Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday Joy to You! Music!

We've had to postpone the SW22 interview until next month's edition.  So in its place, we're sharing with you the gift of music for the holiday season!

The Nathaniel Johnstone Band is making their entire catalog available to download for FREE (or donation!) through the end of TODAY. (See the named link for the announcement)

Not only is there a lot of SteamWomen power behind the band (Dogwood on vocals and ukulele, Tempest on percussion and dance, and Alyssa Rosenbloom on lyrics to name a few), their songs feature a lot of introspection into women's issues, history, and twists on myths - such as an airship captained by a young woman in "Flight of the Ikarus", Cassandra gets to tell her side of the story in "Cassandra Knows", Medusa gets her say and revenge in "Stone Woman", a look into a not so innocent and helpless Little Red Ridinghood in "Red" and a celebration of the original Witch in Russian mythos in "Baba Yaga" - and that's just a few!

So go, GET SOME! It ends tonight!

And yes, our next issue will feature Dogwood and her newly released solo project - watch for it in January!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

SW21: Eve of Talismana Designs - Inspiration Junkie

 We are very pleased to present to you Eve of Talismana Designs. She is based out of McMinnville, OR which is West of Portland (of which she notes: "We came for the historic architecture, stayed for the wine...") - and therefore should be a familiar face to West Coast Steampunks (and dancers!), as she's done events from California up to Washington.  To everyone else, you are definitely in for a treat!
How would you define or describe yourself?
Clothing, accessories and jewelry designer for my business Talismana Designs. I love the high of being flooded with inspiration and vision.Lately I've had to take measures to prevent myself from being the Muse's overworked puppet.I'm grateful (and relieved) to have built a lifestyle of travel, art, crafting and design. I love historical fiction and costume dramas, ancient ruins, dancing, old architecture, ambient spaces, brokedown palaces, estate sales, and all the imagined charms of the romanticized past. You know the type.

 How do you define Steampunk?
 I'm frequently groping for a concise definition of Steampunk for people who've never heard of it. “...A subculture based on the science fiction of the Victorian era...with great costumes...” As a clothing designer my entry to Steampunk was through costuming. Steampunk is primarily an aesthetic for me. It's sexy, romantic, and offers grown ups a chance to play. I can't even say I particularly 'like' the Victorian era – it's more that it's somehow an immutable part of me. I need dark velvets, crowded parlors, hour glass figures,
 and detailed architecture. I find it of interest that the first wave of hippies also identified with the Victorian aesthetic. The Granola Goth in me relates to Victorian occultism and their fabulous burial customs. I appreciate the creativity of science within Steampunk, but my personal connection is through the Victorian mystique.

Please describe one of your creative processes...
My travel schedule leaves me only pockets of time in the yearly cycle to get serious about which designs are going to come into being. I sketch ideas as they demand then toss them in a folder. When it's time to get real about the next year's production I leaf through this collection. Some are chosen for practical reasons, some are chosen because they won't stop banging on my mind's eye. I love designing and diagramming on paper but many things require samples sewn at home. It's a rude surprise when I take what I thought was a gift from the Muse and find out while sewing it into a garment that it was more of a practical joke. Things can look so good in my head! I believe the best designs come through a refining process of repeated samples.

Who or what inspires you?
I am an inspiration junkie. It feels so good to be lit up with the possibilities of new ideas and I love that Steampunk offers an outlet for that.

Art museums are a huge source of inspiration for me. And it's great if they include a costume department of course. There's so much beauty in historical clothing, the grace of the seams, the detailed construction, and the flow and drape that we don't use much of today. It is such a pleasure to fall into a state of wonder enjoying the treasures that have survived time.

Ambient spaces are hugely inspiring to me. Walking into an atmospheric space is like entering a romantic alternate reality. What could I wear to play in this charming space? I like creating fusion wear that offers subtle hints of costume while still being compatible with modern living. I want to wear something acceptable for the grocery store while I buy wine and take the subway, then slip into a dream state for an afternoon in Highgate Cemetery. The ideal designs have a chameleon quality that comes to life in ambient space.

The dance floor has always been a great creative channel for me. My best work communicates the visuals of our tribes and subcultures and we tend to come together on the dance floor. Moving the body clears the mind and offers a clean surface for inspiration to land on. I work with trends in my business and trends are a great reflection of the group mind. Staying connected to the tribe I'm designing for is key.

Tell us about one of the projects you're working on...
My favorite current projects are huge and ambitious and only exist in my mind thus far. I will be amazed and grateful if I ever have a chance to network with people and create these mindscapes. I feel it's a gift to be visited by a dream and that it's not always necessary to make it a reality. I dream of creating festival spaces with elaborate permanent architecture and gardens where we can have immersion experiences. I dream of reviving a ghost town populated by artisans crafting with salvaged relics of the past. And most unlikely of all – I dream of a planned neighborhood of Venetian micro-palaces for architecture lovers, set around a central swimming grotto, with a ginormous estate house at one end, divided into apartments and ateliers, with a shared ballroom that serves as a yoga and dance studio between balls.

A project I'm actually working on, in reality – packing my suitcase for a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Finally! See you in Diagon Alley! (SW: We are jealous!)

What advice do you have for young Steampunks? A few things I've noticed about crafting: I have to make a lot of things a lot of times to develop my style. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Thank you Voltaire. Jump in and get your hands dirty. When I feel terrible I can't create, it seems I need a baseline of confidence. But there is a rich sweet spot of vision that comes in the aftermath of trauma. There's an endorphin activated portal of creativity that opens when I start to exit a dark fugue state.

