Tea & Automatons

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A Very Steampunk Week

Forgive my prolonged absence.  I haven’t felt much like writing for a while and I have not had much to say, but the past week does need to be shared.  It’s been pretty sweet.

It began at Furlandia, a furry convention in Portland.  Their theme was the Age of Industry, so they invited me as a Guest of Honor.  I happily accepted.  I dressed to the nines and gave five steampunk talks.  It was wonderful to be able to educate so many eager folks about steampunk and hear their questions. I have to admit that I have missed that.  I had a table in the Dealers’ Den where I sold my Steamporium items. My brand new Steampunk coloring book was a huge hit.  I even hosted a Tea on Sunday morning for the patron level members.  My husband ran his first Tea Dueling event.  We had a great time.

On Saturday night, we went out to celebrate my birthday with K.W. and Geri Jeter.  K.W. is the man who coined the term “steampunk”, in case you were unaware.  We had a nice dinner at a German restaurant that is sadly about to be demolished in the name of progress.

After the convention, we took a few days to recuperate out in rural Oregon and then drove back to the city in time for a showing of Vintage Tomorrows, a documentary about steampunk at the Seattle International Film Festival.  This meant a lot to my husband and I as we are both in the film and were there for the very beginning of this project back in 2011. We were joined by my protege Carrie and dressed to the nines once again.  We were the first ones in line.  The SIFF staff loved our outfits and made us feel very special.  Many other folks that were in the movie and many local Seattle Steamrats showed up as well.  I was quite pleased with the way the movie turned out.  It is a good way to introduce steampunk to people and makes a few good observations.  I highly recommend it, but then I may be a wee bit biased.  I never in a million years thought that I would actually appear on IMDB.  Lol!  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, or want to see it again it will be available on iTunes on July 19th.

Afterwards I suggested to the director, Byrd that we should get a drink and chat, and that turned into a sizable after party at T.S. McHugh’s.  It was wonderful catching up with everyone. Truly a great crowd.

I was glad to be a part of all this steampunk excitement.  It’s been very inspiring to me in so many ways and it’s still going.

 

If you’d like to take a look at photos here is the Furlandia Gallery and the Vintage Tomorrows Gallery.

Mickey’s Halloween Party

Last year a group of friends and I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World as steampunk Disney villains.  It was a blast.  I thought it would be fun to do it again at Disneyland.  After a bit of research and dithering I picked October 9th for the outing.  It was not too close to Halloween, but not too early.  Unfortunately the weather had nasty plans for us.  It was a record breaking 105 degrees that day, and very humid.  All the locals were telling this was not their usual weather.  Great.  I don’t handle heat well and being in costume just made things worse.   I don’t believe in doing costuming halfway.  In addition to the six of us sweltering, I had talked my husband into doing the party again on Monday in different costumes; steampunk Monterey Jack and Gadget from Rescue Rangers.  While it was not quite as hot and we had some very welcome cloud cover, it was still pretty miserable.  Sigh.  We had a good time anyway and did manage to get some great photos.

I have a few highlights and lowlights of the party to share.

Hi-lights

  •  The Villains Meet & Greet was wonderful!  Cruella, the Evil Queen and Maleficent were very fun to interact with and we got some wonderful photos.  We did not meet with the group of male Villains, but they were all full heads and therefore unable to talk, so I doubt it would have been as fun.
  • The Castmembers wrangling the lines were helpful in keeping us informed about characters.
  • We had great success getting help from castmembers and Photopass photographers when we were in our Rescue Rangers outfits.  I really love some of those photos!

