Book of Spells

“Gracious Heavens!” exclaimed Ava Brassfeather, as she peered from the window of one of Steampunk-Shrunk’s gothic towers.
“Hush, she might hear you, my dear,” hissed Penelope. “She’ll probably put a curse on you, or whatever her sort get up to.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Ava, but in a slightly lower tone.

The object of attention was one Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane, the latest – um – companion of the apothecary.   Regular readers may recall the distrust with which our little league of ladies and gentlemen have always regarded the proprietor of The Dodgy Pharmacy, as it is know in these parts.  Since the arrival of his new friend, though, things have taken a definite turn for the worse.

Ava had spotted this woman skulking around the shrubbery far below, gathering plant and insect specimens into dusty jars and pursuing some poor creature or other through the undergrowth with a dagger.  There appeared to be a rather sulky yellowish mist surrounding her.  It was all most unbecoming.

“I’d just persuaded that chap to begin stocking some useful items in his shop,” Hugo told us.  “He’s doing spare parts for mechanical arms, steam engine oil, time traveller pills oh, and some rather fine powder that improves one’s hearing quite astonishingly.”
“Beg your pardon?” said Henry.

But there was barely a smile. No one was in the mood for Henry’s humour. It was as if Mistress Fleabane’s unsavoury yellow fog had settled over everyone.

At that very moment, the door of the tower room creaked open and the crone herself stood before us.  She held out an aged and yellowing tome.

“I’s done yer a book,” she croaked, proudly.  “All writ in me own fair ‘and, it is, with a bit of assistance from me dear friend the apothecary, as he’s so good with ‘is grammar.  It’s SPELLS!”  This last word was issued like a challenge and she fixed her beady little eyes on each of us in turn, daring anyone to object.

“Well how lovely,” cooed Penelope, with impressive presence of mind.  “Thank you so much, Miss, er, Mistress Fleabane.”

Hugo strode forward and took the volume from her hand.  If he was scared that it might explode on impact, he showed no sign of it, although we noticed that he used his mechanical hand to take it.

A long and awkward silence followed.

“Well then,” the woman said at length, “I’d best be gettin’ back to them bats.  Got loads to de-wing before midnight.  I’ll bid you good day.”  And she left as suddenly as she had arrived.

A collective shudder travelled around the room but in spite of our trepidations, we were all keen to read the spells in her book.

Here is what we read:

BOOK OF SPELLS

SPELL TO VIEW PHANTASMS from other dimensions

Hold a holographic mirror before your face and turn towards the direction from which you suspect the creature to be approaching.  NB: This can normally be ascertained by sounds or odours emanating from the beast.

Stamp your left foot upon the ground three times and say,  “Reveal thyself, foul being,” loudly and clearly.

A clear image of the phantasm should become visible in the glass.

You would be wise to hold some means of self defence in your other hand, with which to protect yourself if the being should be of an aggressive nature.  However you will now know exactly what manner of creature you are dealing with.

SPELL TO PROTECT THE TRAVELLER FROM TIME SICKNESS 

When engaging in temporal voyages, the time traveller will often experience unpleasant side effects and become disorientated.  Protect yourself with this spell.

The night before the journey, which should preferably be whilst the moon is waning, smear a generous quantity of octopus slime (available from all reputable apothecaries) over your head, paying particular attention to the area behind and beneath the ears, and recite this chant whilst drinking a strong cup of tea:

“May the e’er-moving oceans instill into me, their calmness in motion as I sup this tea.”

This should enable you to enjoy your time-travelling.

SPELL TO ASSIST THE USER IN MAINTAINING BALANCE AND POISE (particularly useful before a tea duel)

Prepare a concoction composed of equal parts brain juice and broomstick fleas.  Spread it over the part of parts of the body in which you wish the balance to be most evident.  If this is legs and feet, perform the ceremony standing on one leg.  If it is hands and arms hold a moderately heavy object in one hand and attempt to keep it as still as possible.  

Repeat the words, “By brain and broom balanced be,” three times.

You should notice a definite improvement as you speak these words for the final time.