Find out more at:

instagram as Talismana Designs    

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

SW20: Katherine The Great

We are pleased to introduce to you Katherine the Great from Oakland, California, the woman behind Blue Moon Designs and a member of Obtanium Works

How would you describe yourself?
Seamstress, librarian, dancer, maker, wannabe badass. Basically, if it involves costumes and/or dancing, I'm so THERE. After rediscovering the joy of playing dress-up after technically becoming a 'grown up', I haven't looked back.

How did you find Steampunk?
I love telling the story of how I found steampunk, because I think it really captures an important element of how I define steampunk.  In 2006, which was by the way my fourth time attending Burning Man and a time when my Burning Man costumes involved disco sparkles and bright colors, as if in a dream I encountered the Neverwas Haul, a self-propelled Victorian-style house art car.  The house actually drives!  The rumor flying around the playa was that you would not be permitted to ride unless you were wearing the proper attire, and upon hearing that my first thought was "Darn it! No one ever told me to bring my Victorian costumes to Burning Man!"  It wasn't until the following summer that I even heard the word "steampunk," and immediately I thought of that funny little house/train/car.  When I finally found out how to get in touch with the creators of the Neverwas Haul, I sent them probably the most overly-enthusiastic message I've ever written to anyone. They graciously invited me to pay a visit to their workshop in Berkeley, and I've been honored to be a member of the Neverwas crew (whom I now call my "art family") ever since.  A couple of months ago at Burning Man 2015 I was delighted to command our first excursion with an all-female crew (which is no small feat since it takes 10 trained people to safely operate the Haul). 

Please describe for us one of your creative processes.
A really important part of my creative process is collaboration with other creative people. If I have an idea for a project that is beyond my expertise of what I know how to do, I find it so valuable to ask my friends or people in my network how they would do this or that part of it.  A great example of this is The Tea Engine, which is a tea-serving robot that I built (with a lot of help!).  One friend showed me how to solder plumbing parts together for the body, my brother-in-law helped me wire a rotary phone dial to the microcontroller 'brain' of the robot, and my neighbor helped me design the circuit that gets the correct voltage to the various parts.  I find that projects get so much richer when you reach out to others and invite them to collaborate with you.

Where do you find your inspiration?
 The people around me! I'm blessed to have an abundance of creative friends who dream up all kinds of crazy ideas and then are able to manifest them into reality.  In some respects, I think that each of us enables the impossible dreams of the others, since we routinely make amazing impossible ideas happen.

What are you working on now?
I'm currently up to my elbows in creating about a million pocket belts and bustles for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, which is the next event that I'll be vending at (it runs from the weekend before Thanksgiving through the weekend before Christmas).  I also recently helped to create fan-powered moving tentacles for a giant Cthulhu stage prop for the climax of the Obtainium Works production of "The Maltese Cthulhu," a mashup of "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Call of Cthulhu."

What advice do you have for young steampunks?
People who tell you that you're doing it wrong are themselves doing it wrong.  Ask for help and input, you might be surprised at what results.

Find out more at: 
www.blue-moon-designs.com & www.obtainiumworks.net

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

SW19: Hat's off to Deborah Olson - Milliner Extraordinaire!

Welcome to SteamWomen's new format.  We are now publishing on the first and third Tuesday of the month to best accommodate our editing staff's schedules.

We're very pleased to bring you Deborah Olson Milliner Extraordinaire who resides
near La Crosse in Western Wisconsin, also known as the "Driftless Zone."

How would you define or describe yourself?
I have always been a Victorian at heart living in a modern world.

How did you find Steampunk -OR- how do you define it?
A professional milliner by trade since my youngest son was born, I had been creating hats for the reenactment community for over ten years when I was approached by someone who asked me if I did "Steampunk". Not knowing what she meant, I did ask her to tell me what she wanted and I could make it. When I got back home, I asked my sister-in-law if she knew what "Steampunk" was and she introduced me to a very talented young woman, Stephanie Schultz (Silversark) who designed Steampunk / Lolita dresses. Our personalities just clicked and we started working together. The results have been spectacular, we have been published in several alternative fashion magazines as far away as Japan.

Describe one of your creative processesI do repurpose a lot and sometimes a detail piece will start the creative process. Or the catalyst could be a design element in a garment that the whole hat is built around. A signature hat design of mine is called the "Cage-Crin" topper. It started as a idea to make the exposed cage skirt Silversark was making and I wanted to make a hat to compliment it. I reamed about dimensions and materials for a couple of weeks and suddenly knew how it was going to go together. I woke up, drew a sketch and went back to sleep. The next day, I started. The first one hit the garbage (yes, it was really bad!) but the second turned out just like the sketch. I have since done the hat in a number of fabrics and in metal as well. The name comes from the "cage-crinolines" worn by the ladies of the Civil War era, exposed concentric steel hoops suspended on cotton twill tape worn under the full skirts to give them a bell shape.

Who or what inspires you?:
Vintage photographs from the Victorian age, and actual vintage pieces for start. High fashion photographs, designers' concepts, sometimes from what is in the entertainment world. My dear friend, Stephanie Schultz, designer of Silversark and my sister-in-law, Joan Junghans, designer MusesJewelry. I am indebted to God for giving me an "eye" to find beauty and function in discarded items and give them new life for others to appreciate and enjoy.

Tell us about one of the projects you're working on (or just finished)
I just finished a first for me, a 1920's (Miss Fisher) inspired brimmed cloche for a client. Coming up, I am making new hats for the my biggest Steampunk convention, TeslaCon in Madison, WI. This will be my fifth year as a vendor with Lord Bobbins and company.

