Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Unexpectedly Becoming a Steampunk Group

Settle in, good folks, have a cup of tea and a sweet.  This will be lengthier than usual.
In the general scheme of things, I am relatively new to steampunk - discovered it several years ago, but was only able to become actively involved just over two years ago, due to a variety of conspiring circumstances.  I started costuming in March of 2009, and attended my my first local event (a craft meet!) in late April 2009.  I was an immediate keener and have become increasingly avid about it.  Imagine, then, my dismay, when local events trickled to a complete halt.  Another group started up, holding sporadic events, but they seemed largely private, and included a High Tea or two (a lovely steampunk idea, but not for me, alas, as I dislike tea and I'm celiac - can't eat anything with wheat - so there's not a lot of reason for me to pay for a high tea).  I attended one or two events, however, when I could, but even those events trickled off.  However, I had the impression there were still folks wanting more.  And personally, I was frantic to have another craft meet-up, like my first ever event. 

And I was brought up under the concept that, if someone else isn't doing something you want, you do it yourself.

So, despite my hesitation to get that actively involved (I've been involved in various fandom groups over the years, and learned the lessons of small politicking etcetera that has made me gun-shy every since), I realized, I had only two options.  Hold the kind of event I wanted, or do without.  

So, I organized my first event ever.  With the help of a local shop who offered us their workroom (thank you Plush!), I organized a Steampunk Craft Meet in July this year ... approximately 14 months after the one that was my introduction to the steampunk events.  I posted it online, on the two local Facebook groups (one of which hadn't been active in several months, but still had members) in the hopes folks would attend.

I was hooked, and it seemed a success (those who came had a blast), so I scheduled another one to occur about 2 months later, and used photos of the stuff made at the meet as my event image.
Due to a local community split and polarity, I also decided to create a Facebook group, with the mind that it would be a bridge between the personal divides in the small community, and function as an old-school bulletin board, on which upcoming events that would appeal to anyone interested in steampunk could be posted (like Vancouver's Mini Maker Fair).  Hence Vancouverites for Steampunk was born on Facebook, an open group seeking to create a courteous and non-partisan atmosphere, in which people could communicate, discuss things, and promote, create, and encourage local steampunk activities.

I asked people on the funct and defunct local sites (I know, "funct" isn't a word - but it should be), including mine, what they wanted to see, and I got a lot of responses.  Having a book club was a big one, and some discussion happened online.  A couple of months passed, and nothing happened.  I saw the writing on the wall, and realized, if I didn't just pick a date and organize it, it wasn't going to happen.  So I did, contacting the main person whose idea it was, and choosing the book via an online poll, and picking a coffee house with a private room as location.  And voila, the Vancouver Steam Librarium & Consortium was created.
And so I find myself running a craft meet that occurs every 2 months (we've now had 3, and the next one coming up in January), and a book club that seems to go about every 6 to 8 weeks (3rd Consortium in January).  There is still periodic murmuring online about having regular casual get-togethers.  Murmurs that I've heard for months, with no one just saying, "Hey, how about next Wednesday at such-and-such."  So I figure, why not.  Just pick a date, book the room in that handy central coffee house.  So I do.  And the Coffee Klatches are happening now once per month, with our third one set for January.  
And then it occurs to me, around the end of October ... hold on ... I seem to be running a steampunk group.  In fact, I seem to be running the only one holding local activities.  And I seem to be the one organizing the activities.  

Isn't this what I wasn't wanting to do?  I just wanted to see stuff happening.  Not to run it all.  Um.  Oops.

And then comes an opportunity and invitation for the local steampunks to have a table at a local fantasy-oriented craft fair.  So I figure, why not.  It occurred to me, about a week after I made that decision, that this was going to involve far more than just showing up in costume with a smile.  I need ... promotional literature, like a pamphlet.  And a table display.  And a table cloth.  And people with me.  Yeep!  Fortunately, with the excellent assistance of a couple of very good friends in the steampunk community, and with suggestions from a steampunker with experience doing craft fairs (and hence on displaying things), we made it happen.  I lost about a month of my life, as I created and wrote a pamphlet and had various good folks review it for me, made a display from one of those school-science-project boards, and turned a thrift find into a literature display.  An excellent local steampunk and costumer made an awesome fitted table cloth and lent me a skirt for a costumed dress model.  Two friends did two awesome bits of Photoshop work at my request, for the group.  (More on the logistics and creation of the display in a separate post).  Two excellent individuals also dedicated their weekend to join me in working the table.
And so, the conclusion of this lengthy post ... is that having vowed otherwise, and originally planning only to provide a bulletin board, and the craft meets I wished to participate in, I seem to have proven that one can accidentally find oneself running a group and organizing the local events!   I am having fun being a local steampunk ambassador, talking to all and sundry who shows the smallest bit of interest, and I'm enjoying seeing new people show up to the various events, and come back!  The active pool of people is still very small, but it is growing, and I confess to hoping that after our weekend at the fair, we will continue to grow.  I am less happy that this has all personally cost me money (the table was free, but printing colour pamphlets was not, nor was making the display), and that this has absorbed so much of my time (both resources would normally have been all mine, and gone toward my own personal costuming and entertainments).  However, I do hope to recoup some costs, over time, if not the time (unless someone manages time travel).  And I have hopes that I can encourage others to host events, and run some things.

So beware ... in the course of pursuing your own fun and entertainment, you may find yourself, without warning, doing exactly what you had previously decided not to do. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm part of a local steampunk group that was organized by other people, however I frequently find myself planning events for the group so I know how you feel. If no one else steps up, someone has to, right?