1.- The interviewee
As we said in the presentation post of this brief interviews series, Hilde Heyvaert is our first interviewee. She is a Belgian fashion & costume designer and editor with a college education and training in Graphic Design.
House of Secrets Incorporated is her independant designer identity and, now that her old column, ‘The Steampunk Wardrobe’, is no longer in roulation due to the discontinuation of the Gatehouse Gazette magazine, she provides handy information for steampunks and dieselpunks on The Gatehouse blog.
2.- The Interview
2.1.- Steampunk Jewelry in general
Q.- Hilde, you have been fashion editor and reviewer for the Gatehouse Gazette since the very beginning of this initiative. Could you tell us how did you get involved in this project?
A.- Back in the day (somewhere in 2008) there was pretty much only Steampunk Magazine, and whilst that was a great initiative, it wasn’t the easiest to submit to, and it wasn’t released in a very timely manner (no one ever really knew when the next issue would be out). So at some point someone on the Smoking Lounge forum ventured that we might as well make our own magazine. Something everyone that wanted to would be able to easily submit to, and something that would have a steady release. We ended up going for 21 bi-monthly issues, covered a myriad of topics and ran several colums and had over a dozen contributors so I like to think we did a pretty good job on that.
I was involved from the start, because I thought it was a great idea, and I thought it would be really cool to have a column that helps people getting to know some of the substyles of Steampunk and Dieselpunk and help them with ideas for outfits and costumes. Especially if they’re on a budget.
So basically I got involved because I happened to be around when it was suggested and started and thought: oh here’s a good idea!
The Gatehouse Gazette may be no more by the way, but we haven’t really quit, we are now The Gatehouse blog so Nick, Marcus and I are still very active doing what we were doing before, just in a different format.
Q.- Furthermore, you studied a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and you are specialized in advertising. And, as if that were not enough, you are a self-taught fashion and costume designer. All this background gives you a really broad perspective on the Steampunk scene and aesthetics. What’s Steampunk jewelry for you?
A.- On to my masters! That aside, to me jewelry is a necessary part of fashion (any fashion, not just steampunk) because it really adds to an outfit or costume, just like accessories. It can really complete what you’re wearing. Or make a casual outfit just that little more special.
Q.- Which influences should it have then?
A.- I don’t think anyone or anything should necessarily be influenced by certain things. I think that inspiration can be found anywhere as long as you keep your mind and eyes open.
Q.- And what challenges do you think Steampunk jewelry designers face?
A.- I think that competition from big chains such as H&M, TopShop etc poses a very real problem right now. They have the size and means to produce bits and pieces at far lower prices than independant designers can.
I have to admit I know little about the business and process of making actual proper jewelry as I’m not schooled in that.
Q.- Which would be your main recommendation for them?
A.- Make sure your work is visible in the community, be on twitter, tumblr, (if you must the dreaded facebook, I hear it’s important to be on there but I’m point blank refusing to make that step as that’s the one social medium that holds literally no appeal to me), etsy, livejournal. The more exposure, the more people will get interested in your work and buy it. Don’t be afraid to ask Steampunk blogs and magazines whether you can get a feature on them.
And no matter what obstacles get thrown in your way, if this is really your thing, keep at it. Nothing great ever comes easy, and it’s worth fighting for.
Q.- When Steampunk jewelry is brought up, do you think quality is receiving attention enough? Is there too much glue and resin in the market?
A.- People that have the money to spend on fine jewelry definitely want quality. So they will definitely make sure to check that out before buying. I personally care a lot about quality. Generally I see designers provide a lot of information on materials used etc of their pieces for (potential) clients and I think that’s definitely the way forward.
Q.- Is there a place for Steampunk fine jewelry?
A.- Definitely. Jewelry not only often provides the finishing touches to an outfit or costume, but it is also a fine way of carrying a steampunk detail with you where it is impossible to fully dress the part. I can imagine someone wouldn’t get away with a full steampunk (or dieselpunk for that matter) outfit at most office jobs, and certainly not at jobs that require a uniform. So it would be a good way to keep something small with you at all times. I can imagine that even in situations like those you may be able to wear say a necklace or something like that. And even if you are lucky enough to be able to wear steampunk all the time, then it’s still great to have jewelry that compliments your outfit and provides a nice finishing touch.
Q.- Which direction do you think the future of jewelry design is moving in?
A.- Oh gosh, I don’t really know, I don’t follow the progressions in that discipline I must admit. I think people are going to keep on looking for high quality pieces, a good ratio of quality vs cost. And for things that really last.
2.2.- Hilde’s style and preferences
Q.- How do you describe your style?
