Meet your Maker: Steve King

Steven "Steve" King

Artist/Maker

In June of 2019 the USERs travelled to Oamaru in New Zealand to attend the 10th annual NZ Steampunk Festival. This was the second time that the USERs attended this festival, and as such it was a long weekend of catching up with old friends, and meeting many new ones as well.  One of our new friends is Steampunk Artist and Maker, Steve King.

Our first introduction to Steve was through seeing his prize creation, a large ray gun called "Blue Flame", but we later managed to track him down and spend time chatting.

(Below is an edited transcript of our recorded interview with Steve.)

All photos are by Pete Pearson (Per den Stigandr).

1. Please introduce yourself… who are you, where do you live, and what do you make?
My name is Steven "Steve" King. I live in the Ohoka, which is in the Waimakariri District of Christchurch. Out in the country on a 5 acre block...with a big shed.  And I make Steampunk, ray guns mainly, that's my thing really..that's the ray gun.  It's kind of what I do I suppose.  Out of rubbish.  Recycled, found and everything. It is all secondhand. It's all had a life before.  That's how I look at it because now it's got another life and it's a bit more permanent.  It's a sculpture now.  That's its new life.  It is retired.


2. When / where did the love of your craft begin?
When I was a kid I was pulling things apart and putting them together.  I've always done it.  I have done a few art courses over the years, and absolutely loved it.

So this Steampunk, I didn't realise that was what I was making, and I probably made thirty items that were Steampunk, that I did not know where Steampunk.  I was selling them in a gallery in Nelson when I was living there, and then found out about Steampunk when my friend moved here to Oamaru, and I realised that I was making Steampunk.  So then I got heavily into it.

I always had to make stuff.   I think it came really from my grandfather who was a cabinet maker, so I was in his shed, that was an old chook shed, to start with and then he made it into a little workshop and he used to make things out of timber.  So that is where it started I am sure.

3. When / where did your Steampunk journey begin?
Well that began when I I came down here to visit my friend, Bob.  And I saw this craziness going on here (Oamaru).  It was about six or seven years ago from now, and I thought what the hell is this and looked at all the things and gadgets you know and all this other stuff, and I just fell in love with it.  And I thought this....this is me.  I am making..I am making this stuff.

So this is how I look at it.  I have a great big table. It's a big old sliding door from commercial building.  It's huge, and I plonked a few legs on that.  And I spread all my stuff out.  But that's not big enough so I had to make another great big table.  So all the stuff...the junk is all there.  And I start creating.  And then the bits really choose a new mate.  So they fit, like a jigsaw puzzle.  And then the challenge is that you are trying to stick steel to glass or things that aren't meant to go together so how do you do that?  You have got to find different glues and cements that you can use, or rivots or screws or whatever to try and make this thing something better that it is meant to be.  You are tying to put all these things together that are just not meant to go together, and that is the challenge and the magic.  And that is where you put your time.  So I rough it up...a bit of a prototype, and then I think how the hell is that going to go together.  So that is the challenge.  So then you really start thinking, right... I have to come up with something somehow to make this all fit, and be solid as well, cause you don't want it falling apart.

That is what I like about it.  I mean, I appreciate all the plastic (Weta) moulded style stuff, but I just like using metal and glass and timber.  You have so many different elements that aren't meant to go together, and that is the challenge.  To make them go together.  Turning it into something that is not meant to be like that. And I like the solidness and the fact that it is recycled and that it now has another life.  And it is junk.  It is stuff people have thrown out.

The stuff I use is rubbish.  No good for anything else.  And you can't buy it at a garage sale or anything like that.  You have to get it from the dump where they throw rubbish out.  Metal rubbish.  And that is the challenge as well.....trying to get the stuff.  Safety regulations are making it harder and harder to get.

I have actually had a conversation with the local council who were actually looking at closing it.  But I said now hang on.  The only reason it isn't working is because it is not set up for people to go and get stuff, but it is meant to be a recycling centre.  Maybe they just need another bin and you shut that one off and people can scavenge from it while the other is being filled.  But unfortunately, it is not really about recycling.  It is about money.

