Monday, December 17, 2012

We have a WINNER!

Congratulations to Jessica Macca, the winner of this awesome little Steampunk Winged Brooch!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Prototype Giveaways

You may have noticed that I'm constantly experimenting with new materials and forms.  From time I end up with a prototype that I really LOVE, but it's not quite good enough to put up for sale.  Perhaps it's just a tiny bit crooked, or the colors aren't as smooth as I would like them to be.  But I really hate to throw stuff out.  So, I decided I would give them away, if anyone wants them.

To be in the running for this little gem, just leave a comment* on the Facebook post, here:

Here are some more pix of this week's giveaway item:  

This is a pendant (no chain, just the pendant), that measures about 2" on a side.  It was inspired by my lifelong love of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, as well as my great affinity for Mission-style and Arts & Crafts furniture.  It is made with 2 little brass plates sandwiching a rough amber-colored polymer clay layer.  And I've poured red resin in the center to act as little windows!

The 'bail' is brass wire pounded into an organic shape, and the whole thing is held together with my favorite little brass nuts & bolts.  As with all my work, the metal is nice and grungy :)

To be in the drawing for this piece, just LEAVE A COMMENT on its Facebook posting (here: )

But, if you are so inclined, you can MULTIPLY YOUR CHANCES by:

1.  Inviting other folks to "Like" my Facebook page here:

or you can

2.   "Like" and SHARE the posting on Facebook.

For every new "Like" you bring me (one of you will have to let me know, of course :), I'll put your name in the hat again.  If the person you invite is interested in the giveaway as well, please have them comment on the item's FB post.  Thanks!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Surprise! Suddenly High Tea

So, my long-time friend, Author Debra Brown, called me yesterday and asked if I would like to attend High Tea with her at 11am the next morning?  Oh my!  High Tea.  What do I wear?  How do I act?  What IS High Tea, anyway?

To find out, we would be going to a lovely little spot in Junction City (Oregon) called "Scatter Joy."  First stop was their Facebook page to check out what folks wear to such an event.  Turns out it's pretty much whatever you want, so we opted to dress up nicely in skirts, and wear hats - not something one gets to do in everyday life  :)  This certainly would be an awesome place to hold a Steampunk Tea, though.  Amazingly nice folks, and wonderful food!

Debra pointed out later that there was a video, "The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea," on Scatter Joy's FB page, which I didn't watch until I got home.  Very informative! 

What was High Tea like?  We started out with our choice of two good-sized pots of tea from their generous Tea Menu; we chose to start with a wonderfully fragrant "Creme Brulee" sweet tea, and switched to "Earl Grey Cream" later in the meal.  Just after our tea arrived, our server brought the first course, a delicious mesclun salad with bits of orange, good Greek olives and a sprinkling of Feta - a real mouth-pleasing combination!

Next she brought an elegant 3-tiered stand with a variety of tiny sandwiches, scones, bruschetta and tartlettes.  At first glance it may not have looked like much, but believe me it was plenty!  Debra even took a nice little assortment home to her hubby, who had wished to attend but could not.

One of the items I enjoyed most was the scones - because I had always wanted to know what "lemon curd" was like.   Mmmmmmm!!  So smooth and rich and lemony, spread with just a tiny bit of whipped cream onto a bite of freshly-baked scone.  It was so yummy I forgot to take a picture before I started eating it!

Our little meal ended with sweet slices of triple-layer brownies, complemented perfectly with our second pot of tea, the Earl Grey Cream.  Then we spent our last few moments wandering through the shop looking at all the lovely items for sale.  It reminded me of what a French flea market must be like!

So, thank you SO much Debra for this special invitation, and a big thank you, as well, to the lovely ladies at Scatter Joy for a much-needed break from the ordinary!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adventures in Parasol Repair!

Look what I found on a recent treasure hunt - An amazing Double Decker Asian Parasol!  Unfortunately, it was damaged:  

Well, heck, how hard could it be to fix that?  So, this weekend, being laptop deprived and therefore with some extra time on my hands, off I went into repair land...  First step, clean up the damaged parts.  Fortunately the two bad spots were an even number of spaces apart, so I just cut every-other triangle out with a craft knife.  UNfortunately, I didn't realize there was a string under the paper right where I was cutting, so...  oops!