What advice do you have for young Steampunks?
Follow your dreams and don't be discouraged if the end result isn't exactly how you imagined it. Hard work and perseverance can't be discounted...to become who you want to be is worth every ounce of "sweat equity."

Check out Deborah's fabulous work: 

Monday, September 14, 2015

SW18: DragonCon RoundTable Recap

Photo by Nicole Nikolai Attercop
Hello everyone!  It's been very busy behind the scenes here at SteamWomen, with much of our staff traveling.  We're hoping to settle back into our regular publishing schedule as Fall sets in.  If you're a maker who identifies as female - and would like to be interviewed/featured, please fill out this form, and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Over Labor Day Weekend, we were at DragonCon, where we held a SteamWomen Roundtable as part of the Alternate Histories Track.  Much thanks to Doctor Q, aka Enrique Velazquez for including us in the schedule!

For our panel we had Emmett Davenport, Samantha Stephenson, Talloolah Love, Tempest (as moderator), and alas our fifth panelist Sarah Shown was delayed en route and was unable to join us.

Each of the panelists introduced themselves, Tempest described the founding and mission of SteamWomen, we discussed various issues, and experiences in the Steampunk community, and took questions from the audience - which involved a pretty full room - so thank you all who attended!

Individual highlights:
-Emmett talked about the Clockwork Cabaret Podcast, and experiences of being a businesswomen running a Steampunk-themed cafe in a small North Carolina town.
-Samantha discussed being one of the lone women majors in her college Sculpture department and the importance of learning/discovering how to make and do things.
-Talloolah talked about producing burlesque shows, crafting community, and what she finds empowering in the performance process.

Particularly interesting questions posed:
-Do we find the Steampunk community more welcoming to women than other more "classic" genres found at DragonCon?  It was generally agreed that Steampunks are very open and accepting of a whole wide array of folks, which is part of what makes it awesome.  The fact that it's a bit newer on the scene (then say traditional Sci-Fi genres) was also believed to help boost that effect. There was also a subsequent discussion about the amount of female authors producing Steampunk Fiction - particularly Erotica, and consideration for why that may be so.

-What did we suggest for starting community/gatherings/finding more Steampunks?  We offered some resources to check out online (checking your area for facebook groups/events, looking at networking sites like meetup.com), looking for local gaming nights at cafes and restaurants, and other similar genres/gatherings.  Steampunks tend to be involved in other marginal/sub-sculture groups (SCA, Renfaires, Bellydance, Goth, Gaming, etc), and where there's smoke, there's steam! A sampling from the panel and around the room pretty much confirmed that no matter where you are, there are probably some steampunks in the mix.

-What were our thoughts on Steampunk models? It was pretty clear across the board that doing what you love, getting paid a fair wage for it, and making sure you get proper credit for you work is paramount, regardless of what it is you do.  We do find it disconcerting when women in Steampunk are reduced to objects/things, rather than being seen as people - and the same goes for guys as well. Or when imagery feeds into some false stereotype that all Steampunk women look and dress a certain way. Photography should involve proper credit to the model, the photographer, and designer of what is being modeled.  If a fantasy is being sold, then it's important that credit/identity are still attached to that fantasy, noting that the model has agency in his or her work. Again, it's a major part of our mission to show that diversity of talent and identity that can be found in Steampunk, and to particularly offer positive and inspiring examples to the younger generation.  That not only can you look "cool" but you can learn to do and create amazing things as well.

Stay tuned for more panels in the future!

Monday, August 17, 2015

SW17: The Woman Behind the Voice: Emmett Davenport

This week we are thrilled to feature a familiar voice to many folks - Emmett Davenport who hails from Pittsboro, North Carolina. I know for me personally, Clockwork Cabaret was the way I learned about so many Steampunk-friendly bands and events back in the day, and always so entertaining and well-produced!  If you don't already listen to the CC, you need to! (Just our gentle suggestion)

How would you define or describe yourself? 
DJ, drinker, bad puppeteer, steampunk ragamuffin/superhero with a light sprinkling of drag queen, overgrown wayward orphan, and future wicked witch. 

How did you find Steampunk -OR- how do you define it? 

I came across it in my work as a DJ. Vernian Process sent me a demo CD in 2005, and labeled his all instrumental music at the time "steampunk." He was the only act I knew of doing so. I tried looking it up, but could only find information on the writing style. But, I really liked it so I was intrigued. Since I was a DJ, I approached from a musical perspective first. When we first started doing the Clockwork Cabaret, it wasn't defined as a genre at all. We were making it up as we went along, which was great, because was a way of incorporating a huge chunk of my music that didn't fit within goth or punk. 

As a subculture, I loved how it incorporated so many of my interests, and allowed me a playfulness and a freedom of expression I wasn't getting from goth anymore. Plus, I was able to reuse all my fabulous Victorian outfits, and baby, I look great in a bustle.

Describe one of your creative processes.
Like all great things, it starts with a glass of gin. It gets a little hazy after that.

Who or what inspires you? 
I've always found spite to be a great motivator. I've thought about quitting the Clockwork Cabaret several times, especially after I lost two of my co-hosts, but there wasn't another funny, music based steampunk program out there. I don't care for my steampunkery to be too serious, or too sternly defined. We aren't re-enactors; we don't have a Very Strict Set of Rules that we have to follow. There's a basic premise: the 1800s, and you can build your own world from there.

