The Book of Potions

Greetings again from Steampunk-Shrunk Towers.

Imagine, dear reader, the bats wheeling and swirling overhead and an incalculable quantity of spiders spinning their webs to coat each corner and dangle from every vaulted ceiling.  Little light penetrates the ivy-clad windows at this time of year and even the log fire hisses and smokes as the damp permeates every part of our ancient building.

Does that set the scene nicely for what follows?

We noticed that we have not yet provided the full text for our rather popular little Book of Potions.  We consider it to be perfectly readable, but there are those who complain that the print is rather small, so here follows a complete transcript for your edification.

 

TO ENABLE SILENT MOVEMENT

Place into a cauldron a quart of ditch water, collected in the dark of the moon.  To this add the following:

– a pinch of broomstick fleas

– 4 bats’ wings

– a scoop of octopus slime

– 2 pinches of tarantula hair

Allow to steep for at least 7 days.
Light a fire beneath the cauldron and boil vigorously for several hours, until a yellow film covers the potion and the mixture is thick.
Strain it into jars and allow to stand for some several days until well congealed.

To use:
Rub the potion all over your body and allow to dry before dressing.  You will now be able to sneak up on your enemies or prey.

HEARING POWDER

When old age, or a strong fascination with heavy metal music has rendered you less able to hear clearly, you will find this substance of great assistance.

Crush the following items together in a pestle and mortar:

– 1 ounce of pickled beetles,

– 3 fly agaric mushrooms

a scoop of brain juice

– 7 camomile flowers

Once you have a smooth powder, bind it together with the whites of as many larks’ eggs as needed to make a firm paste.
Leave to dry until hard, then crumble the mixture into jars or bottles.
A small quantity should be placed into each ear.  The effects will last for approximately 12 hours

POTION TO REPEL THE UNDEAD

Prepare a concoction composed of equal parts  wild garlic, hemlock, sumac, mouldy cheese and dried warts.
This substance will prove quite irresistible to your victim and will draw it to sample the potion.
The active ingredient, however, which will drive all zombies away, never to return, is a plant known commonly as Angel’s Tears. This you must dry and crush very finely, combining it with the other ingredients so that the undead do not perceive it.
Steep this mixture in gin for some thirty days, then pour into shot glasses and leave in places where you suspect the undead will gather or approach.

POTION TO INCREASE LIFE EXPECTANCY

While no potion is proof against natural disasters, mob violence or angry villagers with long pointed sticks, this potion is proven to otherwise extend life to the age of at least 350 years. Indeed, Mistress Althemia Potentate claims to have been alive for 487 years after taking a teaspoonful a day for most of her life.

To a pint of cider vinegar (with the mother), add:

– 17 goji berries

– 3 ounces of rolled oats

– 5 eagle toes

– 6 dead men’s teeth (powdered)

– a sprig of rosemary

– a tablespoon of hearing powder (see earlier recipe)

– a slug of sloe gin

– one cup of cold tea

This should be stirred thoroughly and placed overnight in the light of a full moon before straining and bottling it.

One teaspoon a week, diluted in shark blood if preferred, should be sufficient to prolong your life to a considerable degree. However if you wish to enter the Irish Stout Book of Records or decorate your home with cards of congratulation  from many successive monarchs, you could try taking a teaspoon each day.

INVISIBILITY POTION

No book of potion recipes would be complete without one to render you invisible from other humans.  Be warned, however, that you will still be visible to certain creatures, particularly hobgoblins, elves, banshees, sprites, trolls and vampires.

To your cauldron add a pint of spring water and the following ingredients:

– 14 moth wings (any variety)

– 3 desiccated spiders

– 2 grams of powdered bat wings

– an ounce of eagle fat

– a pinch of thyme

– a few drops of octopus ink

Boil vigorously until dark brown in colour and of a treacle-like consistency.
Take a tablespoon an hour before you require invisibility.
NB Effects wear off quickly.

We are sure you will recognise how useful it would be to have your own copy of this invaluable volume.  Fortunately, you can purchases it for a trifling amount from any of the following outlets:

  • The SteampunkDollsHouse Etsy shop (either as a ready-made book or a printable DIY version) with 20% off during October 2019
  • The Crispin Emorium in Street, Somerset, UK as a ready-made book
  • Magpie Vintage in Midsomer Norton (see previous post for location details) as a ready-made book
  • Steampunk-Shrunk stalls, in both formats.  The next one is the Wells Spooktacular in Wells Town Hall, Somerset on October 26th.