That's ok.  I just used some strong string and a good-sized needle to carefully thread through the holes and tied it off to the uncut parts.  Presto and onward-ho!

Next I needed to pick out some kind of paper to use.  It was, of course, originally made with rice paper, which I had none of (and, also 'of course' had not the patience to order some and wait for it to come in the mail ;)

But what I did have was some vintage vellum that I picked up at the Brooks Steam Fair this summer with brown-printed blueprints on it - they were selling them 3 for $1.00!  Perfect.  But a little too clean, and a bit bare around the edges.  So first I traced another blueprint onto it with a brown ball point pen, then washed the whole thing with Isopropal Alcohol to blur it a bit.  After I ironed that out (yes, with an actual iron), I measured the umbrella, traced and cut out the right-sized circle.

Then I traced the little circle in the middle and cross cut that so that it would fit over the top nicely.

 I used 'mod podge' (1/2 elmers glue, 1/2 water) to glue it to the spines and the panels that weren't cut out.  Here it is fitted and drying:

Then I very carefully turned the 1/4" hangover and glued it over the edge string in sections.

On the bottom part of the umbrella the spines are coated with amber shellac, so I did the same to the top section, then covered the top part by podging white tissue paper on, then painting that with amber as well.

 Lastly, because once I accidentally inverted the whole thing, I glued a screw into a conveniently-placed hole on the main pole so that it would act as a stop to prevent that from happening again. 

 And Voila!  Works great, looks great - ready to pop into the shop for some lucky customer  :O)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Automata Through the Centuries - Part I

From what I've seen, building beautiful and detailed machines that actually function (such as Datamancer's computer mods or Jake Von Slatt's imaginative machines) is somewhat of a holy grail in Steampunk culture (that is, as opposed to making things that are yes, beautiful, but mostly non-operational). But we Steampunks are not alone in our fascination with such things. For hundreds of years those who could afford to create them or, more commonly, have them commissioned, have left an amazing legacy of stunning art and machines.

One manifestation of such art and craft has been the building of “automatons” throughout the ages. I present for your pleasure a few outstanding examples!

The Antikythera Mechanism

Around 2,000 years ago Grecian engineers created amazingly complex machines, including automatons, which apparently were not uncommon in larger cities such as Alexandria, sometimes even run by steam! One famous construct from that time, the Antikythera Mechanism, has been replicated exactly from measurements and examination of the original. By mere observation one would never guess how many things it's doing as it turns: Tracking the both the Egyptian and Greek calendars, the movements of the sun, five planets and the moon, including its phases, plus the rising and setting of certain stars. Oh, and it compensated for Leap Years. And that's just on one side!

On the other side were dials to four track long-cycles of years (19, 54, 76 and 223), as well as eclipse cycles. And if that's not enough, it also showed the dates of the Grecian Olympics (every 4 years, like our own) and other Greek games! Here is a beautifully done 3D video of it working.

DaVinci's Car

About a thousand years later, Leonardo DaVinci, among hundreds of other inventions, created plans for what could be considered the first precursor to the automobile, run by large clock springs:

Monk Bot

Fast forward to the 16th century, where we find a wind-up Monk Bot, owned now by the Smithsonian. No audio on this one, but at about the 50-second mark it starts showing all the little mechanisms that make it work. Isn't it astounding that a machine made in 1560 is now here for us to see on YouTube?? :)

Singing Birds

One common early form of automata was a singing bird in a cage. Would not a few of these in your Conservatory give it a truly Victorian air?


Later makers of these marvelous machines made them even more complex. Here's an example of an automation made in 1895 by Henri Maillardet, which was the inspiration for the movie “Hugo.”

In Part II we will explore modern makers of automata!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Alternatives to Corsets Part 1 - Wide Belts

          When people think of Steampunk accessories of course Corsets are usually at or near the top of the list. But, you know, not ALL of us are into corsets. I do have one boned garment (a waxed-cotton vest that I just LOVE), but I got to thinking that there must be some alternatives to boned corsets that look just as pretty, flattering and, well, Steampunky. So I've done some research and gathered a bunch of pictures to do a series on Alternatives to Corsets. This first installment will give examples of “Wide Belts”.