SPELL TO INCREASE STRENGTH AND VITALITY

This spell is best performed in an extremely hot and steamy envirnment, such as an engine room or in the vicinity of any steam-powered contraption.  Light a red candle and place it on the ground.  Allow it to burn while performing the spell.  Remove any particularly restricting or flammable items of clothing (allowing modesty to be your ultimate arbiter when making choices), run in a circle around the candle seven times and then leap over the flame, repeating the words:

“_____________ (insert name) be nimble,  _____________ (insert name) be quick,  _____________ (insert name) jump over the candlestick.”

This may be redolent of a child’s rhyme, but it is in fact a powerful charm which, when used in the manner described imbues the individual with extreme power and fortitude and allows him (or her) to indulge in such onerous and exhausting tasks as are deemed necessary for life.

Ensure that any resultant burning or smouldering garments or soft furnishings are extinguished without delay.

SPELL TO ENCOURAGE GROWTH OF FACIAL HAIR

Should any gentleman feel himself to be lacking a full and lustrous beard, extravagantly bushy side burns or an elegantly waxed moustache, he is advised to perform the following spell:  Vigortously rub a mixture of steam engine oil and tarantula hair (both freely available from reputable apothecaries’ stores) into the requisite area of the face while repeating the words:

“Grow, you fine whiskery protuberances, grow!”

Repeat as required over the next several days.  

Please note: It is not advisable for ladies to use this spell unless they wish to undertake a career in a travelling show or circus.

 

We stared at one another in total astonishment.

“Steampunk witchcraft?” muttered Henry.  “Didn’t know that was a thing.”
“More like a thinly veiled advertisement for the items in their shop,” snorted Hugo.

However many hands thumbed those pages throughout the following days….

Should you wish to procure a copy of this volume, a downloadable version is available from the SteampunkDollsHouse

 

 

Grimoires

Mrs S is away from home at the moment. Leaving Steampunk-Shrunk Towers in the capable hands of Charles and Henry, she has traversed the country once again and is sojourning in the sweltering East.

To keep her occupied in spare moments, she has taken a sheaf of printed covers and pages to construct a plentiful supply of Grimoires – enough to tide us through the plethora of Steampunk-Shrunk stalls coming up this autumn and to cover the inevitable rise in demand at the SteampunkDollsHouse shop around Halloween.

Cutting and glueing the spell books together is the easy part. Each page then needs to be ‘distressed’ to give the appearance of great age.

This is a time-consuming process involving a variety of substances and techniques. Grimoires, after all, must expect to be exposed to all manner of strange environments and materials over the centuries.

Once suitably ancient in appearance, each little volume will be offered for sale. No two are completely alike.

As for the spells, charms and advice hidden within their pages – customers should take these with a large pinch of salt (along with essence of bat wing, scale of newt and a sprinkling of items digg’d in the dark).

Credit must be given to Betsy at www.etsy.com/shop/chocolaterabbit for the excellent covers and illustrations.

Keeping Close

As regular readers will know, Mrs S has this unfortunate habit of stuffing us all into suitcases from time to time and heading off across the country to run Steampunk-Shrunk stalls in far flung places.  We are jolted on and off trains, up and down escalators and thrown into luggage holds on coaches and it is far from pleasant.

Henry about to set off in the clockwork time machine

“Well,” she says, a trifle testily, “If Henry and Charles would focus their excellent minds on creating space machines instead of time machines, perhaps they would contrive some sort of mechanism to move us smoothly and effortlessly across the land.  Until then, we are all stuck with our present modes of transportation.”

However she has agreed to work locally for a few months, and we are delighted to say that all our forthcoming sales are based within our beautiful county of Somerset.  (Check the home page for dates and venues.)  And of course we still have our delightful outpost at The Crispin Emporium in Street.

A rare shot of Dr Thrustington without his shades.

Last Saturday, we had a gentle, ten minute stroll in the sunshine to the Glastonbury Craft and Vintage Fair.  Such a delight!

We watched with rather mixed feelings as the beautiful Store of Strangeness was carried away to a new home, but imagine our delight when the purchaser returned a while later to collect Doctor Harbottle Thrustington to be the shop’s manager.  He doesn’t give much away behind those reflective glasses, but we could tell he was delighted at the prospect.  He was still more pleased when this charming customer decided to take Molly Forsey along to be his companion.  We think they make the perfect couple and wish them well in their new home.

