Sacramento Steampunk Society Aims to Introduce Community to its Culture Through Emporium and Swap Meet
By Corrie Pelc
During the day, Jennifer Brown works for a bank, doing a lot of data work and problem solving.
On her off time, Brown has found an outlet for her creativity as a member of the Sacramento Steampunk Society.
“It’s that spirit of never got over Halloween – it’s that love of getting dressed up, combined with a love of history and sci fi, and being able to combine all of that together to have fun,” she explains about attracts people to steampunk. “It’s that aesthetic that draws people in because it’s fun and whimsical.”
And on Saturday, Feb. 16, the Society will host a Steampunk Emporium and Swap Meet in the Arden area that will help introduce others to the steampunk culture.
So what exactly is steampunk?
According to Wikipedia, 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.”
Brown says steampunk is a cross between the Victorian era, when steam power was starting to be used, with modern science fiction. She explains this allows you to take the beauty of the Victorian era and put a modern spin on it. “It gives you free reign to create really anything, from time travel like Dr. Who to anything that Jules Verne would have created in his books,” she says. ““The phrase I hear all the time is it’s a world that never was, but should have been,” she adds.
Lon Lee, a member of the Society for over a year and one of its nine administrators that helps run the group, says adds steampunk is a type of “retro futurism,” where the past is mixed with the future, or the future is mixed with the past. “It’s basically like H.G. Wells’ time machine where you mix the futuristic technology with old values, old styles,” he says. “Anything’s possible.”
Lee says the Sacramento Steampunk Society, which just celebrated its third birthday, is a social group for those interested in steampunk to meet once a month. He says they have more than 1,100 members worldwide – including members in France, Germany, Japan and England – that represent all genders and nationalities and range in age from 4 to 80.
For those who follow steampunk culture, there’s a variety of ways to express their interest, from literature to art to music. One way many showcase their love of steampunk is through costumes.
A love of Victorian fashion was one of the things that drew Brown to steampunk. An administrator for the group and Society member for more than two years, Brown now enjoys making her own costumes and learning from others in the Society. “There are a lot of people in the group who are excellent at being able to sew and create, so sometimes it’s about finding the right idea and the right person to help you with it, and other times it’s really just finding the great thrift store find that works perfect,” she says.
Lee says most of the Society’s members make their own costumes, jewelry and props. “Some of the costumes, some people spend hours and hours working on just one costume – it’s always interesting to see what somebody comes up with next,” he says. “There are some members that make really exceptional items … It’s inspiring what some of the people do.”
Lee himself was drawn to steampunk due to his artistic background, as a sculptor, painter, photographer and creator of CGI artwork. He says creativity is a main part of steampunk. “It’s individuality – everybody picks and chooses what they like for their style, so nobody looks the same, nobody dresses the same,” he adds.
Letting Off Steam
Although individuality is a big part of steampunk, that’s not to say everyone does not share their tips and tricks on making their own costumes and accessories.
In fact, it’s the willingness of those in the Society to share and help each other out that Brown loves about being a member. She says even if you have an idea that you are not sure how to make, there’s bound to be a member of the group that has the skills to help you accomplish your goal. “Everybody’s just really open about sharing everything, and that has helped me become more creative because somebody sparks an idea that then gives you an idea to do something else,” she adds.
Society members also have an opportunity to learn from each during the group’s monthly meetings, which Lee says are held the first Thursday of every month at the Arcade Library at 6:30pm. While the first half of the meeting is devoted to Society business, the rest of the meeting includes time for members to show-and-tell projects they are working on, plus there is a how-to demonstration lead by a Society member. “So somebody can come in and show how you modify a plastic gun to make it look like a sci fi ray gun, or how you age clothing or make jewelry,” Lee explains.
Brown says the monthly how-to demonstration gives Society members an opportunity to teach whatever they would like, from making photographs sepia tone to teaching swordplay using a walking cane. “It gives everybody an open venue to come in and teach something,” she adds.
Emporium & Swap Meet
Now that steampunk has caught your fancy, how can you learn more?
Lee says the group’s upcoming Steampunk Emporium and Swap Meet on Saturday, February 16, at Great Escape Games on Howe Avenue is a great opportunity to come and see what steampunk and the Society is all about, with about 50 vendors, plus entertainment.
Brown says the Emporium is an artists’ bazaar with a steampunk flair, featuring artisans selling items they have made, including costumes, jewelry, leatherwork, books, and hats.
Entertainment at the Emporium is scheduled to include the Aether Brigade, SwingGoth and Equilibrium Fire Arts. Plus members of a number of groups will be on hand, including the League of Proper Villains, High Desert Steam, Steam Federation, The Great Basin Costume Society, and the Pirates of Sacramento.
And Brown says attendees will have the opportunity to meet New York Times bestselling steampunk author Gail Carriger, who will be holding a book signing from 1:30-3:30 p.m. “We were very excited that she was interested in coming down and hanging out with us since she is a steampunk writer and very well known in the genre,” Brown adds.
Brown hopes those that come to the Emporium and Swap Meet will have the opportunity to find groups the would like to become part of, and will leave with “an understanding a little bit more of what steampunk is and how a lot of it can carry over into normal life,” she adds. “Like a great necklace with gears on it doesn’t have to be just a costume piece – it can also be something you can have in your every day that’s a little different and a little fun.”
For those interested in learning more about the Sacramento Steampunk Society, Brown urges them to join their Facebook group, which can be accessed through their website http://sacsteam.org/, to stay up-to-date on upcoming meetings and events, and come out to their monthly meetings that are open to the public. “Steampunk is just so welcoming and everybody is so friendly – that’s one of the things that I’m the proudest of our group,” she says.
The Sacramento Steampunk Society meets the first Thursday of every month at the Arcade Library, 2443 Marconi Ave., in Sacramento, at 6:30 p.m. Meeting times and locations may change – visit http://sacsteam.org/ or join their Facebook page for most up-to-date information.
IF you go:
What: The Steampunk Emporium and Swap Meet
When: Saturday, Feb. 16, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Great Escape Games, 1250 Howe Ave., Suite 3A, in Sacramento.
Cost: Free and open to the public
For more information: sacsteam.org