Odd Beauty at Southampton Arts Center

I’m flattered to have been asked to submit some work for Art Donovan’s new steampunk art exhibit in Southampton NY.

Art was the man behind the original Steampunk exhibit at the The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford back in 2010. That was the show that really put steampunk on the map in the art world. The artists who exhibited in that show as well as Art’s own works have been an inspiration to me ever since. It’s an honor to exhibit a piece now with some of those original artists, as well as a whole new crew of artists that I’ve been following and admiring over the years for their fantastic talent and vision in this crazy genre.

I’m not exactly the most prolific artist in the world to begin with, and it’s been a chaotic couple of years since moving back to the states from the V.I. (thank god I did, though), so I haven’t had much time to create anything new. The only piece I had sitting around was the DeuxAmp stereo system, which of course is huge. I waffled about sending it, just because the price of building crates and shipping that thing was not a small investment. But in the end, I decided it was well worth it, and began building crates. Of course, as fate would have it, Hurricane Irma hit the week I had to ship them out, so there was a bit of stress and drama trying to get all of that sorted. Perseverance paid off and the pieces are snug in their place at the museum as I type this.

One of the highlights of the show for me is that on October 15th Thomas Dolby will be there giving a speech and playing music!! How exciting!

If you get a chance to get to Southampton, I highly recommend you check it out!

Here’s the details:

September 23 through November 12
Southampton Arts Center
25 Jobs Ln, Southampton, NY 11968

Contributing artists:

Tom Banwell, David Barnett, Ian Crichton, Art Donovan, Dave Duros, Steve Erenberg, Cameron Forrest, Paige Gardner, Eric Freitas, Vianney Halter, Steve La Riccia, Vincent Mattina, Sam van Olffen, Clayton Orehek, Daniel Proulx, Saxon Reynolds, Filip Sawczuk, Todd Sloane, and Stephan J. Smith.

Special events include:

Saturday, October 7
“A Day with Paige Gardner, Steampunk Costume Maker Extraordinaire” from noon to 5 p.m. in the galleries with a 5 p.m. talk.

Sunday, October 8
Art Donovan offers a gallery tour of the exhibit at 1 p.m.

Friday, October 13, at 7 p.m.
SAC will screen the film “Tower to the People – Tesla’s Dream at Wardenclyffe Continues”

Sunday, October 15, at 6 p.m.
Thomas Dolby appears live for “She Blinded Me with Science: Talk and Live Musical Performance.” Tickets are $25.

I used to have a BIO.

Honeymoon Beach Water Island

If you’re one of the people who actually visit CopperSteam and read the blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been giving the site some much-needed attention over the last couple of weeks. There are a few of reasons for this, but most notably is that I’m excited to be able to start construction on some of my more ambitious designs now that I’m back where I have the work space to pull them off. Island life is fantastic, but it’s really not suited to fabrication. There’s only so far you can go with coconuts and palm fronds… that and it’s hard to focus on work when you live a drunken golf cart ride away from the beach.

You may have noticed I added a store to the site. Now that I’m situated with enough shop space to build pieces comfortably, I plan on building more amplifiers, speakers, lamps, and other miscellaneous gizmos that I think are worth reproducing on a limited scale. It was difficult to build things on a remote island without a proper shop, so I spent quite a bit of time designing, and dreaming, and now it’s time to drag those things into the light.

Among the things I changed on the site was the BIO page. It’s now an ABOUT page. It was a bio page for a long time. I think I put it up there back when I had a bunch of pieces in art shows, and the site was focused on the theme of all of those old works. It was one of those “I’m an artist, let me sing you the song of my people, and share my pain with you” things. Bleh. So corny. It’s so painful writing those things about yourself, but just try to get someone else to write one about you, I promise you it’ll be even more dumb sounding. I always hated it and felt uncomfortable about it, but it’s what artists do, right? Part of the schtick.