          Very similar to regular leather belts, wide leather belts can give a LOT of character to your costume:

Another style of wide belt you might consider is the "obi style" belt, which can lend your costume an air of multiculturalism:

I think my personal favorite as an alternative to a corset is what's called a 'vest belt'.  They are cool made from tweed...

Or from leather...

There!  Now you have a few alternatives to that pesky tight corset that are still flattering and have lots of character!  But wait, "what else?" you may ask?  Next time:  Halters!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thematic Thursday: Airship Captains!

          When it comes to creating an Airship Captain costume, you have a several different choices in basic style:

          One is Navy, or nautical, including Submarine Captains (such as Captain Nemo in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.")  This type of costume could be based on traditional vintage uniforms, like these:

          Notice some of the similarities in these uniforms, despite the differences in time period.  Metal buttons; epaulettes, "billed" cap, sleeve stripes and, of course, medals!

          Another style you could choose would be Airship Pirate, which also nicely lends itself to multiculturalism!

          The pirates, it seems, display almost the exact opposite characteristics from the Navy guys - no brass buttons, no stripes, no billed caps, etc.  Not even various time periods!  They seem to have stayed in the late 18th century, with tricorn hats, lots of leather, belts, buckles and lacings.  And don't forget your eye patch - er - monoggle  :)

          In Steampunk, because it is a form of science fiction, you have another choice for this type of costume as well - Space Captain!

So it seems that, as with most Steampunk costumes, your choices will depend upon your story!

Perhaps you'll find more inspiration for your Airship Captain, Sky Pirate or Steampunk Space Farer costume by checking out these Pinboards:  "Nautical Steampunk Inspiration,"  "Scurvy Knaves," "Yo ho ho & a bottle o' rum,"

And, of course, I cannot leave out my own personal favorite Airship Captain Cozmo Osric Galloway's pinboard "My Steampunk"!

Don't forget  you can always just do a general Pinterest search for "Airship Captain" and find all kinds of fun stuff too! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

10 Steps to Create Your Steampunk Character Name

     When it comes to my creative process, whether making jewelry, writing a story or designing a new costume piece, I am always most comfortable pulling from personal experience, and I recommend you do the same.  So, rather than casting advice about how you can find a Steampunk name, this post is about how we (Multifarious Jim and I) chose our own names.  Hopefully our experience as neophyte Neo-Victorians will be helpful in your own excursion into Steampunk appellations.  First, remember the ancient Greeks certainly had it right:  Know Thyself!
     Second, consider why you need a Steampunk name in the first place.  To impress?  To fill a certain cosplay role?  In our case, the need for a Steampunk name stemmed from our impending attendance at SteamCon II in Seattle.  It somehow seemed just wrong to go as our normal, mundane selves.  Fortuitously, Jim actually already had a Steampunk name - we just hadn't really realized it yet.  So we fooled around with a "steampunk name generator," but found it frustratingly impersonal.  Then, poking around on Ebay one day, and it dawned on me - it was his Ebay username!
     I had been selling on Ebay under my original username (wisteriablue) for years, but needed to open a separate account to sell Steampunk stuff.  Somehow "wisteriablue" just didn't seem to fit Jim <grin>!  So we thought long and hard about who Jim is, what he loves doing, and his manner of doing it.  He is a person of diverse talents and an unassuming manner; and I swear he can fix anything!  Combine those personal qualities with my own love of $10 words, and voila!  "Multifarious Jim" was his new Ebay username and then, later, his Steampunk identity.  Easy!
      My own name was a bit more problematic.  I was completely stumped.  So, again, I went to the name generator, but it wasn't much help.  I wanted my persona to really characterize me, so I could be completely comfortable introducing myself to other Steampunks.  That level of comfort was very important to me, as I have always been quite uncomfortable "acting" as anyone other than myself.
     For my first name I went with family history.  I had been told when young that my first name, Brenda, means "little raven" in Welsh, which nationality is a part of my ancestry.  I really liked that - felt a good connection with it.  So Raven it was.
     My Steampunk surname took a bit more searching.  I wanted my name to describe what I do.  And what is that?  Basically, when I'm "in the zone" up in my Steampunk Workshop, I cobble odds and ends together to make a completely new and useful construct.  Historically, what kind of person does that?  A mechanic?  A builder?  A Tinkerer!!  That was it.  I had captured the concept for my name.  However, I couldn't just use the word "tinker".
     So I thought about language, ethnicity.  My life experience has included quite a bit of French, starting, surprisingly, with my love of Louis XV furniture as a teenager, and, later, 6 years of French lessons in school.  For me, French was just a given!  So I messed around with French-sounding words, and came up with "Assemble'" (pronounced "ahh-sahm-BLAY").   There it was - Raven Assemble', Steampunk Tinker - a name I can carry proudly through my Steampunk lifetime!
     Although my own process was a bit laborious (as are, unfortunately, MOST of my creative endeavors), the result was definitely worth the brain strain.  To get you started on creating your own Steampunk character, don't just google "steampunk name generator;" try "fantasy name generator" to broaden the scope of your character.  Click HERE to go to Pace J Miller's blog page that contains a great list of fun name generators (the list is about 1/2 way down the page).
     So, to re-cap, this is the process I went through:  1. Know thyself;  2. Figure out the reason you need this name;  3. Try out some name generators to get the clockwork ticking;  4. Think about your personality;  5. Give some thought to family history;  6. What is the meaning of  your real name?  7.  What do you (or your character) like to do?  What is that job usually called?  8. What national (or international) flair might come into play?  9.  Keep up with our blog for future character ideas;  10. Have FUN with the process!

