Thursday, February 16, 2012

Art Challenge: Japan

In my opinion Japan is the epitome of a steampunk country- once they got ahold of their first pieces of steam and industrial technology, they put their culture of passionate practice to work and in a few short decade exploded into a superpower. While much of the traditional culture fell by the wayside, they still went forth into the modern world with a style all their own. What do you see when you think steampunk Japan? Well, let's see what this week's artists envisioned from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

CYL: Kilty as Charged: Folk Dress of the British Isles

A badass looking granny in Welsh costume c. 1905 (Linda Jean)

Failte! I know what some of you are thinking: Britain? Isn't this the very same country that was the powerhouse behind the largest imperial force during the 19th century? Perhaps the most mainstream and stereotypical representation of the era that most steampunks base their outfits, prose, and characters off of?


Yep it is. But the three-piece ditto suits and bustle dresses weren't everybody's traditional clothing. Even in the British Isles, there were cultural minorities with their own specific modes of dress that were still being used- even in the heady era of the empire. Let's take a look at the Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and perhaps a quirky local culture or two!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Art Challenge: The Maghreb

(Pendersleigh and Sons cartography)

Turns out when you announce that the weekly art challenge is the 19th century Maghreb, you get a lot of colorful images of pretty Berber ladies. Frankly, I'm overjoyed- because you'll find in these images a lot of research into the garments and embellishments of the Amazigh culture and despite the stereotypical allure, no exposed midriffs. This week's challenge results also go to show that it doesn't all have to be brown and earth-tones to be steampunk. Let's have a look!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Art Challenge: India

India c. 1857
Holy crow, our first week of the Art Challenge couldn't have gone better, in my opinion (the fact that we had not only more than one submission, but seven on the premiere edition makes me giddy as pie). For this and the next few weeks, the challenges are going to be fairly straightforward- a large or well-known culture to make it easier for researching and brainstorming, not saying that conceptualizing multicultural or any steampunk is by any means simple. Still, I don't plan on throwing any curveballs (like Brittany or Fiji) for a while yet.

India was chosen not only because several people requested it, but  it's powerful creative appeal (also I'm reading the Mahabarita for class...). Think of India and NOT have something very unique pop into your head- whether it be elephants, grand rajas, chai tea, sumptuous or millennia-old civilizations. Let's see what some very talented artists dreamed up:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New feature: Weekly Art Challenge

A Qing/Manchu-1860s inspired wardrobe design I did last year.

While researching and writing for the blog helps me a great deal in my own academic and artistic endeavors, what I really strive for is a greater appreciation for global themes in steampunk. Plus, I want to see how other artists apply the things they see here and elsewhere in their own work. So, we're going to start a new feature.

Concurrently, with the offiicial facebook page, MfS:tST will be issuing a weekly art challenge. Every Wednesday, a theme will be announced: perhaps a character trope, a geographic region, a culture, maybe even a piece of literature. Anyone who wants to participate will have until Wednesday morning to create a piece of steampunk or retro-futuristic art in keeping with the theme and submit a link. Wednesday evening, I'll gather up the links, post them on the blog, and announce the next week's theme.

What's welcome? Well, art! It could be 2d or 3d, digital or traditional media, a short story, a poem, a design draft- anything you want. I just request the following:

THE RULES (and requisite fine print)
-You must do some research for your pieces. A. This will show you some mind-blowing details and facts you can integrate. B. ....well, do you read this blog?
Research recommendations: University libraries and collections (many of which can be found online and free of charge), scholarly works (I recommend google scholar if you don't have access to things like JSTOR), museums, and of course- books!
- If you're taking a photograph of your piece (such as costumery/fiber arts, jewelry, or sculpture), please make it of a decent quality.
-Poetry or short stories should be preferably linked to something like livejournal, deviantart, or a blog like blogger/wordpress to avoid clutter.
-Watermarks are completely acceptable. Rights to the artwork will be kept by their creators and will not be used without their express permission. All imaged and links will be credited and can be linked to a personal website or gallery if desired.
-I (Miss Kagashi) have a right not to post particular pieces if I feel that they are inappropriate, such as cases of: Exceptionally graphic violence, blatant insensitivity or ignorance about the culture represented, or exploitative nudity. I'm no puritan by any means, but this isn't a porn site... other than costume porn, maybe.
-This is NOT A CONTEST. It costs nothing to submit your art, however I am not offering prizes or payout for submissions (except maybe some free publicity on the blog and facebook page).
-Have fun, be creative, and stretch your artistic wings!

Remember: be sure to watch and check the Multiculturalism for Steampunk facebook page for more information and the week's them. Happy creating, world travelers!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Out and About: Teslacon II- Madison, WI

Ooh, shiny.

Sometimes Miss Kagashi gets out of her tiny student apartment and occasionally, it's for something supremely awesome. The kind of awesome that provides fodder for late nights with friends for years to come. The kind of awesome where you're relating the story with the same people who were THERE, IN IT- and everyone's still in stitches:

Oh yeah, Teslacon II did that.

But first, a bit of background.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

FF: Dearly Departed: Global Funeral Customs of the 19th Century

Irish members of the U.S. Cavalry staging a 'mock wake' in the mid-late 19th century (Collectibles Corner)

Dearly beloved, we gather here to take heed and to read this blog post. Remember this blog as it was, when I had free time coming out my eye sockets and I didn't have to seek employment to keep myself rolling in microcurry and peanut butter. Amen....