Tell us about one of the projects you're working on (or just finished)
We're in the midst of filming Lushington's Lounge, a Victorian cocktail drinking show with puppets. It's wonderful and terrible all at once, as most Victorian era drinks are disgusting. Lady Attercop and I be returning to Dragon*Con this year to DJ the Mechanical Masquerade with DJ Doctor Q, as That Darling DJ Duo, and I'll be handling the music for the Saturday night Burlesque Show. I may be on a few panels as well. If not, stop me in in a hallway, and ask my opinion on something. I'll be happy to give it to you. D*Con is always a blast, but right now, all I can concentrate on is how much we still have to pack. (Oh God! I'm not packed AT ALL!) The Clockwork Cabaret, is ongoing, as always. January marks its 8th year on air, and there's no stopping us now! Especially since the Clockwork Cabaret has picked up for syndication by a startup neo-Vintage internet radio station called Soiree Radio.

What advice do you have for young Steampunks? 
Just because there's a gear on it, doesn't make it steampunk. A hat will always tie a good outfit together. Don't buy anything off the back of a truck. And most importantly, no one can tell you how to play make-believe. Except me: buy a t-shirt.

Monday, August 10, 2015

SW16: Lisa Vaca and the Art of Organizing

Often when folks think of "makers" they think about creating physical objects of some sort - an article of clothing, a machine or gadget, music, artwork, etc.  But we at SteamWomen believe that someone who organizes events and builds community is also a Maker. In a way, they also take raw materials and make something amazing from them.  Lisa Vaca (aka Lady Amethyst) of San Diego, California is one of those amazing Makers. We are very pleased to feature her this week!

 How would you define or describe yourself?

'Tis a bit funny that in real life when I am asked this question (and due to the nature of my profession, I am asked very often) I now always start off with, "I'm a steampunk..." which usually gets people curious.  Anytime I was in an interview or one of those meetings with an ice-breaker or a get-to-know-your-team session, I found it tedious that I'd always go straight to the same old boring answers.  Inevitably, someone would say, "So, tell me about yourself..."  Before steampunk, I'd have answered the typical, "I'm an executive assistant, a people-person, good at organizing events, enjoy waltzing, and my Meyer-Briggs personality type is ENTJ."  Now that I have this wonderfully weird alter ego, however, I just start off with, "I'm a steampunk, a vintage-dancer, and I enjoy dressing in clothing and accessories from other eras while I plan time-travel field trips for creatives and other like-minded steampunks," or something similar to that.

How did you find Steampunk?
As a birthday gift for my husband one year, I wanted to take him somewhere unusual.  In a comic book store in San Diego, in 2011, I happened across a flyer for an event that was happening on his actual birthday that January.  The event was called "Steampunk Symposium" aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.  I signed us up and booked our room.  Not knowing what the word "steampunk" meant, I started my research and soon discovered that this steampunk thing involved the gadgets and music and literature and tea and alternate-history that I knew Jeff really loved, but I never knew the name for it.  Now, I was really excited, but I realized that I'd need to prepare more than just Southern California vacation clothes.  I also knew that Jeff would want to be prepared for an adventure of this caliber, so I spoiled the surprise and told him all about it a few months ahead of time.  He was thrilled!  We purchased some basic outfits and hats, practiced our dancing, and started watching steampunk genre movies and downloading the music of Abney Park, Unextraordinary Gentlemen, Vernian Process and more.  The weekend of the event we met and became friends with the wonderful people who ran Clockwork Alchemy and other wonderful people who ran Steamcon.  We soon purchased tickets to all their conventions as well as Gaslight Gathering, the one here in San Diego, and we have been "hooked on steampunk" ever since.  

What inspires you?  And what is your creative process?
I'm minimally crafty and can barely sew, therefore I don't really consider myself a "maker" in the steampunk sense of the word.  My primary "creations" are events, and I am inspired by historical places and beautiful scenes.  As every steampunk convention organizer or event planner knows, something that helps create a memorable steampunk event is location, location, location!  San Diego is full of steampunk locations.  I was born here and have seen it grow and go through many changes but I am happy to say that much of the history of my beautiful city has been preserved.  Because of our year-round mild-weather, and this area's abundant Victorian architecture as well as it's Western- and Mexican-heritage, plus our proximity to the resources of Hollywood and the fact that San Diego is the home of Comic Con, this place is what I call "ambiente perfecto" (the perfect environment) for steampunk!  There are literally hundreds of San Diego places that steampunks can go anytime of year and fit right in.  You can see a portion of the list of locations on my website and I also share about it in my Steampunk 101 class/panel.  As a consideration for out-of-towners, when I present Steampunk 101 at out of town events, I show people how to look around their own cities and develop their own list of "local steampunk places" where they can hold steampunk events.  Yes, I do also offer a class on Event Planning but I realize that the actual event planning process is simply a boring step-by-step list for most other people.  I happen to love it, though.  It's exciting to me!  Even at my "real life" job, organizing an event (whether a one-day workshop or a week-end conference) is, for me, like a puzzle which begs to be solved.  Actually, it is more like a puzzle in which some of the pieces must be invisible and others are missing and a few are bent or broken, but I know that once the puzzle is put together, everyone will benefit.  The finished project is a like a work of art to me, from the first scribbled-out handbills to the snapshots shared at the end, the entire project is one that I have enjoyed creating and love sharing with others.   

