Steampunk in Seattle: Flux Capacitor

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to get this show off the ground, Flux Capacitor, a Steampunk art show here in Seattle finally got off the ground this month. Located right in the heart of downtown Seattle at  Westlake Center, this art show is packed full of awesome Steampunk art and is worth a visit for anyone interested in seeing the metalwork of seven Steampunk artists across the US.

The show will continue until the end of May, giving you ample opportunity to head downtown and see the jewelry and sculpture for yourself. The event coincides with a host of metals exhibitions held in collaboration with the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) as part of their annual conference. On Friday, May 27th, SNAG will hold their gala, making it an especially good day to drop by, but any time before the end of May will permit you the opportunity to see these fine pieces.

To find the show, head to the third floor of Westlake Center near the monorail terminal. To learn more about the development of the show from doomed project to Kickstarter success, please visit Flux Capacitor’s blog.

An Interview with Stephan J. Smith

Stephan J. Smith is the artist behind Artsmith Craftworks, creates hand made airship models to decorate Steampunk homes and other beautiful works from paper and papier-mâché. I got the opportunity to pull him away from he preparations for the World Steam Expo to tell me a bit about his art.

How did you learn to craft your art?
I’ve been an artist at heart since I was a little kid, but I started formally as a graphic designer – went to Ferris State University in Michigan. Even though that was mainly related to advertising and marketing, I always loved the fine art field as well and have always been fascinated by paper.

How did you decide to craft model airships?
I was commissioned by an interior designer friend of mine, (Betsy Rackliffe), to construct one for a Steampunk bookstore, (Off the Beaten Path), she was designing the interior for. There was such a terrific response and interest that it was suggested that I do others and offer them for sale.

Tell me a bit about Artsmith Craftworks.
Artsmith Craftworks is the name I chose that both reflected my name and the “craft” of art that I do. As I mentioned, I love paper, so anything that involves paper interests me. I like cut paper sculpture, papier mache, hand-cast paper from recycled pulp, and many other paper media. I DO also have a great affinity for mosaic. Ceramic, glass, stone and even paper mosaic…such a beautiful art form! So I guess that’s what Artsmith Craftworks is about.

Tell me more about the importance you place on recycled and repurposed materials.
Well, my own personal “mission” is to create art using something that would have gotten thrown away otherwise. Like I said before, I like making hand-cast sheets of paper using old scrap that I have pulped, thereby making something beautiful and useful out of it again. Papier mache allows me to use scrap paper to built things with “junk” paper. I often do cut paper sculptures using scrap paper company swatch books. I use bottle lids, random plastic pieces, cut foam, wooden dowels, paper and plastic tubes, etc., and I cut them, paint them and they become something else. Most of the mosaics I do use broken tile or glass that was garbage bound and I do scrap paper mosaics as well. It just feels good to do something cool with discarded materials that would have gone into a landfill otherwise.

Recycled Tinkertoys form parts ofan airship's propellers

Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell people about?
I plan to be at the World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan on Memorial Day weekend. I’ll have a couple new large airships as well as some Do-It-Yourself little airship kits. In fact, the plan is that I’ll be running a couple panels showing people how to construct the little airships with the kits I put together. True to form, these kits are made with recycled/repurposed materials! I’ve also been contacted by an independent filmaker who wants me to build an airship for a Steampunk film he’s currently working on. The airship will be shot against green screen with background dropped in during post production…very exciting stuff!

What is your favorite and least favorite medium/material with which to work? Why?
Of course, paper is my favorite and I like tile & stone in mosaic too. I think paper represents something renewable, very earthy and natural and is a very flexible and forgiving medium to work with. I don’t think I have a least favorite. I’ve worked with a lot of different materials, some not my favorites, but none that I dislike really.

What does Steampunk mean to you?
To me, Steampunk represents an exciting age when the possibilities of new materials, energies and knowledge were being discovered and utilized. To us, it represents an age of whimsical innocence, seemingly free of the hustle and bustle of modern life, but brimming with its own gadgets and wonder.

Visit the Showcase Gallery

Where can people purchase your art?
Currently, my blog has a page with pieces for sale, but they are sparse at this point as I prepare for World Steam. I plan to have an Etsy store in the not-too-distant future.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Only that I appreciate the warm welcome and reception that I’ve gotten from the Steampunk community. Everyone has been very complimentary and excited when they’ve seen my pieces. And, Audelia, I’d like to invite you and anyone you’re connected with to visit my blog and have a look around and feel free to comment. I’d also like to thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed on your blog!

 

Airships in dry dock

To learn more about Artsmith Craftworks and stay up to date on all of Stephan’s latest activities, please be sure to drop by his website and like him on Facebook!

An Interview with Kevin Mowrer

Recently, I stumbled across an amazing art project, Frahnknshtyne by Kevin Mowrer. His blog, filled to the brim with spectacular Steampunk art, is a treat to visit. We were able to catch up recently, and I got to ask him all about him and his awesome project.

