Steampunk Emporium book review

Steampunk Emporium cover
Steampunk Emporium cover

Steampunk Emporium is a “How-To” book written by Jema Hewitt who is arguably better known by her alter ego Emilly Ladybird. The book shows aspiring steampunk creators how to make their own “jewellery, devices and cogs” from a variety of materials. The list price is $27.99 USD (£17.99) although I found one online for as little as $16.79 (£10.79).

Steampunk Emporium is one of three books that covers the exploits and adventures of intrepid explorer Emilly Ladybird. This book features 20 jewellery items that can be made with full, illustrated instructions. They’re split into five sections with each separated by a fictional letter to a friend which describes the wonders she’s seeing and trouble she’s getting into as she traverses the world.

The foreword is an explanation of steampunk and isn’t entirely dissimilar to how I view steampunk here at the Journal. Interestingly, she mentions that the first recorded use of the term “steampunk” was in The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. She goes on to say that it is thought that KW Jeter used the term “steam punk” while referring to The Difference Engine in a review. This conflicts with the common consensus that he wrote it in a note to Locus magazine three years before The Difference Engine was published.

Each creation begins with a letter to someone – generally a friend – accompanied by a lovely photograph and a list of the items you’ll need to make the item. Every step has a photograph which is high quality, colour and relevant.

Each creation is interspersed with small “Enquire Within” cards that give useful tips or alternate ideas on how to complete it.

Steampunk Emporium step by step guide
Steampunk Emporium step by step guide

I can see many people being able to make something by using this book. The items are little trinkets, so while anything you accomplish will generally be small, it means that you don’t have to go to great lengths to have something complete in your hands and that can mean a lot to someone who is new to steampunk.

Being able to make something is important when first entering the scene and many would give up if they feel they’ve failed. By having something small to start with, there’s a greater chance of success and that’s fantastic. The items that are available to make in the book are easy to do because they’re simple in design, yet attractive and the instructions are clear and concise.

Steampunk Journal Recommended review awardAll of these “How-To” books remind me a little of those chef shows that show you how to make simple food by using ingredients that they’ve bought that day/grown over a year and use most of the kitchen’s utensils and pans to get the job done. For example, the first item – The Ocean’s Gate Key Device – is a small necklace that requires no less than 27 various items or tools to complete the task. That’s a big outlay if you’re starting up in steampunk and that’s on top of the £17.99 just for the book. So does that mean that this book is for established makers looking to try something new or emulate an established crafter? Possibly, but then why the explanation of steampunk at the beginning?

It’s tough to get the balance right in these circumstances and while the book falters slightly on the amount of stuff you need to get in order to make something, the actual way the book is written, illustrated and presented is nothing short of gorgeous. I will certainly be placing it proudly on my bookshelf.

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