By George – so pleased to make your acquaintance.

We may have met before, but permit me to introduce myself anew.

Steampunk-Shrunk tinker

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!

customers at Steampunk-ShrunkThe 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.

Steampunk-ShrunkI 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.

 

 

The Room of the Unnamed Warrior

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.

steampunk shrunk figureFirst 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.  

steampunk shrunk characterJunk 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.

boxed set from steampunk-shrunkThe 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.

 

 

The Building of The Aronnax – Many Leagues Under the Sea

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?”

No automatic alt text available.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.

No automatic alt text available.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 so that it could be raised and lowered 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.

No automatic alt text available.

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?

 

Should you wish to see The Aronnax, it will be surfacing at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair at Rivenhall End in Essex on September 9th 2018 and at the Hastings Steampunk Extravaganza on September 16th.

 

A Case in Point

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.

additions to the basket

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.

 

The Clockmaker’s Daughter

“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.

The Case of The Clockwork Emporium  – a one of a kind 1/12 scale model room box – can be purchased from http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse.  The link for its page is here.

The Case of the Cases

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.

 

Tinkering with Time

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.

Cellar Outlet, Gang, Dark, CreepyImagine 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.

 

 

The Case of The Globe

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.

 

Miniature Fair!

Nervous, us?   Do we look nervous?  Well maybe Penelope, slightly – but the rest of us will take good care of her.

We’re leaving the delights of rural Somerset, with its green leafy lanes and pretty stone cottages, and heading for a similarly leafy place in the middle of England somewhere.  Unfortunately, though, we don’t have a single method of transportation between us and need to use a mixture of buses, trains and something called a tube to traverse London in order to get there.

Mrs S is being very upbeat about it all.  She’s carefully packed us, the room boxes and all the little pieces she makes into a large suitcase and an equally large carrier bag.  There’s plenty of padding, so we won’t be knocked about too much.   She’s spent hours on the phone to find the easiest route across London – with no staircases.  She insists it will be a breeze.

Image may contain: textWhen we finally arrive at the destination – a village called Haddenham in a place called Buckinghamshire – she’s promised us that we will meet other people of a similar size to ourselves.

Some of us may even find new homes to go to.  Lord Horatio became rather angry at that.
“Like being at Battersea Dogs’ Home, waiting for an owner,” he growled.

The rest of us would love it, though.  So if you happen to live anywhere around this Buckinghamshire place and are free on Saturday 23rd September, do come along to and call by the Steampunk-Shrunk stall.

We’d love to meet you.

The Magical Mechanical Bird

a young showmanMy pa made the bird.  He’s Mister William Forsey and when I grow up, I’m going to be just like him – a tinker as well as a showman.  My name is Rufus, by the way.  I’m ten years old and I have a very important job.  I run the Magical Mechanical Bird Show in the little fairground booth my pa built.

only Rufus can fit insideThe ticket office is too small for Ma or Pa to get inside, but I fit just fine.  When I grow too big, one of my brothers or sisters will have to take over and I’ll get on with learning my pa’s craft.  Pa’s proud of me.  He wrote ‘Wm. Forsey & Son’ on the poster, so I’d be part of the company.  Some day we’ll have a whole load of automatons and people will come from all over the world to watch and wonder at them.

preparing the mechanical birdFirst thing I have to do is wind up the machine and check that it’s all working smoothly.  Pa says I’m a natural when it comes to knowing where a lick of oil should go or what bolts to tighten.  You see?  I’ve got tinker’s blood in me veins.  I’ll make wonderful contraptions when I’m older.

hiding the bird from viewNext I pull the curtain across, so the bird’s hidden and go out the front to tout for business.  All the ladies love me and they beg their beaus to buy a ticket.  Ma says it’s on account of my fair hair and big eyes.  I think it’s more likely my witty patter that draws ’em in.
Once a lady said, “Is the poor bird trapped in a cage?”
She thought it was a real bird, even though the sign clearly says ‘Mechanical’.
“Oh no, Ma’am,” I told her. “That bird is as free as I am.”
She was so pleased, she asked her gentleman to give me a farthing, and to show off to her, he gave me three ha’pence!
When I told Pa later what had happened, he said it was a good reply I’d given.  I told him it was true, because both me and the bird are as free as each other – stuck in that booth all day.  That got me a clip round the ear, though, so I need to learn when to keep me mouth shut, I reckon.

selling ticketsAnyhow, once I’ve got a good crowd, I go into the ticket office and sell them all tickets to watch the show.  I have to keep the office locked all day, so no one will steal our takings.  Ma took the chain from Grandpa’s old watch and fixed the office key to it, so I can wear it on me waistcoat, just like a toff!  Real silk, that waistcoat is, and me trousers are pa’s old moleskins cut down.  They’re a bit on the roomy side, but I’ll grow into them.

Next is my favourite part.  I come out of the office, draw back the curtain and you should hear the ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ when they see the machine.  The gilded bird sits on a gold tablecloth and Pa has left all the mechanical parts showing, so people can see how amazing an automaton is.  There’s gleaming brass and steel cogs and cams and levers, a little set of bellows that work a Swanee whistle, so the bird can sing, and the cam is fixed up so that as the bird twists and turns, the notes of its warbling change.

I call out, very loud, “And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, for your delight and delectation, the Magical Mechanical Bird will come to life before your very eyes and ears.”
That’s Pa’s cue to pull the knob at the back of the booth to release the crank wheel, and the bird begins to sing and twirl.

All the punters gasp and cheer and clap and I feel so proud of Pa and Ma and meself, for entertaining folks so royally.

 

The Case of the Magical Mechanical Bird will be on display at All Things Miniature in Haddenham, Bucks on Saturday September 23rd. 

A video of the mechanical bird in action can be seen here, on the Steampunk – Shrunk Facebook page.