This week we are talking with James Neathery, who was one of the ten contestants on Steampunk’d, from GSN, the Game Show Network. Steampunk’d is the first steampunk reality show to be broadcast on cable television.
Airship Ambassador: Hi James, it’s great to chat with you again!
James Neathery: Sure thing, I’m stoked to be here.
AA: How amazing was it for you to be on the first steampunk reality show on TV?
JN: Mostly it was awesome to finally have someone take notice of my work and have promotion for it. I also loved meeting and working with other SP artists, and getting to see what goes into making a production like this. It sucked not having phone or internet and no contact with the outside world, but of course it’s necessary. I missed my family the whole time.
AA: Fellow contestant Tobias McCurry also talked about internet deprivation. It can be tough! How long have you been involved in the steampunk community and what brought you into it?
JN: So, it’s kind of a long story, but I’ll try to shorten it. I’ve always been fascinated with cybernetic prosthetics and the merging of man and machine. My grandfather lost both his legs to diabetes and that got me interested in functional bio-prosthetics, but I don’t have the chops for mathing and engineering. I got into steampunk in particular when I saw the movie Steamboy and fell in love with the alternate history clockwork and steam power angle. As for involvement with the community, I’ve been jamming my foot in the door for about 4 years now.
AA: When and how did you get started building and creating things?
JN: I’ve been making stuff out of Lego Technic sets since I was like 10, way before I knew what SP was, of course, but what better way to get started? I got into serious SP crafting when my wife bought me a steampunk style watch for my 28th birthday and I started, uh, modifying it. Well, it could only handle so much before it fell apart, so I decided to make a new one. It’s actually the only original piece I made that I still own, but I got so much interest from it that I started making a whole line to sell. From that came a desire to learn leatherworking which evolved my style, which led to larger and more intricate items, and I even began to incorporate my electronics skill into the mix to make the speakers and desk gadgets I’ve got. The sky is the limit, and I will always be looking for new tricks and methods to round out my skills.
AA: Hmmm, “some people” always need a new steampunk watch. “Some people” right here. Just saying. What is it about steampunk as an aesthetic that appeals to you?
JN: Oh man, I gotta say quality- the whole “they don’t make them like they used to” thing. Well guess what, I do! I offer a lifetime replacement guarantee on my leather. I love gears and clock works and industrial steam powered machines. I love using real, raw materials. Everything I make is cut from raw leather, tooled by hand, embellished with real hand cut brass, copper, and steel and welded together with real solder. It’s very rare I use glue or epoxy. I love the uniqueness I get to bring to it and the flair. Everything is so plain and modernized these days, it feels good to be able to make something that so resoundingly isn’t!
AA: Excellent attitude! What are some designs or materials that you tend to work with the most?
JN: Leather, brass sheet, brass round, copper round and coil, nuts, bolts, steel rivets, electronics of all sorts, wood and wood stains and finishes.
AA: What are some signature elements in your work that make it stand out as recognizably something you created?
JN: I tend to inlay the brass plates in my leather armor pieces rather than attaching them on top, and they usually feature brass round bump guards and solder slag. I also include tooling in most of my leather pieces which is somewhat unusual in the general SP market. Also the attention to detail – cutting stuff by hand, beveling and finishing leather edges instead of leaving them raw cut. All my designs are completely original too. Everything that I’ve made has been original, concept to completion, and proofed personally by me. Everything I make, I wear for at least a day to make sure it’s comfortable and practical.
AA: What is something that you’d like to create but haven’t done so yet?
JN: I, quite literally, as I am interviewing, have my first corset in the works. I’m also working on finishing my Half Life inspired SP hazardous environment suit. I want to build a big wood and brass, power assisted steampunk armor that I can wear to conventions next. The question these days is no longer if I can do it, but if I can find the time to do all the things I want.
AA: Never enough time for all the cool things we want to do. How has your work changed over time? What are some key lessons you’ve learned along the way?
JN: Oh man, I started out using the leather remnant bags from craft stores. I’ve had to design so many things by taking wild guesses and watching tutorials online and learning from people who already excel in the craft. I could never even relate how much practical knowledge I’ve gained in the past 4 years, but I am so proud that I had people liking my watches straight out of the gate.
We’ll break here in our chat with James.
Join us next time as he shares more about his time on the show.
Also, check out his exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.
Follow the latest news about the show on the Steampunk’d website.