Wizard Widdershins

New Year felicitations to all from Steampunk Shrunk Towers.

IMG_20220105_132929_resized_20220105_013402215Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Arborius Widdershins – alchemist, magician, man of letters and all-round white wizard.

Not exactly steampunk, I hear you say.  Well no, perhaps not, but Mrs S has always had a keen interest in all things mystical and when I noted the range of magic books in her little library, I couldn’t resist accepting her invitation to come and stay for a while.

Obviously, in my line of work there is a need for solitude.  Not easy to find here with that tinker chap thumping away on his workbench and all those ladies chattering away, so I asked if any of the towers were vacant.

Fortunately there is one that will be suitable.  Rather small, perhaps, but my skills are such that I should have little difficulty applying the ‘tardisium’ spell to increase its inner dimensions.  I’m sure I can persuade Mr Entwistle to make me a couple of pieces of suitable furniture.  My needs are few.

Meanwhile, a charming young seer by the name of Daphne de Voire has agreed to allow me to use her desk during the night, while she is sleeping.  Most agreeable.

All in all, I think I will enjoy my sojourn at this curious residence.

Watch the Birdie (or the Horse or the Gecko…)

Sincere apologies for not posting an update recently.  Life on the road (or pavement, mainly, as Mrs S tends to walk to our market stalls, dragging us along in a wheelie suitcase or two) has been all-consuming.  

IMG_20211119_100027We have a brief respite now until our last sale of 2021 at Glastonbury Town Hall on December 18th, then a winter break until February.  The Etsy shop, of course, continues to thrive (we’ve just been awarded ‘Star Seller’ status for December!) and we’ve recently re-stocked our shelves at Magpie Vintage and Curiosities in Midsomer Norton.

We’re including a few photos from a recent market.  Meeting real humans again has been a delight and the response to our stalls has been overwhelming.  If you’re one of the people who took our business card and have recently discovered this blog, welcome, by the way.

IMG_20211119_095339Mrs S has enjoyed herself thoroughly and is kept busy creating new stock in between all the sales.  Here she can be seen showing off the Case of the Apothecary’s Shop and some of the Clockton-upon-Teas buildings.  We have a very few of those left for the next stall, then we’ll be raiding the recycling box for more packets and bottles to upcycle ready for next year.

The standout best-sellers on our stalls this season, though, have been the ridiculously eccentric watch-part pendants, badges and brooches.

IMG_20211125_141214_resized_20211202_120636288Having been gifted many boxes of vintage Swiss watch parts – from the days before batteries, back when the clockwork mechanisms were wound by hand – Mrs S spends many happy hours at her desk, picking out one tiny piece after another and deciding what, in that strange mind of hers, they look like.  Here, for example, you might be able to spot a gecko driving a combine harvester, Rudolf the wonky reindeer, a flying griffin, a bird on wheels and a turkey… or not!  It’s very much in the eye of the beholder.  IMG_20211126_131538_893_resized_20211202_120636791Our current favourite is this little horse.  Odd that watch parts lend themselves to such an interesting range of designs, including animals.  Mind you, we’ve recently been asked if there’s an otter… even watch parts have their limits!

If you live in Somerset and want to pay us a visit at the fair, do come and introduce yourself.  Sadly we aren’t planning to do any steampunk conventions or sales further afield in the foreseeable future, but will work hard to keep our other outlets stocked – and to post regularly here.

Wishing all our followers and patrons (and anyone else who stumbled across this site) a joyous festive season and a most auspicious New Year.

 

On the Road Again!

There are just a handful of people left here at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers who remember the touring days.  The rest of us listen with a mixture of respect, envy and terror as they tell us tales of being bubble-wrapped, boxed and thrust into Mrs S’s trusty old wheelie suitcase, then trundled away on journeys lasting many hours.

SITC21.jpg WEB (1)“Ah,” they say, “but when you finally arrive and are unpacked – then it’s all worth it!  You’ll be placed ever so carefully in just the right spot to display your fine costumes and intricate details.  Fairy lights and spotlights will illuminate the stall and people will come to stare, to gasp, to admire… and sometimes to buy and take you off to a new home.”

IMG_20210928_153101_resized_20210928_033607222We had almost given up hope of experiencing a fair ourselves, but now we have FOUR to look forward to before the end of the year!

The months of lockdown in the Towers have been pleasant enough.  The visits from the plague doctors and others were diverting, but to see Mrs S dusting off the suitcase and searching out her stocks of bags and boxes…  Well we can’t deny that we are more than a little excited.

