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Steampunk: Cosmetic Changes Make a Big Difference

–Effie Cotter, with apologies for linking primarily to the Book of Faces today.

On Saturday, bright and early, we assembled in the dubiously-lit courthouse for a lesson in hair and makeup by Lady Ember Brennen Sparks. Lady Sparks approaches cosmetics as the final, but crucial step on one’s costumery, and her approach is not unlike an artist looking at a canvas.

483714_10151532023257139_366124165_nFirst on the chair was Mr. Oswald, who was there for a gentlemanly mohawk touch up, eyeliner, and mustache wax. The very light application of eyeliner is a simple, yet effective way to give men slightly more expressive eyes without making them too effeminate.

For mustache care, Mr. Oswald suggested the fine mustache waxes of Randy Steerman from Dethroned Media. These waxes are custom-blended by Mr. Steerman to accommodate any tone of facial hair. One can carefully use a curling iron if needed to set a mustache, or simply use one’s fingertips to curl and twist into place.

Unfortunately, Lady Sparks has quite a bit to say about wigs, which she did not have time to pursue in our limited one-hour session, but her prevailing advice is: use them. They are warm and remain perfectly styled, even after a rain. Use v-style hairpins, especially at the hairline, and pull out some curls around the hairline to hide the harder “line” where the wig meets the scalp.

For thick, longer hair, a tight French braid can keep the hair close to the head under a wig cap.

5643_10151532023347139_788747205_nWhen applying makeup, Lady Sparks suggests starting with a foundation, then using primers, such as from Urban Decay and Too Faced, as a base layer under your colors. ELF is another affordable makeup, with a clear gel to which one can add any color for lips, gel liners, even shadows.

On eyelids, use a medium tone on the lid, highlight above, and a dark color in the crease. Lady Sparks insists that “blue eyeshadow is not of the devil, ladies!” and that one should use shadows that enhance one’s costume, rather than match. The ELF shadows in particular are just pigment, and can be intense, requiring the use of a primer to make them more natural-looking. Replace all mascara tubes every six months and do not share them, as they are prone to contamination from bacteria in and near your eyes. If using false eyelashes (which can be reused easily), apply them after doing the eyes, then re-touch the eyes.

She recommends ecotools for their brushes, and suggests that one should always use a thin, tight brush for the lips, as opposed to a stick.

Lady Sparks’ favorite lipstick is MAC Cosmetics Russian Red, one of the very few blue-toned lip colors. She then blends it with eye shadow to achieve whatever colors she wishes for her lips. Other options include various lip “stain” products, including from Clinique and Cover Girl. Above all, she recommends avoiding waxy lipsticks. Use testers at the store to check both color and consistency of any products you may consider acquiring.

Steampunk: Friday Evening Entertainment

Reported by Effie Cotter

The Friday evening entertainment brought us dancing girls, the “punk” part of Steampunk, some light vaudeville and comedy, and Professor Elemental.

The dancing girl was provided by the Osiris Dance Company. I am not entirely sure what correlation there is between “steampunk” and “belly dancing,” but I do know that the two blend together very well. In fact, belly dancing was a very popular medium at the gathering, all weekend, and I am sure I was not the only one appreciating the dancers’ skill and grace on stage.

The Silent Still took the stage next. They are neither silent, nor still, kicking up a rousing rock/punk performance for their attentive audience. Unfortunately for both the Silent Still and the assembled listeners, the house lights remained on for the performance, which limited the transfer of energy to and from the audience and resulted in little, if any, dancing. Per request, they performed Bad Romance by the inestimable Lady Gaga, but the lead singer had difficulty getting through the song without laughing self-deprecatingly. A bit of advice to all musicians courting this particular audience: steampunks love Miss Gaga.

Taking the stage next was the League of S.T.E.A.M., which performed a series of vaudevillian skits, interspersed with a few gentle words from their sponsors. Indeed, selling a health tonic and hair renewal formula from the same bottle does seem a bit far-fetched, but one never knows what wonders a good mad scientist can perform. Perhaps my favorite moment in the evening was during a demonstration of gunplay. Who knew the League had time travel devices, as the balloon held by the assistant exploded even before the gunshot was heard!

