We Love Steampunk for the People : An Exclusive Interview with Airship Archon’s Captain Anthony LaGrange and First Lieutenant Salena van Eycke

Cap­tain Antho­ny LaGrange and First Lieu­tenant Sale­na van Eycke (Sal­ly for short) are crew mem­bers of the immense­ly active and dap­per Air­ship Archon, a Steam­punk group based out of Colum­bus, Ohio found­ed by LaGrange in 2008.  The crew trav­els all over the coun­try pro­mot­ing the imag­i­na­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties of Steam­punk with their unique fash­ions and cel­e­brat­ed events (orga­nized by Miss van Eycke).  Read­ers of The Steam­punk Bible may rec­og­nize LaGrange from two images with­in the Fash­ion chap­ter, dap­per and icon­ic in his sig­na­ture corset.  Fun­ny sto­ry about these images, a bit of mis-infor­ma­tion led us to cred­it LaGrange incor­rect­ly.  Van Eycke imme­di­ate­ly con­tact­ed us about the error (now cor­rect­ed in the recent edi­tions), and from there a con­ver­sa­tion was struck up with S. J., about why the couple/shipmates love Steam­punk.

The Steam­punk Bible:  How long have you been active in Steam­punk?

Cap­tain Antho­ny LaGrange:  I have been active in the com­mu­ni­ty for about four years now.

Sale­na van Eycke:  For me, this all start­ed with Dragon*Con 2009 (held Labor Day week­end in Sep­tem­ber in Atlanta, GA). Walk­ing in the parade with oth­er Steam­punks wear­ing what I wore to my high school prom was what made me real­ize that I now had a name for a style I loved for years. I had dab­bled in Steam­punk before that not know­ing what it was called. I did attend Goth­com­ing in Colum­bus, OH with my friends but at that time I still wasn’t sure I want­ed to get on this band­wag­on called “Steam­punk.” It took see­ing hun­dreds of oth­ers at a con­ven­tion to change my mind.

SPB:  What orig­i­nal­ly drew you to Steam­punk, and what keeps you inter­est­ed?

ALG:  Every year in here in Colum­bus, Ohio we have an event called Goth­com­ing. That year’s theme was Steam­punk and I had no idea of what it was at first because no one could real­ly explain what it was. The first time I real­ly saw what Steam­punk was was at Dragon*Con. I saw Out­land Armor and Pen­ny Dread­ful Pro­duc­tions walk­ing around in their amaz­ing Steam­punk gear. Then I saw Abney Park’s cloth­ing, instru­ments and aes­thet­ic and instant­ly fell in love with the sub­cul­ture and knew I want­ed to be a part of it.

SvE:  The cos­tumes orig­i­nal­ly drew me to Steam­punk. I had spent hun­dreds of dol­lars mak­ing the per­fect­ly awe­some Goth wardrobe and need­ed a new out­let when our local Goth bar, Out­land, start­ed to have less and less Goth nights. You can’t exact­ly wear Goth club garb on the streets with­out get­ting some­thing thrown at you. But when you wear Steam­punk on the street, peo­ple are polite, inter­est­ed and aren’t afraid of you. You also aren’t expos­ing any skin real­ly which makes peo­ple think you were just attend­ing a wed­ding or a funer­al. What keeps me in this move­ment is the amaz­ing peo­ple I have met. Peo­ple are exceed­ing­ly friend­ly and I have a huge group of friends with­in the Steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty. Now I have friends to dress up, go out with and have a good time!

SPB: Sal­ly, you men­tion com­ing out of Goth and into Steam­punk. What are your thoughts about the notion that Steam­punk is Goth in Brown cloth­ing?  Are there sim­i­lar­i­ties, or are the two sub­cul­tures incom­pa­ra­ble?

First Lieu­tenant Sale­na van Eycke of Air­ship Archon. Pho­to: Rob Manko

SvE:  I don’t agree that Steam­punk is just Goth in Brown cloth­ing. There are a lot of peo­ple who came from the Goth sub­cul­ture but assured­ly not all Steam­punks are Goth. The rea­son many Goths were drawn to Steam­punk is because there is the abil­i­ty to show your per­son­al style with­out get­ting dirty looks on the street. The Steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty in gen­er­al is more acces­si­ble than the Goth com­mu­ni­ty. Steam­punk seems to be just a lit­tle high­er class and more edu­cat­ed than Goth. There are a lot of peo­ple with a re-enact­ment back­ground who want­ed to play dress up but not nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate. The same goes for seam­stress­es who want­ed to make clothes that were less his­tor­i­cal­ly tied down. There are many train/plane/automobile enthu­si­asts in Steam­punk now. There are peo­ple with his­to­ry back­grounds who want to pay homage to the era. These peo­ple are all inde­pen­dent from the Goth sub­cul­ture.

