Musings

Sometimes Being Sick is a Bonus…

It has been a while since I have updated or posted anything, and for that I am full of regret. Primarily because it means I have been doing nothing.

The last few months have been harder than I care to admit. Not only did I not get the job that I truly wanted, one which would have seen my situation stabilised significantly, I also discovered that the changes to my current job were far extensive than I was previously led to believe. This has left me in a position where my personal morals are being tested on a near daily basis – something I had not been prepared for during my training over a year ago. In turn, this has meant that I have been returning home in a mental state that has left my unable to work on anything related to arts and crafts – and on my days off I have been putting myself in positions where I am not able to craft. This has been a choice I made because I simply did not have the willpower or energy required to actually get off my arse and do something.

This has, unsurprisingly, left me in something of a rut, as I struggle to find my creative flow while at the same time face exhaustion dealing with a job I no longer care for. There seems to be a repeating pattern in my life that, just when I think I have found something that I enjoy, something changes and it is no longer the job I signed up for. Perhaps it’s just bad luck, or perhaps it is some Greater Power’s less-than-subtle way of telling me something, but either way, it has become incredibly frustrating. I know what it is I want to do with my life, but I am stuck with how to actually get there. We have no savings, nobody in my family can (or will) give me a loan or assist me, and I am already in a position where I have maxed out my business credit card in order to pay for last year’s exhibition. Which, I might add, was of no financial benefit to me in the end at all.

So how can someone be creative when everything around them seems to want to make them miserable?

Well, over the past week, I have been quite ill with a cold. I have had this cold for a full seven days now, and it is only now showing signs of easing off. It effected my throat, my ears and my sinuses, as well as giving me hot flushes, severe pain and dizziness. And for the first time in months, I have been thinking about creative things in a more positive light. I have been completely unable to do anything about it, as I have mostly been laid up in bed, but it has given me the opportunity to think about what I want from my creative pursuits and how I can go about doing them, even when my work life is being an utter…. Well, I’ll let you fill that word in yourself!

So, as I still have a few more days of recovery off work, and I’m feeling a lot less wretched than I did previously (even with no voice and only 50% hearing!) I’m preparing to work on a couple of projects that have been sitting unfinished for some time. These include my mermaid-themed Steampunk outfit, my Haruna (Lady Spring) get-up and a secret project I presented to a friend some time ago, but never got round to starting properly. I have also been given the go-ahead to use an Org from an Alpha-stage game, Star Citizen, as inspiration for a new outfit, which can double over as a costume design for Fire, for the Shades project, which I am still part of.

I will leave you now with some images of a that I created the other day, when the full weight of the illness was not yet on me and I was at a loss for things to do! It is not complete, but right now, the focal piece of it adequately depicts how I have felt for the past few days while stuck in bed!

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Starting Out In Steampunk: Part 3 -Misconceptions You Should Probably Know About Your New Lifestyle and Friends

YOU’RE STILL NOT TALKING ABOUT CLOTHES!
I Know! We’ll get to it!

So, having found yourself a nice community to join and a group of like-minded people to hang out with, you’ll probably want to start hanging out with them! Thing is, there are a lot of preconceptions about Steampunks and what they do, so before you go running in, it is worth considering some of the top rumours that you may have heard.

Myth 1:
There Are No Rules in Steampunk

I’ll start with the anomalous one first, because this one is the perhaps the single most misused piece of information about Steampunk!
In the UK, the full saying is “There are no rules in Steampunk, except Be Splendid”, though sometimes there is a byline added which goes, “Steampunks are accepting of everyone”. And in many ways, this saying is true, but there is a certain element of ambiguity about it. There are no rules as to how you should dress, or wear your make-up, or do your hair. There are no limits on age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin or political leanings. There are no expectations for you to like certain music, films, art or artists thereof.
HOWEVER… There are certain rules that Steampunks expect you to abide by without actually having to tell you what they are, and that’s where the “Be Splendid” comes into it. These rules, which I like to refer to as the Four Commons, are common law (and other legal regulations), common courtesy, common decency and common sense rules. The expectation here is that you behave in a manner befitting of a “Splendid” community and do nothing to damage the good reputation that they are trying to build – basically, obey the law, don’t do anything stupid or dangerous, and don’t act like an arse. Just because Steampunks are accepting of everyone, doesn’t mean they are accepting of bad behaviour – I myself have witnessed many examples of bad, disruptive, stupid and downright dangerous behaviour that people have then attempted to justify by saying “you can’t have a go at me, there are no rules in Steampunk and you have to accept everyone as they are”. No, actually, we do not. Steampunks are accepting of everyone into the community – we will allow anyone to join in with our lifestyle – but we do NOT have to tolerate bad/dangerous behaviour, harassment of any kind or actions that willingly or intentionally cause offence to another party. Certain groups also have more specific rules that they expect you to abide by, as do Facebook groups, community websites and forums. You are expected to abide by these rules, because they are there for a reason – safety, legal protection, and to keep the group a pleasant place to be.