Bootiful Miniature Upcycling

Here at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, we love recycling.  Mrs S is, to quote Shakespeare, ‘a snapper up of unconsidered trifles’.  Junk packaging, broken dolls and furniture, charity shop finds… all are squirrelled away and lovingly upcycled when inspiration arrives.

img_20210920_165032_469IMG_20210916_105712_resized_20210921_110939915Some of our favourite finds are the little packs of boot and shoe eyelets we pick up for a fairly modest price (and an excellent cause) from the local children’s hospice charity shop.  They are leftover stock given to the charity by Clarks – the famous shoe manufacturers a mile or two down the road.

As you can see, the plain round ones make quite perfect camera lenses at 12th scale.

img_20210919_102222_981_resized_20210921_110659377There are all manner of fancy designs, though. It didn’t take us long to realise that they would be ideal as miniature candlesticks.

We hand-roll wax around a length of sewing thread, place them in the eyelets and light them just for a moment to blacken the wick and (if we’re lucky) create a drip.

Tiny Valentines

We have a few suggestions for those of you who would like to give a very small but unique and special gift this Valentine’s Day. 

Here are our top 5 suggestions from the Steampunk Dolls House, our online Etsy shop. 

  1. Miniature wand with crystal   Boxed handmade 12th scale wand image 3An amazingly small magic wand with a real crystal in the handle.  It even comes in its own little gift box!  Each is a one-off design and wands and boxes are all made inhouse.  The wands measure between 1 and 1.5 inches.

 

2. Miniature Book of Spells and Potions  Tiny Leather-bound image 2 Ye Book of Spells and Potions would make a very special present.  Each page of this tiny, leather-bound book has been individually hand-distressed to make it look ancient.  The cover has a metal trim and can be tied shut with the contrasting lace. (You can never be too careful with ancient spell books!)  The spells and recipes can all be read with the aid of a magnifying glass or phone camera zoom.  The book is 1.25 inches tall. 

3.  12th scale Steampunk Tinker's Shelf  Dollhouse Accessory image 0A perfect gift for anyone who dabbles or dreams of dabbling in making steampunk oddities:  A tinker’s shelf, complete with an array of tiny, but very useful, items.  You’ll find a book, a bottle of something interesting, a box of odds and ends, a tool, along with a glue pot and brush.  

 

4. 12th scale Holographic Hand Mirror  Steampunk Dollhouse bronze with top ring The holographic mirrors are always popular.  You can buy them with a ring on the top, for using as a pendant or charm, or without one if you’d prefer to give it as a miniature for a dolls’ house or ornament.  

 

5. If you don’t live in the UK, You may have noticed that the items above can’t be posted abroad at the moment, due to lockdown measures.  However you are not forgotten!  There is an ever-growing range of digital portraits and miniature books which can be downloaded and printed at home.  Then you just need some glue and scissors or craft knife to create a miniature masterpiece for your Valentine.  There are steampunk fashion books for ladies and gentlemen, a time-traveller’s companion, a book of undersea creatures, steampunk stories and much, much more.

Do head across to our shop and have a rummage through the tiny treasures there.

And a very happy Valentines Day.

The Theatres of Clockton

“What Clockton-upon-Teas needs is some culture,” announced Lucy Larks-Thrustington.

Steampunk 12th scale Porcelain Jointed Dollhouse Doll Lady LucyLucy is one of our newest arrivals at Steampunk-Shrunk towers.  She is, by profession, a dancer of some sort.  By Jove, she certainly has the legs for it… Ahem.  Anyway, she was looking at me and my brother Charles as she spoke, as if she expected us to conjure up some kind of performance.

“Not quite our forte, Madam,” I told her.  “Now if it’s a nice device or gadget you’re after – a portable time machine or flux capacitor or something, look no further.  And anyway, theatres are closing down everywhere – all this confounded anti-sociable distancing malarkey.”

All the more reason for us to open a few, then,” she smiled cheerfully.  “Let’s make miniature theatres – with cardboard cut-out characters.  Then we can put on shows for the good people of Clockton; cheer them up a bit, you know?  I’m sure you clever gentlemen would be able to make the performers move around the stage.  You are so gifted.”

Oh, that smile!  Gracious, she is a very persuasive young lady.  Charles was clearly all too keen to help.

“What scale were you thinking of, dear lady?” he asked, eagerly grabbing a notepad and pencil.  “After all, we are already what most would consider to be – ah – miniature.”

