Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If I did a Steampunk Event

So, there is a secret meeting held at one of the Libraries in Salt Lake where a covert conglomeration of individuals is planning for a Steampunk Festival in Salt Lake City. I am planning on showing up in full Damsel regalia with all of my ideas and opinions for how to do a steampunk show, but I do need to collect my thoughts first, so I'm doing it here. Here are the elements to my dream steam show!

*First off, it might help to actually TELL people about it! Come on! We live in the golden age of social network marketing! Get the show OUT there so you can get people TO YOU! I'm always enraged when I'm at a festival nicely lacing up a lady who is extolling the wonders of an upcoming steampunk of which I know not! Friends, I cannot BEGIN to illustrate unto you the countless hours I have spent searching for events that have the appropriate characteristics to encourage me to vend there. POST your events to freaking forums, blogs, livejournals, facebook, EVERYTHING!
*SWAG BAGS. Yes, I said it. This is the most awesome idea ever! People could purchase normal tickets or PREMIUM tickets which included ACTUAL good swag. Here's what you do!
  • Get every single vendor to put a sweet coupon, business card, or catalog into the bag (coupons for the show are the best!). Get little booklets printed that have information for local steampunk groups, ads for other steampunk events, bands, performers and even vendors that want to show their stuff, but couldn't make it to the actual show! These booklets would also have the schedule of all the splendid workshops for the show (more on that later!).
  • Get someone (like me) to make ruffled cravats where you could pull the ruffle out straight and it would have the show name and year printed in fancy Victorian writing on it! Everyone can wear cravats, and they would be a great stand-in for the t-shirts!
  • Have "ladies" and "gents" bags, and put cameos into the lady's bags and steampunk cufflinks into the gents. You can grab some people who are good with glue and purchase hundreds of cuff-links and hundreds of cameos and settings on etsy, and each of these would probably only cost $1 or less to produce. They don't need to be something big, but free jewelry is always a plus.
  • Encourage any vendors that are able to put in free samples of their product. Let's say you do perfumed oils-include a little sample! I know this wouldn't be possible for everyone, which is why I still insist on including really valuable coupons. It WILL get people to come into your booth!
*A DECENT Steampunk Ball. If I wanted to go to an eerily adolescent seeming event with a bunch of nerds bumping and grinding on each other to Britney Spears, I would crash one of my local school dances, top hat and all! Come on, friends, let's get someone knowledgeable in Victorian dances and have them actually TEACH us the dances! Does anyone know how to do ANY DANCES? Dancing is a purely beautiful form or entertainment, when it's done in a proper Jane Austen way......I digress. But seriously, if you want to SET YOUR DANCE APART, do something that's actually different, refined, and refreshing. The kind of men that are into steampunk are the kind that want to have ROMANTIC dances with women. I know, I've met hundreds of them. They are the most respectful, intelligent type of men on earth. You will not hear them call each other "bro". Enough said. This is why I love the type of people that are into steampunk!

