1.- The interviewees
Karen Grover (aka Lady Elsie) and John Naylor (aka Major Thadeus Tinker) formed the Victorian Steampunk Society with the idea of setting up a U.K. festival for steampunks in 2008 (this to welcome over 1000 steampunks from all over the world). They have also promoted music events in London and Lincoln, with the best steampunk bands they can find.
Lady Elsie and Major Tinker have been able to attend events and conventions in Canada and the U.S.A., which has given them a unique insight to Steampunk in different places. Later this year Major Tinker will be attending an Event in Holland (‘Journey Vernesque’).
In 2011 Major Tinker curated a Steampunk Art exhibition in London held at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. This 3 month long event also had 3 themed weekend with talks, workshops and music. This was visited by steampunks and art enthusiasts alike. Both are respected makers of Art and Costume. So accessories as well as Jewellery are very important to them.
2.- England, Lincoln and Steampunk
We are most honored to welcome you to our series of brief interviews. After all, there are not many Steampunkers worldwide that can compare to you in terms of recognition and influence due to your terrific efforts developing Steampunk.
Q.- Dear Thadeus, you are Chair of the Victorian Steampunk Society. This gives you a formidable perspective on the British Steampunk scene, would you tell us a bit about its development process and current situation?
TT.- We see ourselves as Steamunk Facilitators and enable people to experiance steampunk for themselves, in whatever way they can. Steampunk is very healthy in the UK at the moment. This year there has been many kinds of events which have enabled steampunks to meet up and socialize, which is very important. As steampunks can meet somewhere at an event most weekends in the UK, ideas and fashions, within the genre can grow and change very quickly. We are a social lot, and tea, of course is central to British culture. So that gives us an excuse to meet up.
KG.- The scene is developing the whole time as new people join in and realize their potential and creativity. As this is a very welcoming community, advice on how to do things is freely given by many makers. Whether you want to make music, art, clothes, literature or accessories.
Q.- Be Splendid is the motto of the Victorian Steampunk Society. In a recent blog post you explained that it makes reference to three dimensions: our interactions with other people, the way we present ourselves and all our creative activity. We find this motto really stimulating, what inspired you to coin it?
KG.- In our everyday lives it is easy to forget the impact we have on others. Our families, work colleagues and friends all see a different side of us, so if we can be the best we can, in our interactions things can only become better. This can then rub off on them and their interactions. Slowly the whole area will become ”splendid. If we all do our bit to make the world a little bit more splendid, that is not a bad thing.
Q.- The Asylum is the largest and oldest European Steampunk festival. It takes place in Lincoln (UK) every year and you have been its main promoters since the very beginning. Why do you think it has been so successful?
KG.- The Asylum was born from a thread on Brass Goggles of having a large UK event. The discussion went on for a year of where it should be, and who should organise it. So in spring 2009 Tinker and I found a venue in Lincoln and put our faith in the Steampunk Community, and launched The Asylum. We then went and met as many steampunks we could from the south coast to the north east to tell them of our ideas and see what they wanted form a festival. We then listened to the ideas and put on an event that Steampunks wanted. We still listen to new ideas and try to give folks what want.
Steampunks want to meet together in an environment which is not only welcoming but aesthetically pleasing. We have found both in Lincoln.
We have just returned from the fourth event and one of the items was The Asylum 2013. A chance to help shape next year’s event. We both are passionate about working with the VSS to make the best event we can.
Q.- As you know, we were planning to trade for the first time in this year’s edition, but unfortunately an unforeseen obligation stands in our way… we hope to visit Lincoln in 2013. In any case, in which ways do you think it can be valuable for crafters in general and jewellers in particular?
KG.- The Asylum is the biggest gathering of Steampunks in the UK, if not Europe. You will not see such a vast array of outfits and accessories anywhere else. So for a maker/crafter this is invaluable. There are styles and fashions in Steampunk , so to see what people are wearing can only help maker see what customers want to wear. Talking to potential customers, and hearing, first hand is so important. When you make something and an other steampunk picks it up and coverts it, is one of the biggest trills you can get. This can’t happen on the internet or an online shop.
