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.

In the Season of Gifting

I am terrible at self promotion, but at this time of year I really do need to let my fans know that I have things for sale.  Lots of great gift ideas and every sale helps me continue doing what I love.

You can find my stickers here: Redbubble

Steampunk T-shirts, greeting cards and lots more: Steamporium

My whimsical menagerie wares are here: Artvixn

And you can get my books here: Blurb

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!

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.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

Steampunk Travel Talk

On July 5th I will be at GEARcon in Portland giving a talk about my Steampunk travel adventures around the world and some that I have yet to take.  I will be giving a visual presentation about all the places I’ve been and the steampunk destinations that I want to go to.  So if you have ever wanted to get some inspiration on where in the world to go, I hope you can join us.

Steampunk Travel

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.