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 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.

 

What Happened After The Vital Chapter

Here it is at last – the final part of Algernon’s story:

 

Chapter 5

Algernon lifted his telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon.  Just one small smudge of grey over Middlesex.  It was high in the sky.  A less practised eye would have missed it altogether, or mistaken it for a wisp of cloud.

“Pirates at four o’clock,” he called.  “Prime the machine.”

Sure enough, as they moved closer, became clear – smoke belching from her filthy funnels.

“Machine’s primed and ready, Sah!” barked a voice from below decks.

“Good work, Mister Capon.  Keep tracking them.  I’m going to turn her around so they can’t see our profile.  Wait for the order to fire.”

“Aye, Sah!” came the same clipped voice.

Like the rest of the crew, Edwin Capon was proud to serve under Admiral Algernon Cholmondeley.  Their airship was the envy of the fleet and the scourge of the pirates who had, for far too long, held the airways to ransom.

 

Too late, the commander of the pirate vessel – one Sydney Strangefellow – saw what lay ahead.

“Put her about, boys!” he croaked, his fear only too obvious to his crew.

“A trap!  That’s the Algernaut!”

“God save us!” screamed one of the men – an optimistic fellow with a high regard for the generosity of his Maker, since he and his shipmates had spent their lives ruthlessly terrorising the high skies.

The steam-powered plasma gunPanic broke out on the vessel and men ran helplessly hither and thither.  They knew – every black-hearted villain of them – that nothing, let alone their old rust-bucket of a ship, could withstand the weapon now fixed of upon them.

 

“And … FIRE!” shouted Algernon.

There was a flash of turquoise blue as the plasma gun loosed a volley of shots towards the pirate vessel.

The end was quick.  An explosion of blinding white light and then – nothing.  Not so much as a nut or a bolt remained of the incinerated galleon.

A cheer went up from the crew of the Algernaut and a door opened from a cabin below decks.

“Why the cheers?” asked a soft, sweet voice, as Lady Josephine emerged.  “Have you clever boys destroyed another pirate vessel?”

“We have indeed, your ladyship,” smiled the midshipman, bowing his head deferentially.  The Admiral spotted it miles off.  They didn’t stand a chance.”

A touching moment for the valiant couple“Well jolly good show,” smiled the lady.  “I’ll go straight away and prepare some tea for all hands.  And I’m sure I can find some particularly delicious cake as well.  You boys certainly deserve it!”

“You spoil us, my dear,” said her husband, who had come below to share the good news with her.

“Not at all,” laughed Josephine.  “Thanks to your splendid invention and your excellent crew, the skies above London have never been so safe.”

“Three cheers for the Hadmiral and ’er ladyship!” barked Edwin Capon, and the crew’s enthusiastic cries could be heard far below, in the city that owed its safety to Algernon Cholmondeley.

Gertie and Lord Horatio Backgammon

Well I didn’t know what to expect.  In truth, I’ve never encountered a lord before.

I was met at the railway station, after a most bracing journey in a steam locomotive, by one of his staff in a gleaming vehicle.  The man didn’t say much during the journey, but as we turned into the drive, he said quietly, “Don’t be alarmed by his Lordship, Miss.  He’s fine when you get to know him.”

If anything, these words made me more apprehensive than I had previously been.  As I alighted from the contraption and the smoke from its boiler began to clear, I saw a figure who could only be Lord Horatio standing beside a rusting collection of gears and machine parts.  Despite my determination to maintain a calm demeanour, I have to admit that I gasped – or possibly squealed slightly.

“Miss Jekyllton-Smythe, I presume?” he boomed, as he began advancing towards me.
He wore the tallest top hat I’d ever seen, adorned with a pair of very complicated goggles, and on the arm of his leather greatcoat he carried a most fearsome-looking weapon.  I must have been staring at it, for he glanced down and lowered his arm.
“Don’t worry yourself about the transducer,” he said. “I was just tinkering with it when you arrived, and it takes a while to unstrap it, don’t y’know? So, welcome to Backgammon Towers, my dear lady.”

His words were friendly enough, though it was difficult to read his expression, since the vast majority of his face was covered, either by his enormous moustache or by the huge monocle he wore.
I fixed my gaze on the remaining visible eye, smiled and bobbed my head slightly (should one curtsy to a lord?) and thanked him for his hospitality.

“Hmph, yes,” he responded gruffly.  “My housekeeper tells me that you’d probably like to be shown to your room so that you can tidy yourself.  Not that you appear at all untidy to me, let me add.  The ways of the fairer sex are something of a mystery to me.  After that I suppose you’d like to take some tea on the terrace?”