(This was said with an accusatory glance at me.  Will I never live down that unfortunate space-time fluctuation which might have been partly due to the malfunction of an early device I built?  I know it led to our population shrinking to one twelfth of our original size and I have apologised repeatedly.  However we are very comfortable here in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and have what many would call an excellent life. thanks to dear Mrs Steampunkle – a normal-sized lady who has opened her home to us.)

“No, darling! Far smaller than us!” exclaimed Lucy.  “Tiny people – about this big?” She indicated approximately an inch with her hands.  “I see them on little stages dancing and perhaps a few trapeze artistes, a tumbler or two and ballet, of course…”

“Well,” I said, slowly, “there’s a pile of box lids in the corner of the workshop, left over from the clockwork bird cases.  They might do for stages.  About the right size…”

“Splendid!” she cried.  “I knew you would be the gentlemen to ask!  I’ll go and cut out some suitable characters and leave the construction work to you.”

Tiny theatre  miniature stage with dancers  moving ballet image 3Charles decorated the stages, creating backdrops, curtains, wings and so forth.  I set to work with copper wire, coffee stirrers, cocktail sticks and pins to create the movement.  Soon we had several little theatres with beechwood sliders to move Lucy’s figures across the stage, rocking swings and even a metal balancing beam for a tumbler to turn around on.

Theatre Model  Mini Stage  Dancing Diorama  OOAK Miniature image 7The good people of Clockton-upon-Teas and all the inhabitants of the Towers came to watch our performances.  Ava found some splendid musical renditions to play on her phonograph and while Charles and I moved the sliders back and forth and twiddled the knobs, the audience gasped and applauded in a most gratifying manner.

 

Should you wish to choreograph your own miniature ballet or create a circus performance of your own, do head across to the SteampunkDollsHouse, where our creations can be purchased.  You will discover there that Lucy, too, has her price.  I suspect she is that sort of dancer…

 

Plague Doctors!

Well, Steampunk-Shrunk Towers has had its fair share of, erm, unusual residents over the years, but when we noticed this group of individuals skulking around Clockton-upon-Teas, we were somewhat alarmed.

Henry, who is a relatively fearless and friendly chap popped down to have a word with them.

Alas, conversation was not easy.  A combination of strong Italian accents and huge masks stuffed with herbs to fend off infection rendered discussion almost impossible.

Gradually, though, he was able to discover that they have arrived here from a far-off city called Roma, where they have been busily administering care and assistance to victims of a dreadful plague.  They commandeered a hot air balloon, in order to offer their particular skills to the people of our country, in this time of need.

Naturally, Henry was keen to inspect their transport, but it seems it has been appropriated by the fourth member of their medical team – one Marco by name – who has travelled on in it to the United States, where he has been hired to provide private medical services.

We could hardly leave the good doctors out in the rain, so they have joined our band of residents.

Certainly they are being most attentive to everyone’s health, although their methods seem to differ quite markedly from those we are used to.  We can’t quite understand why, for example, they need to check Sally and Lucy’s temperatures quite so often, nor why they need the ladies to strip down to their underwear in order for this to be done.  However I’m pleased to report that we are all very healthy at present, and hope that you are as well.

 

The Backgammon Garden

How can we make amends for our long silence, dear Reader?

A story left unfinished, long months of isolation in our individual shielding boxes, deliveries grinding to a halt and all trade shows and fairs cancelled.  Not the best of times for the Steampunk Dolls House or Steampunk-Shrunk, or, indeed, for our loyal band of followers.

Mrs S was occupied for much of the time producing PPE for local care homes and educating her grandchildren via something called video messaging.  (Their desperation to return to school in the autumn attests to the limited success of that venture…)

To say we felt neglected is the greatest of understatements.   And has normality returned?  Certainly not.  The tiny local Post Office has opened its doors again and – for those customers willing to wait days, weeks or sometimes months – a few items have been fitfully edging towards their destinations.  The Magpie Vintage and Curiosities shop has reopened in Midsomer Norton and at least Mrs S now occasionally visits the workshop.

Her project for the last few weeks has been the long-forgotten Backgammon Garden.  It was almost completed several years ago, but a leaning orangery and broken lawnmower meant that it lay forgotten while other tasks took precedence.  Finally, she opened the vintage box once more and shook her head sadly.

“I think I can fix Draig, Penelope,” she told me.  “The blades just need to be remounted.”  (Draig, for those who may be wondering, is the metal dragon lawnmower who patrols the garden, keeping it neat.)  “The pond will be fine with a bit of adjustment to the fountain.  The standpipe needs a touch of distressing to get the patina right, but what can we do with that orangery?”