 

 

The Steampunk Apothecary

A very good day to you from the delightful North Somersetshire town of Midsomer Norton, close to the famous city of Bath.

An overview of Silvester Bawdrip's Apothecary ShopI, Silvester Bawdrip, would like to offer a very warm welcome to my new premises, which open today, October 5th 2019.

As you will see, it is a delightful – if rather compact – Apothecary’s Shop, which specialises in powders, potions and pills as well as other requisites for any personage with an interest in Steampunk.

Here you will find tablets to facilitate time-travel, a salve which gives the power of microscopic sight,  bottled light to enhance your brainpower and much more.  I have even been persuaded to stock spare gears for mechanical arms.

Naturally, my cures and potions are primarily intended for persons of between five and six inches in height.  However my, er, somewhat loftier patrons have asked me to provide some larger bottles which they can use as amulets or pendant charms, particularly as Halloween approaches.  Their manufacture is far from easy for a gentleman of my stature, but we have some for sale on the lower ground floor of my establishment, filled with my splendid ingredients, clearly labelled and sealed with silver sealing wax.  They can be hung around the neck or on a costume from adjustable leather laces and are highly recommended.

Should you have difficulty finding my establishment, it really couldn’t be easier.  Head for the High Street of Midsomer Norton.  You will notice the beautiful River Somer flowing beside the pavement.  Behind the war memorial is a charming shop called Magpie, which sells various vintage items of clothing and sundry curiosities.  Inside this shop, you will find me and my repository of Steampunk powders, enhancers and cures in an attractive glass cabinet.  We occupy three storeys of this case and my shop – naturally – is on the top floor.

Silvester Bawdrip with Lady Olivia

In the photograph, you will see me attempting to strike up a rapport with one of my esteemed customers – the delectable charming Lady Olivia Steamington.
(“May I call you Olivia, or Livvy?”
“‘Your Ladyship’ will do perfectly, thank you.”)

Still, being an explorer, she is an excellent customer and has returned today to purchase more of my air-sickness pills, along with a good supply of bottled wind power.

Her LadyshipI have to confess, I had some difficulty explaining the situation to my intended, Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane, when she discovered this photography of Lady Steamington in my drawer.

I assured her that keeping photographs of my most valued clients is simply a convenient method of data collection and allows me to optimise my sales potential.  However she uttered some rather graphic and unpleasant curses and whacked me in the tenderest of spots with her broomstick.  Fortunately I had a highly effective salve to hand, to reduce the swelling and bruising.

Still, enough of my domestic squabbles.

Do come along and visit my humble establishment if you are in the vicinity.

You can also buy my potions and amulets from The Crispin Emporium in Street and from Steampunk-Shrunk stalls that appear from time to time around the UK.  (See home page for dates and locations.)  There are also a few of the amulets for sale in the SteampunkDollsHouse Etsy store, at this link.

 

Steaming off to the Seaside

Well no, sadly we won’t be steaming.  there are some quite splendid steam railways around these parts, but our journey this weekend takes us on a couple of buses instead.

We will be journeying through picturesque hillside villages in the Mendips and ending up on the esplanade of the delightful resort of Weston-super-Mare.  Only Mrs S will be able to enjoy the scenery, of course.  The rest of us will be squashed into that suitcase of hers.  Even more annoyingly, she has decided to bring along Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane and her hovel.  The smell is quite distasteful, to say the least.  It is best not to know what she is brewing in that caudron.

There is quite a little party of us, though.  Mr Coggleford and his remarkable son Jasper are coming along for the first time and little Alice will be putting in an appearance, as well myself, Lady Cristabel, Grace Pendleton and the distinguished inventor Augustus Robottom.  We will endeavour to stay as far from that creature as possible, and hope that she finds a new home to plague enjoy.

Coggleford & Son are bringing along a selection of their beautifully restored furniture and there is a slightly alarming ‘spooky section’, influenced, no doubt, by you-know-who.

 

I have to admit, though, the display is going to look quite striking with all those purple lights shining up through the potion bottles and amulets.  Not to mention the creepy cabinets!

All in all, we should have a very inviting stall at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair being held at the rather impressive Royal Hotel on Sunday 22nd September from 10am – 4pm.

Do hope some of you will be able to visit, and please buy that Fleabane woman  yourselves some delightful miniature treasures.

Kind regards,

Delilah Camshaft

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.

