I’m told that today is World Book Day, and to me that sounds like quite the most wonderful type of day to have.
As you may remember, books have long been a passion of mine, and as a very small girl, I was given my ideal job – sitting on Mrs S’s Steampunk-Shrunk stalls reading one of her miniature books. She said I encouraged customers to do likewise.
Now I am older, though, I decided I wanted to open my own bookshop. I put the idea to Mrs S and she thought about it.
“So yours would be a little ‘shop-in-shop’, Molly? Your emporium would sit in a corner of my stall and you could sell your books from there. Is that what you had in mind?”
“Yes,” I said. I’d like rows of bookshelves and a little table with a reading lamp and…”
“And I think that is all we would manage to fit into it, Molly,” she said, firmly.
I had been going to ask for one of those sliding ladders and some stained glass windows, but something in her face told me that I was lucky to be getting a shop at all, so I smiled politely and thanked her.
Now it’s finished, I have to say I’m truly delighted with my Literary Emporium. It’s been built in one of those storage boxes that are made to look like books.
Inside, though, it looks quite opulent, with a carved wood ceiling and a big mirror to reflect the flickering oil lamp, as well as all those shelves of books. The picture here was taken before I’d finished stacking the shelves, but you’ll get the general idea. Mrs S put one of her pencils up against the side of the shop, so that you can see the size of it.
She was so pleased with the result that she used a photo of it to sell copies of the books at her Etsy shop. (If you click on one of these pictures, you should be whisked straight there.)
For me, though, The best part will be opening my shop in person at our next market stall. You can see where that is on the HOME page of this website.
If you come along, I’ll be delighted to sell you a volume or two. We even have some magnifying book-reading devices, for those of you who struggle with the print.
Something a little different this week: Jan Miller, who purchased both Algernon and Josephine Cholmondeley from our Etsy shop, has added a further chapter to the story of their impending visit to Brasston, The Most Cosmopolitan City Award winner in 1850. Delighted to know that the Lord Admiral of the High Skies and his wife are in such excellent hands.
We hope you will enjoy reading both chapters here:
It was, not surprisingly, young Molly who found the book first. She’d read her way through everything in the Steampunk-Shrunk library – even the Suffragette newspapers – and had been on the lookout for something new.
“Excuse me, Lady Cholmondeley,” she said, dropping a pretty curtsy to Josephine, “But do you think your husband, seeing as how he’s the Lord Admiral of the High Fleet, could take me on one of his sky ship machines to Brasston? They’ve got a perfectly splendid aerodrome and I’m sure they’d allow him to dock there. Let me show you the pictures. They’re in colour!”
“Why I’ve never heard of the place, my dear. Are you sure you’ve got the name correct?” smiled Josephine.
“Oh yes, Your Ladyship, Ma’am. I think it must be very famous. It won the ‘Most Cosmopolitan City Award’ in 1850.”
Josephine started to look through the book – a most difficult process since, unlike the inhabitants of Shrunk Towers, this book had not been shrunk to one twelfth of its original size. She had to obtain assistance from several other members of the community and they in turn became mesmerised by the splendours of Brasston.
“Good lord!” Barnaby Balsover exclaimed, “There’s a chap there having his shoes polished by a clockwork automaton! Quite remarkable!”
“Certainly,” agreed Ava Brassfeather, “And it says they do tours of the clock factory and provide cake and tea.”
“I believe it says you have to pay extra for cups and saucers, though, Ma’am,” Molly whispered, jumping in alarm when Ava made a loud tutting sound.
Molly wasn’t sure whether this was aimed at herself or the facilities available at the works, but she didn’t venture to speak again.
When Algernon returned from a successful raid on a troublesome bunch of sky pirates who had been terrorising the airways above Penge, he was met by a mass of pleading faces.
His wife took his arm, gazed alluringly into his eyes and purred, “My dearest…”
“Hmm,” he said finally, once he’d had a strong cup of gunpowder tea and an opportunity to peruse the book. “I strongly suspect that this is a work of fiction, created by this rather splendid gentleman on the back cover, Mr Ashley G.K. Miller. I’m not convinced that the city exists.”
