TWO PASSIONS, ONE TRIP…
It is time… I haven’t written in over a year so it is time to put ink to paper again and what better way than combining two of my passions Steampunk and travel and with travel there are interiors, architecture and interesting people from all walks of life.
For those of you who know me well… you know that I have had a fascination with Steampunk for many years now and with costumes and dressing up for as long as I can remember. (Some of my family still chastise me for us being the only table dressed up in medieval attire for a play. But guess what? We had the most fun as no one knew who we were). I had considered going to the Steampunk Festival in Oamaru for several years now but it has always fallen through. This year I made it!
So traveling in my Steampunk travel attire, I made the long trek from Whanganui to Oamaru driving my car and not in an airship, (something I won’t do again). But the upside is the scenery in the South Island is breath taking and this trip was no exception, the weather was perfect and the scenery and light just magical. So that pretty much set the tone for an exciting week away of adventure.
I don’t think I have ever been to Oamaru before, but by-passed it on my way south, which has obviously been a mistake on my part.
Oamaru like many provincial towns throughout New Zealand has suffered badly with the decline in services and a shift to the larger cities and had to look at ‘reinventing’ themselves. And with that they have created a very successful Steampunk Community being dubbed the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand. (I am not going into how this was done nor when as there is so much written about it by the creators, I could not do it justice). But in a nutshell Oamaru is a port town and with port towns are old buildings, storage sheds, trading places fit for purpose the perfect setting for a Victorian/science fiction inspired community and event.
I stayed at the Criterion Hotel, built in 1877 to immerse myself in the history. It was surprisingly warm considering how old the building is, but that may have been the dense Oamaru stone structure that created the warmth. This area of Oamaru was like stepping back in time, as every turn I took and building I entered, people were dressed in Victorian or Steampunk attire and there was a buzz in the community. Even the town centre had shop windows dressed with some of the staff partaking in dressing for the occasion.
Some costumes were incredibly detailed and elaborate and clearly a lot of thought had gone into the creative process and the personas that were created. Others were simple, perhaps because they were just starting their Steampunk journey or because budget didn’t allow or maybe they just wanted to be a part of the creative energy that flowed, but whatever the reason everyone was enjoying the moment, the weekend, the adventure. That is what I love about Steampunk, the various communities around the country are varied in their outfits and the events they hold, but everyone is so welcoming, inviting each other to share with their individual communities and have fun. We are all at different stages, but we all share a passion for creativity on so many levels.
I loved wandering through the buildings in the port area. Many have been restored and re-purposed, as I suspect they may have been left empty for years like so many around the country. The majority of the buildings are constructed of a local stone which is a beautiful natural resource either rough cut or finished. It has a subtle grain running through it and is very warm in colour and to the touch. Many of the buildings have raw finished stone on the interior with solid native timbers and the combination is visually appealing and warm. I loved them and to top it off many of the buildings are filled with artisans, specialty shops or function rooms. A treasure trove for anyone keen on art and crafts and as I am always on the lookout for clients, I was in my element.
It was lovely to walk in the not too early morning or late afternoon as the sun was just bathing parts of the buildings. The air was crisp and clear and the glow created on these lovely buildings, highlighting architectural details was simply stunning.
Well done Oamaru for keeping your beautiful historical quarter alive for generations to enjoy and to the Creators of Steampunk for the vision to host such a great event and become the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand. Special thanks to Iain Clark and Helen Steampunk Jenson for you warmth and hospitality, you are truly the essence of Steampunk and of what communities used to be about, all-encompassing and welcoming.
Isn’t that what it is all about? Victorian Visionaries and looking toward the future, creating and sharing!
terry lobb colour and design ltd.