Steampunk Chic and Custom Designs
In a previous blog on custom jewelry that re-imagines tools and technology, we showcased some pieces that reflected the subcultural phenomenon of “steampunk”, which began as a science fiction genre that explored the idea of a world in which 19th century steam-powered technology continued to advance to the present day and beyond. Even if the term is unfamiliar, you’ve encountered this style before if you’ve read the Victorian science fantasies of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells or seen the film version of the Wild Wild West. (The Wikipedia article has links to many more examples). Indeed, this genre has influenced film and literature as well as art and design.
How can you identify a piece of jewelry, furniture, or home accessory as steampunk in style? One aspect of the steampunk aesthetic that is perhaps most striking visually to our modern high-tech sensibilities is what CustomMade’s former senior web developer Danner Claflin described as its “lets-you-see-what-it’s-made-of quality.” Unlike technological innovation in our real world, where the working parts of ever-smarter objects become smaller and increasingly hidden from view, the “working parts” of steampunk-inflected devices are usually made visible; gears, pistons, clockwork mechanisms, and other moving parts are easy to identify (even if the function of the piece isn’t always clear or it’s a non-utilitarian object). Steampunk chic turns the machine inside out, so to speak, and that X-ray/peepshow of the mechanical informs the design of many kinds of projects, from custom jewelry to custom furniture. Here are a few steampunk-inspired creations by our CustomMade artisans.
Designer Shirley Foster of Foster Ink has created steampunk jewelry as part of her “Timeless Collection.” This “Time Flies” cuff bracelet features vintage watch parts on an etched brass cuff. “The brass bee reminds us that time flies.” Have a question about this piece or are you ready to commission your own custom jewelry design? Shirley can help you. She writes:
Making a selection is a very personal matter. We tend to take so many factors into consideration when making a choice…. size, color, design, what to wear it with, when to wear it, do I need it, does it look good on me? The most important factor is enjoyment. You are making an investment that should be worn, treasured, and enjoyed. You deserve it.
Contact the artisan today.
Bicycles, as well as steam and clockwork machines, are popular motifs in steampunk designs. (It may be difficult to imagine nowadays, but the popularization of portable, self-powered, transportation devices like bicycles in the 19th century had a tremendous impact on conceptions of personal autonomy and the idea of personal empowerment through machines). A little serendipity led to the creation of this sprocket address plaque by Atlas Signs and Plaques. Artisan Janey Freid recalls:
We here at Atlas Signs and Plaques are avid road and single-track cyclists. Almost everyday, someone here goes for a ride after work. So one day, one of our designers was picking up a chain that had fallen off the sprocket and thought, “That’s a cool shape….” She rushed into work the next day and spun out this address plaque in the sprocket shape. Partly through the process, someone else walked over and asked how the steampunk gear was going. We’re pretty happy when everyone here notices a new sign, so we’re bringing it to you.
Fact or fantasy: a mass produced device from the 19th century that you could find in ordinary homes around the world, capable of performing complex tasks faster than a human, that had people working hunched over their desks? In this antique laptop desk by Orwa Designs, a 19th century technological innovation, a home sewing machine, meets a 19th century technological fantasy, a man equipped with what appears to be a personal mechanized propeller flying through the air (or swimming underwater?) depicted in decoupage. The steampunk decorative motif goes perfectly with the sewing machine table repurposed for modern use as a computer workspace. Check out artisan Christina Jarvis’s CustomMade portfolio for more repurposed antique furniture and contact her to discuss another custom furniture design.
Have an inspiration for a steampunk piece of your own? Post it on our “Get it Made” job board. Whether it’s a design for custom made jewelry, custom home décor, or a custom furniture piece, CustomMade artisans interested in your project will contact you.