I think the rea­son peo­ple asso­ciate Goth with Steam­punk is because of the drea­ry mono-tonal cloth­ing and acces­sories (specif­i­cal­ly gog­gles). We as a group are try­ing to dis­tance from that image and active­ly talk to the Steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty about how it is safe to play with col­or and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism with your out­fits and char­ac­ters. Anoth­er rea­son might also be because of the pre-exist­ing sub cul­ture in Goth that appre­ci­at­ed Vic­to­ri­an aes­thet­ics over cyber, indus­tri­al, or fetish looks. I fall into that cat­e­go­ry, so many of my “Goth” clothes have seam­less­ly fit into my “Steam­punk” clothes. If you look at the Japan­ese Loli­ta fash­ion, the line between Goth and Steam­punk is even fur­ther blurred.

SPB:  What are your favorite aspects of Steam­punk move­ment [fash­ion, lit, music, LARP­ing, etc] and why?

ALG:  There are so many things that I love about the com­mu­ni­ty. I’ve real­ly got­ten into the lit­er­a­ture, with Cherie Priest quick­ly becom­ing one of my favorite authors. The fash­ion is amaz­ing; you will not find a bet­ter dressed sub­cul­ture out there. Steam­punk has changed my wardrobe dras­ti­cal­ly. I went from jeans, t-shirts and hood­ies to waist­coats, but­ton-ups and a fine col­lec­tion of hats. Out of every­thing, though, my favorite thing has to be the peo­ple. They are so polite and out­go­ing it’s amaz­ing, No mat­ter where you are, if you see anoth­er Steam­punk it’s per­fect­ly OK to walk up to them and chat them up about their out­fit or acces­sories. I have met some of the most won­der­ful peo­ple by being in the Steam­punk com­mu­ni­ty and trav­eled to so many places I may not have ever been before. Steam­punks are quite frankly some of the most gen­er­ous and polite lot one could ever meet. Sal­ly and I are con­stant­ly trav­el­ing and we have had a num­ber of peo­ple open up their homes to us although we may have only met them once or over the Inter­net. We, in exchange, have done the same, shar­ing a bond of trust and cama­raderie that is rarely seen these days.

SvE:  My favorite aspects of this move­ment are the lim­it­less amounts of cre­ativ­i­ty and encour­age­ment we get from each oth­er in every endeav­or we pur­sue. I have friends who write in the genre, friends who sew the out­fits, friends who are into leather mak­ing, paint­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, mak­ing and mod­i­fy­ing props. The var­i­ous forms of art in Steam­punk are amaz­ing and I love to see skilled artists suc­ceed in their craft. I love how the Steam­punk move­ment is some­what inter­twined with the Mak­er and Green move­ments. Peo­ple are encour­aged to cre­ate things on their own and cre­ate them using pre-exist­ing parts. Being raised as sort of a hip­pie artist, and my dad always encour­ag­ing me to do what­ev­er I want, the Steam­punk move­ment real­ly fits who I am.

SPB:  Tony, you are the founder of Air­ship Archon to which Sal­ly has been a long-term mem­ber. Would you two mind telling us a lit­tle about the air­ship and crew:  How long you all have been active; what you all do?

Cap­tain LaGrange, left cen­ter. Pho­to: Jesse Nobles

ALG:  We have been fly­ing the skies since 2008.  We first formed at the year’s Goth­com­ing and have been grow­ing ever since. The crew is an eclec­tic mix of peo­ple from all around Ohio:  We have seam­stress­es, crafters, builders, painters, writ­ers, leather work­ers and all sorts of trades and skills. Each per­son brings an indi­vid­ual fla­vor and per­son­al­i­ty to the ship mak­ing us a strong force to be reck­oned with. We even have a few sto­ries writ­ten about some of the crew by our very own author Sarah Hans, who has tak­en our per­sonas on excit­ing adven­tures. I can hon­est­ly say that none of [the] things the Archon had done would be pos­si­ble with­out such an amaz­ing crew of peo­ple. We do a lot of dif­fer­ent things when nor­mal life does not get in the way. We have meet-ups at var­i­ous places around Ohio; our last was a trip to the full-size repli­ca of the San­ta Maria that is docked in down­town Colum­bus. We hold “Build Days” which are usu­al­ly held at my house (which has been nick­named “The Cap­tains Quar­ters”) in which we all get togeth­er to eat food, watch movies and work on projects togeth­er. This gives us a chance to inter­min­gle our skills so that we have a large pool of infor­ma­tion avail­able to every­one. So if you can sew but need help paint­ing there is some­one who has that skill and can help you and vice ver­sa. We also invade the local Renais­sance faire, have pic­nics, and vis­it the oth­er Steam­punk groups around Ohio such as The League of Cincin­nati Steam­punks. The ship also fre­quents con­ven­tions quite a bit as well. We have gone as atten­dees, guests, staff and pan­elists to many of the cons we attend.

