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.
We may have met before, but permit me to introduce myself anew.
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!
The 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.
I 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.
I, Lady Christabel Craxton-Keyes, Keeper of the Hour Glass Moderator, am expected to travel in a suitcase! This is an outrage.
Initially, when Mrs Steampunkle told us we would be travelling to a Steampunk Christmas Extravaganza in a pretty town in the Shropshire hills, I was rather pleased. The event sounded charming. My sister Delilah and I joined Mr George Entwistle in admiring the festive decorations that had been prepared for the Christmas market and looked forward to encountering our fellow steampunk enthusiasts.
It was only yesterday that she explained how the journey would be organised. We will be travelling by railway train, from Mr Brunel’s splendid Bristol Temple Meads Station. I was most pleased at this prospect.
It was only then that the woman broke the news.
“I’m sorry, Christabel, but you and the other exhibits will be securely stored in a valise. I will do all I can to make your journey as comfortable as possible.”
Exhibits! What an insult! And if she thinks I am mollified by her description of that battered, wheeled suitcase as a ‘valise’, she is quite mistaken.
So spare me a thought, Dear Reader, as I am buffeted and bundled around. I just hope the Extravaganza will be worth it. I hope, too, that I am able to procure a new home while I am there, so that I’m not forced to travel back here in the same humiliating manner.
“It’s been a while,” Henry told me, wistfully, “since I went time travelling. Any chance you could help me out with a new machine?”
“Fine,” I said. “As long as you can source all the components from our junk box.”
“My pleasure, Madame,” he beamed, and headed off to rummage through the collection.
An hour or so later he was back with a particularly ugly little bamboo chair, a couple of clarinet keys, a light-up Christmas badge, an empty ribbon reel, the inside of a sewing thread spool, a clip from the old shower curtain, a few beads, promisingly-shaped wires and springs and a plastic robot arm.
“Hmm,” I said. “Interesting. How are you going to power it?”
” ‘If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,’ as my dear old friend Nick used to say. That circuit in the badge is at a perfect frequency and has plenty of energy stored in its batteries. As for the vibration, just take a look at these springs and the switch on that clarinet key. Try twanging it!”
I did. It made a rather pleasant Jew’s harp sound and vibrated beautifully.
“Okay Henry. You get the circuits sorted and I’ll get to work with some paint and copper tape,” I told him.
Before long the machine was finished. Certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing of objects, but when he sat in the seat, Henry had foot pedals that could be calibrated to the target date and time, a copper steering column, a strange silvery sphereoid that did goodness-knows-what, but seemed very important, along with a clock and altimeter.
“Dear Madame, if you would be good enough to give the temporal booster rocket a turn and then ping that little lever you liked so much, I’ll give it a spin,” Henry smiled.
“Don’t forget to put your goggles on, I told him. And make sure you’re back in time for the trip to Shrewsbury.”
“It’s a TIME machine, Madame!” he chided. “I can be back at whatever time I choose!”
“Yes, I know that, but – just be careful, Henry. You know how, um, adventurous you can be.”
Henry waved his cap to me and then, as I started the contraption’s rocket up and watched the blue and red sparks firing away inside it, he focused all his attention on that strange silver ball.
“Henry, how are you going to start it up by yourself when you want to come back…?” I was asking.
But I was all alone.
He still isn’t back.
I just hope he’ll make it by the time of the Shrewsbury Christmas Steampunk Spectacular, Knowing Henry, he’ll be there with seconds to spare.
If you’d like to take a look at the machine, or even contemplate buying it, do come and join us at the market in St Mary’s Church on December 1st and 2nd 2018.
There were only four of us at the start of the latest Steampunk Convention, unless you count the two ladies engaged in the tea duel, who speak to no one, but fix each other with steely stares over their cow biscuits and cups of tea, or the Samurai warrior who stands transfixed in some Zen-like meditative state. Just four – myself and the three gentlemen.
I am Alice. I was Mrs S’s first ever makeover. I permit myself to believe that I will always hold a special place in her heart for that reason alone. Then there was Bertie, the military gent who made maps of uncharted lands for the Ordnance Survey, Lars, the mysterious inventor who never removed those dark glasses and William, the rather aloof and dapper man with the dart-launcher chained to his arm.
We stood in a casual group on the stall, all secretly wishing that a new owner would arrive and transport us to a permanent home, ending our nomadic existence.
Bertie was the first to leave. Just imagine his delight when he discovered that his new guardian was to be the very same lady who had, on a previous occasion, purchased Leonora. A match made in heaven, we all agreed. We could imagine those two intrepid explorers heading off to discover new lands and treasures together. How could we be anything but delighted?
