Steampunk Hands around the World – Interview with Michelle of Steelhip Design

In this last interview for the Steampunk Hands event, I’m reaching over from the UK to shake hands with Michelle in Australia.

The founder of Steelhip Designs, this talented lady produces the most incredible, wearable, faux machine adornments and sculptures! 

The NewRomancer

1. How did your shop get its name and what was the main inspiration behind opening your shop?

I’ve had Psoriatic Arthritis since I was 12 years old.  Due to that condition I’ve had both my hips replaced, both my knees replaced and my right wrist plated and fused.  It’s made having any kind of career difficult.  In 2001 I went back to school and studied web design and named my business Steelhip Design.  I loved designing websites but started making jewellery as a way to relax after coding all day.  When making jewellery and art took over from web design, I didn’t feel the need to change my business name.

The Clockwork Alchemist – on Etsy

2. What do you create and do you have a signature product? If so how did it come to be?

I mostly create jewellery pieces – that’s what I financially survive on but I also make small sculptural/assemblage pieces.  My signature piece is the mechanical flying heart – I’ve made many, all unique, but I still love making them.  They have evolved over time from simple embellishments to now, very complex little faux machines.  The gear teeth are locked together, the gauges have tiny watch hands and in some cases, printed read outs.  I think it’s the increasing degree of complexity that is keeping me engaged artistically.

Control Panel – on Etsy

 I don’t fabricate or cast so I’m using existing items in new ways.  In a weird kind of way having a disability taught me to adapt to the world around me.  Adaptation is a huge part of my design process.

Ethereal Essence Extractor

3. Where do you find your inspiration and what makes you different from the other people that make what you make?

Having lots of metal in me.  So it’s no wonder biomechanical themes feature heavily in my work.  
It’s a cliché but I really do see inspiration everywhere.  That is why steampunk is so dynamic.  We see movement, physics and engineering everywhere.  I love driving around a heavy industrial areas – seeing the pipes, huge machinery and massive electrical terminals. 
I work in what is kindly called “creative chaos” but could also be termed a total mess.  My desk is covered in bits and pieces.  It’s amazing how many pieces have just come together in this confusion and randomness of proximity.  
I like to make pieces that look like they actually work.  Gears for gear’s sake isn’t my thing – they have to look like they are part of a mechanical process.  Recently I’ve delved into the “mad scientist” realm with brass tubing, miniature control panels and glass vials.  I want these pieces to look like they are “plugged in” to the wearer’s body.
I’m often told my pieces are very original – that is the best compliment any artist can get. 

Mini Orrery

4.What do you enjoy most about your craft?

When everything just comes together – the piece is virtually making itself – great feeling.  I can’t draw so it’s impossible for me to plan out a piece.  I have to pick up the parts to see if they will fit together.
Seeing people’s faces seeing my work – just Wow!  That is the downside to online selling – not seeing those immediate reactions but I get a lot of lovely messages from all over the world.

I  do love the hunt too.  Sourcing my supplies has become very difficult with the popularity of steampunk and the fact I live in Perth, Australia – the most isolated capital city in the world.  Down here we have neither the population nor history for vintage surplus/charity shop finds.  Virtually everything I use I have to source online.  Totally jealous of the steampunk artists in the US and Europe and the access they have to amazing raw materials!  So, when I find fantastic supplies at a reasonable price and shipping costs aren’t exorbitant it is a very good day. 

Orbit Ring

5. What is your best advice to newbie Etsians just opening their shops?

Mainly talking to jewellery artists here.  Be original and find a niche.  It took me six years to find my niche.  And be prepared for the cruel reality of capitalism.  When I look online, walk through a shopping mall and go to a craft market – jewellery is EVERYWHERE!  I’m astounded I sell anything.  It can be crushing to your ego when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a piece of art or jewellery and it doesn’t sell.  Make things you want to make but if it’s the 47,756th red beaded bracelet listed on etsy realise you have some stiff competition. I know it’s difficult but try not to take a lack of commercial success personally.  
Remember people are selling on etsy for different reasons: for some it’s their primary profession, some are hoping they can quit their day job, others just want to cover the cost of supplies and there are hobbyists who are just having a bit of fun. Each group values their time and skills differently.  This dynamic can make it a challenging platform to sell on.  Think about your own ambitions and what you want out of the experience.
Before Etsy I sold on ebay for over 10 years.  I only listed on Etsy to have some kind of presence there.  I put high prices on the pieces I listed thinking “this is just a portfolio – no one is going to buy them” but to my amazement they sold.  I’m so glad I gave myself that inadvertent pay rise and now I put a realistic price on my experience, skill and creativity.  Women do tend to under value their time and effort.
Great photos are crucial to selling online.  I spend many hours taking and editing photos.  I look back at my first attempts and cringe.   You don’t have to spend a lot of money to take great photos it’s just finding the technique that works for your products.

