Tea & Automatons

Diana Vick's corner of the interweb

Steamcon is no more

On Sunday we got word that the new board had decided to close up shop.  Martin and I completely understand the reasoning.  You can read a more detailed explanation here. As you can well imagine, I am deeply saddened.  I have been trying to write down my thoughts, but having little luck.  I will try again in a bit.

Please don’t think that Steamcon was the only steampunk in the northwest.  If you are on Facebook, I have been working on an announcement group for events.  You can see it here. I will make a post about events here soon.

Thank you for all your support throughout the five wonderful years we ran.

Steampunk Hands Around the World

(Apologies.  I began this over a week ago, but my computer died and it’s taken me a while to get back to it.  Onwards!)

Some of you may have heard of the project beginning this month; an international celebration of steampunk connections from all corners of the globe called Steampunk Hands Around the World.  While this has caught me at a very low ebb in my steampunk career, I thought I would at least make an entry to make sure my readers are aware of this project and take a moment to highlight some of the wonderful connections that I have made throughout the years.

I suspect that six and a half years of planning events, giving talks and running Steamcon might serve to excuse me from the Bobbins Initiative.  I’ve done my bit and I am taking a break.  Seriously though, I am so honored when people tell me that I had even the smallest part in bringing them to the steampunk family.  Sharing my passion with others has been the sweetest experience of my life.

Over the years I have made so many friends, in so many countries and steampunk has made it all possible.  Steampunk seems to be able to touch us all so deeply and inspire us so mightily.  It inspires us to dream, to make, to write, to sing and to connect.

At Dragoncon in 2008, when we discovered that the room for the steampunk panel was going to be much too small for all the eager fans, some friends and I took over an empty room and created the “Guerilla Steampunk Panel”. We had great fun entertaining and educating a full house.  Since then I’ve had the pleasure of doing so at many conventions and it’s always well received.  I’ve attended Dragoncon, World Steam Expo, Gaslight Gathering, Victoria Steam Expo, H.R.M., GEARcon and of course many local events as well.  I was even fan guest of honor at Clockwork Alchemy.  Everywhere I have been fans have been interested and passionate.  It is so wonderful to see.

Dr. Grymm’s book One Thousand Steampunk Creations has been instrumental in letting the world see what steampunks have created.  I was honored to be included.  At Brass Screw Confederacy, I was approached by a woman who asked if I was Diana Vick.  I told her yes and she said that her two young daughters were huge fans of mine.  When I asked her how they knew my work, she said it was that book.

One of my greatest passions is costuming. Some of the costumers that I’ve met are so amazing.  Paige Gardener is a total inspiration to me.  Her ensembles are a miracle of ingenuity.  Aleta Pardalis does simply stunning costumes, from Poison Ivy to Rowena Ravenclaw all with an amazing steampunk flare.  Thomas Willeford remains one of the most iconic makers in the scene.   Credit where credit is due.

I am proud to have met and chatted with all three of the steampunk fathers; Tim Powers, Jim Blaylock and K.W. Jeter.  Not only are they all very talented writers but they are some of the nicest guys you will ever meet.   Cherie Priest, another talented writer and total babe is also a fabulous lady.

There are so many amazing artists doing steampunk work.  Brian Kesinger’s characters are so fascinating and he is a very dear man.  Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika is wonderful and the fact he takes inspiration right from the fandom makes her even more amazing.  Gary Gianni is fabulous and fabulously talented. Paul Guinan and his character Boilerplate are sneaking history lessons into comic art.

Jaimie Goh and I may not have had an auspicious start, but after some discussion, I feel we have bonded.  Magpie Killjoy is a completely stealth phenomenon.

When I was researching my trip to France, French steampunk enthusiast Utelo connected with me and was a great resource.  At Steamcon V I got to meet Barbara Nolasco from Puerto Rico, a charming and beautiful young fan.  Many of the people that I know in other countries I have not yet met in person, but I hope to do so in time.

I am pleased to call the members of the band Abney Park, my friends, and they have always inspired me with their energy and fun attitude towards steampunk.  Captain Robert and I may not always agree completely but we have deep mutual respect for one another.  Nathaniel Johnstone and his new wife Tempest are a couple of the most beautiful and creative people I’ve ever met.  Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey and her mother are a joy to know and hang out with, and of course Erica is an extremely talented musician.

Closer to home, I want to say that Jordan Block of Sepiachord is probably the most knowledgeable person on the planet when it comes to steampunk music.  Nathan Barnett, innkeeper and all round dapper man is so gracious.  Marshall Hunter and his Rise of Aester crew impress me with their creativity and skills.

As I write this I realize that I am not going to be able to mention all of the fabulous people that I have met.  I apologize for my inadequacies, but please know I treasure you all.  There are simply too many wonderful and talented people in the steampunk community and I feel blessed to have met so many of them.  So many of you.  Thank you.






