Go to Steampunk Chicago events or local cons and you will undoubtedly see the merchandise table of Jeff Platt and Dawn Przybylski, Highwind Steamworks. They craft jewelry, leatherwork, goggles and other steampunk gear. You can also visit their Etsy Shop.
To find out a little more about them, I e-mailed them questions separately and have fashioned together their answers.
SPC: What is your role at Highwind Steamworks?
Jeff: “I do the leatherwork, prop pieces, and the more industrial looking pieces as well as the men’s accessories.”
Dawn: “I design and make most of the jewelry and handknits and set up for shows. I give my input on Jeff’s leather creations, and he on mine, our stuff is really a collaboration between the two of us.”
Jeff: “When we go to a show or convention, we’re both right there, usually taking turns selling or “hawking” in the aisle.”
SPC: Where do you find inspiration?
Jeff: “I find inspiration all over the place. Movies, art, literature, television, video games, antiques, whatever. Just taking a new bit of machinery apart to see its guts sometime inspires me to a new vision for a piece. I find if I try to hard to come up with something new, it’s usually a failed process. I let my eyes unfocus and try to imagine what something could be as I look at it, or let me brain storm over the pieces we have and see what things naturally want to be.”
Dawn: “I am unable to sit down to make one thing at a time. I will often take over the whole dining room table and spread out and there will be partially finished pieces of jewelry all around me. I love to play with all the parts putting them together and taking them apart again, when suddenly I will get an idea to combine different colors and shapes and I will drop what I’m working on to start something else. I always finish everything around me, but it might take me a while! The knitting is a little different, I love to use vintage Victorian knitting patterns and I am partial to patterns from nature such as leaves, trees and plants- I’m really excited because I recently discovered some gorgeous shawl patterns that have intricate roses and daffodils incorporated into them- like nothing I have ever seen before!”
SPC: How do you balance business and marriage?
Dawn: “Easy, the work room is the living room, when one of us is making things the other is usually in the room and we can talk and hang out. We know we can’t really work at the same table so when he is doing leather goods I sit on the couch and knit (or what have you). The only issue I have is when he forgets to warn me when he is about to hit rivets with the hammer- its REALLY loud, I jump every time!”
Jeff: “It’s actually a lot easier than some would think. We like spending time around the living room designing and building and making items together. We like to show off our pieces to each other first and get feedback from each other. Even though we have incredibly different creative processes, Dawn’s a planner and I’m a little more haphazard, we have learned when to not bother each other about our ideas and when to ask for help. On the business side, since I usually have more time, I usually handle the details after we’ve discussed what we want to do.”
SPC: Have you had a favorite piece (or one of great pride) that you were reluctant to sell?
Jeff: “I’ve had a number of pieces, large and small that I’ve thought, ‘if that doesn’t sell in a month, it’s mine!’ Sadly, or fortunately, those pieces always seem to go quickly. I had a particular pair of goggles that I fell in love with when I made them, and the gears I used for embellishment were truly one of a kind. Of course they sold, and I won’t be able to make them again. Usually though, if something is truly a favorite I must have, we call it a prototype and keep it, to be used as a basis for other pieces.”
Dawn: “There was one necklace that I made back when we first started, It was a long necklace that had a huge pennyfarthing pendant and rose quartz elements to it. I loved this necklace and would often wear it while at shows… you know… to ‘advertize.’ LOL. I was very close to just keeping it when we sold it at a show. Sad. But not really. Now if there is something I really like, I just make more than one!”
SPC: What separates Highwind Steamworks from other vendors?
Dawn: “Us! I think that our natural friendliness and forthrightness makes us stand apart as well as the fact that we are more than just vendors in the scene. We are socially part of it, too. People come to our booth sometime just to talk and hang out with us and we go out to events that we aren’t vending because we genuinely enjoy the scene and the people in it!”
Jeff: “Truly, everything we make is something that comes out of our own minds and hands. We may purchase some new parts and findings, but the rest has been found, scrounged, and searched to find unique bits that we can make things from. Nothing we do or sell is outsourced or purchased in bulk. When you stop by our booth, or find our Etsy site, you are dealing with us, not with a third-party. And we truly feel a part of the community. If there’s an event we can attend, we do, vending or not. There’s an old joke, “Never trust a bald barber”, which goes along with my belief that you just shouldn’t by steampunk goods from someone who isn’t a steampunk.”
SPC: Where does the “Highwind” come from?
Dawn: “The Highwind is Cid’s airship, of course! Cid is a character out of the Final Fantasy game franchise. Every game has had a Cid and every Cid has had an airship. The day I told Jeff that Final Fantasy has stylistic elements of steampunk (and he subsequently decided steampunk was the best thing he had ever heard of), he became Dr. Cid and I became Madame Lockheart of the Highwind.”
SPC: Bonus Question: When did you know it was love?
Dawn: “From first sight. However, I would have to say staying up all night three days after we had met to watch the entirety of The Stand (the made for TV mini series). Don’t know why but we clicked from the very start.”
Jeff: “I knew it the moment I saw her, sitting in my then girlfriend’s dorm room playing cards. I remember opening the door, walking in and seeing Dawn sitting there, and the first words in my head were ‘Oh crap, this is going to be a problem.’ Of course it wasn’t in the long run, and we have been together ever since!”
Look for this delightful couple to be vending at our next event: Gearbox Fantastique II, April 14th, at Reggie’s Rock Club. See the calendar for more information!