As for the rest of us, we have a few weeks to breathe before heading for a touch of sea air at a Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair in Weston-super-Mare next month.  We hope to see some of you there.

Meanwhile, there is still the Etsy shop, for those who live further away.

The Clock Case Begins…

“Pa!” yelled young Jasper Coggleford, racing into the workshop and almost tripping on his apron in his haste.  “You have to come and see our new project.  It’s huge!”
Jeremiah, the senior partner of Coggleford & Son, Purveyors of Fine Furniture to the Gentry, smiled.  “Not another dresser, is it?  If so, we need to build up your muscles if you’re to help me move it.”
“No, Pa, much bigger than that.  Just come and see.”

Jasper led his father to the largest room in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers.

I should explain here that all but one of the inhabitants of this residence are at one twelfth the size of you or I.  This is due to a space-time anomaly caused by a time machine malfunction which I don’t have the energy to go into right now.

Only Mrs S, the owner of said residence, is what we would consider normal sized.  It was she who had acquired the object that had so excited Jasper’s imagination.

“Gracious heavens!” cried Jeremiah, as he surveyed the edifice that stood before them.
It was a vintage clock case, now empty except for some curious markings on the back wall and a small spring protruding from one side. The internal space was more than a foot tall, although quite narrow.

“Told you it was big, Pa,” Jasper declared, quite unnecessarily. “Mrs S says we can make what we like with it, once we’ve cleaned it up and restored it. She says her son and his partner found it for a fiver in an antique shop. They thought it would interest us.”

Jeremiah scratched his head. “We’re furniture restorers, lad, not house builders. Don’t you think it’s rather a lot for us to take on?”
“‘Course not, Pa,” grinned the boy. “If we put in a new ceiling and a ladder, we can have a room with an attic above it. I’m sure Mister Charles and Mister Henry will lend a hand.”

“Well, I suppose they would,” Coggleford Senior agreed slowly.

He continued with his careful inspection of the clock case.
“The structure is sound, and the woodwork will come up lovely with a bit of attention. Just look at those pillars – real beauties.”
“I knew you’d love it Pa,” laughed the boy. “Shall we get started?”
“I think we’d better, son. This is going to be a long job.”

And so the clock case restoration begins.

Jeremiah Coggleford & Son – Purveyors of Fine Furniture to the Gentry

“You’re somewhat younger than I expected, Mr Coggleford, if you don’t mind me saying,” announced Mrs S when we finally met.  “Are you father or son?”
I assured her that I was Coggleford senior.
“Then what age is your son?” she asked.
I smiled. “Jasper is still a boy, Madam, but he’s a hard little worker and a quick learner. I’m training him up and he’s so set on following in my footsteps that I decided to make him my business partner when he was eight.”
She was quiet for a moment.  “And so now he is…?”
I took a breath.  “He’s ten, Ma’am.”

I could understand her concern.  She’d told me she had a large consignment of furniture, all of which needed renovation.  She’d clearly been expecting a two-man team.

“Very well,” she said at length.  “I’ll give you a chance.  There’s a broken cabinet amongst the pieces I have.  If you and your child can make a good job of that within the week, I’ll take you on as my furniture restorers.  I’m giving you carte blanche.  Do with it as you will, but I need an interesting and inspiring result.”

The following morning, it arrived at our workshop.  The glass was missing, as was the base drawer and part of a door frame.  It was badly finished with uneven orange varnish.

“Right then Jasper,” I said.  “What needs doing?”

“Sand the whole thing down. Cut and shape a piece of wood to repair that door frame.  If we’ve only got a week, leave the drawer and use the opening as a shelf,” he said quickly.
“Good man,” I said. “But that’s just the start.”
“I know. The finish is what matters. I’ve got an idea, Pa.”

Well, I set about the sanding and joinery, while Jasper rumaged around the store room.  I could hear the clanking of metal and the clunking of paint pots, but I left him to it.  You see I’m a good enough workman, but the boy is just brimming over with ideas.  He’s original, the way I’ll never be.

He didn’t disappoint.  First a coat of matt black paint.  Then we had to lay the cabinet on its side and lift some rusty old cogs he’d found on to it.
“Are these to be attached, son?” I asked.
“No, Pa. Just leave them there for a bit.”

