Steampunk jewelry and sculpture: love the gears

Etsy seller FringeLore has a dab hand at making steampunk inflected jewelry and sculpture -- lots of dented and scratched and polished clockworks and gears. Link (Thanks, Olga!)


  1. Unless it actually performs some function (practical or otherwise) the it’s not steampunk.

  2. #2: Its function is personal adornment, which is enough for most people.

    Cory: Thanks to you, I’m $36.50 poorer and a very cool pair of earrings richer.

  3. @2: And the function performed by THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE (the book for which the term “steampunk” was coined) was what, exactly?

  4. Most of this “steampunk” watch jewelry uses watch movements and parts from well after the era it’s supposed to belong to. The picture above uses bits from a calendar movement most likely from the 1960s.

  5. she makes some darn cool stuff no matter what context we might put it in – pick your phylum/era/species. The picture isn’t representative of her best work, either… yaaay for craftiness.

  6. @Cory: That would be computation. Did you read it?

    I’m with #2: If it don’t work, fix it.

  7. “Unless it actually performs some function (practical or otherwise) the it’s not steampunk.”

    My impression was (and this is not the final word you understand…) that Steampunk was a modern artifact, functional or otherwise, rendered using pre-silicon aesthetics/fabrication.

    That doesn’t really cover it all – I think the intent should be to produce an artifact that reflects modern-day sensibilities, knowledge, or functionality but look, act or use the technology of pre-silicion times, which I guess usually means victorian – ie. steam era, hence ‘Steampunk’.

    I like the jewellery she has made – it looks like something a homesick, era-wrecked time traveller might fashion to remind them of the future to be.

  8. It’s decent enough ornamental work, though I’m always sad to witness this idiotic compulsion some crafter types have to destroy entire (usually working) typewriters in order to hot glue their chopped-off keys onto cutesy jewelry. For those of us who use and value typewriters, it’s a little like seeing the work of ivory poachers—whatever joy there is in the craftsmanship is obliterated by the pointless destruction of a far more beautiful object.

  9. Very nice stuff, and there’s a note on them.

    No antique pocket watches were harmed in my jewelry making as I only have pieces and parts.

  10. #12, read #16’s clipping from the Etsy site; she says explicitly on Etsy that the bits and pieces she uses are not from whole watches and other devices and that nothing was destroyed. Please don’t jump to unfounded conclusions and then get angry about them.

  11. Church: yes, I read it. I don’t recall that the book computed a single thing (except for the position of its atoms in space — something that this jewelry is also doing). Are you suggesting that the novel was a Von Neumann machine?

    Moon: No, steampunk doesn’t have steam in it. Steampunk is stuff that looks like it comes from the sort of alternate reality described in THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE, in which computation (and a host of modern technologies engendered by it) arrive a century earlier. It has nothing to do with steam per se (nor with “punk” — the word is a play on “cyberpunk,” which DID have something to do with punk, to whit its nihilist bent, and the “punk” in “steampunk” is there because the first steampunk novel was written by two prominent cyberpunks.)

  12. #18, I’ll take #16’s word for the artist’s claim about her materials from old timepieces, but there is nothing I can find on her shop site about where her typewriter keys come from other than some damning quotes from her favorites list. To wit:

    “Here are 28 typewriter keys that my husband spent a great deal of effort cutting off of a vintage typewriter.”

    That’s not “found” material there.

    Those of us who love and use typewriters often share horror stories of what we find in the dumpsters behind flea markets. Otherwise perfectly-functional carcasses of great old machines from the early twentieth century are consigned to rust away with their keybeds cut to pieces so that amateur jewelers can use their keytops in lieu of actually creating a look or feeling through actual artistry. It’s sad that, rather than just properly butchering the machines to access the myriad of amazing and beautiful little parts they have that could be used for their wonderful clockwork aesthetic, they do what invading Europeans did to the bison—stripping the pelt and leaving the rest to rot. That’s the sign of a lackluster creator, leaving the issue of destroying working writing machines aside.

    I’ve no doubt that this artist probably never thought of her role in this destruction in the way some of us do, and sadly, she’s just one of the herd of crafters who create work that’s ostensibly about a reverence for the source material without ever actually considering where it comes from. Maybe that’s the presumed punk nihilism in “steampunk,” and where the symbolic charge comes from, but I’m not convinced.

