Cel­e­brat­ing steam punk

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - JOHN TAPLEY

From ray guns and Vic­to­ri­anstyle dress to high tea and even a time ma­chine, steam punk took over the Nor­wich and Dis­trict Mu­seum on Satur­day.

The sub-genre of sci­ence fic­tion was cel­e­brated with the mu­seum’s sec­ond an­nual Fam­ily Steam Punk Fes­ti­val.

“It’s quite a phe­nom­e­non,” said Russell Zeid, one of the ven­dors at the fes­ti­val, about steam punk cul­ture. “Al­though there’s lots of ray guns and things, it’s (also) cups of tea. It’s very low key.”

He said steam punk is like role play, but multi-gen­er­a­tional.

“Per­haps it’s a look back at sim­pler times.”

Dressed in a long, white lab coat with old fash­ioned welder’s gog­gles perched be­low a wild shock of grey hair, the Toronto res­i­dent was sell­ing some of the me­chan­i­cal de­vices and sculp­tures he has made.

He said he has fun with po­ten­tial cus­tomers by pric­ing his pieces at $1 mil­lion-plus.

“Im­me­di­ately, they get a $1 mil­lion dis­count and then they have to hag­gle on the rest,” Zeid said.

A for­mer tool-and-die maker and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer turned sci­ence teacher and artist, Zeid said he was cre­at­ing steam punk items be­fore steam punk be­came a trend.

“I’ve al­ways liked me­chan­i­cal con­trap­tions,” he said. “Be­com­ing a tool-and-die maker and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer gave me my love for metal and how to ma­nip­u­late it. I’ve al­ways liked rust, for some rea­son.”

Pick­ing up items from scrap yards, sur­plus and an­tique stores, and yard sales, Zeid gives them new life by re­pur­pos­ing them into me­chan­i­cal de­vices, tools and sculp­tures.

One sculp­ture at his booth on Satur­day was a space ship made from an an­tique cof­fee pot and other items sal­vaged from the scrap heap.

“I look at it as a col­lage,” he said about his art.

Zeid doesn’t just make small items.

A 10-foot-by-12-foot metal air­ship he created has been hang­ing in a Cal­gary shop­ping cen­tre since 2000.

Zeid’s work will also be found in the Cal­gary Sci­ence Cen­tre with a three-and-a-half ton metal di­nosaur he made from scrap over an 11-month pe­riod.

“It al­lows me to be cre­ative, whim­si­cal and a bit child-like,” said Zeid about what he en­joys about cre­at­ing his art. “I still make toys.”

Be­sides ven­dors, the fes­ti­val fea­tured work­shops, vin­tage games, a cos­tume con­test and a high tea.

The mu­seum was also open dur­ing the event, which was a fundraiser to help re­store a Quaker school house on the mu­seum prop­erty.

Or­ga­nizer Eli­cia Roswell said more peo­ple turned out to this year’s fes­ti­val.

Dressed in full Vic­to­rian garb, Mary Ellen War­ren of Inger­soll was among those who took in the fes­ti­val.

She said she got into steam punk about seven years ago through at­tend­ing a con­ven­tion with her son who is a writer and knows au­thors who write steam punk fic­tion.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” she said about dress­ing up and at­tend­ing steam punk events. “It’s an amaz­ing group of peo­ple who get into this.”

Bertha Rose Park of In­wood has made the trip to Nor­wich for both Fam­ily Steam Punk Fes­ti­vals and was sport­ing an elab­o­rately decorated hat at this year’s event.

She said she en­joyed a pre­sen­ta­tion on steam punk books this year, but over­all it’s the peo­ple that draw her to steam punk cul­ture.

“I en­joy the so­cial part of it – get­ting out with peo­ple,” she said.

Ania Nunns had the time ma­chine and book de­liv­ery de­vice he built on dis­play at the fes­ti­val.

Made from a vin­tage type­writer, the time ma­chine in­cor­po­rates a plasma ball for a light­ning-type ef­fect, a sound card and a smoke ma­chine that emits vapour when­ever a key is hit.

An Inger­soll res­i­dent, Nunns is a for­mer cus­to­dian at Wood­stock Col­le­giate In­sti­tute who has writ­ten a chil­dren’s book, Mr. A. J. and The Ma­chine.

“It’s a 40 per cent true story,” said Nunns who takes his time ma­chine and book de­liv­ery de­vice with him when he does read­ings of his book in schools.

Nunns said he got started in steam punk by “muck­ing around.”

“I just started play­ing with old stuff and it be­came steam punk,” he said.

He isn’t stop­ping at cre­at­ing a time ma­chine.

Nunns is in the process of mak­ing a ray gun that will light up, make sound and smoke.

“It’s kind of like go­ing back to your child­hood, but you’re an adult now and you can ac­tu­ally make the toys work bet­ter,” he said. “Fun stuff.”

Artist Mar­ijo Swick of Lon­don was check­ing out her sec­ond steam punk fes­ti­val in prepa­ra­tion to be a par­tic­i­pant in the Great Cana­dian Steam Punk Fes­ti­val at Ft. Ge­orge in Ni­a­gara on the lake in a cou­ple of weeks.

“There’s some­thing about the fan­tasy and aes­thetic of it, some­thing about the char­ac­ter of it,” said Swick.


Artist Russell Zeid of Toronto was among the ven­dors who par­tic­i­pated in the sec­ond an­nual Fam­ily Steam Punk Fes­ti­val at the Nor­wich and Dis­trict Mu­seum on Satur­day, sell­ing some of the me­chan­i­cal de­vices, tools and sculp­tures he has made from re­pur­posed ma­te­ri­als.

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