On the Road Again!

There are just a handful of people left here at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers who remember the touring days.  The rest of us listen with a mixture of respect, envy and terror as they tell us tales of being bubble-wrapped, boxed and thrust into Mrs S’s trusty old wheelie suitcase, then trundled away on journeys lasting many hours.

SITC21.jpg WEB (1)“Ah,” they say, “but when you finally arrive and are unpacked – then it’s all worth it!  You’ll be placed ever so carefully in just the right spot to display your fine costumes and intricate details.  Fairy lights and spotlights will illuminate the stall and people will come to stare, to gasp, to admire… and sometimes to buy and take you off to a new home.”

IMG_20210928_153101_resized_20210928_033607222We had almost given up hope of experiencing a fair ourselves, but now we have FOUR to look forward to before the end of the year!

The months of lockdown in the Towers have been pleasant enough.  The visits from the plague doctors and others were diverting, but to see Mrs S dusting off the suitcase and searching out her stocks of bags and boxes…  Well we can’t deny that we are more than a little excited.

Bootiful Miniature Upcycling

Here at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, we love recycling.  Mrs S is, to quote Shakespeare, ‘a snapper up of unconsidered trifles’.  Junk packaging, broken dolls and furniture, charity shop finds… all are squirrelled away and lovingly upcycled when inspiration arrives.

img_20210920_165032_469IMG_20210916_105712_resized_20210921_110939915Some of our favourite finds are the little packs of boot and shoe eyelets we pick up for a fairly modest price (and an excellent cause) from the local children’s hospice charity shop.  They are leftover stock given to the charity by Clarks – the famous shoe manufacturers a mile or two down the road.

As you can see, the plain round ones make quite perfect camera lenses at 12th scale.

img_20210919_102222_981_resized_20210921_110659377There are all manner of fancy designs, though. It didn’t take us long to realise that they would be ideal as miniature candlesticks.

We hand-roll wax around a length of sewing thread, place them in the eyelets and light them just for a moment to blacken the wick and (if we’re lucky) create a drip.

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.

Tiny Valentines

We have a few suggestions for those of you who would like to give a very small but unique and special gift this Valentine’s Day. 

Here are our top 5 suggestions from the Steampunk Dolls House, our online Etsy shop. 

  1. Miniature wand with crystal   Boxed handmade 12th scale wand image 3An amazingly small magic wand with a real crystal in the handle.  It even comes in its own little gift box!  Each is a one-off design and wands and boxes are all made inhouse.  The wands measure between 1 and 1.5 inches.

 

2. Miniature Book of Spells and Potions  Tiny Leather-bound image 2 Ye Book of Spells and Potions would make a very special present.  Each page of this tiny, leather-bound book has been individually hand-distressed to make it look ancient.  The cover has a metal trim and can be tied shut with the contrasting lace. (You can never be too careful with ancient spell books!)  The spells and recipes can all be read with the aid of a magnifying glass or phone camera zoom.  The book is 1.25 inches tall. 

3.  12th scale Steampunk Tinker's Shelf  Dollhouse Accessory image 0A perfect gift for anyone who dabbles or dreams of dabbling in making steampunk oddities:  A tinker’s shelf, complete with an array of tiny, but very useful, items.  You’ll find a book, a bottle of something interesting, a box of odds and ends, a tool, along with a glue pot and brush.  

 

4. 12th scale Holographic Hand Mirror  Steampunk Dollhouse bronze with top ring The holographic mirrors are always popular.  You can buy them with a ring on the top, for using as a pendant or charm, or without one if you’d prefer to give it as a miniature for a dolls’ house or ornament.  

 

5. If you don’t live in the UK, You may have noticed that the items above can’t be posted abroad at the moment, due to lockdown measures.  However you are not forgotten!  There is an ever-growing range of digital portraits and miniature books which can be downloaded and printed at home.  Then you just need some glue and scissors or craft knife to create a miniature masterpiece for your Valentine.  There are steampunk fashion books for ladies and gentlemen, a time-traveller’s companion, a book of undersea creatures, steampunk stories and much, much more.

Do head across to our shop and have a rummage through the tiny treasures there.

And a very happy Valentines Day.

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…

 

Stranger than Fiction

Travel, naturally, is quite out of the question.  Here we were, isolated in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, wondering what to do with ourselves.

Mrs S – who is around the same size as yourselves, dear readers – claims that the building is a small and fairly cramped cottage, but since the rest of us (due to a certain, er, accident involving a spacetime anomaly which we prefer not to mention, Henry…)  currently find ourselves shrunk to one twelfth of normal size, the residence appears positively cavernous.  Walking from one wing to another can easily serve for our daily exercise.

