Saturday, February 15, 2014

So What Makes Me Think I'm Steampunk?

By Phantoms-siren

     This is a good question.  I don't even own a decent pair of goggles, for Pete's sake.  I'm pretty sure I don't have anything with gears glued onto it.  I rarely wear brown, sepia, or cream. In fact, most of the time I wear black and some interpretation of what I think is a Victorianesque look.  I'm certainly not historically accurate.  I suppose I could be most accurately described as being in some kind of Gothic time warp.

(Sorry about that - I had to).

     Which is rather ironic, as I have been accused in the past of  "trying to dictate to others what is Steampunk" (kind of hard to do, since I can't seem to achieve this for myself, let alone anybody else).  I even have the temerity to host a weekly meetup called "Steampunk Coffee & Community"!  And it is well attended!  And people seem to be having fun and liking it!  Some of them even come back!

     So before I get hauled away as some kind of Steampunk "poseur", let me just tell you what I do stand for.  I love the Victorian era, and history in general.  I am fascinated by Science (yes, with a capital S). I like meeting people.  I like making friends and socializing. I like to drink tea.  I like to wear elegant clothes and dress up.  I like to behave in a genteel manner toward my fellow human beings.  I like art.  I like creative self-expression.  I like "weirdos".  I like a "do it yourself" attitude.  I like old things with a history over new things without a soul.  If you're reading this, I probably like you, too!  Maybe Steampunk isn't exactly the right word for me, 'cos I don't shoot a raygun or wear mechanical wings or pilot an airship.  But it is the place where I find the most fun, interesting, and compatible people, so I'm stickin' to it!
Photo by Orange Kraftwerks

It's Often in the Last Place You Look

     This is a photo of my most recent piece, finished on Feb. 13, right before Valentine's Day.  This collage had been languishing in my studio for a couple of weeks, unfinished.  I had the back ground I liked (leafless trees done with stencil and India ink on green tissue paper), and the vintage images of the two little girls, but I was kind of stuck there.  I stamped words on the girls' dresses and added glitter and sequin accents, but it still wasn't quite right.  The stamped words were too distracting and I wanted something different, but no inspiration was coming.

     "No inspiration" usually means that it's time for me to get out of the house.  I attended a wonderful two day even called Curious Gallery and was deeply impressed by what I saw there.  Many of the art pieces in the Curious Gallery show incorporated natural elements, like moss and dried plants, bones, etc.  I loved the idea of gluing some twigs and moss to my collage to add texture and interest, so I did.  I also was inspired by the Valentine's displays in the local Dollar Tree to cut up some lacy doilies and add them as pinafores to my girls (thus covering up the distracting words).   The Valentine's issue of a magazine had a cute tea set pictured, which I also borrowed.  After a week of nothing, the collage came together into its final form in about an hour.

     When things are going slowly, I have to remind myself to take time to go out and see the world and enjoy some experiences, because this is what nourishes my creative wellspring.   It feels like slacking off sometimes, but I have come to accept that this is a necessary part of my creative process.  I have to take things in and let them steep in my brain for a while before they come out as useful ideas.  Even going to Bi-Mart was an inspirational experience for me today.  I'm not telling, but I've got two words - "cherry blossoms".

Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Year, New Endeavors

     I must be one of the worst bloggers ever.  Last post was dated October 2013 - what?!  Here it is February 2014 and I'm picking up again.  Oh well, I always was kind of a late bloomer.  Here is my reason for starting up again - I have decided to pursue my art.  My recent research in How to Be an Artist tells me that one of the necessary components to being a contemporary artist is to have an Art Blog.  So- poof!- voila! - Notorious is now an Art Blog!

    Because an Art Blog should probably contain Art, or at least pictures, here are some of my collage/ mixed-media canvases that I've been working on lately:

     I have more, but boy am I having a hard time uploading these pix from my phone!  Talk about technologically impaired! This is why I make my art the old-school way, with paper, scissors, and paint, instead of digitally.  The problem there is that there are lots of fine details to these pictures, like dimensional accents, glimmer sprays, and glitter that don't come thru on reproductions and can best be seen on the original canvases.  Here's more:

     Well, that took me most of the morning.  I really should keep up with this blog, so I don't have to relearn how to do it every time I post!  I also need to get to work making more art, and getting ready for the Art Show and Tea Party on March 1. More to come, I promise!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My New (Personal) Steampunk Manifesto

  I haven't posted anything here in a long while.  Truth to tell, I've been very sour on the whole Steampunk experience, ever since getting removed last year from the Steampunk group I started here in Portland, OR, by my co-administrator and supposed friend.  So I did what I do best - take my hurt feelings and crawl under a rock, away from anyone or anything that can hurt me.  I allowed myself to believe that the Steampunk scene was filled with vicious, narcissistic hypocrites, based on my experience with one ego-driven woman.  Basically, I became a hermit and hid out for a year.