So the bottom line is, while Steampunk does not have rules regarding lifestyle, common likes, design, etc, societal, cultural, legal and behavioural laws still apply.

Myth 2:
Steampunk is dress-up for Middle-Class Elites and people with money

The short response to this is “Ummm… No”. But there are two parts to this.

Firstly, Steampunk is not limited to people of a certain social class, and it certainly doesn’t require money to be involved in. Many of my friends live on limited budgets and either charity shop, upcycle or make their clothes. I have only one family of friends that I would consider “well off” (and make no mistake, they worked bloody hard for it) and the others are all regular, everyday people. Teachers, H&S Officers, Nurses, Self Employed, Tech Support and Civil Servants, just to name a few, and none of them particularly high up the pay ladder. They save up for events that they want to go to, and don’t attend those that they can’t afford. Simple logistics.
The idea that Steampunks are all wealthy stems from the fact that a lot of the big events can become quite expensive, but this fact is the same anywhere. Putting on an event costs money, and the organisers can’t be expected to foot the bill all by themselves – that simply wouldn’t be fair. So ticketing comes in to play, and Steampunk is not the only lifestyle that does this. Gothic festivals, Lolita events, Conventions and gigs all cost money, so what organisers of Steampunk events are doing is no different to what other lifestyles and groups have been doing for decades already.

On top of this, there are many outfits that are lavish and extravagant, but don’t let their opulence fool you. That amazing jet pack was made from a recycled wooden case and some bits of metal rescued from a skip. Those huge glimmering wings? EVA foam, which can be bought in stores like JTF for £8 for 10 square metres, and a gold spray paint. That stunning dress with the full skirts? That material came from a bargain bin as an end-of-line roll! Gems, pearls and embellishments are often plastic and people spend months making their outfits look that good on a tiny budget. Not everything that looks expensive actually is, so don’t be fooled into thinking that people are rich just because they look it. And even if an outfit is actually expensive, don’t just take it for granted that they bought it that way. I know some people who spent years making a single outfit, just because it was going to cost them a lot of money. I myself have an outfit that I have been working on for a year and a half, simply because I have to take my time collecting the materials.
Talking about clothing, there’s the part about “dress-up”. Steampunks may become offended if you refer to Steampunk as “dressing up” or “Cosplay”, because for many of them, it’s not! Steampunk is a lifestyle, just like Goth, Punk, Lolita, Hippie, New Age or Nudism, and referring to it otherwise basically belittles their choice to live in a certain way. Sure, you can dress like a Steampunk and not be a Steampunk, just like you can dress like a surgeon and not have a medical degree. But actual Steampunks may take offence if you refer to them as Cosplayers and people playing dress up, so it’s not worth taking the risk on the off-chance that they’re actually just Cosplaying. Don’t worry too much if you do slip up, most real Steampunks will laugh it off and correct you in a gentle fashion, but if you do actually hurt a Steampunk’s feelings, please be sure to apologise!

Myth 3:
It’s not Steampunk if it doesn’t have cogs/goggles/insert other random Steampunk visual icon here…

This one is just flat-out untrue, full-stop. End of.

Sure, cogs and goggles are something of a visual icon in Steampunk, and it is very easy to get dragged into the idea that the only way something can be Steampunk is if it features one or other of these items in some way. The fact is, there are many Steampunk visual icons, including but not limited to: airships, penny farthings, kraken/squids/octopi, top hats, moustaches, teapots and cups, silver teaspoons and Queen Victoria. Yet, it is still possible to have a Steampunk outfit that features a grand total of none of these items. Just because they are icons, does not mean you have to use them, and to be completely honest, after a while, the inclusion of such items can feel like a cliche. Where is the “punk” and individuality if everyone is wearing goggles and stitching cogs to their hats? (That being said, I will concede that cogs makes great buttons!) A great many Steampunks have crafted outfits that simply wouldn’t make sense with goggles, and adding a cog for the sake of having one isn’t the way forward. But then again, I have never been a fan of functionless cogging.