Finally, if you need help go to the main forum and ask experienced sellers.

The Parked Heart

6.What are your top 3 favourite shops on Etsy and what do you like about them?

I’m going to be really boring (and diplomatic) here and say I have too many favourite shops on Etsy to list just three.  Most of my them are supply shops.  When I have time I do a steampunk search.  I’m always blown away by the talent and skill of my fellow steampunk artists on Etsy.

Refining Steam

7. Where can you be found online?
Please don’t judge my web design skills on my site.  I cheated with a gallery generator to just get something up quick and haven’t had the time to get a “real” site up.  Next hospital visit (right shoulder replacement) I’ll design a proper website.

8. Do you have any coupon codes / special sales / upcoming or current promotional events going on in your shop?

Nope, sorry – don’t really do the coupon thing.  Maybe in the future – probably through my facebook page.  So remember to like me.


9. What is it about Steampunk that you love and how did you become involved in it?

I hear this often from steampunk artists – “I was making steampunk before I knew it had a name!”  I think that’s what excites people when they find the community – I thought I was the only one that preferred copper, brass, wood and glass over mass produced plastic!
When I was five or six I saw an antique automata singing bird.  The bird was beautiful but it was the mechanics inside that really captured me – it was magical.   I love the philosophy of making something for the sake of beauty and skill over profit and designed obsolescence. It’s reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the last century.  
I was making a miniature Orrery and needed some unique parts.  I started seeing “steampunk” in listing titles.  Needless to say, I googled it.  The rest is history.  The community, especially the Tactile forum on Brass Goggles, made me very welcome.
Steampunk has been very good to me.  I’ve won a few awards in art shows and have contributed pieces for a national touring exhibition – The Antipodean Steampunk Show.  More recently, one of my pieces is on the cover of the new book “Steampunk Jewelry”. 
I’d love to exhibit (or even just attend) some of the big steampunk events in the US and Europe.  Perth has a tiny band of steampunk devotees but I mostly get blank stares when I mention what I do.  At the end of this year I’m aiming on having a solo exhibition and try to raise the profile of steampunk art in my home town.


Thankyou so much, Michelle! You really are an inspiration. 
Personally, what you’ve said about your mess  design process really resonates with me. Out of the chaotic potential of a random pile of materials, the designer acts like a filter to create unique works. I must say, you seem to have distilled the very essence of Steampunk in these magnificent faux machines!

If you, too, admire Michelle’s work, do follow the links and support her fine endeavours.

If you would like to be interviewed or, indeed, interview The Navigatrix, you can email me at

Steampunk Hands around the World – Interview with Abigail of Wiserabbit

One of the highlights of my work are the creative friends that surround me. This time it is my very great pleasure to introduce you to Abigail of Wiserabbit.

We met years ago in a tent, on a scout site, whilst enjoying our favourite pastime of Live Roleplaying. In fact, it was a good friend who introduced us. I’m happy to say that I was there at their wedding and the pair are now honourary aunt and uncle to ‘the Scamp’. 

It isn’t at all unusual to find larpers who make their own costume, but in this case, the seamstress is well-trained and highly skilled!

1.      How did your shop get its name and what was the main inspiration behind opening your shop?

I’m not actually sure I can remember where the name came from! I’ve always had an affinity with rabbits (I share my workspace with my two house rabbits, Juno and Verity) and “wiserabbit” has been an internet handle for quite some time.

In terms of my reason for opening the shop, I started sewing full time when I found myself unexpectedly out of work. About a month later I became pregnant with my son, so it was a time of huge upheaval. I went from working in change management and being fiercely independent, to being a pregnant housewife within the space of a month! Starting my own business was a way to reclaim some of my identity. It also helps fund my expensive dressmaking habit! Most of my work is bespoke, but the Etsy shop gives me a financial excuse to make speculative items.

