A Krypton Radio exclusive interview by, Senior Editor, PK
Artist works to create Steampunk children’s alphabet book with help from Kickstarter Campaign
When you talk to people outside of the Steampunk culture, they sometimes will know what it is. Often pointing to images of dirigible airships with men and women dressed head-to-toe in Victorian England inspired clothing adorned with brass accents and clockwork accessories. Portland, Oregon based artist Nat Iwata was until a few years ago an outsider to the culture like many, until his work sent him head-first into the visual side of the steam-powered world. Nat through his work as a freelance game artist was hired to work on a Steampunk computer game and became fascinated by the world of yesteryear that might have been. Nat is also is a father of three young boys, who he wanted to share his new found fascination of Steampunk with. Using his creative talents and a moment of inspiration, he decided to create a children’s alphabet book using Steampunk visual elements to aid in the learning process.
“Every family needs an alphabet book. That’s a given. But when I set out to find a compelling Steampunk themed ABC book, I was shocked to find there wasn’t one. I’ve been doing steampunk art for several years in the video game industry, and now I’m on a mission to illustrate a visually compelling, fun for all ages Steampunk Alphabet book, the one I wanted to buy.”
So while Nat works diligently on the book, he’s established a Kickstarter campaign to help him with covering the costs of production and eventually publishing the book. His current goal is $7,500 with hopes to raise the needed funds by July 26. He’s so far raised $1,748 with 43 backers. For those unfamiliar with the Kickstarter service; Kickstarter is a U.S. based website where anyone can setup a campaign and request donations to help them achieve whatever goals they’re trying to fund.
“One of my goals with this book is to make it approachable to both fans, and those unfamiliar with Steampunk. In light of that, while all of the illustrations are total Steampunk, the opening ‘letter sentence’ for each page is a familiar word. For example “A is for Apple.”
I reached out to Mr. Iwata for an interview to get some details on his inspiration and his experiences with the Steampunk Culture:
PK: Can you tell us about yourself, related to your work in the gaming industry?
The first few games I made, were Xbox Indie games; I did all of the art and sound. After that not panning out too well from a financial standpoint, I started my first foray into the world of iOS games with the sleeper hit (ok, it wasn’t a hit at all) Starball, which I still consider a super fun game. Since then I’ve worked on something like 15+ iPhone games, an Xbox Live Arcade game, some PC work, and other mobile platforms, many of them as the art director and/or sole artist.
PK: What gaming company or companies are you currently with?
Nat: I worked at Quantum Squid Interactive for about 4 years, which was as huge growing experience. Working at a small development studio means wearing a lot of hats, and sometimes I was doing all art, sound, music, and making the trailers for the games we created. After a good run there, I moved to Soma Games and Code-Monkeys, same team with different IPs under each, acting as their art director. This time I had to manage a small team of artists, so that was another growth area. I’m still working with Soma, though I’ve also worked, and continue to work, with other studios along the way like Pocket Monkey, Liquid Development, and Everplay Interactive.
PK: How long have you been a fan of steampunk?
Nat: I’ve been a fan of steampunk since I worked on an iOS game called G: Into The Rain in 2010. The more I started researching the art and subculture the more appealing I found it. In that game, and the followup game due out in the next year or so, I used the style as inspiration and took it into space. It’s such a cool blend of old and new, depicting a version of yesteryear that might have been, when things were handmade with metal, wood and leather, instead of plastic stamped out of a factory.
PK: Are your wife and children fans of Steampunk, or have you already tried to introduce them to the fandom?
Nat: Ha, my wife loves the textures and aesthetic and thinks it’s neat, so she’s a budding fan. My kids are young enough to like whatever I’m working on so they get a kick out of it.
PK: Aside from your artwork, in what other ways do you participate in the steampunk culture?
Nat: Really I haven’t gotten deep into the culture like a lot of people. I’ve been kind of lurking on the outside, creating inspired art and watching what seems to be a growing movement with a lot of interest. So this book is kind of a first participatory step into that world, and I hope it will do for others what all of the amazing steampunk diy projects, and artwork has done for me over the years.
PK: You kickstarter goal is $7,500 but you’re currently working on the book anyway. How exactly will you use the money towards getting the book made or published?
Nat: I’ve started the book, but I still have a long way to go! As one commenter said recently, “it’s a long way to zed!” I defined a format and art style, but have very few pages finished. Working now as a full-time freelancer it’s a constant balancing act between paid work and projects like this one that only have the potential to earn money.
During the planning stages of my Kickstarter campaign, I calculated out the time I needed to finish the book, the cost of printing, shipping and rewards. The number I came up with basically allowed me a few weeks to finish the uncompleted pages, and organize all that needs to be done to fulfill everything else. Right now I’m planning on self-publishing, but I have had inquiries about a more traditional publishing route. We’ll see where things go in the near future.
PK: Are you wanting the book to be print only, or are you working to make it also available for digital download?
Nat: There will be a digital version available, first offered to some of the Kickstarter backers.
PK:Do you have any publishing companies lined up or interested in the book yet?
Nat: There has been some interest, but really the Kickstarter community was my first real effort at pitching the book to anyone. From what I know, there are a lot of pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional routes.
PK: If this book is successful, are you considering making any more steampunk themed books?
Nat: Absolutely! I have a couple ideas in the works if this one gets funded and is well received.
If the project is successful, I’m hoping to be able to finish the book in a pretty short time frame. Having worked as a full-time artist for 6 years now, and on close to 20 video games, I know about managing a project, setting goals and delivering on time.
While I’ve been working on this book when I can, with some help from you I can get it finished, printed and in your hands. Any support you can offer is very appreciated, and please pass the word along through the social network grapevine!
Like many Kickstarter campaigns, those who contribute are rewarded in varying ways. Some get included in the project through being designated as a contributor or in the case of Nat’s campaign, you can get physical rewards as well. Nat has established rewards of the following for support levels;
$5: You get two hi-resolution pages from the book by email.
$10: You get a digital version of the book.
$15: You get a custom signed Steampunk postcard from the author and a digital copy of the book.
$25: You get a softbound edition of the book with your name printed in the thank you section on the back.
$45: You get two softbound editions of the book with your name printed in the thank you section on the back.
$75: You get a hardback edition of the book with your name printed in the thank you section, and a warm fuzzy feeling.
$125: You get an autographed hardback edition of the book with your name printed in the thank you section.
$250: You get a leather trimmed brass telescope, a softbound edition of the book along with an autographed hardback edition, all with your name printed in the thank you section.
$500: You get an articulated folding brass monocular, antique brass pocket compass with hinged lid, an autographed hardback edition, softbound edition, with you name printed in the thank you section.
$1,000: You get a steampunk blaster pistol and a sprockets pocket watch from Steampunk Emporium, an autographed hardback edition, softbound edition, with you name printed in the thank you section.
Good luck Nat!