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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Upping the Date

Greetings to all from the grey, damp and murky land of Avalon, where life, myth and mystery combine curiously amongst the swirling mists (well, actually thundering hail storms at the moment, but that’s a temporary glitch, I’m sure).

We felt the arrival of a new year merited an update on how things are progressing here at Steampunk-Shrunk HQ.  When I say ‘we’ I refer to myself – a slightly eccentric but mostly harmless white-haired writer-and-educator-turned-miniaturist – and the cluster of (far more eccentric) 1/12 scale figures who share this compact and slowly sinking residence.
Yes, it is indeed sinking. It used to be level with the road outside when it was built, a mere three-hundred-and-something years ago. Alas, it has failed to keep pace with the world around it and is now reached by stepping down from the pavement into our semi-subterranean world. It all adds to the general weirdness…

We are currently working alone, since the Steampunk Dolls’ House – our fellow enterprise based in Shropshire – almost sold out over Christmas and its few remaining residents are in the process of moving to new premises.  Nothing daunted, and buoyed up by moderate successes last year, we have decided to take to the road this year and flaunt our wares in far-flung areas of the United Kingdom.

Sadly, we possess only two vehicles between us, and both of those are at 1/12 scale.  Determined not to allow that to dissuade us, however, we have purchased a suitcase of gargantuan proportions and one of those magical devices for taking card payments from customers.  Many hours perusing bus and train timetables and hunting out bargain-priced accommodation means that we are about to commence our Grand Tour.

Messrs Crackington and Balsover are busily creating an emporium filled with a host of cunning contrivances and devious devices, which will be available for purchase at our forthcoming sales.

Some of their wonders, including the mysterious Oracular Device and the dangerous-looking Phosphorus Pump are displayed here.

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting more of the delights you can expect to discover on the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls which will be appearing around the land.

Our first venue will be the Thame Miniatures Fair (in Oxfordshire) on Saturday 17th February,  followed by a weekend Steampunk Convention on March 24th and 25th in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

We’d be delighted to meet you at one of these events and hope you’ll be able to join us.