A COGS life

The room was a living juxtaposition. Cakes were carried from table to table, teas transported in and out of the room and sewing machines hummed a delicate whisper of crafting inspiration and passion. This was the Craftea Café on a Sunday morning, the innovative location for the monthly COGS event.

When I arrived on a crisp Sunday morning at the Craftea Café I didn’t know what to expect. ‘COGS,’ was going on inside, a monthly craft workshop which takes place in Lincoln. The idea of a steampunk workshop constructed within a café seemed like too much of an oxymoron. Yet, knowing the steampunk stereotype of a folk with a love for cafés and crafting, I could imagine the collage of interests working exceptionally well.

Photo: Aaron Renfree

The café was packed with crafters and tea drinkers, all working around a bench within the middle of the room. I took a seat and straight away was greeted by four steampunks.

Samantha Berry was the first to say hello. As most steampunks do, she has a Steampunk alias, Constance Lillian Vernet. Samantha has been a steampunk for two and a half years and always welcomed new members to the group.

Without hesitation, Samantha quickly introduced me to the other steampunks sat at the table.

First was Christopher Jagger, who went by the name Lieutenant Colonel Simpli-Simpli. Christopher was sat next to his wife, Rosie Jagger, who’s steampunk alias was Lady Penelope Rose Pinkerton-Smythe. Both of the Jagger’s had been steampunk’s for two years.

Finally, Samantha introduced me to Sherree Hewson, also known as Magenta, The Duchess of Nellington. Sherree had been a steampunk for two years and was the lady responsible for organising COGS.

It was evident that steampunk was a fashion based group that dabbled in alter egos and appeared to have a love for cafés, but I wanted to know more about the group.

Samantha was quick to answer as she dropped her glue gun: “steampunk means a lot of things, to a lot of people and every definition is different. I like it because it gives me a large amount of creative freedom.

“But it’s also a community, a place for people to get together and have fun,” she added.

“I like to think of it as the genre of innovation, dedication and bastardisation. You are crafting elaborate pieces out of old items and making them your own,” said Sherree.

Photo: Aaron Renfree

Christopher had a similar view to Samantha: “steampunk is a supportive family of friends. People who you wouldn’t usually talk to, but when united by steampunk, you realise that you have a lot in common.

“I view it as more of a state of mind than a fashion thing, which is why COGS is so great. You meet over steampunk to craft, but often stay to chat,” he said.

It was very clear that steampunk was a community and judging by the variety of people who attended, young and old, male and female, family and friends, steampunk certainly looked inclusive.

Sherree agreed with my observation: “We welcome everybody. I’d say that about 90% of steampunks are broken. They have a form of illness, mental for example, but they all feel welcome here and are not judged.

“Places like COGS are a great way for people to make like-minded friends,” she added.

COGS has been around for several years but unfortunately had to close when the original organisers moved away. However, in November 2015, Sherree found a new venue at the Craftea Café and relaunched the monthly crafting event.

“I was very saddened to see it go,” she admitted.

“It had been a tradition to meet every couple of weeks to work on our crafting. So when the original organisers left, I waited a few months, found a new venue and rebooted COGS. Ever since COGS has been on the rise with more people attending at every event,” she said.

Sherree certainly wasn’t lying, the room was packed. New people had joined us and were hard at work on sewing machines or crafting freehand. A dress constructed entirely out of ties had even popped up in the corner of the café.

I looked over to Rosie, who had been quiet thus far and had picked out a pink scarf and begun destroying it on the table. Confused, I asked what she was doing.

“I’m deconstructing this scarf. Steampunk isn’t all about construction, sometimes things need destroying for use. Christopher is a great example, he’s constantly destroying old items for his work,” said Rosie.

Christopher looked up from his workings,

Photo: Aaron Renfree

“Steampunk changes how you view things. You don’t just see a piece of junk anymore, you see a gun barrel or a sight. As a steampunk, don’t ever dream about throwing stuff away,” he advised.

Rosie laughed, agreeing with her husband she said, “The average steampunk house has about twice as much stuff in it than a normal house, as we just keep collecting stuff. Christopher even has a caravan dedicated to crafting.”

“So where would I start with steampunk?” I asked.

“I’d start by getting to know people,” said Rosie

“Come to get-togethers like COGS and social nights out around town. Become part of the family, even before you start your first craft,” she said

Sherree nodded her head, “I completely agree with Rosie. At first, take away the fashion and come to have fun. Steampunk is here” she said, pointing at her head and heart.

Leaving the Craftea Café I felt like I’d stumbled upon something new. A small community who bonded over their love of innovative fashion, but remained over their love for one and other. Steampunk really was about the head and heart, and not about the needle and thread.