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Official Blog of the Tophatter Auction House

  1. What Is and Isn’t Steampunk

    To understand what is Steampunk, you must know that there’s a clear distinction between what is in fact a Steampunk item, what is Steampunk-inspired and what isn’t Steampunk at all.

    The idea of Steampunk comes from the Victorian Era (the late 19th century) and, for American folk, the Industrial Revolution. At this time, only light bulbs were electrical; much machinery relied upon steam power, such as locomotives or the textiles industry. At this time many people believed they were at their finest, and so, with luxuries come dreams. Steampunk is the result of Victorian predictions of the future.

    Steampunk looks at today’s world as if it was theoretically placed during this era, when steam and clockwork, not electricity, found their way into society. Air travel would be via air ships (like dirigibles) and everything would be powered by windup or clockworks and steam.

    Steampunk design emphasizes a balance between the form and function. They should look like they work: the gears and mechanisms should fit in with one another. However, there are exceptions to this such as the Octopus in reference to Jules Verne (inspired however), and a few other things. It should also be noted that fabric pertaining to Steampunk is, for the most part, leather, but that does not mean selling leather under ‘Steampunk’ is allowed. You could also see materials such as twine; most color palettes associated with Steampunk are antique bronze, brass or copper.

    Already made items such as pocket watches with open windows and watch parts just glued to things are not Steampunk – there must be some sort of functionality. Steampunk is also well represented in films and television.

    Famous examples include Metropolis (2001), Vidocq (2001), A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) The Prestige (2006), The Golden Compass (2007), and Sherlock Holmes (2009). 

    Great examples of Steampunk items include:

    Steampunk Flashdrive: notice how the gears are aligned and work well together? Truly creative.

    And because we love owls on Tophatter…notice how every bit fits in with one another? …Steampunk.

    You cannot tell me this isn’t cute!

    Examples of Steampunk inspired work made by me, Tom Suke:

    Things that are unlikely Steampunk and more likely Steampunk inspired:

    • Pocket watches: even if they’re open-faced where you can see the gears, it isn’t Steampunk.
    • Chains: can be steampunk inspired if altered. 
    • Bottle caps: can be steampunk inspired if altered.
    • Keys: as themselves, they aren’t Steampunk but can be inspired.
    • Bits of wood: if altered or decorated can be Steampunk inspired.
    • Elephants: can be steampunk inspired if altered.

    Remember folks, Steampunk design emphasizes a balance between the form and function of the piece. If you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to contact me at tom_suke@live.com

    By Tom Suke, Steampunk Junkie of 5-6 years, Member of Airship Isabella 

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