A mutual friend models for Wiserabbit

   2. What do you create and do you have a signature product? If so how did it come to be?

I would say it’s probably my forage caps; I made some for a pulp adventure LARP game and they proved very popular. I enjoy the huge variety that you can get from a single pattern. After a while, I started selling the patterns themselves and through various channels have now sold about 80 of them. I’m hoping the new fingerless glove patterns I’m working on will be as successful!

The Forage Cap is available on Etsy
  3. Where do you find your inspiration and what makes you different from the other people that make what you make?

My inspiration is nearly always based in historical fashion. I love the quality of construction in older garments; something you just don’t get now. Sometimes though, I will create a piece based around a piece of literature, a character or even around something I’m angry about! I initially trained in theatre and was particularly keen on allegorical pieces, mask work and puppet work. On stage a garment has to encapsulate the character at that point (or deliberately juxtapose a different set of ideas). I love the idea of a garment starting a “conversation” before a character speaks. It’s the difference between costume and fashion; fashion expresses what someone else wants you to be, costume can express whatever you want it to.

The Governess Gown is available on Etsy


4. What do you enjoy most about your craft?

I enjoy the self-sufficiency of sewing. Its a skill that everyone needs to utilise during their lives and being able to do it myself is satisfying.

The Steamcaptain America Ensemble…
..with a hidden in-joke!

 5. What is your best advice to newbie Etsians just opening their shops?

Etsy actually only makes up a small amount of my sales; most of the things I sell are bespoke requests so I’m probably not best placed to answer this. What I would say though, is pay very close attention to trending items and be realistic in your expectations. If you are looking to make your living as a crafter, then you will need other outlets as well unless you really are able to nail a target market.

The Navigatrix and Weldon Rivett esq. sporting a
Wiserabbit forage cap and Regency Steam coat 
Looking rather fine in his waistcoat, don’t you agree?
Wiserabbit uses veggie friendly ‘pleather’ and works
on it to make it closer to animal leather. 

 6. What are your top 3 favourite shops on Etsy and what do you like about them?

With the exception of the Navigatrix and Arcane Armoury of course?!

 Actually none of them are Steampunk related! The shops that have caught my eye are:

It’s all for the same reason – the uniqueness of design concepts, the design integrity and the display of skill.

7. Where can you be found online?

and on my Facebook page, which is updated the most often (I am terrible at updating things – I need a secretary!)

and of course, my Etsy shop: 

8. Do you have any coupon codes / special sales / upcoming or current promotional events going on in your shop? 

Just for you! Use the coupon STARLING01until the end of April 2014 for 10% off. Share this one wherever you like 🙂
9. What is it about Steampunk that you love and how did you become involved in it?
Would you think me a mercenary wench if I said it was because I saw a business opportunity? That was certainly why I first got involved but over the past year, I’ve come to love both the aesthetic and the wonderful people involved. I have never met such a creative, humorous, inclusive and welcoming group of people and I love their company. I love a group where individuality of style is prized over anything else. I’ve done LARP and re-enactment fairs as well, and the Steampunk fairs are by far the most fun.

I’ve also just started reading the Boneshaker trilogy by Cherie Priest, and that is really bringing the world to life for me in a convincing fashion.


Thankyou, Abigail! It really is lovely to introduce our wonderful friends to everyone.

Speaking of authors….here’s another mutual friend and fellow LRPer, sporting his bespoke, Wiserabbit apparel.  A jolly nice chap, too!

Russell A. Smith 

We would love to read your comments, share a bit of ‘LRP froth’ (enthusiastic live roleplay talk) or find out what sort of Steampunk costume you would commission if you could!

Remember to use the #SteampunkHands on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to find other related blogs, reviews and other multimedia events this February!

~ The Navigatrix. Who has a sudden desire for more clothes. Quick! Send customer reinforcements! 😉


Celebrations, Building Steam and Joining Hands across the World

image by Araceli Rodriguez

This February sees the first month long, active celebration of Steampunk community across the globe. The 14th also happens to be The Navigatrix’s 2nd anniversary! 

I must admit, writing this blog entry is a bit like trying to use a chocolate teapot…you see, Steampunk Hands is really not about selling things at all. It is about celebrating community, so my focus isn’t really about inviting you to consider buying anything. However, the whole reason I got involved in Steampunk was because of a practical need to increase my income. This is one mother who got inventive! I amalgamated my skills as a professional modelmaker with my hobby of Live Roleplaying and created an Etsy shop. You can read all about how The Navigatrix began, on Etsy.

