James Neathery, famous for his Steampunk creations, as well as his appearance on the TV program, “Steampunk’d”, took some time to answer questions about his work. He will be at Aethertopia 2019 in Tampa, Florida, serving as one of our Master Makers, helping local Steampunk creators up their game.
A- You mentioned in an earlier interview prosthetics being an inspiration for your interest in design. How does that inspiration play out in your work?
My grandfather lost both of his legs to diabetes and that, coupled with a love for bionics and cybernetics made me research into the cyberpunk genre. Then I saw the movie Steamboy and fell in love with the aesthetic. I am a fan of an industrial, tough, and clunky look in my own art.
A- You’ve developed quite a few skills in leather and metal work. What inspired those mediums?
I like making things from scratch and I like making things that will last. I apparently also like dropping a small fortune every time i want to make something. I was drawn to those mediums as I feel they are essential to a genuine steampunk aesthetic. Additionally, they are inherently tough and will stand up to the rigors of time and daily use.
A- What is your process in learning new skills for your work?
Accepting that my first iterations of anything will be laughable failures fit only to be tossed in the nearest incinerator. Asking questions of people who know what I want to know. Most people are more than happy to share their discoveries, what to do, what not to do, and if they don’t know, they probably know someone who does. There was a significant amount of gatekeeping among the leather experts at the old Tandy, so my early days consisted of google searches and making mistakes.
A- What drives the direction of your creativity? How do you choose what to try next?
As an artist, my creativity is driven by looking at something and immediately picturing what else it possibly could be. Many of my designs are original and plucked directly from my own head. As far as choosing a project to work on, I’m usually booked up with commissions.
I have a super secret project in the works that I’m not allowed to talk about but hopefully it will take off and be a huge success. I still am planning on doing my web video series once time allows. I also want to sell my iconic armor that I’ve been wearing to conventions and then start construction on a Gothic N7 full leather and metal armor set.
A- What advice would you give a new maker on choosing a craft to start with?
Don’t expect everyone to like your work. Expect to make mistakes regardless of how much knowledge you have going into it. Choose materials that are easy to work with and build up your workspace, tools, materials, and consumables overtime. Start out small. Make what you want to make along with making stuff that you can sell to feed back into your personal projects. Any true artist will tell you they don’t want to make the same thing more than once. And that holds true with me.
A- You’ve begun to offer tutorials online. What do you find most inspiring about teaching others?
I’ve always had a desire to teach and watch others grow as they learn, from random strangers, to my followers and fans, my son and even my mom. Everyone has experiences that others do not and everybody knows something that others don’t. The sharing of knowledge to watch others grow and possibly even surpass what I’m capable of is the greatest feeling.
A- This is your first year at Aethertopia, what do you look forward to most?
I love getting to see my friends that I know online and in the community, and being a guest at these conventions is awesome because I get to hang out with people that I otherwise would not have the opportunity to meet. It’s fun to get away and live in a fantastical world, even for a couple of days. I always have a blast and I know that this will be no different. Thank you all so much for having me out this year.