Monday, May 20, 2013

Rust Belt Steampunk Gains Traction in the Twin Ports

Welcoming figure by Mary Plaster
When the 2nd Annual Steampunk Spectacular was announced for May 16 & 17, I may have been among the first to notice the scheduling conflict between this and the Hard Rain concert at Weber Hall. My fear was that the two events might chew into one another's attendance, thereby weakening one event or the other. But as they say, 95% of what we fear never happens. Turns out both were events were spectacular.

Both events were actually sequels to last year's May shows of the same ilk. And both events knocked our socks off.

It was especially fun to see the Spectacular get front page coverage in Saturday morning's Duluth News Tribune with a story by Mike Creger, Steampunk Spectacular showcases style. Last year the whole idea of conducting the Steampunk event right inside the train museum proved so thrilling that it simply had to happen again. This year's event including a time machine that took all our steampunk fans and guests back in time for an ride on one of these early steam-powered locomotives.

During both days The Depot's Great Hall was devoted to the art of steampunk as well as an Emporium in which Steampunk artisans displayed wares they produced for sale.

Richard Rosvall, Mayor of Steampunk

Rosvall with wares at 2012 event in Depot.
My first experience with the local Steampunk culture here was through an event called Chronicle that was put together by a circle of artists who called themselves Friends of Industry. One of the characters of seemed connected to nearly everyone in this entourage was Richard Rosvall, who has graciously assisted many by providing costume embellishments to acquire "the look." I recently spoke with Rosvall regarding his involvement with this genre.

EN: How did you personally become so involved in making Steampunk attire?

RR: I got into it because my son asked about making a Halloween costume one year. I had a little idea of what it was about, had seen a few pictures… but went to Flickr as a photo sharing site and typed in Steampunk as a search word…. over 100,000 images. Then I typed in Steampunk Weapon, which narrowed it to 15,000; Steampunk Goggles, 10,000. After looking around a little while we came up with a couple pretty good costumes for he and his girl friend at the time. I had so much fun working on that that I haven’t stopped.

EN: What makes it fun?

Gas Mask
RR: I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy literature. It’s just so wide open to your imagination. Any kind of sci-fi gadget you can think of you can adapt to that time period. I was lucky that for forty-some years I’ve had experience working with wood, leather, metal and stone, so I have a skill set that enables me to make stuff that looks like it would come from that time frame.

EN: Do you read Steampunk literature?

RR: Not really. I know there’s tons of it out there and I see notices about new literature coming out in that genre, but I don’t have a big budget for buying brand new books.

EN: Films?

RR: I've seen a few. Not a lot. My costumes come from Internet images and my imagination.

EN: It seems like the Internet has really brought Steampunk to a new level.

RR: I’ve made hundreds of friends through Facebook who attend the big conventions on the East coast and West coast and down in Texas. Most of what I’ve been made aware of is on the East coast and out West. Not a lot going on in the Midwest other than TeslaCon. There seem to be a lot of people who travel to these events, vendors and lectures… I’ve been having fun lately making my own little gears out of Damascus steel.

EdNote: Based on my observations, this is a subculture that has real legs. Especially in the fashion part of it. Start preparing your costumes for next year... today!

MEANTIME, we're still celebrating North Country Dylan Days. Tonight is an Open Mic for singer/songwriters at Beaners. Sing a Dylan tune and one of your own Dylan-inspired pieces.... Call Jason at 6:00 p.m. or after in order to get slotted on the agenda. I will most definitely see you there.

Steampunk Fashion... Rosvall Style. (Richard R top left, photo John Heino)

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