“There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.”
Conversations between Bethalynne and I, regarding “Depression Punk” began about a year and a half ago – though until recently, I never really managed to consider these concept so seriously. Such conversations were typically a source of amusement, just silly banter and rampant conceptualizing – most often fueled by late nights and spoiled grain.
Of course when these discussions began, we had our sites set on the finer things in life: The extravagance of steam culture had us bright eyed dreaming of all the wondrous things we could make to wear, decorate with, perhaps even display and sell. We drempt aloud of wondrous things made of fine woven fabrics, intricate machines and devices made of brass gears and parts encased in fine ornate hardwood shells, castings in silver and on brass, and huge monumental artworks so complex and weird that they might be new wonders of the world. The things we would make, the things we would do, and the places we would go dressed to the nines in ornate brass, tweed, and brown leather; Whole worlds of arts and craftsmanship were opening up to us – our only limits being time and focus.
… Though I could hardly focus on anything at the time, barely getting any rest between stuffing prints into boxes and tubes; I was overwhelmed, stressed, and enthused by the sudden and unexpected popularity of my site and my works. We were still poor as we had began, and had a way to go before building a solid footing with our then fortunate circumstances. We found ourselves so incredibly in demand that I had an impossible time choosing from the avenues that were open before us.
One weekend night, we found that the television was becoming all-too heavily dominated by stressed stock brokers and stock owners, failing corporations and other other such things not concerning struggling near-homeless artist renters — In this – we non-stock-owners/non-homeowners had to flip around for a while to find anything remotely interesting to relax to… anything that did not have to do with AIG or that credit stuff we with no credit had little worry over.
For some god-awful reason we found ourselves up late at night staring wide-eyed and zombified at the 80’s Robin Williams train wreck that was called “Popeye”, a deliciously terrible and ill-advised film based upon the adventures of the spinach-munching pipe smoking depression-era pugilistic hero of… of… well, someone had to have watched these cartoons… perhaps even on purpose.
Somehow, after an hour or so of watching, we found that we were still able to form words, and combine them into sentences; Discussion ensued, and that led us to indirectly this depression punk topic via our starting topic… “Hill Punk”
Hill Punk, we decided, would be a subculture where bands played on clay jugs, rubber bands and washboards, wherein the most fashionable would be those wearing the most ragged and worn wooden barrels, those with the most interesting objects tangled within their soup-crusted beards, and the finest art consisted of the most hideously perfect rusty pipes and cloth tape, held together by twine and thrice-darned stockings. Women would don hair nets over tightly-pulled bob-tailed she-mullets, kids would wear burlap sacks patched with cigar ribbons, accented by sling-shots and chewing tobacco tins.
Figuring that this might possibly conceived as politically incorrect and insensitive by many a fine and upstanding person with Appalachian roots, we thought that this should concept should cover more regions than just the one, and should stem also into the cities and burbs.
This caused up to branch into a more Oliver Twist aspect of steam culture: One encouraging the wearing of rag-tag garments bound by hastily-stitched patchwork, torn gloves and battered hats powdered and blemished by coal and by soot – decorated with pins and necklaces of broken finery and salvaged machines – deviating from the lavishly steampunk culture to a culture of salvaged things and frugal sensibilities.
Gone are the days of stripping the finest wood from the most beautiful forests, and gone are the days of fine ivory canes, expensive perfumes made from plentiful sea mammals. No longer is it in good taste to rest one’s argyle-socked feet upon an intricate, rare, and expensive conversation piece from the depths of deepest and darkest Borneo. No longer is it safe or tasteful to boastfully cover oneself in brilliant jewels and precious metal at gatherings or when in the public eye. Expeditions to far away lands for science and discovery are near-impossible to finance. Among the wealthy, conversations surrounding the proper storage of kitchen grease, preservation of furniture, and the hand-washing of doilies have come to be the most fashionable topics of conversation, hosted in a small cluster of open rooms – the rest of these mansions sealed off for preservation of firewood and limited household staff.
Children in over-sized hand-me downs play games with toys made of salvaged and irreparable devices, things found in junk yards and gutters. They make jewelry from anything salvaged and shiny. For added flair, they wear pocket watches which neither work, nor retain any valuable parts. They make toys and pieces of art from things once functional, interesting and inspiring in appearance only – imagination fueling purpose and function.
Boxes fashioned of glued gears, nails, tin cans and and soldered spoons open gateways to the lush and plentiful lands of Africa; Necklaces made of broken piggy banks and found brass are merely disguises for secreted magickal jewels, or perhaps serve as a key to an ancient and faraway treasure trove – the keyhole cleverly disguised as a crack in a crumbling wall somewhere within a crumbling and abandoned estate.
Meet “Depression Punk”, the somewhat less-fortunate sibling to the steampunk, dieselpunk, clockpunk movements, a symbol for our times – powered by innovative re-purposing, the crafting of interesting and intriguing things from things passed over, wherein form and function collide with outcomes decided by practicality and frugality – imagination stepping in wherever function is not essential.
It only recently occurred to me, that these things are around in mass, and every bit as wonderful as the purely steampunk things I love but cannot buy or afford to make. Where one might see a failed steampunk or clockpunk piece, I have begun to see a very successful and brilliant depression punk piece in its stead… and it is odd that this in only just now rubbing off on me… that I am finally seeing the trees through the forest.
One of my Bethalynne’s greatest traits, is the pure power of her imagination, the way she crafts and dreams child-like eyes, building intricate stories and expansive lore around everything she doodles or glues together.
And while I poo-poo ideas of mine because I haven’t the money for the perfectly-grained piece of cherry carved from the rarest knotted old-growth stump, or haven’t the resources to make electrodes spark from telescoping arms of brass and silver – she crafts beautiful and intriguing gateways to incredible and outlandish strange worlds from scrap jewelry and salvaged paper products…
It seems I could take a lesson from her in hese regards, and from those I admittedly once scoffed at – get with the times and shed the bonds of my extravagant ambitions by showing a bit of fiscal responsibility and empathy, exercising that resourcefulness and practicality forgotten by many of us during these previous years…
Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.
~Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires