Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How to Create Steampunk Jewelry Part one




noun: steampunk; noun: steam-punk
a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

Steampunk is influenced by, and often adopts the style of the 19th-century scientific romances of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Mary Shelley. The oldest precursor of this genre in film, Metropolis (1927), may be the single most important early film to represent steampunk as an emerging stylistic genre.

Today, people use the term "steampunk" beyond its literary meaning to refer to a style of art, design and jewelry. Simply put, Steampunk jewelry uses industrial and mechanical "stuff" with an elaborate and romantic Victorian twist. What sort of people create steampunk jewelry and what sort of materials do they use? Keep reading to find out.

Steampunk has a bit of an obsession with time. As such, watches of all types, including wristwatches and pocketwatches, are popular. In fact, clock parts are often used in the construction of individual pieces of steampunk jewelry. Gears and watch hands are used to decorate larger pieces. Old-fashioned keys are also very popular, as are bits of antique cast-offs, such as pill cases, thread cutters and tiny knives.

The photo on the left is an example of a necklace I created with an antique escutcheon as a backdrop. I applied a watch face, gears, a key and some vintage watch works. Then I punched a hole near the bottom and added a clock hand dangle for some movement.

Steampunk artists regularly use certain materials to achieve an antiquated appearance. The most common materials in steampunk jewelry include:
Metals like copper, brass, steel, iron
Gears and cogs
Antique light bulbs
Watch and clock parts
Keys and locks
Antique hardware (keyholes, draw pulls, escutcheons, interesting shapes)
Certain animals (Octopus, lizards, spiders, fairies, dragonflies)
Word charms or engravings (love, dream, inspire, invent)
metal filigrees
vintage jewelry with interesting shapes
Computer and camera parts
Old radio and TV parts
Jewelry patinas
I use tiny gemstones and sometimes rhinestones for bling
charms and lockets
There aren't any stores that sell all steampunk supplies, so most jewelry artists have to search for interesting materials. I scour arts and crafts shops, pawnshops, garage sales, thrift stores, garbage bins, flea markets and antiques shops for parts. I regularly search the Internet for material as well.

Like other non-mainstream movements, steampunk places great importance on the value of beauty that reflects unusual or antiquated ideals. The jewelry is often bold and aggressive in appearance, but usually attempts to retain at least an echo of femininity.

Although it does exist, you will rarely find colors such as gold or silver in steampunk jewelry. In order to reflect an antique feel, steampunk avoids the use of these bright, new colors. Instead, favored colors are brass, bronze, copper and dark silvers such as gunmetal, brushed aluminum and titanium. Black and white are not popular; ecru, rich browns and shades of gray are much more common. Of course, rules are made to be broken. In the following necklace I used blue jewelry patina on the escutcheon base and added vintage watch parts on top. Notice I even added some rhinestones for bling!

Steampunk jewelry is usually handmade and almost never mass-produced. As such, it can be quite expensive, often $100 or more for a single piece. However, there are jewelers who produce quality pieces that are more affordable. Craft websites host many steampunk jewelry artisans who often have offerings in a wide range of prices. If you can't find a piece that you like or that is affordable, make it yourself. That's the beauty of steampunk jewelry; you don't need to be a skilled jeweler to create beautiful and unusual steampunk pieces.

Here's a steampunk hat I created! Barbizon Modeling Agency in St. Petersburg, Florida purchased it from my Etsy shop. That's my beautiful granddaughter modeling it.

Don't forget to come back for How to Create Steampunk Jewelry Part II.