Tell us about some of the projects you're working on...
- Member of the Board of Directors for Grand Pacific Steam, a non-profit organization and steampunk fair in Vista, CA.
- Committee Member of Gaslight Gathering, the annual steampunk/Victoriana convention in San Diego, CA.
- Serves as "Dean of Steam," programming the track of steampunk panels and classes at ConDor, San Diego's longest-running sci-fi convention.
- Created San Diego Steampunk, a group of over 100 steampunks, and manages the website, the meet-up, and several of their annual activities.
- Active member and volunteer with San Diego Costume Guild, representing their steampunk department.
- Member of Lady Mari's Costume Walkabout, participating in Victoriana, Edwardian and Steampunk walks.

What advice do you have for young Steampunks?
Like so many of the other wonderful Steam Women you've interviewed here, I also encourage those just beginning to take an interested in steampunk to avoid naysayers and rule-makers and costume-police, but I would also encourage them to avoid becoming those things.  Steampunk is wonderfully diverse.  It covers a wide range of eras, includes all ages, all cultures and all genders.  Don't be afraid to develop your own interpretation of it and to let others develop theirs.  Almost all steampunks that you meet are going to be supportive and encouraging.  By this I mean that you will likely never go to a steampunk convention where others look down their noses at your attire and tell you that what you are wearing is not period correct or that your accessories are not functional or, gawd forbid, that you are not steampunk (or not steampunk enough).  True that not everything in the world is steampunk.  I understand that.  But in a  steampunk community no one should point a finger at another person and say that.  That's just rude, dude!  No one, when they are dressed in an outfit they put together needs to hear, "Hey, that's not steampunk!"  Instead, you could wait until they ask your opinion, IF they ask it.  The essence of what makes steampunk unique is based in kindness and manners and polite (although sometimes tongue-in-cheek) society.  Steampunk graciously allows for the creativity of others without making anyone feel like they don't belong.  In my circle of steampunk friends we have a saying, "It's not steampunk to say, 'That's not steampunk!'"  And we always explain that the emphasis is on the word "say" meaning that even if we don't consider someone's outfit to be steampunk, we keep it to ourselves and don't say it.  Bambi's mother would approve.

More About Lisa:
Lisa is married to Jeffrey Vaca, a costumer and well-known steampunk-maker, himself.  They have two teenagers, Hannah and Nathan, who occasionally dabble in steampunk and other nerdy genres with their parents.  Their steampunk-decorated home in San Diego is dubbed "The Chronoseum" and is a popular venue for small steampunk events.  Two "steampups" also live at the Chronoseum: pugs, Samson and Jasper, along with other interesting creatures kept in jars of resin or otherwise preserved.   

Along with her husband, Lisa supports and/or attends six to eight annual steampunk conventions all over the south-west and the west-coast, sometimes encouraging 30 or 40 local San Diego steampunks to "road-trip" with them to conventions as far away as Las Vegas and Tucson.  A former home-school teacher, Lisa teaches steampunk classes, including Steampunk-101 (as a presentation, a panel, or a round-table chat) and also teaches steampunk craft classes for children.  She offers these freely at her home, at elementary schools, and at steampunk conventions and one-day events around the south-west.

In real life, she works as an executive secretary and a CAP (Certified Administrative Professional) in the fields of education and charitable service.  Her current employer, one of America's largest non-profit organizations, has her running company events and programming small-scale trade-shows and conferences.

Find out more at: 

Monday, August 3, 2015

SW15: Introducing Lady Elstwhen and Her Krakens!

We first met Lady Elstwhen (aka Stevie Pagano) at Steamposium in Seattle last year, and got to know her and her fabulous work more recently at GearCon in Portland, OR.

How would you define yourself?

A maker, an animal advocate and environmentalist, a transplant. 
Even as a child I was a tinker, getting into my father’s tools and deconstructing things, making concoctions of household products and carving soap bars into cars and critters. In the early 90`s, that creative energy led me to my first job as a production artist in Los Angeles, where I was privileged to work with some of the most creative and talented artists in the industry. By the late 90`s, there was less of a demand for physical art production, so I moved to Oregon to work for studios in Portland doing 'physical' animation, props and characters. Falling in love with the pacific NW was inevitable, I have been here ever since. In 2009 I started Elstwhen, and began working on my own designs. 

How did you find Steampunk?   
Recently! Last year a friend introduced me the world of Steampunk at GearCon 2014.  Before that I had been a resident of the Kingdom of Caid, and a Renaissance and Pirate wench. Although new to Steampunk, it to feels like home. Let’s start with elegant and detailed forms of dress, a costumers paradise, even the mundane dress as noble, there are amazing outfits to be found in all cos play genre, but none do "Best Dressed" like Steampunk! Then there is Chivalry, A fine concept, one sorely lacking in today's society.  Eloquence of speech, is another welcome attribute, it’s not just the clothing one wears as much as it is a manifestation of you at your best. Being in an environment full of people so endeavored is inspiring.   

Please describe one of your creative processes.
It’s not pretty,... There are project bins all over, paints, sculpting materials, fabric, leather, crystals and gemstones, driftwood and copious amounts of glass-wares. To add to that, there is always a a table full of Krakens, in various stages of production (they take about 2 weeks to complete).   When I sit down at my station to work, its either totally quiet or I`ll play tracks with no vocals, sometimes an ocean documentary in the background with the sound off, and google earth up for quick reference. Their story's often come to me while sculpting.   

Please share with us some of your inspirations...
If I haven't dated myself already,. Jules Vern, Robert Graves Jacques Cousteau were my earliest influences as well as old maps with illustrations of sea monsters. This love of history, exploration, mythology and cartography, still shows in my work today. 

Since then, I have been inspired by another hero of exploration, Dr. Sylvia Earle,
 marine biologist & explorer. Queen Victoria would have liked her, she has boldly gone where few men have dared, and I do mean boldly! If you don't know of her, look her up. Aside from persons of inspiration, a few hours collecting driftwood, watching eagles fish and picking wild flowers usually does it for me.

