My First Steampunk Experience by Victoria L Szulc

Today’s article is part of a series called “My First Steampunk”. To learn more about the series – and apply to be featured – scroll to the bottom of this article.

My first exposure to basic steampunk Victorian elements goes back to the mid-1970’s. In primary school, I was part of an educational trip to the Missouri History Museum to study the 1904 World’s Fair. I was assigned to do sketches of fashion of the fair, and from that moment, I was hooked on history.

By high school, I was already a fan of English literature. Although I was an art major in college, I took a few writing courses and continued to enjoy the classics. And I have to confess, I enjoyed the trashy Harelquin bodice rippers as well. In the late nineties, I had started wearing steampunk style without knowing what it was: to weddings, clubbing, and even to work. I still have the remnants of a pair of black and brown striped trousers from the Gap that I purchased in 1993 that I’ve used to make a hat and bustle from. I wore long vests, bowlers and other hats, and of course, a lot of brown. I even worked for a high end accessories designer who reproduced Victorian purse frames into modern pieces.

I already had a thing for riding coats (top photos). I dressed in a vest and striped shirt at a NYE party, kind of Frenchy and the Punk style (bottom left). At NYC Fashion Week Accessories Circuit behind the scenes working for high end designer Sharon Hollander (remaining photos).

 

I started hearing of steampunk as a fandom with the advent of social media. By 2009, I had already been toying with writing for years, and started my first steampunk novel, Strax and the Widow. I went “pro” and started my Official Facebook page on July 9, 2012, and my blog mysteampunkproject.wordpress, shortly afterward. I started going to a small steampunk group in St. Louis that held monthly burlesque and costume parties. I began to join pages and groups on social media as steampunk really took off.

I was already into costuming and Halloween, so later that year, I created my first steampunk gear including a hat, a corset made from leather from an old couch that I deconstructed, and other pieces I gathered up. The costume made its debut at the Central West End Halloween Party, which is huge outdoor event in the historic CWE neighborhood in St. Louis. The Chess Museum and Hall of Fame had just opened in that area and I took advantage of the giant chess piece to take some fun pics.

Since then, I’ve used steampunk as a theme for my art, from fashion, to writing, to two dimensional paintings, to murals, to art installations and cosplay.

It has influenced my other art as well, including public art works for the Animal Protective Association, The Wings Program at Barnes Jewish Hospital, The Heavy Anchor, and the STL250 Cakeway to the West.

Top photos, “History of Flight”/sculpture for STL250 Cakeway to the West Project celebrating the 250th Birthday of the City of St. Louis, installed at the Soldiers Memorial Museum (I’m cosplaying as a pilot, perhaps more dieselpunk), middle right photo, “Squid Attacks”, mural at The Heavy Anchor, voted one of the best dive bars in America, bottom photos, shots of “Under the Sea” octopus and mermaids as part of the Raise the Roof fundraiser for the Wings Program at Barnes Jewish Hospital.

 

 

 

My “Clockwork Cat” sculpture as part of the Harry and Hanley Project to benefit the Animal Protection Association of St. Louis, the sculpture was installed at Lambert St. Louis International Airport (again I cosplayed with the piece) and now permanently installed in the lobby of the APA.

 

I continue to work in the multi-media aspect of steampunk, finding a never ending inspiration in the genre.

Me as The Countess, my steampunk cosplay and a character from my book.

 

Me as The Countess, my steampunk cosplay and a character from my book. My fantastic models and crew from the Big River Steampunk Festival Fashion Show at the Masquerade.

I recently used NaNoWriMo (National November Writers Month) for working on my fourth steampunk novel. I’m looking forward to its release and creating many new works in 2018. Thank you for the opportunity to share my early pieces.

Victoria L. Szulc is a multi-media steampunk artist/write who regularly displays her work at 1900 Park Creative Space in the historic Victorian neighborhood of Lafayette Square in St. Louis, MO. Her first Steampunk art installation was there in June 2014. She spearheaded and curated the first Steampunk Broken Hearts Ball Masquerade and Art Show in St. Louis and directed the first Steampunk Fashion Show at the Big River Steampunk Festival Masquerade in Hannibal, MO in 2017. Victoria’s third steampunk novel, “A Long Reign” was in competition for the 2017 Amazon UK Storytellers contest and was an Amazon/kindle bestseller, reaching number 7 in Time Travel and number 9 in Steampunk on the Amazon bestsellers lists. 

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