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Scenes from Clockwork Alchemy 2019

The Bay Area convention offered a wide range of attractions for steampunk enthusiasts

Sunday, March 31, 2019
Clockwork Alchemy Group Photo

Steampunk is a multi-faceted subculture — art, crafts, music, literature, cosplay, and more — and all were on display at Clockwork Alchemy 2019, held March 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, California. There were literary panels, maker workshops, a fashion show, artists gallery, musical performances, and lots of imaginative costumes, many tied to the theme “Carousel of Clockwork.”

One attendee who came away impressed was Maker Guest of Honor David Lee, who has been to his share of steampunk events. “The convention had a stunning array of entertainment, the perfect use of space, perfect addition of decoration, splendid staff, great panels and just a great inviting vibe,” he wrote in a post on Facebook. “Oh, and you Californians are to be commended on your dazzling array of incredibly fancy outfits.”

David Lee

Lee presented several panels on maker topics, plus one on the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He was accompanied by his wife, Aela Badiana, who presented a bellydancing performance and a class on same.

Because they flew in from their home base in Virginia, they were unable to bring contraptions. However, one of Lee’s projects — a working steampunk camera — was on display thanks to attendee Arthur Koch, who had previously purchased it from the maker. And the artists gallery had plenty of homegrown projects from Prof. Phineas J. Flockmocker III, Prof. Jack Tittiger, Paul X. Stewart, Dr. Nathaniel Blackheart, and others.

The gallery also drew several entries in Lee’s Great World Suitcase Challenge, featuring maker projects that incorporate a suitcase.

For more about the Artists Gallery, including photos, see “Makers at Clockwork Alchemy 2019.”

Other highlights at Clockwork Alchemy included:

• Friday night’s Aural Alchemy concert, with performances by Aaron Shay, Unwoman, Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands, and Aurelio Voltaire. Strangely Doesburg, who served as MC, kept folks entertained in between the acts with his comedy and “roaring accordion music.” (Note to other event organizers: He’s really good at this MC thing.)

• The Dreamer’s Circus fashion show on Saturday afternoon, featuring costumes in line with the Carousel theme. Many were designed by Fashion Guest of Honor Karin McKechnie-Lid. (We’ll soon be posting a separate story and photo gallery about the fashion show and other cosplay fun at Clockwork Alchemy).

• Saturday night’s Emperor Norton Ball, where costumed attendees danced to the swinging jazz sounds of Lee Presson and the Nails. The evening began with dance lessons from James Eric Myers of the Period Events & Entertainments Re-Creation Society (PEERS), and also included a brief runway version of the fashion show. On Sunday, Presson offered a reprise of his readings from the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Burlingame PD at Clockwork Alchemy

One interesting aspect of Clockwork Alchemy is the attention it draws from other guests at the hotel. Because it’s close to San Francisco International Airport, many guests are pilots and flight attendants on layovers. This year, the convention also drew scrutiny from members of the Burlingame Police Department. Some attendees were nervous at first, but it turned out the men and women in blue were fascinated by the sight of so many steampunks in a single location.

“One shift told the other shifts, ‘Dudes you have GOT to check out these guys!’” remarked Gene Forrer, one of the volunteer organizers. Some looked in at the War Room, where the sessions included “Battle Croquet,” “Defending Your Airship,” and “Intro to Lightsaber Choreography.” Later, they posed for photos.

The organizers have already announced plans for next year’s event, scheduled for March 20-22, 2020 at the same location. The theme will be “Marvelous Makers.” Preregistrations are now available.

See the photo gallery below for scenes from the convention.

Related coverage: “Makers at Clockwork Alchemy 2019.”


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