Meet Your Maker: Miss Purple
A visit to Oamaru is incomplete without a visit to Studio Realm in the Victorian Precinct; a jewellery box of a store filled with treasures, curios and embellishments for your steampunk attire. The greatest treasure of all is the shop owner Miss Purple, who the USERs had the pleasure of meeting on our first adventure to Oamaru.
Miss Purple is a delight to share time with, though often it feels as though you’ve entered the conversation part way through. She is a bit like a jewellery box herself with unexpected treasure-like tales, and so much more than meets the eye.
On our second trip in May-June 2019, we made sure that we found a moment between customers to chat to her again. Without further ado, let us introduce you to…
(Below is an edited transcript of our recorded interview.)
1. Please introduce yourself. Who are you, where do you live and what do you make?
Miss P: Introducing Miss Purple. Never married; quite happy living in sin. I live in Oamaru, capital of Steampunk in New Zealand. And… what was the rest of the question?
Kat: What do you make?
Miss P: Whatever I want! Well…I work on it. I grew up poor. If you want it, you make it. So, lead light, leather, jewellery, hats, cards, thrones… just stuff. Materials inspire and I play!
2. Where did the love of your craft begin?
Miss P: I’ve always been crafting. I grew up poor. If you want it, you make it.
But I found Steampunk in Oamaru, sadly when I came through for a friend’s funeral, and I had a broken ankle at the time. I had a chauffeur and I commanded we stop because I remembered these buildings. We found them again and I hobbled around excitedly for hours, got back to the car with this big, black, swollen, fat foot, but that didn’t matter! I used to do this, and I can do it again.
Previously I had a “normal” job and I couldn’t sell my house fast enough to get back here, and I’ve been here, playing ever since. That was in March 2011, and I came here (to Oamaru) in December 2011, and I got these premises in December 2012.
3. When and where did your Steampunk journey begin?
Miss P: Here, when I found Oamaru. After finding this place and being charmed, I went back home, and I’d seen posters when I was here, for the Steampunk Festival. So, my friend Katrina and I come down for that Festival, stayed at the Little Criterion which charmed me all over again.
After that I got a job… ‘cause when I first found this street, I said to myself “I’m gonna work there, I’m gonna get a business in this street, and I’m gonna get the Kakanui school bus driver job.”
Ticked that all off! I’ve been the Kakanui bus driver for the last six years, but now I’m just the relief bus driver because I make a living here (at Studio Realm).
Looking back, that was only the 2nd Steampunk Festival, the one that charmed me into moving to Oamaru. This (in 2019) is my 9th. I hadn’t realised it had been that long, I didn’t realise I’d done that many of them! They just roll round and round quite quickly!
4. Do you have a Steampunk persona? Who are they, and what is their back story?
Miss P: I tried to introduce myself as Miss Amberie Rover, ‘cause I love amber and I used to wear a big brass Rover hubcap with a viking ship, on my tits for protection.
But that wasn’t working and just as well because “Rover” is a bit rough!
Then, being the school bus driver the littlies all politely call me “Miss”, so it became “Miss Purple”.
Kat: So “Miss Purple” came about organically?
Miss P: Yeah, I’ve had “Purple” as a nickname for not acting my age for about 35 years now.
Kat: And it was the kids then, who called you “Miss Purple.”
Miss P: Yeah, they were all nice and polite, you see - the little ones, the infants. The older ones would just go “Purple! Stop the bus! You missed the stop.”
I didn’t miss too many stops…
5. What does Steampunk mean to you?
Miss P: Victoriana - the future that never was!
So “Steam” relates to the Victorian styling, aesthetics, the materials of their day and when you “Punk” it, it’s any attitude you like.
Steampunk is inspired by the writings of Jules Verne….
…at this point of the interview several Steampunk attired customers in Miss Purple’s shop join in the conversation to explain to a couple of tourists visiting from Malaysia what Steampunk is. The phrase “Victorian Science Fiction” quickly ends that conversation which moves on to where the tourists are from. Miss Purple then mentions to me that she lived in Malaysia for a time as a very young child because her father was in the army. She refers to herself as an Army Brat, and laments that her dad never allowed her to use his army paraphernalia in her art works. But she did convince him once to join her in a Steampunk parade!
After the tourist couple have taken photos with Miss Purple the interview continued…
6. Where do you find inspiration?
Miss P: Wherever you find it, and whatever flows and goes. Mother Nature is a lot of it for me. Depends on your medium and what you are working with. The materials you use, and how they come together. What you can put together and how it fits. I’m not keen on straight lines. I like curves, like Mum Nature; other than a slightly curved horizon, there are no straight lines in nature.
Colour is also important to me, that’s why I tszuj up, and it’s not all black, black and black. I’m a bit of a brownie, but you know… that’s just a nice black for old ladies!
