Tuesday, December 28, 2010

KK: Latkes by Special Guest Alli Borson

Alli in her element! Photo by Lance Sabbag
I'm very fortunate to have many friends who cook and every one of them has a specialty. Alli Borson, in addition to being a costumer, is also a fancier of traditional Jewish recipes such as challah (which I'm sure if we ask nicely, she will also share) and latkes- or potato pancakes. These delightful creations are perfect for dipping into a variety of sweet and savory sauces and aren't -just- for Hanukkah. Latkes have their origins in Eastern Europe around the 18th century with that darned Columbian exchange of the potato, but caught on as Hanukkah fare because of the symbolism of the oil they're fried in. In the 19th century they made their way over to the United States with thousands of Jewish immigrants. But enough history- without further ado, here's Alli:

I made myself hungry rambling about latkes.

Hello everyone! Alli here, friend of Miss Kagashi and Mac over at the Steampunk Cookery blog, and I'm here to tell you all about latkes! I recently hosted a Hanukkah dinner at my house, and I made both brisket and latkes! A lotta latkes! Latkes have been something that I have made with my parents for years and years, ever since I was old enough to know that it would be very painful if I stuck my hand in the oil with the latkes. In college, I have been known to simply say to some friends, "I'm making latkes", and they will show up and devour them.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

January Preview, Housekeeping, and a Special Announcement!

Watercolor of an Algerian bride
The holidays are over, but there is still some special content coming up on the Steamer's Trunk! So as we say hello to 2011, here's what you can look forward to:

Kagashi's Kitchen:
-Sugared Walnuts (A Chinese New Year Staple, which will be on February 3rd this year)

Tutorial Time!:
-Turkish Trousers (Sorry everyone, money's been tight so I've been unable to budget for supplies)

Clothing You'll Love:
-North Africa

Focus on Folkways:
-Sensational Silk
-Baby It's Cold Outside: Outerwear From Around the World

Babbling Books:
-Mayan Cuisine by Daniel Hoyer

Featured Travelers:

-A surprise New Years Day post (Hint: it will make you go "awwwww").
-An interview with the amazing UK steampunk band, Sunday Driver, who mix Asian and Western influences to create a unique sound that... well, why don't I let them speak for themselves:

My monthly feedback question for you good people is: Would you be interested in seeing posts with photos/progress of multicultural steampunk projects that I (Miss Kagashi) am working on?

And remember that there's still time to take part in the Steamer's Trunk 1st Annual Charity Drive! We've already raised a lot of money (enough to buy a heifer or two water buffalo!) but we still have five days left, so chip in what you can or pass the link around!

Thanks for everything, world travelers!

CYL: Technology and Totems- Northwest Coast Native Americans

A 19th century Tlingit chilkat blanket

The peoples of the Northwest coast were not wigwam-builders or buffalo hunters- they were salmon fishers and on the most part and lived off of the land in a manner so technically advanced that it will make you re-think Native American clothing and art.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Charity Drive Update! And Mergatroyd Makes Two!

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce to you- Mergatroyd, a lovely llama who will be accompanying dapper Bernard on his trip to his new home.

But as you all know- two isn't exactly a party, now is it? We have over a week left in the drive, so let's keep pushing that chip-in button and make a difference in peoples' lives!

It should also be noted that Australian artist and blogger Stuart Anderson graciously donated $150- a WHOLE LLAMA- to the drive. I think the very least we can do to thank him for this generous gift would be to check out his fascinating blog about Oriental Post-Apocalyptic Steampunk, which is all about the Victorian fascination with Eastern culture and art and how to integrate that into steampunk. Furthermore he also examines Eastern art and how it impacts today's fashion as well, something (quite admittedly) I'm not terribly aware of.

Remember everyone! Keep sending love and llamas! Tomorrow night will be coverage of a steampunk Hanukkah dinner and guest contributor Alli Borson will show us how to make homemade latkes.

FF: Noserings: And the People Who Love Them

A Karakalpak woman from what would be modern day Uzbekistan. The photograph is from the 30s, but the dress is from earlier.
Personally, I don't really take the punk element in steampunk terribly seriously, at least in the modern context of the Sex Pistols or Vyvyan from the Young Ones (then again, Vyv wasn't meant to be taken seriously, I'm pretty sure). To paraphrase G.D. Falksen, I think the punk element in steampunk is more about the idea that we're dressing up in clothes and adopting the manners of Victorian-era civilizations- which in the context of modern society is very odd. In modern American society for example- wearing a gown or a nice waistcoat is against the grain. In a way, this blog could also be considered punk in steampunk: while most of the community is wearing the clothes of industrialized portions of Western Europe and America, I'm advocating the option of the attire of places elsewhere in the world who might not have been or be considered in the main mode of fashion. Food for thought I suppose.

But enough musing. One of the potential symbols of this punk movement is the symbol of the modern punk movement- the simple nose ring. A lot of cultures during the Age of Steam were piercing their noses: for status, for identification, and for beauty.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BB: Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume by Josephine Paterek

For Native American Heritage Month, one of the books I heavily relied upon for the research and documentation was this text, the Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume by Josephine Paterek. It's over 500 pages of documentation, photographs, and appendices that could tell you everything you would want to know about the styles of dress that Native Americans wore, how they were constructed, and how the materials used were gathered.

