Something a little different today: a glimpse into the creative process that went into one of our models.
There were only four of us at the start of the latest Steampunk Convention, unless you count the two ladies engaged in the tea duel, who speak to no one, but fix each other with steely stares over their cow biscuits and cups of tea, or the Samurai warrior who stands transfixed in some Zen-like meditative state. Just four – myself and the three gentlemen.
I am Alice. I was Mrs S’s first ever makeover. I permit myself to believe that I will always hold a special place in her heart for that reason alone. Then there was Bertie, the military gent who made maps of uncharted lands for the Ordnance Survey, Lars, the mysterious inventor who never removed those dark glasses and William, the rather aloof and dapper man with the dart-launcher chained to his arm.
We stood in a casual group on the stall, all secretly wishing that a new owner would arrive and transport us to a permanent home, ending our nomadic existence.
Bertie was the first to leave. Just imagine his delight when he discovered that his new guardian was to be the very same lady who had, on a previous occasion, purchased Leonora. A match made in heaven, we all agreed. We could imagine those two intrepid explorers heading off to discover new lands and treasures together. How could we be anything but delighted?
Lars was the next to depart. His new guardian was also a returning customer. The young man had bought that very worrying time machine with the flashing lights. I was glad to see that go. It made me nervous. Now here he was again, eyeing each of us intently and trying to decide which of us would be the machine’s inventor. Well clearly it had to be Lars. William would never get his hands grubby with oil or grease and – well – do I look like the kind of person who would go galivanting around in a time machine? Obviously not.
So by the end of the day, only William and I remained.
“Just you and myself, then Madam, it would seem,” he said, in a slightly strained voice.
“Indeed,” I replied, permitting myself to look into his eyes and notice that there was a certain softness in his expression which I hadn’t noticed before.
“Charming about Bertie and Leonora,” he said.
“It is,” I agreed, and found myself wondering, fleetingly, how it would feel to end up in the same home as William. Not too disagreeable, I felt.
“I never really got to know Lars,” I told him.
“Hmmph,” he snorted. “Very odd chap. Brilliant inventor, of course, but not – you know – someone I warmed to. We had, er, business dealings, but that was all.”
I nodded. I’d never before thought of William warming to anyone. But who can say?
How very inconvenient it is to be bundled into a wheelie suitcase and carted off to different venues with such frequency. True, Mrs S is always careful to cushion us well and give us as much personal space as possible, but it is not a pleasant way to travel.
No sooner are we back from a spate of ‘Dolly’s Daydream’ sales, than we are once again off on a new adventure.
Ah, but this one is a steampunk gathering, and we do love those! All the wonderfully attired people who actually understand what a tea duel is and why we have Racing Teapots and Octopuses’ Gardens.
Do come and join us if you are in that part of the world.
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 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.
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.
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.
You may consider, perhaps, that our expressions today are somewhat serious. This we cannot deny. Yet we bear temporary setbacks with fortitude and a grim determination to uphold our standards of excellence.
Certainly we are discomforted by the fact that football is no longer ‘cummy nome’, as the denizens of our temporary area of residence have been claiming in their nocturnal carousings. We are similarly dismayed to discover that a large and curiously orange inhabitant of another land, who appears to lack acceptable levels of gentlemanly reserve and chivalry, is to begin visiting our shores today.
Most distressing of all, though, is Mrs Steampunkle’s assertion that in order to meet people and sell our excellent gadgets, gizmos and other wonders in the part of the country where we now find ourselves (these spacio-temporal disturbances are a regrettable aspect of living in a retro-futuristic time warp) we need to attend miniatures fairs run by a company known as ‘Dolly’s Daydreams’.
“Perhaps,” suggested Mrs S, “this Dolly, whoever she is, secretly daydreams of becoming as splendidly eccentric and individual as your good selves. Perhaps she would love to embrace the splendour and general spiffingness of steampunk. Perhaps you will become inspirational figures to Dolly and enable her to embark on a new adventure.”
Thus it is that we move forward with fortitude and embrace the challenges imposed by the temporary exile we face for these next few months in the East of Albion.
We will present ourselves and our unique steampunk items with pride and decorum at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair at the Ipswich Hotel, Copdock, Suffolk IP8 3JD on July 22nd, between the hours of 10.30am and 4pm. We sincerely hope and trust that our patrons and well wishers in the area will come along and pay us a visit.
While residing here, we will also be exhibiting at Rivenhall End, nr Witham, Essex and at a Steampunk Spectacular in Hastings, East Sussex during September.
Fondest regards and felicitations from
Leonora, Lars, Alice, William and Bertie
PS Of course the Steampunk Dolls House, being a shop without a physical location, continues to function as normal, and you will be able to find an ever-growing variety of items there to suit all tastes and price ranges.
Not everyone’s – er – cup of tea, perhaps, but I adore teapot racing.
Never seen a steampunk teapot race? Well you do need to head off to your nearest Steampunk Convention/ Extravaganza/ Spectacular and experience the thrill of it for yourself.
So yes, teapot racing. I have two pots of my own at the moment. The most decorative is the steam-powered contraption, but I also own a very servicable clockwork machine. Both have won numerous prizes, naturally.
Which is faster? It depends on the surface they are racing on, to be honest, but there’s not a great deal to choose between them.
Let me show them to you.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the items featured here, do head over to The Steampunk DollsHouse
I am the creator of gadgets and gizmos such as The Oracular Expedient, The Phosphorus Pumping Device, The Equilibrium Enhancer and the much-favoured Ginerator, many of which now grace the homes of Steampunk enthusiasts around the world.
If I say so myself, this machine is a wonder. The casing is copper-coated. There are a plethora of gears and cogs to drive the engine (although persons from your dimension may prefer to use the on/off battery switch). When it is powered up, the entire device emits a purple glow and this is projected in a beam from the jewel at its tip.
I have named this light ray ‘extra violet’ and I am still investigating its properties. No doubt they will be of tremendous value to humankind once I have fully acquainted myself with all of them.
Alas, an inventor’s life is never easy and funds are hard to come by, so I have resorted (Oh the shame!) to selling myself and my device to any discerning collector who will be prepared to part with the derisory sum of £38 stirling at the Steampunk Dolls House. In this way, I hope to acquire sufficient money to finance my research and creations.
If you, dear reader, know anyone who would be interested in making such a purchase, please ask them to head to my display at the Steampunk Dolls House.
There are many other items, incidentally, which may be of interest to purchasers of miniature steampunk ephemera in this illustrious emporium.
Fear not, Steampunk-Shrunk enthusiasts. Normal service will soon be restored.
The trouble is, there have been quite a few sales from the Steampunk Doll’s House recently, and Mrs S has agreed that each order will be turned around within three days. Not a problem when she is here, busily packaging us up in bubble wrap and boxes to travel off to distant lands. Now, though, she has her bags packed and is locking the gates of Steampunk Towers for a week or so, while she heads across the country to commune with family and nature.
Inconsiderate, we know, but she has been working hard, and she’s promised to add yet more stunning steampunk stock to the Etsy shop as well as booking various dolls house fairs and steampunk conventions where we can meet with the public once more, upon her return.
Meanwhile, enjoy perusing our many stories and we look forward to being reunited with you very shortly.