Lets do the time warp again…

“It’s been a while,” Henry told me, wistfully, “since I went time travelling.  Any chance you could help me out with a new machine?”

“Fine,” I said.  “As long as you can source all the components from our junk box.”

“My pleasure, Madame,” he beamed, and headed off to rummage through the collection.

Putting components together is never easy.

An hour or so later he was back with a particularly ugly little bamboo chair, a couple of clarinet keys, a light-up Christmas badge, an empty ribbon reel, the inside of a sewing thread spool, a clip from the old shower curtain, a few beads, promisingly-shaped wires and springs and a plastic robot arm.

“Hmm,” I said.  “Interesting.  How are you going to power it?”

” ‘If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,’ as my dear old friend Nick used to say.  That circuit in the badge is at a perfect frequency and has plenty of energy stored in its batteries.  As for the vibration, just take a look at these springs and the switch on that clarinet key.  Try twanging it!”

I did.  It made a rather pleasant Jew’s harp sound and vibrated beautifully.

Henry's time machine from Steampunk-Shrunk
Henry had it fired up in no time.

“Okay Henry.  You get the circuits sorted and I’ll get to work with some paint and copper tape,” I told him.

Before long the machine was finished.  Certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing of objects, but when he sat in the seat, Henry had foot pedals that could be calibrated to the target date and time, a copper steering column, a strange silvery sphereoid that did goodness-knows-what, but seemed very important, along with a clock and altimeter.

“Dear Madame, if you would be good enough to give the temporal booster rocket a turn and then ping that little lever you liked so much, I’ll give it a spin,” Henry smiled.

Available at Steampunk-Shrunk stalls
Ready to go.

“Don’t forget to put your goggles on, I told him.  And make sure you’re back in time for the trip to Shrewsbury.”

“It’s a TIME machine, Madame!” he chided.  “I can be back at whatever time I choose!”

“Yes, I know that, but – just be careful, Henry.  You know how, um, adventurous you can be.”

Henry waved his cap to me and then, as I started the contraption’s rocket up and watched the blue and red sparks firing away inside it, he focused all his attention on that strange silver ball.

a blank

“Henry, how are you going to start it up by yourself when you want to come back…?” I was asking.

But I was all alone.

He still isn’t back.

I just hope he’ll make it by the time of the Shrewsbury Christmas Steampunk Spectacular,  Knowing Henry, he’ll be there with seconds to spare.

If you’d like to take a look at the machine, or even contemplate buying it, do come and join us at the market in St Mary’s Church on December 1st and 2nd 2018.

 

A Touch of Fortune

So here’s the thing.

A week or two before I was due to move from my temporary lodging back to Glastonbury, I sold the Fortune Teller’s Table.  It sold to a customer in New York.  I had a million things to do, so I raced down to the post office first thing, sent it off tracked and signed for, as usual, pocketed the receipt and went off to get on with some of those jobs.

You’ve guessed, haven’t you?  When I came to mark the item sent on my Etsy site, the receipt – with that all-important tracking number – had vanished.  I turned out my bag, all pockets and looked inside anything I’d used that day, but it was nowhere to be seen.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “Let’s just hope the parcel doesn’t go missing.”

The day I moved – while I was actually on the journey, in fact  – a message came through from the buyer.  Where was the table?  Why hadn’t I sent the tracking number?  It hadn’t turned up.

I went cold and clammy all over.  Never before had a parcel been lost in the post, so why this one?  All those lovely five star reviews would be worth nothing if just one customer posted a rant about what a careless and unreliable supplier I was.

I came clean, apologised profusely and asked her to wait another week, just in case it was languishing in customs.  After that, I promised, I’d either send her a full refund or attempt to make a close copy as a replacement.  ‘OK,’ she agreed – one week, and she’d prefer to have a replacement to a refund.

SteampunkDollsHouse on EtsySo, with suitcases and packing boxes still unopened, I hunted through my 12th scale furniture stash and – I could hardly believe my luck – found an identical sized desk.  It was brown, rather than black and, unlike its predecessor, it still had some drawers.  Over the following days I studied the photos and worked to reproduce the dowsing pendulum, the tiny pack of cards, the candle, dream divination book, aged scrolls, tray of crystals and fortune telling boards.

It was nearing completion, when another message from the customer arrived.  “It’s here!” she said.  “I haven’t even opened it yet, but it was delivered today!”

Phew.

So I looked at the replica I’d been working on, decided the table top didn’t look mysterious enough, and covered it with a deep blue velvet cloth.  And now, there is another Fortune Teller’s Table for sale in my Etsy shop.

