Would you wear and use a vintage pocket watch?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Turning (Gears) Japanesey -- Oriental Steampunk

Imperial Airship - artwork by James Ng
     Previously in this humble blog, I have discussed wild west American Steampunk and Dieselpunk.  So now we move on to another interesting mix -- Oriental steampunk.  (I use the word with respect; Orient means "east", and was the term used in the 19th century, so it makes perfect sense to refer to it in that manner when referring to a steampunk genre.)  The Asian part of our planet has a history rich with tradition and beautiful art and architecture.  It is those aspects which can be blended with steampunk in order to create something completely different.
     Some of the most wonderful examples of Oriental steampunk art are by James Ng, who creates computer-generated images which ignite the imagination.  His characters and subjects transcend the disconnect between technology and humanity that pervades today's societies; they seem to be at peace and one with their unique devices and robotic companions. 

art by James Ng
art by James Ng
     The use of classic Oriental symbols and motifs combines the warmth of tradition with the edgy feel of 'what if.'  You may purchase prints of James Ng's work from his shop here.

     Luxurious and expensive fabrics made and formerly commonly used in the East also provide an opportunity to meld steampunk and eastern style. ( This site seems to have a good variety of silk brocade fabric, though I have never ordered from them.)  In the LiveJournal community "steamfashion" one may find at least one post about Oriental fashion. (The whole steamfashion LJ section seems a magnificent source for clothiers and anyone seeking to spruce up their wardrobe in a steampunk manner. It covers "what is", "how to" and more.)  On other parts of the aethernet, I found talk of creating Victorian dresses out of pure silk brocade and wonderings about how else to integrate the fabrics into a Victorian aesthetic.  As ever, one may just choose to combine the two and see how it turns out!  Perhaps some leather spat boots with miniature paper lamp tassels atop the instep might be nice. (*ponders*)

    If you wish to learn more about the history of Asia during the Victorian period, here is an M.I.T. exhibition and essay entitled "Throwing Off Asia" in which "the remarkably swift "Westernization" of Japan in the late-19th and early-20th centuries was most vividly captured in popular woodblock prints. Images from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston illustrate the great political, social, cultural, and industrial transformations that took place." 

     I hope these sources will provide you some insights and inspiration from the Orient.  All in all, compared to other types of steampunk, this combination seems almost untouched by steampunk artists.  Perhaps we shall see more of it as steampunk continues to evolve and include so many cultures and forms of art.




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