“Well if anyone can find it, it’s you, Old Boy,” announced Lord Horatio Backgammon, and the others joined in a chorus of agreement with his Lordship’s sentiment.
And so, as I write, the entire group is busy packing and preparing for an epic journey in one of the fleet’s most capacious dirigibles, while Algy is earnestly poring over his charts, in search of the city of Brasston. Unfortunately the trip was delayed – but that is another story!
Should you wish to discover this remarkable locationfor yourself, dear reader, I suggest visiting Mr Miller’s Facebook page, where you will find all the details you need.
After several months, Algernon Cholmondeley, Lord Admiral of the High Fleet, was finally re-united with his dear wife Josephine. He had been captured by Sky Pirates before he could take his friends on the planned trip to Brasston. Josephine was so relieved to see him again. But they had been communicating by means of the steam telegraph while he was captive.
It seems the Sky Pirates extracted a large ransom from the Admiralty before releasing Algy unharmed. He, meanwhile, had secretly been inspecting the Sky Pirates remarkable Airships and learning as much as he could about their design. Of course Algernon was used to high powered airships in his normal day job, but the Sky Pirates had adapted some new ideas from other countries they had plundered. Algy was now determined to make a new airship of his own. It would have all the latest technology for the 1850s, including a pigeon-guided location finder.
As his wife and friends were so interested in visiting this Brasston, he could use that trip as an experimental run.
Lady Cholmondely had also been in contact with Mr Ashley G. K. Miller, the author of the esteemed volume; ‘A Traveller’s Guide to Brasston’ which had started the whole thing, and he had sent pictures of himself on one of his recent Hot Air Balloon Flights.
He said he would be delighted to help them make the Airship and take them to Brasston.
Lady Cholmondeley soon got the local enthusiasts together to collect all the bits and pieces they could find to make the new Airship. Having Algy’s colleagues in the Admiralty look through the old sheds, and with Mr. Miller’s collection of past pieces they had quite a good start.
Josephine and her friend Penelope set to work right away to make a comfortable day-bed for the passengers inside the Airship, while Young Algy played with his own model one. ‘Oh these feathers are going up my nose!’ exclaimed Josephine.
They were happily employed in this activity while Lord Algernon thought about his new Airship design. More about how he is getting on with it another time!
Jan Miller is a writer and publisher on the conservation of native plants. She also has an interest in miniature plants and crafts. See her website www.7wells.co.uk where you can also find her Asperger’s Syndrome son Ashley G. K. Miller’s book about Steampunk Lego ‘Brasston’.
Lord and Lady Cholmondeley and the Steampunk artifacts were upcycled and made by Jan Stone at Steampunk-Shrunk. Victorian dolls’ house and conservatory with real plants by Jan Miller.
We may have met before, but permit me to introduce myself anew.
I am George Entwistle, tinker and general handyman to the gentry. Yes, I have resigned from my post as patents clerk and become a full time tinker. Indeed, I would venture to say that my time machines are very much sought after by ladies and gentlemen of discernment with an adventurous temperament.
I like to consider myself something of an adventurer, too. Very recently I travelled in a railway carriage to a steampunk spectacular in the delightful town of Shrewsbury. What an experience it was!
The purveyors of our products were the most splendidly attired persons I had ever encountered. Even Mrs S, who is quite used to these affairs, was impressed and kept taking photographs of them, a few of which I will reproduce here.
We had scarcely opened before Alice announced that she was changing her name to Olga and heading off to become an opera singer with her new patron. I think Sir William was sad to see her go, but he soon began to chat in a very friendly manner to Miss Delilah.
I confess I was quite delighted when a charming lady and gentleman agreed to purchase my latest time machine. I often wonder where my customers will end up when they head off on their temporal journeys.
My greated delight, though, came when a distinguished looking gentleman stopped to admire our wares. There was something familiar about him and I was quite taken by his military bearing and immaculate appearance. He chatted for a while about our room cases to his good lady, and it was only after he left that Mrs Steampunkle told us it was none other than the great Icabod Steam!