A.- An amalgam of contemporary steampunk, Japanese fashion styles (otome-kei, mori-kei and steampunk lolita), Doctor Who fandom and some Dieselpunk.
Q.- Have you always had a knack for these aesthetics?
A.- When I was younger (and by younger I mean when I was a kid and in my teens) I used to wear far more colour, but it’s steadily evolved into this. I don’t think I ever managed to dress in a way that society would see as “normal”.
Q.- What do you look for when searching or trying jewelry pieces?
A.- Whether it’s something that fits my style, and whether it’s something of good quality that will last. I don’t want a piece that will come apart within a year or two, I want something that I’ll still be wearing when I’m old. And preferably pieces that are wearable in daily life as well. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can pretty much always wear steampunk, but even I sometimes have to tone it down and I like to be able to wear my jewelry at even those occassions. It’s all fine and great to have pieces that are awesome with certain costumes or outfits, but it’s a bit of a waste when they’re sitting in a box for the majority of the time I think. Personally I will invest in pieces that will last if they are pieces I can wear whenever I want no matter what the occassion. For things that are solely suitable with certain costumes I tend to look around in the high street.
Q.- Is there anything you miss when you try to find Steampunk jewels?
A.- Actually a good internet buying guide would be welcome. Right now everyone can go on etsy but let’s face it, you will get overflooded by results. Don’t get me wrong, things like etsy are a great tool for sellers, especially those starting out, it’s definitely one of the best things out there. But it would be great if there were a site (or even just a blogpost compiling things) online listing good reliable sellers and what they specialise in (because not all types of jewelry are the same).
Q.- What are some of your favourite materials?
A.- I prefer to work with cotton, lycra and corduroy. I know that corduroy is seen in some countries as that foul thing worn by old people and art students but I absolutely adore it. I work with a lot of different fabrics mind, but those are my ultimate top 3 (in no particular order). I’ve also got a soft spot for lace and faux fur, although I don’t work with either very often.
Q.- Can you give us some background on your label, House of Secrets Incorporated ? How can jewelry enhance your own designs?
A.- I think jewelry gives a lovely finishing touch to any outfit or costume, it enhances any label and anyone’s designs really. Not just mine. Same with accessories. But I digress.
I started House of Secrets Incorporated back in 2004 I think. Originally it was a bit of an amalgam of stuff I made because I used to LARP (live action roleplay) a lot and thus I tended to make all kinds of different outfits and costumes. But as time went I started specialising in Steampunk more and more. Of course then college (I’m in the first year of my masters now) started eating all of my time as my studies progressed so I’ve had to put it mostly on hold sadly due to lack of time. I will get back into it fully once I graduate and I’ll return to mostly making steampunk and dieselpunk designs as that’s what I really love.
Q.- Have you ever considered the possibility of designing jewelry?
A.- To be honest I haven’t. I don’t have the room to set up all the needed equipment and whilst I think it’s a great discipline, it’s not my proverbial cup of tea. I’m fine with making the occassional bits and pieces out of hobbyshop materials but I have no desire to be an actual jewelry designer. My thing really is working with fabrics and it’s what I enjoy the most. I don’t have the training for it either. Everyone can bake some shapes made out fimo (or any other clay) and glue them to a premade base ring, but it’s a whole different thing to learn how to make actual proper jewelry out e.g. silver. I don’t mean disrespect to people making things out of clays (or plastic for that matter), don’t get me wrong, there’s people out there that make fabulous and good quality designs, but there’s a whole difference between doing that and actually smithing things out of metals. The two can’t be compared in my opinion.
Q.- ‘Is there anything else you would like to add?’
A.- Don’t let anyone persuade you from doing your own thing. Steampunk has very little in the way of actual rules, and aside from following those it’s all how you see things. There’s always going to be people trying to enforce their vision onto you, if they have things to say you actually like and want to work with: awesome. If they don’t, then don’t be afraid to go in against what seems the popular opinion and stick to your guns.
Disclaimer.- The opinions or statements expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Decimononic.
3.- Next interviewee!
On the 15th of February, we are publishing the interview for Diana M. Pho (better known as Ay-leen the Peacemaker). She is the founding editor of the award-winning multicultural steampunk blog Beyond Victoriana, a blogger for Tor.com, and a current graduate student in Performance Studies at New York University. Her academic work can be found in the books The Steampunk Bible, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, Steampunk Magazine Anthology #1-7, and the upcoming academic anthology Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style from SUNY Press.
Remember that all the published interviews are available for your delight: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with…’ the brief interviews series by Decimononic.