Tea & Automatons

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Can Art Nouveau Be Steampunk?

Art Nouveau Steampunk Portrait by Echo Chernik

For the past year or so, I’ve heard people say that Art Nouveau is dieselpunk.  Not being an art history major, I wasn’t going to argue the point without knowing the facts.  That did not sound right, but maybe I was confused.  Then in the last week, while having four different discussions about the difference between steampunk and dieselpunk, people have said something to the effect of “I am not really a dieselpunk fan but I do love Art Nouveau…”  Hmmm.  Time to hit the books or rather the internet.

Almost every source I found says that the Art Nouveau movement is from 1894 – 1914.  I generally feel that steampunk gives way to dieselpunk at about the start of World War I which is 1914, so that would make Art Nouveau entirely acceptable in the steampunk era.  Not that I am saying that the artwork from that period is steampunk.  It would obviously need to be tweaked, given a degree of anachronism, science fiction or technology, but my favorite art movement is most definitely in the appropriate era to be steampunk.

Okay, so perhaps the problem is that these people are mixing up Art Nouveau with Art Deco, which is rooted quite squarely in the dieselpunk era, beginning in the 1920’s and going all the way to the 1940’s.  After a little digging, I am pretty sure this must be the case.  I know that some of the works are a little hard to differentiate, but they are definitely separate things.  In a way it’s a lot like the difficulty people have distinguishing steampunk and dieselpunk.

Steampunk came first chronologically and though they are both types of retrofuturism, they are most certainly distinctive genres.  Steampunk is based in an earlier age when steam power was more prevalent, with to my mind a bit more optimism.  Dieselpunk arose at the beginning of World War I, with the use of diesel power, when the world changed and became a war hardened place.  While I like to say that steampunk doesn’t NEED historical accuracy, understanding how the world is changed by certain events does help you to understand how people of the time might have imagined their future, which leads to how dieselpunk and steampunk differ.  Just like in art, an understanding of the underlying basics is key to being able to change history believably.


My Busy Spring

I hope that you have been enjoying this crazy season.  I feel like I have either been prepping for events or attending them non-stop for a while.  Still a few more to go too.

First there was the Steampunk Exhibition Ball run by the Center for Sex Positive Culture.  It was held in the new location for the Museum of History and Industry. People were so very well dressed.  It was quite a treat.  I do miss the old location for it’s multiple spaces.  The new space is nice and very open.   The prohibition on flash photography was also a bit annoying but we found light where we could.


We went to a dress up event at the Raygun Lounge called Shindig.  I am not really a game person so it won’t be a standard haunt for me, but several of my friends were moving away soon, so it was a great excuse to hang out with them.  They had tasty food and beverages for sale as well, so it was a nice night.

Lastly, there was Steampunk University last Saturday.  We had classes and a store full of great merchants.  Attendance was decent, despite the many scattered showers.  I got a lot of good feedback from people who came to find out what this steampunk thing was really all about. They seemed very enthused.  We sold a lot of memberships to the convention!

Although I am steadfastly saving every penny for my birthday trip to Paris, I did buy a gorgeous mini pith helmet from my friend Amanda Forbes.  It was too cute to resist and it will go well with Steamcon V’s “Around the World” theme.

Next weekend, the Abney Park and Steam Powered Giraffe show!

Steamcon’s Eggstravaganza at Norwescon

Once again at Norwescon on Easter weekend, Steamcon will be running a promo table and Eggstravaganza.  We will be selling golden eggs filled with candy and a prize code.  The prizes include Steamcon V memberships, Steamcon IV pins, Steamcon stickers, Steamcon magnets, and lots more fun things.  You will also get a ribbon.  We’ve made four new ones just for Norwescon, but the supply is limited so get them while they last.

If you have not gotten your Steamcon V membership yet we will have them for sale at a discounted rate and for an even better discount if you pay by cash or check.  You will receive a ribbon for purchasing memberships as well.

So drop by in your steampunk finery and chat with us about this year’s Steamcon.  It’s going to be the best yet!

Only Eight Days left!

Only eight more days to order my fund raising t-shirt to help with my dream steampunk trip!  This is an extremely limited edition shirt.  Don’t miss your opportunity to own one and help a good cause!



Thank you!!!!!

