The following is an interview with Joshua Watts, co-owner of the Steampunk shoppe Clockwork Couture (with Donna Ricci-Watts) in Burbank, CA. In the interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Watts about his inspiration for the specialized clothing store, the multitude of events hosted in-house, and how those who may be new to Steampunk can get in on the fun!
This interview was conducted on March 19, 2013.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: For our readers who may be unaware, what is Steampunk and how did it originate?
Joshua Watts: I think different folks will have different, yet similar, answers to this question, depending on how they found their way into appreciating steampunkery. To us, steampunk is a design aesthetic that arose out of a subgenre of science fiction literature. It marries Victorian era sensibilities with the fantasy of a steam-powered, highly mechanized world that never was . . . but could have been. Out of these literary visions, makers, crafters, costumers, musicians, and artists of all stripes have brought their talents to express what this fictitious world looks like to them.
BD: Would you say that Steampunk is more of a hobby or a way of life for its fans?
JW: I see it as more of a hobby or style for most folks. There is a wide spectrum of creative expressions and activities for people to become involved with, and people seem to find like-minded folks to explore their creativity with. Some enjoy learning new craftsman skills and making gadgets and elaborate costumes. Others simply enjoy dressing within the aesthetic and socializing with others at various events. I don’t know anyone who pursues steampunk as a way of life, but I’ve seen some photos of some pretty amazing examples of steampunk home décor.
BD: As the co-owner of Clockwork Couture, a Steampunk Clothing Shoppe, what inspired you to open the store and how long has it been in business?
JW: Clockwork Couture was started in 2008. Donna had run an alternative model management company for a number of years and was looking for the next means to express her vision of beauty and fashion. She had a deep appreciation for the Victorian design aesthetic coupled with a desire to see fashion that says something about empowered, adventuresome women that didn’t just emulate domineering masculine images of women (less latex and leather and more lady). She started Clockwork Couture out of our garage with $500 and quickly expanded into a small, by appointment only, boutique. In 2012, we moved into our first real, full-fledged store front in Burbank, CA.
BD: What kinds of Steampunk products do you sell, and do you have clothing for individuals of all ages?
JW: We have so many items, it is hard to cover the selection! For ladies, we have you covered from the faux-leather boots on your feet, to the lacey under-things (stockings, camisoles, bloomers, petticoats, etc.), to a variety of skirts, bodices, custom corsets, blouses, jackets, and ensembles, that we top it off with a hand-made, french room style hat from our in-store hatmaker. And, a dash of jewelry to make you sparkle. For men, we have a selection of reproduction slacks, vests, shirts, and jackets, as well as custom men’s hats. We have a variety of mechanical and battery-powered pocket watches, parasols and canes, goggles and bags, and other unique accessories. Once you are dressed, we can help decorate your home with fine art prints of artists, like Brian Kesinger, or with steampunk-inspired curios from local artists. We pack a hull-of-a-lot into our little shop. (See what I did there? A little nautical humor.)
BD: Are there any special events that you hold at Clockwork Couture?
JW: Now that we have the space, we have made this our year for expanding our community of creative geekery. We have held geek-chic craft fairs, photo shoots in our themed game room, and web series script readings. We’ve done hat-making and silicon mold-making classes. In the coming months, we will be hosting International TableTop Game Day, a cruelty-free craft fair, a cosplay workshop, a clothing swap for Earth Day, and a book launch for Brian Kesinger’s new Otto and Victoria artbook.
BD: In addition to the clothing shoppe, you have also become an animal rescue center for animals looking for a kind home. For readers who may be interested in adopting your cute critters, what steps should they take to learn more information?
JW: Yes, we have lots of fluffies who keep our feet warm around the shop. We work with Tails of the City rescue (tailsofthecityrescue.com). If you are interested in adopting a kitty, or just volunteering to help socialize kitties before they find a home, you can come see us, and we will point you in the right direction. Oh, and we also have a pair of bunnies that are up for adoption.
BD: Do you see interest in Steampunk expanding or changing?
JW: I think that it is inevitable. IBM published a list of trends that have been mined from the interwebs search engines and predicted that steampunk will be an emerging trend in the next few years. Some people who have been into steampunk for a number of years might scoff at this notion of “going mainstream,” but we are against scoffing as a general rule. We say, the more, the merrier, not just because it brings new business opportunities to us, but also for the chance that more people will be inspired to unshackle their creativity into making their own steampunk expressions. I can’t wait to see what they make.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite Steampunk movies, TV shows, books, or comics?
JW: There are lots of steampunky art out there that I love, that might not be consider STEAMPUNK by people who make it their business to tell others what is and is not steampunk. I love Firefly (someone come and run a Serenity RPG at the shop!), Doctor Who, and Warehouse 13. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker novel, and Michael Moorcock’s The Metatemporal Detective are some favorites. Most of my geeky energy is wrapped up in games, board games, and RPGs. We have a regular group that plays games at the shop and have tried several steamy games in our weekly mix. Bang!, Deadwood, and Ticket to Ride make it into rotation often, and we are trying our Sky Traders and Red November. RPG-wise, we play the may iterations of D&D/Pathfinder every other week, and I love the Iron Kingdoms and Eberron settings for 3.5.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to our readers who may be interested in delving into the Steampunk world?
JW: If you are going delving, make a really cool-looking head lamp, so you can see where you are going. Don’t think that you have to spend a lot of money or have a ton of maker skills to get started. Come up with an idea of how you want to express yourself through the steampunk lens and reach out to the community to help you. We have people who come in with a tagline of a look they want to create (I want to be an airship pirate princess!), and we love helping find something that makes that work for them. Also, take the time to build some crafting skills in whatever medium calls to you. Every lesson learned from actually making something pays off in a ton of confidence and inspiration.
BD: On that same note, which creators have inspired your work?
JW: Donna loves the work of designers Eiko Ishioka and Shawna Trpcic, which covers the beautifully elegant and the rough and tumble styles of her own design aesthetic. We take inspiration from the artists we are lucky enough to come into contact with who are building out a vision of steampunk through their work.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Clockwork Couture?
JW: Come by and see us! We are tucked away at 707 South Main Street in Burbank. Look for the TARDIS out front, and you will have found us. Check out our collection at www.clockwworkcouture.com and find us on Facebook or our Clockwork Couture’s Community of Geekery Meetup group to keep abreast of all of our events.