An interest born out of a life-threatening accident has changed the life of Dunedin-based steampunk enthusiast Michelle Webb, who will be part of the Steampunk NZ festival in Oamaru next month.
The annual festival, between June 1 and 5, attracts steampunkers from around the world and is one of the highlights of Oamaru’s event calendar.
Mrs Webb, a member of the Dunedin Steampunk Society, will conduct a steampunk workshop for children between the ages of 7 and 14.
They will have the opportunity to create their own steampunk-themed weapon out of everyday household items, based on a design from volume one of her How to Steampunkbook series, which will be officially launched at the festival.
“Ray guns are very, very popular,” she said.
“Kids are given a couple of cardboard rolls and they also get access to all sorts of other bits and pieces that people usually throw away, so they’ll actually get to make their own ray gun.”
She said the process was simple – attach two cardboard rolls, decorate it with items such as old curtain hooks, pieces of wire or old circuit or PCB boards, and paint it matte black before adding a bronze acrylic finish.
“It actually makes it look old and used.”
She also encouraged children to come up with a story for their ray gun, about what it fired and what it would be called.
“How will it work? Will it fire X-rays or gamma rays or whatever? Also, most steampunk accessories have names, so I encourage then to actually name their ray gun.”
Mrs Webb is excited about the launch of her first volume.
“It’s one of a series of books that focuses on how to steampunk. The first is how to make the accessories, like a ray gun, jet pack and medal. In the second one, you start to make clothing, and the third one will show you how to put the whole ensemble together.”
Mrs Webb, who works as a teacher, said she became involved with steampunk about four years ago, after she was crushed in a workplace accident and went though some tough times, mentally and physically.
She would regularly travel between Dunedin and Christchurch for treatment and recovery, and one day stopped off in Oamaru for a rest.
One visit to Steampunk HQ later and she was hooked.
“When I actually saw Steampunk HQ, it was like a bulb went off. My husband said to me, ‘Why don’t you go to the festival?’ That was the carrot to get me going again.”
Mrs Webb, who had to learn to walk again, even created a steampunk-themed wheelchair.
Today, she organises and designs wares for steampunk fashion shows held to support charitable organisations.
The workshop, with the cost of a gold coin donation, is scheduled for June 4 at the Loan and Merc building in Harbour St from 10.30am. The book launch is being held at Pen-y-Bryn Lodge on June 2 at 2pm.