What is Steampunk Art? Beverly Holman, a Chicago native and current California resident, would love to tell you about this wildly popular art form. Read the interview questions below to learn more.
Beverly tell us about Steampunk Art and how you became involved.
Honestly, I didn’t know what Steampunk was initially. The term Steampunk has been around for about 150 years. it can refer to mechanical apparatus, steam generated machines, or clock works. It can also be a style of art. Several years ago when the movie “Hugo” came out it was so much fun to see all of the giant clock movements and the mechanical figure that drew pictures and moved its head and eyes, was fantastic. It inspired me to think what I could do with discarded clock and watch movements. I just let my imagination run with it.
My art work evolved by repurposing items my husband and I found when we were on vacation or visiting friends and family. We would look for interesting old oil cans, vintage jewelry boxes, old cameras, toy trucks, and toy sewing machines. Having a vision for the possibilities of using these items when found or taking a chance that it could be repurposed on some future project. We would check street fairs, second hand stores, swap meets, antique malls for discarded or damaged toys, game pieces or old oil cans with interesting shapes, mechanical and electronic parts to machines and anything I could use to add to the art pieces.[Related: Beverly offers tips for lowering your stress with DIY projects]
When I begin the process of creating a Steampunk or assemblage art piece, I start with (for instance) an old oil can as my central theme. I might add a bird to the nozzle imagining it as a tree branch. I then add wire to stabilize the nozzle and add a clock wheel to the opening of the nozzle. I later decorate the bird with a thimble using it as a hat with a clock wheel sticking out, then add a compass to give interest to the hat. I decorate the bird’s eyes with eye glasses or goggles, and the beak with a spring or wire wrapped around another part. The bird wings may receive bead caps and the tail is adorned with a watch movement and a clock spring coming out. I love to use mini light bulbs with watch parts attached. The hardest part is deciding when the project is finished. If you add too much it looks junkie and not enough, it is uninteresting to look at.
“I have been an artist for many years. I was awarded a summer scholarship with the Art Institute in Chicago when I was in grade school. I loved the time I spent there learning and still possess that desire today. It was a hobby, until I retured and then I had the time to spend creating. I joined a local charity and was craft chairman for several years. We sold our artwork to raise funds for children in the San Pedro and South Bay area of Los Angeles.”
For several years I didn’t realize I was creating Steampunk art until a friend found artwork in some books that featured other artists doing similar work and told me what my artwork is called. Some of my art is pure Steampunk and other pieces are Assemblage Art.
What prompted you to begin your own art business?
I began as an English chintzware collector for many years and had a showcase a Country Roads in Long Beach. When the owner had to close the store, and relocate, I was asked to join their Old Towne Orange store. I was thrilled because the interest in the chintzware had peaked and I was looking for something I could sell. I asked the owner, Sue Jackson, of Country Roads if I could sell my hand crafted jewelry and artwork if I used antique or vintage pieces, she said yes. I have been there for years now and my crafts have changed many, many times. I now have Steampunk art and assemblage art which includes jewelry boxes, standing crosses, vanity trays, picture frames, champagne coolers, and wine coasters. I also will do custom pieces for their customers.
I have gotten to know many of the store owners in the area. In particular, Lisa Fehmer of Affaire de Coeur. She was open to the consigning of my artwork in her wonderful store. She asked me to consider decorating vanity trays and silver serving pieces for her customers, along with aprons, journals and hand mirrors. It was also in her store that the editor for Victorian Homes Magazine, Meryl Schoenbaum, spotted my artwork for an article she wanted to do on the new craze of Steampunk art. Lisa contacted her photographer, Bruce Bean. They spent many, many hours getting photo’s together for the article. She arranged an open house at her store for the release of the fall issue. It was thrilling to meet the many collectors and sign their pieces at this event. I am now in Fringe, Redondo Beach; Stars Antique Mall in Hermosa Beach; Ya Ya’s in El Segundo; Clockwork Couture in Burbank; and Vineyard Antique Mall in Paso Robles.
What has been your greatest challenge so far, with the art and/or business?
Getting help in setting up a Website. After talking to many friends I was given several names to contact who specialize in setting up websites. I wanted someone who understood my artwork. I didn’t want a generic website, but one that was inviting to those who visited it. I mentioned that fact to my hair stylist, Marlies Bodnar. I told her that I planned to have a website set up that afternoon when I came home. Her client Jean and I were talking and Jean said she knew someone and if she was available would be perfect for me. That person was Louise Sattler. I called her and she was available so we set up an appointment for her to gather the information necessary. She gave me a lot of suggestions and was so much help in getting my site set up. She and her team have been wonderful in giving me help with my other computer needs, along with setting up my Etsy site. Louise Sattler’s colleagues include Shara Lawrence-Weiss and her husband Rick Weiss of Weiss Business Solutions. They are a fabulous team and have been so helpful in getting my artwork mentioned in blogs, magazines, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I can’t thank them enough for all the suggestions given. For someone, like myself, who is computer challenged, they are my dream team.
What do you enjoy most about creating art pieces?
I get excited when I find an especially interesting old toy and can’t wait to begin the creative process. I love to dress up my birds with very interesting objects for their goggles and hats. I spread out my findings and paw through them to select items that might work for that art piece. I then start placing those items on the subject to see if I am comfortable with how they look. Sometimes after I have placed them I decide that I don’t like the piece and change it. This can take from a few weeks to several months. I worked on one art piece for a year before I was finally satisfied with it. I like to have a whimsical look to my art with items that draw your eye to the various materials. There is a balance of when to stop. Too much and it looks junky and over done. Too little and it looks unfinished and uninteresting.
What do you enjoy least?
Parting with a special art piece that I know I cannot come close to duplicating. Each project has its own look and cannot be copied again. I have some old Christmas ornaments that I have used and they are not available anymore. Also, I have compasses that are one of a kind and when I use them on an art piece I know that will make it very special. I have a hard time parting with those art pieces. I have several Steampunk and assemblage art creations that are in my permanent collection. I may part with them in the future, but in the meantime I am enjoying them in my home. They are so much fun to look at and they make me smile.
For others, interested in starting an art business, what advice can you offer?
Get to know the store owners where you shop. If they have the appropriate venue for your type of art, tell the owner or staff about your art and have a portfolio to show your work. Ask if they would consider a consignment for a short time. Do not get discouraged. Also, consider a showcase in a studio or antique mall. It will get your artwork seen and a magazine editor may come by and give you a chance to have your artwork featured. Also, check the magazines with similar styles to your artwork. They sometimes ask for photos to be submitted for future issues. Keep a friendly attitude because you never know when you will meet someone who will be of help to you. Ask vendors at craft fairs if you have questions. They have tremendous knowledge. Be open to suggestions – they can save you money and time.
*Disclaimer: No compensation was received in exchange for this interview.