     Then, encouraged by a friend who has recently discovered Steampunk, I attended Steamcon V.  I had a wonderful time!  I discovered that the good, friendly, and open-minded people who I had always associated with the Steampunk community were still there.  They welcomed me to Steamcon V, as they had welcomed me to Steamcons 1-IV, with open arms.  The Steampunk celebrities at the con were lovely, down to earth, friendly, and accessible.  The panels were run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable persons from the community.  My interest and enthusiasm for the genre were renewed.  I felt like I had come home again.

     I have been mulling things over since the con last weekend, and have come to some personal realizations based on my previous experiences.

1.  I will be a free agent.  No more trying to organize a group or club, as this seems to be an open invitation to others to try to "take over" and create an unnecessary power struggle.  I will act strictly on my own behalf.

2.  I have as much right as anyone else to participate in community events.  Others may try to block me from their private "groups" and Facebook pages, which is their prerogative, but public events are just that.  Public.

3.  I am a valued member of the Portland  Steampunk community.  This was repeated to me over and over by the people I ran into at the convention.  Instead of withdrawing from the community due to the negativity and hatefulness of one or two unpleasant people, I will concentrate on cultivating the friendships of the many good, kind, creative folks in the community.

4.  I will do my own thing.  I look back with regret at all the times I had an idea for an event or a way to participate in the community and then didn't do it because I listened to the negative advice of the nay-sayers.

5.  I will pursue my creative path.  A major part of concentrating on and emphasizing the positive in my life will be developing my creative interests in art and self-expression.

6.  I will Steampunk Without Fear.  I will make friends, attend events, create beauty, and participate in the community to the extent that I wish, without seeking approval or fearing the displeasure of anyone else.  I will be the best person that I can be, and will strive always to present that person to the community.

     This almost feels like a New Year's Resolution list to me, but I think that's okay.  I want this to be a new year, a new beginning, moving forward in the most creative, happy, and healthy way possible.  I look to my Steampunk community, both local and national, for inspiration, encouragement, and support, and offer my support, creativity, and energy in return.  It's going to be a good year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Destination - Nowhere

     It seems like all I've been hearing about for the past two weeks is the upcoming Portlandia Steampunk episode that features the Rose City Steampunks, Local 23, a group which I formed and was eventually kicked out of (read my previous post for details).  Apparently those who participated in this endeavor were extremely proud of their work, and by all accounts this was going to be the television show that would set Hollywood on its ear and announce to the world "Steampunk has Arrived!". The infamous episode finally aired on Friday, Feb.8 at 10 p.m. on IFC, which I don't get since I don't subscribe to cable.  I had to wait two entire days with bated breath to witness the glory that had sadly passed me by. Finally, the "Steampunk Convention" clip was posted on the IFC website.  I swallowed my pride and pressed "play"to begin the episode...

     The sound you hear is crickets snoring.

     This is obviously not the television event that is going to bring Steampunk to the unenlightened masses.  Indeed, other than being dressed in Steampunk style outfits, the episode had little to nothing to do with Steampunk at all.  The "plot" of the skit (if it can be called by so generous a name), involves a group of Steampunks at a convention who raid a panel on "fan fiction" to retrieve a renegade member who has 'gone over to the other side'.  It could as well have been a group of anime fans trying to rescue a member who has gone over to the Star Trek fandom, or a group of Browncoats trying to convince a friend to leave the Star Wars universe behind.  Any two nerd-culture fandoms would have sufficed.  It seemed to me to be a skit poking fun at 'con nerds' more than anything else.  The Steampunk part of it was just window dressing; a couple of prop rayguns and some ruffly clothes.  To add insult to injury, none of the actual Steampunks were even remotely featured in the skit; they were not given lines to speak, nor parts to play other than 'oddly dressed extras who follow Carrie and Fred down the hall'.

     I feel bad for my friends who participated, as I heard they put in a full eight hour day to end up with only a few minutes of screen time.  I hope they at least had fun doing it.  The episode, IMHO, is embarrassing to the Steampunk community as a whole as once again Steampunks are played for laughs as 'costumed weirdos'.  Until we get a television show that is 'made by Steampunks, for Steampunks', I am afraid we will only be seeing more of the same.  Steampunks, please think carefully before jumping on the next media bandwagon that comes along.  It could just be a ticket to nowhere.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Must You Be Strapped to be Steampunk?