Myth 4:
You must wear Steampunk clothes to go to a Steampunk event

While dressing the part does help, there is no need to dress Steampunk to go to a Steampunk event, particularly if the event is something like a small local meeting. Many Steampunk gatherings I have been to have included numerous “Steam-curious” and newcomers who have not gotten around to creating a complete outfit yet. Many people feel shy or uncomfortable about attending a Steampunk event and not wearing a complete outfit, but the community as a whole understands that sometimes it simply isn’t practical for someone to go all-out on their first, second, or even third event. People have money problems, health issues, travel concerns and all sorts that could potentially put a dampener on their ability to don a full outfit, and the majority of Steampunks you meet will be completely accepting and sympathetic of your situation.

That being said, you may come across a few who try to tell you that it’s “not done” to attend a Steampunk event in non-Steampunk attire and that you should “make more of an effort or just not bother coming”. This kind of behaviour to anyone attending a Steampunk event, Steam-curious or not, is generally frowned upon, as it goes against the ethos of being accepting.

There is absolutely nothing to prevent you from attending a Steampunk event in “civvies”, unless the event specifically requires a certain dress code. If this is the case, the event will usually say so. There may also be limitations to what kind of Steampunk items you can wear or take, and this will also be mentioned on the promotional material.

Myth 5:
Steampunks must eat cake, drink tea and imbibe gin

This is again a bit of a silly one that seems to pop its head up every now and then. Some people seem to have this belief that Steampunks exist purely on gin, tea and cake. Fact of the matter is… we don’t! I also eat pizza and drink Irn Bru!

While I can’t say for a fact where this idea stems from, I can guess that it derives from the tea party culture that surfaced in the Victorian era, where tea was served in delicate, fancy china cups and tiny sandwiches and cakes were the norm. Rest assured, you are not required to partake in any of these items if you choose not to! The inclusion of these kinds of small gatherings as part of Steampunk culture was pretty much a given, considering how popular they were at the time of their initial inception. But the inclusion of tea, gin and cake as a Steampunk staple is more of a piss-take than a serious belief – the idea started as a myth but has since been adopted as a fun way of taking the mickey out of ourselves and encouraging others to join in our silliness (“come to the Dark Side, we have cake“, that sort of thing!).

I myself am not a fan of gin (I prefer a good Scottish Single Malt!), though I am particular to a lovely cup of Earl Grey and a slice of Mr Gearing’s Chocolate and Cherry cake. My husband is an occasional gin-drinker, a lover of Gold Blend and cannot even be near Mr Gearing’s Ginger Cake without inhaling the whole thing! Our friend is a coffee-lover, beer-drinker and prefers biscuits to cake. What I am trying to say is, don’t feel as though you have to partake in any kind of food or beverage that you don’t want to. It’s your choice, and nobody will (or at least, they shouldn’t) try to force you otherwise.

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So, those are some of my top myths about Steampunk! I have neglected to include my favourite myth, simply because the whole concept is incredibly complex, and could have an entire post of its own. Perhaps I will delve into it some other time.

Are there any myths you’ve heard about Steampunk that you’d like clearing up? Perhaps someone has said something to you and confused you a little? Or are you just looking for a bit of a giggle? Why not send me some questions, myths or little snippets and I’ll have a chat about them some time in the future?

Steampunk Mermaid WIP: Top

I have almost completed the construction of the top for the mermaid, and it has been surprisingly difficult, considering the top itself is made from only two large pieces!

What has really been challenging has been the neck and armhole facings. I have never had to make facings before, and I was having some difficulty getting them the right way round and up! I also think that my interfacing was too stiff. I used medium-weight as it was all I had, but for this kind of thing I could probably have gotten away with a light-weight or fine interfacing to maintain a more flexible hold.

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The photo above shows the top before the armhole facings went in, but you can see the neckline facing very clearly. The  bust ruffle has been stitched in place, but not fixed into it’s final shape yet.

As an addition to the pattern, I have included a bust ruffle and an off-the-shoulder type of sleeve made from the organza seen in the previous WIP here. As I am taking my inspiration from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, I wanted to include some hint to the seashell bra, which is why the top is purple. However, I wanted to add some hint to the shape of the bra, and short of actually using seashell cups, which to me was a little too cliche and over the top, this was the closest I could come. The ruffle has been stretched out at the sides, but gathered in the middle, giving the illusion of widening channels, much like the shape of a clam. Because the outfit is supposed to be on the theme of an elegant evening attire, I added the sleeves for aesthetics.

Unfortunately, I discovered that I had sewn one of the sides of one sleeve upside down, so it is now twisted and really quite uncomfortable! Having unpicked it, I now only need to resew that sleeve, tack the facings in place and finish the lower hem to complete the top.

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In this picture you can see the twist in the sleeve

2016.1 – Painting WIP

Sometimes I don’t have a plan in my head when I paint. So I just grab a colour, slap it on and roll with it. Today was one of those days; mainly because I had been trying to work on something my sister wanted, and had failed miserably. I got so angry I screwed up my reference image and threw it across the table!