It's Halloween, my lovelies, my favorite holiday. In keeping with this month's folkways theme, we'll be discussing that most final of topics: Death. Since I can't find a lot of reliable primary sources about trips to the afterlife for some reason, we'll have to deal with the aspect of death that impacts us living- the funeral. Specifically, funerary and mourning practices of the 19th century and you'll see that the Age of Steam was one interesting time to die and be the bereaved. If you find that this article starts depressing or creeping you out (which is why the tone will be quite light) then I recommend detoxing with this tumblr: Oh Yeah Adorable Puppies. Feel better? Splendid! TO THE GRAVEYARDS WITH US!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tutorial Time! Sugar Calaveras

19th century Mexican illustrator Jose Posada created la Catrina, an image that mocked the excess of high society ladies of fashion. To this day, La Catrina-style art is very popular.

It is often said that the people of Mexico have a special relationship with death. Much of the Western world prefers to ignore the inevitable. Relatives are regarded as truly gone from this earth, images like skulls or cemeteries are seen with either morbid glances or very clinical, clean scrutiny. There isn't nearly the soul or celebration in death that the Mexicans have that is, quite frankly, beautiful. Many cultures have veneration of the dead holiday or tradition. Native American tribes had spring rituals that evolved (thanks to the colonizing French who introduced All Saint's Day) into modern Ghost Suppers (myself and Aaron over at Steampunk Cookery are planning to host one as we speak) to which you would invite dead relatives by hanging wreaths on their graves. In Vietnam the anniversaries of loved ones' deaths are celebrated with feasts and the burning of so-called "hell notes", paper money intended as gifts to the dead person.

But Dia de Los Muertos tops them all in popularity and liveliness. It's captured the imagination of people outside of Mexico and venerates the dead, but with a joyous twist for the living. Traditions include cleaning and decorating relatives' gravesites, eating pan de muerto (spindly loaves of sweetened bread that look like cracked bones), and designating offering altars in the home called ofrenda. These colorful tables are adorned with flowers, paper decorations, photographs of the deceased, food (and booze), items the deceased enjoyed, and perhaps the most iconic image of Dia de Los Muertos: the calavera, or sugar skull. Note that the dead cannot actually eat the food, they simply indulge in the aroma, sight, and memory attached to it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

FF:Another Way to Love: GLBT Culture in the Age of Steam

A tender photo of a Japanese couple (1910s, judging by the cut of the suit) (Buzzfeed)

October is GLBT History Month here in the United States and encourages everyone, both Queer and heterosexual alike to explore an often unspoken record. While homosexuality has only been brought to the forefront of civil issues in the Western world in the past sixty years, it's certainly (as old as sex itself) been present- albeit trapped under the ice, conveniently shoved into the back of the bookshelf, or simply ignored outright. If we view LGBT history (like steampunk) through the Euro-American lens it can seem pretty stuffy or one-note (that note being hard labor if we read a lot of Victorian novels). But it's not all doom, gloom, and repression, folks! There were plenty of cultures and nations around the world during the 19th century who accepted homosexuality, bisexuality, and even transgendered folks as a common occurrence.

Before we get into it, I'd like to preface this article, considering the political climate in some countries (including my own) these days that this piece is about alternate sexuality and gender identity. On top of that, it addresses it (and unions thereof) in a sympathetic, positive manner (I know that makes me a bad academic, but I'm also a proud straight ally). If you disapprove of this or aren't comfortable with these facts, I would really suggest you find a different article to read. Also all of the images are safe for work. All right? Is the unpleasant disclaimer business done with? Rockin'.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October Preview

19th century watercolor depicting a Punjabi funeral procession (gdhillow)
October is another one of those months filled with observances and meanings- seemingly more than usual! Since Miss Kagashi is still buckling down her Fall semester, the weekly post goal is going to be two (perhaps three if it's a slow or inspiring week). Here's what you can expect for the month of October:

Clothing You'll Love
Once Upon a Time in Mexico...

Focus on Folkways
The Other Ways to Love (A Survey of LGBT Culture in the 19th century)
Ashes to Ashes (Exploring Mourning and Funeral customs- just in time for Halloween)

Kagashi's Kitchen
Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skulls

Featured Traveler of the Month

It was also noted on the blog's facebook page that a few days ago the Steamer's Trunk officially turned one year old. As is the case with anything online, its success is a mirror of the many wonderful people that subscribe, read, and repost- so thank you all. It's been a hell of a year and I've learned a lot through my research- and I hope you've learned something too! Or perhaps that you saw something and was inspired. My deepest thanks to all of you, from the casual reader who was linked here by a friend, to the lovely people who link, to the subscribers that have been here from the beginning. Hopefully I can meet you on the road somewhere (we'll have a cup of tea!).

Nautical hijinks! Mummy unwrappings! Irate Germans! OCTOPODES!
Speaking of which- I'll be appearing at Teslacon II in Madison, WI in November! In addition to my duties playing Kapitan von Grelle, the irascible captain of the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron, I'll be giving a panel on the possibilities of Multicultural Steampunk! Sitting on the panel with me are Captain Anthony Legrange of the Airship Archon, Aaron Egan the Steampunk Chef, and the blog's Archaeology and Anthropology consultant Jade Luiz. If you have a ticket to this sold out event, don't miss it!