Steampunk Family is a great resource and inspiration to creative families everywhere. They call themselves the von Hedwig Family, and have created steampunk personas to go with their fun lifestyle of turning junk into steampunk, creating an adventure serial, cool DIY turtorials, traveling to conventions to share their know-how, and providing resources so anyone can be steampunk now.
I asked Anne-Marie York (aka Hera von Hedwig) who is the mom and keeper of the Steampunk Family website, a few questions:
When did you personally become fascinated with the Steampunk world? Did you meet your husband before or after this obsession began?
Considering that Jules Verne was writing 150 years ago, and the term steampunk was coined over 30 years ago, I came rather late to the genre. Like so many other steampunks, the obsession started before I knew there was a word for it, or other people likewise obsessed. Of course, once we figured out there was a wide world of steampunks out there, we became drastically more interested. One of the most captivating things about it is all the amazing projects people are doing, the fantastic art and stories and costumes and the creation of culture. It’s not dictated by anyone, it has the vaguest of principles, it is wide open to creative whim.
My husband and I will shortly celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary, and we met many years before that. Our relationship predates our steampunk endeavors, but we have always made things (often out of nothing because that’s what we had) and always been more drawn to growing culture than consuming prepackaged culture.
In the Author’s Note, you imply that this entire family endeavor began from telling bedtime stories about “a family of Edwardian mad scientists, who live in an airship and have amazing adventures.” Did the traveling about to different conventions and bringing Steampunk into your daily lives come after these stories?
I started telling the stories to my kids years ago. When we went on vacation with friends, and all their kids heard the stories and wanted to be in them as well, that’s when I realized the stories had broader appeal, and bowed to my husband’s encouragement to put them on the web. In some ways, the website and stories are a collaborative effort. The kids I write about make art for the site, and whenever I get stuck in the narrative, I read out loud to the family and they have fantastic ideas about what their characters do. And of course, my husband Phineas contributes hugely, in art and projects and moral support!
Phineas and I both attended conventions in our nefarious youth, but bringing the kids is new. They’re old enough to enjoy it now, they love dressing up, and have even started speaking on panels already! As for steampunk in our daily lives, we have always embraced reusing and repurposing material culture (stuff). We built an outdoor room almost entirely out of things other people threw away – walls, fireplace, lighting, plants, everything but nails and mortar, really. So discovering steampunk just gave us a unifying theme for things we already did – giving daily function beauty on a budget. Now we have an excuse to dress better when we do it.
How has your children’s lives been impacted by your travels (on a daily level and a general upbringing level?)
This year has been a bit crazy, and we intend to schedule more sanely next year. More travel during the summer, if possible. The hectic pace benefits no one, and gets in the way of making more neat stuff. And we try to do a variety of things with our kids, have different kinds of adventures, not just steampunk-related trips. One benefit of steampunk and travel is that we all play together. This is a hobby we share as a family and with friends old and new. (But most of our pastimes are!) Another benefit is that when I was 12 I could barely meet an adult’s eye, much less converse sensibly. My kids can hold their own with all kinds of people.
We believe you should raise children to be adults you want to spend time with. Our kids learn and explore and gain independence and confidence when we travel, and I’m all for that. Their fictional counterparts in my stories survive dreadful dangers. Although I never want my children to experience kidnappers or yeti, I want them to handle whatever they encounter.
The idea of reusing what is already around us to make beautiful functional things comes across clearly. What is one thing you think any family (into Steampunk or not) can take from your example?
Although Phineas would love to make one of those fabulous Datamancer type keyboards, that’s a bit our of our reach. So he went down to the antique/junk shop and found a gutted Victrola case. In it he put our entertainment computer (with all the music and movies on it), the Wii and games. When you close the lid it’s a beautiful piece of carved wooden furniture from another century. When you open it, there’s Doctor Who.
The Victorian artist William Morris said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. We wholeheartedly follow that advice. But why not both? Surround yourself with things both lovely and functional whenever you can. We encourage people to start small, think about what you have already, make your beauty and function affordable and attainable. One of the simplest fixes we did was to decant the giant bottle of mouthwash in our bathroom into a discarded Patron bottle we pulled from the town recycling bin. Now there is beauty where there once was plastic and advertising.
Thanks Madame von Hedwig!