But I was in the mood to paint. I had to paint something. And I haven’t had the inclination to paint for a very long time. So I sat down and let my arm guide me.

It’s a strange technique, but sometimes you get something elaborate out of it. Normally I don’t, but this time an actual picture formed.

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It’s not finished, but for the first time in a long time I have managed to get something down on canvas that wasn’t just a pile of splatter! I don’t really know how it will be “finished”, as I’m still not 100% sure what it’s supposed to look like, but when I find out, I will be sure to let you know!

Just so you know, when I don’t have a title for a painting, I name if after the year and which number painting it is until I think of one for it! As this is the first painting I have done in 2016, it’s currently called 2016.1 – yeah I know, not particularly interesting! So I would be open to ideas!

Starting Out in Steampunk: Part 2 – Finding Other Steampunks

“WAIT! STOP! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU’RE TELLING US HOW TO MEET OTHERS BEFORE YOU’VE COVERED CLOTHES OR ANYTHING ELSE!!”

Yes. Yes I am. Why? Because clothes do not a Steampunk make! You can meet other Steampunks without going all-out in the outfit department. And any good Steampunk will still accept you for what you are – new to the movement. In fact, by getting out and meeting people first, you will find it a whole lot easier to compose your first outfit – you will be able to get ideas from the people around you and they will be more than willing to offer their advice about where to pick up a good bargain.

So, how do you go about finding like-minded individuals?

I was quite lucky in that a friend of mine had been trying to convince me to go to the pub with her and meet her friends for months. I had always said “no” because at the time I was suffering with some severe anxieties – large crowds of people still make me incredibly nervous and I don’t really like talking with strangers that I haven’t been introduced to by someone else. However, one day, I bit the proverbial bullet and went to the pub. I didn’t really know what was going on, I knew only that these people met at seven thirty every Wednesday. And that was how I first met the Steampunk Society.

Now, not everyone can be as lucky as I was and have a friend who is already in the “scene”. So where do you go?

Go Out and About

Well, firstly, keep your eyes peeled for Steampunks out and about. Generally speaking, Steampunks won’t mind if you approach them and ask about their clothes or where they meet. In fact, most would be happy to chat to you about local groups! So if you spot a group out and about in your local area, don’t be afraid to approach them and ask.
You can also ask in Alternative Fashion stores if they know of any groups that meet in the area. Small local stores, in particular independent alternative retailers, tend to be more involved in the local communities than chains, so it is always worth popping in to talk. Other shops to try asking around in include charity shops (where Steampunks frequently purchase items), vintage stores, pubs and cafes or tea rooms.

Social Media and Forums

Not so big on the wandering around town? Live in a village or hamlet away from the hustle and bustle? (Pardon the pun!) Another great way to meet Steampunks is to get yourself on Social Media and Forums. There are hundreds of great sites out there that will allow you to connect with other Steampunks from all over the world. Facebook immediately springs to mind, with groups such as the British Steampunk Community, Brass Goggles and Steampunk Canada all welcoming new members. If you type “Steampunk” followed by the name of your town, or vice versa, you will usually find something in the search results. Otherwise, simply join a national group and ask if anyone knows of a group near you!

On the subject of Brass Goggles, forums are also a great place to meet people and ask questions. Operating in a similar but less time-consuming way to Social Media, forums can be easily dropped in and out of without missing any of the important parts of the conversation, so I recommend finding a few good ones to join. Brass Goggles is generally the go-to, though Steampunk Empire is also a nice place to hang around.

Newspapers and ‘Zines

You can also do a Google search for Steampunk “newspapers”, e-zines, social blogs and to-your-inbox newsletters, such as The Steampunk Journal, Steampaper, Steampunk R&D and The Steampunk Chronicle. Many of these Steampunk cultural sites have search pages dedicated to finding local groups, so they are always worth looking into.

Bloggers

It is also worth checking out individual bloggers, such as myself! I met Mala Foxx online because her blog, Adventures with Mala, came up in my feed, and one day I decided to message her about a post she had written that I wanted to use as the basis for a presentation I wanted to do. We’ve kept in touch, and she’s awesome! If you already have a blog, simply go to the search function on the homepage and seek out Steampunk bloggers – there will be many, I can assure you! I just googled “Steampunk blogs” and came back with Steampunk Scholar pretty much immediately!