The tribes are categorized into geographical regions of the United States and even includes seperate sections for the California coast peoples, the Plateau, and the Sub-Arctic. From there the regions are broken up into entries for the predominate tribes that include traditional pre-contact dress and the transitional dress of the 18th-20th centuries. Within these well-sourced entries there are sections for women's and men's attire, makeup/body painting/tattoos, decoration, hairstyles, ceremonial dress, and accessories with appropriate photographs accompanying them.

A Metis-Lakota outfit from Canada, 19th century
Admittedly the book could be a little better illustrated- as it is a book about art (essentially) and I feel the visual element was underrepresented in a few of the regions like the Northeast. My other issue is that Paterek refers to native clothing as 'costume' which is both a social and spiritual faux-pas amongst Native Americans (the polite term is regalia, or in a pinch, attire). However, this nomenclature doesn't make the book any less useful or impressive, and it's thoroughness is unparalleled. One of my favorite touches are the appendices at the beginning of the book explaining materials, dyestuffs, and colors available by region and animal species and how they were gathered. It really puts things into context and makes you even more impressed by the beauty and workmanship of this clothing.

If you're interested in Native American clothing and customs, then this book is for you- and you can readily find it used given its age.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

CYL: Fashion from the Land of the Tsars

Maria Alexandrovna in a court dress with traditional kokoshnik

Privet! Today we'll be visiting the land of the Tsars and looking at the clothing citizens of Imperial Russia wore, which is only appropriate since for much of the world cold weather is here! For the purpose of simplicity, we will only be covering the territory that would be modern day Western (European) Russia. The Caucasus (this includes the Cossacks, as awesome as they were), Siberia, and the Central Asian countries will be examined in separate articles. Without further ado, here is the wardrobe of the wealthy, some ostentatious masquerade outfits, and the clothes of the masses...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Charity Drive Update- One Llama Down, Several to Go!

After three days our drive is sitting at $162- enough money to buy one llama....

Bernard used my fez tutorial to great result!
This is Bernard, the Steampunk Llama and he's itching to go to his new home- problem is (much like going to cocktail parties) he doesn't want to go alone. If you want to send Bernard some friends, then please pass that chipin button below or spread this link like jam! Remember, if you can't give a lot, just a dollar or two would be helpful!

To those of you who have given, I commend you! (Particularly some kind reader who gave twice!) We have a couple more weeks to go, most of our goal to gather- but as it stands we can already make a difference in someone's life.

A big thanks goes out to author G.D. Falksen for boosting the signal for this drive! He made this his charity of choice for youtube's annual Project for Awesome!

Thank you so much for your support everybody- let's send some more love and llamas!

(Oh yes, and CYL: Russia will be up tonight!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1st Annual Steamer's Trunk Charity Drive! Send Love and Llamas!

Llamas are just two of the thirty animals included in the Ark
Inspired by the sense of giving during the holidays, the Steamer's Trunk will be hosting a charity drive through chipin.com and Heifer International. This idea stems from the fact that this blog examines the culture of people around the world during the Age of Steam- and much of that culture is either endangered or extinct today. So why not give back? Our gift from Heifer will help people in struggling corners of the globe by giving them a source of income, food, and potentially hope. Furthermore because Heifer is not a missionary group, we are not assisting in the degradation of that culture.

This year we're going to shoot high and try to raise $5000 for a Gift Ark. What is a gift ark? It's a package of animals that keeps on giving. The concept is that in time the animals will breed and be distributed between families and communities, creating a web of possibilities for under-privileged people.

The Gift Ark contains:
- 15 pairs of animals to be distributed all over the world! 

A family in Cambodia could receive two water buffalo for milk and aid in farmwork! Two camels in Ethiopia can provide milk and a means of transportation! The possibilities are endless and the animals could end up anywhere where there are people in need- even the United States.

From now until New Years there will be a Chip-in under the Steamer's Trunk name, which will be linked to at the bottom of every blog entry. Put in whatever you can or want to- even a couple of dollars can help us reach our goal. Should the $5000 not be raised, then I will use the money towards a Heifer gift of a smaller size. Any leftover money will be donated to one of Heifer's global aid projects- such as supporting a Latvian Orphanage or women's empowerment programs in Cambodia or Laos.

So pitch in- put in a dollar or two. I've already chipped in some of my own money (I've put in $10, Chipin just won't let me use it in my own transaction) to start us off! Thanks, world travelers- we'll have a new post on Imperial Russia within a few days.

Steamer's Trunk Global Gift Roundup!

