MARCH, 2011 – What is Alternative Living? It’s an openly defined term to mean anything that is not generally accepted as “mainstream,” such as steampunk, goth, fetish, kink, Renaissance, what have you.

This particular convention organized by Jeff Mach (known throughout NJ and the metro area for several of these shows), had several distinct categories of vendors and exhibitors. If you’re interested in keeping up to date on events, join the Facebook community, Steampunk For Everyone. I’ve uploaded 145 images to facebook.

MODVIC’S BACK TO THE FUTURE HOME SHOW

ERIKSON'S ANTIQUE STOVES

There were several booths that were complete rooms that were reassembled from recycled wood and metal. There were a number of steampunk lighting designers, clock artists and metal workers including a blacksmith. There were several photography booths and artists to provide framed lovelies for your alternative home.

For the comic fans like me, once in a while, you could find a booth specifically for our kind of treasures. There was scrap metal sculptures of Spider-Man and all the Godzilla creatures.

All good steampunk designers and costumers seem to get to one key home item: the steampunk portable bar! Several booths had them. Gorgeous wooden cases would house beakers, test tubes, flasks and decanters. Phineas vonHedwig of The Steampunk Family which adopted me for the day, explained all about his portable bar and utility belt. The belt he designed and hand sewed to holster capped test tubes he preferred to fill with strong espresso and vodka.  He ingeniously crafted a steampunk iPod charger and docking station (you might hear the term “technopunk” in this case) as well the furniture inside their booth. This lucky gentlemen shares his adventures with Harrah, a statuesque blonde that rocks a safari outfit like no other, and Captain Charette (I do hope I got the name correct) who should remind you of a 19th century Wonder Woman which makes perfect sense since this crew played as the Justice League last Halloween.

And let’s not forget the steampunk liquor of choice: absinthe. Though no one seems to be able to agree on the spelling (like Hanukkah) it’s usually considered the alcoholic beverage of choice. The wormwood has gotten a bum rap for a hundred years or so when the government believed it was the ingredient that made drinkers see green fairies thereby criminalizing the creation and consumption of absinthe in the United States. It’s recently be decriminalized and the Philadelphia Distilling company is the only American manufacturer. Their Vieux Carré brand in considered by some to be the best bottled absinthe available. Comparing it to the homemade variety I had previously, it wasn’t quite up to that level but it was the best from a mass produced label that I’ve had. The licorice taste was not too sickenly sweet which was achieved through a slow-drip system. The liquid was in a gravity dispensing glass carafe that has two spigots above the glasses topped with absinthe spoons and sugar cubes as is customary.  Wormwood isn’t where the licorice flavor comes from; it’s the delicious savory fennel and green anise that provide that. The literature at the booth gave some recipes for those that want to do something with their absinthe besides drinking it straight up.

If the thoughts of punking out your new fangled 21st century iPad sound appealing, then check out the usbtypewriter mod.

If you really want to transform your house, there were plenty of ideas at this expo. Recycled wood table, metal desks from old “junk” and the most glorious antique stoves and ranges.

FASHION

So much fashion I thought my head was going to explode! There was an abundance of goggles, leather bras, corsetry, and tuxedos with tails. Loads of top hats in mini, average and oversized styles were there for your liking. The bridal component was integrated for the most part with the exception of a one or two designers that were specifically focused on bridal gowns. The bridal gowns trended toward Renaissance flare with bell sleeves and ethereal fabric; other styles were vintage beaded bouffant gowns of the late 20th century.

Steampunk fashion usually involves a lot of leather. It makes it hard to be a strict vegetarian/vegan when presented with such lovely wares. These designs are made to last the wars of the greedy overlords so that when you have to escape your fortress, pack up your portables, grab the ray guns and launch your airship for the next province. The leather and brass will survive the adventure. Pleather simply won’t hold up.

The Griffonsclaw proprietor Christopher N. Stuppi graciously took plenty of time to answer all my novice questions about the vintage sunglasses. How many questions can one lady have about sunglasses? Well, a fair amount as it turns out. He explained that the glass in the ones they have for sale are completely authentic and some show the imperfections that today’s consumers would simply not tolerate. The various colors of the lenses were thought to be best for particular ailments. The blue/violet lenses in particular would considered beneficial for blood disorders which is why Count Vlad is shown wearing them in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There you go: sunglass nerd trivia for you.

DISTINCTIVE PLEASURES

The adult side of things were a smaller portion but there were some interesting vendors I would have liked to explore more if their booths hadn’t been so crowded when I was there. From personal pleasuring to candy to things to share with your partner(s), objects and accessories ranged from plastic/pleather to leather with fur lining to various safe to ingest products.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It appears that there are quite a number of steampunk vendors from Massachusetts. The large international expo will be held in Waltham, MA May 6-8, 2011. Sadly that’s also a huge comic book weekend where I’ll be busy with Free Comic Book Day festivities so I can’t make that journey.

I managed to cruise through the whole show in a few hours to get the basic understanding of what it was all about. With more time and an intern, I could have gone a second day for capturing video and interviews but it wasn’t in the cards for this weekend. I owe a hearty thanks to Jeff Mach for sponsoring my visit to the Philly suburb. I will be sure to keep checking for other metro area steampunk/alt events so that I run into the good folks of this community again.

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