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.

The Case of the Missing Chapter

It all started with The Case.

You see I make mysterious 1/12 scale room settings in little cardboard carry cases and I had decided to turn one of them into a library.  A friend suggested it should be called The Case of the Missing Chapter, so I set to work writing a very small book, with a chapter missing.

I’ve never liked dolls’ house books with no writing.  They make me feel cheated.  Consequently my books are written in a very small font, but they would make perfect sense if you could read them!

This book, I decided, needed to have a story that started one way and ended somewhere very different because of a surprising plot development in Chapter Four.  However this vital section would be missing, so the mystery would be to work out what had happened in the main character’s life to change things so completely.

How could anyone know this, when the text is too small to read without a good magnifying glass?  Obviously, people need to follow this blog, where the whole test will be printed!

At last the room box, along with various books including the mystery volume, was complete and available for purchase.  Please use the contact form below if you would like more details.

The thing is, I became caught up in the mystery I’d created.  Yes, it started as a prop for the library, but it got under my skin.  I kept thinking about the main character, wondering why the Peacock Affair had affected him so deeply, wondering what part his clever and ingenious wife had played, wondering whether the balloon flight had taken place and – if so – just how it had affected him…  Most of all, I wondered how such a sad, downtrodden character could turn – in the space of one chapter – into a most remarkable hero.  Finally I realised that this storybook character had developed a life of his own; he had to be created!

I searched in my stock box for the most insignificant and unhappy-looking male doll I could find.  Here he was.  It would take all my skill to transform this sad little man into someone splendid, but I love a challenge!

The first job was to make a wig and add some appropriate facial hair.  Now that rather weak mouth was hidden beneath a bristling moustache and the eyes defined by bushy brows, I could see a new determination begin to take hold in his features.

Next a smart uniform, befitting his new status.  Why, he positively swaggered as I pinned that medal to his chest!

Of course he wasn’t finished yet.  A few more items were needed, but I don’t want to give all his secrets away just yet.

Who was he?

What did he become?

To find out, you’ll have to read the next post, where you can read the text of the book that started this character off.

If you would like to find out more about the Steampunk – Shrunk characters, room cases and other items, follow this link to my son’s online shop, where many of the characters are available for sale worldwide: www.etsy.com/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse

Alternatively, fill in the contact form below and we’ll get back to you with any details you request.

 

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.

 

 

 

Heart of Glass – Part 2

Hello.  It is me, Bjørn again.  I was telling you in the previous post how my life was saved by Dr Oskar Kopp and how I started to work as his assistant, while secretly wishing to study and become a great man like the Doctor himself.

One day I was brave enough to tell him of my dreams.  He sat silent for some time and then a strange expression crossed his face.
“Bjørn, my boy,” he said, slowly, “you have not the heart, or the brain, for greatness.  To do work like mine you need a strong, strong heart.  You need a keen, keen brain.  You are a good boy, but alas, you have neither… as things stand.”

Those last three words hung in the air, as if they held a promise.

“If you ver villing, though, zis could be altered.  Wat if I ver to offer you a new heart and a new brain?  You have seen ze marvels I can do.  It would be ze most glorious experiment, in ze name of Science!  If you ver villing, you could become a showcase of mein art!  Your mechanised brain and heart on display for all to see ze vunders of ze clockverk body.  You could achieve anything once zese adjustments had been made.  You’d be as great as me.  Maybe greater…”

Eagerly I agreed.  My weak heart, which had almost killed me once, would be replaced with a dependable clockwork mechanism, encased in a glass dome, so that all could wonder at its strength, and at my master’s skill.  I would be a walking advertisement for his abilities.  He explained less about the alterations to my brain, but I was led to understand that my ability to learn, to reason and to imagine would be considerably enhanced.

With a delicious sense of anticipation, I lay on the slab, allowed him to cover my face with a cloth soaked in some sleep-inducing substance  – and later awoke as you see me now.

Certainly now my mind and heart are stronger, keener than they were.  I can work harder, faster, better and I hold information and make deductions at lightning speed.  All this, the Doctor expected.  Perhaps he feared it slightly.  Yet he found a way to maintain his dominance.