How did you come to be such a talented artist?

Thank you for the compliment.

You’re welcome!

I have always been drawing, painting and making things in some form for as long as I can remember.  I think most creators create because it’s always been who they are.  I am classically art trained with degrees in painting, design and sculpture and grew up in a house with a mother who wrote children’s stories. I’ve spent over 25 years professionally developing properties and stories, designing products and producing entertainment for a variety of clients and companies.  I feel quite lucky that I’ve gotten such interesting opportunities to shape art and story in so many different forms of media.  I’ve received two Emmy awards for TV shows I created and hold a number of other awards for products and even several patents.  Basically, I have this crazy patchwork background that cuts across lots of different media and it’s that background that all seems to come together in the kinds of art and stories I like to create.

Please tell me a bit about Frahnknshtyne. How do you explain it to people who are unfamiliar with your work?

The Frahnknshtyne development that I am posting on my blog is all part of a grand experiment a good friend of mine suggested I try.  Since I develop properties for a living, industry dogma suggests keeping it deeply secret while it’s being developed. Maybe it’s the risky anarchist in me but I’m openly posting the art and a bit of the story work on the development of Frahnknshtyne for the Steampunk web community to view as I make it instead of waiting until it’s all done and produced or published. Well, the response and interest have been far beyond anything I could have imagined.  The site has been picked up in many places, clubs and blogs around the world and the interest and enthusiasm from the Steampunk community has been humbling and thrilling.  I think the best benefit so far has been the number of truly interesting and genuinely good people I have been corresponding with or met.  There’s something magically vital about people who are into Steampunk.

What similarities and differences are there between your story and the source material?

Well, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is, of course, a story informed by her time that also expresses some timeless human themes and fears.  My Story of Frahnknshtyne is about some of the issues and challenges of our contemporary world set in a Victorianesque time and place.  Science fiction and speculative fiction can both be great vehicles for exploring topics that otherwise would be too “on the nose” or polarizing if set in present circumstances. Both stories are also about the failure of a father.  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tells us about a father who makes a son but does so coldly for scientific ego.  My story is actually a tale of two Fathers.  One who fails his brilliant inventor son because of addiction and another adoptive father who coldly wants to control his inventions.  Probably the biggest difference is that it is the brain of my Dr. Frahnknshtyne that ends up in the monster (no, this isn’t a spoiler for the story. There’s several big secrets that only the book and beyond will reveal).  Actually, the monster is more of spectacular clockwork being who becomes a dark and unexpected hero.   It takes a monster to fight monsters and the world of my story is chock full of monstrous people and things created as a result of a misuse of “Aether” the life force taken from humans.  My story also features wonderful infernal machines and mysterious technology than Ms Shelley’s story.

Is there any significance to the alternate spelling you are using “Frahnknshtyne”?

Yes, I wanted the name to be pronounced in a particular way and I wanted Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to have it’s own clear air.  Because my story isn’t a retelling, I wanted the audience to be able to remember it as different but inspired by the original.

What attracted you to Steampunk? What does Steampunk mean to you?

I have been into Steampunk since before it was steampunk.  I’ve always loved speculative fiction, I love making mechanisms and mechanical things from scratch and I personally collect and own interesting items from Victorian to craft style for my own home.  From a storytelling standpoint, for me, Steampunk provides the amalgam of so many of the elements and ideas that interest me all wrapped up in a genre that let’s me comment on bigger issues and challenges we face today.  I am also a world builder both visually and narratively.  The possibilities I believe lie within the genre of Steampunk I feel are chock full of the potential to take audiences to places they’ve never seen or imagined yet feel like they could have been or could be.

Do you have a personal Steampunk philosophy?

Well, I have a personal storytelling philosophy that I find fits well with Steampunk.  Here’s my soapbox rant about what I love to see in stories.  It may seem a bit old fashioned but I like to think of it more as timeless and human-truthful. I believe in the unrealized and often unsuspected power and heroism of the everyman or woman.  I believe in the power of the questing and honestly inventive mind to find answers to the hardest questions as well as play and create new possibilities in inventive ways.  I believe that one person or small groups of people can make huge change happen given the right mix of opportunity and need and I believe that the truth of change is that it often begins with someone who didn’t sign up for the job yet rises to the role.  These things and other ideas that I feel strongly about all can live quite vividly within Steampunk because of it’s ability to rethink history through the focus and rise of characters who are most often marginalized by situation or standing.  Steampunk also brings inventive things and hands-on technology into the stories often as key elements in the struggle.  This just fits the stories and worlds I am interested in creating.

What’s in the future for Frahnknshtyne?

