THOMPSON and MESERVE’S PURCHASE — Anachronisms were the order of the day this weekend at the Cog, which for a fourth year hosted the celebration of steam, art, and of alternate pasts and futures known as the Railway to the Moon Steampunk Festival.
The festival featured presentations by Bruce Rosenbaum, who has been dubbed the Guru of Steampunk, for among, other things, creating the world’s largest cucumber slicer and a mechanical whale.
Exhibitors included Todd Cahill, whose Steamachine Sculpture studio in Waltham, Mass., has built steampunk sculptures for clients both around the world and close to home, among them Rosenbaum, who resides in Palmer, Mass.
Some attendees came from even farther, among them Bert Emerson, an associate professor of design at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. He dressed in a shiny black suit that bristled with gadgets.
Asked whether it was a deep-sea dive suit, Emerson replied it was not.
“This was built to go to the moon,” he said. “It’s rigged for space.”
Cahill, whose garb was decidedly more 19th century fine-craftsman, said the festival drew large, appreciative crowds on Saturday and Sunday. Getting a lot of attention was “Blaze,” a small boiler with a steam engine on top. Cahill described it as “functional art.”
With its spinning coils, “Blaze” is a “hypnotizer,” said Cahill, “a Victorian-parlor engine to entertain your guests at tea time.”
Rosenbaum, equipped with a video projector and screen, entertained a roomful of people on Sunday in the Cog’s cafeteria with tales about his steampunk experiences and how some of them have grown into “public art” that has made their owners famous and prosperous.
“Punky,” a six-foot long “re-imagineering” of a sperm whale with a beluga whale smile, greets visitors at The Nantucket Hotel & Resort, said Rosenbaum, while the courtyard at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., is now a sought-after venue for weddings and other events because of “Celeste,” a 26-foot tall armillary.
Inside the boutique hotel, the lounge at the Kimpton Marlowe boasts a brandy-heating armillary, designed by Rosenbaum and built by Cahill, that Rosenbaum said brings out “people who don’t even care about warmed brandy” but who are fascinated by the interplay and operation of the “brandillary’s” exposed gears.
Apart from his ability to entertain and delight, Rosenbaum said he hoped his steampunk legacy is one of education. He said steampunk teaches creative problem-solving; collaboration; and resilience.