  13. #19 @Cory

    One of the reasons we keep revisiting this discussion about the meaning ‘steampunk’ is that it is an evolving word – your thumbnail definition for @Moon is somewhat ‘traditional’ in my view.

    The artwork of Kinetic Steam Works and the Steampunk Treehouse folk clearly do involve steam and I’m sure you’ve noticed theres more then a little punk in the contents of SteamPunk Magazine.

    Today’s Steampunk has deep connections to the Maker community. Environmentalism and anti-consumerism are also common threads on many of the boards as more political steampunks feel there are harsh lessons from the 19th century that we’ve forgotten and that the Victorian era holds models for localization and appropriate technologies ready-made for our rediscovery.

    For my part, I intend to include more of all of the above in my work.

  14. The cries of, “it’s for adornment, not function, you philistine!” ring particularly hollow when there are so many objects which fulfill both purposes. That’s why skeleton and open-heart watches exist. Most of the beauty of gears is in their function. I can think of few things more aesthetically unpleasing than a dead gear, meshing with nothing, soldered down to never rotate again.

    “I love animals! See all the dusty heads on my walls?”

  15. Mr. Coswell of Coswell Cogs was the most Steampunk dude EVER!!! Forget putting gears on everything, he was hardcore DIY and made them himself!!

    Srsly thgh, sn’t ths jst gttng bt rdcls? “ohhh, gimme a random piece of brass/copper, I’ll throw some machiney doo-dads and geary things on it, solder ’em all together and voi-la! Steampunky goodness….noooow…gimme money”. And all the steampunk machines I see are nothing more than rube goldberg devices, and this shizzle is ALL OVER the place….when is someone going to be really imaginative and actually rock something hardcore with the steampunk vein running through it? Perhaps make something from scratch that actually DOES something? It just seems like one out of every ten posts on here is a picture of somebody-modded-something to make it appear steampunk, everyone oooh’s and ahhh’s and is so easily satiated, thusly left salivating for more. thght w rdrs f ths fn blg wr bt mr ntllgnt thn tht. Dont’ get me wrong, I get my “oooh shiny” moments here and there, but every steampunk post? And there’s always someone there to defend it, well, opinions are like poop-holes I suppose, and there’s mine…ah well, as if it weren’t more than obvious, I digress.

  16. Tht rlly s qt rplsv. I’m probably going to get disemvowelled fr syng s mch, bt mn t n th mst ltrl sns f th wrd. t pshs m wy frm th d f vr byng nythng lk t.

    Rl stmpnk s nt. Nt rndm bjcts wth dd grs PV’d nt th sds.

  17. You’d be guessing wrongly, then, wouldn’t you? I disemvowelled it because it was rude, and not the first rude post about steampunk from Rosethornn. Any more guesses?

  18. oh,is today not the greeting-card industry festival of the motile gamete-giver of your species?

  19. ‘ere now, ain’t ‘e the bloke wot said:
    “This is just like most consumer products out there – more options to match your personal esthetic. Remember more choices are a “good”. There is nothing sinister here”
    Thassa bleedin’ contradiction, that is!

  20. Antinous, I was perfectly polite. If you disagree with me, feel free to engage in discourse nstd f nctng crd cnsrshp pn my pst. Unless you can point to some way in which my opinion broke the rules of BoingBoing, I would call such measures out of line.

    1. Clearly we have different definitions of politeness, so let me explain the one that is operative here. You don’t say things that you wouldn’t say to the poster’s face if you were standing in his living room. Would you walk into Cory’s house and tell him that his furniture is hideous? If yes, seek help. If no, apply that same standard to your interactions here.

  21. If Cory held up such furniture as “wonderful”, I would be inclined to disagree, yes.

    I explained my opinions, and welcomed discourse. In return, was called a dickhead.

    Obviously, the definition of politeness means something different here after all.

  22. Dear Rosethornn;

    In May you said:
    “disclaimer: I’m not saying “don’t post steampunk, your blog is so boring” nor am I saying “I hate steampunk”. I just think it’s been the internet’s meme of the month for a while now, and it’s possible that we need a new one.)”