A Chrysathemum silk scarf  ($18) from serrv.com would be perfect for a woman or for a gentleman's cravat

This season in many countries is a time of giving- no matter what religion or background you are. Whether it's a gift for a sister or brother, something handmade for a parent, or even just a few coins in a charity's bucket, Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Yule/etc. time is a great time to feel good about yourself by making someone else feel even better. Want to get some special steampunks in your life a fun (and multicultural) present? Here are some of my picks:

Monday, December 13, 2010

FF: Welcome to December- Holidays Around the World

An 1857 print by Japanese master, Hiroshige. It was believed that on Omisoka, fox spirits gathered to breathe fire at midnight. To find out more about Omisoka, read on!
 In the Northern or Western hemispheres, December is a festive time in which you cannot successfully stretch without hitting a holiday or celebration. But if you take into account other regions and faiths of the world, December is stuffed with festive occasions- some wild and rambunctious while others solemn and focused. So what would the people during the Age of Steam be observing around the world (... no, not Kwanzaa or Festivus...)? Well, let me show you some of these ancient holidays and their fascinating traditions, so that no matter where your airship may wander you can celebrate. Some of these holidays (such as Bodhi Day) are open to people of all backgrounds and religions, too!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tutorial Time!: Tassels

Chinese (Qing) dynasty chopine-style slippers adorned with tassels on the toes.

Tassels are a common form of decoration in the folk dress of many cultures: Native American, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern. Adding a tassel is a great way to finish off the ends of a sash, accent the point of a bodice or vest, or highlight bustling (they attract the attention of the eye and add movement to the outfit). Military uniforms and gun holsters also look sharper with a tassel or two.

Home decoration and fabric stores would have you buy these little sprigs of awesome for anywhere between $1.00 to as much as $20.00- but with some practice you can learn this very simple technique to make your own.

2nd Edition or: Oops....

Let's face it- with any scholarly work there's going to be some mistakes made: by the author or their sources (or both). When errors turn up in nonfiction books, second editions are called for to fix these fallacies (read: cover their asses). Since the Steamer's Trunk is dedicated to getting it right, this means that I need to fess up and correct mistakes for the sake of my readers. So here's a hit parade of errors I've made-which I'm going back and fixing- but you all deserve to know that even Miss Kagashi is mortal (but only just...).

Error #1
Found in: 
Mongolian Modes

The original text:
"The 'horned' headdress seen in many extant pictures is called a boqtaq, and was a combination hairpiece and headdress."

The correction:
Turns out ladies and gentlemen that the horned headdress that I love so much is called an ugalz. This is a boqtaq- which is a much older garment by far (Kublai Khan's wives were fond of wearing them) but from what I've heard from a reliable source, they're making a comeback!

I was browsing an SCA website for information on deel, as the construction of the garment has changed very little in the last five centuries or so. When I saw them mention a tall headdress called a boqtaq, I assumed that they were referring to the ugalz. It was a very silly mistake to be sure, but a fairly honest one.

The REAL boqtaq- which would still be fun to steampunk.

Big thanks to Anne Young, who caught this one. Not only is she an exotic headdress-fancier but also pursuing a PhD in anthropology, specializing in (you guessed it) Mongolia. This correction has been cited to Mongolia by Jennifer Hanson.
I may have made a mistake here, but at least I've discovered yet another fun garment to try out because of it!

Error #2
Found in: 
Fez Frenzy!

The original text:
"Understandably, the fez was named after the Turkish city of, well... Fez- where the distinctive red dye used to color these hats was made."

The correction:
 Fez is located in Morocco, not Turkey. When this way brought to my attention I felt like an utter idiot, because I KNEW that fez was a Moroccan port city. There was a time that Fez was captured by the Ottoman empire, but this was back in the 16th century. Even after the Industrial Revolution Morocco was the last holdout in North Africa from Ottoman rule.This was just a moment of dumb and I hope it doesn't happen again.

You will all now forget the mistake I made by looking at this Ottoman baby in a fez.
 An anonymous poster, which sometimes is enough to made you feel stupid on the internet.

All right, now that we have those squared away, let's get back into the swing of things with a tutorial: which I will post later tonight. As always, you are all welcome to bring up any inaccuracies or errors I have made in my research for potential correction, just send me a helpful e-mail! Thanks World Travelers!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Featured Traveller: Alisa

Alisa at Steamcon II wearing her hand-made geisha-inspired steampunk gown
Steamcon II saw some people pressing the envelope as to the basic types and tropes of steampunk, but I think my favorite that I've seen thus far (and the best executed, in my opinion) has been Alisa's interpretation of a steampunk geisha. This fantastic outfit has a very luxurious blend of East and West and lots of layering that makes it look...well... real! Alisa was kind enough to share her insights into making this exquisite piece.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Freebie! Max Tilke

Just like with Braun and Schneider, I have another free link to an extant book of costumes for you all. Furthermore, it comes from another German (danke schoen, boys!)- ethnographer and artist Max Tilke (1869-1942). If you're interested in Middle Eastern or Asian traditional dress, this will surely become one of your favorites.

A Caspian Woman's kaftan
While the book was published in 1922 (a little past our period), Tilke himself was a man of our era and the hard work he did constructing this wonderful resource is irrefutible. Tilke spent years studying, documenting, and painting actual garments from Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Eastern Asia, and the Middle East and put so much care put into these plates that you can easily understand how these garments were constructed. Close ups of hardware such as brooches or even samples of the textiles are also included for better overall effect. One of the other large merits of this book are the vibrant colors Tilke used- see steampunks, you can use more than brown and black!