4. Do you have a Steampunk persona? Who are they, and what is their back story? 
No, I don't.  I haven't considered one, but people have started calling me "Steampunk Steve".  I made this sign on the footpath with the clocks.  I just wanted something to attract peoples attention to get them up here.  And my friend Bob called me "Steampunk Steve", but that's not going to happen.  But after the parade yesterday I am now starting to think about it more...  I am sure it will happen as I carry on.


5. What does Steampunk mean to you?
It's an interesting question.  To me it's about Art.....  That's how I see it.  Because I make Art.  And really, you can do anything.  You can make anything.  Steampunk is changing all the time.  It does not have to be a ray gun.  You can make anything.  And anybody can make anything.  That's what I like about it.  Anybody can do it.  You don't need an art degree, to be an artist, you don't need to be this or that.  You can just go "I made that and it's Steampunk".

But to specifically define it, it's the Industrial Revolution futurised, but then from that point on.....anything goes.  It may have started with the likes of Jules Verne (Victorian England) but the thing is, if you look at it, it is around the world now.  So you can go anywhere in the world like Japan, and they have Steampunk Japanese style, American style, English style...you know European.  So it's kind of a genre that is an art form and something that brings people together.  You can explain it as an industrial, commercialised, futurised thing, but its about people.  It gather people together.  Everyone is laughing and smiling.  They have their disguise on, they are being something else and escaping the craziness into another craziness that is fun.

6. Where do you find inspiration?
Basically, I have always been busy, and I'm always looking at doing something, doing something, drawing, sketching, doing stuff like that.  But, I think the 3D hands-on sculpture side of it is the inspiration to create things to make stuff.  And when I found Steampunk it was like there is already...it's not about money or anything...but there is already a market.  If you make something someone might want to buy it.

I get inspiration from the old 50s, and the Rocket Day and all that.  The old rocket packs.  *So you are actually a bit of a ray punk?*  Yeah yeah, pretty much.  I supposed ray punk is a good way of looking at it.

*The parts also inspire you?*  When I've got all this stuff all over the table. Say you have a piece of machinery I pull it to pieces so that then within that one piece there is another 50 pieces.  So the inspiration I suppose is like the fine piece (the small pieces).  I think well, that is going to be something.  It almost talks to you in a way. It's like "well that actually goes with that".  So it kind of makes itself.  But the inspiration, you are just part of it.  You are just there to put it all together.  The stuff basically talks to you in a way.  It's all old, it's been away, its done it's job, it's about to get into a container to go off to China to be melted down, whereas I think no no, hang on.  Weill will make something out of you.  "Here's your retirement.  You are a sculpture".

7. What’s your most treasured Steampunk possession? Why?
*Do you have one?*  No, I don't. Interestingly enough, in the past I was making a lot of stuff and you would make something and think "oh, I am going to hang onto that.  I really like that!"  Whereas, with Steampunk I seem to be able to make it and let it go, which is a new way for me because it is kind of like frequency to me, its energy.  You make it.  If you hang onto it, you are stopping the flow.  If you let it go, you get more energy.  That's how I look at it.  But my favourite at the moment would be the "Blue Flame", as that is the first one I made.  And I kept in in the house on the side board for a long time.  It inspired me to make more.  But when I moved them to the gallery I had no inspiration so the inspiration became to make more.

~ Blue Flame ~

~ Interstellar Hypodermic Reducer ~

~ Atomic 3D Aether Ray Gun ~

~ Directed Energy Weapon ~

~ Pocket Watch Time Capsule ~

~ Galactic Gattler ~



8. Do you have favourite Steampunk musicians / groups / artists? Tell us about some of them?
The Merchants (The Merchants of the Time Travelling Tea Trade).  They are my favourite.  I think they are great because the other thing about Steampunk music is it is so different.  It new, fresh, totally different.  It is it's own thing.

9. Do you have favourite Steampunk festivals / events / gatherings? Which ones? When and where?
The Oamaru Steampunk Festival of the World (NZ Steampunk Festival).  It is the only one I have ever been to, but I haven't followed it around.  But you know, who knows, I could do.  It is fantastic for this little town Oamaru, at the bottom of the world.

10. Where can people see / buy your work?
I don't even have a name for the gallery, but it is in Oamaru, in the Woolshed.  I have considered other galleries, and online, but for now, it is just here in the gallery.


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