Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My International Steampunk City demo

Photo courtesy of Susan Paykin
At ISC, for the first time EVER, I made a pendant from start to finish as a demo for all passersby to watch. I cheated a tiny bit by drilling one hole in the middle of the copper at home, but otherwise, I did all the sawing, filing, texturing, and oxidizing right there on the Waltham common. I sat in a folding chair and used a short four-legged stool as my work surface, with a bench pin clamped to its edge and my adorable little anvil on top of it.

I was really worried that it would rain again on Sunday, but the weather luckily cooperated throughout the demo. It was a little windy, but no rain, thank goodness!

I had a bunch of opportunities to talk to a wide variety of people--some of them steampunk fans (in costume or in regular clothes), some slightly-confused Waltham residents, some curious folks from all around the Boston area who stopped by to check out the spectacle. I realized that I wasn't going to show a fixed group of people the entire process of making a pendant, but would be giving them snippets of progress on the project throughout the afternoon as they wandered the common, taking in the sights (including a blacksmith's shop, high-wheeled bicycles, and a parade!).

Photo courtesy of
Dan Kissam
My spiel was something like this: "Hi! I'm a steampunk jewelry artist, and I'm giving a demo in this lovely weather. Here's an example of a finished pendant I've made. Here's how this one's coming along. The pendant I'm making this afternoon is going to have this Waltham Watch Company watch movement as its focal!" (This spiel would, of course, be modified if I realized that the other person had no idea that there was a festival that weekend, or even what "steampunk" was supposed to mean.) Then I'd talk about the step I was working on, and point out how the finished example was constructed.

Some observations for the next time I give a demo:
  • The project will take at least 3 times as long as it normally would if I were working alone in my studio, what with all the pausing for conversation and the somewhat unfamiliar workbench setup.
  • Sunscreen next time I do this outdoors!
  • More business cards on a stand of their own (so people don't need to stoop to take them)
  • This time, doing a demo on the common (away from my table in the Watch Factory) was the right call, but anytime my table is less distant from the main hustle and bustle, it'd be better to set up shop closer to my table with finished jewelry for people to look at.
  • Don't accidentally set up shop along the path of the ENSMB-led parade!
  • The purple parasol was a great conversation-starter, even though I'm not a parasol-maker. People were pretty amused by my story of bartering jewelry for it at Strowlercon.
  • Take a photo of the finished product! I sold the pendant immediately after I finished it, and I really wish I'd thought to snap a photo. But it was another piece in the same mode as these guys, which I'll be listing on Etsy as soon as I can get my act together.
After I finished the pendant, I packed everything up into my little shopping cart and walked back to the Watch Factory. I remember feeling an immense joy and gratitude. Joy from the lovely weather, the connections I made with interesting people, and the thrill that always accompanies making things with my hands. Gratitude towards so many people who helped me vend at the convention in big and small ways: Susannah, for putting up with my crazy whirlwind of preparation, being there with me every step of the way for the weekend, and watching the table while I was at the demo; Alex, for driving me and my stuff there; C for playing her fiddle on Saturday afternoon; Jer, for carrying my folding chair from the demo to the Watch Factory; Susannah's parents for driving us home. I really felt like, in spite of the stress and the hard work, that undercurrent of purple-tinted enthusiasm was still with me after all. Such a marvelous feeling!


Now if only I can recover from this cold quickly and build on this momentum!

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