How I regretted not having removed my stained and grubby leather apron or straightening my tie! I even had the honour to view his trailer at close quarters, although Mrs S wouldn’t permit me to leave the stall to watch one of his performances. I noticed that she was mysteriously absent at that time, however…
Upon our return to Steampunk Towers (and mainly, I suspect, to quieten the complaints about the journey from Lady Christabel) Mrs Steampunkle announced that some of us would be heading to a new residence. I was fortunate enough to be chosen, along with Lady Christabel, Sir William and the lovely Miss Delilah, to inhabit a glass display cabinet at a quite charming Emporium in the Somerset town of Street. We have five of my friend Mr Robottom’s robots with us, as well as several cabinets of curiosities and the Looking Glass rooms Mrs Steampunkle quite recently completed.
It feels quite strange to be away from Steampunk Towers, but our creator visits us regularly and has promised to pop in and check that we are all happy in our new surroundings.
Do come along to pass the time of day, should you be in the vicinity.
It was a visit to the Japanese section of the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) which started the latest flight of fancy at Steampunk Towers.
The low light conditions necessary for displaying the ancient and valuable fabrics there meant my snatched photos were of very poor quality, but I was inspired to try out (or maybe invent) some sort of samurai steampunk after seeing the amazing costumes and I needed some points of reference.
First I had to repaint the face of my chosen figure. I managed to find a chap with suitably high cheekbones who worked rather well, once his bland smile and vacant staring eyes had been removed and replaced. Scraps of black and gold silk and damask fabric were cut and handstitched to make his clothes.
Junk jewellery is my favourite resource – those bags of single earrings, broken bracelets and knackered necklaces sold for a few pounds by enterprising charity shops. I found a bracelet panel that worked as a breastplate, once I’d aged it a bit. A lone earring and a couple of shell charms went well on the helmet. Leather and foam scraps, a piece of drinking straw coated in copper tape and one of those plastic ring pull things from a drink carton were all pressed into service. I painted up a little sword charm and found a sheet of metallic plastic mesh I knew-would-come-in-handy-one-day to make the armour, and my tiny warrior was complete.
The perfect display space was a little bamboo box I’d found in The Works a few weeks back. In homage to the museum display, I mounted the helmet on a dowelling stand. A bead and yet another junk earring, shaped like a mask, completed this to make a kind of mannequin head and my tiny warrior now crouches (almost) menacingly beside it.
Is it steampunk? You’ll note I refrained from adding gratuitous gears and cogs to the costume. However I feel he would grace any steampunk convention. Time will tell.
If you head to this website’s HOME page, you’ll be able to check dates and venues for our forthcoming sales in Essex, East Sussex and Shropshire.
Not twenty thousand. I can’t yet lay claim to that. Yet who can say? One day, perhaps.
To build a vessel capable of travelling underwater and exploring the depth of the seas has been an ambition of mine since my youth. In those days, I was fortunate enough to sit at the table of the great Dr Pierre Aronnax himself, while he regaled us with tales of his voyage on the Nautilus, with the strange and troubled Captain Nemo.
How I loved his stories. How I longed to follow in his footsteps – or in his wake, perhaps. That I, Maurice Souslesmers, should be able to travel in this way was but a distant dream, until I joined forces with Mrs S, upcycler and creator of weird and wonderful 1:12 scale creations.
“So you want something like The Nautilus?” she asked. “Sounds an interesting challenge. Trouble is, I’m flat broke, so the budget for this project is zero. Everything will have to come from my junk stash. Agreed?”
What choice did I have? We explored the pile of objects together: a cardboard case, a clear plastic lid from a packaging box, some corrugated foil card from a children’s craft set, a finger light left over from last Hallowe’en, a brass radiator key, a small brass bell and whistle, a broken dolls house dressing table, some bits of polymer clay, a blue plastic bag, an empty shower gel bottle, a few watch parts and a jar of nail art gems.
“That should do nicely,” she said.
I was less than convinced.
Nevertheless, she set to work with coloured nail polish, a dizzying array of adhesives and some very messy burnishing paste.
