Steampunk and Surrealism.. just go together

If you’re not on my list of friends, or followers on any of my feeds. then chances are you are coming in for Artprize related things, have seen us on […]

If you’re not on my list of friends, or followers on any of my feeds. then chances are you are coming in for Artprize related things, have seen us on the news, or just stumbled upon this page – and you may not quite know what “steampunk” is.

In a nutshell, Steampunk is a return to the days when people were familiar with the technology they used, nearly intimate… but not in any sort of naughty or profane way… I am sure there is another name for that…

… but what I am talking about: Those times when something broke, the owner knew how to fix it. If the part was broken, they knew who to go to to have the part made, if they didn’t make it themselves. Everything was quality: quality materials, quality craftsmanship; The things you owned, if they broke (which was far less likely), you fixed them, because they were just that awesome… nice wood, bits of brass or steel… every part, every gear, every cog, crafted with pride and often decorative for no good reason other than to say “I made this, and I did a fantastic job of it”.

On the flip side of using old technologies, familiarizing ourselves with them, revisiting old inventions and designs that were unsuccessful perhaps due to a lack of the proper materials or support technologies – is familiarizing ourselves with the technologies of today, on the same level that people were once familiar with the technologies of their day.

We splice, we cut, we reprogram e-proms, we wire in computers or computer parts for controls… maybe powered by a sterling engine, or an 1800’s-style solar energy, or a gasinator, or whatever the heck we can make out of a bucket of discarded scrap and some broken antiques… we use, and re-use *everything*. Ours is a culture of reliability, sustainability, eco-conscious, and an opposite to the modern day way of throwing away what is broken or discarding anything that is more than three weeks old for the next new thing… another piece of plastic, old the day it is unboxed.

But again, it is about quality, pride, and ingenuity…

Which is much like any good painting or other artwork…

Art should focus is on quality and craftsmanship… like the paintings of our  beloved eras, where people actually cared about what they were doing: from the canvas chose, the gesso layered, into the pigments picked and mixed by hand – with great attention to detail and every detail about the details.

… That sort of realism and attention to detail one would expect of John Singer Sargent – and other proud artisans- from those days before everyone grew up expecting to be a celebrity or famous… without any required effort or skill… the age of entitlement, and this “the Emperor Has No Clothes” mode of assessing and promoting art in order to satisfy the sort of fast-food way that has filtered into every aspect of life and business.

No paint dumps here, no splotchy works painted with various unspeakable body parts, no sob story, or heartwarming tale, or intriguing title to make up for lack of work or imagination… skill, and attention to quality are  essential.

In this, there is something incredible quite about seeing a real-world object recreated perfectly with pen or pencil or in paint – yet… quite incredible considering that such images used to be done entirely from eye or from memory… but we live in the age of cameras and scans and enlargements – which not only renders realism tedious and completely unnecessary, but somewhat lackluster and less than special these days. These days, there isn’t much point in having a perfect pencil drawing of en existing object, when it could be photographed, and likely was photographed before the drawing.

Surrealism, is applying the actual skills of old, while going above and beyond to create images of things that do not, did not, might not ever exist, and pushing one step further towards “cannot” for those who apply themselves. In effort, and application, it excels to be something beyond mere abstract and beyond realism.

There is that exciting spirit of inventiveness and imagination, combined with the traditional dedication to hard work that was once the mark of artisans, artists, and craftsmen – seeking to make the unreal real, or at least seemingly likely if only in its own self-contained and self-made world. For this reason alone I feel it fits remarkably well with the genre, which based in speculative fiction, both requires and inspires these sorts of works.

Steampunk, craftsmanship and pride in work aside, is about imagining and re-imagining – looking at the future through the eyes of the past, and vise-versa – to create something bold and new, plausible, perhaps even possible – mixed with a wonderful touch of impossibility and improbability – the subculture in itself is a sort of surrealism – more than merely fantasy, bound to science, history, practical knowledge, self-reliability, and sustainability- it ties the real to the unreal, tangible and intangible – and inspires us to dream the impossible, while exploring the very fringe of possibility.

Our project, is in the spirit of steampunk and in the spirit of surrealism. Fantastical in nature, and tedious in its crafting. Bordering on impossible and improbable from the very beginning stages… yet certain to happen. do or die. Everything from the painting itself, to the structure it is painted on, to the structure surrounding it, and the engines powering it, embodies this spirit… the best woods, the best primers, the best paints, and painstaking effort in every detail from the planning up…

I am very proud to be a part of this project, and do hope you come out to see it between the 21st and the 28th. I also ask you to take the time to register to vote (at a number of official Artprize hubs throughout downtown), and vote for our project. Voting is highly important to this contest – and the beauty of this contest is that it allows the people to decide what is art, what isn’t what is good, and what they would like to see more of.

Hopefully ours is a project that leaves you wanting to see more from us. I feel it will be, we’ve worked very hard to make it so.

