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.

 

 

 

A Visit to Brasston – Extended Version

Something a little different this week:  Jan Miller, who purchased both Algernon and Josephine Cholmondeley from our Etsy shop, has added a further chapter to the story of their impending visit to Brasston, The Most Cosmopolitan City Award winner in 1850.  Delighted to know that the Lord Admiral of the High Skies and his wife are in such excellent hands.

We hope you will enjoy reading both chapters here:

Chapter 1

It was, not surprisingly, young Molly who found the book first.  She’d read her way through everything in the Steampunk-Shrunk library  – even the Suffragette newspapers – and had been on the lookout for something new.

“Excuse me, Lady Cholmondeley,” she said, dropping a pretty curtsy to Josephine, “But do you think your husband, seeing as how he’s the Lord Admiral of the High Fleet, could take me on one of his sky ship machines to Brasston?  They’ve got a perfectly splendid aerodrome and I’m sure they’d allow him to dock there.  Let me show you the pictures.  They’re in colour!”
“Why I’ve never heard of the place, my dear. Are you sure you’ve got the name correct?” smiled Josephine.
“Oh yes, Your Ladyship, Ma’am. I think it must be very famous. It won the ‘Most Cosmopolitan City Award’ in 1850.”

Josephine started to look through the book – a most difficult process since, unlike the inhabitants of Shrunk Towers, this book had not been shrunk to one twelfth of its original size.  She had to obtain assistance from several other members of the community and they in turn became mesmerised by the splendours of Brasston.

“Good lord!” Barnaby Balsover exclaimed, “There’s a chap there having his shoes polished by a clockwork automaton!  Quite remarkable!”
“Certainly,” agreed Ava Brassfeather, “And it says they do tours of the clock factory and provide cake and tea.”
“I believe it says you have to pay extra for cups and saucers, though, Ma’am,” Molly whispered, jumping in alarm when Ava made a loud tutting sound.
Molly wasn’t sure whether this was aimed at herself or the facilities available at the works, but she didn’t venture to speak again.

A touching moment for the valiant coupleWhen Algernon returned from a successful raid on a troublesome bunch of sky pirates who had been terrorising the airways above Penge, he was met by a mass of pleading faces.
His wife took his arm, gazed alluringly into his eyes and purred, “My dearest…”

“Hmm,” he said finally, once he’d had a strong cup of gunpowder tea and an opportunity to peruse the book.  “I strongly suspect that this is a work of fiction, created by this rather splendid gentleman on the back cover, Mr Ashley G.K. Miller.  I’m not convinced that the city exists.”

“Well if anyone can find it, it’s you, Old Boy,”  announced Lord Horatio Backgammon, and the others joined in a chorus of agreement with his Lordship’s sentiment.

And so, as I write, the entire group is busy packing and preparing for an epic journey in one of the fleet’s most capacious dirigibles, while Algy is earnestly poring over his charts, in search of the city of Brasston. Unfortunately the trip was delayed – but that is another story!

Should you wish to discover this remarkable location for yourself, dear reader, I suggest visiting Mr Miller’s Facebook page, where you will find all the details you need.

Chapter 2

After several months, Algernon Cholmondeley, Lord Admiral of the High Fleet, was finally re-united with his dear wife Josephine. He had been captured by Sky Pirates before he could take his friends on the planned trip to Brasston.   Josephine was so relieved to see him again.  But they had been communicating by means of the steam telegraph while he was captive.

 

It seems the Sky Pirates extracted a large ransom from the Admiralty before releasing Algy unharmed. He, meanwhile, had secretly been inspecting the Sky Pirates remarkable Airships and learning as much as he could about their design.  Of course Algernon was used to high powered airships in his normal day job, but the Sky Pirates had adapted some new ideas from other countries they had plundered.  Algy was now determined to make a new airship of his own.  It would have all the latest technology for the 1850s, including a pigeon-guided location finder.

