Montevallo woman relishes Victorian creativity with repurposed objects

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

Imagine that Jules Verne and Queen Victoria had a child. That’s how Melanie Poole explains Steampunk.

“There are all the mechanics, the gears and the wheels of Jules Verne, and then there is all the Victorian elegance.”

Wearing her ‘I-Heart-Gears’ Steampunk shirt, Melanie Poole models a hat and earrings she made. (Contributed)

It come together in the tiny upstairs room where Melanie has her Steampunk studio. You see, she makes jewelry and hats for these folk who like to dress up in anachronistic outfits, a mix of time travel and the Victorian era with a dash of sci-fi.

My husband likes science fiction, a pursuit dating to childhood. Although I read Jules Verne as a kid— vicariously going 20,000 leagues under the sea and making a passage to Mars—I was never a sci-fi geek. My husband and Melanie definitely fall into that classification.

“Oh, that is what I like about Steampunk,” said Melanie. “I am a total geek.”

She also is an artist, creative and very much a woman of her time.

You know what makes Steampunk so appealing? Other than that it lets her express her artistic self and wear a corset?

“Recycling, repurposing and reusing,” she said.

Boy, oh, boy, is that the truth!

The plastic gallon bag of partially dis-assembled men’s pocket watches? Thrift stores and estate sales and the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Then there is a the five-gallon bucket of turkey feathers. Oh, and the leather, the pieces of deer antlers, the hunks of metal, the bags of beads and pearls and lovely stones.

For a garage sale addict such as I, her ability to take things and make things that stun the eye … well, it just stuns me.

Melanie has these cool tools, too, like the miniature drill that makes minuscule holes in leather and metal, and it files, embosses and all sorts of other things. A rack of hat blanks—hats untouched by Steampunk magic—sit waiting for it. A shelf stacked high with material that converts to hat bands … and wire and bits of fabric and fur.

You may be wondering: What does one do with all this?

Well, because of my husband, I have been to a couple of Sci-Fi conventions (or “Cons,” as they are called), and I have seen Steampunk. I would be signing up if pantyhose didn’t give me such a case of the heebie-jeebies that I know I couldn’t survive a corset.

“I think I look good in a corset,” Melanie explained. The hats and the jewelry, with Steampunk costumes, give off that sexy Victorian vibe. On men, there are those breeches, vests and leather. The women are knockouts in those corsets, those bodices. Getting into character, participants take on some of that elegant Victorian manner.

You will find Melanie at art festivals and at the annual Big River Steampunk Festival in Hannibal, Mo., each Labor Day weekend. Her jewelry is on sale at Blue Phrogg Art Gallery in Montevallo.

Her day job? Melanie is communications director at The American Village.