Child Labor 100 Years ago

 Not only did I find this video fascinating historically, it also is an amazing look into the clothing of the working classes 100 years ago.

Time Travelers Alert: The Historical History of the Hysterical Top Hat – Part 3

Of course, the London Times was correct in their prognostication. By mid-nineteenth century the top hat was ubiquitous at every level of English society, from the lowly chimney sweep to the gentry, and had made its way to the U.S. as well. During the first half of the century there was still a bit of exaggeration involved (witness the “stovepipe” hat favored by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln; stovepipe hats could be as tall as 8” or 9”). But in later decades the height slowly descended to the now-standard five to 6.5 inches, while the top of the hat broadened slightly, giving a more “nipped-in” or tailored look.
For a time in the Victorian era, top hats were actually mandatory for certain lines of work, such as doormen and carriage drivers. Wikipedia state that in some cases it was even “worn daily for formal wear, such as in London at various positions in the Bank of England and City stockbroking, or boys at some public schools.
In 1829, London's Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel initiated a new police force (called “Peelers” at the time) whose uniform consisted of blue tail-coats and top hats, no doubt adding to the perceived “authority” of the headwear. Sir Roberts' variously instituted police forces eventually rendered London's famous “Bobbies,” sans the top hats (but incorporating another awesome hat-type, the pith helmet)!

It's commonly known that by the early 20th century top hats were the very pinnacle of formal attire. High-end hats owned by the wealthy would be scrupulously cared for, including being packed in special cases when traveling by train, or on steamer ships such as the Titanic.
By the 1920's and '30's top hats were generally confined to solemn occasions, such as weddings and funerals, black-tie events, and the world of entertainment. It is still such fun to watch Fred Astaire dance in his top hat and tails!
Unbeknownst to many in our modern age of tablets that aren't pills, mice that don't eat cheese and monitors that aren't lizards, though, top hats are actually seeing somewhat of a resurgence. They are still with us, of course, in their usual guises, worn by prom-goers and pall bearers, carriage drivers and ringmasters.
But they can be seen more and more frequently of late in the newly-growing costume genre called “Steampunk” (also known as “Vernian” or “Neo-Victorian”). These costume hats have really become an art form of their own, coming in all sizes and shapes from exaggerated to mini, highly decorated to elegantly simple, and most commonly seen sporting a pair of goggles!

So, why not surprise your friends by showing up in a top hat at your next formal event? Or, even better, play along with the theme next time you go to an old fashioned fair or reenactment!

