Wires were being bent, watches broken, and the scent of hot glue was in the air. The chatter of teens and a few adult artists filled the air as copiously as the junk that littered the table. The sounds and sights of books being “remade” were a little bit unnerving even to the librarians that planned the program, but there was no doubt about it – Steampunk’d Books at the Salem Church Library was a hit.
A special workshop planned for the teens in the OurSpace room, Steampunk'd Books was inspired by the upcoming Earth Day holiday and the rising popularity of the steampunk genre in teen literature. Local artist Leslie Brier was invited to help instruct along with librarian-artist Janet Moss. Program attendees each chose a discarded book (some with cool topics, such as Rock and Roll History inspired the type of alterations), discussed alteration techniques, and viewed the altered artwork in the library’s display case. In honor of Earth Day, the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle theme meant that all items collected for this program were castaway pieces. From broken Palm Pilots to single earrings to game board pieces, it looked like a yard sale gone wrong. Because the theme was steampunk, metallic paper, wires, and gadgets were the favored objects. Then everyone got to work. Book covers were scratched, holes were punched, things were destroyed and recreated.
Altered books and steampunk are not CRRL creations. Just Google either term and you’ll find thousands of hits along with incredible examples. Altered books are a mixed media form of art where artists cut, paint, or remove pages, redesign covers, and often turn the book into something completely different. They might add internal pockets for keepsakes, cut pages to create niches, or use the entire book with several others in a giant sculpture. When it comes to altered books, imagination is the only limit. The idea of “nothing wasted” is a wonderful way to reuse books destined for landfills.
As for “steampunk,” it is not a new term but has gained popularity in recent years. With regards to book genres, it refers to the merger of science fiction writing and a Victorian setting. With the use of technology or scientific advances that weren’t available in that time period, authors are allowed to dream up gadgets and exciting action! Steampunk books for teens from the past include Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Popular present day ones are Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.
Some steampunk enthusiasts may never pick up a book, but fulfill their fascination by creating their own clothing, tools, or other artwork. There are steampunked computers, a steampunk magazine, and steampunk goggles for sale on Amazon. There are steampunk conventions, clothing lines , and steampunked Star Wars figures.
CRRL teens did some amazing things in their Steampunk’d Books workshop. Check out some of their work here. Then see our links below for a Steampunk booklist and websites on Altered Books and Steampunk Style.
Click here to see our Steampunk booklist, just for teens!
Check out these websites for some insight into the resourceful art of altered books!
Go to these websites (and those linked to above) to learn more about steampunk!