Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning is photographer and Steampunk Charli Anderson-Farrar, Mastermind behind the awe inspiring Pagan – Steampunk project ‘Shades’, which you may have seen exhibited at The Asylum back in August. Good morning Charli, my dear, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
I have indeed, and I hope you like it! I’m a bit of a cheese addict, I’m not ashamed to say it, and I discovered a wonderful creamy cheese and bacon soup recipe on geniuskitchen.com a while back that I adapted to be more to my taste by using Blacksticks Blue cheese! This recipe serves 6 and takes about 1 hour and ten minutes to complete.
2 Starchy Potatoes
8 slices smoked bacon (you can use unsmoked if you wish but Blacksticks and Smoked Bacon taste amazing together!)
115g Blacksticks Blue cheese (you can substitute this for another blue cheese or stilton if you prefer)
475ml single cream
Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the potatoes until soft.
- Drain, then transfer to a pan with the milk and blend thoroughly. Grill the bacon until crispy then cut into small pieces.
- Crumble the cheese over the potatoes and gently stir it in until the cheese has melted. Then add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add the bacon now if you wish to infuse the smokey flavour. Bring the soup to the boil, then remove from the heat.
- If you did not add the bacon before boiling, place it in the bottom of the bowls or in the soup tureen. Serve the soup over the bacon immediately.
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us all about the main concept for your exciting steampunk project Shades ?
The idea behind “Shades” was initially going to be a staged version of a British myth, prompted by a topic in my university course, but I was encouraged to move away from British Myths and ended up doing a Greek one instead. The idea stayed with me though, and it quickly moved into the idea that those things that go bump in the night, the traditional zombies and vampires, were not the only things that hide in the shadows.
I was more interested in the stories that many people have forgotten over the centuries. These are Gaelic and “Celtic” tales, pre-Christianisation spirits and Gods, word of mouth stories passed down for centuries and often lost to the mists of time; the Courts of the Ancient Fae, the Aos Si, tales of Banshees and Phantom Horsemen, personifications of Human Evils and even Humans themselves touching the darkness with their desire for power and wealth. I love the origin stories of natural phenomena, such as Will o’ the Wisps (gas lights in marshes) being the lanterns of pixies causing mischief, or how fire came to the world through the theft of Faerie Fire. These stories are more open to interpretation, as there are fewer popular preconceptions and film visuals dictating how they should look, dress, act or think, which will allow me a certain freedom from modern cultural influences when it comes to creating the aesthetics of the characters.
And what inspired you to merge forgotten myths with the Steampunk aesthetic?
Even those that move in the Shadows have to move with the times. The television series “Grimm” shows fairytale creatures in the modern setting of Portland in the USA, hiding in plain sight, while the film “Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters” shows the God Hermes as having a day job at a Courier Centre. I already knew that I wanted to create my images in an alternate-world setting, as I felt that just bringing them forward into the modern era was a little bit limiting in terms of fantasy design and that was something I really wanted to keep a hold of – I didn’t want to just mimic Grimm and Percy Jackson by having old objects in a new setting. I wanted the objects to still be aesthetically relevant.
The alternative-world opens the way for even greater creativity surrounding the character and costume design of these fantastical creatures, and because of this, I desperately wanted to include a Steampunk element. While not exactly “modern” in its primary aesthetic, Steampunk is something that I love and cherish, and with so many possibilities and creative avenues to explore within the genre, there is something there that will cater to all the characters that I have planned. Not only that, it gives me an excuse to utilise modern ideas with a much older aesthetic.
It certainly is a marvellous and original idea, oh and I see you have brought some photographs along to show the orphans?
Those look marvellous! Who designs and creates the costumes for each character?
I do! I did some theatre and film design studies a while back, so I had some experience in designing costumes and props already. Originally I had planned to have a local seamstress make them, but I couldn’t afford to pay her as the whole project is voluntary. She wasn’t willing to work in that way, which I can understand, but it did leave me in a bit of a pickle. So I re-acquainted myself with the use of a sewing machine and revisited some of my old stage costume and prop-work from when I was at school to get myself back into the swing of things. Some of the outfits, like the Wisp, are put together from charity shop and Ebay finds or donated items, while others, such as Lorell the Embodiment of Fire, are made 100% from scratch.
That is amazing! And what is your ultimate vision for the project to be presented to the public? I have heard whispers of a book or possibly a performance piece?
Yes, eventually I want to get all the pictures together into a photo-book, perhaps with some short stories or essays in to compliment the images. I also like the idea of presenting the project in a slightly more interactive way than a traditional exhibition – I want people people to be interested in the project on an educational level, as many people don’t know the history of our country from before the Roman settlement. I’ve always felt that if you give people the opportunity to get involved and interact with things, they tend to be more interested and remember what they have learned.
Indeed! I am aware that Shades is a collaborative project, is there any way that the good folks gathered here can get involved or support the project?
Well, one way to support the project is to make a donation of money or materials, either to the one-off donation box on the Shades website, or you can sign up as a Patron on Patreon. Most of my Patreon earnings go towards Shades, and those that don’t help support other projects that I am currently working on, which in turn also generate interest in Shades, so either way, Shades wins!
Another way people can get involved is by supporting the exhibitions. I keep a list of exhibitions on the website, so you can come and visit, or if you are a festival or event organiser, we are always interested in hearing from people who might like to have Shades displayed.
Finally, if you keep an eye on the “Get Involved” page on the website, you can see if we have any voluntary openings coming up. These are usually for models, but I do occasionally need specialist skills that I can’t personally do, and these will go up there as well. I also sometimes take requests for work experience and portfolio development opportunities, but I don’t take requests for secondary photographers.
And where can we see the costumes displayed, learn more about the project and keep up to date with future developments?
The outfits can be seen “live” at exhibitions, though currently I don’t have any confirmed shows coming up just yet. I have just finished my application to take part in Asylum X in August, so hopefully I should have some news on that soon! Otherwise, you can check out www.charli313.wixsite.com/shadesproject where all information regarding Shades is kept. You can also follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheShadesProject/, follow me on Twitter (@charlianderson) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CharliAndersonCreations), see pictures on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/charliandersonfarrar/ or check out my Patreon for special Patron-Only updates and exclusive behind-the-scenes pictures and footage! (https://www.patreon.com/charlianderson).
I sometimes take my work to other kinds of shows, depending on the theme. For example, the Lorell outfit is dedicated to a gaming community of the same name, they I recently took the outfit to a game fan convention to display there, so keep your eyes peeled for those odd occurrences too!
And finally, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang… the kettle is singing so which is the brew that inspires your creative endeavours, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)
Always tea for me, as coffee gives me headaches! NATO standard, milk with two!
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Charli, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?
No problem, I’ll grab those bowls for you! And if you ever have a particular British spirit or God you’d like to see me represent, I’m always up for a challenge, so drop me a line sometime!
We certainly will my dear, and I hope you will come back and visit us again some time!
Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I will see you next week when Poet and Science Fiction authour Kevan Manwaring will be telling us all about the launch of his new Eco-sci-fi Thriller Black Box!
Until then, Blessings on your brew my dears!