Vandalia-Con Steampunk Convention offers unique items

PARKERSBURG – People from around the Mid-Ohio Valley donned their best steampunk attire and filled the Blennerhassett Hotel and downtown Parkersburg on Saturday for the first Vandalia-Con Steampunk Convention.

“This weekend has gone really well,” said organizer Shelly Dusic. “We have had a lot of people who know and love steampunk come and others who came because they are curious about it and know nothing about the movement.”

Steampunk is often described as a Victorian or Industrial Revolution-Era science fiction or fantasy style.

Timeless, a Belpre-based artist who sold her time-focused jewelry at the event, handed out papers with descriptions of the movement.

“Steampunk is a way for people to assert their individuality,” she said. “Those who are part of the movement reject the mass-produced world for unique, handcrafted things.

“Steampunk is not dark or spooky, but elegant and beautiful; the perfect intersection of technology and romance,” Timeless added.

While the items by Timeless all include elements of clocks and watches – such as gears and sprockets – other vendors use all kinds of materials for their work.

“I stay with time as a theme in my pieces because time is so precious and we all have so little of it that we should embrace and celebrate it in every way we can,” Timeless said.

Artist Christine Hutson, of Pittsburgh, said her art works in the steampunk world because of the use of animals and machinery with a touch of whimsy and illusion.

“I have an anthropology degree and do a lot of natural and botanical illustrations, but also love science fiction and imagining nature in a different way through my artwork,” Hutson said.

These new imaginings include a beetle as machinery and a zeppelin that looks more like a fish than an airship.

“To me, the best part about steampunk, is that it is all art,” Hutson said. “The costumes and jewelry is all homemade and handmade with love, care and imagination.”

Chain millie jewelry is also available with many pieces handmade by Susan Vanstone, who traveled four hours from her home in Richmond, Ky., to participate in this weekend’s event.

“I have been part of many steampunk events and this one is very interesting because it is small, but the people coming in are very steampunk savvy with their costumes and accessories,” Vanstone said. “This is great.”

Vanstone, like many other vendors and attendees, chose to be part of the first-time event because of the convention’s goal to raise awareness about cancer, with proceeds from the weekend going to the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program.

“I decided to come here because of the cause and the way this is being approached is amazing,” Vanstone said. “I couldn’t not be a part of something that was fun, steampunk and helped those with cancer.”

The convention also took advantage of the history of downtown Parkersburg with a special Haunted Parkersburg tour on Friday evening, along with tours through the weekend of the Julia-Ann Square Historic District and its homes, the Smoot Theatre, the Parkersburg Art Center and visits to the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History and Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.

In keeping with the breast cancer awareness theme, the weekend will end with the Vandalia-Con Pink Block Party from 12:30-4 p.m. today at Point Park Marketplace. The free block party will feature women’s health screenings – including the Bonnie’s Bus Mobile Mammography Unit from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. – a parade from the hotel to Point Park, food vendors, a concert by The Battle Weary Band and Unwoman and a health fair.