in defence of steampunk



Although we still don’t necessarily agree with all it, we admired this impassioned and informed defence of steampunk from Sean from Ashford, Oregon:

Although I am not an active practitioner I have used the style in several theatrical scenic designs and have come to respect it. True, at its worst, it is an excuse for girls to dress-up in corsets and carry nerf-guns spray painted gold. But at best it is a “maker-movement” analogous to John Ruskin and Arts and Crafts.

The true Steampunk crafts-persons are creating unique works of art from mass-produced objects: iPad cases, flash-drives, lamps, handbags, and clothing, while employing 19th-century materials: copper, brass, bronze, exotic hardwoods, leather, and velvet. It owes more to Jules Verne than Blade Runner.

The cogs in the pocketwatch are exposed, Helen, to celebrate the beauty of the working parts. Today most things we own are mass-produced by the millions in plastic boxes factory-sealed in China. Steampunk romanticizes an age of tinkerers and inventors who had a hand in creating the things they used. The welding goggles and chauffeur dusters are simply an icon representing that idea.

So yes, much of Steampunk has become an excuse for 20-somethings to dress up in waistcoats and pith-helmets, but it has a counter-cultural heart that celebrates the unique and handmade while longing for the adventure’s spirit of Victorian explorers and scientific pioneers.

We certainly enjoy the unique and handmade, too, Sean; we just still wonder why the steampunk aesthetic seems to be so homogenous. John Ruskin eschewed homogeneity. Although he also eschewed sexual maturity, so let’s not get too invested in things John Ruskin was a fan of.

Now we’re off to the library to try to find 150-year-old lithographs of Victorians carrying around nerf-guns.


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