Time Travelers Alert: The Historical History of the Hysterical Top Hat – Part 2

By 1797 the top hat had made its way to England, the Aristocratic French and the well-to-do English perpetually racing to outdo each other as fashion plates. The Dandy movement, too, was just as popular in England, the chief model of which was Mr. George Bryan “Beau” Brummel, a man who was reportedly famous for not wearing a wig (somebody decided to put a tax on wig powder!) and for, well... being famous! And although the trend in England did not involve hyperbolic hats or skirts as wide as church doors, it did involve specific modes of style, including men's corsets, to achieve just that perfect air of insouciance and laissez-faire. However popular the style (including the top hat) may have been amongst the gentry, though, it was apparently not equally well received in all locales, as we shall see.
As noted in Part I, hatter George Dunnage of Middlesex County is generally credited with the “invention” of the top hat in 1793. (Of course, we Futurians are now the wiser, knowing as we do that the French were wearing them at least a decade earlier!) What Mr. Dunnage actually did was patent it – a very smart gentleman, indeed. Curiously, about a century later, an article printed in an English publication, “The Hatter's Gazette,” told the tale of turbulent events surrounding the appearance of the “first” top hat in London. One would think that people residing in the heart of London would be somewhat less insular, but here's where the tale gets really silly, a few decades before the hat came to be the height of elegance.
The report was of poor John Hetherington, out for a promenade one day when he inadvertently caused not just a “stir” but nearly a riot in what one would have assumed was a “fashionable” district of London called “The Strand.”
Apparently there were women screaming and fainting. Dogs barking and children crying. Fear, confusion and flying fruit. Horses bolting and crowds surging (there is even a report of one boy's arm being broken as a result)! Quite the ruckus! All just because Mr. Hetherington decided to take a leisurely stroll down the thoroughfare wearing his shiny new Top Hat.
Evidently the constabulary was called in to calm things down and take Mr. Hetherington off to court. There, in lieu of jail, he was fined 500 Pounds (the equivalent of $30,000 today) for a “Breach of the Peace,” with one officer stating, “Hetherington had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.” Eventually the story made the front page of the London Times, which stated, “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.” It was also recorded that a law was passed against wearing such hats because they “frightened timid people.”
Despite Mr. Hetherington's escapade, however, it wasn't long before top hats were not just "all the rage" in England, but were sometimes even required headwear, as we shall see in Part 3.

Time Travelers Alert: The Historical History of the Hysterical Top Hat – Part 1

Looking diligently back into The History of Fancy Hats, one can deduce a definite chronological divide between “The Time of TriCorns” and “The Time of Top Hats.” This is important information for Time Travelers, since arriving in the “Time of TriCorns” wearing a Top Hat could be disastrous, as could, of course, the opposite! And top hats have such an interestingly dichotomous lineage – both silly and elegant! Silly because, as we shall see, they have gone through amazing extremes of fashion on their way to becoming the dignified head wear familiar to Upper-Crusteans the world over.

Although their invention is generally attributed to haberdasher George Dunnage in 1793 (more on that in Part II), and thought of by most as an English conception, they can actually be seen in French etchings as early as the 1780's. There had been a hat called a “Capotain” in style since the 1590's (can you imagine a style with 200-year staying power?? Time travelers, take note), which was middlin' tall and slightly conical, with a somewhat narrow brim. We in the U.S. tend to think of them as “pilgrim hats;” they were often adorned with a centered buckle on the hatband.

By the late 1700's, however, the style had been refined and was being worn regularly by French “dandies” - gentlemen fashionistas who were principal driver's of French style at the time. They were not then called “top hats,” but, rather “Paris Beau,” or even just “beaver hats,” since beaver was a favorite hat material, as was silk.

Here's where the story starts tending toward the silly... It would be a gross understatement to say that the late 18th century French aristocracy were quite fond of exaggeration when it came to costume. Think dresses 3 times wider than your body, and powdered wigs half again your own height! The same was true of hats, of course, including the top hat. Well-heeled French Ladies would have the style enlarged and softened, then adorned with everything from bird cages to sailing ships, with plenty of large, fluffy ostrich feathers shoved in all over. The men's hats, were, of course, somewhat less overdone, but those caught up in the movement called “Les Incroiables” (the Incredibles) were, for a time, also seen wearing large floppy versions, as seen in the illustration to the right.

So, you may ask, how did this caricature of what would become the ultimate in distinctive menswear morph into the perfect hat for any special occasion? Stay tuned to Part II for tales of women swooning and screaming, courts, coppers and jail, patents and royalty!