Low-lights

  • The line for characters photos in Toontown was ridiculous and you could end up with any of three different sets of characters, while Goofy’s line was just for Goofy.  It was a bit frustrating.  And after waiting all that time, there was no Photopass photographer!
  • I had heard of a character meet & greet called Pirate Palooza, but it was not on the map.  It was very difficult to find and terribly disorganized once we did.  We managed to get photos with pirate Chip & Dale, so it was worth it in the end.
  • Castmembers should not wear buttons saying “Ask me about characters” if they know nothing about characters!  The answer “Look around.  I’m sure you’ll find some” is not acceptable.
  • It is disappointing that there is no Halloween parade or show at Disneyland like there is at WDW.
  • I’m not there for the candy.  I can’t eat or won’t eat most of it, even the so called “healthy” options, so for me there are far too many “treat trails”.  I know some people feel that their success at the party is based on the amount of candy they score.  I just feel that my time is better spent doing things that I can only do at Disneyland, not my local grocery store.  Happily, I had some amazing macarons back in my room as a reward for all our hard work.
  • I was very unhappy to discover that most of the restaurants are closed prior to the party to make extra “treat trails”.   My research had not uncovered this fact and being on a GF diet I ended up eating the worst pizza ever.  GF?  Yes.  Tasty?  No.
  • The fog is a lovely effect, but both my throat and my camera had a lot of problems with it.  It was used all over the park.  I could barely talk by the end of the night and had to flee early the second night to avoid the problem.
  • Apparently they no longer just put out the Halloween Party pins during the party, so they sell out before we even get to see them.  Rather disappointing.

I am happy we did it.  Our outfits were a huge hit both nights!  We enjoyed ourselves despite the weather and various issues.  I like the party despite a few things that I’d like to see changed.  You can see the full albums here and here.

One quick note, while I call our costumes “steampunk” they don’t really qualify to my standards, but park restrictions, and limited luggage space complicates things.  Consider them base outfits.  We’ll expand on them someday.

Tips on doing a Steampunk Mashup Costume

Steampunk Rescue Rangers – 2015

During a talk I did recently I was asked if I had any advice on how best to do a Steampunk mashup costume.  For those who don’t know, a mashup is two different genres in the same costume, say steampunk and super hero.  If you don’t do enough of both it can often be confusing to the viewer.  Ask yourself what would “your character” look like if they were in a Steampunk story. The thing to remember is that costuming is a visual medium.  You are storytelling visually and while you may have a great reason for everything you did, it needs to clearly read to the viewer.  You are generally not going to get a chance to explain yourself. I feel there are three steps to doing a great Steampunk mashup costume.

  1. Victorianizing it.
  2. Characterizing it.
  3. Steampunking it.

First you should add elements of clothing that clearly look Victorian/Edwardian.  Hair styles, hats, corsets, bustle skirts, gloves, parasols, laceup boots, etc.  Having this silhouette will create a great base for your costume.

Steampunk Poison Ivy – 2009

Secondly, take a good look at the original character you are planning on creating.  What are their primary unique visual cues?  Choose at least three to ensure a clear interpretation; the three visual things that most convey that character to an audience.  I did a Poison Ivy costume once and for her I feel that you need ivy and or plants in abundance, her clothing should be shades of green and she should always have red hair.

Robotic Zipper – 2015

For the third step, you need to add elements of Steampunk.  This is where you can get creative.  Have some fun.  Steampunk is essentially a science fiction genre, so add some science fiction or even fantasy.  Some people feel that simply adding a corset makes it Steampunk, but it really isn’t quite enough in my opinion.  While some feel they are cliché, adding goggles is a good start if it makes sense for you character to wear them.  Again, just adding goggles to a costume is not going far enough either.  You should try and incorporate two or three elements of steampunk if possible.  Gadgets are generally the best visual cue for a Steampunk costume, so try to incorporate a few. Full disclosure, I often feel that I am weak in adding steampunk gadgets, and gizmos.  It can truly be the most important and most difficult part.    My favorite creation so far was the robotic Zipper on Monty’s shoulder that I created for our Rescue Rangers at ECCC.  He is pretty fragile though.

I try to add only one hand held prop per costume so you don’t have to constantly put things down and potentially lose or break them.  The next great place for a prop is on a belt.  I often will have a brass compass or cosmolabe hanging from my belt.  Also, belts don’t just have to be at your waist.  You can use them across your chest, around your hat or as a collar.