Magazines

Steampunk Magazines are actually quite few and far between, the only significant ones that I have managed to find are Steampunk Magazine (which will shortly be shutting up shop) and Gearhearts, which focuses primarily on art, photography and literature. Sometimes you may find notable groups or events mentioned in these magazines, but they are unlikely to go to local-group level. Inevitably, you may not find these much help in actually meeting and finding other Steampunks, but they can provide some great conversation starters!

These links are by no means a comprehensive list to where to go to meet other Steampunks, and I’m sure that there are some that I have missed. If so, I’m sorry!

The point is, finding local Steampunks is actually a lot easier than you might think! You may believe yourself the only one, but you will be surprised at how many Steampunks there actually are the world over!

Reflections on the Year

I know it’s a little early to start with “reflecting on the year” posts, but given that December will be upon us next week, I will shortly be finding out if I have a new post at work, and the dreaded C-word is looming, I figured “Why not?!”.

So, for the most part, this year has been incredibly disappointing in terms of Cosplay and outfit making.

It’s only been recently that I have started making any headway with the blogging on here, and most projects have had to be parked because of a lack of funding.
I didn’t get to any of the Cons that I was supposed to go to this year, except the Asylum, which doesn’t really count because it takes place right on my doorstep and I was exhibiting and doing talks anyway!
I missed MCM Birmingham, which I have been to for the past two years running; I missed LincCon, Lincoln GEEKS, Sheffield ComicCon AND Steampunks in Space. This makes me feel a bit sad, as I have seen a lot of great photos from friends who managed to go and in many ways, I feel a bit left out and isolated. The problem is, I can’t really figure out where it all started slipping downhill, and that’s what upsets me the most. If I knew where it had all started, I could fix it.

Now, a part of me thinks it has something to do with our husky pup, Skye. She was only 8 weeks old when we got her, and raising and training her has been like having another full-time job. She’s wonderful, and I love her to bits, but huskies cannot be left on their own. They get lonely and anxious very easily, and the only way to make it so that we could go anywhere without her, now that she’s no longer crapping on the carpet every five seconds, would be to get another dog, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon.
Having a dog has definitely made life more interesting, but it has limited us in where we can go and what we can do. A lot of our friends have arranged house parties and such which we can’t go to because we can’t bring the dog along with us for various reasons. And the one place that we ARE able to take her we have not been able to go to as much because Skye had a habit of pooping on their hardwood floor. We went from being regular overnight guests to almost never seeing them. And that was such a shame because they were like family to us – they are probably the people I miss most in all of this.
BUT… it was something that we expected to happen, though perhaps not quiet to the scale that it has happened. We’ve just had to take it on the chin and keep on going – there is nothing else that can be done really.

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My dog is such a lady…

Another part of me knows that not going to Cons has had a lot to do with the M-word. Money. In that, we have enough to live on, but we can’t spend any more than that.
We got married in September, so every extra penny we had was going towards that and general living costs. Even now that the wedding is over, I’m not willing to go all-out spending on Cons. It’s not like buying in-game currency to enhance your gaming experience. That’s a one-off spend that will benefit your gaming for months, if not years. If you’re clever with your in-game currency buying, you can actually get a really good deal on the things that are usually out of your price range. But a Con is a lot of money to spend on tickets, travel, accommodation, food and puppy-sitters for just one or two days of gratification. Not to mention, I would have to pay for TWO lots of everything. I’m not bitter or angry about that – I understand that Clckwrk can’t earn money in the same way that other people can. It isn’t his fault that he has a shitty disability that makes him unable to work reliably, and I don’t care that he’s not the earner in this relationship. What I AM aware of are my limitations. Last month I got a little bit frivolous with my spending on patterns, fabric and notions, so yes, I was a bit naughty, but I stopped short of buying us both tickets to SiS. I haven’t even bought tickets to the Steampunk Society Christmas Ball, simply because I am considering my limitations.
Now, of course these limitations frustrate me. I am annoyed that I can’t attend all the Cons I want, but I have to be an adult about this. Living and surviving comes first.

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Getting married is expensive – just in case you didn’t already know that!

In terms of outfits, progress has been slow. Painfully slow.

I haven’t managed to complete a single outfit this year – not even Valkyria is completely finished, though I did wear a lot of it to the Asylum this year. It’s really quite frustrating that I have so many ideas, and lots of fabric, but I just can’t seem to get anything to a finished state. I’m not sure if that’s because I am handling my time poorly, or if I simply don’t plan ahead in the right way to ensure I have all the notions to hand, or if maybe I just allow myself to go off on a tangent; what I do know is, they just don’t get done.

Lately I have been doing better. I have managed to focus most of my energy on the Mermaid outfit, which has come along quite nicely in the last month or so, and I think I could have it finished by February next year. I am making it a resolution to try and work on only one project at a time, so hopefully there should be some real progress in Cosplays next year.