“That would be delightful,” I said, quite relieved to discover that he found our meeting at least as awkward as I did.

As soon as we’d finished an excellent pot of Earl Grey, Lord Horatio escorted me to ‘The Board’ – the area of his garden I was to be redesigning and planting for him.  It was a level area and had been well cleared, however I wasn’t sure how I would fit all the features he wanted into this small space.

“You mentioned a pond, your lordship…” I ventured.
“Yes. Doesn’t have to be large. Cleo positively thrives in small, cramped spaces. She’s currently housed in a large bottle. Be good for her to get some fresh air.”
“And Cleo would be the, ah, pet you mentioned in your letter?”
“That’s it. Highly intelligent, she is. Beautiful creature. Just needs a bit of room to stretch her tentacles once in a while.”
My next question died on my lips. I swallowed and nodded.
“Perhaps a little fountain or some such?” his lordship continued. “She’d enjoy that.”

I dutifully made notes. The orangery was to have stained glass panels. Flower beds in four sections. A gravelled path.
“Oh and some lawn!” Lord Horatio exclaimed enthusiastically. “You simply must come and see my lawnmower. One of my greatest inventions!”
I followed as he strode towards an enormous outbuilding.

“What do you think of that?” he demanded, his voice bursting with pride as he threw open the door.
“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed, as I stared at what appeared to be a fire-breathing, metal-clad dragon.
“All my own work!” declared his lordship. “Call him Galahad! Entirely run by clockwork, don’t y’know? The flames aren’t real, of course.  Just a bit of wimsy!  Blades are razor sharp, though.  My gardeners tell me the cut he gives is second to none.”
“Stunning,” I replied. “Quite splendid.”
“Jolly good,” he smiled (probably – it was hard to tell with the moustache). “I think we’ll make a fine team, my dear lady.”
“I think we will, your Lordship,” I said, bravely.

And, do you know, I really think we will!

Lord Backgammon’s garden is a work in progress.  However the 1:12 scale figures of his Lordship (pictured here) and the delightful Gertie will be on display on the Steampunk-Shrunk stall at the Craft and Vintage Fair in Glastonbury Town Hall, once a month.

Other Steampunk and Victorian themed figures, rooms and items can be found online at The Steampunk Dolls’ House or at Rune Smith of Glastonbury at 1 Monarch Way, just off Glastonbury High St.

 

 

 

Flying into the Sunset

Finally the day arrived!  My dear guardian, Uncle Razzy as I call him, has allowed us to celebrate our wedding in his glorious cliff-top mansion.   Not only that; he gave us two wonderful presents, both invented and built by himself.

He knows I’ve always loved the stars and planets, so he made us a clockwork orrery, encased in a glass dome.  He also knew that my dear husband (how strange it feels to use that word!) is fascinated by the idea of remote communication, so his second gift to us was a telephonic device – also clockwork, naturally – that will enable us to speak to him from anywhere in the world.  My Beloved insists that this is just the start and one day everyone will have one of these devices and be able to talk together from all corners of the earth.

I dare say you’re longing to see our wedding finery, so here’ is a picture of us about to enjoy a goblet of Uncle Razzy’s finest wine after the ceremony.

It was just at this point in the day that my Dearest drew me across to the window.  As you’ll see from the picture, I was too busy posing for the camera to notice what was approaching!

When I looked, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes!  The most beautiful airship you can imagine was coming closer and closer.  At first I simply thought it was a happy coincidence that the pilot should choose that very moment to fly past our window.  But no!   My wonderful husband assured me that we were due to embark on this exquisite vessel and fly off together into the sunset.  This was the honeymoon surprise he had been teasing me with over the past few weeks.

So we bade fond farewells to Uncle Razzy, my sister Grace, and all our other guests as we stepped into the ship and rose into the evening sky.

I am happier than I can possibly convey in words alone.  Wish us well on our adventure!

 

The Case of the Steampunk Wedding – containing the bride, groom, their gifts and other details – is currently on sale at Rune Smith of Glastonbury, as is another room from Professor Erazmus’ (Uncle Razzy’s) mansion.  Grace and many of the other wedding guests can be found at the Steampunk Dolls’ House

 

The Steampunk Bridegroom

I rather regret my – um – outburst now.  I confess I hadn’t realised the amount of work that goes into sewing a tailcoat – especially at 1/12 scale.  The seamstress grew quite angry.  She showed me the number of darts (never knew darts were used in sewing) and the intricacies of lining the tails and collar, and all with those huge clumsy fingers of hers.  I was anxious, though.  Only three days to the wedding, and there I was in my shirtsleeves, waving my watch at her and demanding that she finish the jacket quickly.  After all, she still had my hat and goggles to make.