So there is my two cents about what you can do to make a great Steampunk Mashup costume.  I hope this helps and I look forward to seeing your endeavors.

I have created a Flickr group for Steampunk Mashup Costumes.  If you need inspiration go and take a look  HERE!

Upcoming Events

A few things coming up that you might enjoy.  The Wonderland Tea is always fun.  I will be giving talks and selling my creations at GEARcon in Portland.  And be sure to mark your calendar for the very LAST Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale.  It will be full of great bargains!  Then you will be all kitted out to see the Abney Park show that night.

June 27th - Alice In Wonderland Tea Party and Croquet Game – Gasworks Park 

July 3-5 -  GEARcon – Portland OR

July 18th – The LAST Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale- All Pilgrims’ Church, Seattle

July 18th – Abney Park – Studio Seven

 

Georgetown Steam Plant Outing

Last Saturday we did a little outing to the Georgetown Steam Plant here in Seattle.  My husband and I have been to this place several times over the years and it is the perfect backdrop for steampunk photography.  It was closed for a couple of years, but it is once again open to the public on the second Saturday of each month.  You can even take a tour and learn about the place at 11:00 and 1:00.

I went all out and did my character Widget the automaton.  I thought she would fit right in with all the machinery.

In an effort to keep everyone safe, they have cordoned off many areas that we used to be able to access, but there are still a lot of great spaces to photograph.  One small annoyance is the addition of red dots to some of the equipment.  I spent quite a while photoshopping out tiny red dots and yellow safety tape.  It is what it is and it is still a marvelous resource.

 

You can see the results of our trip in the albums linked below as well as the ones from past years.

Georgetown Steam Plant 2015 Album

Georgetown Steam Plant 2012 Album

Georgetown Steam Plant 2010 Album

Georgetown Steam Plant September 2008 Album

Georgetown Steam Plant December 2008 Album 

If you’d like to join in on the fun, you can find out about all the steampunk events in the Northwest by going to NorthWest SteamPunk Events on Facebook.

 

 

Around the World

Last Saturday my husband and I attended a wonderful performance of Around the World in 80 Days, based on the book by Jules Verne at the Village Theater in Everett.  It was amazing.  With only five performers portraying 39 characters, we were transported to exotic locales and entertained by fabulous stunts.  It is a must see for any steampunk enthusiast.

After the show we were invited back to meet the actors and take a few pictures.  The female lead, Aneesh Sheth (Aouda & others) is as lovely up close as she was on stage.  Jared Michael Brown (Philleas Fog) is much more approachable than his character and mugged for the camera.  Unfortunately, my camera was not up to the task, but you can see the rest of the blurry evidence here.

The show runs through March 29th and I highly encourage you all to see it if you can.  Show the world that we want more of this type of Victorian adventure!

 

 

For show times and tickets go here: http://villagetheatre.org/everett/Around-The-World.php

 

Upcoming Summer Steampunk Events

For those of you that have been interested in joining in some of the steampunkery in our area, here is a list of upcoming events.  If you are on Facebook, one of the best ways to keep apprised of upcoming events is to join the NorthWest SteamPunk Events Group.

Now – March 7th – Explorers Club at the Taproot Theater – Seattle WA

March 6th – 29th -  Around the World in 80 Days – Everett WA

April 11th – Georgetown Steam Plant Outing –  Georgetown Steam Plant - Seattle WA

May 3rd – Steamrats in the GardenSeattle Japanese Garden - Seattle WA

May 17th – Annual Train ExcursionNorthwest Railway Museum - Snoqualmie WA

May 29th – 31st – The Brass Screw Confederacy – Port Townsend WA

July 3rd – 5th – G.E.A.R.con – Portland OR

July 18th – The Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale – All Pilgrims’ Church – Seattle WA

 

 

Gasworks Park

Me without editing

On February 22nd, the Seattle Steamrats had their annual photo shoot at Gasworks Park.  It was a fun shoot.  We are so lucky to have such an amazing place to take photos right in the middle of town.  Part of the works are now fenced off for safety and much of it is spray painted vibrant colors to defeat the graffiti artists, but it is a wonderful spot for taking pictures, picnicking and such.  We had a good turn out and the weather was brisk but not wet.  You can see the rest of my husbands photos here.  Also, if you are interested in joining in for any of these events, I keep a group on Facebook to let people know in advance.  It’s called NorthWest SteamPunk Events.  Please feel free to join it here.