Well screw that I thought, and I set out to write a page about CopperSteam the brand. The first version I wrote came out with the same ridiculous “art born out of angst” diatribe, that while it may be true to an extent, is utter cliche. I let it sit overnight, and re-read it in the morning. Crap. Total crap. It was so depressing. So I rewrote it to start with the angst thing and chronicle the journey to happiness and enlightenment through beaches and rum, thinking that if it ends on a high note, then it won’t bring people down. Still crap. This time even my wife told me it was crap, and since she’s usually the one who’s right in our household, I sat down to re-write it again. And then again.

Finally I threw it all out and just wrote the one that’s up there right now. The story of the Lab. It’s funny some times how long it takes as an artist to pull your head out of your own ass and just stop trying to make everything have more meaning than it does. I read so many ABOUT pages and VISION pages on web sites belonging to artists and architects and makers, and they are all so utterly full of their own rhetoric as they bloviate endlessly on and on about this and that. Meh. I don’t know. Maybe it helps people relate to their brand or something.

Personally, I want CopperSteam to be about cool art, dark rum, and building shit. Oh, and sandy Caribbean beaches. I know the beach thing is utterly the elephant-in-the-room when you first look at it in the context of the work on this site, but trust me.. it’s there behind the scenes.

Cheers!
Mike

Halloween is Nigh!

Halloween-2015

Fall. there’s really nothing like it. The air turns colder, the nights get longer. Halloween looms in the distance, and I start getting itchy.

To say that I have an obsession with Halloween would be a gross understatement. Typically October at my house is filled with painting, decorating, building sets and props, cleaning out fog machines, and checking the blacklight fixtures for shorts and broken tubes.

Before leaving Orlando for key West in 2009, I had a yearly Halloween party with attendance upwards of 150 people or more. I had a committee of sponsors, and we’d get together early every October to start scheming. We pooled our money to buy black visqueen, fluorescent paint, blacklight tubes, and fog machines to turn the back yard into a macabre horror show. The last year that I hosted it at my house, we had so many fog machines the entire neighborhood was under a cloud for the entire night. After that we moved the party to a downtown night club because it was getting too big and unwieldy.

When I moved to Key West I unloaded most of my party supplies that I’d always kept in storage. Some of my friends now have pretty intense yard decorations on Halloween night! I was so bereft in Key West for lack of something to do on Halloween, that I began volunteering for the Haunting of Fort Taylor, a yearly haunted-house held in the historic fort down there. It was a blast, and it was almost as good as having my own party. We left Key West after four years and spent an addional two years in the Virgin Islands.  They have NO halloween down there. They think it’s satanic. *Snort* I was devastated. But now I’m back…

And I’m feeling itchy again.

Which probably accounts for the new color scheme on the site right now haha.

On that note, I’ve been slowly but surely getting the Lab put back together, and I’m gearing up to start some builds, so I’m showing the site some much needed love. I really have been ignoring this poor blog for too long in favor of quick posts on FaceBook. Which I hate. I hate FaceBook. There, I said it. But I digress.

Anyway, I have some new material to post up here soon, so stay tuned!

Cheers!
Mike

The Long Journey Home

West-Indies-Map

 

The West Indies are an interesting place. The natural surroundings are undeniably beautiful.  The water is so clear and blue, you can see everything underneath you for 50 feet or more. It’s like swimming in the world’s largest swimming pool. The beaches are serene, the wind rustling through palm trees elicit a level of calm that’s hard to reach on the mainland, and if you are lucky enough (as I was) to live on a mostly undeveloped residential island, it can be truly, almost heaven. Almost.

The journey started back in 2008 when my wife (GF at the time) and I decided it would be fun to disappear into the caribbean for a spell while the economy played out it’s grand guignol. We had our minds set on a small island next to St. Thomas called Water Island. Knowing that it would be a huge adjustment to just up and move there from the relative reality of Orlando, we took a halfway-step and moved to Key West. We lived there for four years, then made the move to the VI.

During our time in Key West I really got some traction with this CopperSteam stuff.. I think I really made some progress on the direction and feel of what I was trying to accomplish with it. I’m still honing in on it now, and don’t expect to ever really stop changing directions, but those four years were really the foundation of the thing.