An atooshi- an Aino-Japanese garment woven from bark.
Whether you're looking for inspiration, help with construction, or even just vocabulary (Tilk lists this as well in his plate descriptions) this book is for you!

Here's the link:
Oriental Costumes and Their Design, courtesy of the University of Indiana

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Featured Traveler: Tawnya Hick-Letts

Tawny's Native American fusion dress- with hand-beading and braiding, and garments inspired by a plethora of tribes.

Like so many costumers, I started my craft at the Renaissance Festival. Like all costumers, I look at my beginning work with (and I quote my artist friend Cami Woodruff) "nostalgia, but mostly horror". With practice, exposure to new techniques, and instruction I was set right on my way to becoming a better costumer/artist/craftswoman- the person who gave me all three of these is my long-time mentor, friend, and jedi-master, Tawnya "Tawny" Hicks-Letts.

Over the years Tawny has taught me finishing techniques, loaned me books, fed me, gave me materials, and looked at my sketchpads and gave me encouraging grins and a fanfare of, "That's awesome!" No matter where I am right now in learning my craft, if I can ever become half as good as Tawny, I'll be a happy crow-lady. So, without further ado, here is some of the work of my mentor- most notably her take on Native American-European fusion. This regal dress was made for a Renaissance Festival, but it is inspiring nonetheless for anyone wanting to combine cultures into one spectacular outfit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

December Preview and Some Housekeeping Notes

Once upon a December, perhaps?

You can expect a few more posts out of November, but since the month is dwindling down it's about time that I showed you what we have planned for December. Bear in mind that because of my car accident recovery, some of Native American heritage month will be spilling over- however some of the articles will be tucked away until next year.

Babbling Books
-The Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume by Josephine Paterek

Clothing You'll Love Spotlights
-Northwest Coast Native Americans
-Imperial Russia

Focus on Folkways
-Noserings: And the Cultures Who Love Them
-December Holidays Around the World

- How to make a pair of sirwal (turkish trousers)
- How to make simple tassels

-Special Guest cook: Alli Borson with how to make latkes.
-Caakiri (a West African pudding)

Featured Travelers

Also, the blog is just about two months old and at 28,000 hits! I could not have done it without you, your readership, and your gracious word-of-mouth. In the future, is there anything you'd like to see on the blog? Do you have any questions for me? Next week I'll be doing Questions for Kagashi, so feel free to offer up your questions, concerns, suggestions, or requests below.

KK: Hopi Boiled Corn Cakes

In my previous installment of Kagashi's Kitchen I discussed the importance of the Three Sisters to Native American cuisine. Once again we will revisit this trinity and make an authentic Hopi dish- corn cakes. Corn (maize) was sacred to the tribes of the Southwest and used for everything from cooking to religious cleansings (slain deer would have corn meal dusted upon their noses as thanks). Furthermore the tribes of the Southwest used corn to its full extent- bread, pancakes, porridge, they even cooked up the black fungus which plagued some of their crop as a delicacy. No where near as daunting to eat, these treats are somewhere between a dumpling and cornbread, quite sweet, and ridiculously easy to make

Famous photograph of four Hopi women grinding corn by Edward Curtis (1907)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Focus on Folkways: Walk a Mile...

The footwear of Native Americans is called by many names: alasulo, mo'keha, sta tiku'ukye- but it's a variation of an Algonquin word that has become the iconic catch-all term: makasin- or moccasin.

Seminole moccasins, courtesy of the Penn Museum

Of course, in the modern mindset moccasins have become another piece of fashion altogether- more of a house slipper or loafer or a bohemian alternative similar to what ballet flats were a few years ago. But these shoes are more than just hipsterwear made of bad-fringed suede- they're works of art. Follow me as I take you on a tour of moccasins from a variety of tribes, because you never quite understand someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. Or at the very least admire the workmanship of them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

CYL: When Old meets New- the Northeast Woodlands

(Note: Again, I apologize for the lateness in posts recently. This article was supposed to be up on Wednesday, but Tuesday evening found me in a car accident. I managed to walk away from my totaled car with bruised and cracked ribs. It has taken me a few days to heal and get my focus back again, so due to the delay the Native American Heritage articles will be extending into December. My apologies for the delays.)

A Micmac couple- note the hood that the woman is wearing.

Sgayno! Today we'll be looking at the peoples who inhabited the temperate woodlands of the Northeast- from the coastal waters of New England, around the Great Lakes to the border of the Mississippi.

If there were time in the month, I would split the Northeast (which covers a vast multitude of peoples) into Coastal and Great Lakes regions. However, common garment types were shared amongst many of these tribes, so I feel confident grouping them into one Clothing You'll Love article.

Monday, November 15, 2010

KK: Ojibwe Baked Pumpkin

"The Three Sisters" were a concept of food and agricultural that was a cornerstone of life for tribes of the Northeast Woodlands. Like a family, these simple plants worked together for a sum that was far greater than their individual parts. The corn would be planted first and once it had grown a few inches, the beans were planted and allowed to use the stalk as a pole upon which to grow. The sturdy squash grows at the base and takes up the space that would otherwise be occupied by weeds, thus keeping the other crops healthy. Not only did all of the plants provide for one another, but three times as much produce could be grown in one area (with a greater degree of fertility, thanks to the different acids and compositions of each plant).