*WORKSHOPS GALORE!!!! If this event was held at a hotel, it would be easier to set up these types of workshops in the conference rooms, but if you REALLY think about the kind of workshops that you would like to attend, you'll see that I'm freaking brilliant. Here's a few that I would be overjoyed to attend:
  • It's a classic. Nerf/steam guns. For this workshop, the people that actually want to DRESS UP the guns need to bring one. We need to have someone brilliant like the people from League of Steam to show us how to paint, distress, age, texture, and deck the guns out.
  • Tea Parties. I would love to learn proper tea etiquette, get a little booklet of recipes for biscuits, scones, dainty puffs, and everything snobby and tea-ish. This workshop could also encourage the throwing of your own tea parties and feature ideas on how to get tea-groups started
  • Steampunk Hair. It's true, I just barely met the very handsome and distinguished OWNER of a STEAMPUNK HAIR SALON right here in salt lake! I would love for a hair dresser to come in and teach mens' and womens' Victorian hairstyles, with a modernized steampunk twist. OH, here's the link for Absinthe Hair Parlor. http://www.absinthehairparlour.com
  • Simple Accessory workshops. I would be more than happy to teach people how to grab scissors, a needle and thread, and FIRE for making simple, but elegant accessories. There are so many little things you can do that make a BIG impact when they're put together skillfully and artistically.
  • Steampunk Jewelry Extravaganza! Okay, I know that everyone and their dog is making steampunk jewelry these days, but this would be a GREAT opportunity for one of the potential jewelry vendors to give the attendees tricks and tips for making good, high quality adornments. What's that, you say? You're afraid that people will NOT purchase your goods because they figure they can make it themselves. This is where you can show your supreme intelligence and integrity. You will only show them the basics, but you'll display SHOW-STOPPING pieces. I'm not talking about an old watch body with some extra gears and a twig super-glued onto it. Yes, that stuff IS easy for anyone to make. YOU would show your true talent and passion with intricate pieces that the wise customers would look at and say, "Oh my heavens! I'm not going to make THAT! I can SEE how much work and love is put into that, and I'm smart enough to know that you purchase your supplies in great bulk to get the superb prices, and since I only want to make ONE necklace, I would be a damned fool to try and pay retail for the raw materials and spend many frustrating hours making an inferior product!!" (I PROMISE, the people that attend steampunk events ARE on a higher intelligence level than other shows I've done. Even though they're very much into DIY, they are also incredibly respectful, since they actually KNOW for themselves what it takes to make such things. This is what I have found, and I'm sorry if people out there disagree.)
  • Phew.
  • Calligraphy. Have someone adept teach people with real ink-pots and quills!
  • Paper-making. I know it might sound dorky, but this is SUCH a neat thing to do. Be sure to have the instructor to bring many yard clippings.
  • OBVIOUSLY, have panels where very cool people discuss steampunk literature, tv shows, movies, music, costumes, home decor, and such.
  • Oh! A crash course in steampunk home decor! I would LOVE this.
  • Haberdashery. Have some lovely person teach the ladies how to make fascinators from strange and wonderous things.
  • Leather-working. Learn the basics of stretching, molding, stitching, stamping, and working with leather!
*That does it for the workshops, but how about some great little mini events like a "Mustache-Off" for the men? OH, baby.

*By the way, there are constant requests for steampunk models needed for photographers! If you really pushed your show out there for photographers, and maybe even had some little faux Victorian backdrops set up, it would be a fantastic place for photographers, models, promoters, and EVERYONE to meet and mingle.

That's about all I've got for right now. If these ideas don't actually get incorporated into some shows, I HONESTLY might think about starting up my own Steampunk Event. I know it's daunting as heck, but you had best believe I'm passionate about it, and the more steamers that I meet, the more impressed and elated I am by such human beings! Anyhow, if you ladies have anything to add, or if you think I've seriously overlooked some huge obstacles in all of my wild dreams, please let me know!


  1. These are some brilliant ideas. I'm an academic who writes on victorian literature and some of the authors i write on are very much picked up within neo-victorian lit and steampunk. I can completely see a synergistic thing with a convention like this with an academic conference running as part of it....win-win for everyone!

  2. I would drop whatever plans i pretend to have and I would be signed up for EVERY single workshop and would love a chance to mingle with like-minded people. I also volunteer any help if you decide to do this.

  3. Anna! I totally forgot about pimping out authors, but there should definitely be book signings and meet-and-greets with authors! I LOVE meeting the actual authors of books and getting them signed! *sigh*

  4. We do have (or have had) some of those events at our convention. (Although it, AnachroCon, is not exclusively steampunk). And I've seen a few of them at other steampunk events...and I've been to quite a few of the major ones in the US (with the exception of Steamcon, which is just too far away for me to attend economically, unfortunately). That being said, they are all awesome ideas. The hands-on workshops can be fiddly to run unless you have a very organized presenter. And TeslaCon just had a steampunk ball with dance lessons beforehand, which was marvelous. (After the ball, there was a DJ/dance party, which I also enjoyed, because the music was danceable with a great retro sound and there were no sweaty Britney fans bumping and grinding, at least none that I saw.) We will be having English Country dances at our show, with a "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" theme, this upcoming year.

  5. Yeah...what she said!

    So, really, I have not been to a steampunk only event (yet), but I do run my own business (as does Michelle) and I think that she has hit the "marketing" nail in the head! There's something called the Law of Reciprocity and it's human nature! If you give a little to people, they give back to you. Swag bag is a total must!

    Also, at the Reno Worldcon last year, they did a "Steampunk your nerf gun" in Kids' Programming. But, can I tell you...there were SO many adults there! We adults want to learn how to do this stuff, too!