Emerald City Comic Con 2013

So ECCC was good.  I am so tired today.  Bone weary.  Dry air, hard chairs and concrete floors for three days are hard on the old bones.  My ankle hurts where a moron ran into me with a cart when we got to the car after packing up the table.  Luckily I managed to not fall on my face into the glass display case I was carrying, but my ankle is still complaining.

We made many children and adults happy with the bin o’ cheap toys and the bin o’ stuffies.  Met a lot of pin and action figure collectors.  Overall we did pretty good.

My art got some notice, but not as much as I would have hoped.  It can be so disheartening to watch thousands of fans pass you by for all the big name artists, but every now and then someone would stop and look appreciatively.  I did get to meet a few of my very enthusiastic fans.  I even signed a Magic card, which I don’t think I have done in years.  I only painted three ever and one was cut from the deck.  One person had an odd moment when he realized that I was also the person responsible for Steamcon.  We did manage to promote Steamcon a bit and it’s amazing and worrisome how many folks still have just not heard of it.  Short of wandering the streets in costume, handing out flyers, I am just not sure how else to reach them.

I wore three different purple steampunk ensembles and they were well received, but as usual we only managed to get pictures of Saturday’s outfit.    I know that my picture was taken on other days, but I doubt I’ll ever find the photos.  Overall I think there was less costuming this year, but it could just be that they never got back to our table.  The show floor doubled this year and it was very difficult to get through the bottleneck on the Skybridge.  There were lots of attendees but there was even more stuff to buy so it’s hard to say if that works in our favor.

I bought a few cool things, like Brian Kesinger’s Tea Girl Calender, a pair of gorgeous goggles from Blonde Swan, and a couple steampunk appropriate necklaces.  I managed to resist the urge to shop like mad, which at ECCC is a superhuman feat.

I reserved my table for next year, so I need to make notes about what works and what doesn’t.  I am glad that I don’t do this too often, like many others do. It is fun, sometimes rewarding, but so much work.

The rest of my photos are here.

Help My Dream Come True?

What dream you ask.  My Steampunk Dream Trip to Paris.

What better place for a steampunk enthusiast to go than France!  Birthplace of Jules Verne, home of the Eiffel Tower, Museums, Art and Industry!  Disneyland Paris with the Nautilus!  Mechanical elephants!

So for my fiftieth birthday we are making a journey to Paris.  Thanks to my husband’s work, he had a bunch of airline miles and hotel points, so we got the basics taken care of.  It won’t be a luxury trip, but if nothing else we are going to kick around the city of lights for a week.

I love traveling and what little of it that I’ve done in Europe was amazing.  I was there briefly when I was about six, of which I remember almost nothing.  Then back in 1993, I went on a trip to Angouleme France for a bande desinee (comic book) convention.  That is a long and bizarre tale for another time.  It turned out to be one of the coldest winters in recorded history and I don’t deal with cold well so I was pretty miserable.  I got to spend a very surreal week in Paris afterward but I had a terrible head cold by that point and my host was overly fond of Chinese food so I had a lot of hot and sour soup.   I have always wanted to go back and see Paris properly.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I’d like to ask you for a little help.  For the past six years, I have been working on Steamcon pretty much full time.  I do enjoy it, but it takes up a lot of my time and creativity, leaving me with little to spare for myself.  If you appreciate all that hard work and you can spare it, I’d love it if you would contribute to my trip fund.  I will completely understand if you don’t want to.  I really don’t even like to ask, but if I don’t, I’ll never know.

The way I see it, I have some very basic goals that I will meet and if I get funded I’ll keep adding slightly bigger goals.  I’ll take lots and lots of pictures and I promise to blog about the entire trip when I return so you can live vicariously through me.

The biggest expense is a trip to Nantes to visit the Jules Verne Museum and the Machines de L’ile.  It requires a train trip and an extra hotel night, but the museum is a must and seeing the mechanical animals up close and personal would be a dream come true.

Machines d L'ile

Then, if we raise enough extra I would truly love to dine at the Jules Verne Restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower.    It is an expensive meal even at lunch, but it seems so appropriate.

So here are my thoughts on the trip and how things can expand if folks are willing to help us out.

  • Basic trip – do walking tours around the city.  Eiffel Tower etc.  Munch croissants.  Sit in sidewalk cafes.
  • Visit the Musee des Arts et Metiers  and the steampunk Metro station.
  • Possibly visit the Musee des Arts Forain (Carnival Arts)
  • A day at Paris Disneyland and especially the Jules Verne portion.
  • A train trip to Nantes to visit the Jules Verne Museum and visit Machines de L’ile.  Ride the Mechanical Elephant!
  • Lunch at the Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower on my birthday or if expenses allow dinner instead.
  • Or Dinner at Le Train Bleu, a breathtakingly beautiful restaurant.

