Molly II

I’ve been asked to lift my head briefly from this fascinating Botanical Almanack I was reading, to introduce myself to you.

IMG_20220413_104437_resized_20220501_125611650My name is Molly, but since there was a previous proprietor of this little bookshop who went by the same name, the inhabitants of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers call me Molly II, which sounds rather regal, I feel.  Apparently the first Molly was enticed to head off to live in a beautiful home in North Wales with someone everyone here calls ‘Her Ladyship’.  I’ve read her book, naturally.  It’s called ‘Molly, by Herself’ and explains how she took on the job of sitting in the bookshop and encouraging customers at our Steampunk-Shrunk craft stalls to buy some of our books.

Since she left, the little bookshop has been gathering dust and the book sales at craft markets have dwindled.  Apparently customers are less interested in a simple display of books, but enchanted by the idea of purchasing one from Molly’s Book Emporium – probably the smallest functioning bookshop in the world.

So how, I imagine you wondering, did I arrive on the scene?  Well, to be honest, I was one of a large group of 12th scale porcelain orphans who were (oh, the shame!) being auctioned off on a well-known online site.  Mrs S was the successful bidder and we duly arrived at the steps of Steampunk-Shrunk towers in a state of considerable disarray.  Between us, we had an assortment of missing limbs, grubby, torn clothes, matted hair and ugly faces.  Regardless of that, we were all warmly welcomed and given a comfortable home.  Eliza brought us each a toffee apple (except for the babies, of course) and asked whether there was anything we needed.  I asked whether there were any books I could read to the younger ones and Eliza jokingly enquired whether my name was Molly, by any chance.  When I told her it was, she gave a gasp of excitement and bustled off to tell Mrs S.

Can you imagine my excitement and pride when I was taken to the workshop for a makeover and then presented with my very own bookshop, positively bursting with all manner of volumes?  I have a padded chair to sit in, a table with an oil lamp and shelves and boxes filled with all the reading material I could wish for.  I’m allowed to go and read to the little ones whenever I like and my only duty is to work once a month on the market stall.

I attended my first craft and vintage fair last week and sold 27 books!  Everyone was delighted and praised me for being a first class bookseller.  Perhaps it’s my turn to write a book…

Stuff That

IMG_20220313_152937_resized_20220314_095249429Well no, they’re not very steampunk…  We’re deviating slightly for a very good reason.

A visitor to Steampunk-Shrunk Towers last week came clutching a large bag of toy stuffing, intended for use in our miniatures.  Very kind, but none of the items we make include the addition of toy stuffing (well, apart from wisps of mock steam for small boilers and contraptions occasionally).  Mrs S has a firm policy of never peering into the mouths of gift horses, so she sat down to ponder a use for it.

We’d already been intending to have a basket of items on our next market stall (26th March, Glastonbury Town Hall) to sell for Ukraine.  So maybe some tiny soft toys?

Mrs S decided Ukraine must have a national animal, like USA’s eagle or Russia’s bear.  She researched: Nightingale.  Yes, really.  A poignant symbol of the coming of spring, the building of homes and beautiful song.

Could she knit nightingales??

IMG_20220314_095120_resized_20220314_095249127After a huge trawl through online knitting patterns, she found exactly what she needed – a pattern for a small bird, knitted all in one piece.  A work of genius, actually.  It’s more like a cross between knitting and origami, with its many twists and turns and complex shaping, but it comes out just fine.

Friends were polled to decide whether to knit them in natural browns or in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag.  ‘Some of each’ was the verdict, so she has been busily knitting ever since.  A small flock has emerged and will continue to grow.

The proceeds, depending on the situation by that time, will either go to reputable aid charities or to fellow Etsy sellers in Ukraine.  Many of them have had to close their regular shops, but are still able to sell printable digital items and so get their hands on a small income.  Search for ‘Ukraine sellers’ on Etsy and you’ll find everything from beautiful art works, scrapbook papers and recipes to images of the national flag and drawings by the sellers’ children.  You pay by PayPal, the money goes directly into their accounts and you can download the files, send a message of support in the review section and maybe get a hasty but heartfelt message of thanks from the seller.