Thank you for supporting us, and for your interest and participation, this has been a wonderful experience already,

Myke Amend


Team members and sponsors needed. Join the Infernal Crew!

We have 24 days to go before our set up for Artprize at the Gerald R Ford Museum, and we have a lot of work  to do. Just how big […]

We have 24 days to go before our set up for Artprize at the Gerald R Ford Museum, and we have a lot of work  to do.

Just how big this project is, from the wind collector built by Todd Cahill, to the structure being built in Kokomo Indiana by David Braun of Cogbots, to the huge drum being built to support the mural, to the mural itself is astounding – and then there are all of those less visible but equally important parts needed to keep this project going and to make it a success… transportation, shipping, supplies, extra hands to move the big parts around, lay down primer and paint, brushes, rollers, sprayers, and so many other things – and we would really love to have you on board for this project.

We could really use some added artists and painting help – people who can fill in color, or detail on the big drum – a 3 month project that will have 23 days from start to finish – and we need your help at whatever your comfort level is with painting. Myke would be happy to have you, and happy to lend pointers, tips, and insight where and when requested.

We also need painters on standby for when the outer structure arrives from Kokomo Indiana, as well as set/stage design enthusiasts to help us transform this thing into the Steampunk aesthetic with bits of slavaged brass, copper, and various vintage bits. We are incredibly fortunate to have paint donated by Repcolite paints, and more on the way from DickBlick – but people to help put the paints onto the exhibit would be an incredibly helpful part of this exhibit.

As much as any of these – added hands would be greatly appreciated. Myke has a three person job going down at the warehouse provided by Van’s Delivery Service. On the better days he has help, but there are many hours where an added hand to lift a big part or steady a beam would be incredibly helpful if not essential.

Street teamers, or just a person or two to man the art show/exhibit/merch table at the build site, meeters and greeters would be especially helpful also.

And we still have room for a few sponsors: This project turned out to be way more expensive than anticipated, and we have all been working out of pocket for over a month now. Myke has been scraping change for odd parts and supplies and gas on his end, and we are coming up on a point where we’ll need funds to move the huge structure from Indiana, as well as funds to get Todd Cahill and Amy Kinsch out here for Artprize, as well as finding a place to stay for all 4 of the out of town artists for their time here.

We could use sponsorship in the form of , of course, cash donations to keep the project going and on track, but also gift cards for building supplies and tools or tool rentals, gas, caffeine, red bull, ice, other odds and ends  – from travel agencies or airlines for getting Todd and Amy out here. Donations are being taken by the Kokomo Arts Association (a 501(c)3)  for “the infernal device project”

Purchases of T-shirts, coloring books, prints, original artworks would be greatly appreciated; Some of these things are available here online – all are available at our warehouse – and open houses are every day from 5 to 10 PM for anyone who would like to see the project, grab some merch, lend some support, or lend a helping hand.

Our Warehouse is at 2474 Turner Avenue NW, a stone’s throw from the Deltaplex. Come in at the blue “Jarob” sign, go past the second ramp, and look for the orange buckets marking our lot. If the doors are closed, look for the Infernal Device sign on the door – if they are open, just look for the large wooden drum in the garage bay.


News, Helpers Wanted, Sponsorships available

We’re back from our guest showing at this year’s Maker Faire Detroit, and it was a blast, of heat and relentless Sun… but we also had a blast there.

Infernal Team - Myke Amend, Todd Cahill, Dave Braun

The Infernal Crew - Myke Amend, Todd Cahill, Dave Braun - Photo taken by our friends at The Steampig Experiment

Maker Faire made for the perfect opportunity for we artists to meet up in person, exchange parts, take measurements, and make pans for the final build – and we met a lot of wonderful people there; Many which were about as enamored as we were with Todd’s beautiful work on his wind capturing device.

Todd Cahill's Wondrous Wind Device

Todd Cahill's Wondrous Wind Device at Maker Faire Detroit

I brought the outer shell the drum with me, and the early prototype, so as show the general scale of this thing to onlookers and teammates alike, but with the high winds and without the proper frame built yet. Plans to piece it together temporarily were set aside in order to avoid damaging it.

We saw hulking fire breathing mechanical dragons, bikes disguised as giant cupcakes, the beautiful stage setup  of Theater Bizarre, antique traction motors and other farm machinery, and so many wonderful gadgets and inventions – many of which being piloted around the event.

Below: Todd Cahill talks some about the Wind Device, which will be at the very top of our huge kinetic sculpture. Sorry about all the wind in the microphone, but if you can’t hear Todd, you can still follow his hand movements…

Now we are back into full swing preparing for Artprize. Dave has the base structure completed in Kokomo Indiana, we have the wind device safely tucked away  at Van’s Delivery Service, and I have the drum *mostly* assembled – another day or so and the building part of it should be *mostly* done.


