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Posts Tagged ‘Maker Faire’

A couple of weeks ago I got a very nice email from a journalist called Sarah, who was in the process of researching and writing an article on steampunk for a new craft-related magazine. She was particularly interested in talking to UK-based steampunk makers / enthusiasts and had come across my stuff on the web,.

Following a telephone interview (during which I wittered on far too much, I fear!) she’s been beavering away and has just sent me an advance copy of her article. Clearly it’s not the final type-set version (I sent her some photos of my stuff which will hopefully appear at some point) but in the meantime I thought I’d include it verbatim as below.

I think Sarah has a really exciting writing style, has definitely done her research and  has a really good grasp on the whole topic:

Vive la revolution!

Choo choo! All aboard the Steampunk railway engine! Destination? The Victorian era, circa 1901. Yes, that’s right, you heard correctly. A revolution’s upon us and things are going to get a little bit steamy.

First things first, though. Just what the blooming, bleeding hell is Steampunk? Sounds a little…weird, you’re thinking? Well, it is weird. It’s really quite strange. But it’s the ubermensch of cool and once we’re done here, you’ll be just itching to get your mitts on some welding tools.

But before you do, close your eyes and dream of a world of romance, of adventure, of time travelling down paths less chosen. Close your eyes and dream of a world of clocks and cogs, wood and steam, brass and copper. Close your eyes and dream of a world where technology can be what you choose to make it, where anything goes, where – most importantly – there are goggles.

Rooted in the industrial Victorian age, aye, but really impossible to pin down to any one definition, it is retro-futurism, technology and romance, an alternate, whimsical reality. And, thanks be to the God of cogs, it’s here to stay. Art, fashion, music…Steampunk all the way, baby!

The art is really where it’s at. It’s been a while since we at Made saw anything that really made us sit up and go ‘ooo!’ but this stuff really does take Queen Victoria’s cake. Have a gander at Jake von Slatt, the veritable artistic Godfather’s, renovations. Lacklustre modern technology such as computer monitors, headphones, televisions, guitars – all are transformed, with a wave of his magic soldering iron, into the most enchanting, beautiful, shiny, new-wave-old-school reinventions. Who’d have thought you could fall in love with a memory stick? Well, you can. It happens, believe it.

UK artist, Clive Batkin, works comparable wonders from his St Albans garden shed. (Very Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but hey, have you ever seen a more Steampunk film in your life?) Said shed is apparently in danger of having its roof destroyed, as full as it is with things awaiting steam and punkage and stepping into Batkin’s home is apparently like stepping back in time. Fans, desk lamps, fridges – taking the ‘mod’ out of ‘mod con’, nothing is safe from the tinkering hands of this pioneering inventor. Here’s some good news for all you budding Steampunks – Batkin sees this art as something anyone can achieve, with a little bit of perseverance and a bigger bit of elbow grease. “To do some stuff, a relative amount of expertise is quite good but you could really get involved at any level. Using things in innovative ways without any craftsmanship is still Steampunk.”

And the better news? It’s cheap, like the budgie. Thanks to mankind’s propensity to chuck anything and everything out onto the street, you can find your materials pretty much anywhere. Batkin’s a skip diver. “I have always been collecting stuff and have always got it from skips. I really like seeing something quite modern and thinking, ‘with a little bit of screwing and drilling, I could turn that into something else.’”

The UK’s a bit behind the times where all this is concerned, unfortunately, but are we really that surprised? America’s got the Steampunk thang down to a fine art and we’re only just beginning to discover its potential. According to Batkin, the number of American Maker Faires – conventions where people get together to construct, destroy, concoct – is impressive and dear old Blighty’s yet to have its first one. But fear not, for it is on the way! Get yourself down to Newcastle over the weekend of the 14 & 15 March if you want to see Steampunk in real time. It promises to be a great, goggle-opening couple of days.

For a revolution, this has admittedly been a little slow in coming, having been a fantasy fiction genre since the ‘80s but thanks to t’interweb more and more people are discovering the sex appeal of Steampunk through a variety of different mediums.

Steampunk fashion is so on the up-and-up but we’re having none of this Russell-Brand-neo-dandyism malarkey. It’s far more interesting than that. Map-patterned corsets, cogs on…well, basically anything, waistcoats, paisley bowties, top hats, pilot hats, bonnets with machinery on them, goggles – it really is all about the goggles – feathers, velvet, all mixed in with a healthy smattering of modern sartorialism will make anyone look at you twice, and for all the right reasons. And, whilst it’s readily available for purchase, it’s also incredibly easy to achieve yourself. Find whatever you want to Steamify, break a mechanical watch or two and stick the parts on it. Job done.

As for Steampunk music, the American ‘air pirates’ Abney Park industrialise it the best, but we’re not talking Nine Inch Nails here. There’s elegance and refinement in their songs, as well as more mechanised intonations, but listening to them is like time travel in itself, although whether you’re going backwards or forwards is difficult to say. And their instruments are Steampunk pimped so it’s all a bit mesmerising, really. Luckily for us in the know, they’re zipping over from Seattle in their dirigible at the end of April for gigs in London and at the Whitby Gothic Weekend. Has the MADE stamp of approval, indeed!

So – any prospective Caractacus Potts out there, now that you’ve finished reading? We certainly hope so because this is one MADE favourite that refuses to quit. Just remember our golden rule and goggle it up right nice. Happy Steampunking, people.

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