Finally, Professor Elemental took the stage. I will leave a more thorough review of his performance for my article on Saturday evening’s entertainment, but let me just say that the professor was, as always: Splendid.

Steampunk: Leather Pocket for Your Belt

Effie Cotter, reporting

Otherwise known as a pouch, dear Reader!

Friday afternoon’s workshop was a leather-working event in which a selection of pre-paid attendees created a small leather pouch using kits provided. A similar kit is available through Tandy Leather, proud sponsors of all Steampunk endeavors.

Each piece was pre-cut and had holes pre-punched for the lacings, but a pair of leather scissors and an awl would do the same jobs for the creative crafter. The participants began by staining their leather pieces in various colors, taking some care to avoid staining the epidermal “leather” that covers their hands and arms as well. While not strictly required, I am told it is easier to stain the pieces prior to assembly.

The belt loop snap and front clasp required hammering and a snap setter, as well as a hard concrete surface, so participants lined up to engage in that activity using the sole mallet available. Then, it was time to stitch.

Each kit came with waxed thread and two needles. To get a good, solid seam, one places a needle on each end of the thread, then runs it through the first hole until the halfway point, so that the needles are on opposite sides of the leather pieces. From there, one runs each needle through the next hole, switching sides. Continue thusly, not unlike lacing a corset, until you reach the end, then run back along the seam until you run out of thread or patience.

After assembly, one can embellish the pouch with gears, embossing, tooling, and so forth. Later in the weekend, I participated in a tooling workshop, which I will cover at a later time, dear Reader, so that you might learn somewhat of the craft and perhaps decide to engage further in such pursuits.

In all, an excellent workshop, well worth the time. I saw several of the finished products and, while I am sure your average Eagle Scout would scoff at such works, for those of us unfamiliar with the medium, it was a worthy pursuit.

Steampunk: You Need That Like a Hole in Your… Hat

Effie Cotter, reporting for the first time with my own byline-generatron!

photograph courtesy of Susan Holt

Friday afternoon saw your loyal correspondent at the Vented Hats workshop, with the purportedly awesome Susan Holt. Mistress Holt has graciously shared her Vented Hats workshop handout with the world, so I can focus on the steps and advice she provided to her enthralled audience. Mistress Holt also offers for sale kits containing the numerous templates and materials used in her vented hats, should you wish to pursue this craft and need a little assistance.

Aside from hardy automatons who must vent steam all day long, what purpose does a vented hat serve, you may ask? Well, my dears, I will leave such questions up to you and your locale, and simply state that, in a climate where a metal bikini and gun holster is comfortable attire, the temperature might just lend itself well to a little airflow about the cranium.

You’ll need the circular templates for cutting your vents, leather gaskets and metal mesh, and rivets. In addition, if you made your own gaskets and did not purchase Mistress Holt’s finely pre-drilled ones, you’ll need an awl, hammer, perhaps a prop to raise it up to hat level, some craft or leatherworking scissors, and any other decoration or trims you may wish to use in your hat. Begin by decorating the base of your hat, if you plan to paint it or otherwise trim it in ways that should appear behind or beneath the vents.

Using the templates, draw your holes on the hat. Cut the hole in the top of the hat first, starting at the center and working in a spiral direction to the outline to avoid harp turns. Place the gasket over the hole to ensure it overlaps neatly. Cut all the holes first, starting at the top and doing the front and back, then the sides. This is the same order in which you will place your rivets.

Using a rivet to hold it in place, put one gasket on the outside of the hat, the mesh on the inside, and the second gasket on the inside. Hammer in the first rivet, then proceed with the remaining rivets. You may find yourself needing to place your anvil on a prop or block to achieve the proper height for hammering a rivet into the top of your top hat. You may even find yourself needing to hammer a rivet through a vent hole. Such are the trials and tribulations that all fine hatters must pursue.

Hammer the rivets in opposite sides– front, back, side, side, then filling in the diagonals, as opposed to working around the entire gasket like a clock. We all adore clocks, of course, but working in a circular manner will lead to puckering, and nobody yearns for puckered gaskets, Dear Reader!

When you have completed your gasket and mesh vents, finish trimming the hat with whatever bits and embellishments you wished to add to your millinery creation!