Nevertheless, time had been hanging heavily.

Imagine our delight, then, when Molly hit upon the idea of opening her Literary Emporium to one of us each day.  It is an exceedingly small establishment, so social distancing does not permit more than a single individual to enter the building at any time.  Each of us has been issued with a card stamped with the dates for our visits and everyone is thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to peruse the many fascinating volumes available.

Only one thing marred our pleasure.  Several upstanding and usually trustworthy members of our community mentioned catching glimpses of a tall, shadowy figure skulking around the Emporium.  Rumours abounded as to the identity of this personage.  This lockdown seems to make everyone a little jumpier than usual and some had claimed it was a creature conjured up by Dr Kopp, our resident mad scientist, who was recently seen taking an extreme interest in certain passages in the ancient Grimoire.

I didn’t for a moment believe such poppycock.

Oh goodness – manners!  I failed to introduced myself.  Abject apologies.  That is me above and to the right – Gwendoline Thrustington-Clawhammer, tea-duelling district champion 1885, 1887 and 1891.

Yes, I know.

I did mention that it was a spaceTIME anomaly.

Anyway, my turn in the bookshop finally came around.  I became quite mesmerised by the Book of Spells and lost track of the time.  Fearing that I’d be late for an afternoon tea appointment, I rose quickly from my seat and at the same moment heard a definite sound outside the shop.  I had the distinct feeling that someone had been spying on me and that my sudden movement had startled them.

“Ava?”  I called, “Is that you?”  (Madame Ava Brassfeather is most prone to sneaking around the place, so naturally I suspected her.)  Then I recalled the stories about the mysterious stranger.  For a moment, I blush to admit, I considered screaming.  Thankfully I quickly came to my senses and hurried out to see who was there.

I was just in time to see a tall and muscle-bound gentleman trying to duck behind the far wall.

“You there!  Halt at once and reveal yourself!”  I cried, in my most imperious tone, hoping earnestly that he wouldn’t misinterpret my hurried command.

The figure turned to face me and although he cut a commanding presence, I noted that his eyes looked calm and, indeed, rather sad.

“Ah,” he said, softly.  “Ma’am I do hope I didn’t startle you unduly.  Please forgive my intrusion.”

His accent appeared to be that of an American gentleman, from the southern States, I suspected.  His gentle demeanour mollified me somewhat, but the fact remained that he was undoubtedly a trespasser.

In a slightly quieter tone, but still – I hoped – with a certain air of authority, I replied, “I am not easily startled, Sir, but I wish to know how you come to be in this private residence and what your business is.”

“Yes Ma’am, of course,” he responded.  “I can see that my presence here must look most suspicious.  My name is Clark Obadiah Jackson III.  I’m searching for someone who is – very dear to me.  The honest truth is, Ma’am, I can’t rightly explain how I came to be in this building, exactly, unless you are in any way familar with the notions of – uh – time travel and teleportation?”

He was fingering a device attached to his left wrist as he spoke.  I suspected (correctly, it later emerged) that he was considering activating it in some way to vacate our particular time and space if he met with too much hostility.

Now that I studied his face more closely, I realised there was something faintly familiar about it.  I knew he did not belong in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and was fairly certain our paths had never crossed, yet that slight memory or familiarity could not be discounted.  I realised that I did not wish him to leave as suddenly as he had appeared.  On the contrary, I was extremely curious to hear his story.

“I am – unfortunately – more familiar with time travel and teleportation than I would wish to be, Mr Jackson,” I assured him.  “Indeed, all the residents of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers have personal experience of its uses and often rather unfortunate side effects.   I suggest we take a seat in the Emporium whilst you recount your story.”

“Well that’s mighty civil of you, Ma’am, in the circumstances.   I truly do appreciate it.”

He doffed his hat to me in the most charming way and followed me into Molly’s little shop.

I lit the oil lamp and waited with considerable excitement to hear of Mr Clark Obadiah Jackson III’s adventures.

To be continued.

A Travel Guide to Clockton – Book Text

In these reduced circumstances (well, to be honest we know all about being reduced, here at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers) our nebulous, non-physical Etsy shop is looking somewhat depleted.  Even the merchandise is now mostly non-physical, since digital downloads can easily be bought and sold and purchases downloaded in the comfort of the customer’s own home.

Our 12th scale DIY books are a case in point.  Here follows the contents of our latest foray into literature – a gazetteer of Clockton-upon-Teas – for your perusal.  Please enjoy, then head across to The SteampunkDollsHouse and purchase your miniature copy at this link.  25% off normal price at the time of writing!