Etsy has served us well, with our SteampunkDollsHouse shop over the years, so we are happy to support our fellow crafters and artisans in Ukraine at this time.

Mechanical Miniatures

“It’s been a while since we turned our hands to anything mechanical,” my brother Henry said, rather wistfully.

We started exploring piles of promising-looking items in the workshop.

“Wheels?” I suggested, holding up some circular wooden blanks.  “Hard to get the hole for the axle right in the centre though.”

“Cams!” he replied jubilantly.  “Drill the holes off-centre and we can make some cam-operated wind-ups.”

IMG_20220221_094042_742_resized_20220303_101756693 (1)And that was all it took.  He started to put some sturdy little boxes together, the ladies decorated them and I (Charles) got to work on the cam mechanisms and handles.

The first was a multicoloured dancing tree, made from twisted wires, sequins, beads and charms.  Next we raided the vintage watch parts for some springs and gears to put together with coiled copper wire.  Then we became more ambitious and produced a tiny hot-air balloon, complete with top-hatted magnificent men to fly it.  100% upcycled junk!  An old Christmas tree bauble was covered in plastic mesh which held Mrs S’s garlic, a few beads and jewellery bits added for the basket and the gents were fashioned from cotton bud stalks with tiny shoe eyelets for their hats!  Many hours of exacting work, of course, but we’re very happy with the finished result and now planning a series of dancing birds, octopuses and who knows what…

Proud to say that this week they have been the most viewed item in our Etsy shop.  Here’s a quick link, in case you’d like to take a look.

Heart, Flag, Ukraine, Kyiv, NationalOh, and while you’re on Etsy, we’d recommend searching for printable items produced in Ukraine.  Our fellow sellers there have been forced to shut their regular shops, due to the war, but still receive money direct to their PayPal accounts if we buy their digital artwork.

Ginger Flies In

IMG_20220213_104455_resized_20220213_105303441That was a close shave!  Just as daylight was fading on Friday night, Mrs S pronounced Ginger Jenkins, our latest arrival, fit to travel with us on the Saturday morning, to the Craft & Vintage Market in Glastonbury Town Hall.

We were a motley crew, but drew many admiring glances – Ginger in his flying leathers, Wizard Widdershins glaring enviously as other wizards’ staffs outshone his own, Eliza the tiny toffee apple seller, the two young glamorous ladies (Holly displaying rather too much of her scarlet fishnet stockings for my liking), dependable George the tinkerer and Cecily and myself – Gwendoline – engaged in a tea duel in our favourite little café.  Mind you, I do think Cecily should cut back on the amount of gin she secretly adds to her tea.

20180206_164936“Just a nip, my dear, to keep me alert,” she insists, but she slid from her chair on numerous occasions.  Rather unseemly.

Still, all in all, it was a delightful affair and Mrs S was very pleased with our takings.

We will be returning to the same venue on March 26th and hope to meet more lovely customers then.  Meanwhile, Mrs S is busy adding Ginger, and a few items of jewellery to the Etsy shop, which you can visit here.

Wizard Widdershins

New Year felicitations to all from Steampunk Shrunk Towers.

IMG_20220105_132929_resized_20220105_013402215Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Arborius Widdershins – alchemist, magician, man of letters and all-round white wizard.

Not exactly steampunk, I hear you say.  Well no, perhaps not, but Mrs S has always had a keen interest in all things mystical and when I noted the range of magic books in her little library, I couldn’t resist accepting her invitation to come and stay for a while.

Obviously, in my line of work there is a need for solitude.  Not easy to find here with that tinker chap thumping away on his workbench and all those ladies chattering away, so I asked if any of the towers were vacant.

Fortunately there is one that will be suitable.  Rather small, perhaps, but my skills are such that I should have little difficulty applying the ‘tardisium’ spell to increase its inner dimensions.  I’m sure I can persuade Mr Entwistle to make me a couple of pieces of suitable furniture.  My needs are few.

Meanwhile, a charming young seer by the name of Daphne de Voire has agreed to allow me to use her desk during the night, while she is sleeping.  Most agreeable.

All in all, I think I will enjoy my sojourn at this curious residence.

Holographic Reflections

20161230_192628-1Professor Laszlo Erazmus here.  Delighted to see you all again.

