Steampunk Hands – Our Playground

Hands_2015_XPK2There was a tweet sometime this last year where someone said “Good luck getting a good job with that coat!”, meaning my Ambassador coat. I know it was meant as an insult, but all I could do was laugh at their attempt. The funny thing is that I already have a good job, and great coworkers who embrace my passion for steampunk. Not only does my boss encourage me to buy some fantastic boots for my outfits, and awesome hardware for my steampunk-themed guest room renovation, other people in the office often come up to me to share something they read or saw, saying that they thought of me, as well as how much fun they thought steampunk is.

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And THAT is a big part of why we do what we do in our community. I love information and sharing it so it’s great fun for me to interview people, and read and read and read to share news and information out to everyone. For others, their fun is writing books, or music, or creating artwork, or building props. We do all these things, maybe partly for a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but also because we find it fun and fulfilling.

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There are conventions all around the world, and I greatly enjoy every one that I’m invited to – there’s new people to meet, new things to learn, and so many great things to do. It is such a wonderful thing to walk into a convention and see so many smiles and hear so much continuous laughter. We get to wear such fancy clothes, eat food that’s bad for us, and stay up until dawn deep in conversation (and maybe some frivolity).

On the local level, more and more cities are towns are forming steampunk groups, which is a great way for people to be involved socially more often than conventions, and get to see people more often. Local events include outing like picnics and museum tours, as well as steampunk themed events sponsored by other groups like libraries and book shops.

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For cities of a certain size, there maybe stage plays and musical concerts. More people have been writing steampunk themed performances and more bands in our global community are touring.

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Then there’s the whole gamer aspect of our community, and it keeps growing! There’s Live action role play (LARP), and role playing games (RPG), along with card and board games, and even a few dice games. Several got their start with crowd funding, and others had the opportunity to expand with it. People aren’t just playing at conventions in a special gaming room or programming track; they are playing at home with friends and family, or at coffee shop get-togethers.

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Another thing which we have fun with are the variety of web series and short films. This last year I was caught up in the creativity of Progress, and there were some truly laugh-out-loud moments watching Felix Blithedale (please Erik, please create a second season!).

Watch Progress episode one here, and Felix Blithedale here

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Let’s not forget artwork – we have an embarrassment of riches with our artists. There’s images on Deviantart.com, fine art in galleries, framed prints on walls, and iconic images on book covers. Each of these brings some aspect of our community and our steampunk worlds to life.

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One last item that might be fun for many of us – creating and competing! A brand new steampunk competition game show has put out a US-wide call for participants.

For all of the contributors to the fun I’ve had these several years, thank you so much! Thank you for your creativity, your time and effort, your conversations, and your friendship. It’s been so much fun so far, and I’m looking forward to many more decades of fun to come!

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Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 10:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Steampunk Competition Game Show

All kinds of interesting opportunities come across my desk – books to read, theater performances to see, music to listen to … and now, I’ve joined with Pop Magnet as a steampunk consultant for a US steampunk competition game show that’s looking to cast participants. Are you game for the competition? We’re looking to round up the best steampunk makers, designers, and visionaries to present to the producers and the network.

Casting is only open for a couple of weeks! Contact Valerie or Marcy at Pop Magnet right away!

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Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 10:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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Kurios as Workshop

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One of the key traits in the evolution of steampunk and the steampunk community is to create. Each and every one of us creates some contribution to steampunk every time we participate, and every day when we simply acknowledge “I am a steampunk.”

Its common knowledge that steampunk made the leap from its roots in literature to being tangible when Jake von Slatt and Richard “Datamancer” Nagy began creating and sharing their visually stunning and elegant computers, monitors, and keyboards. The Maker philosophy grabbed people’s attention to create tangible objects and bring to life the worlds that we had previously only been reading about.

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People made their own outfits, accessories, and props. The artwork started coming along with designs we could embrace. And there was music filling the background.

