This necklace from the Steampunk Ballroom was made from old jewelry and watch pieces. 

Photos courtesy of the Kautches.

March 24, 2014

By Penelope Taylor  

At the Steampunk Ballroom, old time pieces and thrift shop finds are transformed into a popular retro style of fashion and decor.

Denton County artisans Dee and Ed Kautsch who operate the jewelry and lamp business say that recycling used accessories and housewares is a natural extension of their green lifestyle

The Aubrey residents said they’ve chosen to live as lightly on the earth as possible by shopping at thrift stores and buying used cars.

Dee and Ed Kautsch. 

Because of their eco practices, when Dee began making jewelry in 2010, it made sense to make her pieces with recycled and repurposed parts. 

Dee said she was quickly drawn to the Steampunk style. This gritty yet romantic look has been popularized by celebrities like Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. The term ostensibly originated with late-19th-century authors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, who wrote about modern inventions transported to the steam age. Airships, submarines, typing tools and others objects were all re-imagined as mechanical devices powered by steam. 

Left, octupus ring.

The Steampunk look combines the industrial mechanization with hyper-romantic touches. Fashions include lace and petticoats for women and cutaways for men, interspersed with bulky timepieces and chunky leather boots. 

“My interpretation of steampunk is to mix mechanical elements from timepieces with Victorian accents,” said Dee. 

Right, cufflinks.

Dee’s handmade necklaces, rings and cuff links feature vintage mechanical watches and timepieces. She also repurposes necklace chains and pendants in her jewelry whenever possible. To make her jewelry, Dee disassembles the old watches and grinds down sharp edges with a rotary tool. Each piece is individually constructed, using small needle nose pliers, tiny screwdrivers and wire cutters for the delicate work. 

After watching Dee make and sell her jewelry for a few years, Ed was eager to join her and equally intrigued by the steampunk style. He began constructing lamps; both fantastical and functional. Bases and pulls are made from objects as diverse as steam irons, cheese graters and metal wrenches. The few new elements in the Steampunk Ballroom lamps, like cords and sockets, are chosen to ensure safety and functionality. When the lamps are complete, mail orders are shipped in recycled packaging.

Left, 'Genie' Steampunk lamp.

The Kautsch’s enjoy creating and selling their work together and they’re always on the lookout for unexpected finds. 

“We hunt in flea markets, auctions, thrift stores, garage sales and antique shops,” said Dee. 

Over the past three years, the business has grown exponentially. The Kautsch’s began doing shows in March 2013, debuting at The Art Walk in McKinney. Buoyed by that success, they started doing 3-4 shows per month. Dee’s jewelry pieces are priced from around $12 for rings and her necklaces range from $30- $35. Ed’s imaginative lamps range from around $40 to $90 apiece. 

The home-based Steampunk Ballroom business fits in perfectly with Dee’s self described “stay-at-home grandma” designation. After suffering a head injury in a fall, complications kept Dee from being able to work in an office environment. She gladly stepped in to help provide care for their grandchildren, who are now 9, 6 and 5. 

Harry Potter 'Golden Snitch' bracelet.

“When our three adult children moved out, we gained an office/workroom for each of us. And over the last year we've become so busy; our entire house has turned into a workroom!”  

Working on their business at home and then traveling is key to this couple’s success. 

“We enjoy going to shows together and searching for treasures to rescue and use in our artworks.

For more information the Steampunk Ballroom, see their Etsy and Facebook pages or see their work at Heirloom Antiques in McKinney. They also have a booth at Third Monday Trade Days in McKinney each month. Contact the Kautsch's at [email protected] or 972-464-7277.

 Penelope Taylor is a Dallas-based freelance writer. A native New Yorker, she has called Dallas home for 20 years. Her work has been published in local, regional and national publications, including the Dallas Morning News, Edible DFW, the Texas Jewish Post and others. She is a conscious eater, diligent recycler, composter and an avid but not very accomplished gardener. Penelope is passionate about making a difference to the future of our planet and sharing the myriad ways that people are making a difference today. 

Sign up for the weekly Green Source DFW Newsletter to stay up to date on everything green in North Texas, the latest news and events.