Meet your Makers: Alex Cowley

Alex Cowley

aka "Almost Lord Cowley" (Leatherheds)

We first came across Alex Cowley when we began to see him posting images of his new creations on what was then the new New England Steampunk NSW Facebook Group.  Admiring the work, we investigated a bit and discovered that he was situated only a couple hours drive from us.

In October last year I was then lucky enough to receive a set of hand made Steampunk bracers for my birthday, made by none other than Alex himself.  And to say that I love them is an understatement.  They have become a permanent part of my Steampunk regalia and even travelled to New Zealand with me earlier this year where I wore them at the Oamaru Steampunk Festival.

So, it is not surprising that we wanted to include Alex in our Meet your Makers series.  The fact that he is the first is largely down to logistical planning and luck more than anything, but it truly was a pleasure to meet Alex in person this weekend and spend some time chatting with him.

I give you Alex Cowley, Steampunk maker....


1. Please introduce yourself… who are you, where do you live, and what do you make?
Hi, my name is Alex Cowley. I am a leather artist living and working in Bellingen, a small, vibrant town on the Mid North Coast of NSW. I hand make a variety of leather based Steampunk masks and accessories as well as Steampunk inspired art pieces.

Photo credits: Alex Cowley 

Apocalypse Scout

Bracers

Cernunnos with mask Cernunnos (back) Cernunnos (front)

Gas Man

Half Face

Opal HolsterOpal Holster (detail)

Plague Mask: Baron Von Redwing Plague Mask: Breather Plague Mask: Classic Plague Mask: Dr Black

2. When / where did the love of your craft begin?
I found leatherwork about ten years ago. I had an interest in Medieval reinactment at the time and so had to source things like period footwear and armour. I was given an opportunity to come here to the leather shop, (in which I now work) and make the things I needed with the help of the owner and master leather craftsman Bruce Erskine. My career was photography and digital imaging at the time. While I loved what I did, it often meant spending a lot of time in front of the computer and I found that increasingly I enjoyed the more 'hands-on' creative aspect of leather artistry. One thing led to another and about seven years ago I was offered a position here at the shop. I've been here ever since and couldn't be happier.

3. When / where did your Steampunk journey begin?
I guess my Steampunk journey began a couple of years ago. I had got into making masquerade masks but came across an image of a Plague Doctor mask. Wanting to try something different I worked out a pattern and made one. I put it on display in the shop and within a few days somebody asked if they could buy it, so I made another and it all kind of went from there. The more I researched, the more inspiration I had to make Steampunk items and it wasn't long before I was scouring second hand shops and hardware stores for interesting things to add to my creations. I really like combining leather, brass and copper and being able to repurpose or up-cycle a bit of old pipe or clock parts along the way is a lot of fun.

4. Do you have a Steampunk persona? Who are they, and what is their back story?
Not as yet unfortunately. So far I've been having too much fun making things for other people to have time to think about it for myself. Having said that I do have a nickname within the family. The title of Lord Cowley had become available around the time of my 40th birthday and the family had thought to get it for me. Unfortunately it was snapped up before we got there and so I've been called Almost Lord Cowley ever since.
Photo credit: Katinka van Ingen aka "
Lady Katelijne van Schönau".

5. What does Steampunk mean to you?
Put simply, the opportunity to create interesting and original things for like-minded folk. All the people I've met, with an interest in Steampunk have been wonderful and have had a real appreciation for the work that goes into hand made items.

6. Where do find inspiration?
I pick up inspiration from all over the place. The internet is of course a great resource but even wandering around second hand shops and seeing an object that could be repurposed into something Steampunk. I also really enjoy watching period dramas and historical documentaries that are centred around the Victorian era.

7. What’s your most treasured Steampunk possession? Why?
I think my most treasured Steampunk possession would have to be my pocket watch. It's a 1916 Elgin Hunter that I found in an antique shop and I watch that I use regularly. The watch chain and teapot trinket I have with it belonged to my great grandfather. Although, as watches go it's nothing fancy, I'm fascinated by all the engineering packed into that small case and that over 100 years on, it still keeps time. I often also wonder what all the different owners of the watch were like. It's like holding a little piece of history.

Photo credit: Katinka van Ingen aka "
Lady Katelijne van Schönau".

8. Do you have favourite Steampunk musicians / groups / artists? Tell us about some of them?
While I don't have a favourite artist I'm always blown away by the things I see online. The creativity that's out there is quite staggering. If I had to pick one however I think it would be Tom Banwell, I think his masks are amazing.

9. Do you have favourite Steampunk festivals / events / gatherings? Which ones? When and where?
Well I think Ironfest at Lithgow would have to be top of the list but I'd also love to take a trip to Oamaru and and soak up all that Steampunk goodness.

10. Where can people see / buy your work? (Yes, some blatant self promotion please!)
I have a website at www.leatherheds.com.au as well as an Etsy store (www.etsy.com.au/shop/leatherheds). I also regularly update my Facebook (www.facebook.com/leatherheds) and Instagram pages (www.instagram.com/leatherheds) with new creations. For those in the area I also have my masks on display here at Awl Leather in Bellingen.

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