Dmitry Tihonenko, from Belarus, is a household-appliance repairman with a passion for everything steampunk. Although he primarily uses his workshop to fix broken appliances, he has this amazing hobby going on on the side – creating steampunk masterpieces out of mundane, everyday objects.
You have to to admit that even though modern appliances make our lives a lot easier, design-wise they are not always as cool-looking as we’d like . They’re most often mass-produced, plastic replicas of each other. But that’s where Dmitry comes in – he takes boring appliances and converts them into something truly wonderful, as you can see in the pictures.
Walk into Dmitry’s home, and you’re bound to be amazed; it’s completely filled with his steampunk creations. The kitchen has a copper-bound table, standing next to a copper oven. The microwave, fridge and even the coffee machine are also coverd in copper. In the living room, he’s created a custom copper casing for his flat screen TV, making it look like a strange, past-meets-present device straight out of a sci-fi novel.
Working with metal actually runs in Dmitry’s family. His father was a mechanic, and he was reportedlyso good at his work that the parts he made by hand at his factory didn’t even have to go through a quality test. Dmitry’s own passion for copper began when he served in the Belarusian Navy. As a part of the Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea, he noticed many details of copper on the ship, which needed regular scrubbing. Gradually, he fell in love with the metal.
After serving three years in the Navy, he purchased a workshop of his own where he started fixing household appliances. Around the same time, he also started collecting antiques made of non-ferrous metals. Then, he worked on these appliances relentlessly, creating something unique each time. “While others rested in bars, playing pool, I walked into my studio,” he said.
His first project was his grandmother’s fridge, which he decided to upgrade because it was almost falling apart. When that turned out beautifully, he set to work on a microwave, converting it into a lovely red masterpiece that would make any kitchen stand out. According to Dmitry, every lever and every button on his remodelled devices serves a specific function He tries to make something that’s not only beautiful, but also comfortable to use and easy to maintain.
After the microwave, he worked on the TV. “This was one of the first models of flat screen televisions,” he said. “It’s body was made of silver plastic, and I did not want it, because everything in our home is made of yellow metal. It collected dust for over a year, and then I finally decided to do something about it.” Now, the TV is covered with a custom-designed copper casing complete with buttons that work. Dmitry borrowed the design for these unique buttons from wind instruments. There’s also a case for a DVD player and speakers at the top.
When Dmitry remodelled his coffee machine, it gradually evolved into a larger project. He added a custom bar with the top portion for beverages and bottom shelves to store utensils and crockery. But his most peculiar creation to date, is his cell phone. His wife, Olga, presented him with a Nokia 6670 many years ago. Needless to say, he decided to work his steampunk magic on it as well. It wasn’t easy because metal blocks the signal, so he had to tinker with the output of the antenna. But he solved the problem eventually and he is now the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind cell phone, complete with copper buttons.
Surprisingly, even after creating many appliances covered in yellow metal, Dmitry had no clue about the term ‘steampunk’. In 2011, he received an email from some guys in Moscow who were impressed with his work, inviting him to a steampunk festival. His answer was quite amusing: “Guys, you’re wrong, I’m no punk,” he replied!
Later, he read books and looked at several photos before realizing that his hobby actually had a name. Dmitry then rose to the occasion – he created an entire website dedicated to steampunk. He even built his image accordingly, hanging steampunk master goggles around his neck and donning a similarly themed leather apron.
Over the years, Dmitry has created over a hundred steampunk products – he attaches a special number plate encrypted with his logo, on each device. But some customers have requested him not to attach the logo, like this one coffee shop called Copper Joe. They feared that their competitors and customers would approach Dmitry for similar devices!
Although he does work on custom orders, Dmitry refuses to discuss pricing, because most of his works are not for sale. Obviously, his handmade devices won’t come cheap – they’re likely to cost thousands of dollars each. But Dmitry is quite happy, even if none of his articles sell. “My friends call me a happy man,” he said. “Besides the fact that I have a lovely wife and children, I work on my favorite hobby that brings in a little bit of money. What more do I need to enjoy life?”