Anyone that has been involved with Steampunk for a while probably knows my pain. We scavenged parts and cleaned gears and old lace, then combined them into odd collections that were too new for anyone but the hard-core geeks to be seen wearing. We created an aesthetic and a standardized compositional vocabulary, then watched as it slowly caught on to the point that normal people would wear them.
Eventually, you could find clean, pre-made gears and bits from a regular crafts store. And it was awesome, so much easier just to assemble without needing power tools and a soldering gun to take apart old machines. And the sales soared - suddenly everyone wanted a piece of Steampunk in their jewelry boxes.
Fast forward a few more years and you can now buy pre-assembled clusters of steamy goodness for cheaper than you can buy the individual parts. Now, we take apart these massive collections to re-assemble them into something unique enough that it can't be found on the Tim Hotz aisle of the craft store.
But somehow, that doesn't feel right to me. I'm buying a fake Chinese gear meant to evoke an antique European history for American mall shoppers who have never read Steampunk and know nothing of its history or the socio-political underpinnings of the genre. It's just something else to consume.
I'm not saying I will never use Vintaj or Holtz items again (they are just way too convenient) but I do want to start using something a little more authentic, something that was actually used for another purpose before being turned into jewelry.
This is a sample of what I came up with. It's representative of the items I slammed together at the last minute before a recent craft show. I just couldn't create anything that distinguished itself from any other vendor. All my stuff looked like everybody else's stuff and I was getting frustrated. So I forced the issue and made these, um, things - let's call them accessories.
They are different and I was happy about them being different. But I was also afraid, because I remember the early days and waiting for another experimental soul to wander by the booth and choose to be adventurous with their hard earned cash. new is good, really new is bad - at least for sales.
I did sell a few pieces, more than I expected to be honest. Others didn't sell and, at the moment, I've decided to push them even further into the unknown (think working electronic displays). I'll post more about the pieces that sold and how they were created. And I will also post any successes as I continue working on the unsold items.
And you know what, it felt pretty good to once again be selling something experimental and somewhat challenging. Meeting the market demand for an acceptable product certainly has its place (the wallet) but if I'm going to call myself a creator then I need to keep pushing the boundaries a little or risk withering away into the chasm of simple retail. Of course a couple of sales makes it easier to think that way too.
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