    Since then even the most occasional observer would have noted the ongoing scrapping over the unsolicited rude postings by steampunk haters that blights our little village.

    May I suggest you exercise judgment? Wouldn’t it be an insult to your sensitivities and general faculties of reason and perception to have to meticulously explain where the “line” was? Sometimes getting smacked in the teeth does one more honor than being treated as a child.

    “If you have nothing nice to say,sit next to me” – just not at the general table.

  23. Attn: Antinous: I’m going to be rude about typewriters, and I hope they find it in their clunky metallic hearts to forgive me.

    Even if Crafters do tear typewriters apart, it’s not as if they’re killing puppies! They’re awkward, mechanical, temporary tools used by writers to do a faster job than scriveners. They put poor Bartlby out of work, and who knows what a fine, practiced hand he may have possessed? But he was replaced by a person whose only skill, beyond being literate, was to poke rapidly at a bunch of buttons. I owned over a dozen of them, over the decades, from the hernia-causing grotesques to the sleek, fragile, foreign imports that broke down every 500 pages, and there’s nothing about them I miss. Nothing of. If I had one right now, I’d leave it by the kerb, in hopes some evil, cackling Crafter would scoop it up and smash the shit out of it and make earrings and stuff for fashionistas.

    Call me when they’re killing baby seals.

  24. Well, I’m going to bow out of this one, since I’m obviously outnumbered and have no wish to make enemies. I was merely expressing disappointment.

  25. neither do we (make enemies) the idea is to convince you of something of your own free volition. Is it working?

  26. from the BB Moderation Policy:

    “08 May 2008:

    We believe in community-based moderation. In theory, anyone can momentarily act as a moderator, as long as their action is warranted and they get it right.”

  27. The solution is always the same: scroll bar. Between BB, BB Gadgets and BBTV, I’m interested in about one out of ten posts. I just ignore the other ones, except to the extent that I need to read them to moderate comments. If something is uncongenial to my personal tastes, it doesn’t enter into my consciousness enough to think about critiquing it. Calling someone’s artwork repulsive in a comment thread has nothing to do with one’s taste and everything to do with pissing on a tree to mark one’s territory.

  28. Rosethorn, you yourself wrote “I’m probably going to get disemvowelled for saying as much” in the offending comment. Having indicated that you were aware that you were offending, it’s disingenuous of you to claim that you weren’t.

    Clifton, you’re not helping.

  29. We take the item pictured, make it about 6 inches to a foot wide and we’ve got ourselves a Steampunk Flava Flav.

  30. throw some cogs on that brass. ooh make it oxidized. gear it up baby. now with the dusty plate glass. oh god the leather.

  31. i don’t get the current brouhaha for steampunk. When i was a kid, loads of my parent’s friends had awful pictures of cars, made from old watch parts in frames on their walls. Every other mall has a stall selling sculptures of Giger’s Alien made from cobbled together bolts and cogs. When i was at school, we had to take apart an old device and make a picture / animal / piece of jewelry from it. I’m not taking the piss, i just don’t get it. People seem to be swooning over it, as if it’s something new. Am i missing something?

  32. No, FOSTA, it’s still ‘assemblage junque.’ Unless it works. And then it knocks your socks off. I’m glad I didn’t know your parents’ friends.

  33. Steampunk = Cosplay

    Sure, there are differences, but the similarities outweigh them. Steampunk requires slightly more creativity since there’s no character to copy, but most cosplay requires more skill since you’re trying to copy animated clothing in the real world rather than just assembling gears and Victorian clothing.

    Neither is inherently good or bad, they’re just different ways of adorning oneself.

  34. Am i missing something?

    Yes. but the rules of this game don’t permit us to tell you what it is.

  35. Could I respectfully suggest that….

    The term “steampunk” predates The Difference Engine” I will stand to be corrected however I am sure it was applied to a book I read by KW Jeter (maybe 5 years earlier) called “Infernal Devices”

    A book that I hasten to add is absolutely brilliant.

  36. >I am sure it was applied to a book I read by KW >Jeter

    That seems to be the consensus.

    We’re having the editors of the Steampunk anthology, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, Jake Von Slatt, and Abney Park at the California Steampunk Convention in October. I am sure questions like this well be discussed.

    Dex Garvey

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