“See this broken watch part – how it swivels?” she asked excitedly. “That will make a turntable for your searchlight. You need to be able to scan around the ocean, looking for creatures, don’t you?”
Before my eyes, the plastic (a strange and rather ugly synthetic substance alien to my era) finger light became a leather and copper-clad lamp on a turning steel base.
I stacked oxygen tanks in the navigation deck’s storage compartments and set about burnishing the huge boiler.
Mrs S found a way to mount the periscope, which had somehow stopped looking so much like a radiator key, and we tested the construction so far.
True, our vessel lacked the opulence of The Nautilus as described by Aronnax – the library and study, the leather armchairs and so forth. Nevertheless, I saw that I would finally be able to make my own voyage of discovery, and I was delighted.
Eagerly, I named my craft after my great hero, and The Aronnax began its journey.
You will see that I am keeping a careful ship’s log and making sketches of the mysterious creatures of the deep I am encountering on my journey. As for those apparently man-made arches and columns I have encountered in the murky depths… Might I, like my predecessors have stumbled upon the famed ruins of Atlantis?
Well there’s always a story. The Case of the Balloon Journey had one, naturally. Harvey Cholmondeley, the intrepid and rather dishevelled traveller had been a minor, though pivotal, character in the story of The Vital Chapter.
It was he who flew from somewhere in Africa, at the bidding of his sister-in-law, to rescue his brother Algernon from a bout of depression. Quite what he did, we never discovered. After his visit, however, Algy became the Lord Admiral of the High Skies and hero of our proud nation.
So what did Harvey do after that mysterious intervention? Well, to be honest, he trailed around many Steampunk-Shrunk stalls, where he often took pride of place at the centre of the displays. He drew people in. They admired his case, complete with clouds, balloon basket, flickering burner, hip flask, map and other necessities. They often wished they had the funds or the room in their crowded houses for his case, but departed instead with some smaller trinket.
All this changed last weekend, though. A delightful gentleman, with a twinkle in his eye, gazed at the case for some time, then announced, “I rather think I need to buy that.”
“I rather think you do,” agreed his good lady.
The gentleman had, it transpired, been an aviator in his younger days and it was clear that Harvey was off to an excellent new home.
Imagine our surprise, though, when an illustrated message reached Steampunk Towers a few days later.
The ladies and gentlemen gathered around eagerly to discover news of their erstwhile companion. Algy was, understandably, particularly interested.
Harvey had, it appeared, changed his name to Bertie, hoisted a Union Flag on one of the ropes, acquired an anchor and a travelling companion in the form of a seagull, which had made itself quite at home in a coil of rope. The hip flask, we noted, was still in the pocket of his greatcoat, but perched on the side of the gondola was an almost certainly alcoholic iced drink, complete with curly straws.
Algernon spoke for us all when he announced, “I see that my brother has found a home with a true British eccentric who shares our taste for the minutely absurd. How perfectly delightful.”
And it was so very thoughtful of the gentleman to think to share with us the further adventures of one of our own.
“What a pity,” Percy Thwaite-Rumbleton remarked to me recently, “that you were not blessed with a son to help you run your business and ultimately inherit it. A man of your advancing years should be able to retire to his workshop and concentrate on tinkering away at clockwork, without having the tiresome business of selling to contend with.”
It set me thinking, I can tell you, although not along the lines Percy intended. Certainly I have often yearned to be freed from the chore of shopkeeping and I feel increasingly drawn towards inventing ever more complex and exciting timepieces. The lack of a son, however, had not affected me in the least. Thwaite-Rumbleton is not well acquainted with my wonderful and resourceful daughter. Who needs a son, with such an excellent young person to provide assistance?
Obviously, I had to ask Scarlett if she wished to become involved in the family business. I would never wish the dear girl to feel duty bound to work with me if her fancy took her elsewhere. Fortunately, she was positively exuberant when I suggested it.
“You mean I should run the emporium, Papa?” she squealed. “I should be responsible for showing your creations to discerning customers? I should take out trays of pocket watches and assist gentlemen to choose from them?”
“Is that something you would enjoy, my dear?” I asked.