You can take a look at it by clicking this link.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Steam Birds to you and me

Silver-bellied lesser-hatted shriek in a 2cm glass dome.
www.steampunk-shrunk 
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #bird #miniature #modelling“Ornithological taxi-chrono-polymy.”

Henry stared blankly at Charles.  “You lost me somewhere around the taxi,” he admitted.

Charles grinned.  “So you understood the ornithological part?”

“Yes – birds, and I can SEE they are birds of various kinds.  Nicely mounted, too. I like the glass cases. Kindly explain the rest of the title.”

Taxi- means to organise or put in order,” Charles responded. “You are familiar with taxidermy, no doubt?”

“Obviously – stuffed animals and such,” huffed Henry.
Another of the miniature birds
www.steampunk-shrunk 
#steampunkshrunk #modelling #miniatures #bird

“So taxidermy is, etymologically speaking, the art of organising a deceased creature’s skin (that’s the dermy part) to make it look lifelike by – yes – stuffing it carefully, adding glass eyes and whatnot.  Well I haven’t used the skins of dead birds for my process.  I’ve used watch parts, which is the chrono, and a substance known as polymer clay, which you brought back from one of your time-travel excursions to the twentieth century.  I decided polymy would be a suitable term for that. Simple really.”

“Hmm, if you happen to have eaten a dictionary,” observed Henry. “It doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue, though, does it?  Surely you need a simpler name if you’re planning to market these handsome creatures.  Steam Birds, for instance.”

“STEAM birds?” spluttered Charles. “Where the devil is the logic in that? They don’t relate to steam in any way.  They merely sit in their cases and look decorative.”

Last of the birds for now.
www.steampunk-shrunk.com
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #bird #miniaturesHenry paused for a moment, looking pensive. Then a large smile crossed his face.
“Yes,” he said, firmly. “It stands for Small Technical Experimental Avian Models.  Avian refers to birds, Charles, as I’m sure you know.”

Charles regarded him for a moment, then erupted into peals of laughter.
“Touché, old chap!  Most ingenious!  Very well, then – STEAM Birds they will be.”

The crested red-backed cogfinch.
www.steampunk-shrunk
#steampunkshrunk #modelling #miniatures #steampunk #birdIf you are planning to visit any of our forthcoming Steampunk-Shrunk sales (see home page for details) in the next few months, you will be able to see and perhaps buy one of Charles’ ingenious little birds, such as the Crested Red-backed Cogfinch shown here.

 

Steampunk Christmas?

The two terms don’t sit particularly comfortably together, I feel.  As I pondered the possibility of adding seasonal items to Steampunk-Shrunk’s stock for the upcoming Christmas sales, images of rusty Santas and welded junk Christmas trees felt less than inspiring.

I’d more or less given up, when I opened a draw and found some of these little creatures, bought in last year’s January sales, peering hopefully up at me.

There was already a box of vintage watch parts sitting on the desk, and the two seemed to fit together perfectly.

So now there are some steampunked reindeer, some with tiny cogs for eyes, while others have real (industrial grade) rubies – Rudolph the red-eyed reindeer?

By now some modicum of Christmas spirit was seeping into my veins and I started hunting around the studio for other items that could be combined to create something festive.
“How would one decorate a steampunk Christmas tree?” I asked myself.
Idly I began twisting wire around needles to form coils and threading them with whatever came to hand – vintage beads from an old necklace, cog wheels and watch parts, bells, charms and even miniature teapots. The copper coils were bent and twisted at crazy angles and the weird, dangling objects that emerged were hung from lengths of ribbon.

Who can say whether others will share my concept of a steampunk Christmas?  Time will tell.

These One Of A Kind oddities will be on display at the two December stalls where Steampunk-Shrunk is exhibiting.  See home page on this site for details of dates, times and venues.

Autolycus

Sometimes we like to push ourselves a bit – yes?

I fell in love with this image on Instagram and decided to try and make something similar at 1/12 scale... I had these cheap old prams kicking around, so they were the starting point. 
www.steampunk-shrunk.com 
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingSo I was staring at this gorgeous picture on Instagram – yes, this one here – and thinking how much I’d like to create something like it.  Now I don’t have a soldering iron or any other metal-working skills or equipment.  My woodworking ability stops at cutting up coffee stirrers and lolly sticks with a junior hacksaw.  In fact, I’m strictly a glue-and-cardboard person if I need to make anything rigid.  It didn’t look particularly hopeful.

Then I remembered that I had a couple of cheap 1:12 scale metal prams.  I put them next to the photo and decided the larger one might just work.  Well, it was worth a try.