Reader’s Choice Awards

The Steampunk Chronicles have just opened up their Reader’s Choice Award nominations for this year.  This is an excellent opportunity for us as steampunk enthusiasts to let them know what we like best.  I’d especially like to see more of our local steampunk activities and entities represented.  Seattle has often won “Best City for Steampunk”.  It would be great to see Steamcon get the nod for “Best Overall Convention”.  And we should show Abney Park or Vagabond Opera the love, right?

I’m going to even suggest that perhaps you might know someone who would qualify for “Best Dressed Female” ?

Anyway, please consider making some nominations and letting them know the Pacific Northwest is proud of our steam folk!

Nominate here!


Vintage Christmas Cards : Part One

For Christmas, I have found some wonderful vintage cards featuring Santa with some unusual modes of transportation.  Often it appears that he is just dumping toys out to fall down to the good and unsuspecting girls and boys.  In one, he appears to have gotten a bit too far from the earth, but hopefully he knows what he’s doing.

The Traveling Life

For all of you that are going to be traveling to Steamcon, I thought I’d write up some thoughts about packing and such, especially in regards to steampunk gear.  A small aside, “garb” is the term used by the SCA, so I tend to call my steampunk costumery “gear” to differentiate it.  Hat, props, goggles, boots, corsets  and more!  Steampunk gear is complicated and fussy.   Here are some things that have worked and not worked for me in the past.

The biggest hurdle of course is props.  Weapons are especially difficult.  The more realistic, the harder they are to get to your destination safely.  TSA is a very suspicious organization, and probably with good reason.  I recommend not trying to transport anything that was ever an actual weapon.  They have no sense of humor and you may lose it.  So shell casings, even as decoration are a bad idea these days.

When I need to get large props to a show, I often will ship a box or two to my hotel.  This can be costly, and you are risking shipping damage, but sometimes it’s the only way to ensure things get to your destination.  Be aware, finding a FedEx office outside the hotel will save you quite a lot of money.  Hotels add on a lot of fees.

It worked very well for many years and then I had disaster strike.  One of my three boxes didn’t show up after a show in Detroit.  The identical one that did arrive, was quit damaged and it lead me to wonder if the other one had been even more damaged or destroyed.  I made a huge effort to track it down, but to no avail.  Long story short, about a year and a half later I got it back, mostly unharmed.  It does make me very wary these days.

One idea that I have found works well is to have a sturdy hatbox with a handle as a carry-on.  I put two hats nestled into each other and another tiny hat in them.  I add compasses, widgets and jewelry to the center if there is room.  Then I wrap the interior of the box with belts, goggles and such and then add a layer of squishable clothing.  TSA is likely to want to inspect anything that looks suspicious, but at least you can be there to supervise.  The last time my hatbox went through security I got a big grin from the handsome TSA agent, who then told me it was the “most interesting” assortment of things he had ever seen go through his scanner.  I wish I had had a Steamcon flyer to give him.

If you have a hat that won’t fit, simply wear it.  You will be able to store it overhead once you get settled and they never count it as a carryon.

Parasols and corsets are a bit problematic.  They can potentially read as dangerous metal or knives, so having them in a carry may not be the best idea.  It can be a risk to put them in checked luggage, but it will generally work better.  Putting a parasol in a large mailing tube and carrying it on can work as well.  You may need to pull it out for inspection.   Art supply stores have tubes with handles already attached or you can fashion one yourself.

For most clothing, my husband and I have nice hanging bag that folds up.  It is very handy to just pull everything out and hang it up when we reach the hotel.

I’m sure I’ve missed some tips, but Steamcon is about a week away, so my brain is well pummeled mush at this point.  I am so looking forward to seeing all the fabulous costumes that you all have created and sharing my own new creations.  It should be a marvelous time.  See you there!


Stay with Us at Steamcon V!

Steamcon, the Northwest’s premier steampunk convention is coming up October 25th – 27th.  The theme this year is “Around the World” which lends itself to explorer costumes and exotic apparel.  As a costumer, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t stay in the hotel.  I hate to limit myself to one ensemble so having a room means I can take a small break and change clothes when I feel like it.  And of course being Halloween weekend means costumes are a must!

The Hyatt Regency Bellevue is a gorgeous hotel with lots of amenities.  Did you know there is a fridge in every hotel room?  Eques, the hotel’s breakfast restaurant has some of the most amazingly decadent breakfasts.  Nearby there is just about everything imaginable, from restaurants, grocery stores, shops, movie theaters and even a bowling alley.

Steamcon has a special rate for the weekend, but this opportunity ends on September 23rd, so don’t delay.  Get your reservation to stay in the heart of the adventure!


The Clockwork Professor

Saw a delightful steampunk play the other night at the Theater Off Jackson called The Clockwork Professor.  A funfilled romp with automatons, airships and time travel.  If you are in the Seattle area, you should try and catch it in the next two weeks.  Tickets are here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/343229

Steamcon in the Solstice Parade!

