Friday, October 1, 2010

Steampunk~ What is it all about?

This is my first blog entry in my series of "Ask the Artist" blogs.  SarasinArt from Artfire asks:
"Hey Pixie, I see a lot of Steampunk jewelry around now. Can you explain where that concept came from and more of what it's all about? Thanks! "
Steampunk necklace~ pearls, cogs, rhinestone, copper wire wrapped
This is an EXCELLENT question and a great topic for this blog.  Thank you SarasinArt!
I went out on a search last evening to find a true definition of what "steampunk" really is.  There are a lot of references out there to explain it but I am choosing to quote the article "Steampunk 101" from as my definition reference.  They refer to steampunk as meaning "Victorian science fiction".  They continue on to state "Here “Victorian” is not meant to indicate a specific culture, but rather references a time period and an aesthetic: the industrialized 19th century."
In other words, Victorian clothing, fashion and ideals combined with what then would have been considered futuristic.  Think of combining motorized, steam driven objects with corset, bustles and waistcoats. 
The term itself came about in the late 1980's according to the article. "The term “steampunk” was not coined until the late 1980s, when author K. W. Jeter used it humorously to describe a grouping of stories set in the Victorian period written during a time when near-future cyberpunk was the prevailing form of science fiction."  The article goes into more detail about the associations made with the word "steampunk" and also references items that are often associated with this fashion movement as well as dissecting why they have become so iconic to the movement.  I highly reccommend this article for more in depth detail about all things considered "steampunk".
Now, as for my personal experiences with this movement, I actually have very few.  I was first asked to create some "steampunk" pieces about 4 years back.  A good friend of mine was going to a Convention event in central Minnesota.  My jewelry sales, then hosted on Etsy, were next to non-exsistent at the time and I thought perhaps I could send her some jewelry pieces to wear at Con to spark interest in my jewelry shop online.  She said the types of pieces people at Con would most be interested in would be "steampunk" inspired pieces.  I had no idea what on earth that meant.
After a short stint of research online, I made a run to the hardware store to pick up some nuts and bolts.  I also had some parts from an old microwave I had recently taken apart.  I lashed these together into a pendant and brooch (the pendant is still with me today and is listed in my Artfire Studio).  My friend said the pieces were nice but not quite steampunk.
I continues on in my quest to make steampunk items and have tried MANY different things.  Here's what i have discovered from my experiences.
~Some people prefer gears and cogs on their jewelry that have motion.
~Some people think gears and cogs on anything is great.
~Some people scoff at the idea of putting gears and cogs EVERYWHERE.
So as you can see... it's a subjective thing.  Just like any of type of fashion, steampunk fashion is left entirely up to the person wearing it.  I now subscribe to the steampunk fashion community on livejournal.  I often read posts where the controversy over what is or is not steampunk can get rather heated.  Everyone seems to have their own opinions and views on the matter.  It is essentially, like so many other things, left to interpretation.Steampunk inspired wire wrapped pendant copper & brass
So you see, truly finding things that are "steampunk" is actually quite difficult.  I prefer to think of some of my jewelry pieces as 'steampunk inspired' rather than truly steampunk.  I'll let the discerning participant decide for themselves.

Well SarasinArt, I hope this helped or at least pointed you in the correct direction.  I know it took me a long time to truly understand what is in fact steampunk.  So many people on online selling venues abuse the word to generate more views in their shops.  So, it is a word that can inspire and generate controversy.


Victoria said...

Thanks for answering Sara's question, because I was also wondering exactly what steampunk was as a design. Now I have a much better picture!

divapixie said...

Excellent! I am happy to help. believe me, I was once in the exact same boat. And I know have a better picture as well as know of some great online resources to learn more, especially since fashion and the trends within trends are always and forever changing.

Tak said...

Great post with a lot of good information! I'm not really "into" steam punk, but I have to say your pendant is very cool.

RLS Design said...

Great description of "steampunk". I too have learned that the steampunk description is very subjective dependent on the wearer! I create what feels right to me and figure that either someone out there will love it or it will remain with me. :)