Lars was the next to depart. His new guardian was also a returning customer. The young man had bought that very worrying time machine with the flashing lights. I was glad to see that go. It made me nervous. Now here he was again, eyeing each of us intently and trying to decide which of us would be the machine’s inventor. Well clearly it had to be Lars. William would never get his hands grubby with oil or grease and – well – do I look like the kind of person who would go galivanting around in a time machine? Obviously not.
So by the end of the day, only William and I remained.
“Just you and myself, then Madam, it would seem,” he said, in a slightly strained voice.
“Indeed,” I replied, permitting myself to look into his eyes and notice that there was a certain softness in his expression which I hadn’t noticed before.
“Charming about Bertie and Leonora,” he said.
“It is,” I agreed, and found myself wondering, fleetingly, how it would feel to end up in the same home as William. Not too disagreeable, I felt.
“I never really got to know Lars,” I told him.
“Hmmph,” he snorted. “Very odd chap. Brilliant inventor, of course, but not – you know – someone I warmed to. We had, er, business dealings, but that was all.”
I nodded. I’d never before thought of William warming to anyone. But who can say?
It was a visit to the Japanese section of the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) which started the latest flight of fancy at Steampunk Towers.
The low light conditions necessary for displaying the ancient and valuable fabrics there meant my snatched photos were of very poor quality, but I was inspired to try out (or maybe invent) some sort of samurai steampunk after seeing the amazing costumes and I needed some points of reference.
First I had to repaint the face of my chosen figure. I managed to find a chap with suitably high cheekbones who worked rather well, once his bland smile and vacant staring eyes had been removed and replaced. Scraps of black and gold silk and damask fabric were cut and handstitched to make his clothes.
Junk jewellery is my favourite resource – those bags of single earrings, broken bracelets and knackered necklaces sold for a few pounds by enterprising charity shops. I found a bracelet panel that worked as a breastplate, once I’d aged it a bit. A lone earring and a couple of shell charms went well on the helmet. Leather and foam scraps, a piece of drinking straw coated in copper tape and one of those plastic ring pull things from a drink carton were all pressed into service. I painted up a little sword charm and found a sheet of metallic plastic mesh I knew-would-come-in-handy-one-day to make the armour, and my tiny warrior was complete.
The perfect display space was a little bamboo box I’d found in The Works a few weeks back. In homage to the museum display, I mounted the helmet on a dowelling stand. A bead and yet another junk earring, shaped like a mask, completed this to make a kind of mannequin head and my tiny warrior now crouches (almost) menacingly beside it.
Is it steampunk? You’ll note I refrained from adding gratuitous gears and cogs to the costume. However I feel he would grace any steampunk convention. Time will tell.
If you head to this website’s HOME page, you’ll be able to check dates and venues for our forthcoming sales in Essex, East Sussex and Shropshire.
Not twenty thousand. I can’t yet lay claim to that. Yet who can say? One day, perhaps.
To build a vessel capable of travelling underwater and exploring the depth of the seas has been an ambition of mine since my youth. In those days, I was fortunate enough to sit at the table of the great Dr Pierre Aronnax himself, while he regaled us with tales of his voyage on the Nautilus, with the strange and troubled Captain Nemo.
How I loved his stories. How I longed to follow in his footsteps – or in his wake, perhaps. That I, Maurice Souslesmers, should be able to travel in this way was but a distant dream, until I joined forces with Mrs S, upcycler and creator of weird and wonderful 1:12 scale creations.
“So you want something like The Nautilus?” she asked. “Sounds an interesting challenge. Trouble is, I’m flat broke, so the budget for this project is zero. Everything will have to come from my junk stash. Agreed?”
What choice did I have? We explored the pile of objects together: a cardboard case, a clear plastic lid from a packaging box, some corrugated foil card from a children’s craft set, a finger light left over from last Hallowe’en, a brass radiator key, a small brass bell and whistle, a broken dolls house dressing table, some bits of polymer clay, a blue plastic bag, an empty shower gel bottle, a few watch parts and a jar of nail art gems.
“That should do nicely,” she said.
I was less than convinced.
Nevertheless, she set to work with coloured nail polish, a dizzying array of adhesives and some very messy burnishing paste.
“See this broken watch part – how it swivels?” she asked excitedly. “That will make a turntable for your searchlight. You need to be able to scan around the ocean, looking for creatures, don’t you?”
Before my eyes, the plastic (a strange and rather ugly synthetic substance alien to my era) finger light became a leather and copper-clad lamp on a turning steel base.
I stacked oxygen tanks in the navigation deck’s storage compartments and set about burnishing the huge boiler.
Mrs S found a way to mount the periscope, which had somehow stopped looking so much like a radiator key, and we tested the construction so far.
True, our vessel lacked the opulence of The Nautilus as described by Aronnax – the library and study, the leather armchairs and so forth. Nevertheless, I saw that I would finally be able to make my own voyage of discovery, and I was delighted.
Eagerly, I named my craft after my great hero, and The Aronnax began its journey.