My learning curve in the first year was near vertical. I’d never actively created a network for business before, but I soon found it fun as it wasn’t unlike meeting people at a LRP.  You come across their characters in play and before you know it, you’re sitting round the campfire at 3am getting to know the person behind the persona. This is how I have met, both virtually and face to face, many wonderful people who are on a similar wavelength. Through the common love of dressing up and pretending (an admirable trait in grown-ups) we can get to know ourselves and each other much better. Isn’t it nourishing to be understood?

I was contacted by my friend Suna Dasi of Steampunk India (a Facebook friend) in January and invited to join in with Steampunk Hands. This was just the boost I needed to take off in a new direction and so I dived right in, enthusiastically!

 Kevin Steil, also known as the Airship Ambassador, is the bright spark whose idea has grown so rapidly that some are already calling it ‘International Steampunk Month’. The Universe often conspires towards us, I feel…

 Kevin states: 

  “Our community is an energetic force of creativity, education, and aspiration, which deserves to be expressed, shared, and valued by each and every one of us, every day.
Our friends and compatriots, known and not-yet-met, create the stories we read, make the fashions and accessories we wear, perform the music we hear, and construct the art we see….This grand collaboration makes our steam-nation possible, not just to exist but to thrive. Steampunk and our community is our playground. It is our classroom. It is our workshop.”

To find out the range of people’s efforts in celebration of our shared love of the genre, visit:
The Navigatrix has been spending time among the Aether Nomads

Serendipity is a fine thing. It just so happens that I had already planned to make something of my Aether Nomad idea, to have The Navigatrix spend time among a different culture, learning from them and emulating their style. OOC (that’s Out of Character for non-LRPers) my intention was to pursue a more tribal style in my Steampunk jewellery, allowing me more freedom for creativity and to perhaps find a unique little niche. 

The little snippets of story that often pop into my head whilst making things had begun to grow into the idea of a fantastic, fictional culture. That was informed by my most recent Live Roleplay character (the orange tagelmust is actually part of my LRP costume too). So finding out about Steampunk Hands fit right in and has allowed me to get to know this sub-culture better. I’ve even tried dredging up the French I learned at school to at least have a token go at speaking to Heyk Al Khemeti, with whom I’m co-writing some of the ‘Tales of the Navigatrix’. It is very rusty. A-levels were a long time ago (well, I will be turning 40 this year!).

I had been researching images for the character, using Pinterest, and had fallen in love with Moroccan design. Occasionally I’ll find elements from other cultures too – it is so fascinating to learn about the world through a visual design journey.

Georgina modelling the Vintage Lace Heart Choker from my Steampunk Catwalk collection

When I first joined Etsy, I discovered that you could be part of a team in order to get motivated, learn new skills and meet likeminded makers. I loved the idea of being part of such a community, so that even though I work for myself, I wasn’t by myself. The first team I joined was then run by Georgina, a highly creative woman who, at the time, had two shops. She now runs Atomic Girl, Curious Doors and Nevermore Art Dolls By sheer coincidence she lived close enough for us to meet up once in a while.  

Steampunk Fairy made for Sarah Trickler Photography by Nevermore Art Dolls

So Georgina inspired me, guided me and has become the main model for my shop. She has since retired as Team Captain and that position has been filled by our lovely pyrographer friend in the U.S. Emily Joy of EmiNation Artistry .

Together with my brother Matt of ArcaneArmoury and a few other friends, we are the Crew of ‘The Unpronounceable’. Georgina is The Captain, Emily Joy is Nova Pyrelis the Combustion overseer and Matt is Weldon Rivett esq., our Mechaneer. These characters came about through Georgina’s initiative of starting the Steampunk Share Page and I shall be exploring them a little as I write more story entries.

By EmiNation Artistry

When likeminded people connect, no matter the distance, a process of co-creation begins. You inspire one-another and gain courage to try a different route, to explore new ideas and broaden your horizons.

Matt and Abigail of The Wiserabbit (aka Weldon Rivett esq and Steamcaptain America) dropping character for a moment at Weekend at the Asylum 2013
Matt and I are very happy that a few good larper friends have also joined us in our creative, tea-powered quest! Abigail of The Wiserabbit is one such dear friend, met in a tent in a field somewhere in England, years ago. I’ll be interviewing this fine seamstress soon!

What a fine adventure!