A young Three Sisters garden
Even more amazing- when eaten together in a steady diet these plants combine into a supernutrition of proteins and carbohydrates. So in celebration of this Native American uberfood (and its abundance in the supermarket), I'll be showing you a traditional Ojibwe recipe for baked pumpkin, courtesy of Lady Pixel. The Ojibwe were semi-sedentary and followed the seasons around the northern Great Lakes to farm or gather the various commodities they needed while leaving behind small gardens in their winter camps. In late winter, they would gather maple syrup from specifically chosen stands of trees and boil the sweet sap down into a delicacy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

CYL: Style of the Southeast Tribes

O si yo, friends! This is the first of five Clothing You'll Love articles for Native American Heritage Month. Since 'Native American Culture' is not a homogeneous term (in the least!), I decided that it would not only be awfully silly, but also a discredit to the varied customs and art of the different tribes if I tried to work it all into one massive post. Instead, I'll be dividing the articles according to basic anthropological and geographic areas: the Southeast, the Northeastern-Woodlands, the Plains, the Southwest, and the Northwest Coast.

Today we'll be looking at the styles of dress of the Southeastern tribes during the Age of Steam: from the hills of Appalachia to the sandy beaches of the Atlantic, to the swamps of the Mississippi Delta.

Cherokee girl- undated

A Reflection from the Crow-Lady

Pictures of adorable children diffuse every situation- in this case a Plains child.

I received a lot of feedback on my post about Native American steampunk- both good and bad. What troubled me however, were many of the harsh comments degrading me and my stance on the topic with terms that made me appear to be racist, insensitive, or downright stupid.

What I did instead of retracting my statements, trying to appease, or even erasing my post was quite simple: I reflected.

I thought about what it means to be a person of Native descent and aware of my own culture and past. After all, it was Lakota flute player John Two-Hawks who once told me as an awkward teenager," You are a leaf on the top of a tall, proud tree. You may be far removed from the roots, but you know where you come from, which makes you just as much a part of the tree." I thought about the stories my grams told me about her family when they lived on the reservation in Kansas- all the suffering, the people who cannot be brought back to life. I thought about what it means to me to be Kagashikwe, the crow woman.

What I'm trying to do in these blog posts is not to wipe clean the slate of the past- even that is impossible. I'm Potawatomie. I could tell you all about the horrendous things done to my people during the Age of Steam- how we were pushed from our tribal lands, forced to walk at the points of guns to an unknown and barren territory and expected to survive off of nothing. How the children had their culture beaten out of them. How that culture is now endangered.

But does that make anyone feel any better? It is important to know about the injustices of the past, but if we dwell on them then all that grows is bitterness. Everyone of Native descent doesn't share my view on this, but it needs to be said. It's a controversial topic, an unpleasant one, but talking about it is the only way to ease some of the misunderstanding away.

However, I'm also not giving carte-blanche to people. I'm not telling people to run out and make Native American steamsonas or bedeck themselves in warbonnets, wear feathers in their hair or run out declaring themselves "Awesomefox" or "Jim Stands With a Possum" (that would be a double-whammy of silly AND offensive). If one were to read my article (which seems to be a problem with the internet, I've noticed) one would see that the key element to my belief on Native American steampunk AND multicultural steampunk in general is to DO YOUR RESEARCH and GET IT RIGHT. Do an honor to these people by being inspired instead of slapping them in the face by (horrendously) copying them.

And what's so wrong about being inspired by Native American culture? Or Japanese culture? Or Masaai culture? I know that for every person who 'gets it' that there are ten others in bad warpaint, but I never had the intent of spawning a legion of 'sexy steampunk Sacagaweas' (who continues to be played by non-Native American actresses in films, if you want a real offense). I was thinking something more like a gentleman in a frock coat decorated with Ojibwe-style motifs, or a girl in a Seminole patchwork dress. Perhaps a gunfighter who prefers to wear Comanche leggings, since they're pretty practical for riding and heavy activity.

I will not however, change my opinion that if done correctly, a person can wear the traditional day-to-day clothing of another culture. If you don't agree with this, feel free to launch into a tirade, stop reading, or go harass some kids at an anime convention badly dressed as geisha in halloween store white makeup.

Tomorrow I'll be posting my first of five CYL articles for this month- and I can do so happily knowing that these words are off of my chest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BB:The Mishomis Book by Edward Benton-Benai

Mishomis is Ojibwewin for grandfather- which is the perfect word to describe this gem of a book. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibwe by Edward Benton-Benai has been an affectionate tribal staple (it's commonly called the Ojibwe children's bible) for years in addition to being taught in classrooms, which is where I first encountered it. At first glance it might seem childish, particularly for college academics, but its content is undeniably poignant wrapped in this simple package.