“It would be wonderful!” she exclaimed. “I can’t imagine any occupation I would prefer. Naturally I would need to be neatly attired, so as to show our establishment to be of the highest quality. I think I would have to purchase several new gowns, in the latest style. It would never do for our patrons to see me as a child. I am, after all, thirteen years old now, and very nearly a woman.”
After several rather costly excursions to the costumier and one to the hairdresser, Scarlett declared herself suitably coiffed and attired for managing our modest clockmaker’s shop in High Holborn. It was quite a shock to me to see her so adorned, when scarcely a month ago she still wore her (formerly) blonde hair in ringlets and dressed in pastel-coloured children’s frocks.
I wrote a new sign: E. Crackington & Daughter, Clockmakers and framed it to hang on the wall. Next, I had to build a low shop counter, since the existing one was rather too high for her to stand behind and still be visible to customers. She is quite small for her age.
Now at last I am freed from the drudgery of serving customers and waiting around in the shop, while my enterprising child is thoroughly enjoying her new career and proving to be most efficient and popular with our clients.
Here in 21st Century England, it is possible, for a modest outlay, to purchase sets of what are called ‘storage suitcases’ from a well-known chain of stationery shops. These sturdy little card cases, with metal handles and hinges, come in three sizes ranging from 12 x 8 x 3.5 inches (30 x 20 x 9 cm) down to 8 x 6 x 3 inches (14 x 20 x 8 cm).
It quickly became apparent that these would provide excellent and easily portable little rooms for the steampunk ladies and gentlemen to inhabit. Decorating and furnishing them has become one of my chief delights and many have headed off to happy homes throughout the country.
The prices vary considerably, depending on the complexity of the contents and whether they are sold with or without figures.
Here are the cases currently available at Steampunk-Shrunk:
The Engine Room
This is housed in a large case. It is the room in which Henry the tinker (See Diary of a Tinkerer) repaired and powered up his time machine.
It contains a large pile of coal, a Twisted Firestarter (safely caged), a huge steam boiler with furnace beneath (complete with opening door and flickering flame), various pipes and a complex set of gadgets, the purpose of which remains a mystery to me. It costs £58 and, like the other cases, can be purchased at Steampunk-Shrunk stalls or online. See home page for details.
The Case of the Balloon Journey
This is the only outdoor scene at present. Harvey Cholmondeley is travelling from Africa to visit his brother Algernon. (See The Vital Chapter). Land can just be glimpsed through the clouds below, while Harvey stands in his basket, which has a turning anemometer and a burner with working flame (powered by a battery tea light). Harvey wears a genuine leather coat and flying helmet and has all the details and gadget you’ve come to expect from steampunk-Shrunk figures. This case costs £68 (or £48 without figure).
The Case of the Withdrawing Room
This small case shows her ladyship’s personal space. There is a whatnot filled with her treasures, a bird in a cage, a chair, mirror and table complete with a flickering steampunk lamp. Her journal, pen and inkpot lie on the table. There is no figure sold with this room, which costs £48.
The Case of the Tinker’s Time Machine
Yet another time traveller! Here you find George Entwhistle hard at work on a partially completed temporal transporter. You can find the full story here. The room is crammed with detail and his machine flashes with different colours (from an upcycled Christmas badge!) in the most dramatic way you can imagine. George wears a battered leather apron and specially adapted goggles. The furnished room costs £58, or £78 with George included.
The Case of the Tea Duel
The room is set up for the most genteel of duels, but the intent is deadly serious. There is real china crockery and ‘cows’ (a plate of malted milk biscuits) are the weapons of choice. The tiny room is cleverly back-lit, so that light shines through the window. The cupboard conceals the lighting for the scene. This case can be purchased for £58.
However for a further £27 (£85 in all), the immaculately attired duellists – Leticia and Prudence – can be added. An absolute bargain, I’m sure you’ll agree, since Steampunk-Shrunk figures normally sell for £25 each.
George Entwhistle, a patents clerk by day, had always enjoyed tinkering. The trouble was, tinkering could be a somewhat noisy activity. Living as he did in a terraced property, he had to contend with frequent complaints from neighbours and visits from members of the constabulary.