Q.- Probably many of our readers have never heard about the Steampunk Traders Association. What is its mission?
TT.- The Steampunk Traders Association, is a way of supporting small traders who are steampunks, active in the community, who are making steampunk items. It was a way of offering trading opportunities to sell to steampunks direct at events, and to promote their work. Many have exhibited at events and art shows run by the VSS.
2.- Steampunk Jewelry
Q. Dear Karen, you are both makers: you are very well known as textilier extraordinary and Thadeus’ abilities as crafter are not less valued. Do you have any piece of advice for Steampunk jewelers?
KG.- Look at what steampunks are wearing and design pieces to complement the styles worn. Look for new ways of using found objects and items. There are many who just use the insides of old clocks or watches glued onto broach backs. Not very inspiring. If you take these watch parts and use them with other objects in an interesting way. Get the best finish you can to your pieces quality does show through. Put your own twist and take on the pieces, and be confident it your style.
Q.- This said, what is Steampunk jewelry for you?
KG.- Steampunk Jewellery should compliment my steampunk style. Which changes, depending on the event and my mood. It is so much more than just cogs.
Q.- Which influences should Steampunk jewelry have?
KG.- As your readers will know, there are many influences in steampunk. As long as it is aesthetically pleasing and well executed, steampunks will be proud to add the piece to an outfit. I do not think there are ‘must have’ elements to say an item is ‘Steampunk’. It is the overall look.
Q.- Would you dare to describe Steampunk jewelry with a single word?
Q.- We wrote recently a blog post entitled ‘The 5 secrets of Steampunk fine jewelry’. Do you consider that quality is receiving attention enough or maybe not?
KG.- Quality will always show up shoddy workmanship. There is a market for quality pieces made from precious metals and stones. There are some very talented jewellers in the community who are making some very fine work from these materials. The potential customer does have to find them. So, no, there is not as much attention for the quality pieces.
Q.- Thadeus, there is no doubt that vampires fascinate you. Bracers, infestation emergency kits and other Steampunk vampire-hunter’s equipments are among your creations. Most of the masterpieces of vampire literature, such as Varney the vampire, Carmilla or Dracula were published in the Victorian era, so this seems to be a good foundation for Steampunk fiction… what do you find so interesting about the vampire myth?
TT.- I have always been fascinated by Vampires and spent many hours reading Victorian Gothic Fiction, as well as watching the classic horror movies. I love the modern twist we are giving to these stories now. They seem to have been given a new lease of life in recent years, without losing the central crux of the vampire genre. The Vampire is an evolving creature and I am loving how modern writers are giving them a new direction. So the Vampire hunter needs an ever changing arsenal of weapons to fight them. Films are also exploring these themes in new ways.
Q.- Could this become an inspiration source for a Steampunk jeweler? Perhaps could you give us any idea?
TT.- Steampunk amulets against Vampires. To be worn around the neck to ward off the Vampire Kiss. I would feel very safe with one of these.
Q.- Is there anything else you would like to add?
KG.- Thank you for allowing us to ‘talk’ to your readers. Steampunk is a very creative and rich community, we are very proud to be a part of it and by the events we run, enable others to experience Steampunk as well.
We do hope you will be able to attend Weekend at the Asylum in the future. Details of our events can be found here: http://steampunk.synthasite.com.
Thank you and ‘Be Splendid’.
Disclaimer.- The opinions or statements expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Decimononic.
4.- Next interviewee!
Erica Mulkey, aka Unwoman, is a Bay Area-based cellist/singer/composer/producer. In addition to her solo act which is frequently featured at major steampunk and related conventions all over the US, she plays cello with Stripmall Architecture, Vernian Process, Abney Park, and other acts.
Remember that all the published interviews are available for your delight: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with…’ the brief interviews series by Decimononic.