Archive for March, 2014

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is pleased to announce a solo exhibition featuring the works of Eric Holstine. Eric’s theme for this exhibit is “(EH=MC2): The Art of Electrodynamic Illumination” and will be on display from April 26 through May 25, 2014.

Eric Holstine

Eric Holstine

Eric Holstine was born and raised in Charleston, WV. He discovered at an early age that he enjoyed taking things apart and seeing how they worked. As he said in a recent interview, “Sometimes I used the parts for something else, and sometimes I just tried to make it do something different than it was intended.” His talent was acknowledged early – in the second grade. Other than basic art classes provided in junior high and high school, he hasn’t had any formal art education.

His family provides ideas and inspiration for his work. His mother is a retired school teacher, and as he said, “quite crafty.” Eric credits his mother with giving him a lot of encouragement. He spent time with his grandfather who also worked on various objects and who taught him how to fix things. With his wife’s grandmother, Eric made huge toy soldiers. He continues, “I built them and she made the clothes.” The goal was to have the soldiers march in place, but Eric didn’t have all the parts to complete the project.

Can you guess what this is? Courtesy Eric Holstine with permission.

 Courtesy Eric Holstine with permission.

When Eric spoke about his artistic influence, he said that he always liked Steampunk style. He found inspiration in movies, books and video games. He said, “Some of my favorites were ‘Myst’ the video game, followed by the books. I also enjoy the ‘Doctor Who’ series, the ‘Time Machine,’ ‘Wild, Wild West,’ and ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.’”

He works professionally in the IT field and found that he can use his computer training to enhance his art and make it unique. Prior to his IT employment, he did electrical work which he said has “merged and evolved into my style of art.”

In many ways, he is a classic tinkerer. He will look at an object and think about how it can serve the same function, but be displayed in a new way. He said, “I tend to look around for items that I can either re-purpose or breakdown and create something completely different.   If I can’t find what I need, I figure out a way to make it. Sometimes it takes trial and error and most often, time. I have works waiting, unfinished until I find that missing object that just seems to complete piece.”

Eric doesn’t think that he fits into a specific artistic mold or genre. He likes to try out different things, including stained glass, painting, woodwork, metal, and polymer clay. When considering which medium he prefers, he responded, “I prefer trying to see how I can merge them together to present a more unique piece.”

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Eric Holstine’s Solo Exhibit – April 26 – May 25, 2014

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is pleased to present  Eric Holstine’s first solo exhibit at Steam entitled “(EH=MC2): The Art of Electrodynamic Illumination” from April 26 to May 25, 2014. Eric was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia. His works include “Melton the Mechanical Marvel” and the “Steampunk Time Machine.” His multi-media art incorporates stained glass, brass fixtures, and robotic elements.

Eric Holstine

Eric Holstine

Don’t miss this exhibit! These are bonafide one of a kind pieces that are guaranteed to delight!


3rd Annual Bolivar-Harper’s Ferry Community Art Walk – April 26 and 27, 2014

The 3rd Annual Bolivar-Harper’s Ferry Community Art Walk is scheduled for April 26 and 27, 2014. Please keep up with developments on the facebook page. Steam is fortunate to have the sponsorship and assistance of the Bolivar/Harpers Ferry Public Library, The Corporation of Harpers Ferry and the Arts and Humanities Alliance for Jefferson County.

Lily Pad in 3D

Lily Pad in 3D

There are over 20 venues and artists participating. It is always a good time – Steam hopes to see you!

Jason is exhibiting his 3D piece “Lily Pads” for the Art Walk this year.Aha logo

What’s New at Steam?

Steampunk-themed home décor! From drawer pulls and light switch plates to ceramics and coasters, time to decorate your home in steampunk style! New steampunk art prints are in stock and now is the time to pick up a few prints from Leigh Anne Cassell’s popular print collection.

Thank you for reading!

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Jefferson County West Virginia is facing a budget crisis – and in the crosshairs is the Bolivar/Harpers Ferry Public Library, among other public libraries in the county. The public libraries are facing 15% cuts for FY 2015 which are largely due to decreased gambling revenue to the tune of $1.5 million over the past 2 years. There are other critical services being threatened – among them emergency services and arts organization funding.  But, in my humble opinion, without access to knowledge, opportunities are slim – whether you want to be a paramedic or an illustrator. Libraries open up worlds of opportunities to young and old minds alike.

In the May 22, 1909 issue of Harper’s Weekly, there was an article about travelling libraries, written by C.P. Cary, the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public instruction entitled “Educating All of the People All of the Time.”  In it, he quotes:

“In the work of popular education,” said Melvil Dewey, “it is, after all, not the few great libraries, but the thousand small, that may do the most for the people.”

According to regional newspaper, The Journal, Gretchen Fry, the director of the Bolivar/Harper’s Ferry Public Library, said that the library received $65,000 in funding from the county last year and that the reduction in county funding could impact the library negatively.

1909 MAY 22 Harper's Weekly Traveling Libraries008 (2)

What a small price to pay for the resources, helpfulness and general public service provided by this and other county libraries! For myself, libraries have always been such an important part of my life, I can only express sorrow that anyone would threaten such an important part of the communities’ fabric.

Please support your local libraries!

