“Whatever you can do, or dream you can… begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Beautiful words Goethe…but there are days when all that creative energy is consumed by the daily grind. Perhaps this is why I love to travel. Freed up from the daily timetable I can explore and reconnect with my dreams, or get inspired by viewing the finished product of another person’s dream and genius.
It becomes even more magical when it is unexpected.
A few weekend’s ago I went on a road trip from Christchurch to Oamaru with my South Island family. Before heading off on our road trip I did the prerequisite Google visit to Oamaru. It looked like an interesting but uneventful South Island coastal village however, the promise of a long leisurely lunch afterwards at Riverstone Kitchen made the long trip seem worthwhile.
Upon arriving in Oamaru, a brisk southerly wind and outdoors temperature of 5o propelled us into the nearest café for coffees. We were soon joined by more family who had journeyed across from Tekapo. Although, I couldn’t quite figure out why our young 11 year-old third cousin was so excited to be here, especially given they were in for a three hour round journey. However, he was excited and very happy to be tour guide. Our first stop, a few hundred meters from the café, was a solid three-storied Victorian building, reminiscent of a bank. We walked inside and entered another realm.
Stepping into the world of Mad Max…
I’m thinking Max Max III here and those crazy rusted cage-like vehicles that roared through the desert sand.
The ‘world gone mad’ in Steampunk land maybe more civilized than Mad Max III’s Barter Town however, the machinery captures an “alternate and futuristic version of 19th century Victorian England” while depicting a world rising “out of the ruins”. The full effect found when you step outside the seemingly cavernous dark interior museum like building into the yard.
Who wouldn’t want to ride across the Australian Outback in battle-ready train carriage? Or watch the miles disappear while riding the Chopper Holland.
The other-world state of mind is held-fast by the life-size rusty cadaver inside the crane cab, the giant flies clinging to the outside of the building and my favourite the man sitting on the edge of the roof fishing – Steampunk style.
The Sculptures of Chris Meder (1971 – 2010)…
“It is a privilege to have an exhibition of such national importance at Steampunk HQ,” said exhibition organiser Jan Kennedy. “These are works of significance and we will be dedicating considerable time and gallery space to the exhibition. The majority of the sculptures are on loan from a private Auckland collection.”
Chris’s sculptures, creatures constructed from scrap metal are bought to life, inside the second room of Steampunk HQ. Sitting in a quite corner surfing the net or displaying ones might on a car roof or machinery cage these extraordinary animals are both spooky and captivating. The x-factor to our experience coming from the sound track of Fat Freddy’s Drop Ray Ray.
The steam train used in the Ray Ray music video, was produced by Chris and therefore, sat centre-stage on a platform in front of the looping video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnUAYXrde4E
Before we walked left the inner sanctum of Steampunk HQ we experienced this “high tech room of infinite mirrors”. It was such an amazing experience that we returned later for another viewing.
Take a trip inside The Portal – disclaimer the light-fittings, which are skull-heads have not been fully captured and the sighs of amazing have been left for ambience.
Meet Miss Purple…
Eventually we dragged our 11 year-old cousin out of Steampunk HQ and explore a little bit more of Oamaru. We didn’t get too far before we met the poster-girl of Oamaru Steampunk, Miss Purple.
We loved the fox-fur; leather and lace clad Miss Purple. Her personality enveloped us the moment we entered her shop. You’ve probably noticed I’m not huge on taking photos of people, so even I was surprised when I immediately asked if I could photograph her.
Miss Purple immediately explained the Victoriana/Punk origins of Steampunk dressing, using her layers as examples of how to put together an outfit. If we’d had more time and it wasn’t so cold I would have happily but on a dress and let Miss Purple layer it with leather overskirts and corsets. I left the store wishing I had a bigger bag as I was loving the footwear collection.
Outside the store sits Miss Purple’s moped, fully operational but perhaps not so great in a full on southerly wind. On such days she can wander down to the corner and drive home in her Bedford Realm Runner truck.
Lastly the Steampunk café and playground…
Bringing it to Auckland and Wellington in terms of café venues and architecture is The Galley café – http://www.thegalleyoamaru.nz/.
Apologies for not popping in but we were saving our appetites for the Riverstone Kitchen. We will however, be back. Next time we’ll bring along the rest of our North Island clan.
We were, though mesmerized by the Café, and happily stood in the cold as we watched steam flow out of the railing alongside the ramp and flames rising into the sky when the front door opened.
The playground was another fun place for our young cousin. For me the highlight was the stand of trees on the peripheral of the park. Bleached white trunks standing some 10 feet tall and house the beautifully craved creatures.
Looking at the seaport today, it is hard to believe that back in the 1800’s it flourished and was bigger than Los Angeles. Thankfully today creativity flourishes in Oamaru, bringing alive a town that has become a destination as opposed to a stop enroute to Dunedin.