I felt it was high time I updated you on the comings and goings at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, now the plague doctors have departed and life has returned to what passes for normal hereabouts.

Mrs S has survived the strange times and is currently hunting in various attics and cobweb-coated cupboards for the last few items to be restored to our virtual shop.  The stock room is full to bursting and our resident tinkers are bearing the thoughtful expression which presages a burst of frenetic activity, usually resulting in more interesting gizmos and gadgets for sale.

12th scale Holographic Hand Mirror  Steampunk Dollhouse gold without ringI am kept busy producing my holographic hand mirrors – a modest contribution to the SteampunkDollsHouse‘s stock, but definitely a best seller, with many five star reviews to their credit.  Miniature Photographic Studio  Model Photographer and Shop in image 0However I did permit myself a brief respite to visit the photographic studio of one of our newest residents – Mr Harold Wallington.  I’m sure you’ll agree that his photographic portrait (above) captures my likeness rather well and I would earnestly recommend his services should you wish to procure an image for yourself.  Mr Wallington and his shop can be found at this link.

We look forward to welcoming many of our patrons back to the shop in the ensuing months and indeed to take Steampunk-Shrunk out into the wider world once again as long as the plague continues to subside.

Zen and the Art of Selling Steampunk Miniatures

“Tier 4,” Mrs S told us.

“What does that mean?” asked Holly.  “All these tiers – they make me think of wedding cakes, but that’s not it, is it?”

“No Holly,” Mrs S smiled.  “I know it’s confusing.  Basically the virus is spreading very fast in this area and we are advised to stay home except for essential outings.”

We all sat around looking pensive as we nibbled at mince pies and sipped that organic cassis that’s kept us cheerful during our quiet Christmas.  Were trips to the post office to ship our items around the world essential?  Should we use couriers who would collect directly from Steampunk-Shrunk Towers?  Should we give up and close down altogether for the time being?  It was really Mrs S’s call.  We, after all, rely on her to do the posting, since she is the only one of us not shrunk to 12th size.

“The way I see it is this,” she said, finally.  “We’ve had an amazing autumn and winter – higher sales than ever before, working 12 hour days, piles of parcels to ship almost every day, and I for one am exhausted.  I’m not in the first flush of youth – in fact about 10 weeks off reaching ‘clinically vulnerable’ according to this website I’ve been reading.  Every journey, whether by me to a post office or by a courier to here, is not – in the strictest terms – essential and is adding to the risk of further infection spreading.”

Image may contain: people standing“So we’re furloughed?” asked Serge.  “I didn’t even make it into the shop!”

“Yes, Serge.  I’m afraid so,” she sighed.  “We will use this cold, dark time to create some new lines – items that can be posted in the postbox I pass on my essential exercise walks, we will stay open to sell all the smallest things to UK customers and of course the digital stock.  Perhaps you have some ideas?”

“I was in five people’s baskets,” said Iris the Fortune Teller, wistfully.  “Although how that was possible, when there is only one of me, I don’t fully understand.”

“They’re etheric baskets,” Henry explained.  “Etherically you can easily be in 5 places at once – and here.”

“Oh I see!”  she laughed.  “Thank you, Henry.  I more than anyone should have known that.  Well then, if people are keen to buy esoteric items, let’s make some trays or little shelves with crystal balls, tarot decks, candles, pendulums and so forth.”

“Excellent idea,” agreed Charles.  “I’ll go and find some wood stain.”

Keep watching the shop, dear friends!  We are working to extend our range and adding to it all the time.  However more time is being spent in quiet contemplation, on crisp winter walks in the Somerset countryside and on resting after the busiest season we have ever had.

Thanks and New Year greetings to all our friends and customers.  We will be back to full service before too long.

Clueless in Clockwork

for bird automatonsI’ve written before about the day I answered a strange advert on a local noticeboard, offering ‘a flock of clockwork birds’.  It was several years ago but I clearly recall the vendor reaching into a box of mouse-shredded newspapers and pulling out one of the little mechanisms for my inspection.  It seemed to be composed of brass, steel and rust, in more or less equal quantities, with a plastic section to one side which housed a rubber diaphragm.  With the sort of smile a favourite uncle gives at children’s parties before performing magic tricks, he took a brass key from his pocket, began to wind the motor and with a loud snap, the spring broke.