Some of Algy’s pictures of the Sky Pirates’ airships

 

As his wife and friends were so interested in visiting this Brasston, he could use that trip as an experimental run.

 

 

Lady Cholmondely had also been in contact with Mr Ashley G. K. Miller, the author of the esteemed volume; ‘A Traveller’s Guide to Brasston’ which had started the whole thing, and he had sent  pictures of himself on one of his recent Hot Air Balloon Flights.

 

 

He said he would be delighted to help them make the Airship and take them to Brasston.

Lady Cholmondeley soon got the local enthusiasts together to collect all the bits and pieces they could find to make the new Airship. Having Algy’s colleagues in the Admiralty look through the old sheds, and with Mr. Miller’s collection of past pieces they had quite a good start.

 

 

Josephine and her friend Penelope set to work right away to make a comfortable day-bed for the passengers inside the Airship, while Young Algy played with his own model one. ‘Oh these feathers are going up my nose!’ exclaimed  Josephine.

They were happily employed in this activity while Lord Algernon thought about his new Airship design. More about how he is getting on with it another time!

 

Jan Miller is a writer and publisher on the conservation of native plants. She also has an interest in miniature plants and crafts.  See her website www.7wells.co.uk where you can also find her Asperger’s Syndrome son Ashley G. K. Miller’s book about Steampunk Lego ‘Brasston’.

Lord and Lady Cholmondeley and the Steampunk artifacts were upcycled and made by Jan Stone at Steampunk-Shrunk. Victorian dolls’ house and conservatory with real plants by Jan Miller.

Through the Looking-Glass, and how Alice got there

Something a little different today: a glimpse into the creative process that went into one of our models.

First there was the box…
…which, after a bit of rearranging, became a double room.
I decided to send Alice through the looking glass, but this was the only girl doll I could find.
So she needed a makeover…
This is as close as I could get to Tenniel’s original illustrations.
I knew the bits of foam packaging from a set of roller blinds would come in handy sometime.
With a few sawn up oak twigs and a battery tea light, Alice soon had fireplaces.
Some card and lace trim made the mantlepieces. Time-consuming to make two of everything!
The clocks had to look the same from the back, of course…
… but quite different from the front. Everything was true to Lewis Carroll’s text and John Tenniel’s pictures.
I used polymer clay and jewellery findings for the fire irons. The white knight needs to slide down the poker.
Imagine how long it took to set up and glue down the pieces. White is about to catch Alice in fool’s mate.
In Looking-Glass House, though, the pieces are wandering two by two around the fireplace. A bishop is sitting on a log, reading a broadsheet…
… and a white pawn called Lily has fallen over on the table and is screaming for her mother.
A shadowy Alice can be seen climbing through the mirror from the completed drawing room…
… and emerging in Looking -Glass House.
Of course both rooms fit neatly into the box to make a perfect little set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Alice and the room box set are for sale in our Etsy shop – The SteampunkDollsHouse.  Follow the links to take a look at them.

 

 

The Building of The Aronnax – Many Leagues Under the Sea

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?

The Case of The Aronnax is now for sale at The SteampunkDollsHouse on Etsy.

 

 

The Alarming Clock

I, Ebenezer Crackington, am by trade a clockmaker.  I have worked at this trade since I completed my apprenticeship in the beautiful city of Paris, France, many years ago, at the age of twenty-two.

For eighteen years I made a reasonable living producing table and mantle clocks of the finest quality, encased in glass domes so that the mechanism could be viewed by the owners.

One memorable day, however, my shop was visited by none other than Lord Horatio Backgammon.

Imagine my amazement as this great gentleman entered the door and removed his hat, just as any lesser person might do.

I bowed to his lordship and offered him a chair, wishing that I had some upholstered seating, rather than the plain wooden variety.

