Q: Hey, everybody! This is my second steampunk interview and I’m feeling really excited. I want you guys to meet Suzee Corbell. She’s a reputable clothing designer, artist, steampunk enthusiast, and a creator of many interesting things. Thanks for joining us, Suzee. I want to start with some questions about the steampunk genre. What attracted you to steampunk in the first place?
A: To be honest, I think I’ve loved Steampunk my entire life. It just never had a name that I knew of until I saw it represented in an episode of the TV show “Castle”. I saw it all unfolding in front of me and it was as though someone had pulled heavy velvet curtains from in front of my eyes. I actually stood up and shouted: “That’s it! That’s what I love!” It was the clothing and the beauty that was retained in the equipment and architecture. Beauty is missing in today’s society and they strutted it proudly back in Victorian times.
Q: Do you have a favorite type of steampunk? Victorian, post-apocalyptic, civil war, or something else?
A: Definitely Victorian, but I can see the attraction in the other types. I love mixing in some Art Deco and Gothic elements, as well.
Q: World building is a big deal in steampunk fiction. Everything is larger than life, including cities, transportation, weapons, costumes, and whatnot. Why do you think steampunk is so flamboyant?
A: This may sound like a conspiracy buff theory, but I truly believe it: I think it’s because we’re so oppressed in our every day lives that we need a truly ginormous world in which to escape. So many of us live in cookie cutter houses and have copy machine clothing and are forced to fit into working roles that not only limit our imagination, but encourage us to not think. How can we NOT crave an entirely new world that has everything this one doesn't?
Q: I noticed the majority of steampunk protagonists are women. That’s uncharacteristic to other action oriented genres. Why do you think most forms of steampunk fiction showcase strong women?
A: I guess it’s touching on my answer for question number three, but I think it’s because women are almost taboo as heroes in the “real” world. It’s much better than it was a few decades ago, but revealing that the woman is strong is still frequently used as a plot twist or as a token program on a cable channel line-up, rather than in the mainstream. In the Steampunk World, it’s pretty much a given that we would be expected to fill every possible role.
Q: Would you say steampunk has a target audience? Maybe history buffs, science fiction fans, young adults, or someone else?
A: I truly don’t believe that there’s a specific audience for Steampunk. I think we come from all walks of life and that’s what makes the genre even more fulfilling to dive into. I come from a background that loves mystery and action and science fiction. The worlds created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle through to Agatha Christie sustained me with liberal amounts of science fiction thrown in.
I also believe that Steampunk speaks directly to the part of our soul that craves beauty and substance and individuality. You’ll find that desire in all walks of life. It’s the artist deep down inside each of us yearning to breathe because society is working so hard to kill them. Thinking is thoroughly discouraged and conformity is what Upper Management wants. In the Steampunk World, anyone can invent something new and the Da Vinci slice of us even encourages us to make that invention beautiful.
Q: I also noticed a huge explosion of other punk genres. There’s cyberpunk, dieselpunk, biopunk, and more. I could probably give you a list of twenty or more punk genres. Why do you believe this phenomenon is happening?
A: Initially, my answer to this may not sound like it makes sense, but just let me get going with it. LOL! Take a look at the show “Project Runway”. It’s supposed to be about creative artists and yet, in the long run, it’s the least creative show I can imagine. It brings in these artists from all around the world and tells them to create something to fit in certain guidelines and then the judges proceed to bash the bajeebuhs out of them until they get rid of all the people who don’t do things “their way”. Eventually, they’re left with the final few that either already think the way they do or they’ve convinced to fit into the square hole OR that it would make the show look good to focus on. It’s quite sad to see that shows like this or about singing or dancing focus on putting people down for what the “experts” see as shortcomings. Just once, I’d like to see a panel of judges that encourages more than bashes the contestant who doesn’t fit their mold. Destroying an artistic soul with a few words can be far more destructive to the person that burning down their studio. How can we NOT expect people to rebel and want something different?
The very word “punk” instills an image of a rebellious individual. I’m insanely proud to be associated with the rest of the punks! The more facets people come up with the better, as far as I’m concerned. :D We need to ignore the judges of the world and let our creative sides have more free reign.
Q: As a clothing designer, is steampunk your specialty or do you have a more eclectic style?
A: I design anything and everything, but I get especially happy when I get to do something with even a little Victorian flair. ;) It’s all about mood for me, if it’s not for a special order. What character do I feel like today? I admit that I feel more like a peacock most days than a fluffy pink bunny rabbit, though.
Q: What makes you different than other clothing designers?
