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The Steampunk Ballroom transforms old into new

The Steampunk Ballroom transforms old into new

Dee Kautsch (right), co-owner of her business The Steampunk Ballroom, wraps up a necklace just purchased by a guest on Saturday, April 1 at the Denton Community Market. Kautsch owns the business with her husband Ed, making jewelry, lamps and other artistic treasures in the steampunk style. Katie Jenkins

The Steampunk Ballroom transforms old into new
April 04
22:15 2017

At her stand at the Denton Community Market, Dee Kautsch sports a pair of Steampunk goggles decorated with jutting pieces of steel and copper. She looks like an industrial Willy Wonka, inviting customers to a factory of Edison lightbulbs and vintage hybrids.

It’s an odd sight to see, but not enough to simply walk away.

The Denton market is one of the places Dee and her husband, Ed Kautsch, sell their unique products to the locals. Together they operate The Steampunk Ballroom, a small business where their items boast a mix of vintage and futuristic elements.

“We just both love the combination of old and new,” Dee said. “We already loved vintage antiques and loved the cool modern twist we can put on it as well.”

Steampunk is a genre that combines elements of the Victorian era and the Industrial Revolution with futuristic and science fiction settings.

The Kautsches launched the business in 2014 after falling in love with the aesthetic and the process of making old things new.

“[People] love the fact that they can relate to the vintage mechanical wind-up watches [we make] since they are the ones they grew up with,” Dee said. “They love the fact that I’m taking the ones that can’t be fixed and doing something new with them.”

Ed crafts lamps and the famous Steampunk goggles while Dee makes various types of jewelry. Shortly after their children went to college, the two converted their empty nests into work spaces.

Now, half of their time is spent scouring flea markets, estate sales and salvage yards for vintage pieces that reflect the steampunk look.

“Using items that would otherwise be thrown away and creating something with a new function is so important to us,” Dee said.

In fact, The Steampunk Ballroom originated from Dee’s unlikely introduction to recycled jewelry. Nearly 15 years ago, Dee suffered a head injury after falling backwards over a gas hose and hitting her head against the concrete. The injury caused her to lose most of her memory in the process.

“It was a freak accident,” Dee said. “After a few days, I completely lost my memory except for my name, my kid’s names and my sister’s names.”

Lamps with industrial light bulbs draw in customers at The Steampunk Ballroom’s vendor booth for the Denton Community Market on Saturday April 1. The market featured a variety of businesses and artists selling their unique crafts, as well as food vendors and other small businesses. Katie Jenkins

At the time of the incident, Dee was in her 30s and was working in the mortgage business. Bits and pieces of her memory returned, but it was never the same.

Although she tried to continue in her job, her everyday work life suddenly felt daunting.

“There are so many regulations and things that you had to know, that I could never go back,” Dee said. “I tried at a much slower level, but I still couldn’t do that. So I decided to start my own business instead that was more on the artistic side instead of something that had numbers or office-type work.”

Dee turned to making jewelry, which stemmed into an interest into the steampunk genre. Ed, too, used his skills to create customized lamps and various light fixtures.

Since their launch three years ago, The Steampunk Ballroom has grown along with its burgeoning number of curious customers.

“Usually when they walk by, they do a double take and then they’re drawn into it by the oddity of the look of the items,” Ed said. “It goes back to the oddness of something. That, or I’ve added a piece to a lamp that their grandma might have had a long time ago and I’m using for a totally different purpose now.”

At the market, customers linger and stare at the detailed watches, the necklaces or the odd lights. Dee estimates that hundreds of customers in total come by.

Like june bugs to a flame, Ed would say.

Aside from the markets, the couple also sell their products online at their Etsy store. Dee says that customers even bring their broken-down items to them to get them customized into steampunk pieces.

Kay Turner, one of their customers, brought in a watch that no longer worked after she had worn it past college and her wedding. Dee redesigned it into a necklace for Turner, which she considers to be the best part about the job.

“She was just so happy with it and I put more time into it than what I was being paid, but it made me so happy,” Dee said. “I knew how much that meant to her, how long she’d worn it and how special it was to her.”

Like Dee and Ed, steampunk has given the community a small piece of nostalgia everywhere they go.

“Not everybody in my generation is sentimental about things, but I am,”  Turner said. “And it’s just a way of remembering the past and reusing something that otherwise would just take up space or end up going to the dump.”

Featured Image: Dee Kautsch (right), co-owner of  The Steampunk Ballroom, wraps up a necklace just purchased by a guest on Saturday, April 1 at the Denton Community Market. Kautsch owns the business with her husband Ed, making jewelry, lamps and other artistic treasures in the steampunk style. Katie Jenkins

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Amy Roh

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