Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Clockwork Marriage


Let me tell you what I've been obsessed with lately. It's a marriage between the natural and the technological. The Victorian and the alternate reality. The whimsical and the mechanical. It's breathtakingly beautiful. It's called steampunk.

The style combines floral, fantastic, or generally organically based with the technological beauty of watch movements. A Victorian aesthetic that can be melded with anachronisms. It's inspired by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, the fathers of the epic technological impossibilities imposing on the natural. There's something tremendously delicate about it - you work with watch gears, which are tiny and thin, or filigree. And jewelry itself needs a more delicate and precise touch, so that intrigues me even more. I've seen gears and metal replacing the abdomen of a real beetle - now that takes delicacy.

I'm not sure what drew me to it at first. I think it may have been Cherie Priest's love for it, and I just wanted to google it to see what the fuss was about. Maybe I saw the word one too many times and just had to find out what it was. Needless to say, I was hooked on the first image search. The jewelry is the best.

It inspired creativity that I knew I had but thought was gone. I've done some painting and pencil drawing in the past, and while I'd like to do that some more, I haven't really made time for it. But I suddenly had this desire to make steampunk jewelry based on some of the items I saw. And boy, do I have ideas.

I began by buying watch movements, although I can't buy the really good ones until I have a decent disposable income. I purchased lockets and other findings. Unfortunately, my limited disposable income also keeps me from moving at a pace I would like. I had to buy a little here, a little there, hoping that they'll work or that they'll sell. I will eventually want a precision drill, which at a price of over $150 seems way out of my price range - the alternative is a less precise hand drill. It's marvelously frustrating to me. I expect that the jewelry will eventually pay itself out, but you need capital in order to profit. Another life lesson I needed to learn, apparently. I know the value of money, but I've never had to have it before - all my hobbies were relatively cheap or I could deal with holiday gifts. Now I have to save, save, save in the middle of developing a fairly expensive hobby. Figures, huh? (I am, I would like to add, saving. I'm quite good at saving.)

On the plus side, my obsession with steampunk jewelry has sparked some other untapped ideas, too, not just in the steampunk area. I've had ideas for recycled/repurposed jewelry that will cost me very little because I can find the components in the trash. Of course, I'll still need the same kinds of tools, but I can work with that. It may even help supplement the more expensive steampunk components.

In the end, I've had to sell most of my watch movements and parts - there was no point in keeping them in a case for years when I was unable to do anything with them. I managed to make two minimalist steampunk pieces that sold pretty quickly, but they did not require much skill. I'd like to be able to do so much more before I dive into the steampunk aesthetic again myself. In the meantime, I've focused my old-fashioned tastes on my gothic romance pieces based on Dracula. However, other people's steampunk work has continued to fascinate me, and I still have ideas brewing in my head for the future.

If you're interested in checking out the steampunk jewelry-makers that inspired me, see the following links:
BirdzNbeez's store
Jewels By Nature's store
Clockwork Zero's store

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