one of my unlabeled entries please let me know so I can give the artist the credit s/he deserves.

Click on any thumbnail to open the gallery of larger images. 


Steampunk Fashion from Blueberry Hill

I found this nice little online shop called Blueberry Hill today. Most of the inventory is Rockabilly, but they also have a nice selection of full length Steampunk skirts and cool jackets. Check em out below.


Steampunk Stitchery from Urban Threads

Urban thread mask on a modelUrban Thread steampunk lace mask

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.


Beyond Bustles: Daisy Viktoria Designs

Daisy Viktoria thought she was going to be a scientist, but her passion for fashion pulled her away from chemical engineering and into the world of fantasy. Her whimsical designs flirt with fairy tales, Victorian England and the wild west, and she was kind enough to send me photos from her most recent Steampunk-inspired shoot. (Click on the thumbnails for larger images)

I love the gold and black motif in this set of designs, especially the black on black striped shorts. But if bustles and corsets are a little too steamy for your everyday wear, Daisy has many subtly Steampunk designs as well. If Santa leaves some money in my stocking I am definitely going to ‘stock up’ on some of her ready to wear items. (Click on the thumbnails for larger images). You can check out more of her designs and her online store here.


Cog Couture: The Jewelry Designs of Angela Venable

Collar by Angela Venable

The first place I ran across Angela Venable’s work was on YouTube. She has posted a video tutorial about how she creates her Steampunk statement necklaces. I recognized many of the findings and paper from my own sojourns to Michael’s and I think we share a similar aesthetic. I’ll start posting some of my own art soon (the pesky camera is acting up on me) but until then I hope you enjoy this sampling of Angela’s jewelry and paper arts.

You can see more of Angela’s jewelry designs as well as the tutorial I mentioned here.


Steampunk TV: NBC’s Dracula

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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.

Dracula Cast

Dracula Cast

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.


Prada’s Steampunk Fashion for Men

Prada added some Edwardian style to their Fall/Winter 2012 line for men. I think menswear has a lot of potential for subtle Steampunk because suits are always in style, its just the cut and patterns that change. I also noted several very high-necked shirts and collars. Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe headline this shoot along with Garrett Hedlund and Jamie Bell. Check out the gallery of photos from JDFalksen.com.