You’re Such A Punk! I Mean (Steam)Punk!

Jamila Clarke is an accomplished jewelry designer, incredible photographer and a punk! A steampunk. Like most people, you probably aren’t familiar with steampunk, despite its growing popularity.

Traditionally, steampunk is a literary genre but today it is so much more. Steampunk is an aesthetic, a way of life, and its influences are everywhere! If you’re Black and steampunk, you’re Steamfunk! Watch out!

One of the most amazing steampunks — I mean SteamFunks! — resides right here in Portland, Oregon. Her name is Jamila Clarke but when adorned in all her SteamFunk glory she transforms into Miss Aetherly. Her love for this aesthetic extends way beyond her impeccable H.G Wells collection and fabulous hats. It appears in the design of her jewelry and her surreal and fantastical photography.

I bet you’re still wondering, what is Steampunk? I’ll give you some clues: if you know about Afrofuturism, Cosplaying, Black Speculative Fiction, Blaqmythology or Futuristically Ancient, you can probably figure it out. If you’re still lost, Jamila or should I say, Miss Aetherly can help you out…

It’s the one and only Jamila Clarke. You are mad talented! I don’t even know where to start…How are you?

Doing pretty well, thanks.

For those who don’t know, please define Steampunk.

Steampunk began as a science-fiction literary genre set in the 19th century, often featuring steam-powered machinery. Of course, it’s grown largely beyond that and can be fantasy, post-apocalyptic, futuristic and set in other countries beyond Victorian England or American West. It is also a cultural movement, lifestyle and art form. It has a characteristic pseudo-Victorian mechanical style and appreciates aesthetics of that time period, while also embracing more progressive ideas from today.

Q3. How and when did you get involved in Steampunk? What attracted you? 

I was always interested in this Victorian-esque mechanical aesthetic I’d seen in movies and art, but I just didn’t know what it was or that there was a community around it. I first learned about steampunk when I saw a group at Wondercon back in 2005 and was curious about it. I did a little research and came across the term and it opened a whole world for me. Up to that point I thought it was something that only lived in novels and movies.
I loved the message of adventure/discovery in a retro-future that is whatever you want it to be. The fact that you can enjoy the art, music, clothing of the past yet reshape it and alter history to make it your own. As a person of color I really appreciated this – I could be a part of this Victorian/American West style era and be an airship pirate or an aristocrat inventor – whatever I wanted to be.

Steampunk has always been around. Why is it now growing in popularity? I mean this thing is kinda huge…would you agree?

I think part of it was that people were not as aware of it as they were in the past – not to say it was secretive, but there were less forums/events/groups for people to connect to and for new people to learn more about it and get involved. There has also been a huge resurgence of geek culture/fantasy/sci-fi in the mainstream, and Steampunk appeals to many who are in that audience.

I gotta ask this, how do people receive you when you appear in Steampunk? Well, considering that we are in Portland, it may not be a big deal … or is it?

I’m a pretty low-key person, so I don’t dress in Steampunk wear daily. But when I do dress up, part of me expects people to give me odd looks. Surprisingly most folks here don’t bat an eye – or they might ask if I’m participating in an event of some kind. Generally people are more inquisitive than anything else.

Like I said before, Steampunk extends beyond clothing and for you it influences the uniquely creative jewelry you make…

Yes. I have a jewelry shop called Inkstrand. I make vintage inspired resin jewelry – necklaces, lockets, cufflinks, etc. My work is inspired by imagery I’ve seen in old botanical guides, maps, illustrated vintage books as well as sci-fi/fantasy/mythology. While it’s not exclusively steampunk, a lot of my pieces would make a nice addition to that style of wardrobe.

Beyond that, it also informs your photography? That’s right, in addition to everything else, Jamila is an amazing photographer.
Thanks. It influences my work in little ways. Costuming for sure – and some of the visuals. My photography tends towards the surreal and fantastical and often set in the past, so they are definitely related. I’m in the process of working on a Steampunk inspired photo series, so I’m pretty excited to bring those two elements together.

Please list any other names you use, where folks can purchase your jewelry, view your photography and all the places you can be found on the internet.

My photography can be found on my official site, and I have prints for sale on my photography Etsy shop. My jewelry can be found on my other Etsy shop. As for the internet in general, I’m also on Steampunk Empire and Brassgoggles forums as missaetherly and Tumblr as tisallinyourhead.

Lastly, are you single?

I’m taken. Recently married to a wonderful guy who appreciates the aesthetic as much as I do. Our little apartment is full of vintage bric-a-brac, costumes, furniture and such – it’s all kinds of awesome.

Note:If you want to learn more about SteamFunk, check out these books and websites,

The Delivery by Milton Davis
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman by Balogun Ojetade
The Switch by Valjeanne Jefters


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