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Steampunk Your Camera!

Ordinary cameras become steampunk props thanks to California artist Momo Eames

Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Momo Eames

Steampunk events are great photo ops. But if you attend in costume, nothing ruins that 19th century look more than a 21st century digital camera. Enter CameraPunk, a line of handcrafted accessories that can add a steampunk flourish to cameras from Nikon, Canon, and other manufacturers. These lens caps, lens cuffs, and straps allow you to steampunk your camera without painting it or otherwise altering the mechanism.

CameraPunk is the creation of California artist Momo Eames, who sells the gear through Etsy and at artisan markets in the San Francisco area. Her business got a big boost in 2014, when she launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $13,329.

The CameraPunk line also includes steampunk headphones and flask holders. She has a separate brand called Momotique that she uses to sell handcrafted jewelry, also with a steampunk look.

From concept to Kickstarter

She was inspired to create CameraPunk after purchasing a Nikon DSLR camera in 2011. “I started thinking, ‘Wow, all our cameras look similar,’” she says. “When we buy a new phone or new anything, we think about how to personalize it. We don’t have that thought process regarding the camera.”

Steampunked Camera

At first, her mods were simple, “key chains and anything else to make it my camera,” she says. But she had been introduced to steampunk and was “totally mesmerized” by the aesthetic. She was already making steampunk jewelry, so steampunk camera accessories were a natural extension.

Then, at Burning Man in 2013, she met Trey Ratcliff, a travel photographer and blogger who was leading a photo walk. “He also loves the steampunk aesthetic and culture,” she says. He mentioned that he, too, was thinking about how to give his camera a steampunk look.

She began by steampunking about 20 cameras, including her own. Much of the work involved cutting leather pieces by hand, which limited the number that she could create. So she launched the Kickstarter campaign to fund purchase of die-cutting equipment along with bulk quantities of leather and other materials.

Ratcliff, who has a huge following on social media, named it “Best Camera Kickstarter of the Year.” It was also a Kickstarter Staff Pick and received a write-up in a German camera magazine.

The fabrication process

Her original goal was to acquire a leather-clicking machine and pay a company to create custom dies for common lens cap sizes. Then she changed course and decided to use a laser cutter at Ace Monster Toys, a member-supported makerspace in Oakland, California. This gave her the freedom to cut any shape or size she wanted.

Another advantage of the makerspace, she says, is that she can get inspiration and advice from other members.

She begins with plain lens caps, which she paints with metallic automotive paint or nail polish. Then she adds the laser-cut leather along with metallic pieces — gears, old coins, and the like — and a chain that clips to the camera.

The cuffs are made from leather, which is cut to match the length and circumference of the lens. She makes the straps from repurposed belts or scrap leather.

Aside from the laser-cut leather pieces, the design process is “very analog,” she says. “I spread the material on my table and put it together. It’s like making jewelry.”

Although her camera accessories have a steampunk look, she can also create pieces in other styles. “If someone wants purple crystals or something a little more feminine, I can customize it. Don’t be afraid to ask.”

See more of her creations in the photo gallery below. Learn more about her work on her Facebook page.

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