Clockwork must be wound.  Each day my heart must be wound up or I will cease to function.  The winding mechanism has been set into the centre of my back – where only he can reach it.  In this way,  he ensures that I remain his servant.

Oh yes!  I can’t blame him.  He could not risk creating a monster who would overpower him.  Each day I must stand meekly before him while he winds, and winds, and chuckles gently to himself.

I am grateful to Doctor Kopp.  Yet I must think of myself too.  Am I destined to be subservient to him for the rest of my life?  Also, he is an old man.  Who will wind my heart when he is gone?  I must make plans.

It is indeed fortunate that in my ‘adjusted’ state, I no longer require sleep.  That secret room, the alchemist’s study, with its ancient spell book and equipment is my domain while he sleeps.  There are spells in the grimoire he has barely glanced at – spells that could create my freedom…

Bjørn, Dr Kopp and the Alchemist’s Study have now left the Steampunk Dolls’ House and moved on to a new home.  However there are many other figures still available there and at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

Here are the links:  Steampunk Dolls House online Etsy shop

Rune Smith of Glastonbury

 

Heart of Glass – Part 1

Steampunk Anomaly 'Bjorn the Heart of Glass' Dollshouse Scale 1/12thI am Bjørn.  People call me Heart of Glass.  People pity me.  Or they are fearful.  Or disgusted.  A few show curiosity tinged with admiration.
“How does it feel,” they ask, “to be part man, part machine?  Do you have feelings?  Do you hate your employer for what he has done to you?  Do you seek revenge?  But then, do you have powers and skills the rest of us lack?  Is it glorious to become part machine?”
So the questions go on, and I am grateful to the enquirers. They are better than the ones who simply shudder and turn away, shaking their heads.

Let me tell you the story – my story – from the start.

Fire, Steamboat, Stoker, Boiler RoomI encountered Doctor Kopp when he saved my life.  I was a boiler-man on an icebreaker in the Northern seas.  For long, long shifts I shovelled coal into the great, ravenous furnace that powered the ship.  The owners worked me hard and my body – always thin and long and rather weak – was close to breaking point.

This day I was shovelling, then there was blackness and the next thing I knew was the Doctor bending over me anxiously, pushing up and down on my chest and giving a triumphant cry of “Ja!” as I blearily looked up at him.

It seemed I’d lost consciousness.  The chief stoker had run onto the deck and asked if there was a doctor amongst the passengers.  Doctor Kopp had rushed to my aid.  He tells me that without his intervention, I would have died then and there.

They wanted to put me back to work, but the good Doctor insisted I was to be allowed to rest for some days, until he pronounced me fit to work.  He had my meagre possessions moved to his cabin from my hammock in the engine room.  He cared for me, fed me and mixed potions to strengthen my body.

Dr Oskar Kopp

Soon I began to feel better, but still he would not let me return to work.
“Your heart, my boy!” he would exclaim. “It is sickly. It is not fitted for zis verk. Leave zis ship. I vill give you verk. You vill be mein assistant! You vill say yes!”

I did say yes.  Of course I did.  I had the chance to stop shovelling coal into that great gaping hell hole of a furnace; to become assistant to an eminent doctor.  I owed this man my life, and now he was offering me the opportunity to work with him.  Maybe I could learn from him, study hard, gain qualifications…  I could not express my gratitude and delight.

So when the ship docked at Newcastle, I left beside the doctor and travelled with him to his laboratory.

My jobs were menial, it’s true.  I cleaned his equipment, ran errands, acted as receptionist for his patients.  All this I did without complaint.  Also I saw the amazing work he did – creating mechanical limbs, weapons that were grafted onto the very bodies of their operators, even clockwork mechanisms to regulate irregular hearts.  The man was a genius!  Also I occasionally glimpsed the work he did in his private study after dark – the alchemy from that ancient grimoire, but this he tried to hide from me.

Ah!  But now I must stop!  The Doctor has retired to bed.  I have no need of sleep.  I too have secret work to do at night, so excuse me now.  I will continue my story soon.

 

Bjørn, Dr Kopp and the Alchemist’s Study have now left the Steampunk Dolls’House and moved on to a new home.  However there are many other figures still available there and at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

Here are the links:  Steampunk Dolls House online Etsy shop

Rune Smith of Glastonbury

 

 

 

 

 

 

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