Steampunk fan Troy Daniel of the Coggler’s Shoppe incorporates the steampunk aesthetic into his art. But he goes beyond the typical and creates a variety of unique art that brings a smile to anyone who sees it.
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do. What initially inspired you to be attracted to Steampunk?
I create Steampunk inspired art. I have always love the aesthetics of the Steampunk culture. While it does seem a bit more about the costuming, I find I love all the aspects of it.
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Steampunk art does not seem that readily available outside of internet shopping. In my own home town of Austin, it is difficult to find. I find that I am usually the only one to offer it at most shows in which I take part. I have met a few wonderful Steampunk artists, but I rarely encounter them at shows.
Vending at festivals and the like is very competitive. You have to submit pictures of your work to apply for a show and many are juried, so the challenge to be original is what can make the difference between getting in a show and getting that wonderfully polite rejection email.
I offer a variety of art, including mixed media art, jewelry and my “famous” plumbing pipe lamps. I only create art that I have fun making, otherwise, what is the point?
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
It’s funny. In college, I majored in photography and theatre and minored in art. I am more of a self-teacher so most of what I learned for my art I taught myself. I have drawn since I was a kid and I always loved taking things apart and seeing what else I could make from the pieces.
Because finding work as a photographer or an actor wasn’t something as readily available as most other occupations, I actually spent most of my life in the restaurant industry.
My decision came in the fall of 2012. I went to a large art festival in downtown Austin looking for Steampunk items. I was wanting to put together a costume for Halloween because I have always made all of my costumes. Surprised that I was unable to find anything, I made a necklace out of the movement of an old pocket watch. I wore it to work and received lots of compliments and queries as to where I got it. When I told people I made it, I got a few requests to make more.
One thing led to another and before you knew it, I was doing my first show at an art gallery with a small table with about 35 pieces, of which I sold only one. And thus begun the start of what would become my business.
My work is always evolving. I originally started with only jewelry, but I have expanded and now jewelry makes up only about a quarter of what I do.
Tell us about your most challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I have never really had a single piece that was more challenging than another. When I have an idea, I start to create and try to figure the best way to realize that idea. The challenge comes with improving it.
For example, when I started making my journals and sketchbooks, I got blank books from bookstores and created my work over the existing covers. Over time, I taught myself how to make them from scratch and the quality is much better. I even print and cut my own paper so I know the quality and exactness of my work.
Have you had a “never again” moment, then gone and did it again?
My worst “never again” moment came with an organization. They produced several shows and I applied and was accepted to do a couple. There was not much organization and the promoting was terrible. After 2 shows with them, I said “never again”.
Well, a couple of months later, I saw they were doing another show a bit closer to my home, so I thought I would give them another chance. Not a good idea. That show was even worse than the other two. I don’t want to mention their organization because I believe in karma and I think in time, if they stay in business, they might figure it out and become worthwhile.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find a lot of my inspirations from the internet. I am always looking at Pinterest and other sites where I can find Steampunk photos and art to inspire me. It also helps me to be as original as possible.
If I see lots of the same thing done by numerous artists, I will tend to skip those ideas and try to work in a new and original direction. I definitely do not want to copy someone else’s art. I have made things on my own that I see later several people have done. There will be similar ideas out there, and that makes it challenging to find a way to make it my own.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
When it comes to production, I do plan out ahead of time what I need to accomplish and when. I will usually make a list of items I need to make by my next show along with deadline goals.
I devote one day to paperwork and supply shopping and ordering. Then I have daily and weekly goals that I try to make as realistic as possible. I highly suggest setting aside at least one day of no work for yourself.
While it can be overwhelming sometimes when you have lots of work before your next show, taking time for yourself can keep you from being burnt out. Now when I do get some free time and I don’t have too much to work on for a show, that is creativity time! I just dive in and start playing to see what I can come up with.
When is your most productive creative time?
My most creative time is usually right after a show. I listen to people’s comments, suggestions and requests and think about how to incorporate ideas into my art. My most productive time is also right after a show because I will usually have to make items to restock inventory slots that I sold.
What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies?
Organization is definitely key to making the most of creativity. Time spent looking for things can really throw you off track and be frustrating.
I built a tool caddy to make access to my tools really quick and easy. My small items, such as charms and findings, I put in compartmented plastic boxes and labeled them.
I also sectioned off my studio into areas where I work on specific projects. For example, I utilize one of my workbenches to make all my lamps. Another I use to make my jewelry and another area devoted to resin pouring. I make my mixed media canvases, clocks and journals in a large area in the center of my studio because I work with large sheets of chipboard.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received is don’t let disappointment guide your passion and drive.
Building a business with art is time consuming and difficult to maintain. Your audience changes. You may have bad shows where you don’t make any money. You might get rejected for shows you have applied numerous times and even ones you have already done.
Many things can happen that can be very discouraging, but you have to march forward. The rewards can be incredible. I have done shows where I didn’t even make my booth fee and I have had shows where I made the equivalent of 2 months pay in one weekend.
Learn more about Troy Daniel of The Coggler’s Shoppe.
Interview published August, 2017
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