Meet the Author and Jewelry DesignerJema Hewitt is the author of Steampunk Emporium: Creating Fantastical Jewelry, Devices and Oddments from Assorted Cogs, Gears and Curios, a book that combines jewelry making tutorials with lots of eye candy to help give you a peek at the world of Steampunk.
Jema spent some time answering our questions about the history of the Steampunk movement, and telling us what inspires her designs. Her responses will help you recognize Steampunk jewelry when you encounter it in jewelry stores and artisan fairs, and maybe you'll even decide to try your hand at jewelry this type of design.
What is Steampunk?
Jema: Well, at its most basic it’s Victorian styled science fiction. It’s a creative movement which encompasses, art, literature, fashion and music, all inspired by airships, robots, submarines, etc. with lovely Victorian style, and fashioned in natural materials like filigree brass and wood... with cogs, lots of cogs.
As far as jewellery design goes, I believe it’s important to continue the concept of beauty of form with function. Steampunk jewelry can be so much more than just a piece of an old watch glued to a brooch back. Each piece should tell a story and inspire the soul, be it expensive fine silversmithed pieces, or inexpensive costume jewellery. Beautiful quality and craftsmanship is a key factor in Steampunk.
What first interested you in the world of Steampunk?
Jema: I started making corsets when I was studying theatrical design at college and I always loved the Victorian Gothic look, but I got bored with black. I started making Victorian outfits in mad colours and fabrics, and I loved the elegance of the styles, the femininity and the fabulous fabrics and trims.
Then I started creating jewellery and accessories to match the outfits and persuaded friends to dress up and have picnics and go on ghost hunts with me! I think a lot of folks were doing "steampunk" before it was properly labelled, then all those people went "Oh is that what this style is?" I only really noticed the term Steampunk being used in 2006 and 2007, and that’s when I started using the character of Emilly Ladybird as my alter ego.
Had you made other types of jewelry before becoming interested in Steampunk?
Jema: Oh yes, I learnt silversmithing as part of my art foundation degree and I had worked in the bead shop in Nottingham, teaching bead weaving techniques and tiara making, as well as writing some books on basic jewellery making and tiara construction. I also sculpted a lot in polymer clay. But my personal work was always slightly whimsical and tending towards the Victorian anyway.
What was your first piece of Steampunk jewelry, and how was the design process that first time around?
Jema: Oh gosh! I’m not sure I can remember my first piece, especially as my style evolved slowly into what would be termed "Steampunk" now. However, the first sculpted pocket-watch was the large Mortalometer, which was really fun, I had the idea of packing the empty watch case with polymer clay and incorporating lots of techniques, including sculpting and mixed media into the design. I must admit I was really thrilled when it all worked, and it sold almost immediately!
What has been your most successful piece of Steampunk jewelry, your personal holy grail?
Jema: I think I still might be working on that one! Every piece is my favourite till I move onto the next one! I was particularly happy with the mermaid bracelet from Steampunk Emporium It was one of my first forays into working with silver metal clay and was quite scary because it’s an expensive medium. My Dad and I walked along the beach in Wales to find the sea-glass I used in it, so it has some really special memories in there, too.
What are your favorite tools for creating Steampunk jewelry?
If I’m working in polymer clay I love my pasta machine and texture stamps, for metal work it has to be my Dremel drill and rivet setter. I love tools though; I’m a total tool nut. It helps so much to have the right thing for each specific job. Decent pliers and a jump ring opening ringwidget are essential, too.
Where do you get your inspiration? How do you find appropriate components?
Jema: I am inspired by stories and original Victorian art and crafts. So I will create a piece for a specific character, one from a book, or played by a Steampunk friend, at a convention, or one that I’ve created for the purposes of the piece. I like to look at original jewellery and take elements of the designs to re-interpret from people like Lalique and Mucha.
I collect pieces from junk shops and antique fairs, and friends all over the world send me odd things they’ve found, then I use lots of modern store bought bits and pieces, often painting or distressing them to fit in with the overall aesthetic. Etsy and Ebay are great resources.
Tell me about your new book, will it help someone new to the culture of Steampunk (and possibly jewelry making) create something new and adventurous on their own?
Jema: Oh I do hope so! It has lots of stories and photographs of characters within my Steampunk world to illustrate the different projects; each project has a little history of where it came from and how it relates to Emilly's adventures, along with the step by step photos. I cover a lot of different techniques and include something for every skill level as well as objects for both ladies and gentlemen. There’s a whole section on the origins of steampunk and plenty of resources listed for components and more information.
I love that people are posting pictures of the things they’ve made on Emilly Ladybird's Facebook page too. There’s a lot of support and fun to be had in the Steampunk community. We are a very friendly bunch!
Thanks so much to Jema, for answering our questions and helping us become familiar with the world of Steampunk. Follow her on Facebook and read Miss Ladybird's blog to learn more about this unique style.