1.- The interviewee
Gretchen Jacobsen (aka Wilhelmina Frame) is a freelance producer, award-winning costumer, prolific crafter and frequent convention panelist; her alter-ego, Ms. Frame, Editrix de Mode for Steampunk Chronicle and Part Time Lion Tamer, travels the globe in pursuit of adventure and style. When not in the circus ring with Rajah, her tiger and the rest of her “Kitten Kabal” (seven lions, three cheetahs and a rather droll panther), Ms. Frame can be seen at the most fabulous parties, in the latest fashions, sparkling with wit in conversation. In addition, she is the founder and Tiffin Master of The American Tea Duelling Society.
2.- Steampunk media and fashion
Q.- Gretchen, your Steampunk persona is Wilhelmina Frame (part time Lion Tamer, full time Adventuress). Why did you choose this nom de guerre?
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. In the summers when I was young my family would often take day trips up to various places in nearby Wisconsin. One of these was Circus World in Barabo. Circus World is a museum, showplace and historic site at the former winter headquarters of The Ringling Brothers’ Circus. One time when we visiting, the wild animal tamers were mingling with the visitors and carrying a tiger cub. They were quietly going up to select parents and offering a photo opportunity with the tiger. My parents were never the kind of to pay for these kinds of things, but due to the uniqueness of the offer and, most likely, my wide eyes, they agreed to pay for the photo. The trainers sat me down in front of a circus wagon, put a blanket of some sort on my lap, told me to smile and quickly put the dozy tiger cub in my lap. The moment lasted an instant but the memory and the photo will be with me always. This was the inspiration for Part Time Lion Tamer!
When trying to figure out a steampunk persona, I wanted something that could realistically support a variety of places, moods and adventures — and the clothes to go with them. A wild animal tamer seemed to fit that bill. Victorians were all about dressing for the occasion and being a lion tamer — even if part time — gave me ample excuses to vary my dress. I would have performance costumes, safari gear, outfits to mingle with the rough and tumble circus types, gowns for when I would mingle with the rich and powerful since I would obviously be famous and infamous. I would have reasons to travel and meet people from all walks. And I would, obviously, have lots and lots of lovely pets.
As for the actual name, Wilhelmina is very Victorian and has some family history attached. The Germanic derivation of Wilhelmina also reflects back nicely to Gretchen. I liked the idea of being referred to as Wil, although it seems that the more common nickname would have been Billie. Frame? Well it just sounded good. A nice sharp end to an otherwise obtuse name.
Q.- You have been Steampunk Chronicle’s Editrix de Mode for a long time. How did your collaboration with Steampunk Chronicle begin?
I was recommended to Deadline Dan, Steampunk Chronicle’s publisher by our former media editor, DJ Doctor Q. Doctor Q knew me and my fashion sense from various Steampunk events. The Chronicle was in need of a fashion editor so Deadline Dan asked me for a meeting. We met at my favorite bar, talked about our Steampunk philosophies and after a few rounds of delicious brews, I was the new Editrix de Mode of Steampunk Chronicle.
Q.- You have a wide experience as broadcast producer. From your point of view, what role does media play in the growth and development of the Steampunk community in the USA and abroad?
Honestly, not much! Traditional broadcast media — television, radio, film — hasn’t really picked up on Steampunk. While there have been a couple of music videos, Panic! at the Disco being a good example and Justin Beiber being a bad example, we really haven’t seen that much Steampunk representation. A lot of people point to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Firefly. They were released near to each other in 2002 – 2003 so they are little early for me to be representative of what we now call Steampunk. Really, we have yet to see our great magnum opus in cinema or television. Everyone is looking to Lantern City but we don’t have a confirmed release for that.
Where you are seeing Steampunk is in online media and in print. The internet is really what brought Steampunk to prominence. It’s also how Steampunks from around the world are finding out about each other. Steampunk based literature has been popular and many would argue that literature is where Steampunk truly has its roots. To a lesser degree, mainstream news media is picking up on Steampunk through its coverage of art, fashion, and trends in consumer goods.
Q.- In addition, we have to consider the famous Steampunk Chronicle’s Reader’s Choice Awards. We were among the nominees to the 2013 awards thanks to our Sky Captain Series and it was a fantastic experience. Do you think there should be a category for the ‘Best Steampunk Jeweler’?