Dave - Framing the base structure

Dave - Framing the base structure

We will however need urgently to start fund raising again in order to stay on target, this will include fund-raising parties and picnics, selling more wares here on our store, and maybe a little bit of passing around the hat in order to get those last little things we need, and to ensure that all of our team members and parts will be able to converge on Grand Rapids over the following weeks to meet at Van’s Delivery Service for the pre-build, and to bring the machine finally to its Artprize venue: The Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum.

We will also need a *lot* of help – from street  teamers, to event organizers, to helpers with painting – and hopefully some of those things that will make this come together a *lot* more smoothly.

Supports for Drum

The Supports for the drum which will be the 21-foot spinning mural.

We would *really* like to find some great companies or teams who do:

– Painting on large scale… auto painting companies to repaint the wind devce all nice and new, outdoor painting contractors to do the base painting on the drum and the structure

– Paint suppliers to help us with the incredible amount and assortment of paint that this will take

– Suppliers of art supplies, for the art paints needed and brushes and other assorted supplies

– Hardware stores for all the extra bits and pieces, and to ensure we have what we need on hand at build time.

– Lumber suppliers for those last little bits of lumber we will need – and some carpentry help on hand would be greatly appreciated.

– Metal fabricators to help us with the two 8 foot diameter and 1 foot tall cylinders we will need for the footer and cap of the mural.

– PR help to keep our press and momentum going, and to help us regain what slipped when we were in such heavy work mode.

– Artists – student or professional – Yep. I wanted to be painting this thing in June, but having to cover the last month’s worth of work and parts and travel out of our own pockets, and being the only person wrangling this huge 7-sided construction job… the drum is only just now reaching completion. I can finish it by September… but with some skilled painters to help out, we can finish it even better, make more out of it.

The Kokomo Arts Association, a 501(c)3, is helping us and there to collect whatever gift cards, supplies, parts, or donations of cash we can get. If your company is interested in partnering with us in this way, or if you know someone who might be  – please contact us via our contact page: http://infernaldevice.net/Artprize/contact/ – in return we can offer your logo on our banners, our web site, and our promotional materials – as well as inclusion in our postings, tweets, facebook updates, and elsewhere – PLUS the opportunity to be a part of something huge and positive.


The Dangerous Kitchen

(above: Myke Amend stands amidst a tight gathering of machines, hanging tools, sorted wood, and machine parts) One of several things we aim to fix along the way – we […]

(above: Myke Amend stands amidst a tight gathering of machines, hanging tools, sorted wood, and machine parts)

One of several things we aim to fix along the way – we each have our own individual work spaces (some more cramped than others), and will definitely need one nice sized workspace near our venue for the final build (or sooner).

A close gathering of tools and equipment, surrounded by hanging tools, stretcher bars, clamps, and bits of wood down to the tiniest scraps - alphabatized by wood type.

This, my workspace was mostly inherited. This is where Bethalynne’s grandfather worked away through the night. I believe the lady in the picture frame (below) kept him in good company. My company is “Jeeves”, the wooden guy who likes to stare and say “finish me”. He also hates being called “Jeeves”.

Scroll Saw and Band Saw

The band saw is broken. I learn (often) that things can be "too tight" - in this case the metal tensioner assembly.

Though it *is* majorly cramped, everything is set up in a way where there is *just* enough room in any direction, as long as all surfaces are clean.

Table Saw

My favorite table sawof the two. The cheetah patterned curtains? I think Beth's grandfather really liked this pattern. It was the 70s.

When making frames or stretchers for canvas, the table saw allows me just enough room to put a 6 foot strip out and across the table where the vices are, and just enough room to make that angled cut.

Router Table

Routing table

I can run a wood beam *just* behind the drill press is I need to use the routing table on it (though I have to stop and turn half way through the beam).


The Lathe - The lathe and the older scroll saw both run off of the same motor (I move it around between the two)

The Lathe has just enough stretching room for me to make baseball bats, table legs, and the like. All the vices/clamps swivel, so there hasn’t been a job so far they aren’t good for.

The Garage

The garage used to be a *lot* roomier. Bethalynne and I really need to get studio space, or sell that mural (which I think will require studio space).

The garage…. well, there *was* a garage in here. After last year’s artPrize, it became storage for the 30-foot long mural Bethalynne and I did (in three pieces), buckets upon buckets of leftover paint,  the cabaret-fortune-teller styled shadowboxes I built, some antique wood doors, stacks of plywood, and the other table-saw… that new-fangled one with all the pesky safety stuff on it.

Well, there you have it. This is where I make the magic happen… and by “magic” I mean chanting and screaming words not for mortal ears and especially not for those of children; Also this where I’ll likely be working on my part of the scale model. I suppose it is a good thing that a lot of the more intricate work will be in the hands of people like this guy (Mr. Todd Cahill):