The orangery was her pride and joy when she first made it.  It was intricately constructed from clear acrylic sheet and ingeniously folded flat to allow the backgammon box to be closed.  Unfortunately, it didn’t spring back into position when the box was reopened, but drooped at around 45° unless one of us went and stood against it.

I thought long and hard, until a solution came to me.  “We need some tall clipped orange trees in heavy pots,” I suggested.  “They can be wedged into either side of the structure to hold it up when the garden is open and removed and laid flat when we wish to close it.”

“Brilliant!” cried Mrs S.  “An excellent plan.”

A selection of bamboo skewers, polystyrene balls, greenery intended for model railways, mock oranges and epoxy putty was assembled, together with various paints and glues, and at last the clipped orange trees were ready.   Slightly unconventional, perhaps, but maybe it isn’t the only outbuilding that is held up by its trees.

You can also see Draig, here in the foreground, restored to his original splendour.

I’m very much enjoying wandering through the grounds and communing with Octavia – my very affectionate pet – who resides in the pond.

I have no idea what will happen to the garden.  Mrs S doesn’t seem inclined to list it in the SteampunkDollsHouse, and keeps muttering about how it needs to go to the ‘right home’.  I shall simply continue to enjoy it while it’s here.

As for the Etsy shop, a cluster of recent sales is encouraging us to hope that normal life will soon resume.

Stranger than Fiction

Travel, naturally, is quite out of the question.  Here we were, isolated in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, wondering what to do with ourselves.

Mrs S – who is around the same size as yourselves, dear readers – claims that the building is a small and fairly cramped cottage, but since the rest of us (due to a certain, er, accident involving a spacetime anomaly which we prefer not to mention, Henry…)  currently find ourselves shrunk to one twelfth of normal size, the residence appears positively cavernous.  Walking from one wing to another can easily serve for our daily exercise.

Nevertheless, time had been hanging heavily.

Imagine our delight, then, when Molly hit upon the idea of opening her Literary Emporium to one of us each day.  It is an exceedingly small establishment, so social distancing does not permit more than a single individual to enter the building at any time.  Each of us has been issued with a card stamped with the dates for our visits and everyone is thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to peruse the many fascinating volumes available.

Only one thing marred our pleasure.  Several upstanding and usually trustworthy members of our community mentioned catching glimpses of a tall, shadowy figure skulking around the Emporium.  Rumours abounded as to the identity of this personage.  This lockdown seems to make everyone a little jumpier than usual and some had claimed it was a creature conjured up by Dr Kopp, our resident mad scientist, who was recently seen taking an extreme interest in certain passages in the ancient Grimoire.

I didn’t for a moment believe such poppycock.

Oh goodness – manners!  I failed to introduced myself.  Abject apologies.  That is me above and to the right – Gwendoline Thrustington-Clawhammer, tea-duelling district champion 1885, 1887 and 1891.

Yes, I know.

I did mention that it was a spaceTIME anomaly.

Anyway, my turn in the bookshop finally came around.  I became quite mesmerised by the Book of Spells and lost track of the time.  Fearing that I’d be late for an afternoon tea appointment, I rose quickly from my seat and at the same moment heard a definite sound outside the shop.  I had the distinct feeling that someone had been spying on me and that my sudden movement had startled them.

“Ava?”  I called, “Is that you?”  (Madame Ava Brassfeather is most prone to sneaking around the place, so naturally I suspected her.)  Then I recalled the stories about the mysterious stranger.  For a moment, I blush to admit, I considered screaming.  Thankfully I quickly came to my senses and hurried out to see who was there.

I was just in time to see a tall and muscle-bound gentleman trying to duck behind the far wall.

“You there!  Halt at once and reveal yourself!”  I cried, in my most imperious tone, hoping earnestly that he wouldn’t misinterpret my hurried command.

The figure turned to face me and although he cut a commanding presence, I noted that his eyes looked calm and, indeed, rather sad.

“Ah,” he said, softly.  “Ma’am I do hope I didn’t startle you unduly.  Please forgive my intrusion.”

His accent appeared to be that of an American gentleman, from the southern States, I suspected.  His gentle demeanour mollified me somewhat, but the fact remained that he was undoubtedly a trespasser.

In a slightly quieter tone, but still – I hoped – with a certain air of authority, I replied, “I am not easily startled, Sir, but I wish to know how you come to be in this private residence and what your business is.”