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Steam at Harper’s Ferry has a copy of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper dated June 24, 1876. Among its contents is an article about Queen Victoria’s visit to the London Hospital:

On Queen Victoria’s recent visit to the London Hospital she spoke to a boy eight years of age, who had his leg broken by having been run over. After he left the hospital the child wrote of his own accord, and without his father’s or another’s knowledge, a letter to the Queen, bought a stamp and posted it. The letter bore no other address than the words “Lady Queen Victoria.” The letter was delivered to the Queen, and Her Majesty, finding on inquiry that the writing of the letter was the boy’s own act, sent him a gift  of 3 pounds through the Rev. T.J. Boswell. Since this incident was made public the London cab-drivers find it impossible to get through the city for the crowd of small boys waiting to be run over.

London Cabmen

Hard to know whether to laugh or cry…

This newspaper, along with many others, is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.


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It is difficult to understand now why Henry Clay was met with such honor upon reading his justification for the Fugitive Slave bill. It is especially difficult to see his name on a street in Harpers Ferry, of all places.

It was reported in a fundamentally pro-slavery newspaper in Washington, DC that there was “forcible resistance to the execution of the laws of the United States in Boston,” specifically, some Boston citizens aided in the rescue of a fugitive slave. The President of the United States was called upon to answer the insurrection with regard to what forces were available to quell disturbances of this kind. The fugitive slave’s name was Shadrach Minkins, who was born into slavery in Virginia and had escaped to Boston and who was at the time of his arrest, a waiter.

But I digress … back to the Ruggles connection.

In Seven for a Secret’s Historical Afterword, Lindsay Faye mentions David Ruggles (b. 1810, d. 1849), a real-life abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor who formed the New York Committee of Vigilance to combat kidnapping directly.

David Ruggles

David Ruggles

To him are attributed many African American firsts, including being the first African American bookseller, the first to open a lending library in the nation, and the first journalist. He personally assisted Frederick Douglas to obtain his freedom, and was mentioned in Mr. Douglass’s autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom.”

“Once in the hands of Mr. Ruggles, I was comparatively safe.”

He was considered to be a Radical Abolitionist – someone who demanded immediate emancipation based on moral principles.

As I was reading about David Ruggles, I remembered that the book, “The Accursed” referenced another Ruggles, specifically, a man named Yaeger Washington Ruggles, who was portrayed as Woodrow Wilson’s distant relative. Could this character be based in  part on a descendant or distant relative of David Ruggles? Here is an excerpt from “The Accursed” by Joyce Carol Oates:

“Ash Wednesday Eve, 1905

Fellow historians will be shocked, dismayed, and perhaps incredulous — I am daring to suggest that the Curse did not first manifest itself on June 4, 1905, which was the disastrous morning of Annabel Slade’s wedding, and generally acknowledged to be the initial public manifestation of the Curse, but rather earlier, in the late winter of the year, on the eve of Ash Wednesday in early March.

This was the evening of Woodrow Wilson’s (clandestine) visit to his longtime mentor Winslow Slade, but also the evening of the day when Woodrow Wilson experienced a considerable shock to his sense of family, indeed racial identity.

Innocently it began: at Nassau Hall, in the president’s office, with a visit from a young seminarian named Yaeger Washington Ruggles who had also been employed as Latin preceptor at the university, to assist in the instruction of undergraduates.”

Unfortunately, the answer is no. In an interview with Jane Ciabattari, which appeared as an article for The Daily Beast, Oates answered the question:

“At a climactic moment in the scene, Wilson realizes his cousin Ruggles is of mixed race. Is this an invented character?

Ruggles is an imagined relative. And yet, how likely is it that white men, particularly in the South, fathered children with enslaved or otherwise powerless black women, whose progeny might one day mingle with their white ‘kin’?”

Some things are mere coincidences. However, part of me would like to believe that these two wonderful authors conspired, if only psychically, to bring to light, yet again, little known  U.S. historical facts.

Note:  Further evidence that perhaps there is no such thing as coincidence. Upon further research, I found that David Ruggles was born in Norwich, Connecticut. On March 7, 2014, Jason Edwards, Steam at Harper’s Ferry’s resident artist, opened a solo exhibit in, you guessed it, Norwich, Connecticut!

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Diversify! The watch word for business, life, investments – and publishing! Sometimes you don’t know what works until you try a little bit of everything. In the midst of a busy gallery schedule and upcoming Art Walk, a serialized steampunk story is in the works. Why a serial? Perhaps it is a great way to determine whether or not a story is compelling – if the first few installments don’t attract attention, why continue? A novel is a full-time commitment as well as a huge risk. However, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t experiment with different formats.

Here are two recommended resources for authors in general, and steampunk authors in particular. Get your hands on the February 2014 edition of Writer’s Digest and read the article “Best of Both Worlds” by Chuck Wendig. This no-nonsense article addresses issues that many authors face who find themselves navigating through various publishing format options. There is a statistical insert based on an author survey conducted by Digital Book World in 2012, identifying not only approximate income for three types of writers (self-published, traditionally published and hybrid authors), but show how much work goes into self-marketing. There is also a useful article about outlining and story mapping “7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story,”  by K.M. Weiland and recommendations about which publishing experts to follow online, “10 Top Publishing Insiders (& Outsiders) to Follow Online,” by Jane Friedman.

The other resource is the book “Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction,” by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athans, Jay Lake, published in 2013. What is great about this book is how it breaks down not only the differences between these genres, but the conversational writing tone. The history, culture, glossary of terms for fantasy and science fiction makes this a nice reference book. In addition, the authors’ first-hand experience with these writing styles is invaluable.

Find steampunk and science fiction books and comic books at Steam at Harper’s Ferry, as well as our soft cover “Guide to Protecting Fictional Characters.”

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