I am sure I will come up with a few other fun ideas.  If you can help out, I’d be ever so grateful. If you have ever wanted to go to Paris or you are curious about the steampunk aspects, this is a great chance to assist with a dream.   While I really can’t offer incentives for donating, I do pledge that the person that donates the most will earn a special keepsake from my Paris trip!

I have three easy ways you can help out, if you are willing.

1.  The first is simply find me at an event and contribute directly to my donation box.  It has a copper colored Eiffel tower on it.  You can’t miss it.

2.  The second is to go to the GoFundMe site I just set up.  They do take a cut, so in person is better but if you won’t see me before May, it’s an option.

3.  The third is to buy my spiffy new t-shirt design on TeeSpring.  It will be up for just 21 days and they will print them only if we sell 30 or more.  You will have a very limited edition t-shirt by me and funds will be added to my trip fund.  Win/win.

I suppose there are other ways to help out, but those are the three I have come up with.  Feel free to contact me if you think of something else.  I do appreciate any help that you can spare.  I am very much looking forward to this trip.


2013 Steampunk Events

There are a lot of fun steampunk events coming up.  Here is a list of the ones I know that I am going to do so far.  More may be added to this list in time.  I hope to see you at some of these events.  Feel free to drop by and say hello!

Emerald City Comic Con – WA State Convention Center – March 1-3

While this isn’t technically a steampunk event, there will definitely be steampunk art, merchandise and costuming.  I will be at table L- 20 in the Artists Alley with my Steamporium merchandise as well as my other art.

Steampunk Exhibition Ball – MOHAI – March 9th

A good excuse for steampunks to dress to the nines.

Norwescon – Seatac Doubletree – March 29 – 31

This is a general science fiction convention, but there will be some steampunk content.  Steamcon will have a promotional table in the main hallway and we will be doing raffles and selling Steamcon memberships.

Steampunk University and Store – All Pilgrims’ Church – April 6th

This is an excellent opportunity for anyone curious about steampunk to find out what it’s all about.  Even if you don’t want to attend classes, the store is a wonderful shopping opportunity.  Admission is Free.

Abney Park/Steam Powered Giraffe Show – Historic Everett Theater – April 13th

This should be a fabulous concert.

Brass Screw Confederacy – Port Townsend – June 7-9

The second annual steampunk festival held in picturesque Port Townsend.

Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale – All Pilgrims’ Church – June 15th

A wondrous market filled with art and wares from many of the merchants that will be at Steamcon.  It is a great opportunity to get your ensembles and props for the next steampunk events.

G.E.A.R.con – Portland Doubletree – August 5-7

Portland’s annual steampunk convention.

Time Travelers’ Rummage Sale – All Pilgrims’ Church – August 17th

One more shot at the great shopping opportunities before Steamcon.

Steamcon V – Bellevue Hyatt Regency – October 25th – 27th

Once again we present the Northwest’s premiere steampunk convention.  This year’s theme is Around the World and we plan on bringing you steampunk from many lands, exploration of the Victorian world as it never was and much more.  Professor Elemental has kindly offered to drop by and join in the fun as well as artist Brian Kesinger and author S.M. Stirling.  It will be a grand show!

Interview on Steamed

Head on over to the Steamed Blog and check out the interview we did. Steamcon, pins and art are discussed.


Steampunk Dress Up Dolls

My Meez avatar from years ago

I LOVE playing dress up and when I don’t have an outlet for that, I turn to the internet.  I did some major league browsing the other day for online steampunk dressup dolls.  I found quite a few.  I thought you all might like an overview of what I found.  I put them in order from least successful to most successful, using quality of art, ease of use, degree of steampunkitude (or some such) and degree of customizability as my criteria.  I created the most steampunk example of each doll that I could manage in each case for demonstration purposes.  In some cases, the options were so limited that I think I may have come up with the only steampunk look available.  I then took screen caps and each one links to it’s game, so you can go and try them out for yourself.

# 14 - Unknown - Least successful

# 14.  First off there is a really terrible doll, who is garishly cartoony and barely even steampunk. This is really the best look she had.   The customization is fair, but the art is not appealing, to me at least.  I am unable to find the link to her game, which is probably not a great loss.





