Steampunk & Mimimalism: Quality and Beauty

I was browsing NPR and came across an article on steampunk called “Did Steampunk Forget The Meaning Of The Word Dickensian?” by J.J. Sutherland. This post is not about the article, but about the wonderful comment made in response to the article by Eben Mishkin. It reads in part:

Steampunk is romanticized; it is not supposed to be historically accurate. Mr. Stross is trying to apply history to a genre that is about modernity. All of the punk genres are about the time they are written in, not the ones they depict. Steampunk is about here and now. We can have beautiful luxuries, enjoy wonders from afar, go anywhere and yet in large part we do not. We dress shabbily, speak without erudition, and our possessions are expected to break down. Steampunk is a solution to and metaphor for those problems: dress nicely, speak beautifully, recycle, and make your possessions heirloom quality.

(I have quoted the portion of the comment that is applicable. The full comment provides a detailed response to the article and can be read here: )

Miskin’s comments struck a chord with me because I have recently become interested in minimalism. If you are unfamiliar with this movement, take a few moments to browse YouTube and look at the thousands of videos available on how to become a minimalist. There are almost as many videos on minimalism as there are on cute and/or grumpy cats.

I am not a person who can limit my possessions to 100 items or less, but I found that I liked the philosophy underlying minimalism: Only keep items in your life that add value or are beautiful. Buy less disposable items and invest in a small number of high quality useful items that will last.

In another article, “Toward an Understanding of the Steampunk Aesthetic” I describe how “brass, copper, wood, leather, glass materials are used, are tooled, to form steampunk items that are both beautiful and functional. Indeed, part of the aesthetic of this art form is not just in how an object looks, but also in its intended function. Decoration is not separate from form and function. The expression “you can’t just glue gears on something and call it steampunk” emphasizes this fact. The gears need to do something—need to fulfill some function in the design—to be part of the steampunk aesthetic” ( ).

Reading Miskin’s comments made me realize that part of the aesthetic behind both steampunk and minimalism is the same: the focus on both exquisiteness and value; the focus on heirloom quality in a possession.

It is interesting that both of these movements are occurring now—that their popularity is peaking during a time when our society pushes “cheap and disposable” items on consumers. Is it any wonder that an ever-growing number of people are pushing back and opting for items that have both quality and beauty?

Please comment below and let me know what you think!

4 thoughts on “Steampunk & Mimimalism: Quality and Beauty

  1. Glad you liked the comment. I had almost forgotten about it. I think you’re spot on on with your conclusions, as well. I can definitely see the connection. I think there’s an inevitable element of our stuff owning us. And if all our stuff is disposable, what does that make us? So, this was a fun post to run into. And always fun to run into another writer ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Part of the fascination with Steampunk, for me, has been the Craft aspect. Steampunkers are handicrafters at heart. We either make things ourselves or we understand the effort that the people who can do it put into each piece.

    I think we come from the realization that there3 is no “away’ anymore. If something breaks and is designed to be discarded instead of repaired, we can throw it out, but we can’t really throw it away anymore. So we are aware of the tradeoff involved in the deceptive initial cheapness of the object, vs the true long term costs.

    And there’s the added cachet of Bespoke objects, as well as the satisfaction of supporting an artisan who produces quality work. Our daily jobs seldom allow for the kind of satisfaction that comes from producing something that someone wants and will cherish. And, on the other side, to be able to say that some beautiful thing was made for you by a Person, by someone you can point to on the street and say you recognize them, brings an extra layer of satisfaction to the transaction.

    Very nice post. And the point about the relationship between Steampunk and Minimalism is not one I would have made, but it works.


    1. Thanks for commenting! I made the connection between minimalism and steampunk because the language used in postings, videos, and so forth is very similar. A look toward quality versus quantity and having something beautiful and functional that, as you mention, you want and cherish is part of both aesthetics. Chris


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.