Widget before the parade

In a parade that is famous for naked (except for body paint) cyclists, it can be hard to stand out.  I think that the members of Steamcon, quite clothed thank you very much, managed to garner a good deal of attention.  We made the decision to march in the 25th annual Fremont Solstice Parade, a celebration of creativity and freedom of expression to get some attention for Steamcon V and steampunk in Seattle.  As previously stated one of the traditions of the parade are the naked cyclists and some of them do a great job of painting their bodies in very creative ways.  Several of us did use paint as well but much more selectively on our faces.

Steampunks at the parade - photo by randwolf

Our group, all dressed in fun and festive steampunk ensembles made the one and half mile trek.  The Seattle Times reporter called us “a fetchingly attired group of steampunk fans…”

Our entourage included three bicyclists (entirely clothed), a skateboarder, two people on stilts and a man in a reclining bike.  We ended up with almost twenty folks by the end of the parade.  It was a long, hot and sunny walk, but the crowd’s enthusiasm and shouts of “Steampunk!”  were very encouraging.  At one point near the end a woman turned her daughter to our group and loudly proclaimed “That.  That is what steampunk is!”

There is no official gallery for our parade group, but some of the shots can be found here.

If you are interested in joining us, we are going to march in the Pride Parade next weekend.  Details can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/470753979667718/


Doll Expo

Yesterday I had the honor of being the surprise guest speaker at the banquet at the Pacific Northwest Ball Jointed Doll Expo.  The reason Marie Adair, the Expo Coordinator asked me to speak was that next year’s theme is STEAMPUNK!!!!  This year’s theme was Fairytales and the creativity was simply amazing.
They have contests for the best dressed dolls, best scenes and so on.  There is also a contest for the best photo backdrops and my husband is trying hard not to give in to all the wonderful ideas he has.  I do not currently own one of the dolls, but I have to admit, it is tempting.  They are beautiful and they have such nice clothes and wonderful accessories!  Needless to say, neither of us need any new hobbies, but we are both quite excited for next year’s show.  It will be May 10th 2014 at the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton.  I’ll be sure to post when they have the website updated so you can all join us.

I took a few pictures of some of the fantastic dolls.  You can view the gallery here.   Enjoy!

And while they are not ball jointed dolls, I have been collecting images of steampunk dolls that catch my eye over on my Pinterest page.  You can see them here.




Express Yourself!

Yesterday I gathered a group of friends at the Woodland Park Zoo to take some photos to promote Steamcon V.  Amber Clark of Stopped Motion Photography graciously offered to donate her time and energy to the project.  I am eagerly awaiting the results.  I’ll make sure to post some when we get them done.

It was a very fun adventure and I think we will have some fabulous photos.  We really have to do that more often.  It got me thinking about photography these days.  Digital photography has made things so much more fluid.  It’s so nice not to feel that you have to control every aspect of what gets into the shot.  PhotoShop is my best friend for so many reasons.

I showed my book, Steampunk Archetypes to a young woman the other day and she politely said it was “nice but too over processed” in her opinion.

A little history about the book; I wanted to create a book that addressed some of the main archetypes of steampunk as a way to think about dressing for the genre.  It is to encourage people to think beyond the standard uniform looks that we had begun to see.  It is not very big or detailed, but it’s kind of a starting point.  I’d love to have the chance to write a larger tome some day.

All the photos in the book are of me, for a few different reasons.  The first is because I have lots of pictures of myself in various costumes so that was handy.  The second is because I really can’t afford to hire models, rent or buy clothes, pay photographers and all the other myriad costs associated with doing a more professional operation.  The third is that I am quite frankly proud of my efforts to step beyond the ubiquitous and create new and different looks.  These are looks that I engineered and I am proud of them.

As for “over processed”, yes I concede that my photos are reworked in Photoshop to a large degree, but it is entirely intentional.  I thought about her comment for a while, but I keep coming to the same conclusion which is that I make up for what I lack by using my artistic skills.  The woman in question is a young model and still enjoying notoriety and attention.  I am no longer young and thin.  I freely admit that I “shop” out blemishes, unflattering bits or double chins once in awhile.  I also do not have a makeup artist, stylist or lighting assistant to help make the photos better from the start.  I do not even have a professional photographer usually.  It’s just my husband shooting quick shots during this or that event that half the time, we are also running.  So I make do with whatever photos we happen to get.  Often I have to compensate for poor light levels or bad backgrounds.

I did a little modeling when I was younger, but the difference is that now I am creating the entire image.  I am choosing the clothes, props, and accessories.  I pick out the wigs.  I do the makeup.  Then I take the photograph and Photoshop out or in a background.  I decide on what effects to add.  This is my artwork.  I am working toward showcasing the look, not the photo itself.

It’s pride perhaps but not vanity. I am not dressed up because I think I am “all that.”  I dress up because I created this look to express myself.  I am proud of my costuming, and my makeup work.   I found a way to express myself and it makes me feel good.  I want to encourage others to do so as well.  Five years old or fifty or seventy five, I want people to feel free to express themselves.    So what if we are not supermodels?  Dress up!  Have fun.

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.