When we moved to St. Thomas, I kind of hit a logistical wall.. shipping anything to the VI is expensive and slow, and they have virtually NO local options for buying any kind of supplies but for the Home Depot up on the mountain, and even they have a limited cross-section as far as Home Depot’s go. My tools all rusted immediately because of the salt content in the air (We did live on a cliff overlooking the Ocean, so I guess I should have seen that one coming), and polishing copper and brass was a tremendous exercise in futility, as it would begin to tarnish immediately. Needless to say.. not the best environment to construct an evil scientist’s lab.

Despite all the difficulties, I was able to construct one of my favorite pieces to date.. the SteamAmp II, a commissioned piece for a gent in Connecticut. It cost a fortune to get the materials shipped, and I had to re-do every piece I finished at least once, but perseverance paid off and it came out great. I vowed to never again attempt another physical artwork while I was living there.

Apart from the difficulty of trying to build stuff there, life was pretty much a waking dream. I drove around in my golf cart, floated in the pristine waters on our little beach, drove to work in a dinghy… and dreamed of fresh fruits and veggies and cheap and plentiful meat and dairy. You see, while liquor (especially Rum) was a fraction of the cost on the island, the food-supply chain to the VI is slow and expensive, and getting good groceries was really quite a challenge. A small price to pay I suppose, for living literally a two minute drunken golf cart ride to one of the best beaches ever. Water island was a balancing game.. the sooner you just learned to go with the flow, the more you could just relax and enjoy the beauty of it all.

So, as fate would have it, just as I decided to kick back and only work on conceptual design stuff, and play out my days in a dark rum-fueled version of some Hunter S. Thompson novella, Christina got a job offer she couldn’t pass up back on the mainland. After no small amount of deliberation, we decided to come back early.

And so it comes to pass, I am back in Florida, three weeks from moving back into our house that we’ve had renters in for 6 years, and planning my grande return to the original Ævil Laboratory… and oh the fun we will have then!

So stay tuned kiddies, I’m dusting off the workbench!

The Secret Island Lair, New Concept Art, and Rum.

Hey There! It’s Been a While!

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted here. I’ve been busy getting my life settled here on our Secret Island in the V.I. Well, I suppose it’s not really very secret, but there aren’t many people here, so that makes it feel pretty secret!

Back in July (of 2013) we uprooted our home in Key West to make the final leg of our “10-year-plan” to run away to the Caribbean. This involved selling even more of our stuff, purchasing a bright yellow Jeep, a road trip to New York to see my son graduate high school and drop off our old Toyota 4-Runner for him to drive, camping in the Smoky Mountains, more road tripping to Traverse City, Michigan to visit with the extended family, a scary trip through blighted neighborhoods in Detroit, a flight back to Orlando, a trip to Jacksonville to drop the Jeep at the freight docks, and finally, a flight to St Thomas. It was a long, arduous, and immensely fun road trip that took a few weeks, and ended with us transplanted on our new rock… Water Island.

Honeymoon-BeachPossibly the happiest photo on the whole site…

Water Island is a small little island just south of St. Thomas. It’s about 490 acres, and has no stop lights, no convenience stores, no grocery stores, and very few people. There is however, a world-class beach with a beach bar, an old abandoned government fort tunneled through the mountain, lots of turtles, and very little traffic. I love it. The yellow Jeep lives on St. Thomas, and we drive our golf cart on Water Island. Our dinghy gets us between the islands for food and booze runs, and gets Christina to Charlotte Amalie for work. I work on Water Island, so I don’t leave very often, and that suits me just fine.

Another thing that suits me fine is the price of rum here.. apparently the government subsidizes the production of rum in the VI, so the prices are silly-cheap. It’s half what it costs anywhere else in the US. Not that I drink or anything. Much.

