Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Marilee Rose Stonestreet - Jeweler Gone Steampunk

I came across this jewelry designer through Visual Kei Music contacts in the world of Versailles Philharmonic Quintet and was surprised to learn that not only had she and her entire family discovered Steampunk while living in Japan (the Genre is quite new there actually), but her work as a jewelry designer got infected with the beauty of Steam as well.  As such I interviewed her about her work and this change in general.  The photo above of Marilee and her Steampunk family was taken by the staff at Little Rain Drops Photography

Can you tell us a bit about how you first became interested in creating your own jewelry?

I have always created many things throughout my life. My father is an artist and lover of the older darker science fiction movies, so when I was a little girl I spent much of my time painting and sculpting with him, and finding excuses to get theatrical with our clothing and make-up. This was something that stayed with me my entire life. However, the art of creating jewelry did not show its face to me until much later, about three years ago actually. I have always loved stones and crystals, so when a friend of mine took me sea glass hunting, I was very intrigued. I didn’t know much about sea glass at the time, but sea glass is actual broken pieces of glass that has been deposited in the ocean by shipwrecks or pollution. After a certain amount of time the salt water and sand have processed it to create something very much resembling a stone, which people often mistake it for. I call it natures way of turning the worlds trash into treasure, so you sort of feel like a pirate when you go searching for it. So, after I had collected a plethora of sea glass, I said to myself ”well now what?” I had heard of people making jewelry out of it, but I had no idea how. I turned to a crystal piece I bought at a Samhain festival many years ago that embraced the art of wire wrapping. I told myself that if someone can do that with a crystal, can I not do something similar with sea glass? So I did, and then found out this was a technique many artists used when creating sea glass jewelry. At the time I didn’t think about selling, I would just give it to my friends and family as gifts, or wear it myself. After being told by admirers of my work that I should really think about selling, I opened my etsy shop to the world. I did not only use sea glass, but I also expanded by using materials like crystal, brass, metal and random vintage finds for my jewelry. I also created a variety of hair accessories using feathers, satin, and lace. I sold my items with some success, but my jewelry always sold more, and to be honest, it was what I enjoyed making the most. I eventually decided that jewelry was where my creative mind was most adept.

Have you received any training in this art or is it all self taught?

Everything I have learned about jewelry has been through observation of other artisans and fellow crafters, or simple self discovery. I’m a history major so the only real lessons I have are the ones that the story of time have taught me, and they have been the inspiration for my work.

What attracted you to Steampunk as a style in jewelry and in other areas of your life?

I have to say that quite honestly I was not fully aware of the presence of the Steampunk sub-culture until three and a half years ago. I had come across portions of the style, but I did not know it‘s true title, I just always thought it was beautifully intriguing. I have been immersed in the Gothic Industrial scene since I was 15 years old, and my style had always been mostly old world, and inspired by the more vampire Victorian aura of it. It wasn’t until I was about twenty one that I started to become more flexible with my style, and explore the different aspects of what I had been attached to for so long; The fae point of view, the futuristic point of view, and then many years later, the true world of Steampunk. Now as you know, I was already half way there without knowing it, so it’s no wonder that when it came to Steampunk I embraced the Victorian vampiric perspective of it most of all. 

My jewelry has always been a bit on the eccentric fantasy side. However, my Clockwork Series, which is of course my Steampunk jewelry, didn’t emerge until I popped in an old CD I often listened to in my early Goth clubbing days. I like to invent story lines and worlds that go with the song I am listening to….I know, I sound a bit insane, but music is often my muse when creating most anything in my life. I have told very few people this, but maybe it will bring some new perspective into what I create; during this particular song I imagined the story of a man who lived in a city of clockwork. Everything about this city was obsessed with clockwork so much, that they used it to run everything, even for the simplest tasks, like a creating a contraption to poor tea into a cup. Their lakes were even filled with discarded gears and cogs, which caused their lake’s water to turn into a rust brown and an oily green. As I said, clockwork was the obsession of this world, but real people were most certainly not made of clockwork…that is until the man in my story lost his lovely wife. With the song I imagined the story of the man, fearful, yet lovingly, bringing back his wife with the use of clockwork bodily inserts, and of course other fictional means to reanimate human life. The story that emerged in my head created my Clockwork Series, and if you read the name of every piece in that series you will see a relation between them and the story I imagined. The story still goes on through each piece I create, and adds to yet another element in the tale.


What do you find most challenging about trying to put more “Steampunk” into your jewelry?

The biggest challenge of trying to put the element of Steampunk in my jewelry is the attempt to combine all of myself, and all the crazy elements that I‘m in love with, without having it look like a perplexing mess. I have refused to let go of my love of sea glass, and to my surprise, my sea glass clockwork pieces have been much admired by my customers and other artisans. As a jewelry artisan you sometimes worry about what your customers and the new public will think about a creation that seems just a bit… “out there”, even to genres that are already considered by the general public as “out there”. To elaborate further, It’s like being a mad scientist; Will you create a monster they love? Or one they will fear?….or worse…one they won’t wear? So you put yourself into the steaming public hoping that they will see what you saw; a mix of elements portraying what you adore, and a creation that opens the mind and soul.


I understand you live in Japan at present. Can you tell us a little about Steampunk in Japan?

Steampunk in Japan doesn’t seem to be quite as expansive as most would think. You see bits of it here and there in fashion, and of course in animes like Steamboy, Last Exile, and Fullmetal Alchemist which have Steampunk in it’s core. You also see bits of it in Kuroshitsuji a.k.a.The Black Butler, and in films from famous animators like Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky and Howl's Moving Castle. You also tend to run into very Steampunkish contraptions every now and then. I believe it still has not developed as strongly as something like Lolita or Visual-kei, but it's making it's move. On April 2012 Tokyo will have it's first Steampunk event by held Kennycreations called STEAM GARDEN episode:1 -Tokyo steampunk society. This is a very exciting step in the world of Steampunk for Japan, and I am hoping it will lead to a birth of Steampunk artists in this beautiful creative country.


What else would you like to tell the readers about your work as a Steampunk jeweler or as a Steampunk in general?

As a Steampunk and a Steampunk jeweler I find that many try to imitate, and that is of course where everyone starts out. It’s human nature to first imitate in order to understand and find what works best, but then it is very important to put yourself into your creation, because that is what makes yours extraordinary. So of course, with respect to the basic idea of what makes Steampunk, don’t forget to factor in the most important element to the equation that equals exquisite Steampunk, you. 

Please take a look at her Etsy Store as well:

The Rose of Stonestreet

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