The Mishomis Book is a collection of stories, lessons, and line-drawn pictures narrated by the friendly Mishomis (grandfather) and his wife Nokomis (grandmother). They take you on a journey from the creation of the world of the Anishinaabeg (literally 'first people'. Anishinaabeg is an Ojibwewin word to describe the three major tribes of the Great Lakes region of the United States: the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Bodewademi- the latter of which I am descended from) to the great flood, to the origins of the water drum and Midewewin ceremonies. Along the way you learn basic Ojibwe words in a very easy-to-digest format, peppered into the fabric of the stories.

The art might look like something befitting a coloring book, but scattered in the corners and margins of the illustrations are real Anishinaabeg motifs (some of which make fantastic appliques and embroidery patterns). In a way, the entire book is designed to be like this: educational, but without stuffing constant information down your throat. I feel confident recommending this book to anyone from five years old on up- some of the stories would make fantastic bedtime material for children.

If possible, order it from Birch Bark Books, which is an independent Native American bookstore out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Birch Bark not only carries and sponsors many titles by native authors, but also organizes events, lectures, and drives to nourish the community and acquaint them with the culture of Native American tribes.

An Ojibwe floral design, one of many seen in the book.

Native American Steampunk- An Approach

Eastern Woodlands Nativepunk- a concept sketch by Miss Kagashi

First of all, sorry about the lack of posts lately, friends- I've been preparing for Teslacon in Madison, WI this week, in addition to taking some mid-terms, so my brain has been somewhat frazzled lately. However, I'm glad to say that I'm back and ready to tackle a month of fascinating content (granted, I am a bit biased...).

Native American Steampunk. What comes to mind? I asked the venerable Google- it gave me this (amongst other) results:

While I admire the artist's style and overall execution, I admit (openly) that I'm not a fan of the concept. Is Native American steampunk just general stereotypical steampunk with feathers and turquoise? This particular artist says a very emphatic no. Take into account that this is my interpretation and opinion on what I think Native American steampunk (or Nativepunk, as I call it for short) could be and I am only one voice- but take these fairly universal points into consideration:

Native American steampunk is post-contact. While some Native American cultures possessed knowledge of working copper, there is no evidence of them using this for steam power. However, since the Age of Steam is post-contact, it's perfectly feasible that native peoples were using or adapting Western technology to suit their needs, even if it's using the scraps.

The story of Native Americans in the Age of Steam is one of survival. The peoples of the Plains used every portion of a slain buffalo- not only for spiritual respect of the animal, but common practicality. This mentality becomes even more important post-contact, as game decreases, lands are taken away, and army rations become nothing more than broken promises- so the need to scrounge, scavange, and improvise is dire. Both Western and traditional clothing was worn for necessity- as was the unfortunate and eventual adaptation to firearms and other Western products. This should be reflected in Nativepunk.

Unless you are of Native American descent and understand the reasoning behind it or have received permission from a tribal authority or researcher, do not involve religious or spiritual items in your steampunk.
Certain objects and garments hold a lot of power or communicate the status of the wearer such as Plains war bonnets, Plains breastplates, and Woodlands wampum belts. What I'm going to condone is the use of certain garments and decorative styles instead of these items to create your kit. Furthermore do not wear your ensemble to a powwow or Native reenactment, I beg you.

Most important of all: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Each and every tribe is different- so do not assume that if you mix certain stereotypical elements together that you'll have a Nativepunk ensemble. If you don't do your research, not only will you look a mess, but people in the know can and will call you out on it (believe me, I know). Basically, don't be a bad Halloween costume, give these people the respect that their art deserves.

The idea of steampunk involving the art and style of indigenous cultures can be a very daunting, if not controversial one. While no one worries about using (and utterly butchering) Elizabethan styles because... well... Elizabethans are dead, the descendents of indigenous culture not only remain, but also have ownership of their traditional dress. I believe that even a non-Native person can involve Native American garments in their ensemble in a manner that is both artistically exciting and mindful towards these living descendents. I followed all of these steps, and when I showed my design to various members of tribes of the Three Fires (the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Bodewademie) the reactions ranged from amusement to respectful acknowledgement. One comment that particularly stuck with me was the reassurance that," This is art, not regalia. When I see this, I see art that was inspired by the beauty of my ancestors, so no one possesses it since. It's not offensive."

I'm excited to start making this outfit, and I hope that some of you will be inspired in the coming month to involve some of the art of these peoples in your work and do it in a manner to honor them.

Tlingit shaman- 1906

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mexican Hot Chocolate

The Maya and Aztecs of Mexico were the original chocoholics- with cocoa pods being considered medicinal and used a currency. A swill called xocoatl was drunk (in excess by the nobility), which was a mixture of unrefined chocolate, water, and spices which was served cold. This heritage continues to this day with full-bodied recipes for warm drinking chocolate, normally with a kick. This isn't your typical Swiss Miss or Nestle's chocolate for gulping down on a snowy day- this is chocolate for sipping (cautiously, it burns).

My recipe is a mix of traditional ones and a few modern shortcuts (like hot sauce) for convenience. Marshmallows are wholly optional.

Kagashi's Mexican Hot Chocolate

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Freebie! Braun and Schneider

Usually on Babbling Books, the content is only available for purchase- but I'm happy to say that this entry is free and available online!