# 13 - Steampunk Dressing

# 13.  Our next game has incredibly poor mechanics.  It is so hard to use that I nearly gave up.  The art is sub par and it is minimally steampunk.  I think they tried to integrate photos of hats into the art, which failed miserably.  I’d give it a miss.







# 12. - TeddyBlack

# 12.  This is an art piece from Deviantart artist TeddyBlack.  The art is nice.  The doll is a bit stiff and the only customization are two settings for  her face and some different wigs.  Although there are a few pieces of clothing and some accessories that are quite steampunk, there are also a lot of odd or modern pieces that don’t work.  On the whole the clothing lacks movement or something to give it interest.






# 11 - Soulless

# 11. This is a  piece is based off of an existing book series, The Parasol Protectorate. The doll is the main character,  Alexia Tarabotti, so customization is not an option.  The application is very good, but the outfits are strictly Victorian and there is little or no steampunk twist to it at all.  It shares it’s title with the first book, Soulless which could also be a commentary on the images, unfortunately.  For the purposes of this review, it did not make the criteria, although I am sure her fans are fond of the game.




# 10

# 10.  Our next game has acceptable art and application.  The only customization is in a variety of wigs.  Mainly it misses the mark for steampunk and design of the clothing, often just throwing gears on rather than designing anything interesting.  Much more subculture than Victorian.  It also veers off into cyberpunk a bit too far.





# 9

# 9.  This game feels like someone just slapped the steampunk label on it.  It is very similar to many of the dress up dolls and I struggled to find enough Victorianesque clothing to make it work, although I am rather fond of this particular outfit.  The game has pretty much no steampunk elements.  It gets good marks for application, art and customization however.





# 8 - Clockwork Couture

# 8.  This game is called Clockwork Couture and it is the first of these games I ever saw.  The art is rich, but unfortunately the cluttered nature of the set makes it difficult to use.  The doll is not customizable at all nor are any of the clothes.  The clothing is sometimes very steampunk, but often drifts too far into other eras.  I want to like this one more, but I never get a result that I am very happy with.






# 7 - Steampunk Girl

# 7.  This  is a very stylized piece.  The art is nice if a bit odd.  High marks for the amount of color customization allowed, but the clothing comes in chunks that are less than optimal.  This gives less freedom to mix and match.  Overall  it is a fairly fun doll but I really feel it had more potential.







# 6 - Steampunk Wedding

# 6.  This is the only game  that I found in which you had two people to design.  While they call it Steampunk Wedding, very few of the options would be suitable for a wedding.  It contains some very steampunk pieces and the customization is good.  The art is highly stylized and might not be to everyone’s taste.





# 5 - Candy's World

# 5.  This is Candy’s World.  The art is gorgeous but the doll seems bit stiff.  The steampunk score is quite high.  The application works well.  The customization could use a lot more variety and more color would be appreciated.









# 4 - Azalea's Dolls

# 4  Azalea’s Dolls.  The art is a bit anime but decent if a bit simplistic.  The clothes are mostly appropriate and there is some customization.  Overall this application is very good and easy to use.  I just wish for more variety and customization on this one.








# 3

# 3.  The art is very anime, which I happen to like.  The application is good.  The clothes are fairly steampunk except for some modern pieces that would be more subculture of steampunk than genre.  There could be more customization and color choice.  Also the clothing comes in sections not pieces, so it is less than optimal for mixing and matching.






# 2 - Steampunk Nation

# 2. This  is Steampunk Nation which is again very anime.  This is the only game in the review that allows you to make a male or female character.  There is a good amount of color customization on the doll, but not so much for the clothes, usually just a choice of two or three different sombre color versions.  The application makes the options a bit small to see making it hard to choose. There is a complete lack of skirts.  None at all and I find this to be frustrating.




# 1. Costume Creator by Ammatu

#1.  Lastly there is a doll by Ammatu.  The art is gorgeous.  Full marks for steampunk clothing and accessories.  The application method is good although the details can be quite small.  A very small amount of customization is available, which I feel is this doll’s biggest drawback.





Victorian Butterfly



I only reviewed dolls that were actually labeled steampunk, but I do have three more that are outside the box, if you will that I found to be fun.

