Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Oamaru Steampunk Festival - May/June 2014

The Experience from the Point of View of a Novice Steampunker

I am taking the time to write this account of our first-time venture to this festival in hopes that it not only encourages others to participate in the future, but that the tremendous potential for this festival be realized and the event improved upon. It would not take much to make the experience truly wonderful. I hope my comments can be seen in a constructive light, which is what I intend by them.
I wonder whether some of the old hands at Steampunk in Oamaru might have forgotten what it feels like to be new to the genre and the event.
My sister and I constructed our outfits and accessories by hard work and imagination with our sewing machines and art equipment, for months leading up to the event. We live in Auckland, and have no contact with other Steampunkers in the same city, but know a number who are interested, have already started on costumes, and are eager to hear how it went for us.
In case you wonder, yes, it does cost a lot in time and in money, by the time you build a costume and travel from Auckland to Oamaru. No matter how you look at it, you need to fly down and find a way to get to the big ‘O’. Then you pay for accommodation et al. After weeks of buildup, we were both greatly enjoying the prospect of showing off our efforts, and of finally seeing a part of the South Island we had never been to before. (It takes a bit of courage to fill your suitcase with corsets and top hats, and full length Victorian garb with the expectation you will be parading around in it among strangers as well.)
We wanted to be well-prepared, and so we got online and looked for all we could about the Oamaru Festival. There’s a Facebook page, which does not have any programme, but does talk about the weekend, and have various hints and pics of what might be on offer. Eventually I found the tickets on Eventfinder website, but they were pretty basic outlines of what the tickets were for. We bought tickets to the ‘Mess Dinner’ and separate tickets to the programme that followed. Then tickets to the ‘Steamtrain ride’ the next day, and then tickets to the Fashion Show that afternoon.
Arriving late afternoon in Oamaru, we found our motel and were told the SP venue was only a 7 min walk away. It was about eight blocks before we reached the end of the main street and saw the Festival lights to the left down the T-section. From then on we took the car. Having not worn our costumes because we thought we’d check things out first, we didn’t go all the way back to change but thoroughly enjoyed the milling crowds in the Light and Steam extravaganza that filled the Victorian block on Friday night. (We had eaten on the main road, thinking the festival hadn’t started, because there was no map I had to indicate the precinct, and we had to go by what we saw).  
What a huge success this event was. I only wish it was held on Sunday night. Many out-of-towners went to bed out of exhaustion a bit earlier in the evening, and missed the fireworks. Still, it was well worth it. HIGHLIGHTS: wandering Donna Demente's studio at night - so surreal. Loved that studio and all the artist's work in it. Enjoyed a delicious fudge from the shop on the street. Got up close to a working steam engine. Met a trio from Whangarei who were down for the event in full costume.

Saturday morning we went in full regalia down to breakfast, and enjoyed wearing our costumes, and seeing the Steampunk HQ. I particularly enjoyed the fact that a small group of children were startled to find I was not one of the macabre displays in the darkened room downstairs. I was asked by two separate parties where the events were and what the programme was, but was unable to enlighten them much.
That evening we headed off to the ‘Annual Mess Dinner’ in full expectation of a good, if plain, meal, and some evening interaction and entertainment. When we googled the map of where the event was, it was disappointingly at a rather ordinary tavern outside the older parts of town. A group of we outsiders gathered by the side door, unable to ascertain where we were meant to be. The tables and crockery were still being set up inside, and it was after 6pm. So after a while and some chatting we ten or so walked inside and were told to wait in the hall, as they weren’t finished. Someone walked further into the building and around a corner and found the locals and older hands at this all congregated in the main bar area, where they had known to gather. How I wish there had been a programme with a map, or at least someone to welcome us and show us where to wait in company.
When we did get ushered in to dinner, we found a table and sat down, and it was pleasant to see so many in costume and meet the ones at our table. 