Siamese Actors and Actress
Between 1861 and 1880 Braun and Schneider, two German scholars, conducted a worldwide survey of historical and folk dress. While most of the exquisitely-drawn plates are devoted to Europe from ancient times to the Regency era, there are several pages with clothing from Turkey, China, and even Java during the Age of Steam. Rarer yet are plates of Eastern European and rural European folk costumes of the era. It should also be noted that the book is very objective in its research, and neither caricatures or generalizes its subjects.

Whether you're a steampunk, looking for good Elizabethan or medieval references, or just need a gist of size or silhouette, then this book is for you! Most hard copies are printed in black and white (I actually like it thus, because sometimes I'll copy it and test color schemes- who says you're too old to use a coloring book?), but this version is in color, which gives you an idea of the vibrancy involved in many non-European garments.

Here's the link:
The History of Costume by Braun and Schneider

Friday, October 22, 2010

November Preview

You can expect a few more posts out of October folks (a Featured Traveler, a recipe for Mexican hot chocolate, and a book review!), but I'm very excited to show you what November has in store.

While I am going to Dia De Los Muertos on November 1st in Detroit Mexicantown, the rest of the month is going to have a different theme to it. November is Native American Heritage Month, so to honor it the Steamer's Trunk will be looking at the culture and art of the various indigenous peoples of America. Here's some of what to expect:

At the beginning of the month I'll be sharing my thoughts on Native American steampunk and my feelings on how it can be done without offense.

Babbling Books
-The Mishomis Book by Edward Benton-Benai
-Native American Clothing: An Illustrated History by Theodore Brasser

CYL Spotlights
-The Northwest Coast
-The Southwest
-The Plains
-The Eastern Woodlands
-The Southeast

Focus on Folkways
-Porcupine quill beadwork
-The many forms of moccassins

-Native American hairstyles and how to do the Hopi Squash Blossom hairstyle.

- Zuni Corn Cakes
- Ojibwe Baked Pumpkin

It's going to be a very special month- I know that I'm honored to be introducing you to the art and culture of these peoples- I hope you join me.

Potawatomie (Bodewadmi) men

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tutorial Time!: Fez Frenzy!

Imperial Fez-Fancier: Mahmud II

The fez is trademark headgear of the Age of Steam- not only because so many cultures wore them, but because the 19th century marked the peak of popularity for them. Understandably, the fez was named after the Moroccan city of, well... Fez- where the distinctive red dye used to color these hats was made. They were so distinctive that Sultan Mahmud(t) II declared them to be the national hat of the Ottoman Empire (to replace the turban). In other lands they became de rigeur fashion for armies (such as Algerian Zouaves) and civilians (such as jolly, port drinking gents in elaborate velvet smoking jackets) alike.
Fezzes can be worn by men or women, decorated or plain, used as a base for another hat or headdress or just on its own. To make one of these distinctive hats, follow the tutorial below (and pardon the atrocious webcam photos).

Monday, October 18, 2010

We interrupt this blog...

I will have the fez tutorial up within a few days (I'm working on and documenting it as we speak), but in the meantime just to show that I'm not dead... and potentially pay a few bills... I'd like to announce the first stock of hatpins in my etsy store:

I don't make any money off of the blog, nor do I really wish to- but if you're in need of a nice, sturdy hat/hijab pin (or you just like me, either or- both is also lovely) then one by Forfaxia might be right for you! Prices range between $10 and $25.

All right, enough of that blather- back to making fezzes!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Featured Traveler: Siryn Von Steam

Give a warm welcome to our first of (hopefully) many Featured Travelers- real steampunks from all over the aether who were inspired to use multicultural elements in their kit.

This verdant ensemble of sari and silks was sent in to me by Siryn von Steam of Dusk to Dawn Productions, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about her sari-tastic design.

Read my interview with her below...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CYL: Mongolian Modes

Sain baina uu?! In today's edition of Clothing You'll Love, we're going to the windswept land of Mongolia.

Steampunk Mongolians, you cock your head and look at me like I'm crazy. But I assure you that in this country of steppes, horsemen, and remote wilderness there are some real gems of inspiration.

Painting of a woman in traditional clothes
Read on to learn more about deels, khurim, and some very fuzzy hats... but first, a little history.

Monday, October 11, 2010

BB: Indian Costumes by Anamika Pathak

In Babbling Books, I'll discuss multicultural, costuming, and food books that I've found or read that you just have to get your hands on!

I was in New York City this weekend and had the good fortune to be wandering around Strand Books in St. Mark's. When I was about to move towards the art section, away from the special display tables, this caught my eye:

Had I ten dollars it would have been mine....

The first aspect is all of the gorgeous, crisp photography that captures all of the color and texture in the garments- I wanted to reach out and touch the silks and cottons so badly. The craftsmanship is evident in many of the photographs, down to blown up detail shots of the individual threads of the designs woven into the fabric. It was downright jawdropping. Painfully gorgeous. ....God I want a sari(ee).

The second commendable aspect is of course Pathak's scholarship, which is indisbutably thorough in its investigation from Harappan-Indus votive sculptures to 16th century tapestries to photographs both antique and modern. It really captures the living heritage of these garments and the people who wear them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

FF: Maori Moko- Identity, Pain, and Pride.

 Tena koutou!