     There's been a lot of heavy discussion in the Steampunk 'verse recently, particularly a big discussion/flame war on Steampunk Revolution about multiculturalism, white privilege, and the freedom to wear pith helmets.  Or something along those lines (after a couple of hundred posts, the original thread starts getting a little blurry). A friend of mine, hoping to lighten the mood at least on the local discussion pages, posted a photo showing "the lighter side of Steampunk" - Nerfpunk.

      Nerfpunk is bright, sassy, and very, very colorful. The basic premise behind Nerfpunk is that instead of modding your Nerf gun and painting it in shades of copper, bronze and brown to match your Steampunk outfit, why not modify your Steampunk outfit in bright colors that match the original plastic of the Nerf gun? A charming idea, that translates into wildly colorful outfits that make a huge impact especially when there is a large group of folks all dressed in Nerfpunk. The photos on the Nerfpunk FB page are truly eye candy. These folks have obviously spent a lot of time, effort, and skill crafting their individual looks, and it looks fantastic. Lots of orange, yellow, blue, and green waistcoats, puffy skirts and corsets, and lots of smiling faces. The 'lighter side' indeed.

     And all those guns.

     Which is what I'm getting at - are the guns really necessary? I'm not getting down on Nerfpunks here.  I admire their creativity and enthusiasm. However, weapons, and guns especially (Nerf, ray, and otherwise) are way overdone in Steampunk. You can hardly swing a cat at a con without knocking someone's weapon out of their hand. Must you carry a gun in order to be truly Steampunk?  I understand that without the Nerf guns there would have been no springboard to create Nerfpunk, since the colors of the outfits are directly tied to the outrageous colors of the Nerf guns. But why are there so many Nerf guns in Steampunk- original, modded, or otherwise? Why are there so many guns and weapons, period?  It seems that nearly every Steampunk walking around a typical con does so with their trusty sidearm strapped at their side. I get that a lot of the 'personas' beloved by Steampunks are adventurers, explorers, airship pirates, etc., and presumably need to carry weapons for protection on their many adventures. I also see plenty of people just walking around in Victorian style outfits with rayguns on their belts for no discernible reason.

     I am not anti-gun, nor am I a person who is seeking to curtail anyone's Second Amendment rights. I just wonder how many people have really thought about what adding a gun to their Steampunk outfit means. What does it signify to them?  Do they normally walk around carrying a gun in real life? Why does their persona (if they have one) need a gun? Or is it just another cool looking accessory, like goggles on a top hat? And what about all the 'gunplay'? I have seen too many pictures of Steampunks posing with guns drawn on one another, or equally bad, guns drawn and pointing at the camera.  As a very wise friend of mine pointed out, guns by themselves are inert lumps of metal. They are not inherently 'good' or 'bad', and only become dangerous once they are in the hands of a person. In my mind, a drawn and pointed gun implies violence. Sure, this is 'play', this is a make-believe Steampunk world, and we just want to have fun. But what is the message we are sending with our 'fun'?

     People who know and are serious about guns take guns seriously.  They know that guns are to be treated with respect, not brandished about willy-nilly. I have heard it said that if a person chooses to carry a gun for self-defense, they must be prepared to shoot to kill once they draw it. Ideally, a person carrying a gun should never have to draw it, except under the most dire circumstances. And should those circumstances arise, they must be prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically to use it. I personally don't think I would be able to do so. I don't carry a gun in real life, and I am not going to in the Steampunk world either. For me, walking around a con with a charming, shiny brass raygun on my hip would be advertising for some false bravado that  I don't possess.


     Yes, I've admired those little brass rayguns; they are amazing pieces of art, and so pretty to look at. I will admire yours when I see you at a con. I promise I am not trying to take it away from you. I choose not to carry a Steampunk weapon because it does not fit with my personal values.  My personal values and ethics don't magically disappear when I tie on a bustle and hit the convention floor.  I do not have a persona; I represent myself whether in Steampunk garb or out of it. I encourage others to thoughtfully consider why they wish to carry a Steampunk weapon.  I encourage them to think about what it says about their stance on violence in general.  Hopefully, they will make a decision based on their own values and beliefs, who they are as a person, and not simply to be following a trend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Silver Goggles Interview with Jaymee Goh

     Here is a link to my August 2012 Silver Goggles interview with Jaymee Goh. Jaymee is a wonderful gal, and the kind of fab interviewer who keeps it fun and makes you look smart all at the same time!