I would like to express my gratitude to the many splendid folk that have contributed in some way to my journey. I’ve come such a long way in two years and it has been purely because of the positive and encouraging support from friends in the Etsy and Steampunk communities; many of those folk can be found in both places!

Here’s a list of Steampunk Etsy Teams for those interested in finding friendship, inspiration and support from various creative types across the world:

In Here Life Is Beautiful – Steampunk, Goth, Rockabilly, Bellydance, Cyberpunk, Burlesque…a spicy alternative mix!
Steam Trunk – a fairly new team seeking die-hard Steampunkers
Home for Displaced Victorians – for those who feel themselves somewhat anachronistic
SteamTeam – a large team full of enthusiasts

There are plenty more out there and you can join without having to have a shop. It’s another great place to meet likeminded people.

Thanks to El Investigador magazine and Beyond Victoriana for the  features! 

So..anyone for chocolate tea? In all seriousness though, I am grateful to be part of a community who appreciate the value of handmade items, usually because they’ve had a go at doing it themselves and know the time and effort it takes. They also know the glow of showing off their latest thingumajig, complete with brass gubbins, to a global audience that they can engage with either online or through travelling to conventions.

‘The Navigatrix’ looks forward to making many more wonderful acquaintances. Teach me a bit about your language! I’ll have a go. My French may be rusty and my Japanese coming along ‘totemo yukkuri’ but I would like to at least make the effort. If you’ve read this and English is not your first language, thankyou! If you’ve used an online translation service, I hope it managed my rather verbose, enthusiastic celebration of Steampunk Hands around the World.

Happy Birthday, Navigatrix 🙂  

Steampunk Hands around the World – Interview with Jennie Gyllblad

These days, coincidence and serendipity seem to be often nudging me onto a new and exciting course, crossing paths with some very interesting individuals…

When a Live Roleplay friend introduced me to her friend, with a view to maybe guiding and larping alongside her in a large fest event, I hadn’t quite realised what sort of creative adventure would begin.

The lovely lady in question turned out to be none other than Jennie Gyllblad, artist and designer. 

1.    What was the main inspiration behind starting your business?
“I’ve always wanted to do something that involved me drawing and painting, but it wasn’t until I went to university and did a degree in Illustration that I properly realised that I quite possibly COULD do it for a living. It would be hard (our tutors drilled that into us), but if you were willing to lose sleep, lose your weekends and generally lose your social life, you could maybe scrape by. Spending 3 years alongside likeminded people on an illustration course was crazily inspiring.
As someone who’s been drawing and writing stories ever since she was a kid, it just felt natural to keep on doing it, and if I could actually earn a living from it, then bonus points to Jen!”
The Arrival
The Arrival

 2.    What projects are you currently working on?

“Many many at the same time! I am the great project juggler! Right now I am doing a few stories alongside many painting and design commissions.
I am the illustrator and designer for Clockwork Watch, a steampunk transmedia project which has 3 graphic novels and a few short stories attached to it. So far ‘The Arrival’, ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Tick Tock IPA 1’ have been completed! More to come! In short, Clockwork Watch is a more multicultural Steampunk world where the main focus is on a Sikh family that is called over from India to London, due to the father Chan Ranbir’s exceptional skills as a scientist.
I have just begun a book project with Jared Shurin where I will do both the cover and the interior illustrations of the story ‘The Problems Of Violet Strange’ set in 1915. It follows Violet, a rich debutante who doubles up as a secret detective! Almost a bit like a female Sherlock Holmes.
Then there’s obviously my poor neglected personal project ‘Skal’, which I only pick up when there’s spare time. It is an online graphic novel set in an Arabian-inspired desert world. The story centres around a woman on the run after having been broken out of a Monastery jail. Won’t say much more for now, but it isn’t an all-ages story, that’s for sure.”



Tick Tock IPA1


3.    Where do you find your inspiration and what makes you different from the other people that make what you make?
“I follow many people who inspire me, mainly on twitter and facebook, where I am supplied with daily inspiration pictures! Twitter is really the one thing that keeps me sane and functioning. I work in my own studio, so I don’t see people all day unless I go out. Twitter is like my virtual studio where I can talk to other artists from all over the world!
As for what makes me different… I don’t like to view things that way. I think everyone’s craft is slightly different. We’re all essentially borrowing and stealing from everything around us, and then twisting it into what we find pleasing. But I guess the fact that I work traditionally with watercolour and gouache in an industry (comics) where you’d either be doing things digitally or separating the jobs (penciller, inker, colourist), could be considered slightly different? However, if you look at European comics, especially French graphic novels, you’ll notice that I’m positively mainstream and bland in comparison ;)”


 4.    What do you enjoy most about your craft?

 “The Zone. The Flow. You know when you enter it and when you become wrapped up in it. It’s better than sex. … Okay it’s as good as sex.”


