Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: Steampunk Style by Steampunk Oriental Laboratory

Steampunk Style: The Complete Illustrated Guide For Contrators, Gizmologists and Primocogglers Everywhere  by Steampunk Oriental Laboratory

I will admit that the highlight of my week so far was getting a review copy of this brand new Steampunk Art and DIY book in the mail.

This book is actually a reprint of a book first published in Japan.  It was originally written for a Japanese audience and all the contributors are Japanese artists.  As such, it's not the same things I've seen before from English speaking steampunks.

This book, first of all, is gorgeous.  The first half of the book is just steampunk porn.  It's nothing but pages and pages of fantastically photographed works of steampunk art.  As all the artists are Japanese, these weren't steampunk pieces I'd seen before, pretty much at all.  (Which surprises me.  I look at LOT of pictures of steampunk stuff online, but I didn't recognize anything.)

Most of the works featured would fall into the category of sculpture or objets d'art.  But there are some cosplay pieces, goggles, and (my personal favorite) the amazing watch creations of Haruo Suekichi.  All of it is pretty and impressive, and some of it is mind-blowing in its intricacy and beauty.  These are not the same old steampunk creations you've seen in every Buzzfeed article on the subject.

The second half of the book is where my real interest lies, however.  In this half, the artists featured in the first half share DIY techniques they use to make their pieces.  As you might expect, since these are very accomplished artists, the techniques are a bit advanced.  This is not a beginner's guide, but something for the serious maker.

The guides will show you everything from how to cut shaped brass bits with etching solution, to how to machine a watch from scratch (except for the movement), to how to make realistic looking armor from foam.  I'm impressed by the variety and depth of the information given.  It's not every artist who shows you exactly how they make things.

There are some problems with the tutorials.  They are fairly brief and not particularly detailed.  Every step is covered, but not much is explained.  Also, because the book was written for a Japanese market, some of the information may not apply in other locations.  Certainly the parts about where to buy supplies will not apply, as well as what some of the materials are called.  The translation seems to be very good, but it's not a localization, so it may be difficult to source some of the things mentioned.

Basically, this is a guide for advanced users.  Many of the tutorials assume familiarity with materials and access to and knowledge of a good number of tools. But not everything here is strictly advanced. There is a section on Steampunk Home Decor that includes some nice ideas for upgrading your environment.  There's a lovely tutorial on painting faux wood grain on plastic, for example.  And all the information you need to recover books to look like gorgeous leather bound and gold stamped editions.  But most of the projects are involved rather than quick and easy.

And that's ok.  There is room for an advanced steampunk book in the market.  What I have taken away from reading this book is a large amount of inspiration.  Whether or not I ever follow any of the tutorials in the book, seeing how people make some incredible objects is incredibly inspiring.  And I have a feeling I may pick this book up when I want to borrow some small technique from one of the projects, like some of the metal joining from the watch tutorial.  Plus, did I mention it's a really pretty book?  Put it on your coffee table and your steampunk friends won't be able to put it down.

1 comment:

  1. For a book with tutorials that ARE for beginners, check out The Anatomy of Steampunk by Katherine Gleason (full disclosure: I contributed some of the projects). I'm obviously biased, since myself and many good friends are in it, but it's a lovely book with lots of great photography and useful info as well.