Nevertheless, his lordship deigned to sit upon this humble piece of furniture with no complaint and addressed me in the following manner: 
“Crackington,” he said, “You have been recommended to 
me by certain gentlemen at my club as being a first rate craftsman.  Would you say they are correct?”

No doubt my face reddened rather at this most unexpected compliment, but I kept my head and replied, “Why I certainly believe it to be the case, Your Lordship, judging by the testimonials I have received from satisfied customers.”

“Good show,” Lord Backgammon responded.  “In that case, I have a most particular commission for you.”

I promptly availed myself of a pen and my order book, hoping that my exterior appearance remained calm, despite my inner excitement.

Lord Horatio Backgammon informed me that, for reasons he was unable to disclose, he needed to wake and rise at a various times during the night in order to attend meetings of an extremely significant nature.  His prompt arrival at these rendezvous was of the utmost importance. 

Unfortunately, his lordship was a very heavy sleeper and was having great difficulty waking on time.

He asked whether I had any experience in constructing adjustable mechanical alarm clocks.  I assured him that I had served as apprentice under M. Antoine Redier, the inventor and patent holder of such devices.

“Well they are useless!” his lordship informed me.  “I require a device at least ten times louder than such paltry machines and one which involves a further element of surprise.  Can you do it?”

I assured him that I could, and would start work on it that very day.

Lord Backgammon left his card and a generous down payment and departed.

I commenced by using a double bell for the alarm mechanism, with a strong beater which alternated between the two.  I then constructed a large claxon, which I fashioned from a trombone horn, which moved about in a haphazard and suitably alarming fashion when activated.

Since I was concerned that the ensuing noise might perforate his lordship’s eardrums, I installed a decibel gauge, which would shut down the alarm if dangerous sound levels were reached. 

Lord Backgammon was delighted with his device and pronounced it satisfactory in every respect.

 

Thus I find myself the inventor of the Ebenezer Crackington Alarming Clock.

A miniature DIY book containing this text can be purchased as a downloadable file from our Etsy shop here.  The file contains mini pages, an illustrated cover and full instructions for putting the book together.  All this for just £2.64.

Tinkering with Time

George Entwhistle, a patents clerk by day, had always enjoyed tinkering.  The trouble was, tinkering could be a somewhat noisy activity.  Living as he did in a terraced property, he had to contend with frequent complaints from neighbours and visits from members of the constabulary.

In consequence, he’d been banned from hammering, sawing, welding or producing anything with a tendency to explode between the hours of 8pm and 10am, and all day on Sundays.  This, given the long hours he worked at the patents office, made it difficult for him to achieve anything of note.  George felt cheated by life.

All this changed, though, the day he realised that the blocked up door in the sitting room did not, as he’d always imagined, lead to the parlour.  Careful measuring and still more careful (and virtually silent) plan drawing showed that there was a two and a half foot gap between the blocked door and the parlour wall.

Working only between the hours of 7.30 and 8 in the evening, George carefully prised open the mysterious door and discovered, to his great amazement, a staircase leading down.  Eagerly, he availed himself of an oil lamp and the poker from the fireplace, and cautiously descended.

Cellar Outlet, Gang, Dark, CreepyImagine George’s surprise and delight as he discovered a further door at the base, which opened quite easily, revealing a large cellar!

Certainly it was cold and uninviting, but the walls were thick.  George raced upstairs, grabbed his noisiest intruder alarm – one of his most unpopular inventions amongst the neighbours during the testing stage – and took it down to his newly discovered domain.  Here he set it off and left it in the cellar, shutting the door behind him and returning to the sitting room.  Despite the deafening clang of bells and shriek of whistles echoing around the empty space below, there was virtually no sound to be heard from either the sitting room or parlour.  Despite it being 8.30, not a single neighbour banged on the wall or hammered on his front door.
“Eureka!” exclaimed George.
“Quiet in there or I’ll summon a constable!” came an angry shout from the occupant of number 28.

