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Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

INTERVIEW - Carmen Johnson of RetroTimes Productions

Carmen Johnson of RetroTimes Productions
Let's do the time warp again!


It may seem a little odd to use our most advanced technology to live in the past, but we've certainly turned the internet into our little time machine. Besides learning about 'punk and retrofuturist culture, we've been able join international communities together and live in ways our grandparents never dreamed of.

Joining us today all the way from Miami - one of the world's most active Art Deco hot spots - is Carmen Johnson, owner and manager of RetroTimes Productions. Mrs. Johnson brings her love for retro culture into everything she does, all the way from video and art design right down to her daily style.

You've seen her at Time Warp Living and Time Warp Wives, and Stepford Factory. Now, you have the chance to see where dear Carmen got her start and what's next on deck for this retro chic "Time Warp" gal.

Carmen Johnson of RetroTimes ProductionsHow did your family and mentors affect your current interest in retro styles?

Although I was born in Venezuela, I grew up most of life in Miami Florida. Miami has always been described as the melting pot of the world. This city is rich in a variety of culture, languages, arts, and designs. Since very young I was especially attracted to the different architecture designs of Miami. You will find old Spanish homes, Art Deco hotels, Italian villas, and Moroccan designs just to name a few, throughout Miami. From then my love for historical buildings and retro designs started.

In addition to appreciating retro designs, I also grew up watching old television shows like "I Love Lucy" and "The Three Stooges." Elvis Presley's music was also one of my favorites. The movie "Grease" was for me the biggest influence. It was then that my passion for music and fashion for the 50's started. At the age of 10 years old I even had a chance to sing music from "Grease" on stage!

Do you have anyone special to thank for shaping you into the well-respected woman you are today?

I am very thankful for my old school upbringing that my parents instilled on us children. But what definitely shaped me into the responsible young woman that I am today, has been my love for the Bible. I found that there is no other book in the world that could be compared to the teachings found in the Bible. The Bible has transcended and survived eras, events, languages, trends, and cultures. And yet is still upholds the best advice about how to live a happy life now and forever. The Bible will never be outdated. This is for me the most remarkable book ever written.

Take a moment to describe the "retro art" modus operandi for those who are new to the term.

Retro Pop Art is what I call my vintage art design. Usually the theme and inspirations of my art comes from my love of old movies, architecture, fashion, and designs. For instance, my design "Stepford Factory" comes from my fascination with the perfect retro housewife from the movie the Stepford Wives. The pink hair dryers illustrated on my design "Beauty School Dropout" comes from the song "Beauty School Dropout" from the movie "Grease." The girls represented in my art "Bohemian Girl Collection" was inspired by my love of Art Deco design and fashion. The girls in my collection are depicted wearing their signature flapper hats and sporting vintage fashion dresses.

When did you first jump into the retro community with both feet?

Carmen Johnson with classic carFor many years I have loved the retro culture. But it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I really got to learn that there were many folks around the world that had similar interests like mine. So in 2008 I created my website Time Warp Wives and later my network Time Warp Living. It was then that my interest in this kind of culture was more defined. Thanks to the Internet I was able to have a chance to meet and interview folks that also have that passion for that retro school lifestyle.

Can you give any advice to people interested in living "the retro life?"

It's important to always be true to yourself. Having your own identity and not becoming someone else is part of what makes this world truly unique. There is nothing better in this world that you live your life in a way that makes you happy. There are some folks that I call "Timewarpian," who are happy being submerged in the retro culture. They love to dress and decorate their homes in a certain period style. They believe in wholesome recreation and good etiquette. For many, listening to the oldies and driving a 60's Chevy is part of enjoying a little bit of retro living.

Enjoying the retro culture doesn't mean that you would stop using the conveniences of the modern world. The idea behind this culture is to enjoy the great things from the past while enjoying the great modern discoveries of the present. Though there is nothing wrong if your prefer lighting a candle while you are having dinner. I love small country living myself. But I also enjoy my nice air conditioner during the stifling Summer months here in Florida. I always wondered how people back many years ago kept cool during the hot Summers in Florida. Anyhow, I believe that it's important in having balance in life.

What are some common pitfalls to look out for?

Some of the pitfalls to look out for would be not to live by other people's opinions. There are people that will find your retro lifestyle fascinating and interesting. On the other hand you may encounter people that have a negative view on the matter. We live in a modern age of advance discoveries and technology. And most of us welcome it and embrace it with open arms. And yet we as humans don't seem to want to discover or accept the beautiful cultural differences that surrounds us. Perhaps deep down inside some are still living in the dark ages.

