This week we are talking with Niki Phillips, also known as Lady Hawk, 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 Niki, thanks for joining us this week.
Niki Phillips: Hello Kevin! Thank you it’s an honor!
AA: It’s always an amazing experience to be on the ground floor of a brand new project. As a brief summary, how was it for you to be on the first steampunk reality show on TV?
NP: It was intense, sleep deprived and inspirational.
AA: How long have you been involved in the steampunk community and what brought you into it?
NP: I’ve been involved in the steampunk community for about six years (2009) now, but have known of it for a bit longer.
AA: How long have you been building and creating things, and how did you get started?
NP: All my life. I’ve always had a drive to make things with my hands. As far back as I can remember, I’d spend the longest time trying to figure how to get a drawing just right, I’d spend hours hand sculpting clay figures. I made this 2 foot ceramic sculpture of a gargoyle for my mom when I was 12. She kept it out in the garden till nature eventually caused it to fall apart. When I hit college, I became fascinated with Asian culture and came across pictures of Japanese kids cosplaying. I was hooked at that point and I started creating my own crazy costumes and outfits.
AA: That’s a great way to get started, and nice that your mom was so encouraging. What is it about steampunk as an aesthetic that appeals to you?
NP: I’ve always had a strong attraction to the Victorian aesthetics and that overall time period. I love how that time period really kept people well rounded, you worked your whole life, used your hands, everything was well made and people took pride in their skills. I try to apply that to my life.
AA: There’s definitely a lesson in that as people made the most of their life and their own skills. What are some designs or materials that you tend to work with the most?
NP: I work mostly in fabrications, pattern drafting and modification but also some leather work and prop building.
AA: What are some signature elements in your work that make it stand out as recognizably something you created?
NP: My work always tends to skew a bit towards the darker side of humanity. Even if I go into a project telling myself I’m gonna put more color and lace, I end up cutting all that out and the outcome is more of a Gothic Steampunk personality, sometimes with a touch of a post-apocalyptic/dieselpunk feel.
AA: What is something that you’d like to create but haven’t done so yet?
NP: I’d like to tackle Lady Hawk’s version of Steampunk armor for women. I’m dying to do this, the steampunk armor is one of the biggest attractions for me… besides the ahem corsets and bustles… All the imagination that goes into the design, the fun little moveable dodads and gizmos. I wanna make some crazy, dead-sexy armor.
AA: That’s going to be great to see, and I’m sure people will follow your progress on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. How has your work changed over time? What are some key lessons you’ve learned along the way?
NP: I see that my skill in sewing has only gotten better. I’m not afraid to completely screw up a project just to see if an experiment will work out how I hope it will. Whether that means drafting my own pattern, modifying a pattern or experimenting with some new technique to get a desired effect. If you hold yourself back too much, you may never learn anything new about your potential. I will also go into a field I have never worked in before and give it a go. If I suck at it I suck. If it turns out it works for me and gives the effect I’m looking for, then I have gained a valuable new skill. I always want to learn new skills.
AA: Viewers of the show know that you were eliminated in the second episode, but let’s start at the very beginning of the process. How did you first hear about the show and the opportunity to actually be on it?
NP: A friend mentioned to me that they were possibly looking for more female contestants for the show. I went in not expecting to hear anything back.
AA: What was your interest or motivation to be on the show?
NP: I was hoping to meet other fellow steampunks with the same passion for the genre as I have and hopefully learn some new tips for creating fantastical masterpieces, and I ended making some wonderful new friends!
We’ll pause here in talking with Niki.
Join us next time when she talks about the casting process and the initial skills challenge.
Also, check out her exhibit page at The Steampunk Museum.