Needn’t have worried, though. Everything was done in time and, I think you’ll agree,  the outfit does me justice.

Now I just have to finalise the arrangements for the honeymoon and all will be well.  My beautiful fiancée still has no idea where we will be going.  I’ve led her to suspect that we will be taking a journey on a steam locomotive, but my plan is that, as we celebrate with a goblet of wine after the ceremony, she will look out of the window and notice the airship approaching from over the sea.  I can’t wait to see the expression of amazement and delight on her pretty face as she realises that her dreams will come true and she will be sailing with me above the clouds.  Oh joy!

The Steampunk Bride

“We almost sold the engine room,”  announced the young man who runs one of the shops (the physical one) I supply, when I wandered in with some new stock last week.
“Came that close!” He squeezed his thumb and forefinger together.  “It was going to be a wedding present. They’re going to a steampunk wedding. They still might buy it, but then one of them said, ‘Oooh, I wonder if she could make a steampunk bride and groom…’.”
He looked at me quizzically.

“Maybe,” I said cautiously.  “I’ll give it some thought.”

I’d made a promise to myself when I started making the steampunk miniatures: NO COMMISSIONS.  I’d done them in the past and my vision rarely coincided with my clients’.  It often ended in tears.

This project was interesting, though.  The groom would obviously be in the usual smart dress suit with top hat and goggles.  I even had the ideal fabric – the remains of a black and gold jacquard scarf I’d found once in a charity shop.  It was dressing the bride, though, that intrigued me.  There were so many ways that could go…

I held out for at least two days, busying myself with the Garden of Ingenious and Mechanical Delights that is my pet long-term project.  Then I thought, ‘Well, if I just make a bride and groom and take them down to Rune Smith, it’s not exactly a commission.  The customers can decide whether they want to buy them, or go for the engine room.’

Bride first.

I trawled through steampunk websites and Pinterest for inspiration.  Would she be a cheery burlesque bride –  all thighs and cleavage?  A Victorian crinoline type with parasol and meringue skirt?  I didn’t fancy either much.  I wanted to do something new.

The fabric scraps box was upended and I picked out everything cream, ivory, coffee and toffee coloured.  The ribbon and lace boxes followed.  Then the leather offcuts box.  A plan was forming.  Steampunk is all about innovation, reusing and combining materials in unexpected ways, so that was what I would do.

First  lace-trimmed drawers and a cotton lawn petticoat, with gathered organza hem and a layer of coffee-coloured lace.  The skirt itself involved a solid day of handstitching all manner of fabric shapes and layers together – khaki drill, cream cotton lace, satin, ribbon, bias-cut pieces of handkerchief fabric and embroidery floss.  This was embellished with copper wire and (wince – hate it, but it had to be done) an assortment of watch cogs and fly wheels.  I always baulk at gratuitously applying machinery parts that have no function, but I had a feeling they’d be expected.

The bodice was a fragment of pale chamois leather, cut asymmetrically and laced at the front with gold thread.  The bouquet was a ribbon rose embellished with more cogs and wire, and I opted for a Game of Thrones type veil in bronze and blue organza with a simple wire and ribbon headdress.

I loved her.  I was exhausted.  But did she fit the brief?  Was she steampunk enough?

I decided to ask for some wisdom from a Facebook group I belong to – one specialising in making miniatures from everyday objects.  I posted a quick video of her and asked their opinions.  I’d purposely chosen this group, rather than one of the dedicated steampunk groups I belong to, to get a more ‘person-in-the-street’ opinion on what constituted steampunk.

The responses were many and various! Many iconised likes, loves and wows. The comments ranged from the singularly unhelpful ‘Dress her in black!!’, through ‘What IS steampunk?’ to one person who solicitously explained the difference between cogs and fly wheels as she thought I must be confused.  As I had hoped and expected, though, many of the kind and lovely people took time to suggest extras and modifications that would help me to fulfil the brief.

The veil – their collected wisdom told me – had to go.  The headdress had to include (oh shudder and groan at the dreary cliché!) a top hat, and possibly goggles.  The bouquet needed to be bigger and bolder, the bodice more decorated and – at her waist – either a pouch or (I loved this idea) a chatelaine.

So, having added several necklace chains worth of metalwork, a (heavily disguised) kid leather hat and gone along with the other ideas  – except the dratted goggles; I have my pride! – I reposted my altered little lady.

Unanimous praise – well almost.
‘I wish she had the glasses’  one of the goggles advocates wrote!

Well if that person is reading this, they might like to take a trip over to the Steampunk Doll’s House, where they will find many of my steampunk ladies and gentlemen sporting goggles in all shapes and styles.

Now I’m off to finish the groom.