Our group shot in sepia tone. I did a quick bit of editing to remove graffiti in the background.

As an artist, I enjoy doing a bit of PhotoShop editing after the fact, so changing the colors is fun for me.  Below is a good example of the original photo and the result of my efforts.

 

Steamathon 2015

This past weekend, my husband and I and two friends went to a small, first time convention in Las Vegas. It was supposedly held in the very Victorianesque Main Street Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, although the bulk of it actually occurred across the way in the California Hotel (which confusingly had a very Hawaiian theme to it).  The Main Street Hotel has tons of very lovely Victorian era antiques and brass everywhere.  If it didn’t have a casino in it, it would be the perfect place for a steampunk convention.  Unfortunately, Vegas still allows smoking, so many of my smoke intolerant friends wisely decided to stay home and avoid the issue.  Even if a restaurant does not allow smoking, the doors are always wide open and the smoke is everywhere.  Some of the larger casinos have better tech to whisk it away, but old Vegas is sadly lacking in this tech.  I am still uncertain why the Social Club at the Main Street was not used.  It looks to be a very large room and it is away from the smoke and noise of the casino entirely.

As with most first time conventions, it was disorganized and not as smooth as it could be, but it made a valiant effort.  We were surprised to read that they were not planning on selling memberships at the door, as this is where a good 50% of the sales usually happen.  It turns out that they had limited space and could only accommodate about 150 people.  While it is good to know your limitations, it might have been useful information for merchants and others to determine their involvement.  (Edited to add: It seems that not selling at the door was due to some state licensing issue.  Quite inconvenient I would suspect.)

There were only two event rooms used most of the weekend and one other that was used primarily Friday night, the Pullman Room.  The Pullman Room was very lovely and Victorian and even had a Pullman car attached to it.  It was also away from the smoke.  It is unfortunate that it was not used the rest of the weekend, except for one group photo op that most of us did not know about.  The other two rooms were in the California, a hotel across the sky bridge from the main hotel.  The first room, the Maile Room was 1,428 sq feet and housed the tiny primary merchant room.  The second room, the O’Hana Room was about twice as big, but housed not only another six or seven merchants on the periphery but also the stage and chairs for all the programming throughout the weekend.  I have seen other small conventions do this, but it is quite awkward for the merchants trying to do business.  The programming participants did have a microphone, which helps a bit.  These rooms are right off the casino and so of course the smoke is invasive.

 

The programming that we saw was on par with that of most small first time cons.  The concert on Saturday night was headlined by the Velveteen Band, an okay ensemble including a rabbit headed lead and some puppets.  Unwoman and Poplock Holmes were awesome as always and our favorite part of the weekend’s entertainment. 

We had a great time sitting and chatting with various folks at the bar outside the programming rooms, although we were dismayed that they closed at 11:00 PM on Saturday night.  I invited anyone we knew who was staying on Sunday night to join us at the bar in our hotel and we had a great turnout.  These sorts of impromptu gatherings are often the best times of a con, and this was no exception.

Mr. Kastler is a very gracious host, and as an intimate gathering for his birthday, this was successful, but it hardly lifted “the standard of a steampunk con” as he has boasted.  As always, the attendees were the best part of the event and we had a fabulous time chatting and making new friends.  There were so many wonderfully outfitted steampunk enthusiasts.  I personally despise the word “garb” when referring to steampunk enthusiasts.   I think “gear” might be more appropriate.  The environment, at least in places was simply magical for photos and we took full advantage.

