Crispin and Crispian

As regular readers will know, we recently took ourselves off on a jaunt to the Shrewsbury Steampunk Spectacular.

Now Shrewsbury is a delightful town and, the weather being very pleasant, we spent the day after the Spectacular exploring its nooks and crannies.

Imagine our delight at discovering an ancient gateway which – in a surprising way – links two of our sales outlets together.

In a garden known as The Quarry, we found a gate with this sign.

On closer inspection, we noticed that the ironwork on the gate was decorated with the shapes of shoes.

By an amazing coincidence, as well as taking Steampunk-Shrunk stalls to Shrewsbury and other steampunk venues, we also trade from a shop called The Crispin Emporium, in the Somerset town of Street.  This town is the home of Clarks Shoes and the name Crispin pops up everywhere there.

Now it all made sense and we decided to commemorate the patron saints of shoemakers (who rather appropriately come as a pair!) in one of our miniature books, so that the good people of Street and visitors to the town can learn about Crispin and his brother.

For those of you who are interested, the text of the book appears below.

Crispin and Crispian

Allow me to introduce Crispin and his brother (or some say best friend) Crispian.  Whether you are a local or a visitor to the town of Street in Somerset, you will probably have noticed that the name Crispin abounds in the town.  There is a Crispin School, a Crispin Hall and of course the notable and quite excellent Crispin Emporium.  You may even have wondered why.

These gentlemen lived in Rome, in the 3rd century AD. They were Christians, which was not an entirely safe thing to be at that time.  Realising that they were likely to end up as a star attraction in the Colloseum, but not in a good way, they decided to flee the city and headed off to Gaul (modern day France).  Once there, they decided to preach to the locals.  Of course, they needed to sustain themselves, and hit upon the idea of making shoes by night in order to fund their daytime preaching. 

Now, perhaps, you are beginning to see why Crispin is connected to Street.  Let’s finish their story first, though.

Crispin and Crispian became highly successful  shoemakers.  They made enough money for their own food and lodging, and found they had a surplus, which they used to help the poor.

Soon word spread and increasing numbers of people came to listen to the Christian cobblers.  They finally came to the attention of the Roman governor of Gaul.  He had them thrown into a river, with millstones tied around their necks.

That would be enough to finish most people off, but our heroes miraculously survived. Sadly, the Emporor was not put off so easily.  He had them beheaded, which not even Crispin and Crispian could survive.  They became the patron saints of shoemakers and leatherworkers.

Of course, Street is  the home of Clarks shoes and has its own shoe museum. It is hardly surprising, then, that one of the brothers is commemorated in this town. 

St Crispin’s Day is 25th October, the day on which the Battle of Agincourt was fought.

Illustrated copies of the little book will soon be on sale at The Crispin Emporium, Street, Somerset, in our usual 12th scale.

 

 

 

A Flock of Clockwork Songbirds

This is a true story:

Many decades ago, a gentleman in England took the opportunity of purchasing the entire remaining stock of sets of clockwork parts for making automatons.  They had been manufactured back in the 1950s or 60s by a company in West Germany, for hobbyists to install into novelty cigar boxes.  As you opened the drawer to offer your guest a cigar, the bird on top would begin to trill merrily and to twist and twirl around.

One of the many boxes of clockwork parts

Such hobbycraft (and indeed cigar boxes generally) had lost their popularity by the time our gentleman procured the parts, in the early 1980s.  He had grand plans to sell them on for other purposes, such as creating novelty Easter eggs, Christmas decorations and the like.

Alas, his grand plans came to nothing.  The boxes of shiny brass and steel mechanisms, with their complicated cams, tiny brass swanee whistles and miniscule rubber bellows were relegated to his attic, where they lay forgotten for many more years until, after his demise, his widow decided she wanted a clear-out.

for bird automatonsBy now rust and verdigris coated the machines, many of the fragile plastic birds were chipped and the cardboard boxes they were kept in had been nibbled by many generations of mice.  It fell to the departed gentleman’s son to dispose of them, which he did by placing a small advert on a local noticeboard, where it was spotted by the eagle-eyed Mrs S.