Victorian Butterfly is as the title implies just Victorian.  The art is a bit anime but I thought the clothing choices were wonderful.  With just a bit of steampunk content added this could fit in quite well.  It had a great application, lots of customization and I loved the ability to change the wallpaper as well.

I am appalled to find that when I looked at dolls labeled Victorian, they almost never were, so this one was a happy find.


Ocean Fashion

Ocean Fashion

Ocean Fashion lends itself more to modern day or cyberpunk looks but I found a few options that I felt could be applied to more fantasy based steampunk looks.  It’s application is fabulous and the customization is quite extensive, although I did wish for a bit more color choices.  The art is really nice.  I hope someday this artist will attempt a steampunk doll.

Robecca Steam Dance Class




Lastly I give you Monster High’s automaton, Robecca Steam.  Why?  Well, because it was this doll that started me off on this quest.  It’s a well done app, with pretty art, but for the most part there is a very small range of steampunk stuff.  The designers at Mattel have done a pretty good job on the actual dolls, but this one needed a bit more.

So there you have it.  I am sure there are more out there, but that is what I found.  If you know of some, drop me a note?  I did learn that Tea Girls artist Brian Kesinger is planning on doing steampunk dolls, although I am not sure if they will be paper dolls or virtual.  Either way they are sure to be gorgeous, so I am definitely looking forward to seeing them.  I hope you enjoyed my little review.  I do apologize for the black hole of time that I have just introduced you to.  You will pop out the other side eventually.

Steampunk Needs…

My ensemble from 2008

Back in 2008, on the way to a steampunk costumed gathering I was musing on how to phrase a concept that seemed to be misunderstood. Steampunk has a varying degree of anachronism if it is successful. A very basic tenant of science fiction is the introduction of things that are ahead of their time and it is even more important to steampunk as I see it.

It can be a delicate line to find. The anachronistic elements should be from the future not the past, rayguns not flintlocks, but also need to look integral to the time period. The gorgeous computer mods that Datamancer makes are a great example, essentially a computer from the future built to look like it was designed by someone in the Victorian era. Iphone skins seem to me, to miss the mark entirely as they just don’t look like something that a Victorian would have created. Steampunk inspired but not strictly steampunk per se, so I would classify them as steampunk; the subculture, not the genre.

My design for Steamporium, my little shop

Part of my musing that day was brought up by a friend’s rant about the length of a particular gentleman’s coat. “It’s the WRONG length” he moaned and I asked him what it was the wrong length for. If we are talking about steampunk, and we are altering history, then it makes perfect sense that fashion might also be altered. A great example is flight helmets. They have been used commonly since the invention of flight, but if we introduce flight via airships and ornithopters to our Victorian era stories, then a flight helmet would be a handy accessory for any aviator or aviatrix. So paying careful attention to what we bring back to the past and how we re-design it can make all the difference in the world.

Another design I did in fairness to goldfish

I finally settled on “Steampunk needs historical accuracy like a dirigible needs a goldfish” riffing off of Gloria Steinem’s famous quote “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” While a dirigible can certainly have a goldfish or even be a goldfish, no one expects it have a goldfish. It does not need one to run.  In the same respect a steampunk story can be very historically accurate, with just a tiny bit of anachronism and be perfectly wonderful, Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett’s Boilerplate for example. Or it can be completely made up of things that never happened or at least hadn’t yet happened and be equally as engrossing. Steampunk is a genre of fiction and should be treated as such. The fashion, weaponry, technology and events are entirely at the whims and devices of the author/creator. I don’t mean that we must be lazy or lax, but if accurate history isn’t your cup of tea, that is quite acceptable.

I guess my quote must resonate with folks, at least somewhat as I was asked if they could quote me in Locus magazine’s Steampunk issue.  I have had it quoted back to me on occasion and I can’t tell you how much it tickles me.

Having said that, I still define steampunk (just my personal definition mind you) as being in roughly the Victorian/Edwardian era. I have occasionally had my quote thrown back at me as an excuse for many unfortunate things to be labeled steampunk. All I can say is that accuracy is meant as a measure of how close not how wildly far you are off the mark. The fact that people seem to think a gown can be both Renaissance AND Victorian is proof that we need to learn more about history, but that is a rant for another time.

If you like my quote, I have done my artistic duty and added it to my steampunk store; Steamporium. It makes a cute t-shirt, so go and have a look.  I don’t make huge amount on the royalties so it’s mostly for 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.