The Clockwork Entomologist

It puzzled me… but I enjoy a good puzzle.

I have this pile of vintage clockwork parts, as many of you will know.  Time hasn’t been kind to them, left as they were to rot in an attic for decades.

for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHouseThe ones I can clean up and get working are either sold as they are to automaton makers or turned into pretty clockwork twittering birds that sell as fast as I can make them.  The ones that have seized up completely are taken to pieces, the parts being upcycled into our miniature gizmos and contraptions.

But there was this one.  It defied all reason.  The spring had snapped, the rubber bellows had perished, the little band that turned a few cogs in the middle had disintegrated, and yet, when I turned the key, it whirred into life.  I had no idea how parts of it were still working.

It most certainly couldn’t be sold or turned into a singing bird.  I removed the broken bellows and whistle.   Stubbornly, the part that was left continued to function.  Admittedly it was rather primitive, but each time I gave the key a few turns, the brass bit in the middle zoomed around at a rate of knots and the arm which should have moved the bird waved up and down unevenly, controlled by the blue steel cam.  I presume one of the broken parts had once regulated the speed.  The other mechanisms move relatively sedately.  This one, though, buzzed like an insect as it spun around…

…and that gave me an idea.

I hunted in an old box of bracelet charms and found a few dragonflies, a butterfly and a bee.  These were painted in jewel colours and most were stuck to the casing.  Another was threaded on to a length of copper wire and fixed to the wheel in the centre.

Next I turned my attention to the arm.

Arm!  That was when the idea of the Clockwork Entomologist came to mind.  Somewhere I had…  yes… in one of those boxes of junk-I’ll-find-a-use-for-one-day…

There it was – a 12th scale butterfly net!

Constructing a pair of arms and hands from epoxy putty was relatively easy.  One held the net and was molded to the flailing metal arm.  The other held a diminutive magnifying glass, cobbled together with a few bits from the stash.  It fitted neatly into the now empty housing from the bird whistle.  A pair of small black sleeves and cuffs dressed the arms in a suitably formal fashion.  My entomologist might lack all other body parts, but those he had were at least well attired.

The mechanism was housed in a small cardboard box, decorated with an assemblage of suitable images.  A few coffee stirrers were sawn up to make a cover for the spring, so that the sharp, snapped steel edges would be safely covered.

So there it is – my rather inept clockwork bug collecting automaton, swiping ineffectually with his net at the buzzing insect each time the little brass key is turned.

The vintage clockwork mechanisms (in full working order) can be bought from this link at the SteampunkDollsHouse, in case you’d like to try your hand at making an automaton.

The magical mechanical birds are available on Steampunk-Shrunk stalls (see home page for dates and venues) or from this link.

As for The Clockwork Entomologist – I’m not sure that I can part with him at the moment, unless someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse…

 

Covering All Bases – and Consequently Confused

What are we, exactly – we strange inhabitants of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers?

To be honest, we fall between many cracks.  Miniaturists?  Dollshouse suppliers?  Craftspeople?  Artists?  Steampunk?  Perhaps all of these, and a little more.

This mild existential crisis was brought about when we were invited to sell our wares at a Halloween Spooktacular (sic).

“But we don’t do spooky stuff,” Mrs S protested, having just returned from a highly successful steampunk rally where the retro-futuristic gizmos, gadgets, clockwork devices and watch cog jewellery had gone down splendidly.

“Ahem, miniatures jars of vampire repellent, banshee bane, undead eradicator and other such poisons and potions; carved skull holders with tiny red wax candles; scrying mirrors; grimoires; a selection of black and silver tables and cabinets, crammed with all manner of weird devices and artefacts…  You even have a fortune teller’s table,”  she was reminded.

“Oh, well yes.  When you put it like that, I suppose we are, um, slightly dark in places,”  she admitted.  “Fine.  We’ll do the Hallowe’en sale.

Before that, though, we have a dollshouse and miniatures fair to do in Weston-super-Mare, where we will mingle with purveyors of shabby chic 12th scale bedroom suites, impossibly tiny polymer clay foodstuffs and little pots of artificial flowers.  Bemused ladies of a certain age will politely enquire as to what, exactly, steampunk is, while long-suffering husbands will pause and stare in wonder into our turbine room or at our little time machines, and perhaps contemplate collecting a few miniatures themselves.

Next spring, we’ll be showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry involved in creating miniature wonders at the Best of Somerset Show in the appropriately diminutive city of Wells.