Many were beyond repair, but others had stood the test of time.  Much cleaning and polishing ensued, along with long hours of experimentation to find ways of fitting the components together and allowing the birds to move and sing again.

Finally, some of the vintage automatons are working once more.  The birds (previously with rather grubby and unappealing red, white and blue painted plumage) have been given a steampunk makeover and fixed to some little boxes which rather neatly enclose the clockwork motors.  for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHousein steampunk plumageThere are still pieces of rust and  the contraptions need to be handled with care, but a precious few have been tested and are for sale in the Steampunk Dolls House, on Etsy, while others will be available on the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls this coming spring and summer, such as the Shrewsbury Steampunk Spectacular. (See home page for dates and details).

Do come and buy one of these fascinating little automatons and you will own a small piece of history.

 

 

Molly’s Literary Emporium

I’m told that today is World Book Day, and to me that sounds like quite the most wonderful type of day to have.

by herselfAs you may remember, books have long been a passion of mine, and as a very small girl, I was given my ideal job – sitting on Mrs S’s Steampunk-Shrunk stalls reading one of her miniature books.  She said I encouraged customers to do likewise.

Now I am older, though, I decided I wanted to open my own bookshop.  I put the idea to Mrs S and she thought about it.
“So yours would be a little ‘shop-in-shop’, Molly? Your emporium would sit in a corner of my stall and you could sell your books from there. Is that what you had in mind?”

“Yes,”  I said.  I’d like rows of bookshelves and a little table with a reading lamp and…”

“And I think that is all we would manage to fit into it, Molly,” she said, firmly.

I had been going to ask for one of those sliding ladders and some stained glass windows, but something in her face told me that I was lucky to be getting a shop at all, so I smiled politely and thanked her.

The outside viewNow it’s finished, I have to say I’m truly delighted with my Literary Emporium.  It’s been built in one of those storage boxes that are made to look like books.

Inside, though, it looks quite opulent, with a carved wood ceiling and a big mirror to reflect the flickering oil lamp, as well as all those shelves of books.  The inside viewThe picture here was taken before I’d finished stacking the shelves, but you’ll get the general idea.  Mrs S put one of her pencils up against the side of the shop, so that you can see the size of it.

She was so pleased with the result that she used a photo of it to sell copies of the books at her Etsy shop.  (If you click on one of these pictures, you should be whisked straight there.)

For me, though, The best part will be opening my shop in person at our next market stall.  You can see where that is on the HOME page of this website.

If you come along, I’ll be delighted to sell you a volume or two.  We even have some magnifying book-reading devices, for those of you who struggle with the print.

The Hybrid K Time Machine

Well Mrs S was somewhat displeased when her aged printer finally gave up the ghost.

Charles was delighted, though, and had soon extracted something called a circuit board from the defunct machine.

“Take a look, Henry,” he said. “Spiffing base for another time machine!”

I had to agree, so we have a new model incorporating this futuristic technology with good old steampunk tradition.

Instead of a steering column, there’s something called a control deck. It pulses with multicoloured lights, naturally, and has a clock and time warp repeat button. (Well, someone might understand why…)

I left Charles to fiddle with the pod things that power it, but I insisted on installing a traditional safety valve.

For the comfort of our customers, we added a padded velvet cushion and a steel luggage rack. There is also a handy claxon which sounds automatically to warn anyone in the vicinity when the vessel is due to stop.

Not our most aesthetically pleasing craft, perhaps, but an intriguing machine, nonetheless.

A Touch of Clarity at Steampunk-Shrunk

Charles lands at Steampunk TowersA new year dawns, marked here at Steampunk Towers by Charles’ jubilant arrival on January 1st in his velvet-seated time machine.  Considering the adventures he’s had, neither he nor the machine are looking in bad shape at all.  True, he’s been slightly pompous since someone commented that he looked ‘very timelordish’, but we can forgive him for that.

Anyhow, for those new to our site, or confused by recent changes, here are some notes on what exactly Steampunk-Shrunk is and how it trades.

Unique and Upcycled

Everything produced by Steampunk-Shrunk is a hand-made and one-of-a-kind (OOAK) creation.  Upcycling is very much part of our ethos.  It is a point of honour here to find novel new uses for plastic packaging, broken jewellery or watches and the kind of junk that lies about most homes and charity shops in forgotten boxes and shelves.  This tinkering and repurposing lies, after all, at the very heart of steampunk.