SvE:  My title for the ship is Ship Enter­tain­ment & First Lieu­tenant. In these roles, it is part of my main duty to orga­nize and plan events and out­ings. I share this role a lot with the Cap­tain and our Sec­ond Lieu­tenant (Melo­ra Dash­wood) but I am the go-to per­son for get­ting an event start­ed. I take feed­back from the rest of the group as to when/where is best for every­one. I know that some­times I can’t please every­one, but I try to be accom­mo­dat­ing. We have many types of events such as: pic­nics, movie-out­ings, muse­um vis­its, the­atre-out­ings and just plain meet & eat’s. Tony tends to be more of a leader in plan­ning build days than I am but on those days, I make sure food and drink are tak­en care of. Dur­ing a par­ty, I make sure peo­ple have enough food and drink.

I became a mem­ber of the Air­ship Archon unof­fi­cial­ly in late 2009/early 2010. There real­ly is no offi­cial ini­ti­a­tion and you get out of the group as much as you put into it. We have 100+ mem­bers if you include all of our Yahoo! Group, Face­book Group and Com­mu­ni­ty. Of those, there are a hand­ful of per­haps 30 active mem­bers. These are peo­ple who attend con­ven­tions and events we throw (like pho­to­shoot meet-ups, pic­nics, and build days) that are con­ve­nient for them. This isn’t a die-hard group typ­i­cal­ly. You go to what you can when you can. A lot of our mem­bers are a fair dis­tance apart, have chil­dren, pro­fes­sion­al lives, and finances to con­sid­er before they can attend some­thing Group-relat­ed. This isn’t a prob­lem for us since we’re pret­ty relaxed. We prob­a­bly have about 10 mem­bers who con­sis­tent­ly show up to the major­i­ty of Group Out­ings.

SPB:  Tony, you make your cos­tumes and hold build­ing nights at your house reg­u­lar­ly. Do you make oth­er things in addi­tion to cos­tumes? If so what are they? What’s your favorite piece? What, from Mak­ing and Cos­tum­ing, do you find fun and sat­is­fy­ing?

ALG:  I make all sorts of things beside cos­tumes. I make dif­fer­ent types of props and gad­gets to go along with my wardrobe. I dab­ble in leather work­ing and also do some elec­tri­cal work like mak­ing lanterns. My favorite piece would have to be my mug, it’s some­thing I made on a whim but has been a sta­ple in my out­fits ever since. The thing I find most sat­is­fy­ing about cos­tum­ing has to be the inter­ac­tion with oth­er peo­ple. Every­one works hard on their cos­tumes or out­fit and dis­plays it to the oth­er cos­tumers. There’s a sort of mutu­al respect between Steam­punks that you just don’t see that often.

SPB:  Pho­to­shoots are a big part of Steam­punk inter­ac­tion at con­ven­tions and meet-ups. For our read­ers who have nev­er been to a Steam­punk pho­to­shoot, would you mind explain­ing the appeal?  Is it just a way to show off cos­tumes, or some­thing more?

ALG:  It is all those things, as a social event it’s peo­ple dressed in their best tak­ing pic­tures of one anoth­er. It’s also a chance to see what oth­er peo­ple have come up with and talk to them about where they found items, how they made a cer­tain piece or how much time went into all of it. It cre­ates that com­mon bond that opens up the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions between peo­ple. I have meet peo­ple at pho­to­shoots three years ago that I still talk with to this day.

 

“We Love Steampunk for the People : An Exclusive Interview with Airship Archon’s Captain Anthony LaGrange and First Lieutenant Salena van Eycke” was published in 2.0 exclusive material, Fashion, Fun times, Groups, Interviews, Photography.

3 Responses to We Love Steampunk for the People : An Exclusive Interview with Airship Archon’s Captain Anthony LaGrange and First Lieutenant Salena van Eycke

  1. You guys made my day! Thanks!
    Also, the pho­to of me was tak­en by our amaz­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er friend Rob Manko (http://mankophoto.com/)

  2. Mecha Underwood says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Sal­ly! I’ve cred­it­ed Rob in the pho­to above. Thanks so much!

  3. Pingback: Culture Digest Feb. 14 2012 | The Melancholy Romantic