TACtile gets all steamed up for a steampunk exhibit and fashion show

A steampunk bracelet by Jean Campbell.
A steampunk bracelet by Jean Campbell.

If you've ever wondered what the future meets the past looks like, you might call to mind the antics of Marty McFly and the wonder DeLorean in the middle of the wild, wild west, or perhaps a robot tromping through the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. You'd be right on both accounts, but consider something slightly different: Your grandma laboriously sewing her cross-stitching and using steam-powered goggles to focus in close on the tiny little threads. If you're the kind of person who wishes that was their grandma, or if you can say "hey wait, that is my grandma!" then we have something exciting for you.

When bead artist Jean Campbell, author of Steampunk Style Jewelry, taught some classes and provided a lecture on steampunk for the Rocky Mountain Bead Society at Tactile Arts in June of last year, it inspired the crew at Tactile to get all steamed up over the notion of a steampunk-themed exhibit and coinciding fashion show, and thus Steamed, an exhibit for May 5 to August 6 at TACtile, was born.

TACtile spokeswoman Carol Naff is excited about bridging the gap between younger folks and the textile arts, speculating that that when younger people thought of fiber arts, it was "traditionally stodgy, the little old lady sewing in her back bedroom." And naturally, sewing and textiles do bring to mind an old-fashioned feel -- but then again, so does the Victorian era. Relying on old Victorian elegance and mechanized science, steampunk projects is an exquisite future rooted in romantic, 19th century London that any sci-fi lover can appreciate, steampunk is far from stodgy.

Dianne Denholm, the executive director of TACtile, sums it up by saying "the costuming, jewelry and found-object inspirations of Steampunk celebrate the best of fiber arts and crafts today. Tactile loves the celebration of silks, brocades, glass beads, metals, buttons, velvets, vintage fashion, lace, wool and costuming all the time, but is especially excited to educate the community about the steampunk movement."

And that's where you might come in. Right now, TACtile is looking for steampunk clothing for the fashion show, as well as steampunk fiber art pieces for the exhibit. The exhibit entry calls are open until Monday, and candidates can bring their pieces in person to to the TACtile space at 1955 South Quince Street, Suite 200, from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays, or send images to the TACtile general inbox.

The fashion show call for entry is open until May 25, with the show premiering on June 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

There is only one fashion show scheduled, but the pieces featured in the show will have the possibility of being pieces in the exhibit as well. Designers can submit individual pieces or whole outfits. As far as what the gallery is looking for, Naff likes old metals and watch gears on clothing or decorative items (such as pillows), but also says that she'd be really interested "to see what people can come up with."

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