No wonder we – and many of our customers – are slightly confused at times.  Only that very rare and precious breed of steampunk dollshouse enthusiasts truly ‘get’ us, but that doesn’t stop the wider public from coming along to take a look and discovering utterly useless little treasures that they suddenly find they simply can’t live without.

If you pop across to the HOME page you’ll find details of the upcoming Steampunk-Shrunk stalls.

If you find yourself in the lovely county of Somerset, you can pop along to the wonderful Crispin Emporium in the town of Street, where you can view a selection of our wares from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.30-4.

And finally, if you live further afield, a selection of our wares can be bought from our online Etsy shop and shipped worldwide.

 

 

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.

Time – Running like Clockwork

Up in the dizzy heights of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, things were getting somewhat overcrowded.  We pride ourselves of being able to upcycle and repurpose just about anything that comes our way, but there are limits.

“We’ve repainted and upholstered all these odd dining chairs,” explained Jeremiah, but to be honest, nobody is going to want to buy them.  Everyone wants chairs in sets of four, preferably with a table.”
“I know just what you mean,” replied Charles. “My problem is all these not-quite-working clockwork mechanisms. Take this one, for example. It purrs along beautifully, but the rubber bellows has perished, so there’s no sound. We can’t make a silent songbird automaton, but it’s too good to throw out.”

Young Jasper, Jeremiah’s son, was listening intently.  He started to stroll round the clockwork machine.
“Excuse me, Mister Charles, Sir, but don’t you and Mister Henry make time machines?”
“Yes, Jasper, indeed we do,” Charles smiled.
“And what do they need to make them work?”

Charles laughed. “Perhaps a bit technical for a young nipper like yourself, but basically a valve and piston to build up a huge amount of pressure and a temporal modulator to control the time travel.”

“So if you took out the bird whistle and used its piston in a cylinder to build up the pressure, could you maybe use the arm that should move the bird to do the time modulation?” the boy enquired.

Charles’ jaw dropped open and he stared in amazement at the child.

“‘Cos I’m thinking Mrs S has those working watch faces kicking around somewhere – the ones that wouldn’t fit in our grandfather clocks, and we could let you have one of our spare chairs.  Oh, and I’ve been working on a camera that’s controlled by a foot pedal. I was going to use it to take what I call ‘selfies’, but I’m sure it could be adapted to fit a time machine, so that the time traveller could provide proof of the places visited…  Um…have I said something wrong?”
The boy blushed crimson, as he noticed that quite a crowd had gathered and all were staring at him with the most curious expression.

Charles took a deep breath. “No, Jasper, you have done nothing wrong.  Indeed, you have just had the most stupendous idea.  What a remarkable boy you are!  Would you care to help Henry and I to build the prototype, if your father can spare you, of course?”

Now it was Jeremiah’s turn to blush, as his heart swelled with pride.  “I’d be happy to release my son from his work with me for a while, Charles.  He’s a remarkable lad and I’m sure he’ll learn a great deal from you.”
“And vice versa,” muttered Henry, Charles’ brother and co-inventor.

And so the work began.  Henry tinkered, Charles created the elegant canopy and young Jasper buzzed around making wise suggestions and helping to attach the parts.  Even Henry just stood and scratched his head when the boy suggested installing a plasma screen above the motor, so that the traveller could see the view from the back-facing camera.
“Where do you get your ideas from, young Jasper?” he asked. “Are you sure you haven’t been time-travelling yourself and visiting the future?”
“Don’t know, Sir,” the boy shrugged. “They just sort of pop into my head somehow. Shall I fetch you the plasma screen I was working on last week?  It should fit nicely inside Mister Charles’ canopy there.”

Eventually the machine was finished.  Henry took his place on the velvet-upholstered chair and turned the brass key.  The piston began to pump, while the clock swung around on its steel arm.  Cams and cogs whirred cheerfully.

“There’s room for a little ‘un by my feet, if you can spare him, Coggleford,” Henry called to Jeremiah.

Jasper looked longingly at his father, but the man shook his head.  “Not today, my friend.  There are some things even Jasper is too young for yet awhile.  One day, though.”

“Soon,” muttered Jasper, hopefully.  Then, “Safe journey Mister Henry, Sir.  And please take lots of photographs for me.”

“Certainly will, young man,” grinned Henry, as he reached across and started the clock.

The Clockwork Time Machine, with working clockwork motor and quartz clock is for sale at http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse.  Click here or on one of the photos to go to the listing.

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.