“Oh dear,” he said, carelessly tossing it back into the box and removing another, “They have been kicking around an attic for about 40 years,  Not surprising, really.  Let’s try this one.”

The next purred into life perfectly.  Metal arms moved to and fro, a blue steel lever pumped the rubber bellows and a tiny Swanee whistle twittered its modulated tune.  The whole thing, he explained, was controlled by a complex steel cam just visible amongst the whirring brass cogs and gears.

I was smitten.

“And how many are there?” I asked eagerly.

“God!  No idea!  Hundreds – at least,”  he grinned.  “Do you have a van?  No?  I’ll drop them round to you tonight, then.”

I’d been expecting a dozen, or maybe twenty, for the money he was asking.  As my hallway filled up with an endless stack of  mouldering cardboard boxes and a musty smell I wondered whether any of the mice whose handiwork I’d witnessed earlier remained.  The boxes were stacked in the shed.

In the days that followed, I gingerly investigated.  Countless clockwork motors ranging from pristine to utterly wrecked, a huge box of small plastic birds and yellowing waxed envelopes with the precious brass keys and parts to join the birds to the mechanisms.  There was also a sheet of rodent-nibbled instructions for putting them together and a hobbies annual from the early 1960s where I found the sets advertised for 9 shillings and sixpence each, for fixing into novelty cigarette boxes.  It seemed I had inadvertently bought up the entire remaining stock.

I grew up in a different age.  I’m female.  When I asked (every year) for a Meccano set for Christmas, my parents smiled and gave me a dolls’ pram or toy iron and ironing board.  When I put down woodwork and metalwork as my preferred technology options at school, I was allocated to domestic science (aka cooking and housework) and needlework classes. 

for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHouse

Can I blame this background for my almost total ineptitude with anything mechanical?  Maybe not, but still it took me many, many weeks of fruitless and frustrating experimenting to begin producing chirping and twirling birds, perched on little boxes of clockwork wonders.

I sold dozens of them, and dozens more of the motor sets (with shredded newspaper and mouse droppings removed).  However the number of broken mechanisms gradually began to outnumber the remaining working sets and I started to wonder how they could be used.  In most cases the motors worked fine, but the rubber diaphragms that created the bellows had perished, which meant they were silent.  Putting my woefully limited technological skills to work, I examined them.  Two metal bars moved irregularly backwards and forwards.  An offset lump on a wheel turned round and round quite fast when detached from the broken bellows. Three moving parts, then.  What could I do with them?

Idea 1 came from a miniature butterfly net I’d bought in a job lot of dolls’ house furniture.  Two dismembered arms move up and down – one waving the net, the other grasping a magnifying glass while a small metal bug whizzes around and others perch nearby.  I called it The Clockwork Entomologist and am now making some more of them.  They’re my sort of crazy.


Idea 2 is a silent version of the bird model, but with a seahorse emerging from glittery weeds to search left and right.  It went too fast and smoothly at first, so I added some shell charms to the whizzing wheel to slow it down a bit.

Idea 3 is probably the most ambitious – an evil octopus kicks a small hapless jellyfish, who turns the machine that works the robot angler fish above the undersea lair.  This creature hunts for tiny fishes in the weeds to provide supper for the octopus.   That one is off the wall, even for me! 

Finally (for now) there is another angler fish – simpler but more deadly with gaping mouth, huge teeth a battery-operated light-up lure, chasing her prey as it swiftly darts about and changes direction.

I can imagine readers of this post shaking their heads sadly at my lack of skill in fully utilising the intricacies of these amazing little motors.  In my defense, I can only say that they all do what I had intended them to do, they are all constructed almost exclusively from upcycled junk and cast-offs and I had tremendous fun making them.

A few of them are for sale in my Etsy shop.  More will be available when I replenish supplies in the New Year.  They’re incredibly fiddly to make for one this clueless!

 

 

The Theatres of Clockton

“What Clockton-upon-Teas needs is some culture,” announced Lucy Larks-Thrustington.