What project/s are you currently working on?
So many projects,...The most ongoing at the moment would be "The Krakens of Elstwhen" Book - a work in progress. Surprisingly little has been written on the subject of Kraken, Hollywood tickled the legend in a  few sparse spots,.. and as for a Norse mythos, they don't say much about it. I have decided to remedy that situation and expand upon the Lore of the Kraken. The tale of their origin, biology, species identification and behaviors, including stories of their captures and close call encounters along with plenty of full page photos. I have VI ready and am working on VII this year.

Do you have any advice for young steampunks?
Steampunk is so much more than just a look, albeit a great one. It is an elevated and refined state of being.  Have fun, express yourself, honor the community and look good doing it.

At GearCon with Elstwhen's fabulous booth folks
Anything you'd like to add?
A BIG Thank You! to Steve and Geahk from GearCon 2014/15 for introducing me to the awesome world of Steampunk.  Another Thank You! to The Emerald Lady and Zeon Kitty from Steamposium 2014/15, for having Elstwhen at the shows. Last but certainly not least, Thank You! to all of you fellow artists and makers, You all rock! I look forward catching up with you soon. I am so grateful for your warm welcome and help navigating these new waters /air space? 

Elstwhen supports the "Art in Schools" programs and The Seattle Aquarium`s` Annual Splash event.

Find out More at: 

Monday, June 15, 2015

SW14: Dr. Brassy Steamington: Goofball-Genius-Goddess!

We are pleased to bring you an interview with a familiar face in the West Coast Convention scene (and soon the world!): Dr. Brassy Steamington.  She lives in the "Goldilocks Zone" of Coastal California with her Maker Partner, Aether and three egregiously spoiled cats.

How would you define/describe yourself?
Goofball-Genius-Goddess? I don't know. I do know that I am the hardest working female Maker in the business. Heck, forget that. I work harder than most of the guys too. I don't do it better than anyone, I just have gotten really good at taking my mistakes and making magic out of them. 

How did you find steampunk?
I began makering in the Steampunk style before it was called Steampunk. Way back in 1986 before most people had gotten their first whiff of the movement....I was making Steam-worthy jewelry and boots. I consider Steampunk to be an Aesthetic, a Genre and for me, a Lifestyle. I live in a Steampunk house, married to a Steampunk man with a Steampunk cat (chopped off his own tail with a marble and wood, mantle clock). 

Describe one of your creative processes.
I work two ways. One is to take a shit-load of pieces, set them atop my work table and look at them till something gels or I lose my mind (or both). The second is to see something in a book, at a Museum, or on a person and then get an idea from that. I rush home and maker something with the essence of the original, or nod to, but all Dr. Brassyfied. 

Who or what inspires you?
The whole dang Steampunk Community inspires me with it's love and support. I could not surround myself with better quality people if I tried.
Now for individual Makers....Jimmy DiResta is a huge inspiration and I better be careful as I keep mentioning him. He has a long-time girlfriend who might think I am a stalker. To that I say, it's a professional love thing, dear future Mrs. DiResta. You are completely safe.
I tend to be inspired by people who are not only talented, but who are also just great people. I'm not keen on worshipping douchebags who happen to make great steam-stuff.
Someone else I love is Michelle H. Murray from SteelHip Designs. She has also been doing Steampunk Art since Eve was a baby. I love that I can see her Art and know in a nano second that it's hers. No one does what she does with brass hearts.

What projects are you working on right now?
1,000 projects at once it seems. I just finished a power-wheelchair mod that is divine and super functional. I am also working on a Steampunk HarleyQuinn Mallot for a  friend, a horned tiara for a model-friend in Germany, 3D printed articulated Steam-Wings and about 200 other things at the same time. The nice folks *Cough-Sarcasm* from Hollywood have been scouting me for various TV Shows. So I might be doing that if they behave and treat me like a human-being. We shall see.

What advice do you have for young steampunks?
Do your own thing. Don't do someone else's thing. Find what you love and what you are good at, then make a home there. Not actually move. Make a home there with your heart. Immerse yourself in the people, the culture, the music and the community. Only then will you find true success and joy in what you do. P.S. Just because something has an eye on it, it does not make it Steampunk.

Check out more of Brassy's work at the links below:

Monday, June 8, 2015

SW13: SteamWomen at Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose

Photo by Kim Truett, featuring from left to right: Dr. Brassy, Tempest, Frenchy, and Dogwood. 
SteamWomen doesn't only exist in the aetherworld of the internet - we also seek to make an impact in the "real" world too. One way of accomplishing this feat is offering discussion panels at Steampunk conventions.  So we were thrilled that Alyssa Rosenbloom (who we will be featuring in a future interview!) was able to schedule a round-table opportunity at Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA over Memorial Day Weekend.

Clockwork Alchemy is a delightfully well-organized, mid-size event that takes place as part of the much larger Fanime convention. The staff, volunteers, and attendees have worked really hard to grow this event logically and with style.  It is self-contained within the Double Tree Hotel, utilizing nearly all of the available event spaces for a wide variety of events, including three nights of live music/dancing, large room for activities ("the war room"), multicultural performances (including a bellydance stage), author panels/row, dozens of workshops, a full-service tea room, large vendor room, and much more.

The SteamWomen RoundTable kicked off the event on Friday at noon - lead by SW Editor-in-Chief Tempest, and featuring upcoming interviewees Dr. Brassy Steamington and Dogwood - and familiar face and previous SW featured artist Samantha "Frenchy" Stephenson. Despite being one of the first events, the attendance was decent and the discussion in-depth.