Besides your work with Time Warp Living and Time Warp Wives, what can you tell us about your other ventures; RetroTimes Productions for example? Did it begin with My Life as a Retro Artist, or was it warming in the oven before then?

My RetroTimes Productions is an independent film production company. My film company is focused in bringing a little bit of the past to the 21 century through movies and documentaries about retro living, retro design, and retro style. In my film company I am a Retro Reporter and Hostess Guide. As a big fan of the Travel Channel, I wanted to bring my favorite retro places and events to my audience in a skit-like setting. A good example of what I am talking about could be found in my film, "A Date in Celebration." This mini movie is about a girl on a date in the city of Celebration, Florida. While the girl is having fun time with her date she is sharing with the audience the best things about this retro town.

In addition to my skits, I have also enjoyed attending and recording retro events like the Art Deco Festival. This yearly event is held on South Beach, Florida, which is known as the biggest Art Deco District of the world. While I myself enjoyed the event I had a chance to film performers, interview artist, and show the beautiful Art Deco buildings and designs. One of my goals in making such films is to bring awareness in building preservation.

What else is cooking and what can we expect to see next?

Carmen Johnson portraitAt this moment I am working on my new fictional story The Retrochic Series. In my new venture I am playing Victoria Lee Jones who is a shy reporter for "The Retro Times News." I wanted to bring creative writing and acting to a different level, so part of the series is filmed in my own living room.

I have over five main websites, which I have to admit is a challenge to maintain. I believe in achieving a level of quality and excellence in each of my sites. Recently I have been [so] super busy with other projects and personal responsibilities that I had to hire interns to help me with my websites. As a creative person I always have new ideas. The problem is to figure out which of my projects will be the best one to work on and which one will be worth keeping. I also have a fun retro fashion project coming soon. So stay tuned!

Do you see any crossover between the retro and ‘punk communities happening in your circles yet?

I have been somewhat familiar with Steampunk through my husband. One day my husband had shown me a picture of a Steampunked computer. And since then I have been totally fascinated with this kind of cultural concept. It wasn't until I met you Tome that I had recently heard about Dieselpunk. And as with Steampunk I am totally looking forward to learning more about this culture.

Both my husband and I enjoy science fiction and retro designs. And although I am not completely submerged in the 'punk community I appreciate both the Dieselpunk and Steampunk concept.

I have seen that many who love retro living also love the 'punk culture. I, for instance, would love to have my kitchen appliances and cupboards all Steampunked. I could describe my Kitchen as functional and sadly uninteresting. For many years it seems like designers were so focused on the new technology that they forgot how to blend innovation with great design. Thankfully, we are seeing more retro designs emerging. And hopefully we don't have to stare at that ugly black box in our living room anymore. I think that soon we will see more of the crossover of the retro and punk culture, for the very reason that both have something interesting to bring to the table.

At Dieselpunks, our goal is to unite the different 'punk and retro communities so that we can all be inspired and supported by our brothers and sisters. What can we do to help promote you and the Time Warp circles?

You are doing an excellent job in promoting the punk and retro communities! I think that we all are inspired by the hard work and dedication of many folks like yourself in bringing more awareness of these wholesome and awesome cultures. I welcome anyone else to enjoy these different cultures and making it their own.

On behalf of the Time Warp Wives and Time Warp Living network we welcome all to our retro living website and hope that you too will enjoy a little of the past to the 21st Century and beyond!

You can learn more about Mrs. Johnson and RetroTimes Productions at www.retrotimesproductions.com

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Tags: Carmen Johnson, Interview


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Comment by Carmen Johnson on March 26, 2010 at 6:46pm
Hello Larry,

Thanks so much for your complements and kind words! I enjoyed the opportunity in sharing my passion for retro living with folks that appreciate it as much as I do!

Comment by Larry on March 19, 2010 at 8:14pm
Ms. Johnson if you don't mind me saying so but you are beauty, brains, and good taste all combined.While you made so many good comments I especially loved this statement you made, which I agree completely with:

"Enjoying the retro culture doesn't mean that you would stop using the conveniences of the modern world. The idea behind this culture is to enjoy the great things from the past while enjoying the great modern discoveries of the present. Though there is nothing wrong if your prefer lighting a candle while you are having dinner. I love small country living myself. But I also enjoy my nice air conditioner during the stifling Summer months here in Florida. I always wondered how people back many years ago kept cool during the hot Summers in Florida. Anyhow, I believe that it's important in having balance in life."

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