Kat (looking around Miss Purple’s shop): There’s lots of very brightly coloured hats, jewels and flashes of colour from the windows… I love it!
Miss Purple: Even the doilies are coloured!
7. What’s your most treasured Steampunk possession, and why?
Miss P: Treasured? You mean I have to pick?
Well, this lives with me - the key to the trunk, you know, my treasure on my truck. Normally my truck is here with me but it has a flat battery.
And I have that same key twice, one to get in the truck and one for the trunk.
Kat: So, would you say the keys to your truck are treasured? Or is your truck a prized possession?
Miss P: Well, yes. It is probably.
I think of it as my handbag and with the storage on the back… well, how many people can fuck around in a handbag? Or sleep in it… anywhere you want to take it!
Kat erupts into guffaws.
Miss P: Sorry! I’ll change the tone.
No, no, no! She’s real vintage! (referring back to the truck). I’ve been photographing old vehicles for years. When I sold my house I also bought a moped (below), and that was my little pat on the back. And I couldn’t find another house straight away, so I let myself buy a truck.
It’s called “Realm Runner”, because it’s my daily run into the Realm, Studio Realm. Everyone thinks her name is “Miss Purple” (because that’s painted on the side), but it’s “owner operator” on the door. Her name is on her nose. Not her bum!
But she’s not here today, she’s getting a battery charge-up. She had a busy weekend, going too slow in the parade.
Kat: She was a highlight in the parade…
Miss P: …with her “unmentionables”! And Bob riding shotgun on the back. And Wendy in the front had a broken leg, so it was a windy carriage!
Kat: (giggling) I like your word-play. It’s very funny!
8: Do you have any favourite Steampunk musicians, groups or artists? Tell us about some of them.
Miss P: That would be real life ones for me, because I don’t play with your gizmos (Miss Purple is referring most modern technology. She has an old candy bar phone for calls and texting and A CD player in the store. She does not use social media, Youtube or such.)
So, the Merchants of the Time Travelling Tea Trade, and our lady last night (at the Steampunk dinner) - Tahu and the Takahes. She’s got it! She’s a Goddess, full of love and affirmations for everyone! That wasn’t Steampunk, but it got us all grooving.
Kat: Does it have to be? I just think it’s the attitude sometimes!
Miss P: Well, if it doesn’t have to be totally Steampunk, I live on these guys (going over to fetch a CD from the workshop) - My Baby. They’re Dutch, but they’ve got a Kiwi boy guitarist. They come out here each summer. Yeah, they’re cool!
9: Do you have any favourite Steampunk festivals, events, gatherings? Which ones? And when and where?
Miss P: Firstly, Oamaru Steampunk Festival! That’s our one, our winter one. On our Queen’s birthday weekend - the end of May, beginning of June.
And Thames Steampunk Festival, which for me… I grew up at the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula, so I’m just going home to scare everyone, and catch up with family. It’s awesome! And they’re a bit more rustic… and I am a bit more rough around the edges.
I got to the UK, and there are some awesome festivals over there. There’s another couple of favourite bands! I went to a ball at a festival at Llandrindod Wells - they have a pirate festival with the Filthy Spectacula; pirate-flavoured band.
And then I also went to the Phoenix Alternative Festival and got some more favourite music there - The Wattingers. The singer Martin has an awesome deep voice… yeah, they’re really cool.
And Victor and the Bully, and I’m wearing Victor’s hat in that photo.
I made awesome friends over there… and Lincoln Asylum Festival was awesome.
Oamaru has the architecture, but New Zealand isn’t that old. They’ve got the contrast in architecture in the UK. I had a ball over there. Loved it!
I won a thousand bucks travel money on the radio, and I got there, and robbed myself to come home, and hauled my leather luggage and sold it, and traded it, and lost weight, and came home, and met my Pete when I was nice and slim-jim after hauling all that leather luggage… that’s alright… he’s just got to work it off me!
Kat: So, that must have been fairly recent, because when we were here last time, you’d only just met Pete.
Miss P: Yes, in 2016. He met me only just before I went… and he snuck up on me. He kept on “meeting” me. Persistence from a distance! And then he migrated… he’s an infiltrator to Oamaru too. Local now!
|Pete and Miss Purple|
10. Where can people see or buy your work?
Miss P: At Studio Realm, 9 Harbour Street, Victorian Precinct in Oamaru.
And I’m sorry, this ignorant luddite in life - nothing’s online… because I don’t want to be a robot. I enjoy what I make, and I’m proud of my fellow artisans. It’s all Kiwi made here.
Kat: And you engage with people so well when they come in the shop. That’s part of the delight of coming to visit you
Miss P: Yeah, this is the hub of it! I love it!