Story of the Jewel: A Jema Hewitt Special

Jema “Miss Emi­ly Lady­bird” Hewitt

Jema Hewitt is a woman of many tal­ents.  With­in the Steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty, she is known as Miss Emil­ly Lady­bird, an adven­turess who mines the world for beau­ti­ful and exot­ic diadems and poly­mer baubles to make beau­ti­ful Steam­punk “devices” sold and dis­played at Dick­ens and Riv­ett.  She is also an accom­plished cos­tume design­er, whose wed­ding designs, as well as her Steam­punk fash­ions, are to die for and there­fore in high demand — seri­ous­ly, check out her Absinthe Fairy dress (com­plete with wings!).  Ms. Hewitt’s design exper­tise is in demand all over Eng­land, and she has lec­tured at sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ties through her Not­ting­ham based Kin­dred Spir­its work­shop.

Last, but not least,  of Ms. Hewitt’s accom­plish­ments is that of authoress.  Com­bined with her jew­el­ry mak­ing, and her pho­to­graph­ic eye for com­po­si­tion, she has just released Steam­punk Empo­ri­um:  Cre­at­ing  Fan­tas­ti­cal Jew­el­ry, Devices and Odd­ments from Assort­ed Cogs, Gears, and Curios (North Light Books).  Jema was work­ing on her book at the same time Jeff and S. J. were, and she very gen­er­ous­ly shared some of her pho­to­graph­ic por­traits of her jew­el­ry with them.  If you like what you see, there is more to be found, as well as easy-to-fol­low instruc­tions on how to make pieces of your own in Jema’s book.

In this first sec­tion of Jema Hewitt’s raw inter­view, she dis­cuss­es her orig­i­nal thoughts on Steam­punk and her role with­in it.  Part II will fea­ture more dis­cus­sion on her jew­el­ry mak­ing.  So, with­out fur­ther ado, Miss Lady­bird.

Phan­tas­magor­i­cal­i­bra­tion devices designed by Jema Hewitt as Miss Lady­bird.

The Steam­punk Bible:  What is your per­son­al def­i­n­i­tion of Steam­punk?

Jema Hewitt:  For me, Steam­punk is about Vic­to­ri­an Sci­ence Fic­tion. It is an imag­ined fan­tas­ti­cal his­to­ry that can be applied to lit­er­a­ture, cloth­ing, objects and to an extent, music. The Steam part obvi­ous­ly refers back to the Vic­to­ri­an age of steam – huge machines, new break­throughs in engi­neer­ing, intri­cate beau­ti­ful detail­ing and a sense of epic adven­ture in sci­ence and explo­ration. The Punk part is about doing your own thing, cre­at­ing and recy­cling. Not tak­ing estab­lished ideas too seri­ous­ly and hav­ing fun.

SPB:   How long have you been involved/interested in Steam­punk?

JH:  Even before it had a genre name! I loved the real Vic­to­ri­an fan­ta­sy and sci-fi lit­er­a­ture when I was a child, like Jules Verne or Gas­ton le Roux and my favourite children’s authors were those such as Joan Aiken and CS Lewis who mixed fan­tas­ti­cal ele­ments with real his­to­ry. I remem­ber read­ing “The Dif­fer­ence Engine” when it came out and enjoy­ing it – I’d been a huge fan of Gibson’s cyber­punk fic­tion too.

I stud­ied the­atri­cal design at Uni­ver­si­ty, so I’d been mak­ing corsets and dress­ing in Vic­to­ri­an cos­tume as part of the Goth scene since around 199293. I sup­pose neo-Vic­to­ri­an­ism took over my life in 1997 when I start­ed run­ning “The Com­pa­ny of Crim­son”. This was a role play cam­paign writ­ten and run pri­mar­i­ly by myself for a group of friends. We devised Vic­to­ri­an char­ac­ters for our­selves, went out to the the­atre in Vic­to­ri­an cos­tume, held ghost watch­es in cas­tles and gen­er­al­ly enjoyed our­selves, while solv­ing ever more extra­or­di­nary sci­ence and super­nat­ur­al based plots. We didn’t call our­selves Steam­punk at the time, as it wasn’t a term bandied about with the same free­dom as now. But that’s def­i­nite­ly where we were head­ing!

SPB:   What dif­fer­ences do you see between now and when you start­ed?

JH:  Oh there are huge dif­fer­ences. It is now a gen­uine estab­lished genre! Men­tioned in “The Guardian” and every­thing! Back in 1997 we were just ran­dom nut­ters who dressed in Vic­to­ri­an cos­tume and made up crazy sto­ries. Now every art direc­tor worth their salt is going wild on steam­punk styling in film and fash­ion shoots, and there are actu­al stores that sell “steam­punk cloth­ing and jew­ellery”. Corset man­u­fac­tur­ers are ten a pen­ny and the world sup­ply of cogs has prac­ti­cal­ly dried up…

Social media and the inter­net has had a big part to play in this rapid expan­sion of inter­est I think – forums and face book groups put like­mind­ed peo­ple in touch, you can self pub­lish short sto­ries on-line and the inter­net has allowed peo­ple to have access to niche man­u­fac­tur­ers and sec­ond hand sup­pli­ers in oth­er coun­tries, thus eas­i­ly pur­chas­ing unusu­al goods on-line.

Necrom­e­ters, vampyric detec­tion devices designed by Miss Lady­bird.

SPB:  Who and what with­in Steam­punk influ­ences your work?

JH:  Most of my influ­ences come straight from the orig­i­nal Vic­to­ri­ans. I am a huge fan of Art Nou­veau, the ele­gance of form and the com­bin­ing of the unusu­al with the beau­ti­ful. I con­stant­ly refer back to artists such as Lalique, Alphonse Mucha and John R Neill (who illus­trat­ed the orig­i­nal Oz books).

I real­ly enjoy the work of graph­ic nov­el­ists Bri­an Tal­bot and Alan Moore, but I’m not sure how much my work is actu­al­ly influ­enced by them. I also love Colleen Atwoods cos­tume designs – I think her work with Tim Bur­ton has had a lot of influ­ence on the pop­u­lar image of “Steam­punk Style”.  Philip Reeves “Lark­light” books are def­i­nite­ly as close to my per­son­al vision of Steam­punk as any mod­ern author has come.

I have many friends from my col­lege days too who have been work­ing for  years as artists and sculp­tors, qui­et­ly cre­at­ing their own mad Steam­punk things! Dok­tor A’s Mech­to­ri­ans are just amaz­ing, as are Herr Dok­tors incred­i­ble off world inven­tions. Chat­ting to them influ­ences me, def­i­nite­ly.

“Story of the Jewel: A Jema Hewitt Special” was published in Art, Fashion, Interviews, Photography and tagged , , , , , .

One Response to Story of the Jewel: A Jema Hewitt Special

  1. Pingback: Story of the Jewel: Jema Hewitt Special, Part II | The Steampunk Bible