My name is Jeff Sodemann and I was born in 1960. I am a polymer chemist by training and experience. My world has always been very analytical and my decisions based on logical analysis of the facts. This is the way scientists are trained or at least that was the way when I was in school.
Science wasn’t always this way. Before the turn of the 19th to 20th century scientists were called “natural philosophers.” They studied the world in a way that incorporated not only nature, but art and music and philosophy. We lost that with the advent and acceleration of technology. Technology is the application of the scientific principles that were going through a time of exponential growth in these early days. Even today most of our technology is based on the scientific discoveries being made around this time: thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism.
For me Steampunk art captures a world of fantasy where technology and artistry are much closer together. It’s iconography is set in an era, the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, when science and art had not drifted as far apart as they have today. It is a fantasy filled with gadgets and machines. Not all of these are practical, but they stir the imagination. The best of them are identifiable and their mode of operation discernable. We can imagine using them or working with them. To me just sticking a gear on the side of an object doesn’t make it Steampunk. The gear, at least, has to look like it does something important for the operation of the object, then it is Steampunk.
This is my art. It started when I decided to make a Steampunk themed family room. I made both art pieces for display and functional pieces like lamps, speaker boxes etc. Well, I really enjoyed making these things and started to run out of places to put them. So I thought maybe I would just share images with others who might appreciate them.
The objects I make use antique and vintage pieces of old technology combined with new mostly machined and fabricated parts. I would never destroy an intact rare piece for use in my art. There are plenty of antique parts and pieces available in the world from which to create a wide variety of finished art. I am not opposed to using more recent “vintage” materials as well. Flea markets are a great place to find these sorts of broken pieces and parts.
The term “Steampunk” may be too narrow to describe what I make. I like to incorporate early electrical devices more often than steam which pushes my art into the Teslapunk genre. Nikola Tesla was a genius engineer with a penchant for drama. He also invented what is probably the most elegant machine design of all time, the three phase induction electric motor. Teslapunk incorporates early electrical devices in a way that makes fantasy pieces that capture the magic that was electricity and magnetism in it’s earliest development.
The main points for either Steampunk or Teslapunk are to make art that incorporates old or obsolete technology. For more on Teslapunk see here. In this way a piece is both antique and modern. It is a way of preserving the old and a way to bring the roots of technology, and therefore science, back to the world of ART.