You will see that I am keeping a careful ship’s log and making sketches of the mysterious creatures of the deep I am encountering on my journey. As for those apparently man-made arches and columns I have encountered in the murky depths… Might I, like my predecessors have stumbled upon the famed ruins of Atlantis?
Well there’s always a story. The Case of the Balloon Journey had one, naturally. Harvey Cholmondeley, the intrepid and rather dishevelled traveller had been a minor, though pivotal, character in the story of The Vital Chapter.
It was he who flew from somewhere in Africa, at the bidding of his sister-in-law, to rescue his brother Algernon from a bout of depression. Quite what he did, we never discovered. After his visit, however, Algy became the Lord Admiral of the High Skies and hero of our proud nation.
So what did Harvey do after that mysterious intervention? Well, to be honest, he trailed around many Steampunk-Shrunk stalls, where he often took pride of place at the centre of the displays. He drew people in. They admired his case, complete with clouds, balloon basket, flickering burner, hip flask, map and other necessities. They often wished they had the funds or the room in their crowded houses for his case, but departed instead with some smaller trinket.
All this changed last weekend, though. A delightful gentleman, with a twinkle in his eye, gazed at the case for some time, then announced, “I rather think I need to buy that.”
“I rather think you do,” agreed his good lady.
The gentleman had, it transpired, been an aviator in his younger days and it was clear that Harvey was off to an excellent new home.
Imagine our surprise, though, when an illustrated message reached Steampunk Towers a few days later.
The ladies and gentlemen gathered around eagerly to discover news of their erstwhile companion. Algy was, understandably, particularly interested.
Harvey had, it appeared, changed his name to Bertie, hoisted a Union Flag on one of the ropes, acquired an anchor and a travelling companion in the form of a seagull, which had made itself quite at home in a coil of rope. The hip flask, we noted, was still in the pocket of his greatcoat, but perched on the side of the gondola was an almost certainly alcoholic iced drink, complete with curly straws.
Algernon spoke for us all when he announced, “I see that my brother has found a home with a true British eccentric who shares our taste for the minutely absurd. How perfectly delightful.”
And it was so very thoughtful of the gentleman to think to share with us the further adventures of one of our own.
You may consider, perhaps, that our expressions today are somewhat serious. This we cannot deny. Yet we bear temporary setbacks with fortitude and a grim determination to uphold our standards of excellence.
Certainly we are discomforted by the fact that football is no longer ‘cummy nome’, as the denizens of our temporary area of residence have been claiming in their nocturnal carousings. We are similarly dismayed to discover that a large and curiously orange inhabitant of another land, who appears to lack acceptable levels of gentlemanly reserve and chivalry, is to begin visiting our shores today.
Most distressing of all, though, is Mrs Steampunkle’s assertion that in order to meet people and sell our excellent gadgets, gizmos and other wonders in the part of the country where we now find ourselves (these spacio-temporal disturbances are a regrettable aspect of living in a retro-futuristic time warp) we need to attend miniatures fairs run by a company known as ‘Dolly’s Daydreams’.
“Perhaps,” suggested Mrs S, “this Dolly, whoever she is, secretly daydreams of becoming as splendidly eccentric and individual as your good selves. Perhaps she would love to embrace the splendour and general spiffingness of steampunk. Perhaps you will become inspirational figures to Dolly and enable her to embark on a new adventure.”
Thus it is that we move forward with fortitude and embrace the challenges imposed by the temporary exile we face for these next few months in the East of Albion.
We will present ourselves and our unique steampunk items with pride and decorum at the Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair at the Ipswich Hotel, Copdock, Suffolk IP8 3JD on July 22nd, between the hours of 10.30am and 4pm. We sincerely hope and trust that our patrons and well wishers in the area will come along and pay us a visit.
While residing here, we will also be exhibiting at Rivenhall End, nr Witham, Essex and at a Steampunk Spectacular in Hastings, East Sussex during September.
Fondest regards and felicitations from
Leonora, Lars, Alice, William and Bertie
PS Of course the Steampunk Dolls House, being a shop without a physical location, continues to function as normal, and you will be able to find an ever-growing variety of items there to suit all tastes and price ranges.
Not everyone’s – er – cup of tea, perhaps, but I adore teapot racing.
Never seen a steampunk teapot race? Well you do need to head off to your nearest Steampunk Convention/ Extravaganza/ Spectacular and experience the thrill of it for yourself.
Oh goodness, how ill-mannered of me! I forgot to introduce myself: Miss Peony Pinkerton. Delighted to make your acquaintance.
So yes, teapot racing. I have two pots of my own at the moment. The most decorative is the steam-powered contraption, but I also own a very servicable clockwork machine. Both have won numerous prizes, naturally.
Which is faster? It depends on the surface they are racing on, to be honest, but there’s not a great deal to choose between them.