In Focus on Folkways, we'll be looking at the art of a particular culture, and how it looked during the Age of Steam. Today we'll see the brilliant tattoo-work of the Maori people of New Zealand, called moko.

Photograph of a Maori woman- Dunedin, late 19th c.

 Read on to hear about Maori I.D., head-hunting, and Kirituhi

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kagashi's Kitchen: Masala Chai Mix

My dear friends, many of you have been robbed. For years the media has pushed a sicky-sweet concoction that they call chai- which has more in common with hot chocolate than tea (I'M TALKING TO YOU, OREGON CHAI!). The irony of this being that 'chai' is the Hindi word for tea, so naturally chai should have some in it! Or at the very least taste like it. If you like Oregon and other commercial chais, that's fine (admittedly I'm an ocassional fan of Big Train's powdered mix that tastes like pumpkin pie)- however I ask you to give this more authentic recipe a try. It's deep, soulful, and will warm you to the tips of your fingers.

Masala chai literally means 'spice tea' in Hindi and includes a bevvy of spices which vary in recipe from person to person- similar to American barbeque rubs or minestrone soup. What I have here is the basic combination I was introduced to some years ago in the book "Chai: The Spice Tea of India" by Diana Rosen. It's a lovely read and includes variations on the basic masala mix, recipes for food to accompany chai, and Rosen's experiences traveling through India to discover the cultural heritage of the beverage. I particularly remember her accounts of stopping at train stations through the countryside to be greeted by chai salesmen, who offered the tea in tiny earthen cups, which were smashed upon departure.


Friday, October 1, 2010

October's Sneak Peek

A preview of things to come in the next month:

Spotlights on:
- Maori moko
- Traditional Mongolian dress

- Masala Chai Mix
- Mexican Hot Chocolate

- Make your own (cool) fez

Road Trips:
- Detroit Mexicantown's Dia de Los Muertos celebration.

And of course plenty of eye candy, helpful links, and hopefully my first Featured Travelers.

Speaking of the devils- do you have a steampunk costume in which you've integrated or were inspired by a specific culture? Send me an email, a picture, and what motivated you and you could become a Featured Traveler (so even more people can see how fabulous you are).

It's a Dead Man's Party!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CYL: Beyond the Harem- Clothing of the Steam-Age Ottoman Empire


For my first "Clothing/Costumes You'll Love" post, I decided to tread upon familiar ground for me and cover the costuming of the Ottoman Empire. For this particular post I am going to focus on Turkey, since we already have a lot to cover in that department- but never fear, the regional attire of the Caspian, Black Sea, North Africa, and the Caucuses will be getting their very own treatments (because Holy Wah that's a lot of color- seriously, we will all go blind).

 Read on, intrepid voyagers, of grand textiles, "Turkish trousers", and some very impressive moustaches...

The Beginning of an Exciting Voyage

Bozho nikanek! (Welcome friends!)

This is the first post of (what I'm hoping) will become an interesting trip into multiculturalism for steampunks!

So in the vein of delightful supervillains before me, I'm going to tell you all why I did it!
1. Reading the articles on steamfashion done by G.D. Falksen, who offers so many historical possibilities for steampunks to use.
2. Seeing so many blogs and articles about multiculturalism, and yet very little for steampunks to take with them practically. I believe in a principal of show, don't tell- so here I'm hoping to offer content on multi-cultural steampunk in a visual, informative manner.
3. Because what we're protraying is culture, not race. I don't want to bring race into this blog, and if I do, I'd like you good people to inform me that I've slipped. This is a blog about sharing cultures and making something wonderful- because creating something together is how we overcome distrust, fear, or hatred.
4. When done respectfully and with proper research, any culture present during the age of steam (for my intents, 1800-1915) is open for steampunk adaptation. If the proper honor and scholarship has been shown, people should not be afraid to wear the clothing of another people. If you have a problem with someone using this approach, then I would entreat you not to comment or ignore my blog altogether, because you're going to see a lot of this Norwegian/Potawatomie girl wearing different clothes.
5. Because it's cool!

So then- who are you?

I'm Miss Kagashi, which is my (Potawatomie for crow) nom-de-plume in this case. When I'm not exploring the cultures which existed in the time of steam (and their fabulous clothes, art, and cuisine), I'm terrorizing conventions as Kapitan von Grelle of the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron. I've been a costumer for seven years, two of which have been as a professional, in addition to being an artist, history student, and adventurous eater (seriously, have you ever had tripe? It's delicious!).

I became bitten by the multi-cultural costuming bug when I made a North African/Turkish inspired outfit a couple of years ago (which I adapted into a steampunk ensemble for DragonCon 2010) and was delighted not only by the doors it opened to me, but because it was surprisingly comfortable (not to mention flash-looking).

                                                       Photo by Anna Fischer

I wondered to myself- why are people restricting themselves to the same combinations of Western/European Victorian clothes, when there is indeed a world wonderful clothes, art, and crafts out there. So, this is hopefully what I'd like to do for you- to traverse the world in the age of steam, see the wearable (and edible!) arts the peoples produced (and how to produce your own), and meet some people who love to make it.

Until next time world travellers!