Steampunk has been pushed to the wayside of late in terms of going out to the local meets. I just don’t have the energy at the moment to spend there, and while I am a bit sad about this, I know that it couldn’t be helped. Clckwrk has also been ill a lot, which has made it difficult to get about in general. This has been particularly hard on him, because he feels that he has failed me, our friends, and himself.
I have, however, been making steady progress on project work for the Shades project, which is great. I hope to take this further next year and maybe get it out and about at more shows, though at the moment I don’t quite know how to make this happen.

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Alice modelling an outfit I designed for “Shades”. Working with her is always a pleasure – even if the weather conspires against us!

Well… That’s enough reflecting from me. I don’t really know what much else there is to say. As a whole, the year has been disappointing, but there are some good things to take from it.

Going forward, I have a lot of new stuff planned for the blog which I hope will make it more interesting, including video and showcase content, some new “make-up look” type posts to compliment what I am doing with my outfit designs, plus the ongoing “Starting out in Steampunk” series. I have the Mermaid to finish, and my next (first?!) “big” Cosplay attempt is going to be Death from Darksiders II. At the moment, it’s looking like this is going to be a gender-bent version, but I am trying to refrain from sexualising the character, which is something that someone mentioned to me when I first told them about my intentions. “Are you going to make it a sexy Death?”

Ummm…. No.

I am not a fan of “sexy-for-the-sake-of-it” Cosplay. I think it’s wholly unnecessary, and I am quite a modest person anyway, so the thought of creating a “Sexy Darksiders Death” makes me want to vomit. I’m more interested in recreating the rendered armour and weapons as accurately as I can, and then dealing with the issue of boobs later!

Starting Out in Steampunk:Part 1 – What Is Steampunk Anyway?

Featured Image: Time Travellers and Extraordinaires – An exhibition and book by Samuel Metcalfe. Image by Fair Visions Photography

 One of the first questions Steampunks often get asked, is “What is Steampunk?”. And I completely understand why; to the casual observer, the whole idea of Steampunk can seem really rather odd. But once the bafflement has passed, most people find themselves curious about this bunch of spiffingly-dressed eccentrics, and they inevitably approach to ask the question. “What is this?”.

It’s a simple enough question. But the problem is, there is no simple answer for it. Let me try to explain why.

At it’s core, Steampunk is a sub-culture born from literary fiction featuring Victorian and alternate-history themes; the term “Steampunk” was coined in 1987 by K.W. Jeter as a general term to describe works of fiction written by himself, James Blaylock and Tim Powers. It was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek variant of cyberpunk, but the term quickly gained momentum in general use.
The primary aesthetics of Steampunk are heavily influenced by Victorian Britain, American Wild West, steam-power, and retro-futuristic technology. It also dips it’s toes into the waters of mystical fantasy, space exploration, horror and speculative historical fiction.
From it’s humble beginnings as a nameless sub-genre of science-fiction pre-1987, Steampunk has evolved into a buzzing cultural phenomena supporting fashion design, artistic style, music, literature, interior design, product design and even architecture. Steampunk also regularly stands by the ideals of “be splendid” (treating everyone with respect and dignity), supporting small businesses, re-use/recycle/upcycle and promoting creative industries.

But that’s not really the end of it. It’s not even the beginning of it. Let’s put it this way: while the base ethic remains the same, the “soul” of Steampunk is a completely different thing for different people. The adage goes “Ask ten Steampunks what Steampunk is, and you’ll get 100 different answers”. And they aren’t joking!

The reality of Steampunk, is that it is mutable. It changes based on the feelings of the person at the time. It is a culture, a fashion, art style, music and a social movement. It’s an escape, a place of freedom, a release from the mundane of the everyday. It is both a visual thing, and a state of mind. But the combination of things, the reasons for being a Steampunk, and the way that you incorporate Steampunk into your life as a whole, can be different from one person to the next. It is a flexible sub-culture that allows everyone to put their own individual streak upon it, and to take from it what they want or need without getting bogged down in things like “rules”. There are no rules. There is only you, and what you believe Steampunk to be.

For me, Steampunk is who I am. I believe that no matter the time of day, I am a Steampunk. Everything I do in life reflects on the Steampunk Community as a whole, and I believe that causing damage to that community is like damaging a part of yourself. It’s not just a fashion fad or cosplay, it’s a full on culture – a sense of being and self that allows you to express yourself in ways outside of the “Popular Culture” norm. It’s society, culture, art, music, fashion and expression.

