Meet the Maker: Chris Ahrent of Celtic Steamworks Created by ProfHoppingood on 4/15/2013 7:40:07 PM
We interview Professor Christoph Von Ahrent and discuss his creations and his insights.
I have always tinkered with things. When I was a little kid I would take apart my toys to figure out how they worked. I was always building stuff ... Lego's to a Large Scale Dragon, Larger than a VW bus, in high school. Just seemed the thing to do. I was the house with the animated display in the window during holidays. Moving around the world exposed me to a lot of different things from toys to gadgets. This has stayed with me to this day.
I have been crafting Steampunk genre items for approximately 4-5 years and building / creating for most of my life. I have always loved the Victorian ethic and was a reenactor for years (15th – 17th Century, ECW, FNI, AWI, ACW). A lot of times when reenacting the gear or the particular item you want to have is not available too expensive or is an original that doesn't need to go out into the field. So you learn to build things from scratch. Steampunk making is just an extension of that for me. My Son was the person who got me involved with Steampunk initially and it sort of has just taken off. I attended my first meeting with him when the Cowford Steampunk Society was having a murder mystery night at their club house and was hooked.
What is favorite medium and why? What’s your favorite technique?
I don't have one medium that is a favorite. If I had to choose though it would be a toss up between brass and wood. My favorite technique would have to be carving the wood into the shape it wants to be.
Where do you draw your influences?
Silly as this sounds I draw them from real life.. things I see around me... The item tells me what it wants to be.. (yes one of those weird artist sayings but its true).. Other influences include my friends who are also makers and of course scouring the internet and saying, oh! that's cool or shiny!
One of my latest creations draws from a item I saw at a convention that I was going to buy.. but the longer I looked at it the less I liked it and the less it really fit with where I wanted the piece to go with the persona I was portraying. So a friend who was with me tells me that I can make something ten times better than that. So I went home and made exactly what my minds eye pictured in brass. Its now attached to a messenger bag.
Other places are wandering around Flea markets and Antique Shops.
What other works by other artists do you like?
Well there are a few...
Rocky Sawyer who I have known for years, through various reenacting groups, is a wonderful weapon-smith in brass. My work is mixed materials he on the other hand works almost exclusively in brass. He has a Scottish highland jump pack and blaster which is wonderful. We play off each other in our own styles and make ourselves better by collaborating on things.
RJ Foster is another maker who I met through a mutual friend and he and I have been thicker than thieves. We use each other to bounce ideas off of and to brainstorm. RJ makes wonderful leather based gadgets with various uses. I would have to say the gatling gauntlet is one of my favorite along with his whole harness set up.
Then there is of course Thomas Willeford and David Antunes who are just amazing in what they do.
What distinguishes your work from others?
I hate questions like this.... I am my own worst critic as people can tell you who know me...
I try and put a little bit of the personality of the client into the item. I did a series of brass gorgets for a few friends of mine. I went through and figured each personality out and then came out with a series based on each persons personality and likes such as Alice in wonderland for a few people that were big Alice fans. I guess that's one of the big things. The other is I want my creations to do something or serve a purpose if possible and do something.
What is your creative process when starting a project? Do you sketch it out? Do you just go for the gusto and start creating?
I go rummaging. I decide that I am going to make a weapon or something else and then find the part that is the basis for the creation that's asking to be born and just go where the muse takes me. This may lead to me doing something 5 or 6 times until I feel its what the piece wants to be. If its one of the items which I create by etching I will go into gimp and sketch it out on the computer or create it off
the templates I have made.
What’s your least favorite aspect or technique? What do you wish you could do better?
Oh I wish I could do lots of things better... I look at things out there and go man I wish I could do that.
Or he/she is so much better at that than me... As I said before I am my own worse critic. My least favorite aspect... good question... I think its the one every maker has.. trying to determine how much to charge for something you make.
What tips would you give beginners?
Never give up... never surrender!
Look your going to fail everyone does and don't get discouraged. Some of the neatest techniques I have figured out how to do were complete disasters the first few times I messed with them. There will be mistakes.. I still to this day make them and will probably for the rest of my days. Don't ever be afraid to ask questions on how to do something. Also if you have not gotten Thomas's book Steampunk; Gear, Gadgets and gizmos go get it. This is a great book for all levels of makers!
How do you keep growing as a maker?
Well I read..Which constantly gives you ideas to work with. I fiddle in my workshop. Mostly I just wander and get ideas or friends will call up and go Chris can you make this or is this even possible and I will walk away and make the item they are asking for. You just keep a healthy imagination going.
Form or function first? GO!
Both... but if I had to choose probably function because function dictates the form the creation will take for me.
Do you prefer to work in found objects or start with raw materials?
To me its a combination of both. Because I can't always get the look I'm going for with strictly found objects.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
*We* are the music makers... and *we* are the dreamers of dreams – Willy Wonka
Never give up your imagination. Never give up when things just are not working right. Walk away from the item and come back later... you will be amazed how it works itself out. And if it doesn't so what... you still learned something that will help you with a later project.
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