I’ve got a number of steampunk-related artwork books on my shelves full of paintings, sketches, jewelry, sculptures, clothing, weapons, and goggles… lots of goggles. But most of them have a decidedly British or American style running behind the scenes, probably due to the fact that I’m an English speaker and tend to collect books that I can actually read and don’t require any translation. This means that I’m most assuredly missing out on a number of foreign books that focus on steampunk, and that’s a real shame.
Interestingly enough, I know that steampunk has a strong following in Japan from a number of websites and photos that I occasionally run across that show Japanese steamers having a lot of fun with their cosplay. Most of the time I can only view the photos and videos unless there’s some translation of the text provided for what’s going on at the events that make the news. (Of course, there are some anime and manga titles that have a heavy steam influence, but I’m not up on most of those — feel free to point me in a good direction if you’re in the know.)
Recently Titan Books put a copy of a book in my hands that came with a most curious subtitled — the book is titled Steampunk Style: The Complete Illustrated Guide for Contraptors, Gizmologists, and Primocogglers Everywhere! — Edited by Steampunk Oriental Laboratory.
Steampunk Oriental Laboratory? Not much info can be found on Google (other than links to the book or videos about some of the featured artists), but a quick scan through the book tells me that this is the real deal… many (but not all) of the photos of the various sculptures, models, gadgets, and other baffling items have a distinctive Japanese styling to them that is sometimes subtle and sometimes quite obvious. Half of the book is dedicated to a number of artists, designers, sculptors, and other creators that are difficult to assign a label. It’s a full-color book with hundreds of photos containing a mix of hand-made or tooled items.
Leather. Brass. Paper… Gears. Keys. Goggles. There’s something for every steam fan to appreciate. (And probably covet — for me, it would probably the Leonardo Da Vinci-inspired mini brass sculptures.)
The other half of the book, however, is just as amazing. Many of the featured artists in the book have provided hands-on instructions for re-creating many of the items seen in the book such as creating metal diaphragms, making a steam watch with wooden face, recreating gold foil stamping, and almost two dozen more. My favorite would have to be the detailed steps on creating gold-foil bookplates — I’ve been looking to do something like this not only for my own books but also to give as gifts to my book-loving friends… everything I need is right there, including some reference websites for obtaining old-style Latin proverbs and nostalgic fonts and stamps to combine into unique bookplate imagery.
If you’re a real collector, you’ll also find complete contact details on all the artists at the back of the book, including whether or not the pieces featured are available for sale or are gone. (There is one featured artist who creates ballpoint pens that are amazing — 14,000 Yen – about $138US — for a one-of-a-kind steampunk writing device, anyone?)
If you’re looking for inspiration for a costume or an office or just want to see what another part of the world is doing when it comes to steam… grab a copy of Steampunk Style and get ready to re-experience discovering the strange and curious again.