Friday, June 27, 2008

Finding the uniqueness in a trend

I recently made a pact with myself, to try as hard as possible to avoid complaining. There are a pretty good number of people pointing out the problems of the world, and very few offering solutions to those problems. And while there is certainly value to airing grievances, complaints, and issues, I think I would like to approach the world from the other side. I would like to speak from the side of solutions, epiphanies, and ideas.

With that in mind, I intend to address a topic that has been much discussed lately, and one that has been on the minds of a number of those of us in the Etsy Steam Team. It was posed to me recently, and most eloquently, by one of the dashing fellows behind the upcoming The Handcar Regatta "Where is the you in it?"

We all think it, when we log into Etsy and search 'steampunk', or see the three millionth comic character wearing goggles - how do you stand out in a trend that is rapidly gaining more and more of the same sorts of styles? You love your gears, and your watch movements, and your brass filigree, but everyone else seems to be doing that as well. What will keep you an individual?

I believe its a way of thinking about what you're creating, as opposed to what you use to create it. Don't think about Steampunk as a visual style or a fashion style. That's the kind of thinking that can end with you browsing countless shops trying to decide what makes something steampunk, worrying you aren't steampunk enough, trying to follow trends so carefully that you start creating from the trend, instead of Creating the trend.

Instead, think of steampunk as a setting. A fabulous place filled with strange steam powered inventions, undiscovered countries yet to be explored, with a pervading attitude of adventure and invention! It doesn't matter if its the past that never was, the future that won't be, another world, another dimension, or your back yard, and it doesn't matter what everyone else is wearing. When you sit down to create, think of what you would wear or do in a world like that. Think of what other people would wear. In my world, gears are the fodder of the poorer classes - making decoration out of discarded bits of machinery, readily available. Maybe in your world, gears are a status symbol for the inventive geniuses of the universities. In my world, I wear suspenders and a cowboy hat, and tack my cravat down with a gear pin. Maybe you wear delicate silk and pearls, and pine for you aeronaut lover lost during a flight to the north pole. Don't think about the way other people's work looks, think about the way something from a Steampunk place COULD look.

Then in the end, you can at the very least be satisfied that you've put the You into Steampunk.


TotusMel said...

That was really s lovely solution to a real creative dilemma. Don't simply copy a style, but rather imagine within the world that would use it.

Fatal Attraction said...

Fine valuable advice, Indy. Actually applicable to most areas of our lives.

There's so much to explore and reveal (and revel in) with Steampunk. I feel like I'm embarking on a new adventure of discovery each time I make a Steam-piece. Why limit yourself to what has already been, why not imagineer and create the Steamy world for yourself.

. c h o k l i t . said...

Hear hear! Well said, Indy. And for me, imagining that world is really part of the fun of it all...

Michael Koontz said...

Very well said. This is actually how I came into steampunk ... via worldbuilding. I got tired of the tropes of typical medival fantasy and decided while I loved the world I had been creating, it needed to evolve and progress. Following the natural progression of technology I arrived at something that is quasi-steam, psuedo-magic and all fun ... it just so happened that there were a lot of gears, watches and weird mechanically bits I noticed popping up along with the pseudo-Victorian aesthetic.

More than once I have started thinking about a really neat project idea and had to stop myself when I realized I wasn't doing it because it fit the world I imagined. Instead I found myself taking visual cues from other SPs. I had to stop myself, back up and think "don't do it just because you can ... how would 'your world' have created this?"

Thank you for your wonderful insights ^_^

Hyla Waldron said...

"gears are the fodder of the poorer classes - making decoration out of discarded bits of machinery"

I LOVE this image, I read this right after looking at your other blog and I could just see it in your style!