Selling Direct

Shrewsbury Christmas spectacular 2018Our favourite way of selling is through the Steampunk-Shrunk trading stalls.  These can be found at various steampunk fairs and conventions throughout the UK, at selected dollshouse and miniatures fairs and sometimes at craft and vintage fairs.  We love to be able to chat to customers, to allow them to pick up and examine our wares and see if they can read our tiny books.
The next fair we have booked is in Shrewsbury in March 2019, but all venues will be listed on the home page of this website and promoted on our Facebook page.

The Steampunk Dolls’ House

This is the international trading arm of our micro-business.  At the time of writing, we have around 35 lines for sale in this Etsy shop, which can be shipped around the world.  We try to provide plenty of photos and detailed descriptions, so that customers know what they are getting, and it’s very easy for them to ask questions or chat about items we are selling.   All our reviews so far have had five stars, which is hugely encouraging.  The link to the Etsy shop is here.

The Crispin Emporium

Street, SomersetOur latest sales venture is hiring a glass cabinet in a beautiful craft emporium in the Somerset town of Street.
Street is best known as the home of Clarks Shoes and the massive Clarks Shopping Village.
The emporium, upstairs in the newly refurbished Crispin Centre, supports and showcases local artists and craftspeople and provides a welcome change from the chain store outlets.  The building also houses a gorgeous florist shop, a very lovely cafe (Street Food!) and various meeting and event rooms.  It gets its name, incidentally, from St Crispin who – along with his brother St Crispian – is the patron saint of shoemaking.
If you are visiting Street this year, or nearby Wells or Glastonbury, do call in and take a look.  Here is a link to the emporium’s Facebook page, so you can check opening times etc.  The address is: 83 High Street, Street, Somerset, BA16 0EZ.

There is also a contact form on the home page of this website, if there are items you would like to know more about.

 

 

 

Topping Toppers

The steampunk hat is a wonder to behold.

The ingenuity and range of adornments to bowlers and toppers at any steampunk gathering is stunning.

Mine tend to be diminutive.

However customers often arrive at my stall searching for items to add to their own headgear. Imagine my delight when I recently met a lady and gentleman whose top hats were decorated with some Steampunk-Shrunk gizmos!

I was happier still when they purchased more. Perhaps at a future venue, I’ll see those in place on the Inventors’ Hats they are creating.

As for me, I’m rather fond of my brown bowler.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Through the Looking-Glass, and how Alice got there

Something a little different today: a glimpse into the creative process that went into one of our models.

First there was the box…
…which, after a bit of rearranging, became a double room.
I decided to send Alice through the looking glass, but this was the only girl doll I could find.
So she needed a makeover…
This is as close as I could get to Tenniel’s original illustrations.
I knew the bits of foam packaging from a set of roller blinds would come in handy sometime.
With a few sawn up oak twigs and a battery tea light, Alice soon had fireplaces.
Some card and lace trim made the mantlepieces. Time-consuming to make two of everything!
The clocks had to look the same from the back, of course…
… but quite different from the front. Everything was true to Lewis Carroll’s text and John Tenniel’s pictures.
I used polymer clay and jewellery findings for the fire irons. The white knight needs to slide down the poker.
Imagine how long it took to set up and glue down the pieces. White is about to catch Alice in fool’s mate.
In Looking-Glass House, though, the pieces are wandering two by two around the fireplace. A bishop is sitting on a log, reading a broadsheet…
… and a white pawn called Lily has fallen over on the table and is screaming for her mother.
A shadowy Alice can be seen climbing through the mirror from the completed drawing room…
… and emerging in Looking -Glass House.
Of course both rooms fit neatly into the box to make a perfect little set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Alice and the room box set are for sale in our Etsy shop – The SteampunkDollsHouse.  Follow the links to take a look at them.

 

 

On the road again

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.

So on September 16th, we and our gizmos, gadgets and other wonders will be on display at The Steampunk Essextraordinaire VI in the splendidly named Museum of Power.

Do come and join us if you are in that part of the world.Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text