Archive for the ‘Altered Book’ Category

Clockwork Couture

While researching Steampunk, I came across a number of websites dedicated to the culture and the art and design side of the genre. I adored the sheer amount of imagination and skill that went into producing the pieces. I found all of these of great inspiration, especially when I needed to find referances for steampunk clothing. One of my favorite sites, http://www.clockworkcouture.com, was a key part of designing the older version of my little girl character. Steampunk fashion has no set guidelines, but seems to encorperate modern tastes in fashion with those of the Victorian period, which may include gowns, corsets, petticoats and bustles; suits with vests and top hats, coats and spats. Wearers will often incorperate a mixture of technological and period assesories, such as parasols, timepieces, goggles and ray guns. Modern items such as mobile phones, pagers, or music players may be modified to suit the theme and made to look like Victorian objects.

I had previously drawn steampunk inspired characters off my own back for the future comic project, and decided I wanted to try and edit the designs to use in my art book as the design for the young girl’s older self. I flitted between two designs, editting a sketch I’d drawn previously and colouring it to see how the colours would work togeather. I however decide that the character design who suited my little girl character was a character I’d designed with a short hair and a long bustle, whose clothing was inspired by the garments on Clockwork Couture. This is the character that will be seen at the end section of the art book, looking out towards the sky holding onto the rigging of an airship.

One of the edited and coloured designs.

The design of the character that will be used as the girl's older self.

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K.W. Jeter is the novelist who coined the term “Steampunk” and is well known for his dark literary works. He, along with his friends Tim Powers and James Blaylock, could go as far as to be called the fathers of modern steampunk culture.

Works by K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers and James Baylock.

Works by K.W. Jeter, Tim Powers and James Baylock.

The two novels he is aclaimed to have written, set in an alternate history with retro technology, are “Morlock Night” and “Inferal Devices.” James Blaylock also wrote a number of steampunk themed novels, with all except one set in Victorian England, in a series known as the “Narbondo” series. Tim Powers is the third highly aclaimed steampunk novelist in the trio, and has won numous awards for his work. He has won the World Fantasy award twice, and his novel “On Stranger Tides” was adapted by Disney for the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

I’ve also been looking into steampunk in art and design to help inspire me for my art book. A popular pastime for artists who love the genre is to take modern inventions, such as computers and guitars, and redesign them using materials used in the Victorian era. (Such as polished brass, iron, wood and leather, along with the steampunk elements of cogs and clockwork.) Various pieces include the fully working steam engine created by the artist group Kinetic Steam Works, as well as their claimed steampunk treehouse, which is on permanent display at the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware.

A number of other artists have created steampunk themed pieces as the popularity of the genre grew. In 2008, artist Paul St. George created an outdoor sculpture in the form of a Victorian era styled telescope, which was installed with interactive video installations. In 2009, artist Tim Wetherell created a sculpture for an Austrilian convention called Questacon; the piece was mounted on a wall, and featured moving clockwork and cogs, and a video of the moon’s terminator, and was entitled “Clockwork Universe.” As much as I would adore to put working clockwork in my book, I highly doubt I’d be able to achieve that.

"Clockwork Universe" by Tim Wetherell.

From October 2009 through February 2010, the Museum of Science in Oxford hosted the first major exhibition of Steampunk art objects; From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition showcased the work of eighteen Steampunk artists from across the globe. The exhibition proved to be the most successful in the museum’s history and attracted more than eighty thousand visitors. Various other art exibitions and conventions have sprung up round the world, and steampunk enthuists are an avid feature in most expos.

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Once I’d discovered that the “Flight” brief was to be directed towards creating an art book, I knew my idea would have to be elaborated upon. My idea was originally going to be a single image depicting the title I’d chosen, “The flight of imagination”. I had various ideas for this single illustration, but only one I felt I could extend beyond the single image.
I decided upon the idea I had of a girl stood on the rigging of an airship, looking out to an open sky; in the original concept, the name of on the side of the ship was to read “imagination” to tie it in with the title.
To expend this concept into an art book, I decided to create more of a story with the character stood on the rigging, keeping it linked to my original title.
 I came up with the idea that the girl dreamed of being on an airship as a child, and would play with a toy one; the story of the book is her hoping and imagining, before she finally achieves her dream at the end.
The next thing to decide was what kind of art book I wanted to create; after researching and looking through examples shown in class, as well as looking through the books provided, I knew I wanted to create an altered book so I could gain the vintage look I felt my story needed.
The vintage look combined with my airship idea began to  lead me down the Steampunk route when it came to creating an overall style and look for the book.

What is Steampunk?


A steampunk photo illustration. (www.io9.com)

A steampunk photo illustration. (www.io9.com


Steampunk is a genre used in fiction, and depicts a world or place were steam power is still widely used, and is perhaps how the world might have developed had the world not discovered other means of power.  It’s typically represented in an alternate Victorian era, with Victorian inspired fashion, art, culture, e.t.c.
Steampunk often follows the same trademarks of the theme, including futuristic technology as the Victorians might have envisioned, with a heavy emphasis on cogs and clockwork.

There are a number of authors who are noted to have encouraged and helped develop the idea of Steampunk, notably Tim Powers, James Blaylock and K.W. Jeter. K.W. Jeter himself is known to have coined the phrase in a letter to a science fiction magazine in 1987, in which he wrote,

“…Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like “steampunks”, perhaps…”
~ K.W. Jeter.

Since then, the genre has continued to grow, through comics and novels and into popular culture and fashion.

I’ve always adored the Victorian era, especially the fashion and culture, so the steampunk genre very quickly appealed to me. I knew I wanted to create an art book based on the theme, inspired by my airship and “Flight Of Imagination” concept. I just need to make the story flow symbolicly through the pages. I wanted to focus heavily on including a lot of typical steampunk codes and conventions, and have the idea of “flight” and “flying” prominiant throughout, be it through an image, part of a song or poem, or a saying.

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One of our first projects for year 2 is to produce a series of artists books or altered books based on the theme of “Flying”. To gain inspiration for this style of art I purchased a book entitled ” Altered Books Workshop” by Bev Brazelton.

What is an Altered Book?

Basically it can be described as an art form in which an existing book is transformed into a new work of art … the book becomes the canvas.  Altered book pages are created using many varied techniques such as collage, decoupage, glazing, stamping, printing, embellishing, stitching, stenciling, making windows, doors and apertures etc etc.  The following pages show Bev Brazelton’s use of a collaging technique:


What is an Artist’s Book?

Basically this is again an art work which is in the form of a book, though the format of the book may be different from a tradional idea of a book. It can take the form of loose sheets, fold-outs, concertinas,  scrolls or whatever the artist’s creativity produces.  An example of an artist’s book is “Alice” by Claire Kennedy

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