Steampunk: If you can’t learn from your mistakes… learn from mine

Effie Cotter, reporting

On Friday afternoon of the Wild Wild West gathering, I attended a scintillating panel on “learning from our mistakes.” Initially, I thought this would be a rollicking panel with tales of derring-do and vicious duels fought between man and machine.

I was not disappointed, dear Reader!

Mr. Joe Hernandez, Captain Whittacker of the Steampunk Isabella, and Mr. Steampunk Boba Fett all engaged us with tales of extreme steampunk crafting, the kinds of stories that involve delicious words like “grinder” and “black lung” and “regeneration.”

Indeed, Mr. Hernandez does seem to be quite the anomaly among men, my friends!

Suggestions, if not admonishments, were provided for how to work with the glues, solvents, grinders, punches, drills, springs, and materials that we are all familiar with when cobbling our gear (and gears) together. Among the recommendations: An N95 dust mask, a respirator, safety goggles, close-fitting gloves, and a conveniently located radiology department or Geiger counter. I would add a nearby hospital to that list, given the occasional need by Mr. Hernandez for the surgical reattachment of appendages. Oh, and crazy glue. Because, although one might not wish to “glue some gears on it,” it can be used in a pinch as an emergency liquid bandage. We are living in the future, my friends!

Why, you might ask, would one need such things?

Well, among the injuries our fine panelists reported, we heard about heavy metal poisoning from combining an unfortunate mix of chemicals and metal, sepsis, a minor amputation, and a number of cuts, punctures, and scratches. All from Mr. Hernandez– who was sitting among us as hale and hearty as any regenerating cyborg might be expected!

Captain Whittacker contributed with his fine demonstration of “steampunk land mines,” a fancy little device found inside most modern clocks and which, when opened, releases a spring with approximated forty feet of tightly-wound metal, all under high torque. The fine captain related the story of a young man who lost a duel to such a machine and now sports a wicked (if, perhaps, a bit dashing to our more impressionable ladies!) scar running from his forehead to his jaw, diagonal across his face, where such a spring once opened and split his face in twain.

Not for the weak of heart, my friends!

Of course, you may now be wondering why one might need tools to detect Madame Curie’s finest discovery? Indeed– many of us are familiar with paints and other substances that glow in the dark. These substances are relatively harmless when safely encased behind wristwatch glass. But when that glass breaks, the paint may rub off onto other materials in a “junk box” and contaminate other items. Although I am sure we have all heard of the invigorating power of radioactivity on the body, particularly when consumed in water, these effects are, perhaps, less beneficial when one makes jewelry, particularly earrings, out of materials which may contain trace amounts of the stuff. Have a care for your lady friends and their health and run a Geiger counter over your repurposed materials before using them.

One of the more entertaining sections of the panel was an instructive look at “how to weather an instrument,” such as a wrench or other large, heavy item. Mr. Fett was very kind to provide instruction about this process, which seems to involve throwing heavy artifacts around a train yard until the gravel and asphalt do the job of weathering the device. Suggestion: learn to dodge wrenches before commencing this activity. Pin torch distressing can also be a viable way to artificially “age” material, but be wary of doing so indoors, on wooden furniture or banisters, as one may find oneself distressing an article this weekend, but repairing burn damage to the house on the next.

Finally, only engage in the safest of crafting endeavors when time is in short supply. Nothing will quite make you question your priorities like the event of Mr. Hernandez’ friend who, in a last-minute fix, minutes before the crew left for the aeroport, rammed a leather awl into his arm causing a deep puncture wound and a few profanities. Chief among the complaints of the victim and his friends was that this event may cause them to be late for the flight, a possibility which was not welcomed by any of the crew. Fortunately, a few dozen bandages and some understanding flight staff meant they arrived safely and sought medical care at their destination. Nonetheless, such injuries can cause unnecessary delays, not to mention the need to explain your pale countenance and blood-soaked bandages to the trained professionals who are diligently trying to divest you of your nail clippers and tweezers.

In summary, play safely, dear Readers, for we are not all so fortunate to have the hardy constitution and regenerative powers of Mr. Hernandez!

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