Æther Feature — Steampunk & Glamping

These features as a way for the Ministry to highlight artists, musicians, and makers of all variety. 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 by Cara Schulz for May 9th, 2013, is now submitted for your pleasure:

Steampunk & Glamping Intersect to Revive the Grand Tour

From the 1700’s until the early 1900’s Brits engaged in what was known as the Grand Tour.  Wealthy men, and sometimes families, traveled across France and Italy in search of art, culture and to soak in the roots of Western civilization.   In the mid-1800’s the more adventurous traveled the lengths of Britain’s empire, enjoying trips down the Nile, safaris in Africa, and High Tea in India.  With nearly unlimited funds, and the time to match, they traveled in style and comfort.  Servants lugged their massive four foot high steamer trunks across desserts, through jungles, and onto pleasure boats.  They dressed for dinner and ate off real china and drank out of crystal glasses while camping at the foot of the pyramids.


Photo Credit: Martin and Osa Johnson, Eastman Kodak Museum

In the present many are recreating the style and the feel of the Grand Tour, if not the exotic locales, without realizing it. It is the middle class who are taking camping trips with real china and fine linens.  The extended economic downturn across the West encouraged them to look for more inexpensive vacations and as a result, camping has increased each year for the past eight years.  With the influx of non-traditional campers comes a new attitude.  They aren’t interested in roughing it, they want luxury. The Travel Channel named glamping, or glamorous camping, one of the Five Hottest Trends in Girl Getaways in 2012.

Glamping often looks like Steampunk camping.  The style strives to resemble Victorian Brits with their well-made, durable, wood-and-brass travel furniture but often falls flat because modern camping gear is cheaply made, ugly, and falls apart.  As a bonus it’s uncomfortable.  Regular furniture isn’t very portable or weather-proof.  As someone who loves both Steampunk and camping this was a source of frustration.  One I hope to rectify with a Kickstarter for a book and line of quality camp gear with a decided neo-Victorian vibe.


Photo caption: One example of how modern glamping looks like Steampunk camping.  From the book Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping.

Over the past decade I’ve found what works and all too often, what doesn’t.  I’ve learned what the Victorian Brits knew, style, comfort, and function are equally important.  Pouring over photos, drawings, and books about the Grand Tours has reinforced the maxim that good design is good design.  Which is what Steampunk is all about.  Timeless design with a hint of whimsy instead of pretentiousness.


Photo caption:  Solid walnut and brass portable bar available on Kickstarter.

I’ve brought everything I’ve learned in the past decade together in a new book and a new line of camping gear so I can share it with others.  Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping is full of tips, ideas, tutorials and products that help make camping comfortable, stylish, and enjoyable.  The line of camping gear recreates the historical furniture and accessories used by the Brits in the mid-1800’s while on Grand Tour.  It’s handcrafted, beautiful, and durable enough you’ll  be able to hand it down to your children. The very first piece, a portable bar, is available as a reward for backing my Kickstarter to fund both the book and the launch of the camping gear line.  I’ll be taking the bar to DragonCon and to a few other Steampunk gatherings this summer as it isn’t just for camping.  When it’s not on the road, it has pride of place in my living room.  If the Kickstarter is successful we’ll be recreating other pieces like steamer trunks, portable vanities, and chairs.

Since I’m showing off the bar, as the perfect piece to demonstrate the intersection of Steampunk and Glamping, I’ll leave you with a cocktail recipe from the early 1900’s.  It’s a French cocktail called Aviation.  It’s worth it to find the Crème de Violette.


Photo credit:  The Barman

1 part gin

½ part lemon juice

â…“ part Maraschino

⅙ part Crème de Violette

Shake well with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass.


caraCara Schulz

Cara is currently the Managing Editor for PNC-News, a not-for-profit news organization serving the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities.

She’s served as Communications Director, Vice President, and President of the International Events Society (ISES) Minneapolis/St Paul. Sales Director for Exhibitor Magazine.

She’s married, has an adult son, and no tattoos.

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