The Splendid Municipality of Clockton-upon-Teas
The view shows part of the Town Square in this delightful small town, where timepieces abound and tea packaging has been carefully repurposed to create a wide array of buildings.
Adjust your goggles and sit back to enjoy a tour of some of Clockton’s most notable edifices.

Steamperley House
It is the only structure in town to have triple towers, each of which is furnished with lightning conductors – an eminently wise and sensible precaution, given the complex engineering which takes place inside.
Known locally as ‘The Glass House’, this delightfully airy residence boasts three large windows which overlook the bustling square.

Lantern Mansion
A most unusual and attractive structure, Lantern Mansion has a finely constructed glass roof, featuring a huge smoked glass dome. We understand that the owners have plans to transform the roof area into a conservatory, subject to planning permission. The mansion is a private residence.

Copperton Tower
A pair of clipped bay trees adorn the enchanting arched entrance, but perhaps this structure’s most striking feature is the copper-edged walkway around the base of the marble – clad spire This neat and charming building houses the headquarters of the Coppersmiths and Brassworkers Guild.

Flaggons
This rather squat, but nonetheless attractive place is home to Clockington’s only micro-brewery. On summer evenings, locals gather at chairs and tables in the Town Square to imbibe their notorious ales and a few rather interestingly flavoured gins.

Gemini Towers
The only building in town to boast two clocks.

 

 

Clockton-upon-Teas

Tea Cup, Vintage Tea Cup, Tea, CupIt all started with tea.  Hardly surprising – our little hive of fairly pointless but hugely enjoyable industry runs largely on tea most of the time.  Not, I hasten to add, the sweetened, milk-infested mud-brown builders’ variety.  We are partial to fascinating infusions – green, white, herbal – with interesting combinations of subtle flavours.  When pressed to drink black tea, a little Earl Grey, or better yet Lady Grey (the citrus blends so well with the bergamot) is acceptable.  Without milk, obviously.

Imagine, then, our total delight when a visitor to Steampunk-Shrunk Towers arrived bearing the most delectable of gifts: a clear acrylic box containing small cardboard pyramids, each containing a different variety of tea.  Such a thoughtful present.  Mrs S positively purred with delight.

For the next week or two we sipped all manner of enticing blends.  (Some a little more enticing than others, it must be said; rooibos combined with chocolate and vanilla is something of an acquired taste, I feel, although green and pomegranate was an unexpected delight.)  As the tea was consumed, the little card pyramids were carefully placed on one of the few remaining clear horizontal surfaces while we waited for their next incarnation to become apparent.

We are – as many readers will know – purveyors of upcycled items.  We pride ourselves on reusing what many would consider waste to create new objects of desire.  These tiny containers clearly had some wonderful incipient purpose.  It was our role to discover it and make the transformation.  Pondering possibilities, teacup in hand, is one of our major tasks.

“Church spires?” ventured Madame Ava Brassfeather.  “A sort of city of spires, perhaps.”
Hugo Fforbes nodded. “Or maybe roofs on turrets – a gothic mansion or two with clocks and flagpoles.”
“Clock towers, yes, could work…” muttered Henry, thoughtfully.
“They’d be too small for us to fit inside,” Gina pointed out.

Gina is a young American girl, lodging with us temporarily whilst awaiting her father’s arrival (when Mrs S gets around to creating him).  She was right, of course.  But as Lady Cristabel pointed out, in a miniature retro-futurist world, size – like time – is distinctly relative.

More tea was imbibed, more empty boxes found, and interesting paint or paper applied to every surface.  That clear plastic box in which the tea bags had arrived was pressed into service to make arched windows.  Curtain rings, cocktail sticks, drinking straws and various beads were gathered.  The extensive stash of adhesive tapes – metallic, decorative, double-sided – was raided.  Gradually a rather wonky, rust-toned, multi-towered building emerged.

The town hall of our new urban development was judged a success.  Soon more buildings followed and before we knew it, the town of Clockton-upon-Teas started to form.

The structures, being made of lightweight card and plastic, are easily manoeuvered around, even by 6 inch tall artisans.  Thus the town changes rapidly and frequently.  If I’m brutally honest, I have to admit that we have become rather obsessed with creating this delightful, clock-infested borough.

What will become of it?  Mrs S is planning to take Clockton along to the Best of Somerset Show in the City of Wells later this month.  If any parts of it remain, they may find their way to the deliciously quirky Magpie Vintage shop in Midsommer Norton, or even our Etsy shop – the SteampunkDollsHouse.