February 19, 2008

Steam Week: stoking the fire

Welcome to day, what 6?, of Steam Week. Are we even counting anymore? Today is a bit of a mish mash of thoughts about steam as energy, bear with me here. Above, a carving from last night, still unfinished. Sorry for the bad photo, have I complained about how difficult unglazed white clay is for me to photo lately? Anyway, I was thinking of the core of Steam, the source of energy. And while some of the fiction utilizes unusual elements to create steam or energy (lightning, magical stones and substances, etc) the best old fashioned, dramatic source is fire. And fire for energy is usually created in a furnace of some sort, eh? So my carving is a sort of generalized furnace form, which I also sort of wanted to look like a kiln (related to a furnace) or even just a window. This one will change a lot based on the colors used, I can use a neon red, orange, or acid green for the fire chamber and a dark glaze for the brick for a really dramtic effect.
Above, just a pic I took of a salt of soda kiln at Alfred University when my brother graduated. I love looking at kilns, they are so beautiful and powerful.
Now, thinking of furnaces and fire, I can think of so many of the steampunky films that I have seen that have this imagery in them somewhere. But it dawned on me this mornng that another great Miyazaki film has fire as a central element, as a central characther, even! Calcifer is the fire demon in Howl's Moving Castle, shown below, he is the fire that provides the energy to move the crazy walking mansion, shown in a movie poster above. I will have to watch this one again, I remember it was good, but not my favorite of the Miyazaki films. I swear my brain is like a sieve when it comes to movies, I can't remember anything after a couple of months. Too much other crap in my brain! Anyway, I do remember the Castle was amazing to watch, the way ti moved organically like a real creature.
Another thing I have seen in much of the Steampunk is this love of the locomotive. There were great futuristic trainlike vehicles in Laputa, and a great old fashioned train in Steamboy. I believe Wild Wild West has much train imagery. In transportation history, the steam train was a major innovation, so to see it used frequently in Steampunk is not surprising.

The infamous Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. Not very steampunk, more of a traditional train, but since it can only be accessed by wizards jumping through a wall, it is definately fantastical. I want to say that there are Steampunk elements in the Harry Potter worlds, but I cannot place my finger on them. That one teacher, with the crazy mechanical eye, (whats his name?) he looks pretty steampunky as I recall, with all sort s of gadgets.
The ad for the HP train set above makes me think of my Grandpa, who used to set up a big model train set every Christmas. I don't remember ever seeing him in the process of setting it up, it was always already done for us to just enjoy. He was such a tinkerer, with a garage full of tools and bits and junk all over the place. I got to wear the conductor hat and scarf and press the train horn button, and I remember the smell of the smoky steam stuff, and the feel of the electricity running through the living room. We had to be very careful around it, we knew that...it was Grandpa's toy, but he always set up a little town with Hot Wheel cars and little model guys around it that we could play with. A very happy memory, I miss my grandparents.

Today, another song by Vernian Process, "the Last Express"

Link to video on You Tube


  1. I'm loving the steampunk week. I'ts never appealed to me aestetically before - I love the feel of the genre - the sort of dystopian alternate reality-ness but as jewellery I could never really reconcile the two. You've gone quite some way towards rectifying that!

    My friend Andrew runs a publishing company (RPGs) called steampower publishing - his logo is quite steampunky - http://www.steampowerpublishing.co.uk/

  2. Faerie-Jeweller,
    Thanks for coming by! Yes I have seen a lot of films that are steampunky to me but I couldn't place my finger on it. Its that confusing dytopian univerise that you described, exactly! I am just trying to think what the gents and ladies would wear for jewelry, and that is the inspiration here.

    Thanks for the link to your friend's site! Did you know my hubby is an illustrator for RPGs? he just did some pieces in the last Magic the Gathering set. www.chucklukacs.com