My son Eric says that steampunk evolved from goth and maybe emo movements. Rooted in the revival of the steam driven industrial revolution and the 19th century fiction of Jules Vernes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, Wikipedia adds Mark Twain to the mix and I like to consider Ambrose Beirce who wrote a small collection of mid 19th century sci fi and later there was L Frank Baum). It is seen in today role playing games, costumes, literature,film, fashion and accessories.
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S.S. Mathilda, originally uploaded by ClockworkCrow.
Clockworkcrow"s airship Mathilde
Mad Max aside, the artisanry that represents the movement is beautiful. Brass, copper recycled material. Indie steampunksmiths on etsy are many:
Clockwork Crow, whos work takes up my fantasy jewery box says: "I think steampunk culture did come in part from goth culture. More like a thinking person's goth. (I may be biased here)
A lot of fashion and culture is retro. In times of uncertainly we look to an imagined past for comfort. I think that, in part, is why the steampunk aesthetic coalesced in the last few years. The components have been there a long time. Love of Fiction and fantasy, an appreciation for technology, and of course dressing up. (cosplay)
I just heard of steampunk, perhaps 3 or 4 years ago. I looked at my decorating style (Sherlock Holmes meets a mad scientist and his exotic, eastern lover), and my closet (long skirts, corsets, and, yes an opera hat), and my books, and my tinkering, and I said Eureka! That is what I am doing! Her popular work is shiny and amazing. Please visit her store where each piece has a story to tell."
Etsier, slvrlily whose marvelous collection of photographs puts in mind a large arched hall festooned with delecate clockworks. I especially enjoy this but go to her shop for the full effect.
Fellow Mainer, http://www.sojourncuriosities.etsy.com one of the first people I met on etsy and from etsy in person, works with wired and found pieces. She explains the Steampunk allure thus:
"It fascinated me to discover steampunk! As a nostalgic magpie, personally and artistically, it was a natural avenue for me to explore with my jewelry work.
What really speaks to me about steampunk, as a style, is it's melding of Victorian softness with the practical, historic aspect of antique hardware. Another Maine jeweler, JunqueRevival specializes in recreating found objects into victorian fantasy masterpiecespieces. She grew up in the world of antique dealing and art seems to be a steampunker by nature.
Antoinette adds other etsy steam punk artists of note are:
In the 21st century, the basic steam driven mechanics and the romance of Victorian times is a marvelous escape. Its simple physics and stylish flow is something people can wrap there heads around easily. The tick tock of hand tooled springs and gears is accessable and certainly a symbol of off the grid empowerment... alternative energy if you will. The general public has the ability to run under their own steam so to speak. Steam punkers can bask in the comfort of having the ability to go back to the steam age, should they have to. The ideal of the movement is at once anarchistic and communal.
For further steampunk expeditions and research, Clockwork Crow recommends http://steampunkworkshop.com/ or conduct a search for the steamteam on etsy.