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?
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?
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.