Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Steampunk Underground Explorer Helmet

I have a love/hate relationship with "steampunk".

I love the idea of retro-futuristic props based on the scientific romances of the Victorian era and the pulps of the early 20th century. The ornate elegance of the genre's mechanisms and devices are a nostalgic rebuttal of the smooth, consciously minimalist tropes of modern design. Done well, the emphasis on craftsmanship using basic metals and materials produces objects that revel in the details of their manufacture and evoke a fusion of art and functionality.

Unfortunately, I hate that most of what gets passed off as "steampunk" these days is hackery of the most embarrassing sort. Rayguns slapped together from candlesticks and lamp parts and mad science devices made from plasma balls glued to crappy old jewelry boxes just make my flesh crawl. I'm a huge proponent of the DIY part of the punk ethos, but there's more to crafting a good prop than grabbing some old brass bits at a yard sale and willy-nilly sticking them together with epoxy putty.

I very rarely post any steampunk props I come across exactly because the vast majority of them are pure crap, but then I come across something like this underground explorer's helmet from Tom Banwell that once again gives me hope.





The world would be a much better place if the craftsmanship and attention to detail embodied in projects like this replaced the "Colonel Crapmartin's Expeditious Aetheric Exciter Blunderbuss" crafted from a 2 x 4 and some plumbing pipe that currently epitomizes "steampunk".

6 comments:

BeatricCaldwell said...

Hear hear!

Brian said...

I couldn't agree more. The creativity left the building long ago.

And the names... You nailed it with "Colonel Crapmartin's Expeditious Aetheric Exciter Blunderbuss." Every time I read overwrought, faux Victorian writing, I want throw myself in front of a quadropneumato cylindroid petro-parambulatory moto conveyance.

Better known as a truck.

That said... Yes, the helmet is quite spectacular. Thanks for posting the pic!

Propnomicon said...

What truly pains me is that good work, as opposed to great work, isn't that hard. Just a little more effort, a touch more care, and a smidgen more thought could turn most of the mediocre items into something impressive.

I think one of the reasons it bothers me so much is that I *know* I'm a hack. The only way I'm capable of producing work that rises to the level of "pretty good" is by doing things over, and over, and over and improving the final result just a little bit each time. I'm forced to make up for my limited natural talent with sheer bullheadedness. As a result, seeing people waste real talent with slapdash execution drives me crazy.

Tom Banwell said...

Thanks for writing nice things about my helmet. And yes, I totally agree with you about so much that passes for steampunk. Glue a couple of gears on and you're good!

What exactly is the point of gears if they don't move something? I have mostly suffered in silence as most of my acquaintances who are into steampunk are guilty of just that.

John Lewis said...

A really nice piece! Thanks for posting.

NetherWerks said...

What a wonderful helmet. You certainly are on the money, regarding the acceptable level of craftsmanship out there, but then if crap gets applause and praise, more crap will get shovelled out there. We stopped going to costume shows when duct tape and glitter started beating hand-tooled leather and actual rivets...