I have a confession to make: as much as I enjoy the Steampunk aesthetic I’ve never really gotten involved with it, until now. I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down at The Coffee Bureau in downtown Edmonton, Alberta and talk to steampunk artisan, and founding member of the Edmonton Steampunk Group, Melissa Wartenberg.
GoR: Let’s start with the basics: what is Steampunk?
Mel: What is steampunk? Steampunk is commonly referred to as Neo-Victorian science fiction, with an emphasis on innovation, creativity, and invention.
GoR: So it’s more than “when goth meets brown?
Mel: I would say so, yes. That’s a a creative way of summing it up. For a lot of people they come from other alternative styles, and immerse themselves into the steampunk fashion, because they have found something they truly enjoy in that style. We have people from all walks of life involved and invested in steampunk.
GoR: Steampunk seems to be getting “cooler” is there anything you can attribute to it’s rise in popular culture?
Mel: If I had to put my my finger on something that kickstarted the rise in steampunk I would say that it would have to do with its open minded acceptance of original ideas. It’s almost like a melting pot of fashions coming together under an umbrella of certain colours, time periods and some aesthetics twisted with an original idea that the costumer themselves have come up with. That makes it a very welcoming and open genre and style.
GoR: You are a founding member of the Edmonton Steampunk Group (www.facebook.com/groups/edmontonsteampunks) , Canada’s 3rd largest such group, what does this group do?
Mel: Well when we aren’t gathering at the local antique mall, where we talk, sit and have coffee, converse and exchange ideas I, myself, am busy organizing large scale events. For example, for the last three years we have had rising success with our annual Steampunk Ball, which is coupled with another theme. This year’s theme is “Dark Circus”.
GoR: Tell me more about the history of your Steampunk Dark Circus Ball?
Mel: The Steampunk Ball started 3 years ago as a party in conjunction with the Pure Speculation Festival (www.purespec.org), a local festival that is held annually here in Edmonton. We put ourselves together to put on this small scale party, and somehow things magical turned out and we sold out of tickets our very first year, and ever since people have been clamouring for something like it.
GoR: What can people expect out of this year’s ball?
Mel: You can expect to be entertained this year. We are bringing back or very popular band Punch Drunk Cabaret (www.punchdrunkcabaret.com) to play for us. We are also excited to have another ticket level, at $50, that will have it’s own food, entertainment and show. But for the guests themselves if you like dark circus, if you like unique contests, and you like great food and entertainment, that’s what this year’s ball is all about. Entertainment.
As well, each year the Steampunk Ball has hosted a costume contest of sorts. This we are expanding on some of the past years events, and not only will we have The Biggest Moustache and The Biggest Bustle as returning contest features, this year we are also going to add in Best Maniacal Laughter. We want to test out your best “haha” and “hurumph” and judge you accordingly, muahaha.
This year for the ball the venue has given us permission to allow us our costume prop weapons. We’ve never ever been allowed this costume element before. This will be the first time our guests will be able to bring in their super-awesome-steampunk-whatchamadigit prop weapon.
GoR: That can be a really big deal for some of these costumes.
Mel: Yes, a fantastic steampunk costume and a fantastic steampunk weapon often go hand-in-hand. A lot of people I know have some sort of scifi/fantasy-laser-gun-bow-fusion-electrofied-whatever. That’s a big deal.
We will also have a steampunk photo booth. We have hired a photographer, we are bringing in a fog machine, we have props the costumers can interact with. The room will be setup like a small circus tent entrance, people can pose in front of, with maybe a banner that says welcome to the circus. You can fully immerse yourself into a “dark circus” act. I’m very excited about this.
GoR: You mentioned the costume contest, cosplay and costuming seems to be a huge part of the Steampunk culture. What are some “must have” basic items for a Steampunk newbie, and what are some more “advanced” items?
Mel: I would hesitate to say it is “must haves”, but I would say for easy recognition of a steampunk costume, the failsafe colours, accessories, etc would be a pocket watch, a vest, an bustle, a bandolier, a utility belt, goggles are ever so popular, a top hat, a fez, an interesting moustache if you wish. If you wish for other eyewear other than goggles, monocles are very popular, I’ve seen a great rise in monocles amongst both gentlemen and ladies. Fans, parasol and holster, a cane, telescope, take your pick.
For colour schemes golds and browns are very popular, but we’ve seen blacks being introduced as well as silver,while still keeping with the recognizable steampunk accessories. There’s a lot of room for fun.
GoR: I’m really looking forward to the photoshoot tomorrow.
Mel: Me too. It is the annual Steampunk Photoshoot. Every year since the group was founded in 2010, we have strived to have an annual photoshoot, where members can drop in and have some fun. Over the years, we’ve had to start charging for the event, but that fee has gone to renting a unique venue for people to run around and have fun taking photographs, and be photographed, in. This year we are keeping the photoshoot in line with the Steampunk Ball, so we’ve rented the 1920’s carnival inside Fort Edmonton Park. So for 3 hours tomorrow we will have the entire carnival to our use to have fun as we see fit. I’m actually really excited by this. Not only did we sell out the tickets, but it’s our biggest photoshoot to date attendance-wise.
You can check my adventures with the Steampunk Photoshoot here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.914410241930517.1073741843.432867453418134&type=3
You can help Melissa get onto a bottle Jones Soda by voting here: http://www.jonessoda.com/gallery/view.php?ID=1388265&search[text]=David&offset=9
Most importantly you can buy tickets for the “Dark Circus” Steampunk Ball here: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/2015-steampunk-dark-circus-ball-tickets-17929101425
and/or stay up to date on on the happenings here: https://www.facebook.com/events/898907620182327/
Melissa Wartenberg is the Artist and Owner of AtticRaiders