I am carefully crafting the story and world of Frahnknshtyne and am not doing so on someone else’s schedule.  When it’s ready, I plan to publish the story somewhat like Dinotopia in that the book will be fully illustrated so that the audience can really see the world and the wonders and adventures within it.  Before that book is done, because I am doing a certain amount of this development open to the Steampunk community, I will be posting images throughout the process on the blog.  I am also considering printing 2 or 3 limited edition Gicle´ folios and individual prints of the ongoing artwork as I go and possibly a sketchbook for one or two of the “con’s” I’ll be attending.  There’s been some inquiries by other artists about possibly making real life versions of some of the designs being developed in the art and I may do one or two of those collaborations because of how thrilling it would be to bring some of it to life to actually hold and share and because it would be fun to share this developing world with other creatives.  If the audience finds the story interesting enough and if there is the right partner who comes to the table, I’d like to see Frahnknshtyne on the big screen one day.  Whatever happens, I already consider this grand experiment and this development a success and am truly grateful for all the interest and support from the Steampunk community.

To see all of Kevin’s work please visit his blog. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed by what you see there!

Steampunk at the Boston Antiques Show

The Boston Antiques & Design Show is an event that started today and will continue tomorrow at the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, MA.

On display and for sale are outstanding pieces of Steampunk ar tincluding the work of Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum, our friends over at Mod Vic. They will be displaying some of their Steampunk furniture and objects at the show, so if you’ve never seen their work before, this is and excellent opportunity to personally view some amazing art.

It’s really exciting to see Steampunk standing right alongside antique dealers! For the MetroWest Daily News’ take on Steampunk and the show in general, please click here.

The show went underway today and will be open tomorrow from 11-4pm. The tickets are 7 dollars to get in tomorrow. If you have any more questions, you can call 781/862-4039. If you’re a Steampunk out on the east coast, this is an excellent opportunity to explore the art of local Steampunks and browse for some neat antiques at the same time.

Inhabitants Of A Certain Planet

The work of a young Japanese artist, Shojiro Yamauchi (内山翔二郎), recently surfaced on my radar via the blog TokyoBling. In a new installation at the National Art Center in Tokyo, Yamauchi has employed the Steampunk aestetic for his latest work, roughly translated as “Inhabitants Of A Certain Planet.”

(c) TokyoBling

That’s a gear embedded cicada that, according to the writer, is a couple meters across. Please visit the original blog to see the full collection of insects and arachnids that make up this impressive gear-driven collection.

Personally, I’d love to see Mike Libby team up with Mr. Yamauchi. It would be amazing to see what they two of them could create together!

Steampunk Posters

To aid in your mental escape from the Mondays, I have for your enjoyment an impressive collection of Steampunk posters from a variety of talented artists.

Poor Belgium by Otto the Confused

You can see the entire collection here. If you click on the links of the individual artists’ names, many of them will bring you to galleries featuring more work by that particular artist. There’s a ton of talent, so I hope you take the time to look through some of these galleries. I’m sure you’ll be impressed.

SteamCon T-Shirt Contest

Calling all visual artists! SteamCon II is looking for an artist of impeccable talent and taste to design this year’s convention t-shirt. Here’s the low down on this contest taken from their Live Journal community:

Who is eligible: Anyone who wishes to submit a t-shirt design.
Deadline: Submissions must be emailed to t-shirtcontest@steamcon.org by September 1st.
Design specs: Full color, Size: anywhere from 8″ x 8″ up to 8.5″ x 11″. Initial submissions should be jpegs of 100 DPI. The final art will need to be Photoshop files with the layers or bitmaps or tiff or comparable; at 300 DPI. We will request those of the winner after judging takes place. The shirt should say “Steamcon II” in roman numerals and a serif font. Any other text is optional, but it can have the date and “Weird, Weird West” as well. Designs will be printed on a dark colored t-shirt either black or dark brown, so take this in to account when designing.
Reward: A membership to Steamcon 2, a pair of concert tickets for the Saturday concert at Steamcon II, two free t-shirts and your name on the chests of steampunks everywhere! (If contest winner is unable to attend Steamcon 2, all rewards can be transferred to Steamcon 3 or they may receive current equivalent monetary compensation.)

If you have any questions, email info@steamcon.org.

A membership and a pair of tickets to the Saturday night concert (which, for all of you who haven’t been on this SteamCon site, happens to be Abney Park)?!

*shakes fist* Why can’t I draw!?

While I already have  my membership in tow, I certianly wouldn’t complain about having tickets to the Abney Park concert before they go on sale to anyone else.  No, I don’t anticipate I would have a problem with that at all. So, for all you artists out there, go ahead and submit a design for their consideration. Best of luck!

And just so that you all know, I was halfway through a Microsoft paint project to show you all just how bad my t-shirt design would be, before I decided to spare you all the horror and me the humiliation. It involved a stick figure cowboy with a swollen gland on the side of his face very reminiscent of John McCain, and a terrible attempt at gear, that ended up looking more like a sun. So, yeah.