He sprayed silver paint across the cabinet.  Not too much.  Just a dusting, and when we removed the cogs, the design looked splendid.

I replaced the glass panels and Jasper – such a perfectionist – decided to fill the cabinet with bits and pieces, ‘So that the lady can see it as a working piece.’

I hardly need to tell you that Mrs S was mightily impressed.  She hired us on the spot and we now work for her full time, restoring what she calls her ‘Oxfam bag of dollshouse junk’ and creating beautiful pieces of furniture for the discerning customer.

You can find various pieces for sale here or by clicking on the photos.

Monty admiring the map chest.large cabinet and chair

Jasper with the small cabinet

The Smallest and Dodgiest Dispensing Apothecary

It all started when I allowed Molly to set up her own miniature book emporium on the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls.  That, of course, has been a great success.  People seem to enjoy perusing her little shop’s booklist and I have fun extracting the volumes they want with my tweezers.

Then I was aproached by the apothecary.  He wondered whether I could accomodate his shop on my stalls as well.

I have mixed feelings about the cures and potions, although I have to confess, they do sell rather well.

My first issue with them is that they’re not very ‘steampunk’.  More witchy, really.  I asked whether he’d consider selling engine oils and axle grease, but he wasn’t interested.
“People crave my potions,” he wheedled. “They simply can’t get enough of them.”
And that leads me to my second issue with his goods:  I’ve encountered several customers who expect them to work!

Oh dear.  I simply don’t know how best to react when an adult customer selects a minute bottle of glitter or cork chippings labelled ”Undead Exterminator” and asks in-depth questions about how to use it as protection from zombies.  Such things have happened several times.

So let me make it quite clear, here and now, that although this is probably the world’s smallest dispensing apothecary’s shop, and although the bottles look very attractive, are reasonably priced, and the bottom shelf has an ongoing buy-one-get-one-free promotion, they simply DO NOT WORK.

I have agreed include his little shop on my stalls but have made it clear in my labelling that it is an extremely dodgy establishment.  I also inform any potential customers that the contents of the jars are guaranteed not to work on anyone over 6 inches tall.

The apothecary seems quite happy with this, and his bottles continue to sell, so I suppose all is well.

 

Many of the labels, by the way, which make this shop so enticing are created by the quite brilliant Betsy at an Etsy shop called Chocolate Rabbit.

Icabod Cogbottle’s Inventing Room

Forgive me if I appear to complain.  My wife Dorothea is the most charming of women and exceptionally skilled, not only at running a household and entertaining our guests, but also as a highly accomplished parasol duellist.  However I do not feel that she fully understands the struggles of an inventor.

Why, she has just entered my workspace once again and remarked – quite harshly, I felt – on the quantity of litter strewn across the floor.  Does she expect that every design will result in a successful invention?  Applying for patents is a most costly and time-consuming process, so I restrict it to only the most promising designs.

If (as I have explained to her on many occasions) she would permit me to create my prototypes in this room, I could adjust them as I go along and the drawings would be far more productive.  Alas, she insists that any tinkering must be restricted to the cellar!   She complains that the smells, dust and general mess involved are unacceptable within the main body of the house.

So why, I can imagine you asking, do I not do my drawings down there as well?  The answer, dear reader, is that the cellar of this house is particularly damp and cold.  That hardly matters when I am actively sawing, soldering or otherwise constructing my machines and gadgets, but it is not an atmosphere conducive to long hours sitting at a desk engaged in meticulous draughtsmanship.

Thus it comes to pass that many of my designs, so painstakingly drawn, end their days screwed up on the floor, from whence (as I explained to Dorothea) it is but a moment or two’s travail for the maid to sweep up and dispose of them.

Nonetheless, I feel I am making great progress, notwithstanding my perplexing situation.  The Swanopede (patents pending) which I am currently working on is of such ingenuity and obvious charm that it will almost certainly bring me the fame and fortune I so earnestly seek.

In the meantime, my first book (Gadgets for Life by Icabod Cogbottle – available at all good booksellers) is bringing in modest royalties and allowing me to continue to pursue my life’s work.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.