Friday 17 February 2012

The Century Survey

Concept pic from "The Century Survey"- Bradford Industrial Museum

Concept pic from "The Century Survey"- Victoria Road, Saltaire

In late 2009 an author with whom I was aquainted asked me to do a bit of concept art for a steampunk project he was thinking of developing. I'd had an interest in Steampunk for some time, and a desire to do some work based on the genre (for those not in the know, steampunk can be basically summed up as ornate, decorative, Victorian science fiction, girls in top hats, everyone wearing goggles. In fact just google Brass Goggles and you'll see in far better detail than I can explain), basically the prospect of the commision gave me an opportunity to do something practical in the genre. At the time though there wasnt a lot I could do beyond producing a few sketches based off ideas I'd had for a while, and start making the odd miniature for some trial shots. However I ended up having to focus more on paid employment, and it all sort of tailed off.
I wasnt really looking for a new project in 2011, when I was in the middle of moving house, but I'd been scribbling some notes and doodles for Steampunk themed miniatures for some time, and heard about a show of steampunk work at the Bradford Industrial Museum. I dropped them an email, told them what I was thinking of doing, produced a speculative piece to see if they were interested, and suddenly found that in the middle of a house move I'd ended up commiting myself to producing 3 large pieces for exhibition by christmas.

Intitial concept pic from "The Century Survey"- Salts Mill

The Century Survey

This is something I've been wanting to do since I first visited Saltaire, and especially since I began working in the heart of the village, overlooking the magnificent mill buildings. Saltaire is a World Heritage Site in West Yorkshire, a workers town built around the mill by the industrial magnate Sir Titus Salt. Theres plenty more on Wikipedia:
The background to the project is that its set in the same fictional world as the Britannia Model Village- when I produced that project, I ended up writing a whole fake history for the country, how this alternate Britain existed, how it had developed. Delving further back into its past, the idea is that the somewhat standard Steampunk theme of the developement of Charles Babbage's 'Difference Engine' was succesful, and this first early computer combined with advances in steam engineering allowed the rapid technological expansion of the British Empire, recast as the nation of Britannia. If you like, this is where the world of the fictional Britannia splits apart from our own.
"The Century Survey" is set in 1901, round about the transition from the classic Steampunk genre into the later "Dieselpunk", seen with the massed steam technology being gradually replaced with early diesel and electric power. The project takes the form of a series of photomanipulations showing scenes around Saltaire Village with these differing technologies presented as 'everyday' sights. Supposedly this is a photographic documentation of the village, taken as part of a wider survey carried out with the 1901 population census. In reality, its an excuse for me to build lots of steam powered lorries, tanks, and other machines, and photoshop them into some of my favourite parts of the town in which I work. Eventually I plan to create a book of the images, with fake histories and other artifacts.
Three early pictures from the project were exhibited at the "Steampunk At The Industrial Museum" show in 2011/2012. Two directly relate to Saltaire, and the third was specially requested by the museum, showing their building with all this technology. Its proving a nice jumping-off point anyway for the rest of the project, and incentive to get more done on this all. I'll post some more details showing the construction of some of the miniatures.

Concept pic from "The Century Survey"- Salts Mill, Saltaire

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