A: I think each designer has their own voice. I like to think that, while I have niches that I really love, I’m very flexible in the styles I can create. I also believe that my own style preference might bring a little something to the design that another person might not think about doing. It’s all in the details and the quality, as far as I’m concerned.
Q: Every artist runs into frustrating moments. What are the biggest challenges for a clothing designer?
A: Delays. Hahaha! I HATE having to slow down. When the creative juices are flowing, I like to keep going until I fall down. I love to dive in and immerse myself in the world of the design that is currently on the table, so to speak. I like to finish it — as much as any artist will admit that a creation can be considered finished — take a deep breath, and then dive into the next pool down the mountainside of creativity and start all over again. I just don’t like having to surface from a pool until I’ve finished that particular creation. I start to feel like the shore I’m waiting on is littered with broken glass and I’m barefoot. Ouch!
Q: I heard you make movies. Would you mind telling us about it?
A: When I graduated from high school and headed for college, my major was physics with minors in astronomy and geology. I was going to be an astronaut who was an astro-geo-physicist. The problem was that the Air Force declared that my ear canals were too small to handle the rapid pressure changes involved in fast air- or space-craft. This meant that I could go on in the science field or change gears. I decided that my second love was telling a good story and that I would go off to make movies and shows about space and other things. I’ve done the space subject and quite a few others. LOL!
I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years and I LOVE it. I think my favorite thing about it is the constant change. Even a long running TV show eventually ends and you get to go onto something new. Even working on a regular show can mean new things for every episode. I’ve done pretty much every job you can do behind the camera and even got stuck in front of the camera a few times (That’s the only part I don’t like.). Naturally, I love writing, producing, and directing, but I think my favorite things that I’ve done outside of that are the costumes/wardrobe, specialty props, production design, and set creation.
I’ve also got some of my own projects in the works. The main one is a movie called “Unfinished Business” where one of the central characters is a ghost hunting professor with a love for all things Victorian. I love that character to bits! :D When I get to work with bigger budgets on my own projects, then I intend to do my own full Steampunk visions.
Q: Did you have a favorite project?
A: I had to stop and think about this answer a little longer. I’ve loved something different about every project I’ve ever worked on. On “Memoirs of a Geisha”, I worked with my wonderful friends Jules and Debra and I saw a completely different view of filmmaking. The director came from a choreography background and he thought of the set elements, props, actors, and even the camera/viewer as dancers. It was a truly beautiful way to think — even when it meant that some of our props had to be repainted because the color didn’t invoke what he wanted when they were hit with the colored stage lights. Finding just the right shade of pink was extremely important. That attention to detail fascinated me!
Creating guinea pigs and a star-nosed mole for “G-Force” cracked me up and making a bunch of Alvins, Simons, and Theodores for a Chipmunk movie was a childhood dream come true. I enjoyed creating the graphics and animation involved in a flying saucer appearance in a film, and the nitpicker in me loves doing Script Supervising so I can keep a show on point. I loved smacking actors with packs of dust so they looked more authentic in westerns and I got a kick out of finally using my calligraphy classes to make fun stuff for some of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
Gosh! I could go on all day! I think my favorite part of working in the industry is the fact that it’s a bunch of kooky artists coming together and creating a cohesive project that a viewer can use to learn from and/or escape to. I don’t think I can pick a favorite project. I loved pretty much all of them.
Q: What else do you create?
A: I create anything and everything! I have way too many online shops to sell my artwork and photography on different products or to sell things I just felt like creating. I’ve made jewelry, wedding bouquets, door wreaths, paintings, sculptures, phone cases, clothing, accessories, dust catchers, and much, much more. I create using found objects or anything that takes my fancy. I’ve been known to pick up something at the hardware store or the grocery store or the dollar store or the landscaping nursery or even off the street and head for my studio with an idea already beginning to cook in my overheated brain.
This was a really fun interview. I’m glad we met and it was really interesting to learn about your artistic style. Good luck and I look forward to hearing about your future projects. Thanks a lot, Suzee.
I hope you guys enjoyed the post. Suzee is an interesting woman and a very talented artist. She's one of the collaborators on my upcoming steampunk costume and I'm sure it's going to be awesome. She's the owner of Vivid Light Pictures and you can view the official website below.
Suzee also sells her products and artwork through Etsy.
If you want to contact Suzee about costume design or anything else, you can reach her through either link. I highly recommend her services. Tune in next week for another blog post. I'm planning to review the new Magnificent Seven film, so we'll see how it goes. Leave a comment is you have anything to say about this interview and I'll see you guys next week.