Prior to watching Martin Scorsese’s smash hit “Hugo” in January, Electra McKoskey never anticipated the film would inspire her to design a three-dimensional “steampunk” piece.


Prior to watching Martin Scorsese’s smash hit “Hugo” in January, Electra McKoskey never anticipated the film would inspire her to design a three-dimensional “steampunk” piece.

After all, McKoskey, 61, of Warwick, Md., had never even heard of the word until she saw the film.

Now six months later, McKoskey’s 7-foot-tall, spider-inspired steampunk piece (“The Jewel”) will officially be unveiled to the public at the opening reception of Guild By Association’s “People’s Choice Exhibit” at the Gilbert W. Perry, Jr. Center for the Arts on Friday.

The exhibit will feature pieces from 20 artists, of which many are local, who worked in a range of mediums such as photography, painting and watercolor.

What’s steampunk?
Unlike McKoskey, many people are still left in the dark on what steampunk actually is. In short, it’s a style that’s often set in the 1900s, or an alternative history, and typically features over-the-top technological inventions inspired by science fiction.

Steampunk creations are mostly operated with steam power and are regularly constructed with signature items like gears and bolts. Common steampunk themes center around things like clocks and spiders.

In the case of “Hugo,” one of the many steampunk inventions featured in the film is a clock tower. 

How it was made
“The Jewel,” which resembles a makeshift spider mobile, is an assemblage piece that took approximately five months to create. North of 70 random parts were used to build it. The parts include a skeleton, bicycle wheels, clocks and a lantern, as well as a yellow exercise ball that sits on top.

McKoskey attached an old umbrella on the rear of “The Jewel” to give the impression the piece has wings. Metal tubing was used on the bottom of the creation to give it the coveted spider appearance.

“A spider is part of the whole steampunk thing,” said McKoskey, who has been a member of Guild By Association for nearly three years. “There’s a lot of spider legs on my piece.”

McKoskey created “The Jewel” by first putting her concept on paper. Then she let loose and began putting her hand to the plow.

“I think it’s just about being creative and taking a chance,” she said. “It was something new to me.”

‘Stimulates the imagination’
“The Jewel” has been on display at The Gibby since late June and it’s certainly been turning heads.

“It’s very unique and stimulates the imagination,” said Caroline Zeitler, the Hudson Contemporary Gallery director at The Gibby. “It’s very mind-boggling. It sort of looks like a vehicle with a steam locomotive and has kind of the look of a spider or bug of some sort, because there are legs that come out. It looks very much like a spider mobile.”

McKoskey’s husband, Michael, 50, is impressed with “The Jewel,” despite teasing her about its design.

“He calls it ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ on steroids,” McKoskey quipped. 

“I’m really proud of her,” Michael modestly said of McKoskey. “I can’t believe the response she’s getting.”

Michael, a maintenance mechanic who works in Baltimore, helped McKoskey complete the piece by finding various straps, bolts and other items to hold the parts in place.

Most of the parts for “The Jewel” were given to McKoskey from the various findings Michael discovered when journeying to and from work. McKoskey’s friends also contributed a great deal of parts.

What’s next?
McKoskey hopes guests at The Gibby will appreciate “The Jewel” for as long as it’s on display. She also wouldn’t mind selling it, if the right offer comes along.

Due to the uniqueness of “The Jewel,” The Gibby has decided to host two contests based on the piece. The first is for contestants to write a creative poem or short story — less than 1,500 words — about “The Jewel.” The second contest is for participants to guess the number of gears, bolts and clocks used to create it.

The deadline for participants to submit their answers and essays/poems to The Gibby is August 25. Contestants can also submit their information to The Gibby via email at gibby.center@yahoo.com.

Contestants will be judged on criteria such as creativity, grammar and spelling. The prizes for both contests haven’t been decided yet, Zeitler said.