5.What is your best advice to newbie artists just beginning their businesses?
“Keep in mind that this is coming from first hand experiences of me freelancing as an illustrator and comic book artist, so my advice may not carry over well to other industries! I am also really wary of giving general advice without knowing the personal circumstances of other artists. But with that said, here we go!
Set yourself an hourly rate, or a day rate (Do a few pieces while timing yourself so that you get a rough idea how long it takes you to work). It’s so easy to sell yourself short when you really need the commission! But keep in mind that you are doing a skilled job, so you should be paid accordingly. Please don’t work for free (unless it’s for charity or something). If someone says it’ll give you ‘great exposure’, alarm-bells should start ringing.

Be nice to others as well as yourself. This is my main advice, for many reasons. First up, as a freelancer, you are on your own, and your reputation is key. If you treat others badly it won’t do you any favours when finding work. On the flipside, if you get the reputation of actually being quite pleasant to work with, you’ll soon have more clients come knocking. Second: Going at it alone can be rough. We work very hard for sometimes very little, so never forget to be kind to yourself and to keep enjoying what you do. Treat yourself! Because you are awesome. And if you need a chat, hop onto twitter. There are loads of us out there, trying out this own business thing.”


 6.    What are your top 3 favorite shops on Etsy and what do you like about them?

“So hard to just pick one! But here goes. Also, keep in mind that my choices are very centred around my love for costume designing and general dressing up!
 Sanskrit Dream : I’ve already bought earrings from here they quickly became my favourite pair. I have about 10(!) other earrings that I am planning to purchase in the near future. It’s perfect if you want to achieve that chunky I’ve-had-my-earlobe-widened-because-I’m-hardcore look, while not being quite so dedicated.

Lydia Wall Millinery : Now this is the shop that, if I had the money, I would be buying LOTS from. I even have some custom order ideas for my future viking inspired costume that I want to put through to the lady. Lasercut leather both looks and feels fantastic. It makes the accessories look strong AND feminine at the same time. The perfect combo!

Magic Tribal Hair : Fantastic hair accessories can be bought from here! The shop owner both focuses on the tribal belly dance look and the steampunk aesthetic. If you want to combine the two, this is a very nice place to get some accessories.”

7. Where can you be found online?

My webcomic (contains bad language and naughty themes at times!):

My twitter (this is where I pretty much live on a day-to-day basis): @JennieGyllblad

The Professor Elemental comic
7.    What do you love about the Steampunk Genre and how did you become involved in it?
“I’ve been asked how it all started before, and… I honestly can’t remember when I first encountered Steampunk! I know I was doing basic costumes and characters of that style for a few years (simply out of love for the aesthetic), but never as a job. It was only when I was approached by Yomi Ayeni (the creator of Clockwork Watch), that I properly dived into the genre head first! But dare I say that I also entered the genre from a slightly different angle? The first story I did was a more multicultural one, and Yomi has been actively trying to promote a more open look for Steampunk, which looks outside of the colonial time and more into other cultures.
This brings me to what I love about the genre. It borrows positive things from the Victorian era, like dressing up and being a gentleman/lady, while also adding a large dollop of female empowerment (something which of course was not very prevalent in the Victorian era).
Jennie Gyllblad
Dare I say that Steampunk actually makes it ‘cool’ to be polite and drink tea! The genre is about experimentation, about creativity and about adventure. Steampunk is such an open genre, that there are several sub-genres residing within it. Can you have magic in a steampunk world? What types of technology are plausible? What about the look and cultures of other countries during the Victorian era? Asian Steampunk? African Steampunk? Scandinavian Steampunk! What craziness were they up to? Mix and match like crazy, it’s allowed, heck, it’s encouraged. This genre is ever evolving and ever-changing. Mainstream media are just beginning to wake up to it in the UK.”

Thankyou so much for that illustrative and very entertaining interview, Jennie! I’m sure that there are many artists out there who can relate to the creative experiences that you so pictorially- eloquently describe. 