I do wish there had been a simple ‘show and tell’ for everyone at this point. It may be old hat for some of the ones who have done this for years, but for everyone else who have gone to some trouble to get here in costume, a chance to stroll in front of people, have a short intro, and then sit down again, would have been a much better use of the earlier time.
When dinner came, it was a watery vegetable soup and bread followed by berry/apple crumble. Sorry – that is not my expectation of a mess dinner. Nor that of people around me at the table. Can I suggest we ditch the dinner altogether, and eat beforehand and then come at 7pm for the whole evening show?
Great costumes, wildly enthusiastic fans, make for an easy and engaging gathering. I loved the teapot racing, but had no idea it was even a possibility until we got there. Would have made one ourselves and entered it, had we known. And if there were a lot of entries, perhaps a race to eliminate the majority leaving the best to negotiate the obstacle course?
Te Radar was an excellent host, and held the evening together well.
Sunday morning, we dressed again in our steampunk gear and headed down for an early start at the Steamtrain ride we had paid for. We had a tight schedule planned for the day, and so wanted to get away by 10am. By 10:30, a group of keen fans were all waiting on the station, (which we had to find by GPS), and no train. News arrived by someone who went to find out that the engineers didn’t even know they should be there. Too late to fire up the steam train, the driver was going to have his cup of tea and come later. By the time the diesel engine was hauling the little red carriage up to the station, the majority of the earlier crowd who like us, had a schedule, had gone. We left at 10:45, because we had too much else to try and do. 
(Pic: Waiting for the train)
Coming back from Moeraki at 3pm, (I read my ticket wrongly), I saw we had missed the Fashion Show by one hour. I was disappointed to see it was at the same tavern as the previous night’s event. We had learned that to be in the Fashion Show, it would cost an additional $40 each, and we needed a story to back up our costumes, so we had declined. I’m sure it was a fun event, but at that point, tiredness won out and we did not make it.
All accounts of the Festival have been superlative as written up in the local papers. It has everything going for it – a steady and growing base of enthusiastic fans, a wonderful setting in the Victorian district of Oamaru, friendly and supportive townsfolk. If these factors could be married with some tight organization, and a good well-publicised programme, it would be worthy of the adjective ‘superlative’.
I hope the overall tone of my account has not been too negative. MY hope is that someone in the administration of the festival cares enough about my experience and the comments others made to me while there, that they build upon these criticisms to make next year’s even better. It wouldn’t take much. 
Meanwhile I have a good group of friends and associates who are very interested in how it went down there, and I in turn, am very interested to see if my own concerns will be addressed before I return or encourage them to.

_________________UPDATE to the above post_________________________
I heard from a lady involved in the organisation of Oamaru Steampunk Festival. She thanked me for my comments and has responded to all of the concerns I mentioned in the article above. I am very happy that she did so, and feel satisfied that the festival will continue to improve as the years go by. Looking forward to Aethercon in Auckland at the end of July. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cushioning the outdoors

Not a lot has been happening in the sewing line for some months. However yesterday I did stop to recover some outdoor cushions that were silk and in tatters. These took about 3/4 hour and have tabs to tie them to the chairs. A nice quick makeover.
Roll on the summer barbecues.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Winter woollie tunic

 A nice simple design - straight tunic in lovely woollie fabric, and a cut off cuff to serve as a panel to give it shape in the front.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Flour Sack Quilt cover

Couldn't bear the clash between my bought quilt cover and the rest of the bedroom so I went onto Amazon and bought a pile of flour sack tea towels. Once they arrived, I just sewed them up with satin ribbon between and pulled my quilt inner inside. Perfectisimo. Just what a wanted, a lot cheaper than buying the alternative I liked online, and there's the satisfaction of having made it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A bit of tinkering with broken jewellery

 Recently put together these three necklaces out of left over bits and pieces and broken costume jewellery. Some of it my Grandmother's venetian beads, and crystals, some of it just sentimental items.
 Wore the Scottish one (above and below) to work and enjoyed the lavishness of it!
 You just get a nylon cord and tie it with a button and a loop at the length you want. Then some fine copper wire to thread the beads etc on, and regularly ensure they are attached to the cord. Viola!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Something NEW after a long drought

I have a light summer top I love, that was so simple in design, I just bought a pile of light fabric, dropped the tunic I liked over the top and cut out. Very happy with the resulting three garments.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Needed a couple of watch bands, and thought I should just try deconstructing them. Yay. It sort of worked. This is the black watch.

and this is the brown watch.