    So, Michelle, are you volunteering to head up the next event? (You work too hard already!)

    Utterly Brilliant and Thank You for what you do!

  6. oh, wasn't the Reno Worldcon awesome? I LOVED vending there! Once again, met the most intelligent and respectful people that I have ever encountered! And yes, I was DYING to go to the kids workshops!

  7. OH, Ydnic, if I wasn't already signed up for another show, I would SOOO try my hardest to make it to AnachroCon! I've heard many good things!

  8. We will gladly welcome you to our show in 2013 :) :)

  9. Swag bag, workshops, ball... so many fantabulous ideas! And one of the workshops could be the Victorian dancing workshop for anyone who wanted to learn.

    Honestly, I would totally go, I would pay the premium for the swag bag, I would hit as many workshops as my little brain could hold and top it all off with the ball. Love it all.

  10. I've never been to a steampunk show (just renaissance and anime cons sadly :C) and only have a basic knowledge of SteamPunk but I love it so much. 8D And your ideas...! I would just LOVE to attend a convention run with programs like that going! I wouldn't know what to do with myself trying to see EVERYTHING. And my goodness you had me at "Steampunk Ball"....! Teaching authentic-y dances and dancing to period music? YES PLEASE. I've always wanted to learn those types of dances and regret that people don't actively hold balls and stuff like that anymore! And Tea parties! Awww <3

    Hahaha... I don't have any ideas to offer myself but I think it's obvious I am in love with all you have suggested.XD If I ever ran my own event I would want you on my team! And I would totally attend any event you created! *_*

  11. This all sounds amazing!!
    I have not had the chance to attend any Steampunk cons. But just fyi for you, there is (what I've been told) an amazing con in WI held in November called TeslaCon. It has sold out the 2 years it has been going.

  12. Oh my gosh your ideas are so amazing! I would LOVE to go to an event like this.

  13. I KNEW you would be the perfect person to be in on some of those planning meetings! If ANY of those ideas are adopted, this will be an event I'll be excited to go to! I think the biggest mistake some of these events make is to make it all about the shopping. There's SO MUCH MORE that could be a part of things. The shopping is icing on the cake!

  14. at my old ren faire the incense vendors every year did a loose incense free gift bag, i loved it! they also did a scavenger hunt with with prizes you had to earn the right to purchase. it's a huge deal to parents who want to come and bring small children. it makes the day soooo much easier when at every booth or vendor you can tell them to look for x.

  15. I think the scavenger hunt is a great idea to add on, but Michelle, you really have something fantastic going. I think at the beginning of the faire however, there should be a walk through history of what steampunk is lol That way, for even newbies, it would teach them a bit about the fandom and decrease on the amount of questions each vendor has to answer (why it's not just a matter of "throw some gears on it and call it 'steampunk'". I think nerf gun decoration would also appeal to a much larger crowd than anticipated. In Las Vegas alone, there are several large HvZ (Humans vs. Zombies)teams and players that could be drawn into the steam punk scene: imagine running through a park away from top-hat wearing zombies, fiddling with your tricked out steam gun and monocle lol!

    I support this idea 100%- I think that even though it is a HUGE undertaking, you and your team/connections would make this event a success.

    Heidi Cribbs

  16. ALSO get some hot air balloons involved. I'm sure you can find a few that are steampunk ready and waiting. I think that would be the neatest thing, one that looks like a dirigible lol


  17. Michelle, you need to come to San Francisco. We've had an amazing steampunk convention the past two years (Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition, which sadly will not happen in 2012 :(). There were tons of panels and workshops with three tracks (a maker track, a literature track, and a social/philosophical track), including ones on costumes, authorial stuff, Victorian swearing, etc. Also two balls (because no one wants just one ball) with "proper" dancing. Plus, we have two different groups that put on monthly masquerade balls with the focus on partner dancing (mostly waltzes). Oh, and let's not forget the famous Chrismas Dickens Faire, going on something like 20-30 years. And there are vendors at all of them.
    SF is where it's at for West Coast steampunk, is what I'm saying.

  18. THANK YOU! I am so glad I am not the only one who sits up and thinks about these things!

    First off, your plans are amazing and has just what all of the faires/shows are lacking. (across every time frame/genre) Just don't forget about us musicians! We love workshops, and the like too.