But physical objects aren’t the only things we create. We also create moments and memories. We create experiences, and motivations. We create dreams and bring them into reality.

The same could be said for Cirque du Soleil’s steampunk themed show, Kurios. Physical items have been created for it as costumes, and props, the stage and the new equipment. That’s just the base for what comes next as the cast and crew create a thoroughly engaging experience, a steampunked fantasy land for us to share in the visions and dreams of the Seeker. We are entertained, we are amazed, and for a few hours, we live completely in a world that exists only for that one performance.

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In talking with Ryan Shinji Murray, a performer with the Acro Net team, and David Greatrex, who is head of automation and all things that move in the show, I asked them one last question for Steampunk Hands Around the World – what have you created in or with Kurios?

Ryan says the magic of a live show is creating a similar but entirely new moment in every performance. There’s also the creation of joy and happiness, not only in doing a job that he enjoys so much, and doing it very well, but also in the audience – when the adults become kids again, enjoying the acts of daring-do, and living vicariously through the performers.

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In moment after moment throughout the show, each one created by the whole performance team, spectators were enraptured, pulled in by the proximity, the physicality, of each act, in a way that cannot be captured on film.

One thing I greatly appreciate about the show and the performances is the great amount of effort that goes into making the show – the years of initial planning before the artists are involved, the months of training and then constant practicing and rehearsals, and the constant attention to detail and quality. Everyone, cast and crew, does their very best to create the best experience possible.

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That’s rather like steampunk and the activities in our community, isn’t it? We plan and we present; we create an experience for ourselves and for others. We create an image through our outfits, and some through personas or presentations. We create worlds in our books, artwork and music, and we create memories with others in our social events. These are things we create and contribute, and carry with us for the rest of our days.

David helped shape the technical designs that bring Kurios to life along with the artists. There is plenty of modern technology behind the scenes of the magic that people see from their seats. Even with programmed scripts, fine tuning and adjustments are always needed, all in the process of creating the best show possible.

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With Kurios, he also notes that even with the sets, the outfits, and the individual performances, there isn’t really a firmly set story line, more of an idea and a concept. Like steampunk, then, each viewer interprets everything slightly differently and creates their own narrative.

David talked about how many of the props were created from thrift shop finds and salvageable found materials. While they look great now, and authentically steampunk, there is challenge to keeping them all in good shape for the next several years of touring use. He says that many of them are being 3D scanned, and there’s a 3D printer on hand to create some replacement parts as needed.

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One of the design ideas behind the set and props was “High tech, low tech”. This is really shown best in the moving hand platform – a fiberglass shell on a two-person mechanical transport system. It looks old, metallic, and mechanical, and inside, it’s just two people driving and controlling the prop, which makes it easier to maintain and repair.

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There’s also the rolling display cases with the Edison lights inside. Clearly steampunk, and something that would look great in an Ambassador’s … uh, everyone’s, home, it’s simple low tech battery packs and signal switches inside. It’s a great looking prop that someone made, and it’s a great addition to creating a moment in the show.

Steampunk, like Kurios, is our workshop space to create and share new things with others, both tangible and abstract. It is one of our greatest assets and is something we should cherish and encourage at every opportunity.

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If you have the opportunity, put on your steampunk finest and go get inspired and motivated to create even more with a performance of Kurios. Failing that, at least buy the CD and enjoy the energy of the music.

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Head over to the website for show and ticket information, and to see which character you are in the Cabinet of Curiosities.

 

Kurios is in Seattle through the end of March, then

Calgary, Alberta opening April 9, 2015

Denver, Colorado opening June 11, 2015

then, Chicago, Illinois,

Costa Mesa, California,

Los Angeles, California.

 

For more information and interviews, check out these links

DailyXtra on Youtube

Amelie Robitaille Cirque de Soliel Interview

Nick Pitera Behind the Scenes Tour

Press release

 

Published in: on February 24, 2015 at 9:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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