Steampunk 12th scale Porcelain Jointed Dollhouse Doll Lady LucyLucy is one of our newest arrivals at Steampunk-Shrunk towers.  She is, by profession, a dancer of some sort.  By Jove, she certainly has the legs for it… Ahem.  Anyway, she was looking at me and my brother Charles as she spoke, as if she expected us to conjure up some kind of performance.

“Not quite our forte, Madam,” I told her.  “Now if it’s a nice device or gadget you’re after – a portable time machine or flux capacitor or something, look no further.  And anyway, theatres are closing down everywhere – all this confounded anti-sociable distancing malarkey.”

All the more reason for us to open a few, then,” she smiled cheerfully.  “Let’s make miniature theatres – with cardboard cut-out characters.  Then we can put on shows for the good people of Clockton; cheer them up a bit, you know?  I’m sure you clever gentlemen would be able to make the performers move around the stage.  You are so gifted.”

Oh, that smile!  Gracious, she is a very persuasive young lady.  Charles was clearly all too keen to help.

“What scale were you thinking of, dear lady?” he asked, eagerly grabbing a notepad and pencil.  “After all, we are already what most would consider to be – ah – miniature.”

(This was said with an accusatory glance at me.  Will I never live down that unfortunate space-time fluctuation which might have been partly due to the malfunction of an early device I built?  I know it led to our population shrinking to one twelfth of our original size and I have apologised repeatedly.  However we are very comfortable here in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and have what many would call an excellent life. thanks to dear Mrs Steampunkle – a normal-sized lady who has opened her home to us.)

“No, darling! Far smaller than us!” exclaimed Lucy.  “Tiny people – about this big?” She indicated approximately an inch with her hands.  “I see them on little stages dancing and perhaps a few trapeze artistes, a tumbler or two and ballet, of course…”

“Well,” I said, slowly, “there’s a pile of box lids in the corner of the workshop, left over from the clockwork bird cases.  They might do for stages.  About the right size…”

“Splendid!” she cried.  “I knew you would be the gentlemen to ask!  I’ll go and cut out some suitable characters and leave the construction work to you.”

Tiny theatre  miniature stage with dancers  moving ballet image 3Charles decorated the stages, creating backdrops, curtains, wings and so forth.  I set to work with copper wire, coffee stirrers, cocktail sticks and pins to create the movement.  Soon we had several little theatres with beechwood sliders to move Lucy’s figures across the stage, rocking swings and even a metal balancing beam for a tumbler to turn around on.

Theatre Model  Mini Stage  Dancing Diorama  OOAK Miniature image 7The good people of Clockton-upon-Teas and all the inhabitants of the Towers came to watch our performances.  Ava found some splendid musical renditions to play on her phonograph and while Charles and I moved the sliders back and forth and twiddled the knobs, the audience gasped and applauded in a most gratifying manner.

 

Should you wish to choreograph your own miniature ballet or create a circus performance of your own, do head across to the SteampunkDollsHouse, where our creations can be purchased.  You will discover there that Lucy, too, has her price.  I suspect she is that sort of dancer…

 

Plague Doctors!

Well, Steampunk-Shrunk Towers has had its fair share of, erm, unusual residents over the years, but when we noticed this group of individuals skulking around Clockton-upon-Teas, we were somewhat alarmed.

Henry, who is a relatively fearless and friendly chap popped down to have a word with them.

Alas, conversation was not easy.  A combination of strong Italian accents and huge masks stuffed with herbs to fend off infection rendered discussion almost impossible.

Gradually, though, he was able to discover that they have arrived here from a far-off city called Roma, where they have been busily administering care and assistance to victims of a dreadful plague.  They commandeered a hot air balloon, in order to offer their particular skills to the people of our country, in this time of need.

Naturally, Henry was keen to inspect their transport, but it seems it has been appropriated by the fourth member of their medical team – one Marco by name – who has travelled on in it to the United States, where he has been hired to provide private medical services.

We could hardly leave the good doctors out in the rain, so they have joined our band of residents.

Certainly they are being most attentive to everyone’s health, although their methods seem to differ quite markedly from those we are used to.  We can’t quite understand why, for example, they need to check Sally and Lucy’s temperatures quite so often, nor why they need the ladies to strip down to their underwear in order for this to be done.  However I’m pleased to report that we are all very healthy at present, and hope that you are as well.