    Too many of the faires here in NorCal are just themed shopping malls. After the 2nd or 3rd year of going, there's nothing for us repeat attendees to do. And for this major artsy/DIY're/costumer/theaterish/musicially inclined individual I don't want to spend money to get into a faire or convention, just to then have spending MORE money be the only thing to do- without being an actual participant or part of an acting troupe.

    I don't mind buying from vendors, I want to BE one someday for heavens sake! BUT I am also very picky about what I do buy (not just in quality, but also style) If I don't love it, I don't buy it. Some vendors have the exact same merchandise every year. Some shows have the same vendors. If I didn't love a piece at Ren Faire, I'm not going to love it for $20 more at Dickens. Hence the boredom!

    (Damsel in this Dress is excluded from this of course, because 1. I love your stuff, 2.You have an awesome level of quality, 3.You add new designs, and 4. You keep us entertained with your tales of flying bread sticks.)

    I want to start and run a few of my own events some day in what I hope is the not too distant future. And when I do, You will be the first person I "call"! I want your smart brain on my team!!!

    p.s. The events in San Fran are NEVER advertised!You have to hunt for them! It is rediculous.Like some sort of secret steampunk club. I understand not wanting the WHOLE world to know about something, but if evens aren't even advertised at other events, how the heck do they plan on getting people to go?! I got money I'm not supposed to spend, and the dire need to spend it any way while doing something awesome!

  19. Sweet Michelle, I don't want to eat up too much of your time, but you simply must check out www.epbot.com (Warning: It is so addicting). The author is the same woman who writes CakeWrecks, and she and her husband are majorly into steampunk. They have pictures up of their steampunk dining room that are just amazing.

    And she does many tutorials.

  20. Michelle, your ideas are wonderful. :) I would love to attend a purely steampunk event and I think some of the workshops you suggested would be fabulous. I'm a san diegan, so I grew up with comic-con ( once the mother of all pop culture conventions, now just a bloated whore), which has incorporated a lot of steam the past few years. I'd still prefer a dedicated event though, like this one: http://www.gaslightgathering.org/ in May. As always, I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors, and hope to run in to you someday. ^_~

  21. Great ideas - wish we could have something like that in Scotland.

  22. OH, friends! Thanks for your input! To the one who mentioned the Nova Albion, you can bet I was all signed up to do it this year, and then it sadly got canceled! Someone else said that these are baby events and just barely springing forth, and she's totally right. They need to gain momementum and unfortunately HAVE to make money for the people (organizers, vendors, performers, presenters) to come back again. But, we can do it everyone!! Call to action!

  23. With the exception of the swag bags (which are an awesome idea), The World Steam Expo in Dearborn, MI has done all of these successfully. Sadly, they don't archieve their old site, but I could send you last years program if you wanted more ideas for the SLC one.

  24. I must say, TeslaCon in Madison, WI, is being called the Disney World of Steampunk. It's an immersion event and, from what I hear, is amazing to attend. I didn't grab a ticket before it sold out, otherwise I'd have more to tell you. :) If you can make a trip to Madison, that's probably a good event to vendor at. :)

  25. Michelle, regarding dancing! I don't know if you're aware (and perhaps I should read closer) but Salt Lake has it's own group of dancers who teach the Victorian and Jane Austen style dances. I've met them many times and they are wonderful! www.oldgloryvintagedancers.com . You're bound to have seen them at the Dicken's Festival, the Festival of Trees, etc. I'm sure they would be interested in instructing.

    My friends and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE a Steampunk festival in Salt Lake. Keep us updated on details, and is you need any help!

  26. I think I could only live in your head for a split second before it became overwhelming. I don't know how you do it, but I love it!!

  27. I am new to all this, but plan to attend the following:

  28. Nova Albion in the SF Bay Area may not be happening, but Fanime Con in San Jose, a huge anime convention (which is pretty much turning into a cosplay convention anyway) recently announced a partnership with The Steam Federation to host Clockwork Alchemy, a separate steampunk convention/addition during the same weekend. One ticket will get you into both cons. There will be an artists bazaar, dirigible races, victorian martial arts displays, a ball, etc. It happens in May, and is still in the planning stages. for more info- https://www.facebook.com/groups/Clockworkalchemy/
    or www.fanime.com
    Fanime usually draws around 19K people, so it's a great chance to introduce them to steampunk~ :)

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