News

Celebrating steam punk

By John Tapley, Ingersoll Times

Ania Nunns crouches behind the steam punk time machine he had on display during the second annual Family Steam Punk Festival at the Norwich and District Museum on Saturday. Celebrating all things steam punk, the festival included costumes, steam punk art, literature, a costume contest, vendors and high tea, JOHN TAPLEY/FOR THE NORWICH GAZETTE

Ania Nunns crouches behind the steam punk time machine he had on display during the second annual Family Steam Punk Festival at the Norwich and District Museum on Saturday. Celebrating all things steam punk, the festival included costumes, steam punk art, literature, a costume contest, vendors and high tea, JOHN TAPLEY/FOR THE NORWICH GAZETTE

From ray guns and Victorian-style dress to high tea and even a time machine, steam punk took over the Norwich and District Museum on Saturday.
 

The sub genre of science fiction was celebrated with the museum's second annual Family Steam Punk Festival.
 

“It's quite a phenomenon,” said Russell Zeid, one of the vendors at the festival, about steam punk culture. “Although there's lots of ray guns and things, it's (also) cups of tea. It's very low key.”
 

He said steam punk is like role play, but multi-generational.
 

“Perhaps it's a look back at simpler times.”
 

Dressed in a long, white lab coat with old fashioned welder's goggles perched below a wild shock of grey hair, the Toronto resident was selling some of the mechanical devices and sculptures he has made.
 

He said he has fun with potential customers by pricing his pieces at $1 million-plus.
 

“Immediately, they get a $1 million discount and then they have to haggle on the rest,” Zeid said.
 

A former tool and die maker and mechanical engineer turned science teacher and artist, Zeid said he was creating steam punk items before steam punk became a trend.
 

“I've always liked mechanical contraptions,” he said. “Becoming a tool and die maker and mechanical engineer gave me my love for metal and how to manipulate it. I've always liked rust, for some reason.”
 

Picking up items from scrap yards, surplus and antique stores and yard sales, Zeid gives them new life by repurposing them into mechanical devices, tools and sculptures.
 

One sculpture at his booth on Saturday was a space ship made from an antique coffee pot and other items salvaged from the scrap heap.
 

“I look at it as a collage,” he said about his art.
 

Zeid doesn't just make small items.
 

A 10-foot by 12-foot metal airship he created has been hanging in a Calgary shopping centre since 2000.
 

Zeid's work will also be found in the Calgary Science Centre with a three and a half ton metal dinosaur he made from scrap over an 11 month period.
 

“It allows me to be creative, whimsical and a bit child-like,” said Zeid about what he enjoys about creating his art. “I still make toys.”
 

Besides vendors, the festival featured workshops, vintage games, a costume contest and a high tea.
 

The museum was also open during the event, which was a fundraiser to help restore a Quaker school house on the museum property.
 

Organizer Elicia Roswell said more people turned out to this year's festival.
 

Dressed in full Victorian garb, Mary Ellen Warren of Ingersoll was among those who took in the festival.
 

She said she got into steam punk about seven years ago through attending a convention with her son who is a writer and knows authors who write steam punk fiction.
 

“It's a fun thing to do,” she said about dressing up and attending steam punk events. “It's an amazing group of people who get into this.”
 

Bertha Rose Park of Inwood has made the trip to Norwich for both Family Steam Punk Festivals and was sporting an elaborately decorated hat at this year's event.
 

She said she enjoyed a presentation on steam punk books this year, but overall it's the people that draw her to steam punk culture.
 

“I enjoy the social part of it – getting out with people,” she said.
 

Ania Nunns had the time machine and book delivery device he built on display at the festival.
 

Made from a vintage typewriter, the time machine incorporates a plasma ball for a lightning-type effect, a sound card and a smoke machine that emits vapour whenever a key is hit.
 

An Ingersoll resident, Nunns is a former custodian at Woodstock Collegiate Institute who has written a children's book titled Mr. A. J. and The Machine.
 

“It's a 40 per cent true story,” said Nunns who takes his time machine and book delivery device with him when he does readings of his book in schools.
 

Nunns said he got started in steam punk by “mucking around.”
 

“I just started playing with old stuff and it became steam punk,” he said.
 

He isn't stopping at creating a time machine.
 

Nunns is in the process of making a ray gun that will light up, make sound and smoke.
 

“It's kind of like going back to your childhood, but you're an adult now and you can actually make the toys work better,” he said. “Fun stuff.”
 

Artist Marijo Swick of London was checking out her second steam punk festival in preparation to be a participant in the Great Canadian Steam Punk Festival at Ft. George in Niagara on the lake in a couple of weeks.
 

“There's something about the fantasy and aesthetic of it, something about the character of it,” said Swick about steam punk.