Skinz-N-Hydez // Photo by Jerome LimLizbit as Lady Mechanika (Lady Mechanika) // Photo by Ken Nash • Steampunk Clock by Diarment
 

From the 21st to the late 19th…

Of all branches of cosplay, only few are as impregnated with such unlimited creativity as Steampunk; although out there one can find intricate and elaborate armours and props, there’s nothing like seeing a costume that brings forth the nostalgia for the Victorian world of Industrial Revolution through wheels, watches, leather, buckles, and shades of chrome, all of them combined following no other criteria than imagination without boundaries, shaping a different kind of aestheticism, focused on the beauty of the mechanics. Throughout a very long tradition that lays way beyond the beginnings of cosplay as such, in which man becomes a mechanical machine himself, and the mechanical machines get humanized in turn, all one has to do to embark in such a time travel to the misty world of steam engines and cogwheels is to dress up, put on a pair of worn-out goggles and simply take off…

 

Steampunk leather items or another kind of sculpture

And there are loads of nowadays artisans who chose to embark into their own personal time travel, each of them cultivating one aspect of Steampunk or another. One of such artisans is Ian Finch-Field (also known as SkinzNhydez), a Canadian artist specialized in leather craft, who is lucky enough to make a living out of his passion, working twelve hours a day to create various Steampunk accessories, props and costumes.

 
Steampunk Goggle Helmet and Emperors Armor of Empowerment by Skinz-N-Hydez // Photo by Jen Steele
 

His works are not only complicated, but also diverse, not only functional, but also highly artistic. Throughout the years, his creativity has been influenced not by a single source of inspiration, but by various factors, such as comic books, and his fascination with mechanics and medieval technology and culture. In his words: “combine all that and you have my version of Steampunk!”. To him, as a Steampunk artist, leather is what plaster represents for a sculptor: a material that lets itself manipulated into the desired shape, impregnated with meaning and a functionality of its own.

 
Steam Punk Armour Parts by Skinz-N-Hydez
 

Many times there are neither concept sketches, nor planning; Ian simply starts working on a piece, and its story begins to unfold throughout its entire making-process, which can last from one our (for simpler pieces, such as masks), up to 50-60 hours (for more difficult items, such as a full arm or leg). And his determination is the engine that drives him on: “It’s a passion; not just Steampunk, but to create!”

 

Diamonds in a cogwheel

Steampunk also has its share of jewelry, which may appear as kind of strange to the unacquainted eye, but actually emphasizes the uniqueness of this genre. The usual tools of trade are replaced with less ordinary items; cogwheels, old watches, keys and the like – all lose their everyday contextual functionality and juxtapose in various shapes, resulting in objects as refined as any other exquisite jewelry piece.

 

His works are not only complicated, but also diverse, not only functional, but also highly artistic. Throughout the years, his creativity has been influenced not by a single source of inspiration, but by various factors, such as comic books, and his fascination with mechanics and medieval technology and culture. In his words: “combine all that and you have my version of Steampunk!”. To him, as a Steampunk artist, leather is what plaster represents for a sculptor: a material that lets itself manipulated into the desired shape, impregnated with meaning and a functionality of its own.

 
Steampunk Jewellery by Maxine Foxwell aka Bitter Island
 

Maxine Foxwell (better known as Bitter Island) from the UK has been creating Steampunk custom jewelry for quite a while. An artist since childhood, when she first began painting and drawing, she discovered Steampunk only two years ago, although she had been customizing old items since her teens. She prefers jewelry because, in her opinion, “there aren’t as many limitations as there are with clothing; you can use just about any material, and do so much more with it – if it can be manipulated in any way at all, then you can turn it into a piece of jewelry”. Like in any other Steampunk “branch”, imagination is the main influence, and this was the case with Maxine as well. Although, as starting point, she draws her inspiration from history, fantasy, fairy tales, books and films, what counts the most is her imagination and there are usually times when the initial idea gets lost on the way, transforming into something completely different. Old jewelry; clocks and watches that she dismantles; reclaimed and vintage materials – she combines all these using solely her power to create, giving them a brand new identity into the form of hairpins, necklaces, tiaras, brooches, rings, bracelets or pendants.

 

The poetry of a disused clock

Abscynthe, French artist of Steampunk jewelry, has developed a very personal philosophy related to this genre, brooted in the concept of beauty promoted in the 19th century by authors such as Baudelaire, Lautréamont and Rimbaud. His works illustrate in fact his search for a “‘poetry of nothing’, for the insignificant found in the disused clocks or a forgotten watch, trying to extract some unforeseen splendor from dust. Extraire le Beau de la laideur – Extracting beauty out of ugliness. It is a kind of poetic alchemy asleep in bins and attics”.

 
Steampunk Jewellery by Abscynthe
 

While preserving its basic aesthetics, his view on Steampunk doesn’t focus on aspects and common themes used in the specific literature (such as uchronia and the Industrial Revolution), exploring instead the creativity and aesthetics of a new genre, based on the idea of transgression of time and substance. Therefore, he relates it more to the Italian movement of Arte Povera through its usage of recycled materials; the refusal of a cultural industry; and a consumerist way of life countered by creation.

The cogwheel holds a very important place in his jewelry pieces, mainly because, in his view, “the cogwheel is an allegorical object rich in meaning, and for which I bear a certain affection, of course aesthetic, but also symbolically significant. It’s the representation of movement, a constant movement, such as in clock mechanisms, which, freed from these, always seem to figure that movement. A spontaneous allegory. It is also a symbol of an unfinished union, meaning that, as an integral part of a whole, the cogwheel cannot function individually, requiring as quasi-essential another element that can give some meaning to the mechanism. The cogwheel does not make sense by itself, and one of the aims involved in the creative process is to attempt to find a meaning for it, by mixing it with other parts, sometimes very disparate”.