So Anyway…

Uprooting things like we did, I had to dismantle my tiny shop in Key West and put most of my tools in boxes to wait for shipment at a later date. The large things like table saws, mitre saws, drill presses, etc. had to stay, and they are being harbored by a friend in Orlando so whenever I decide to go back to the real world, I’ll have them there.

I’ve been slowly trying to get things back together, not really worrying too much about it until recently when I was contacted by a gentleman in Connecticut who wanted to commission a Steam Amp. Well, never one to back down from a challenge, I told him I was game if he wasn’t in too much of a hurry, and we agreed on a design and price, and off I go!

The Steam Amp II is somewhat similar to the original; same circuitry under the hood, but with much upgraded drivers, more inputs, a bluetooth receiver, and some cool-as-shit spherical speaker cans. I’ll be posting construction shots of this project along the way, so I’m not gonna go into any details now. I’m going to build 5 of these as a limited-edition run. That means there will be 4 more available, so if you want one.. drop me a line.

Another concept I worked on was the Æther Lamp. It shares a lot of the same aesthetics as the Steam Amp II, and would probably look great sitting on the same shelf. It’s built around an old 10″ glass fresnel lens I picked up on eBay a few years ago. I’d like to build a couple of these, and sell them as a pair.

I can’t wait to get started on these projects… stay tuned for updates.

Images modeled and rendered in Maya.

Stay Ævil..

Mike

What’s Been Happening on My Island

It’s not as Grymm as it Sounds

A few months ago I had one of those experiences that really made my day. You know the ones.. a totally unexpected cool thing happens, and it leaves you floating around giddy like a school girl.

I was reading through my email from coppersteam.com, which I must sadly report is typically 99% penis-enlargement pill ads and other junk like that, when I noticed I had an email from the desk of Dr. Grymm. Now, I knew the name because I’d often been to his web site while searching inspiration for my own work, I even have a link to his site from this one, but why would he be contacting me? A thought briefly passed through my head… that he’d seen the link on my site and wanted me to kindly delete it. But as it turned out, he was interested in perhaps putting some of my work in an upcoming show he curates annually up in Connecticut called the Steampunk Bizzare, and would I call him at my earliest convenience. I read this email a few times trying to figure out if it was some joke or perhaps he’d sent it to the wrong address. Then it sunk in and I had one of those moments of pure joy.. my brain was doing the happy dance! Someone actually found my site and liked my stuff! And on top of that it was one of the people I looked up to for inspiration! How cool is that.

I called and spoke with him, and got the skinny on the show. It sounds very cool, and I can’t wait to be involved in it! Turns out that It was too late to get into the 2010 show because it was imminent, but he was collecting work for the 2011 show, which is perfect for me since at the time I’d not even finished the Aether Reactor. Now I have a year to put together a couple more pieces, and a deadline to look forward to! I always work better with deadlines.

Dr Grymm Strikes Again

I had another of these moments just recently when Dr. Grymm began collecting photos of Steampunk Art for a coffee table book called “1000 A Steampunk Collection” and I recieved another email from the desk of Dr. Grymm.

Well, this email was actually from one of his loyal minions, but still… he was looking for submissions and if I was interested could I please send in a few shots for his perusal. Well, heck yeah! So I submitted a few photos, and a couple days later got a response that they would like to include my work in the book. SWEET!

So I had to get off my arse and photograph the Aether reactor post haste. I’d had my artist/photographer friend Jeff League shoot my previous work, but he’s in Orlando and I’m in Key West.. too long a trip for some photographs! It was time to step up to the plate and dust off my photography skills. I ordered a paper background from B&H and got to work. I managed to do an OK job, and the shots look close enough to Jeff’s work to give all the pieces a cohesive look. I guess at this point beggars can’t be choosers, so I’m going with what I got!

At any rate, exciting things are afoot! It’s cooler than I can say to be considered for any type of public display.. show or book. It still feels a little surreal, like it’s not really happening. I mean, I just started doing this stuff.. I haven’t even done my best work yet! But I’m certainly not one to look a steam horse in the mouth, I’m delighted and energized to continue steaming along!