Each of the panelists introduced themselves, Tempest highlighted the history and intent of SteamWomen, and then the group discussed perceptions and issues that women in the Steampunk community currently face - and what we are creating as a legacy for future generations. One important point that was made was that even though Steampunk is considered fringe/subculture - we have seen plenty of evidence that the microcosm can indeed affect the macrocosm. If we establish new ways of thinking, new lines of respect, new models for the next generation, we CAN bring about positive change and awareness for everyone.

Tempest also took part in Teri Lenfest's (featured in our SW2 issue) "How Do You Define A Goddess?" panel on Sunday afternoon - and found similar crossover topics that related back to the SteamWomen discussion.  In particular, when we look at the changing roles and identities of goddesses throughout time and various cultures, we also see an impact on how women have been and are treated as well.

Hopefully in the future we'll be filming these sessions and posting them as well so everyone can enjoy them. The next scheduled SteamWomen panel will take place at GEAR Con in Portland, Ore., July 3rd-5th!   Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the exact time/day/location!

Monday, June 1, 2015

SW 12: Michelle Greenwood and the Art of Pyrography

Michelle Greenwood
Michelle Greenwood is an artist and vendor from Red Lion, Pa., who curently specializes in pyrography, the Victorian art of woodburning objects with designs. As she puts it, "My education is in Japanese and Creative Writing, but art always has been, and probably always will be, my passion. I also dabble in costuming, pen and ink, and embroidery, but I like pyrography the best. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally considered “pyrographic art,” using the medium to render themes that are unusual for the artform, and constantly testing and improving my skills and techniques. Also, fire." Her works can be found at events such as Wicked Faire, Steampunk World's Fair, and her site, Greenwood Creations.

Decorative mask plaque

How would you define/describe yourself?

Professionally, I’d describe myself as an “artist who focuses on pyrography, but occasionally dabbles in other media.”  I like to play and experiment with art, and right now pyrography is what primarily enchants me. It’s such an under-utilized medium!

How I would describe myself personally is another matter, of course. I’d say, privately, I’m a “work in progress.” I want to live a life that fits my principles, and that takes a lot of reimagining, relearning, and  self-reflection. All of which, being an impulsive and emotional artsy type, I’m pretty terrible at. So, yes, “work in progress” is a good description!

How did you find Steampunk?

In 1998-99, I saw the trailer for "Wild Wild West."

That movie took my love of sci-fi, history, Victoriana and the macabre, and smashed it all together in a  glorious, irreverent, mad-science way. It was instant infatuation. Now, I know it’s popular right now to say that movie was horrible, and I can respect that opinion… but I am not ashamed to admit that I still love it. It’s so visually thrilling!


Describe one of your creative processes.

My work always starts with three things: A piece of wood, a No. 2 pencil, and a theme. The theme is usually provided by an upcoming show, such as Steampunk World’s Fair, and it’s only one or two words or simple concepts: “Absent-minded inventor,” or “Floral clockwork.” From there, it’s just a matter of doodling—playing around—until a solid idea starts to take shape.

If I go into the studio with too rigid a mindset, I find that I get burned out very quickly. In the initial stages, especially, I try to keep things loose and experimental. There’s tons of doodling directly onto the wood before a piece is finished.


Crunch time in the studio!
Who or what inspires you?

This is a tough one to put into words. Human interaction with our planet throughout history? A coming together of the natural world, scientific exploration and discovery, and ideas of our past and our future?  “Exploring the intersection of History, Nature, and Human Imagination…” ?

I think that’s all accurate… but it’s sort of high-flown and hippy-dippy. Really, I’m just a big cultural history and science nerd, and find a smorgasbord of inspiration there!

What projects are you working on right now?

In addition to a rather daunting custom order list, I’m playing with a series of “mask” portraits, a few airships that are based on eras in British history, and some cigar boxes decorated with literary characters I love. Later this summer, I hope to start working on a set of fan-art panels (NeoVictorian Jem and the Holograms is first on my list!). In the fall, I plan to start two larger gothic panels; one based on Dante’s Inferno with a Danse Macabre feel, and one honoring The MorrĂ­gan.


Vending at Steampunk World's Fair.
What advice do you have for young steampunks?

Broaden your horizons, younglings! The world is vast and diverse and we here in the U.S. are only exposed to a tiny, biased slice of all of the glorious realities and perspectives that are out there!

Remember the “punk” part of Steampunk. Challenge accepted standards. Question “authority.” Don’t conform. Ask the hard questions, and demand complete answers. Stay informed. 

But always balance that with compassion and respect and dapper dress.

Also, read up on world culture and world history, because I guarantee you, you’ll find people and events in history that will make sci-fi and superheroes pale and lifeless in comparison.

Monday, May 25, 2015

SW 11: DJ Dirty Mollie and Running the Musical Circus

DJ Dirty Mollie and Professor Elemental
By Julie McGowan

DJ Dirty Mollie is a woman of Steampunk living in Portland, Oregon. She has historically DJ’d for local conventions including GEAR Con and the sci-fi focused OryCon in her Steampunk persona, as well as having run the steampunk Whitechapel Circus Radio Show, among others, through KPSU. To find out more about Mollie and stay updated on her projects, you can visit her DJ Dirty Mollie Facebook page or the page for the Whitechapel Circus Radio Show, or find her at GEAR Con this year!

How would you define or describe yourself/your character?

