Every Thursday, the Archives will feature artists, musicians, and makers of all variety, entered for your approval here in the Archives. With so many talented individuals to choose from, we know it is a challenge to feature every clever creative worthy of note, but perhaps we might endeavour to introduce to you a new name in our community of steam and cog, or perhaps remind you of one artisan’s successful efforts to bring the past that never was to the here and now.
This week’s Æther Feature is from John LeVan of Deadlance Steamworks for December 27th, 2012, submitted for your pleasure:
I’ve always been a nerd. From comic books to video games, I’m a nerd through and through. Growing up, I drew. I drew comic book characters of my own creation, imitated other artists, illustrated characters I played in Dungeons and Dragons, and other such nerdities. I’ve always had the push and motivation to be as detail oriented as I could, and that resulted in lots of drawings and illustrations that took forever to complete. I suppose with a little A.D.D. and impatience, the drawing dwindled when I found a photography. I spent about twelve years studying photography and learning what I could. I figured I would take pictures because they were faster than drawing and with some editing, I could end up with the same superheros and situations. I also work by day job as a web designer and graphic designer. Doing something as a day job takes a lot of the fun out of it though, so I refuse to do that stuff as a hobby.
Some time later that year, just before Halloween, a friend asked me if I would help make her a costume. She wanted to be a fairy. I began doing research on different ideas and methods of making props and stuff. I came across the idea of steampunk during that research. I quickly fell in love with the uniqueness of steampunk and the way that it fits every single person in a way that is also unique to that person. I absolutely love that no matter who you are, what you are into, what facets of life you enjoy, that there is a facet of steampunk that will fit you perfectly. Steampunk isn’t a subculture. It’s merely an alternate way to look at existence and be creative with the way we interact with it. So, I convinced her to go with being a Steampunk Fairy rather than just a bland ole’ fairy. She agreed.
With the fairy project, I started watching YouTube and researching online how to sew. A week later I produced my first corset, made of brown vinyl. Several days later, I produced a pair of interlocking gear wings with a wind up key, designed to be worn as a backpack, and cut from foam board – with the cutting assistance of two other people. I did research on how to dismantle a Nerf Maverick and a friend and myself painted a couple.
The piece I am the most proud of is Anna’s Corset. The reason is because it’s my first heavy leather corset, extremely detailed, and in the end, Anna was more ecstatic about it than any individual I have ever met. During a fitting, she put the corset on, long before the finished product, and wore it around for something like three hours and absolutely didn’t want to take it off. I felt better about my work during those three hours than I have ever felt about anything in my entire life. There were so many challenges involved in making that corset… Oh man. I created the pattern for it all by myself. No store bought pattern was used. I had no reference images, and no initial idea of what I was even doing. I didn’t even have a lot of the tools necessary to complete the project. I didn’t have a dressmaker form or anything, so each piece had to be assembled on her body as I went along. Remembering measurements and things was always an ongoing struggle. Every single piece of that corset was drawn straight out of the blankness in my head. There was honestly never a time when I knew exactly where I wanted to go with it.
My most recent project is the Aether Injector. It consisted of well over one hundred hours worth of work time. Most of the gauntlets I create only require around forty hours of work. This particular project required me to learn to solder and to learn how to power LED’s properly. There are twenty-four super bright blue LED’s, each requiring 3.5 volts of power. Every LED has it’s own resistor. The LED’s are powered by three D cell batteries, stored inside a hip pack, and the power cord is run through the casing of parachute cord in order to look like the old cloth wrapped electric cable. All of the blue fluid is dawn dish soap, not fiber optics or EL wire. Each tube was hand filled in a tedious manner with a turkey injector – one of the huge syringe’s that you can get from Wal-Mart. Originally, the reservoir was an antique glass flask, but soon I discovered that it leaked, so I went with a more modern option and just bought a bottle of cheap rum, which was quickly dispatched and the bottle was used to replace the leaky antique.
The piece was inspired by characters like Bane, from the Batman comics, who have some sort of chemical injection to boost their strength or power. I thought it was a neat idea and have been wanting to light something up for a while, so I thought, what the heck, and went with it. Another huge inspiration was Tom Banwell’s Tauruscat helmet. http://tombanwell.blogspot.com/2011/07/tauruscat-final-photos.html – I really liked the idea of the tubes and hoses and the way they looked.
My work is displayed on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/deadlanceSteamworks – which is where I also accept any commissions and custom work. I also have an Etsy store – http://www.etsy.com/shop/deadlance – Where I sell a few things when they are completed. I prefer custom work over any other because each piece is a unique challenge, and I thrive on challenges.
John LeVan is a leatherworker and maker from Oklahoma City, OK. He can be found online at http://www.deadlance.com/