 
Steampunk Jewellery by Abscynthe
 

In creating his Steampunk jewels, Abscynthe’s work closely approximates the painter’s work, the colourist’s, and the musician‘s; the same way in which they wonder how to arrange the lines, forms and colours, the notes and rhythms, he tries to arrange and juxtapose materials and colours into a subjective harmony. The artist’s only guideline is, in Mozart’s words, to “put altogether the notes that love each other. ”Nevertheless, creation is to him “an unending pathway, and in that sense there is no creation that is truly accomplished, complete”.

The materials used in the design of his jewelry come exclusively from recycled supplies, “which years ago were parts of a clock, a watch or an alarm clock that witnessed a time, a full life, and that we have now forgotten, either by lassitude, or by excessive modernity”.

In the end, the core element beyond Abscynthe’s work is essentially his desire to re-create, to recycle; an idea of distilling, the distilling of poetry out of dust. In his own words, “if I do not pretend to create something that approaches an ideal of ‘beauty’ – that is not my purpose – it is this process of research and creation, this new life offered to the insignificant, and this ‘poetry of nothing’ that I find fundamentally and absolutely beautiful”.

 

A magic touch on cardboard

Inventiveness in Steampunk can sometimes lead to solutions that prove to be pretty unexpected and out of the ordinary. Those who think Steampunk accessories can be crafted exclusively from leather, brass, cogwheels or other metallic parts, are terribly wrong; and the Spanish artist Diarment (Rafa Maya) demonstrates this through some amazing Steampunk items made mainly from… cardboard.

 
Steampunk Clock by Diarment
 

As a multidisciplinary artist, he likes expressing himself in various ways, having studied music, painting, drawing, modeling, and sculpture for many years. Nevertheless, he has always been fascinated with strange and useless mechanics, thus coming closer to Steampunk. Although, for some of his works, he was inspired by novels such as Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” or by old movies, he usually lets his imagination fly, and ends up producing parts that simulate strange retro-futuristic mechanisms, whether functional or not.

 
Steampunk Clock and Steampunk Ray Gun by Diarment
 

While many artists prefer working with the usual Steampunk materials, Diarment chose cardboard. As he himself admitted, he made that choice because “cardboard is a material with which I am very at ease; I can model and paint it beautifully”. The most difficult item to make was a work he named “Mechanic Angel”, for which he had to do a lot of sketches and tests before beginning the final work. The initial female figure was sculpted in Fimo, and everything else was built from cardboard. Next came the painting phase, which sought the maximum metal oxide color contrast with the tone of the smooth skin of the figure. In the end, he was quite satisfied with the result.

 

The story of a mechanical lady

Some prefer sculpting leather outfits; others would rather craft jewelry or other accessory objects. Yet others portray Steampunk characters as a whole, giving them life and a whole new dimension. Such example is Lizbit, from Canada, who offers an impressive image of how such a Steampunk character should look like, choosing to impersonate Lady Mechanika, the heroine of a story created by Joe Benitez (www.joebenitez.com) and published through Aspen Comics.

Lizbit’s story has a fascinating Steampunk fragrance of its own. She grew up in a small town, playing characters with her sister in the forest around their home, supported by parents who have always encouraged them to pursue their interests and become strong women. Her father is a collector and a tinkerer who especially likes old radios, vehicles and clocks, while her mother is an art and history lover; and it’s due to such an environment that she became so drawn to Steampunk. For her, “Steampunk embodies a place and time that we accidentally skipped through, or maybe where we will end up… It’s about taking the old, and creating functional pieces that are as beautiful to look at, as they are useful. Steampunk is about being socially and technologically advanced. Blending Old World ideas of morality and courtesy, while allowing women to be just as, if not more staunch than their male counterparts. Adding to its allure, there is magic and mystery with space aged gizmos”.

 
Lizbit as Lady Mechanika (Lady Mechanika) // Photo by Ken Nash
 

With the help of the professional photographer Ken Nash, Lizbit impersonated the story of Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika, who was found by the local authorities in England, surrounded by corpses and body parts. Her limbs had been amputated, and replaced with mechanical ones. She has no memory of her former life; that is why she has built herself a new one, now working as a private detective, using her unique limbs and abilities to solve cases that the police can’t or wouldn’t.

As stated on Joe Benitez Official Website, “Lady Mechanika is about a young woman’s search for her own identity, as she solves other mysteries involving science and the supernatural” – and Lizbit has done a great job cosplaying as her.

Although she is currently working on an original Steampunk project together with the same photographer Ken Nash, already having two other outfits ready for wear, Lady Mechanika cosplay remains very special to her, as she loves Joe’s character, and wanted to do her justice. The brown outfit was her first attempt at sewing, since a Sailor Pluto costume she’d done when she was 12. Of course, making such a costume was by no means an easy process – as she herself admitted, she almost lost an eye and her mind sewing the leather underbust. Ken had the goggles, and her partner provided the gun; thus the overall look was completed.

In Lizbit’s opinion, Steampunk is a very fun theme in cosplay, because it provides countless options. “You get to mix soft and luxurious fabric with very structured articles, which create the posture and feel of the Victorian era. The more layers, the better, and this allows the cosplayer to have full creative freedom over how much or little they show; and it is a really cool base to start an original character from. What other genre could get away with mixing top hats, corsets, bustle skirts and brass?”

 
                  

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