Meet Your Maker: Erika Syrjänen

Erika Syrjänen

Erika Syrjänen, Antipodean Tynker Gallery

We had the pleasure of meeting Erika Syrjänen and her partner Mark Walker a year ago when we were invited by mutual friends to come over to the Antipodean Tynker for a coffee. The Antipodean Tynker is a wunderkamer of a shop, both gallery and outlet for Steampunk curiosities and treasures. Erika and Mark present their work, as well as pieces produced from fellow artisans around the area. Some of it is for sale and some of it for wonder!

Erika is ever the hospitable hostess. She’ll make you a coffee whilst you sit and contemplate the many sculptures made from found objects. Or you can watch her while she works, crafting her beautiful creations. If you are lucky Mark may also come out for a chat… but don’t count on it.

The Antipodean Tynker has reopened for the summer season. We were fortunate to spend some time with Erika recently upon the opening weekend in mid-September. We had been chatting for a while when Mark appeared from behind the curtain which serves as partition between shop-front and the private living space / studio. On making his entrance Mark presented Per and myself with an old fashioned hand-held drill. He explained that it had been in his possession for many years, and hoped that it would now be part of our journey to be used for a sculpture or steampunk device of our own making.

We four spoke further about how Steampunk inspires us all to be more creative, about how far we've each come along our journey, starting in places where we didn't even know what Steampunk was. This is very much the case for Erika... so without further ado, let us introduce you to the elegant Erika Syrajänen...

Any photos not credited are direct from Erika Syrjänen.

1. Please introduce yourself… who are you, where do you live, and what do you make? 
My name is Erika, I live in Walcha and I am a Smith. I love to make very small trinket boxes. Really they are Jewellery for the Dressing Table. Lately I have been making Poison Rings and I am currently working on a pair of saw pierced earrings. I use Silver, Copper and Brass and usually all together if possible!

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

2. When / where did the love of your craft begin?
I can remember as a small girl going on drives with my grandfather in his old plumbing truck, the shelves filled with his tools and parts rattling. We would sometimes go to the tip and always bring stuff home.... 

Also he was a bit of an inventor… I loved his little creative space under the house. This early exposure to the metal world and recycling was to stay with me.

Then 10 years ago, after a serious accident, creating was awakened and I started making boxes and containers, forging and soldering; supported by my sweetheart, a very skilled metal worker himself. I started to work one-on-one with Master Craftspeople and also attended workshops, I was very fortunate to gain skills with Jewellers, an amazing Metalsmith, a Bronze Caster and a very talented Silversmith.

3. When / where did your Steampunk journey begin?
The Steampunk journey began in a workshop with Keith Lo-Bue, a Stuffsmith, holding a lengthy “Found Object” class… Massive amounts of Stuff were required to be collected for this! All the students arrived with huge suitcases filled with the weirdest pieces, each relating to whatever it was we were into… Keith himself had his luggage searched at the airport… and well, what can you say about mice skulls?

After this, I realised that there was actually a genre for what I was already really interested in.
Living in this cold climate (of Walcha) suits my “Street Steaming” op shop wardrobe as well!

4. Do you have a Steampunk persona? Who are they, and what is their back story? 
My persona hasn’t settled yet… I am in exploration. Presently, I am really loving “Victoriental".

A few years ago at the Dorrigo Steampunk Party, held by the beautiful folks at Mountain Metal Art, I won  “Best Gadget" with my “Cosmic Connection” a device that I created. It’s like a mobile telephone operator, and I could power up and plug you in to "Make The Call”!

5. What does Steampunk mean to you?
Turn of the century: An era of the beautiful, absolutely beautiful outfits with intricate detail. Exquisite fabrics, fabulous hats, corsets and little vests.  Where there was real effort and pride put into making and finishing everything.

Some old tools we find today just amaze us. And of course lots of Brass and Copper! 

6. Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration comes from so many places. We recently stayed at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba. It was heaven! This place for me reeks with Victorian Elegance.

Pinterest is a great feeding ground. Swap Meets and Flea Markets, I find very exciting… especially when you can bring home "the Kill" (most exciting purchase of the day).

I love to be surrounded by beautiful old objects, luxurious fabrics, and rugs, deep colours and fringed lamps. 

7. What’s your most treasured Steampunk possession? Why?
One of my favourite pieces at the moment is in the Gallery - a bike called "1916". It is a V16 built by Mark Walker. It has been inspired by the V16 builders at the turn of the century, Bugatti, Harry Miller, Auto Union.  This was Mark’s first found-object bike… the collecting of over 30 Victa lawn mowers; we would strip each one down, then we go back to the tip with the carcass and look for another one… this went on for about a year.   It was a huge build. A year just to build the crankshaft!  The full story is here.

A favourite tool of mine would be a very small vintage manual shaper.

8. Do you have favourite Steampunk musicians / groups / artists? Tell us about some of them?
We were stalking for a few years: "Mojo JuJu and the Snake Oil Merchants" when they were together. Albums are still available. Luckily we were able to see a performance in Melbourne, "The Jitterbug Club" at Red Bennies. A night to remember! The outfits and hairstyles were so perfect for this evening. Everyone made a lot of effort.

9. Do you have favourite Steampunk festivals / events / gatherings? Which ones? When and where?
Ironfest was a really great experience. I loved all the genres together - Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk, Cosplay… a great atmosphere. Everyone was happy to stop and “Strike a Pose”!

And there is a pull to go Omaru in NZ for sure!

10. Where can people see / buy your work?
At the moment my work is on display at Antipodean Tynker, in Walcha, which is a Fantasy Gallery set up for the maker of Five Handmade Motorbikes.  #artthatruns

If I am not at a swap meet I will be open most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 9am - 2pm.  

Facebook: Antipodean Tynker
Instagram: Antipodean Tynker


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