In consequence, he’d been banned from hammering, sawing, welding or producing anything with a tendency to explode between the hours of 8pm and 10am, and all day on Sundays. This, given the long hours he worked at the patents office, made it difficult for him to achieve anything of note. George felt cheated by life.
All this changed, though, the day he realised that the blocked up door in the sitting room did not, as he’d always imagined, lead to the parlour. Careful measuring and still more careful (and virtually silent) plan drawing showed that there was a two and a half foot gap between the blocked door and the parlour wall.
Working only between the hours of 7.30 and 8 in the evening, George carefully prised open the mysterious door and discovered, to his great amazement, a staircase leading down. Eagerly, he availed himself of an oil lamp and the poker from the fireplace, and cautiously descended.
Imagine George’s surprise and delight as he discovered a further door at the base, which opened quite easily, revealing a large cellar!
Certainly it was cold and uninviting, but the walls were thick. George raced upstairs, grabbed his noisiest intruder alarm – one of his most unpopular inventions amongst the neighbours during the testing stage – and took it down to his newly discovered domain. Here he set it off and left it in the cellar, shutting the door behind him and returning to the sitting room. Despite the deafening clang of bells and shriek of whistles echoing around the empty space below, there was virtually no sound to be heard from either the sitting room or parlour. Despite it being 8.30, not a single neighbour banged on the wall or hammered on his front door.
“Eureka!” exclaimed George.
“Quiet in there or I’ll summon a constable!” came an angry shout from the occupant of number 28.
From that day onward, George worked to transform the cellar into a tinker’s workshop. He extended the heating pipes downwards to power a boiler, which not only heated the workshop, but allowed him to brew a much-needed cup of tea from time to time. He constructed a doorbell with a wire connecting it to the front of his house, so that callers could be heard. He made himself a shelf and workbench and even installed a clock and mirror. The result was a commodious and most agreeable work space. George was a happy man.
He is currently busying himself with constructing a clockwork time machine. He’d long had a plan, gleaned from a combination of the failed ideas of several other tinkers. Working in a patents office did have certain advantages.
As you can see, his contraption is well underway, and he’s able to fire it up for short periods.
“Only a matter of time,” George mutters to himself, smiling slightly at his own wit, “Now that I no longer have to suffer time restraints, soon I shall be the master of time!”
Time will tell…
Should you wish to inspect George’s cellar workshop and the items he is creating there, do come to any of the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls at various events over the coming months.
The details of venues, dates and times can be found on the home page of this website.
Oh, and if you come along, do ask George to demonstrate the time machine. He loves to show off his workmanship.
A complete change from steampunk, and a huge challenge… but a friend commissioned me to put Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre into one of my little cardboard cases.
To begin with I just gawped at her, but she had it all figured out. The audience would go on the back wall, there would be some Tudor theatregoers in boxes to the sides of the stage and the fold-down tray of the case would provide the stage itself.
“I’d like a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she said. “Titania in her bower, with Bottom wearing his ass’s head and Puck nearby.
My first impulse was to run screaming from the house, but gradually I began to see it emerging in my mind’s eye and once that happens, I start making.
So here is the basic box layout. All my spare miniature people – the ones awaiting transformation – had to dress as extras and be photographed many times to make the audience backdrop!
And here is a wealthy member of the audience. One of Mr Shakespeare’s patrons, perhaps. He certainly has one of the finest seats in the house.
Titania’s bower is a mix of wire and artificial flowers, with velvet cushions the colour of moss and grass. The fairy queen herself has glittering wings, a floaty silver and translucent dress, a crown of opals and rose gold chains and long golden hair.
The portly Bottom, by contrast, wears rough hessian clothes, as befits a ‘rude mechanical’. His donkey head is removable. To be honest, I think he looks better with it on!
Finally Puck – my favourite – has cropped green hair and feather wings. He carries the purple herb he used to bewitch Titania, who is now hopelessly enamoured of the ‘translated’ Bottom.
There’s a little more to do – some scenery to depict the woodland and another gentleman to watch the play, but this – roughly – is how it will look.