May’s Trend Watch: Steampunk

Take a time (usually 1900’s) when steam was the power source for so much (trains, etc), add a lot of scientific funky inventions, and a whole lot of fiction – and you’ve got “steampunk”. It’s not a new genre, but it is one that continues to gain steam in first books, and now crafting as well. It’s a trend I’ve noticed more and more as I cruise the isles of my local bookstore. Recently with vintage inspired crafting products being on the rise, I’ve also noticed steampunk showing up in crafting stores as well. From jewelry to mixed media arts and everything in between – this funky vintage sub-genre isn’t limited to works of fiction anymore! It’s officially crossed over into crafting.

Doing a search on for steampunk crafting books turned up some interesting options:

Steampunk Style Jewelry, by Jean Campbell:

Steampunkery: Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Projects, by Christi Friesen:

What I find really interesting, is that a number of books are available only for pre-order, meaning they haven’t been published yet. In other words, I think that this steampunk stuff is going to keep growing in crafting as a trend for awhile, thanks to titles like these –
1,000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art (1000 Series):

Steampunk Softies: 8 Scientifically-Minded Dolls from a Past That Never Was, by Nicola Teadman and Sarah Skeate:

While the books coming out are very cool, they are all over the craft spectrum. What about paper crafting?

I have found there are a number of products available that can lend themselves to a steampunk look, as well as a whole collection devoted to the genre. I’m talking about Graphic 45, who is leading this trend’s charge into paper crafting with their Steampunk Debutante line. I love the funky designs and the choice of color palette in this line, and I can’t stop playing with all the bits and pieces!

While this line has a feminine feel to it, the steampunk look can be equally masculine. Traditionally, the genre seems to lean towards the Victorian style and era. However, there really aren’t rules here. You could go for a high-tech wild west cowboy look (see Will Smith’s Wild Wild West movie for inspiration), focus heavily on trains and the mechanical aspects, or do your own thing entirely.

What elements in craft supplies work for a steampunk-inspired look? Mixing a vintage look with clocks, time pieces, gears, steam engine/train inspired pieces, cogs, wings, and other aged metals and funky stuff works great. Add some grunge with paints and inks, distress with sand paper, and have a ball. Once I started looking into this trend I realized that a lot of the products Tim Holtz designs would work incredibly well.

Above: Gadget Gears die cuts by Tim Holtz Alterations from Sizzix and sprocket gears from Tim Holtz Idea-ology.

Below: Timeworks masks and game spinners from Tim Holtz Idea-ology.

7 Gypsies has a line of Steampunk rub-ons, each filled with small images that could be used any number of ways.

There are many other products out there that could work great too. Just look for the elements and general feel that you’re aiming for.

What kind of projects could you apply this style to? I think just about anything! I could see some really great masculine pages taking advantage of the gears and such, but it works just as well for themes like travel, memories/time, girls, or anything else you’re scrapping about! I chose to use the gears as inspiration to do a page about my mysterious three year old (aren’t they all a mystery at this age?!).

My layout shown above features both Graphic 45 papers and Tim Holtz elements. I had so much fun with this! I used the sprockets with flowers and other embellishments, and often in place of where I’d normally lean towards buttons or flowers. This is such an easy style to try. I love it!

Supply List:
Graphic 45 Steampunk Debutante Paper Pad
Tim Holtz Idea-ology sprocket gears, game spinnersbrads, Locket Key, and metal charm
Girls’ Paperie letter stickers from Toil & Trouble and Tinsel & Twig sticker sets
Tim Holtz for Stampers Anonymous flourish stamp
Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Brushed Corduroy
Tim Holtz Distress Stickles in Antique Bronze
Making Memories Paper Reverie rose brad and letter stickers
Prima white flower
Tim Holtz Tissue Tape (Traveler)
Tattered Angels Chalkboard Glimmer Mist in Peacock

Why not add a bit of steampunk to your next project? The Graphic 45 line of papers is so lovely – I could see it working well for a number of subjects and also for cards, tags, and altered or mixed media projects too. Some of the designs are simply too pretty to cover up!

Or just try your hand at mixing more metal and punk into your vintage papers and see what turns out. I love the possibilities this trend has for all kinds of paper crafting – especially since it’s more masculine and boy friendly than many trends we see.

Now I’m off to watch the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or perhaps read a good novel, and get some fresh ideas for my {steampunk} crafting!


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22 Responses to May’s Trend Watch: Steampunk

  1. Duckienz December 1, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    I have loved this type of thing for a long time and own all sorts, yet I don’t transfer it into my scrapbook layouts very often. Perhaps I will give this a try…
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Jayne Kasten December 2, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    This is way cool, Mae! I’ve bee noticing it in other places, too, and love Tim’s wonderful items. Thanks for this great “push” forward to try it!