Others may have a different view on what Steampunk really is. Some see it as a fashion trend and nothing more, while others consider it a form of artistic expression, rather than a culture. Some people see Steampunk as being a political movement; a way to fight back against the Pop-Culture establishment and the poor treatment of the masses in favour of the elite few. However, within Steampunk there are people of many political ideals, so others feel that it is distinctly not political, but instead a social movement attempting to revive the ideals of manners, respect and dignity.
There are many different interpretations of Steampunk, but that doesn’t make any of their ideas wrong. The beauty of Steampunk is that everyone can be completely different, yet united under a common banner.

When starting out in Steampunk, rather than simply asking others “what is Steampunk?”, at some point you should instead ask yourself “what is Steampunk to me?”. And if you don’t yet know what Steampunk means to you, then don’t worry! Finding the answer to that question is part of the fun! Just get involved and enjoy the adventure.

Tutorial: Mermaid Earpiece

As part of my Steampunk Mermaid, I wanted some “mermaid ears”, but I wasn’t a fan of the idea of latex ears for this particular mermaid. I wanted something more stylised.

I had originally planned to create some earrings, to go with the necklace I made (see here), but I decided to go one step further and create some earpieces instead. I loved making these so much, I decided to share how I did it with you!

First off, obviously, you need to collect your bits and pieces together. My findings included ear stud posts with loops, silver chain, silver headpins, 20 gauge wire, 24 gauge wire, Bijoux crystals in two colours and three sizes, and some silver jump rings. My tools were slim flat-nose pliers, wide flat-nose pliers, bent nose pliers, round nose pliers and cutting pliers. All my tools came in a multi-pack from Hobbycraft’s own-brand line, so they’re not exactly top-of-the-range, but for what I do, they are pretty amazing and have lasted me two years without failing.

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First off, I removed the crystals from their strings and put them in a holding container. You can use anything you like as this container, but I happened to have a coffee jar lid to hand. Only remove one string of beads at a time, otherwise you can end up with crystals all over the place if you accidentally tip your container or, as is highly likely in my case, a crazy pet (husky) comes to see what you’re up to!

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Now, the next few steps are about making headpin and eyepin links. If this is something you already know about, then feel free to skip ahead.

Take a silver headpin and add a crystal. This will either be the bottom of a drop of links, or a stand-alone drop. Make a 90 degree bend in the wire just above the crystal. I like to use my wide-nose pliers and get as close to the crystal as possible, but in this particular project, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit messy – it looks more organic!

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Trim the tail of the headpin to the desired length – this will depend on how big you want your loop to be. My tails ranged from 3/4 of a cm to 1cm, which actually does make a massive difference!

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Taking the end of the tail in your round-nose pliers, make a loop in the headpin with the tip of the tail touching the main body of the pin. To do this, I usually use what I call the “pinch-and-shift” method, which I find gives me greater control of the loop. It also allows me to make adjustments to the loop as I go along. I will link to a video showing how I do this at a later date.

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To make links, you will need to make eyepins. You can do this using the cut-offs from the tails of the headpin drops, or you can simply cut off the head of a headpin. I personally will only do this if it is absolutely necessary, as it seems wasteful, but go with whatever you feel best. You can also buy pre-started eyepins, but if you only have headpins to hand, this is the way to make them.

Taking an off-cut or your de-headed headpin, make a loop on one end. I use the “twist” method for this point because it’s quicker. Once you have created your loop, bend the tail away from the loop to create a neat pin.

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Add your crystal/s and create the second loop on the other end as you would for a regular headpin. If the loops aren’t properly aligned, hold one end with your wide-nose pliers and gently twist the other with your slim or bent-nose pliers.

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Make as many of these links and pins as you like. For this project, I decided to make a random assortment of them using a combination of single and multi-crystal pins, and then lay them out in a design that I liked afterward. It felt more random and natural that way, but if you like, you can work to a pre-drawn design or set pattern.

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Once you have all the links you want, you can start putting them together. Link them together by opening the “eyes” in the same way you would a jump ring – by twisting them open sideways instead of pulling the loop open. Add your link and close the “eye” again.

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Add your links together in the same way until you have a string in the length you want. I made three lengths and had three single drops left over.

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You’re done with the lengths! Put these somewhere safe – I pinned them to my mannequin as my dog has a habit of inspecting my desk!

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I also took this opportunity to draw out how I intended to lay the lengths out on the main earpiece – you don’t have to do this, but I have a specific place in mind for each of these lengths, and my memory is terrible!

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Next, I worked on the ear cuff. To start, I cut a piece of 20 gauge wire – I judged this by eye mostly, as I worked to what I thought would fit my ear, but in the end, my piece was approximately 13″ long. Coil a large loop on one end with your pliers.