To see Jennie’s Work In Progress snaps (#WIP) hop onto Twitter. It was so much fun watching my Navigatrix portrait develop – thanks again! (P.S. Hopefully, one day,we’ll get to that LRP…)

Steampunk Hands Around the World – Interview with Izabela of Prior Attire

This month sees the inaugural event of Steampunk Hands Around the World, a bright spark of an idea by Kevin Steil aka the Airship Ambassador. The focus is on celebrating the new friendships that have been ignited within the subcultural boiler of Steampunk and to share our love of this multifaceted genre, across cultural and geographical boundaries.


I would like to share a few of the friendships that I have made along the way, friendships that have led to collaboration, inspiration and the ongoing development of The Navigatrix.

The first of these interviews is with Izabela of Prior Attire. I first became aware of this noteable bespoke costuming and bridal seamstress through Izabela’s partner, who followed me on Facebook. My brother Matt and I met these two wonderful people at Steampunk Stamford, a small convivial in the historic stone Lincolnshire town. This meeting led to a collaborative photoshoot as I discovered that Izabela’s ‘Steampunk Amazones’ range included the ‘Neo Bedouin’ – remarkably compatible with my own ‘Aether Nomad’ concept. I have to admit, I got a bit excited!

We met again later last year at Asylum in Lincoln, both Izabela and Lucas dressed in fine Steampunk Bedouin styles. So, on to the interview!

1. How did your shop get its name and what was the main inspiration behind opening your shop?

It is the name of my main business – so it was easy. The etsy store opened for one simple reason – ease. We do most of our trading at markets, but after having received lots of emails and enquiries about things available in between, we simply chucked any surplus stock here. Not a lot, as the majority sell first hand, but sufficient.

2. What do you create and do you have a signature product? If so how did it come to be?

What we specialize in is historically accurate garments – from late Roman to Early Edwardian. Bridal dresses, especially historically inspired bridal gowns are another speciality – and some discounted samples are advertised in the shop. The majority of etsy items however come from our Steampunk Branch -mostly because fittings etc are not always necessary with steampunk items. Signature item – I think we have too big a range to single one thing out – though I suppose for Steampunk it will be the flouncy skirt with the hitching up option, based on late Victorian petticoats.

3. Where do you find your inspiration and what makes you different from the other people that make what you make?

History, obviously , plus music and nature. Huge majority of our work is bespoke and I think that creating one of a kind , unique outfits is our most noticeable trend.

4. What do you enjoy most about your craft?

For Historical items – research and getting the outfit right. For Bridals and Steampunks – letting my imagination run wild with ideas – so the design aspect.

5.What is your best advice to newbie Etsians just opening their shops?

Not sure am the right person to answer that question – out Etsy store is a backup, an auxiliary measure, not a full time shop, so I haven’t been taking a lot of time to promote it, organize it etc. but generally – make sure you get proper photographs of your items, professional if you can – and be honest about the items in descriptions.

6. What are your top 3 favourite shops on Etsy and what do you like about them?

Am afraid I don’t really follow other shops. I do mark some items, but I don’t spend enough time here to decide on favourite sellers.

7. Where can you be found online?

Facebook ( Prior Attire, Prior Engagement and Off the Rails) ; websites Prior Engagement , Prior Attire , Off The Rails: Prior Attire Steampunk Bazaar , Twitter too…

8. Do you have any coupon codes / special sales / upcoming or current promotional events going on in your shop?

Not at the moment, but there may be some items incoming soon– we suffered a fire recently, and the majority of the stock has been damaged. All the items that survived and are in wearable condition are already on sale on Facebook, but will be adding a few steampunk ones here too – so keep your eyes open. At the moment the newest item is our desktop calendar with some arresting images from the after fire Photoshoot.

9. What is it about Steampunk that you love and how did you become involved in it?

Creativity and the DIY aspect, it was easy to embark into Steampunk from the Historical side of the business and I love creating new items that are practical, original, and don’t have to adhere to the rules.Thankyou so much Izabela. I wish you luck in recovering your stock and I have to say how admirable it is to turn such a disaster into a photo opportunity! Matt and I both look forward to bumping into you both again at some splendid Steampunk gathering.Remember, for Twitter and Tumblr information on the Steampunk Hands event, use #SteampunkHands and to find out more about The Navigatrix’s fellow crewmembers and dear acquaintances, use #friendsofTN 

May you find new friends, nurture existing friendships and treasure old ones,

~ The Navigatrix