DJ Dirty Mollie is a tomboy Steampunk mechanic who ran away from home to get away from Victorian England's social stratification and arranged marriages to do her own thing and follow her heart and dreams. She loves machinery and tinkering and engineering and trains and airships and music. After many misadventures she somehow managed to land a job tending Dr. Liam O'Malley's Whitechapel Circus, aka the Whitechapel Circus Radio Show, and the rest, as they say, is history.

How did you find Steampunk and how do you define it?

On a subconscious level, I knew I loved Steampunk without knowing what it was from the moment I first saw Disney's "20,000 Leagues" when I was about 10 or so; but I didn't really find "Steampunk" as a subculture until I came across the very first run of "Girl Genius" by Phil & Kaja Foglio in my local comic shop when they were still doing the original monthly issues, and I started reading around issue 8 or 9, and I realized that "gaslamp fantasy" was finally going to become a larger, sustained subculture and genre. That was back around 2004 or 2005 I think? And I've been into Steampunk (in essentially its current form) ever since. To me, Steampunk is easy to define and hard to define at the same time; it's an aesthetic, with Victorian stylings and scientific ideals merged with contemporary social mores and norms, reimagining a lot of "what if?" ideas. I don't feel there's any specific "right" or "wrong" way to be a steampunk, because there's so many facets and areas to enjoy, whether it's making stuff, the science, a love of Tesla, the fashions and costuming, role playing, the music, or anything else that makes up the stuff Steampunks like and do.

Describe one of your creative processes in what you do.

Putting together an episode of Whitechapel Circus takes about 8-10 hours of prep time per show or more. When I'm doing the show, I have to be constantly looking for new music because I don't want to keep playing the same songs over and over again, even though many songs are considered "staples" of Steampunk music or favorites that we love to hear. I spent a lot of time in Steampunk communities, listening to other shows and DJs, reading music blogs, reviewing and listening to new CDs sent to me by bands and artists or CDs sent to the radio station, trying to find hidden gems masquerading as "folk" or "bluegrass" or "country," hopping all over Spotify from artist to artist, using "sounds like" recommendations to find similar artists, and then compiling all of that music into a collection, listening and reviewing it, deciding what I like and what sounds good or sounds Steampunk to me, what I think my audience would enjoy, and then putting together a two hour playlist of music for a single show. There is a lot of work, editing, listening, culling, and mixing efforts that goes into a single episode of the Whitechapel Circus.

Who or what inspires you?

The original inspiration for the Whitechapel Circus came from Emmett and Klaude Davenport—the original Davenport Sisters who started the Clockwork Cabaret. I would listen to their show, which introduced me to so much new music, and I'd hear how they had Clockwork Balls and Steampunk events, and I was jealous that I couldn't attend anything. At the time, I was living in Northern Illinois and Clockwork Cabaret was broadcasting from North Carolina. After I moved to Portland and saw that there was already a very large Steampunk community here, I decided that I would do something along those lines because nobody else was, and thus, Whitechapel Circus was born. Captain Robert and Abney Park was a very big influence as well, because a lot of the messages in Abney Park's songs spoke to me following my own dreams and taking the chance to do something I loved that made me happy instead of doing things that I hated for money. I'm inspired by a lot of people, and I feel like so many other people are doing so much more awesome things than I am, that I couldn't name all of them here. Every person I've met in the community though has inspired me though in some shape or form, and I appreciate all the friends and family I've made as a Steampunk.

Tell us about one of the projects you're working on (or just finished).

Most of my projects have been on hiatus for the last year or so due to real life concerns. However, before my hiatus, I was hosting the Whitechapel Circus, the KPSU Night Shift (a goth/industrial radio show) Air Raid Radio (a post-apocalyptic radio show) and occasionally, Wherehouse Radio (an urban folk show). Most recently, I've been working to try to put together a post-apocalyptic outdoor festival somewhere around Portland because I feel a lot of cross-popularity between Steampunk and post-apocalyptica as subcultures, and p-a is very big right now with not a lot being done for it. However, I'm also hoping to bring back Whitechapel Circus in some form sometime later this year. Of course, there's also Portland GEARCon that I work with as well; and I will be working with GEARCon this year as Operations staff as well as DJing Vanity Thorne's Vaudeville Vixens burlesque performance there on Sunday evening.

What advice do you have for young/new Steampunks?

Find what you like and do it! Don't let someone tell you "That's not Steampunk" or "That's not authentic" or "You're doing it wrong." Steampunk started out as a literary genre, it's all fictional, speculative, and supposed to be fun. Sure, there might be some general guidelines most steampunks follow, but if we're all playing a big game of "what if?" together, than your "What if?" is just as valid as someone else's "What if."

Tell us about a project you'd love to start!

I'd love to film a Steampunk movie or web series. In the "real world," my educational background is in film production, but between real world time, creativity, and budget constraints, the opportunities to begin such a project just haven't quite materialized yet.

Talk about what you like about your involvement in the Portland Steampunk community/the Steampunk community at large.
The people I've met, and the activities I've participated in! I've gotten to meet and hang out with Abney Park, Aurelio Voltaire, numerous local artists like Vagabond Opera, the Wanderlust Circus, Three for Silver, Professor Elemental, Sir Poplock Holmes, Lord Montague J Fromage III (aka SteampunkFUNK Bizarre), being on "Grimm," getting auctioned off for a date at GEARCon (and getting 'bought' by Captain Robert for a brunch date,) going to concerts, conventions, riding on steam trains, and just generally enjoying fun times with great people!

Last but not least...

DJ Dirty Mollie will return to the airwaves and interwebs sometime this year! Promise!