From that day onward, George worked to transform the cellar into a tinker’s workshop.  He extended the heating pipes downwards to power a boiler, which not only heated the workshop, but allowed him to brew a much-needed cup of tea from time to time.  He constructed a doorbell with a wire connecting it to the front of his house, so that callers could be heard.  He made himself a shelf and workbench and even installed a clock and mirror.  The result was a commodious and most agreeable work space.  George was a happy man.

He is currently busying himself with constructing a clockwork time machine.  He’d long had a plan, gleaned from a combination of the failed ideas of several other tinkers.  Working in a patents office did have certain advantages.

As you can see, his contraption is well underway, and he’s able to fire it up for short periods.

“Only a matter of time,” George mutters to himself, smiling slightly at his own wit, “Now that I no longer have to suffer time restraints, soon I shall be the master of time!”

Time will tell…

 

Should you wish to inspect George’s cellar workshop and the items he is creating there, do come to any of the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls at various events over the coming months.

The details of venues, dates and times can be found on the home page of this website.  

Oh, and if you come along, do ask George to demonstrate the time machine.  He loves to show off his workmanship.

 

 

Molly – by Herself

by herselfFinally I’ve got a job!  More than that, it’s the best job in the world, because I get to do what I love doing more than anything else in the world – reading.

I’ve wanted a job for ever so long.  My brother Rufus has one and he’s a whole year younger than me.  After all, I’m eleven years old now, so it’s only fitting that I should be working.

It all came about when I was talking to Mrs Steampunkle one day.  I was telling her that adults say quite ridiculous things sometimes.  I told her Ma says I’ve always got my nose stuck in a book and Pa calls me ‘a proper little bookworm’.  To my way of thinking, both of those sound quite unpleasant and definitely not true.  Why, if my nose was stuck in a book, I wouldn’t be able to read the words and would go cross-eyed trying.  As for being a worm, well everyone knows worms like the dirt out in the yard, not reading books on the rug in front of a nice blazing fire.

Mrs Steampunkle laughed and told me what bookworms really are (which is a terrible thing, and they are actually called book lice, although they’re not lice either, which is even more confusing) so I told her I’d never destroy a book – not even if the alternative was to starve.

She mentioned that she had quite a stock of books, which she sells on market stalls, and asked whether I’d like to see them.

I said I wasn’t particularly keen to see them, but if I might be allowed to READ them, that would be a different thing entirely and yes, I’d like that very much.  So after laughing some more (she does seem to laugh quite often – I’m not sure why) she fetched over a stack of books and told me to read whatever I liked.

Well when I read, it’s as if I somehow become a part of the story.  I feel as if I’m inside it, living the characters’ lives along with them.  Usually people have to shake my shoulder to bring me back to this world.   Even then it takes me a while to remember which one is real (although I think probably they both are).  Mrs Steampunkle had to shake me and shout “Molly!” rather loudly several times to pull me out of the story I was enjoying.  It’s called The Diary of a Tinkerer and it’s all about Henry and how he and his time machine got stuck in a dreadful-sounding place called 2017, where he was only one twelfth of his normal size.

Lost in a bookI can’t wait to find out what happens next.  Luckily, though, I’ll be able to read on, because Mrs Steampunkle said she’d like me to go with her to her market stalls and sit reading her books!  That is honestly all I have to do for this job.  She said when people see me so engrossed in her stories, they will want to buy them and read them for themselves.  She won’t be paying me any wages, but it’s better than that, because in return, she is going to write and print MY STORY!

Imagine that – a real book all about me!  I was rather worried that I hadn’t had any adventures to make a story interesting, but she insisted that she’d got enough material just from talking to me.  She asked me what I’d like the book to be called and I chose Molly – by Herself.  Mrs S says it’s a very good title.

So soon I will have my nose stuck in a book – and all the rest of me too.  Oh, and if you come to any of the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls, you may see me there, although I might not notice you.  Sorry about that.