This year, I’m excited to be able to introduce to you a global Steampunk art project that every member of this splendid genre, whether they consider themselves ‘artistic’ or not, is invited to join. We are all creative in how we express ourselves, through the words we choose, the way we move, the things we wear and use. The genre of Steampunk gives us an expansive playground in which to explore and have adventures!
I’ve quite a lot to share, so I’ve written this post in three parts. Allow me to begin with a little background…
The Navigatrix didn’t really exist this time three years ago. She was merely a collection of costume ideas, a character without even the familiar game rulebook to guide her emergence through imagination to reality. I was just following an inner pull, the mesmerising lure of creation.
My experience in storytelling grew through books and television, through films and tabletop roleplaying games, expanding out into the field (literally) of Live Roleplay. Here I found that I could immerse myself in a character and explore aspects of my own personality. Art therapy for a curious soul.
Then I discovered Steampunk (really not all that long ago). It was somehow familiar and yet strange at the same time. The rulebooks had gone out the window, I had no idea what to do with the character that was fast collecting a wardrobe but still that powerful intuition drew me towards creating for the love of it. I found a new outlet for my art, that had been quietened by years of teaching and the blessing of new motherhood.
I made a feathery clock-hand hairclip for my costume and the thought stuck me that I could make and sell these. My brother Matt guided me to Etsy and suddenly, my shop had a name and my character had a purpose! TheNavigatrix opened on 14th February 2012. A story began to form (and is still being written); my shop began to fill up as inspiration flowed. One day, I created some items that deviated from my usual English Neo-Victorian and Steamgoth styles. I was inspired by tribal fashions and suddenly began to see a very few examples of multicultural Steampunk costumes.
As I create, I often simultaneously make up snippets of story about the characters who might use the items that I make. These invariably make their way into the item descriptions in my shop. These tribal Steampunk pieces inspired a whole race! The Aether Nomad range grew…and then it grew some more.
A serendipitous meeting with the couple behind Prior Attire led to some of my work being featured in their ‘Steampunk Amazones’ shoot, as the Neo-Bedouin costume coincided beautifully with the Aether Nomad concept.
Last year, I decided to share this idea to inspire others, so when Suna Dasi of Steampunk India asked me if I would like to join in a new event called Steampunk Hands Around the World, I said yes! I was soon after contacted by two wonderful people and The Aether Nomads Project was born….
This year sees a new theme for this event. How appropriate to describe the international, co-creative art project that it helped give rise to! This project has become much larger than simply an extension of my work, in fact, in order to let it grow I have had to push aside ego and let go the idea that a main reason it exists is to help my own sales…we all encourage members to create for the sake of it, for photography, for display, for performance. Of course members can create items for purchase, but that is not the main drive behind the project. So, from a personal perspective first, let’s look at this year’s theme:
§§§ My Playground §§§
This is my chosen work but I laugh to call it a job! Steampunk is just so much fun! I’ve found some likeminded folk to play with and I couldn’t be happier. What is ‘play’ in the context of Steampunk? To me, it means giving myself permission to explore ideas, be inspired by history, the art and design of other cultures and the current explosion of Steampunk culture…then to put that through the filter of my own creativity. It is all about exploring who you are and finding people who understand where you’re coming from is one of the greatest gifts of this genre.
Don’t quiz me on history. It isn’t my forté. My memory is quite glitchy too. However, through meeting new people and reading blog articles, I’ve come to understand certain aspects of our human story a little better. Steampunk has introduced me to information I would never have found out otherwise. My work is firmly based in the realms of fiction but I find inspiration from the teachings of others. I’ve been introduced to such things as the legend of Tin Hinan, the art of Tribal Bellydance (no, I haven’t joined a class, just used some tips at a LRP event once!) and learned how to tie a tagelmust (the headscarf).
Aside from historical facts, this genre is a conduit for bringing many kinds of learning. I lean toward a spiritual and holistic way of perceiving life and in this area too, I have gained from my growing circle of dear Steampunk friends. At the core of this concept is a basic idea, explored already for years in the realms of science-fiction and fantasy, that of a Multiverse.
How interesting, then, that today’s science is beginning to explore such concepts as being potential realities. The film “What the Bleep Do We Know?!” first made me aware of this shift in awareness.
Cygnus Review on Ervin Laslo’s book ‘Quantum Shift in the Global Brain’, 2008, states:
“Science’s cutting edge now views reality as broader, as multiple universes arising in a possibly infinite meta-universe, as well as deeper, extending into dimensions at the subatomic level. Laszlo shows that aspects of human experience previously consigned to intuition and speculation are now being explored with scientific rigour and urgency. There has been a shift in the materialistic scientific view of reality toward the multidimensional worldview of multiple interconnected realities long known by the world’s great spiritual traditions.”
Steampunk and by extension, The Aether Nomads Project, explores our inner realities in a way that we can express through imaginitive interpretation, which crosses language barriers and becomes, in and of itself, a form of communication.
§§§ My Workshop §§§
Like many small businesses, mine has begun on the dining room table.
My home isn’t very Steampunk. It is calming to step away from it from time to time, which gives me all the more momentum when I do dive back in. Yes, there are little touches here and there, like the modified toy gorilla, a joint family effort. The Scamp was delighted when Mr. Norbert won First Prize in the Steampunk Pet Competition at Steampunk Stamford on a Train (aka STOAT).
Then there’s the artwork on top of my little unit. It is an Aether Nomads Project piece called ‘Rust Flower’ and was painted by a friend, the artist John Void (find him on Etsy) and sent as a surprise package!
So now you’ve had a little tour around my playground, classroom and workshop, it is time to move on to Part 2 where I will introduce you to my international co-creators.
Do take a moment to ask questions or leave comments, thankyou. Discussion opens doors…