Finding The Navigatrix by Sally-Ann Livingston

"So, what is Steampunk?" the bemused member of public asks, with wide eyes and the hint of a childish smile as they survey my stall and my costume. "Basically, think of the Victorian science- fiction of Jules Verne and the English love of tea… (I'm struggling as I try to put into words this many-faceted concept whilst keeping an eye on my stall)…some people love to dress up and create costumes and characters, or write stories, or make amazing contraptions or create Steampunk-inspired music. It's a lot of fun!"

It is much easier to experience Steampunk than to try and explain it, though there are some eloquent descriptions and wonderful resources out there, such as the Airship Ambassador blog and the Brass Goggles forum. There are conventions and events held internationally where one can take part or simply observe. However, just over three years ago, I hadn't really been all that aware of Steampunk.

I've been a LRPer (larper, Live Roleplayer) for a good twenty years, so I was used to creating a character and costume to go with it, mainly sourced from local charity shops. I trained as a professional model maker and have a degree in Design Representation, so that stood me in good stead when making props.

It was only when I'd become a mum and was starting to get back to being self-employed, running my holistic therapy practice from home, that my brother Matt moved nearby and started his Etsy shop. He is also an experienced model maker and is the talented creator of He had left a career in London and started his Sci-fi and Steampunk inspired shop. Between him and a friend I was introduced to this vaguely familiar genre as an entity in it's own right. Inspired by the visual aesthetic, I began to put a costume together. The idea of an airship navigator came to me, but being female, she'd be a 'navigatrix'. This was an odd experience as, unlike Live Roleplay, I wasn't using the guidance of a rulebook nor doing it to specifically attend any event…but it felt right and I was compelled to create! So, I made a hairclip and gloves, asked Matt if I could sell the like in his shop (knowing nothing of Etsy at the time, either) and before I knew it, I had created an Etsy shop. You can read more about that here:

Matt and I have now traded twice at Europe's largest Steampunk convention, Weekend at the Asylum, held annually in Lincoln, UK and hope to again this year. The eclectic indoor and outdoor market is a curated one and includes Steampunk costume, props, jewellery, accessories, comics, books, antiques and oddments, art and even Steampunk sweets! (I always make a beeline for Empire Edibles at some point!) 

Our latest trading adventure was at the nearby Nene Valley Railway, where we attended 'STOAT' - Steampunk STamford On A Train. We'd travelled to Stamford last year, all dressed up in our Steampunk outfits on the bus. We'd heard about the event too late to apply to trade but it was so local that we decided to go and mingle, peruse and of course, have tea and scones. Well, even in a corset one still has room for tea. We met the organiser, Lorna of FellFromGrace - yes, another Etsy shop! - and I secured a collaborative photoshoot with Prior Attire. So, this year, armed with beautiful photos, new tribal-steam inspired pieces from my Aether Nomad range and my dear brother Matt (armed with prop weaponry and a stunning Steampunk guitar), we enjoyed a lovely weekend sheltered from the wind and rain. The company was charming! I happened to turn 40 on the Sunday and Matt and I were joined by my family, aka 'Professor Noodles, Mr. M.(echanically) C. (ivilised) Norbert (dwarf pygmy gorilla) and 'The Scamp'. Mr. Norbert won first prize in the Steampunk Pet competition and there were many other amusements aside from the market on the train. Members of the public could dress up Steampunk-style at the 'Photo booth'. There were facial hair, hat and corset limbo contests, tea-duelling (which involves the precarious dunking of biscuits), music, stories, magic shows and brolly fencing. The event was topped off with a raffle in which my cogling (the word for a Steampunk child) was thrilled to win a pair of small gloves. I love the way in which Steampunk is so age-inclusive. You can see whole families of three generations dressed up in their Steamfinery!

This year has seen the first global event in celebration of the friendships and common interests that Steampunks find together, no matter what language they speak. Initiated by Kevin Steil of the Airship Ambassador blog, the event in February entitled 'Steampunk Hands around the World', attracted around 100 hosts and gave rise to some wonderful international collaborations, magazine articles, music and video shares and many new friends were made. I was contacted by 'Heyk Al Khemeti' (also known as the model Kymaris) in France. I shared the fact that often, as I create pieces, little snippets of story pop into my head which then find their way into the item descriptions.

The Aether Nomad idea sparked great interest. Heyk's own Steampunk character was basically an Aether Nomad anyway and when he contacted me through Facebook, we soon became good friends. We ended up co-writing a story which is the beginning of Tales of The Navigatrix:

I'm eager to write the next part! I decided to open up the concept of the Aether Nomad and basically write a character type for Steampunk that anyone is welcome to contribute to. I invited some fellow artists and Designers to take up the concept, along with some enthusiastic Participants  and we have started a private Facebook group to set some basic guidelines and help others develop their ideas. All I'm asking for in return is a little recognition -'From an idea by The Navigatrix' and maybe a shop link. If you are interested in the idea of tribal Steampunk, you can reach me through my Facebook page:

So, what is Steampunk? To me the concept is beautifully demonstrated by the image of the cogwheels  that are so prevalent. Many small parts, fitting together harmoniously to create something that moves, develops and reaches ever higher dimensions! Steampunk is storytelling, community and invention. It is a recognition of our history and a re-imagining of the past, in such a way as to become a reflection of the current human experience. Is that not that art?

You can find The Navigatrix at:

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More photos on Instagram (

Apryl Baker

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou kindly for sharing my perspective on Steampunk, Apryl! I welcome questions and comments and can be contacted through Etsy, Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to hearing from other Steampunk enthusiasts.
    I'm off to explore the other posts in this crazzy corner of the Aetherweb ;)