Today we visit with maker Dave Lee as he shares his amazing Steampunk Dive Suit with us.
A Lot of Leagues under the Sea
A Steampunk Dive Suit
by Dave Lee
by Dave Lee
One of the first things that comes to my mind, when thinking of Steampunk and Steampunk influences, is Jules Verne. I like to credit him as the grandfather of Steampunk as he was one of the most prolific sci-fi writers of the 19th century. Since my description of Steampunk is: “Our interpretation of THEIR (19th century folks) concept of futurism”, I look to who one of the most influential futurists and I came up with Jules Verne. Naturally there are many other inspirations but we are talking about my opinion so write your own article. Just kidding.
Jules Verne’s book; 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, has been a tremendous inspiration for me while designing costumes, especially dive suits. When my friend, Mike Seals, asked me to make him a Steampunk Dive suit, I was ecstatic. It was a super fun build and when I saw the reaction he got from people, my ego convinced me to make one for myself.
There were a few prerequisites that were important:
· I wanted the suit to be very large but very light.
· I wanted a lot of lights, plasma discs and barnacles
· I wanted a fair amount of tech (pa system, etc)
· I wanted a more ethnical flair to it, something other than western culture.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years of making costumes is that people want to get their picture taken. You spend a lot of time and/or money on a good costume so consequently you want people asking to take your photograph. With Steampunk costuming, I’ve noticed that flash and shinny get attention. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to make mine larger than life but having sent myself to the chiropractor before, I wanted to keep weight just as high a priority as flash. I started with a backpack that was a toddler carrier. Sorry, mine’s a teenager so I no longer remember what the proper term in. This provided excellent support but was still very light. Another key feature was a piece that locks out, allowing the backpack to stand on its own. From there, I added stuff, a lot of stuff. It has a weed sprayer tank, flour and sugar brass containers, a pretzel container, flower vases and a brass box. You can look at the photo and dissect what you see.
Next, I wanted to make my helmet unique and eye catching. I had been eyeing a binnacle at my local antique shop for nearly three years. Finally, they agreed to discount the price and provide me with my helmet. It is aluminum and the shape and size were perfect. Again, you can look at the photograph and dissect how I did it and what I used. A couple things of note however: I cut holes out of the side to get sound in the helmet and more importantly, air. I used brass toilet flanges as the covering/border and for the front, I used an orange plastic pot coaster. Hoses, gauges and an old flash (looks like a satellite dish) added to the overall look and finish of it.
Next came the shoulder base. I needed something to attach the helmet to as well as to support it. I found a plastic Culligan water cooler at the thrift store and got to cutting. I cut out the shoulder spaces and then added foam tubing around the edges to complete the look. A plasma disc on the front with easily accessible switches gives it a great look and adds my mandatory “shinny”.
I added a lot of “undersea” texture on the backpack and helmet using a technique I learned from French artist Maurice Grunbaum. Using epoxy, pony beads, shells, a star fish and some real barnacles, I was able to add a cool look that made the suit look like it’s been used under the ocean. A little paint, light effects and you’re all set!
I wanted the outfit to be less jumpsuit and more cultural so I decided to go with a maroon color and a very long linen vest I had for Ren Fairs. I thought it gave a somewhat Middle Eastern/ Indian look without being too ethnical and running the risk of offending anyone. Lastly, I needed some good dive boots. I was real lucky and found some huge cold weather boots (for $5) that gave me what I was looking for. Half a bottle of Lysol later, I was ready.
The electrical is a whole other article that requires a lot more time. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me, I’d be happy to share. See you all at the next con!
David Lee is the principal artist at Hatton Cross Steampunk, located in Gloucester VA. David's Steampunk art was featured at the "Steampunk Bizarre Exhibit" with Dr. Grymm and has had exhibits in various Steampunk conventions and festivals throughout the US to include DragonCon. He has received several nominations for his artwork and in 2013 won "Best Mod-Weaponry" (Steampunk Chronicle) for his Steampunk Tank, aka "The Gentleman's Armored Battle Carriage". One of the highlights for David has been to play the Steampunk Darth Vader in “Trial of the Mask”, a steampunk Star Wars fan film from 40+BC Productions. In July of 2013 he teamed up with other authors, artists and professional editors to establish HCS Publishing. His Steampunk western novel entitled “Country in Ruin:1865" is published through HCS Publishing and its sequel “World in Ruin:1870” is due out in 2014. David is also a contributing "DIY" author for the Steampunk Chronicle and has been featured in three published books about steampunk fashion and costuming.David’s personal motto is “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!” and applies this to everything he does. www.hcsteam.net