Steam & Leather: An Interview with Tayliss Forge

Pumpkin Queen

Credit: Albert Lien

Name: Tayliss Forge

Age: 24

Hometown: Irvine, Calif.

Profession: Artisan Crafter

Years involved: 8

The Interview


Talk a little about your background?

I’ve always been a fan of anime ever since I saw Sailor Moon as a child. I had friends when I was in the first grade who played it in their homes. It was in Japanese so I didn’t understand it, but I was still fascinated by the show nonetheless. I later became a fan of Pokémon when I visited people who had cable television, and other shows once I owned my own computer as a young adult. I joined an anime club at my local library and was president of the anime club in high school. I finally attended Anime Expo in 2010 as my first convention. I have been attending and cosplaying at conventions ever since.

I learned about steampunk my sophomore year of high school in 2008. I had friends who were interested in the aesthetics and showed me some images. I dabbled in jewelry making at the time and created a couple of pieces. I made my first steampunk costume by hand for a convention in 2012. I continued hand-sewing my work for a couple of years after that. It wasn’t until I owned my own sewing machine that I began producing costumes quicker for events. In 2015, I was on the reality maker competition show, Steampunk’d, and it allowed me to meet more people in the community.

For crafting in general, I was self-taught in leatherworking, sewing, and 3D modeling until after my appearance on Steampunk’d. After the show, I took a break from getting my marketing degree and went to community college for fashion design. I completed my fashion certification recently and will have my marketing degree by the end of this year.

In your opinion, what elements make a “good” con?

Running and creating cons is an extremely difficult process. The best conventions I’ve attended are from the con heads who are the most passionate about what they do. It’s not about the money and it’s not about the fame, it’s about the fans. The atmosphere is a lot more positive and pleasant.

In terms of contribution to the steampunk community, you are a double-threat in that you are both a crafter and model. Where do you find inspiration for the creations you make and characters you invent?

I’m a role player so coming up with my steampunk characters is nothing compared to Dungeons & Dragons or LARPing. It’s just a skill you learn and hone over time.

While historical costuming often influences my work, I wouldn’t say there are many other inspirations. I make what I like and I fit costumes with a pre-planned character in mind.

With so many young fans involved in cosplay, has it gotten “too sexy?”

Why does it matter? “Sexy” costuming and art is not a new concept. Isn’t it a good thing that people are accepting their body and becoming more confident in who they are? As long as they are of a legal age, happy, and not hurting anyone; it’s not a problem.


Credit: Albert Lien

Why are you drawn to creating chokers and corsets?

Chokers are some of the simplest pieces to create as a beginning crafter. That’s what I started with and have made for many years. I’ve learned a lot of tricks and it’s just a lot of fun to make. Corsets, on the other hand, are some of the most complicated pieces of clothing to create. Having the challenge of creating a beautiful shapewear piece is thrilling.

A model’s appearance is a huge key to their success. What is your nutrition and exercise regime like?

I disagree. A model’s job is often to show off the attire that is for display. If the outfit fits a person in a way that the initial designer intended, appearance doesn’t matter. Be healthy and do the things that make you happy. Everyone has a body that is different. Unless I have a clone I don’t know about, my eating and exercise routine will not work for anyone else.

Who are some mainstream models who you look up to?

I learned growing up that comparing yourself to others only makes you unhappy. There are people I admire for their ability to pose or location scouting, but I don’t look up to anyone in particular. I admire talent over anything else, but I also want to think outside of the box. You can’t grow and create unique works by becoming someone else.

Janna 1

Credit: Albert Lien


How did you come to be a participant on the Game Show Network (GSN) program “Steampunk’d?”

I had friends who sent me the link auditioning for the show. All I had to do is send images of my steampunk works. I sent in my application, went through a bunch of interview processes (including a practice challenge in Los Angeles), and was asked to be a contestant.

What was the experience like?

Steampunk’d was one of the worst experiences of my life. I had no problem working with the difficult contestants, but the stress the producers put you through is awful. Waking up at 4 AM, irregular feeding times, 12-hour work days, only 15-minute phone calls a week to connect with family, no outside world contact, etc… all made it extremely difficult. What made it worth it was that most of the contestants became my family. I love them dearly and wouldn’t give them up for the world.

In regards to you personally, was there anything cut from the program that you felt should have been included?

I feel that the editing did make me a lot quieter than I was. I do generally keep to myself around people I don’t know, but I was making jokes with my fellow contestants and singing while I worked. I also had a couple of speeches I made which were completely cut out, but understandable with the time constraints.

What impact has the show had on your career?

The initial airing of the show on GSN was heartbreaking. People called us “sellouts” for going on a mainstream show about steampunk and were rude to my fellow contestants who were edited (to come across) poorly. My sales declined as people wanted to know how I did something instead of purchasing my pieces. When it was released on Netflix a year later, the response was a little more positive, but not by much. What has helped by being on the show is that conventions are bringing me to more events and I meet some really amazing fans. I really appreciate those who realize that reality television isn’t real and focus on the creative aspects.

Jessica Rabbit 5

Credit: Sean Laine Photography

Do you have ambitions in entertainment outside of the steampunk/cosplay community?

I’ve always wanted to do theater costuming and I hope to do that or work on film pieces. I’ve dabbled in acting, singing, etc…, but my heart is with my craft.

I’m a big fan of steampunk cabaret act Frenchy and the Punk. Are there any musical acts in the scene of which you are fond?

I really enjoy the performances of the Velveteen Band. They are based out of Ventura and are an absolute pleasure to be around. They are definitely my favorite steampunk band.

How has the scene changed since you first became involved almost a decade ago?

When I first started in the steampunk community, everything was very expensive and monochromatic. I branched out with color schemes and began producing affordable pieces which I’m glad people did as well. Also, I’m glad people are branching outside of Victorian steampunk into other cultures. Steampunk is a global art and should not be confined to one location.

What is the appeal of the science fantasy created in the framework of steampunk?

I think the main appeal of steampunk is that it’s an alternative history. The Victorian and Edwardian era was a beautiful time, but there were also a lot of ugly things about it as well. Slavery, sexism, racism, etc… were all things that were even more prominent in that time. In steampunk, we can combine steam-powered devices and beautiful fashion with strong and independent characters of any race and gender.

Though you are still very young, what would you like your legacy to be in the steampunk community?

In art, age does not matter. My goal is not to leave a legacy, but to inspire others to create their own pieces of work.

Tayliss Forge can be found on her website and Twitter.

-Ted Zep

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Interview: Horror Host Janet Decay

Interview: Tony Isabella


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