So, despite still coughing the smoke out of my lungs, I have quite a few lovely photos and had a nice weekend at Steamathon.  I know personally how difficult it is to make everything run smoothly, especially the first time, so I applaud the effort of Kastler and his staff.

Some of our photo galleries can be seen here and here.

Kurios by Cirque du Soleil

Yesterday we attended Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities by Cirque du Soleil.  Our friend had suggested Superbowl Sunday as a good day to go since attendance would be light.  It was and aside from the weather it was perfect.  It rained on the way in, which made me quip is this Cirque du Soleil or Cirque du Pluie?  (Circus of the Sun or Circus of the Rain, although my French is probably wrong.)  Due to the cold, it was 48 degrees and the rain, it was hard to decide what to wear that would work for standing in line and being in a crowded auditorium. We brought an umbrella which then became a nuisance to lug about, but it was better than being cold and wet.

My outfit, although fairly subdued got a great deal of appreciative comments.  One poor woman came up to let me know she had asked the sales staff if she could buy my boots and goggles.  She was quite disappointed that she could not.  I told her the goggles were from A Masquerade and the boots were from Steamtropolis.  Hopefully that garners some sales.  I guess I need to carry around promotional materials.  I did give out my business card a few times, so my blog might be helpful.

We decided to get our photo taken at the “Photo Lab”.  It was a green screen with five different digital scenes.  The photographer was good at getting folks posed.  Since we were dressed up, our photo helped encourage more folks to try it out.  They did have a few props you could borrow as well as hats.  We decided on getting a copy of the last shot, although I was disappointed that they did not offer a digital copy of the whole set.  The details around the “Photo Lab” were very well done.

After we found our seats I went to confirm that photography was okay.  I was told yes as long as it wasn’t flash.  My little point and shoot hates low light, so I didn’t get any great shots, but it’s nice to have some reminders of what went on.  While I was making my inquiry, I saw regular people on the bridge above the stage.  I thought they might be from the VIP or Backstage package, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I asked.  The usher handed me over to a man named Luke.  I put my things down at our seats and on Luke’s advice, I brought my husband along to take a photo.  I was lead to the back of the stage and handed off twice more to people who lead me to the bridge.  They each ensured my heels were not too high, and I was told to not let go of the hand rails.  It was quite thrilling to be up so high.  As I walked a heard a few people cheer, and someone shouted out my name.  It was my friend Kevin.  I wanted to wave, but I also didn’t want to get yelled at.  My husband got a few very blurry shots of me on the bridge.  The front end of the bridge becomes very steep and the railings end leaving you on a small set of steps.  There was a woman there to help me down and the excitement was over.

We chatted with Kevin for a moment.  He had managed to snag a front row seat.  I was jealous.

The set design for the show is very steampunk, utilizing various recycled bits and bobs and lots of mechanical bracings.  Many of the larger props are quite nice including a giant mechanical hand that serves as a platform for some of the performers.  The main characters were done up in very steampunk attire.  One character had accordion pants and my favorite was a woman with a spring for a skirt.  The musicians and singer were done up wonderfully.  I especially loved the “Diva” with a gramophone horn incorporated into her hair.  There are mad scientists, and less mad scientists, and some mechanical creations.  There is a man with a huge stove for a midsection in which lives a tiny little woman.  I really want to see more of these characters throughout the show, but they are background elements.  There is one performer that is an aviator, and several in Victorian attire but quite often the performers are fish.  Fish?

Sadly, I would say that not all of the acts could be called steampunk.  I was a bit disappointed in not only the lack of imagination in some of them, but the level of entertainment.  Overall, I had a wonderful time, but with a theme like steampunk, there is just so much more that could have been done.  It’s a pity that it was not more fully realized.

That said, it is a wonderfully fun show.  I am glad we went.  I hope that it is a rousing success.

My gallery can be seen here.  (click)

 

 

About The Author

Diana Vick

I am an illustrator, writer, costumer and steampunk enthusiast.
I have done illustration for comic books, animation and collectible card games such as Magic the Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings. Currently, I do art for my own line of cards and gifts in my Zazzle shop.