  3. scrapper al December 2, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    Thanks for the introduction to steampunk. Love the layout!

  4. Gab December 2, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    I’ve never heard of this before – but I like it! Love the look of the “Softies” book! May your LO is so cool!

  5. Laura December 2, 2010 at 7:44 am #

    Love your page!

  6. Betsy Burnett December 2, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Great inspiration May! I love the layout and have been seeing more and more steampunk thanks for the overview and description!

  7. Martha Richardson December 2, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Great LO…started researching Steampunk myself…quite interesting to say the least!

  8. Ginny December 2, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    How true! I just read Clockwork Angel, the first in a prequal series to add to The Mortal Instruments Trilogy. The title says it all about falling into this trend. I need to get some of those gears!

  9. Candy December 2, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    Quite brilliant May!

  10. Lisa Williams December 2, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    LOVE steampunk! Thanks for inspiring me to use it in my layouts!

  11. Addie December 2, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    May, I LOVE your layout –gorgeous! Steampunk/Victorian Progress is an extremely versatile theme. I use it on everything from birthdays to Halloween. I love the Jim Harter image books from Dover Publications: (I’m not an employee of Dover, just a lover of economical clip art!) and also their collection of Victorian paper dolls: Also replicas of old Sears and other catalogs are great sources of Steampunk/Victorian Progress images. What’s great about this theme is that it can be comic or dramatic.

  12. flowerdisco December 2, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    these steampunkery stuff is calling my heart but i am afraid i won’t give it its deserved justice.
    Your layout is awesome…for some reason it is all you too May…..isn’t?

  13. Storm December 2, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    Thank you! My wife and I have been “steampunk”ing a lot of our work, intentionally and unintentionally for a couple of years now; it just fits in with who we are! 🙂 The whole concept is so mixed medium and all about reclaiming bits from would-be scraps.
    I’ve seen some of the books you’ve posted, but somehow totally missed the “softees” book!!! No *my* gears are turning!
    And while we’ve been using T!m’s *very* steampunk accoutrements since we started (that’s what drug us kicking and screaming into the scrapbooking aisles), I’m completely blown away by all the other sources!!! Suddenly, I don’t think I have any problem deciding what to get a certain someone for Christmas this year!
    Thank you again! And I love your designs!!!!!!!!!! 😀

  14. Katherine M December 2, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Awesome article! I’ll be forwarding it to my Mom because you explain Steampunk so much better than I do! LOL! I think I had her thoroughly confused, but this will make so much more sense to her. Thanks!!!

  15. Peggy December 2, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    I’m still trying to see how “steampunk” is really any different from shabby chic to except for a few nuances. Maybe steampunk was my shabby chic? I’ve been seeing this type of stuff for several years really, and not just in the Tim Holtz type of work.

    • Nancy Nally December 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

      Peggy, I always define it to myself this way to simplify it: shabby chic = grunged up florals, steampunk = industrial stuff. They are both antique looks, but the elements that make them up are different. Of course, it’s way more than that, but it’s how I keep it separate in my mind. I think of one as more feminine and one as more masculine (although I know that isn’t strictly true). I hope that helps!

  16. Tona December 2, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    What a gorgeous layout!
    I love that paper line. The colors and images are wonderful.

  17. Denise G December 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    okay too cool

  18. marchelle December 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    I’ve noticed these fun items more and more…and I tend to lean toward them. In fact I have a lot of these products and have made some fun things i.e. in altered books even. But I am excited that you shared some of these books you found. I will make sure I check them out and hopefully get to order some. Thank you for sharing…your work is absolutely gorgeous. Happy Holidays.

  19. Lyneen December 2, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    I LOVE STEAMPUNK! thanks for sharing all the products and ideas.

  20. Denise December 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    Great article. I have a good friend who just opened a steampunk-inspired bookstore (featuring sci-fi, fantasy, speculative, and horror only) in the Detroit area called Off the Beaten Path Books. It is SO hard to explain steampunk, esp to the older generation (my mom is 72). I hit “like” on this hoping she’ll spot it & read it (yes, she’s on facebook)!

  21. Beverly December 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    Hi, May! Nice post on steampunk! I think the first time I noticed it in a big way was when we went to see “Wicked” on Broadway….wow! what a magnificent set! The scenery, the costumes, everything was just brilliant and, I think, exemplified Steampunk perfectly. I also think of the movies “Mad Max” and “Edward Scissorhands.” Love your layouts 🙂

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