Although many works now considered seminal to the genre were published in the 1960s and 1970s, the term steampunk originated in the late 1980s as a variant of cyberpunk. It seems to have been coined by science fiction author K. W. Jeter.
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.
Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century.
Many of the visualizations of steampunk have their origins with, among others,Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, including the design of the story’s submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew’s underwater gear; and George Pal’s 1960 film The Time Machine, with the design of the time machine itself.
In 1994, the Paris Metro station at Arts et Métiers was redesigned by Belgian artist Francois Schuiten in steampunk style to honor the works of Jules Verne. The station is reminiscent of a submarine, sheathed in brass with giant cogs in the ceiling and portholes that look out onto fanciful scenes.
In 2013, IBM predicted, based on an analysis of more than a half million public posts on message boards, blogs, social media sites and news sources, “that ‘steampunk,’ a sub-genre inspired by the clothing, technology and social mores of Victorian society, will be a major trend to bubble up and take hold of the retail industry.” Indeed, high fashion lines such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Chanel and Christian Dior had already been introducing steampunk styles on the fashion runways. And in episode 7 of “Project Runway: Under the Gunn” series, contestants were challenged to create “steampunk chic” looks.
Are you a steampunker?
Because of the popularity of steampunk, there is a growing movement of adults that want to establish steampunk as a culture and lifestyle. Some fans of the genre adopt a steampunk aesthetic through fashion.
So, are you a steampunker? A few clues…
Do you include elements of industrial design in your home décor?
This is an archway in my home, built by artist/sculptor Kit Carson.
Do you accessorize with vintage watches, such as this necklace by jeweler Kit Carson?
(Sterling silver and gold necklace with vintage watch face.)
Do you live in, or desire to live in a Victorian home?
Do you revel in the atmosphere of Alice in Wonderland or Sherlock Holmes?
Guess what? You are a steampunker. Welcome to the club!
How I use steampunk style in my art
As a visual artist, I have incorporated elements of steampunk in to this new three-dimensional wallpiece. Using gears, hardware and rusted metal create the steampunk connection in my abstract art. These elements are old rusted bits and pieces from farm implements, garden tools or machinery. The channels in the center of the wood bars will be filled with colored encaustic paint and more hardware will be added to the sides and front.
This is a wallpiece I created in 2007 when I worked in fused glass and mixed media. Elements from this piece are incorporated in the new work above; the metal gear, and the wood bar with the channel here is fulled with fused glass. Encaustic paint will fill the channel in the new work. Piece shown is 48″ x 18″ x 1″.
Your steampunk style
How do you see steampunk fitting into your life?
Have you adapted any of the elements to your style of dressing, work or home? Please let me know in the comments!
Aryana B. Londir is an abstract painter who has been fascinated by style in all of its incarnations throughout her life. For more of Aryana’s thoughts on the origins and impact of style on our lives, and to be the first to see her new art, please sign up here.