“Yes Ma’am, of course,” he responded.  “I can see that my presence here must look most suspicious.  My name is Clark Obadiah Jackson III.  I’m searching for someone who is – very dear to me.  The honest truth is, Ma’am, I can’t rightly explain how I came to be in this building, exactly, unless you are in any way familar with the notions of – uh – time travel and teleportation?”

He was fingering a device attached to his left wrist as he spoke.  I suspected (correctly, it later emerged) that he was considering activating it in some way to vacate our particular time and space if he met with too much hostility.

Now that I studied his face more closely, I realised there was something faintly familiar about it.  I knew he did not belong in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and was fairly certain our paths had never crossed, yet that slight memory or familiarity could not be discounted.  I realised that I did not wish him to leave as suddenly as he had appeared.  On the contrary, I was extremely curious to hear his story.

“I am – unfortunately – more familiar with time travel and teleportation than I would wish to be, Mr Jackson,” I assured him.  “Indeed, all the residents of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers have personal experience of its uses and often rather unfortunate side effects.   I suggest we take a seat in the Emporium whilst you recount your story.”

“Well that’s mighty civil of you, Ma’am, in the circumstances.   I truly do appreciate it.”

He doffed his hat to me in the most charming way and followed me into Molly’s little shop.

I lit the oil lamp and waited with considerable excitement to hear of Mr Clark Obadiah Jackson III’s adventures.

To be continued.

Clockton-upon-Teas

Tea Cup, Vintage Tea Cup, Tea, CupIt all started with tea.  Hardly surprising – our little hive of fairly pointless but hugely enjoyable industry runs largely on tea most of the time.  Not, I hasten to add, the sweetened, milk-infested mud-brown builders’ variety.  We are partial to fascinating infusions – green, white, herbal – with interesting combinations of subtle flavours.  When pressed to drink black tea, a little Earl Grey, or better yet Lady Grey (the citrus blends so well with the bergamot) is acceptable.  Without milk, obviously.

Imagine, then, our total delight when a visitor to Steampunk-Shrunk Towers arrived bearing the most delectable of gifts: a clear acrylic box containing small cardboard pyramids, each containing a different variety of tea.  Such a thoughtful present.  Mrs S positively purred with delight.

For the next week or two we sipped all manner of enticing blends.  (Some a little more enticing than others, it must be said; rooibos combined with chocolate and vanilla is something of an acquired taste, I feel, although green and pomegranate was an unexpected delight.)  As the tea was consumed, the little card pyramids were carefully placed on one of the few remaining clear horizontal surfaces while we waited for their next incarnation to become apparent.

We are – as many readers will know – purveyors of upcycled items.  We pride ourselves on reusing what many would consider waste to create new objects of desire.  These tiny containers clearly had some wonderful incipient purpose.  It was our role to discover it and make the transformation.  Pondering possibilities, teacup in hand, is one of our major tasks.

“Church spires?” ventured Madame Ava Brassfeather.  “A sort of city of spires, perhaps.”
Hugo Fforbes nodded. “Or maybe roofs on turrets – a gothic mansion or two with clocks and flagpoles.”
“Clock towers, yes, could work…” muttered Henry, thoughtfully.
“They’d be too small for us to fit inside,” Gina pointed out.

Gina is a young American girl, lodging with us temporarily whilst awaiting her father’s arrival (when Mrs S gets around to creating him).  She was right, of course.  But as Lady Cristabel pointed out, in a miniature retro-futurist world, size – like time – is distinctly relative.

More tea was imbibed, more empty boxes found, and interesting paint or paper applied to every surface.  That clear plastic box in which the tea bags had arrived was pressed into service to make arched windows.  Curtain rings, cocktail sticks, drinking straws and various beads were gathered.  The extensive stash of adhesive tapes – metallic, decorative, double-sided – was raided.  Gradually a rather wonky, rust-toned, multi-towered building emerged.

The town hall of our new urban development was judged a success.  Soon more buildings followed and before we knew it, the town of Clockton-upon-Teas started to form.

The structures, being made of lightweight card and plastic, are easily manoeuvered around, even by 6 inch tall artisans.  Thus the town changes rapidly and frequently.  If I’m brutally honest, I have to admit that we have become rather obsessed with creating this delightful, clock-infested borough.

What will become of it?  Mrs S is planning to take Clockton along to the Best of Somerset Show in the City of Wells later this month.  If any parts of it remain, they may find their way to the deliciously quirky Magpie Vintage shop in Midsommer Norton, or even our Etsy shop – the SteampunkDollsHouse.