First part mounted on the chassis. 
www.steampunk-shrunk.com
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingFirst there was much measuring, pattern cutting and trial and error with some nice brown card I had lying about.  Next each piece was lined with card-backed fabric in a subdued floral pattern and the centre part of the body was glued in place.  It looked roughly the right shape.

Putting together the dashboard, steering wheel and brake was easy, as was the little padded leather seat.  My horseless carriage was coming together.

If it was going to be horseless, it needed an alternative power source.  Steam – obviously.  I cobbled together a little steam engine to go on the front and used a drinking straw covered in copper tape for the funnel.

The basic bodywork in place (cardboard with several coats of clear gloss varnish)
www.steampunk-shrunk.com 
#steampunkshrunk #steampunk #miniatures #modellingIt was at around this point that the vehicle’s name came to me.  In Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, there’s a character called Autolycus.  He describes himself as ‘A snapper-up of unconsidered trifles’ and that is exactly what this vehicle was becoming.  A spring from a ballpoint pen, the stick from a cotton bud, several small rubber washers, along with beads, chains, charms and jump rings from my junk jewellery collection all went into it.  So The Autolycus it would be.

The boot was turned into a strong box, with tiny nail art crystals for the rivets.  The windows were cut from clear acrylic packaging and set into suede strip seals.

Finally – and very nervously – I put the whole body together.  A couple of coats of clear gloss acrylic varnish gave it look not too unlike polished wood, and strips of leather thong worked well for trims.  The roof frame was – obviously – made from coffee stirrers!  The door was attached with a strip of cotton tape and some faux hinges made of beads stuck to the outside.  More beads and some earring wires made a pair of suitably ancient-looking lamps and at last The Autolycus was finished.

Obviously it lacks the beautiful clean lines of the vehicle that inspired it, but I’m not unhappy with the overall result and I’m sure the ladies and gents at Steampunk-Shrunk will be rather interested in this strange vehicle, despite the fact that it’s the steampunk equivalent of a smart car and only the skinniest and most agile contortionist would be able to get inside and steer the thing. No automatic alt text available.

 

The Autolycus will be on display at various Steampunk days and miniature fairs in the New Year.  Check the home page on this site for details of dates and venues.

 

 

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.

 

A New Chapter

Well no, nobody took up the challenge of writing that missing chapter, So I suppose it will be forever lost.

Moving on, though… The library which inspired the whole story in the first place is about to undergo a complete transformation.

For some weeks now, it has been in the possession of its new custodian.  She loves it, but announced that it needed some figures.  What good is a library, after all, without any readers?  Consequently I was commissioned to create two new characters, from the late Victorian or Edwardian era.  As we chatted through the sort of people she’d like, a story began to emerge.  No surprise there; this lady is a consummate storyteller.

Planning  to attend a demonstration for women's rights

I was asked to make one a female academic.  That suited me perfectly.  I’d been longing to create Olivia Libris, the renowned author.

 

“And the second one?” I asked.  “Male or female?”

“Female,” she decided.  “She’s a suffragette.  Let’s make the library a celebration of women’s education and emancipation.  Could you make a suffragist newspaper to put on one of the chairs?”

So here they are – Olivia and her young friend Philippa, who is based on one of my heroines, the educational pioneer Philippa Fawcett.  (I did my teacher training at the college named after her in London.)

preparing to visit the library

Both are gloriously free of corsets and have removable ‘Votes for Women’ sashes.  The newspaper and a reprinted poster from the time complete the set. 

Tomorrow they will be off to take up residence in the library, unless they have a demonstration planned, of course.

I so enjoyed recreating a couple of these courageous women.  We have so much to thank them for.

The Vital Chapter – Missing!

The case of the missing chapterThere is a mystery in the library: The Case of the Missing Chapter.

As you may recall from Chapter 3, Josephine had secretly summoned Harvey, her ailing husband’s younger brother, from his enterprise in the Congo.  Her hope was that he would be able to lift Algernon’s spirits.

Certainly something of note happened during Harvey’s visit – but what?

The pages have been carefully removedAlas, dear reader, you will have to make up your own mind on this subject, since a person or persons unknown have neatly removed this vital chapter from the book.   If you head over to my Facebook page, you will be able to scroll down to a brief video of the library.  Perhaps you may spot a clue or two… 

When you encounter Algernon in Chapter 5 (which, thankfully, remains intact) you will discover the most profound changes in his fortunes and – indeed – those of the entire city of London.

 

If you are left pining for some enjoyable reading material, as a result of this sorry state of affairs, may I perhaps point you in the direction of the July edition of a periodical by the name of Dolls House and Miniatures Scene?  On page 22 of this magazine, you will find an article about this very blog, penned by my own stained and glue-coated hands, which may be of passing interest.