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Moulding around your ear, and locating the loop at the crux of the helix, create an arch around the back of your ear. Once the wire reaches far enough round the back of your ear (I didn’t need mine to go very far, about half way down), bend the wire towards the back of your head (around 90 degrees) and curl it slightly forwards, following the shape of the cartilage of your ear.

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Bend the tail of the wire so that it passes across the front of your ear, angled slightly upwards toward where your ear meets your head. When it meets the end of the wire near the curl, bend the tail upwards again. This tail can then be shaped into your desired “ear”. I made mine to resemble the traditional mermaid ears, shaped like fins, and finishing with a small loop at the end of the tail (not pictured below, but can be seen in the next images). Shape the wire around your ear until it feels reasonably secure and comfortable. This can take a while, especially if you are moulding them around your own ears.

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Next I cut a long length of 24 gauge wire for securing and wrapping the piece. I mostly guessed at the length of this, as it depends on how you want to wrap your piece, but make it at least the same length as the 20 gauge wire (at least 13″ in my case, but I cut mine significantly longer, as you can see).

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Start at the front edge of the earpiece, wrap one end of the 24g wire around the starting end of the 20g wire and the bend in the front of the earpiece – this will secure the wire sections together and help the earpiece to keep it’s shape. Wrap approximately 4 times and pull tightly to secure. Press the short “raw” end of the wire as close to the earpiece as possible, trimming it if necessary. Do not cut the long end yet!

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Wrap the long tail end of the wire around the ear shape in a spiral. I like to make these fairly closely spaced, but you can make them as closely or as loosely wrapped as you like. Make sure that you pull the 24g wire tightly around the 20g wire as you go, otherwise the thinner wire will move around on the large wire. At the top and second “wing”-tip, I left two larger loops of wire, before carrying on. Where the bottom of the third “wing”-tip met the back of the ear bar, I wrapped the 24g wire around them both a couple of times to secure the pieces together, before continuing the wrapping to the end of the lower loop. Once I met the loop, I wrapped a couple of times around the 20g wire to finish it off and clipped the tail close to the wire, pressing the tail down and filing rough edges where necessary. At this point it is worth trying the earpiece on and reshaping it if necessary, as the pressing and pulling against the wire can cause it to become deformed.

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Remember those two large loops I left at the tips of the “wings”? To secure those in place, simply twist them in the opposite direction to your spiralling on the large wire. For example, if like me you were wrapping the 24g wire from left to right (with the two loops closest to you), you would twist the large loops in a clockwise direction. This tightens the loops around the wire and gives you somewhere to hang some crystal drops!

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That’s the main shape of the earpiece done!
Next, cut a piece of chain to the desired length. Mine is about 3″ long.
Attach a jump ring to each end of the chain, and an ear stud to one of the jump rings.

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Attach the free end of the chain to the small loop on the earpiece using the jump ring.
From here, you can simply have fun with decorating your piece! I followed my drawing and attached the links in a set pattern, you can make it up as you go along if you wish.

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Try it on again to make sure everything hangs comfortably, and make any adjustments you think necessary. Repeat for the second earpiece – I actually found the second one harder to make, as I was trying to get it as close as I could size and style-wise to the first!
And that’s it; that’s how I made my mermaid earpieces!

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Steampunk Mermaid WIP: “Tail”

So, the Steampunk Mermaid is progressing well with the “tail” skirt pretty much done aside from some tidying up of threads. The pannier “fins” are also done, although I may add some additional structural support once the rest of the outfit is complete. The jewellery is all done, and I have the patterns in place for the top and harness. I also have an idea in place for some armlets or similar, though I may make bracers instead if I can find a nice pattern.

In Boyes I found a gorgeous purple satin and matching organza so, sticking with The Little Mermaid as my primary inspiration, I bought some!

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The “tail” is made from teal velour and a shimmery form of chiffon, edges in stiff white lace. The panniers are again the chiffon and lace, with the structure being primarily steel boning and cotton casings. The top will be made out of the purple satin and trimmed in the organza.

 

Just A Little Note

Those of you who follow my blog may notice that my theme changes a lot in the next week or so. For this I apologise, but bear with me.

Right now, I am reassessing how I work when it comes to Cosplay, Steampunk, blogging, writing and crafting as a whole. I want to dedicate more time to it, and I want to be taken more seriously with the things that I do. However, that also means that I truly have to find how I want to be seen online, and for that, I have to find a look that really suits me and what I am trying to achieve.

So, for the next few days you may see my theme change fairly frequently as I play with designs and look for something that really speaks to me. Please bear with me and I hope you will like the finished product when I’m done playing around!