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Archive for the ‘Steampunk Gadgets’ Category

Steampunk has come to embrace so many varied arts, well beyond just fiction. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of the artisans who make the stuff that makes us all look so good.

 ***

 Shoptroll: (aka Peter Vanslyke)

 

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.shoptroll.net (but realistically I update the Shoptroll Facebook page way more regularly.)

 

What do you make? 

Riveted seam (no sewing) leather clothing. Mostly skirts, kilts, and pocket-belts.

(Note from Cindy: he also makes bodices, bracelets, gloves, shelves, benches, and just about everything you can make with wood, nails, rivets and soft leather. That’s me and the spouse in SP invasion of RFall our Shoptroll finery.)

 

Do you do this full time or is it a side job? 

Full time. 24-7.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

I think, for me, the two’re inseparably linked. I love non-traditional construction methods (example: to make a skirt, I use rivets instead of thread). I see a great deal of the above in the overall steampunk aesthetic. Descriptions and images of things that at the first seem over-built, stylized, or overly ornamental can too be taken as, say, a plumber’s take on a message-delivery system. Using your knowledge or trade to solve situations that they may not at first seem applicable to…I love seeing that.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

Not going to panels when you’re at a con.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved?

If there is a defining aspect of steampunk, I’d call it creativity. No, really, bear with me as I “define” steampunk here. Every single steamo out there brings something to the table. Every. Single. One. At a comic or sci-fi convention, you have some great artists, writers, actors, cosplayers, etc., but for every one of those folk, there are at least a dozen fans or collectors. (Which, by the way, is great.) In steampunk, that ratio is reversed. Participants create their own character, or their own costume. They all add to the ambiance. most of us have *some* project or other we are working on, be it a light-up Nerf mod, a hover pack , a moving picture, a moving piece of poetry, an airship crew, a presentation, a new novel, knitting, we are all working on things, and most of us will happily enthuse, and share ideas to inspire and encourage one another. That, the building of this thing that we all enjoy together, that is probably my favorite aspect of steampunk.

 ***

 Matt Sabins, of Sabins Gadgeteering Lab, LLC

 matt

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.sabinsgadgeteeringlab.com

What do you make?

Custom costume props, accessories, and jewelry. My style tends towards Tesla-tech, usually with small glowing light effects to simulate strange energies of the Aether.

(note from Cindy: His wristbands and firefly necklaces are out of this world!)

 

Do you do this full timIMG_3955e or is it a side job?

Full-Time, my own business. I’ve tried pursuing conventional means of employment; it never really worked out for me.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

My first exposure to steampunk was the tabletop role-playing game, “Mage: The Ascension” by White Wo Studios. There’s a Tradition of mages called the Sons of Ether whose mad devices and eccentric style were steampunk even before the term had really caught on, and they were my fast favorite. I really love the strange mélange of mysticism and technology that they represent, and I began to try making Etheric devices of my own to use as props. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve been refining my methods with what I could afford ever since.IMG_3667

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

The hardest thing about being a vendor is coming up with product ideas that are original enough not to infringe on other copyrights, but that have sufficiently recognizable value to customers who migIMG_2985ht want to buy them. I often have to restrain myself from exuberant creativity and focus on making everyday stuff with a just a hint of mad science in them.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved? 

My favorite thing about steampunk is that it is primarily fan-driven. There isn’t a lot of popular source material in films and television with steampunk as the main focus. There’s plenty of room to get in on the ground floor as it picks up steam, so to speak. As for the people involved, I’ve found most are quite friendly and well-mannered, and they seem to really like my creations.

***

 So now that you’ve met these two awesome creators, don’t forget to check out their work! Hopefully, these interviews will be a recurring feature, so if you’re an artisan, or know one who ought to be interviewed, send me an email at cindy@cindyspencerpape.com.

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With the Victorians’ fascination with death and mourning, ghosts blend in so well with Steampunk stories. When I think of ghost, I often think of a haunted Victorian mansion, lit by candlelight or flickering gas lights, secret passage ways draped with cobwebs, slits cut in the eyes of a potrait  where someone or something spies on the gents and ladies in the grand manor.

DEBUNKING:

The first thing all ghost hunters do is try to find logical causes for reported paranormal activity.

  • Animals:

Look for small, furry, scurrying creatures. Sneaky varmints like mice are good at hiding. They cause strange noises and knock things down without being seen. Victorian London had a lot of mice and rats and such. Also ghostly noises in walls, attics, and basements are often caused by varmits of some type.

  • Houses:

Victorian homes had hardwood floors which cause house popping noises to often sound like phantom footsteps. Also air trapped in water pipes cause loud banging at random times. Doors opening or closing by themselves can be attributed to a house which has a good seal. Opening or closing an exterior door can create suction, so an interior door will move when the exterior door moves. Having two or more windows open can have the same effect on interior doors. Also if a gush of wind enters through one window and exits through another, the reduced air pressure may cause doors to open or close.

  • Food, Drink…Sunspot:

Cynical or logical Victorians often cited sunspot and strong drink as causes of ghost sightings.  In Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, Scrooge questioned if the ghostly vissage of Jacob Marley was caused by what he’d eaten earlier that day. “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”

Victorian Ghost

Victorian Ghost – Aetherfest

  • Modern:

Compass – The simplest piece, which fits in perfectly with Steampunk. During any type of paranormal activity, a compass will spin wildly.

KII Meters – read electromagnetic fields. If the meter spikes on these small, handheld devices, it reflects a change in the magnetic field, which along with other evidence can give proof to paranormal activity.

Mel Meters – measure both EMF and temperature. They allow paranormal investigators to record the temperature right where it’s at. After Gary Galka lost his oldest daughter Melisa, in a car accident, he created the Mel meter, named after her, to communicate with her after death as it helped his healing process. The model numbers in the Mel-8704 are the year of her birth and the year of her passing.

Recording Devices – to pick up EVP, electronic voice phenomena (White Noise). EVP began in the 1950’s when Fredrich Jurgenson, a bird watcher and retired opera singer, recorded bird calls near his home in  Switzerland on a reel to reel. When he listened to the tapes he heard voices on them, though no one else had been there. An ancient Viking burial ground happened to exist in the area he recorded at. After discovering this he continued EVP research and wrote the book, Voices From the Universe.

  • Victorian & Steampunk Alternatives:

Recording Devicesto pick up EVP prior to 1950:

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville – invented the phonautograph in 1860 –Records Sound, but Doesn’t Reproduce It  – you’d have to fix that in your story.

Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph,  1877 when he made his first sound recordings on sheets of tinfoil. In 1888, he developed a solid wax cylinder record.

Victorian Ghost Hunting Gear:

Ectoplasm Kit – In the Victorian era, ectoplasm was defined as a substance exuded from a medium while in a trance. Ectoplasm formulated into the shape of the spirit the medium was in touch with at the time. Ghost hunters carried a collecting set and chemistry equipment to gather and test any ectoplasm.

Electroscope –  Electroscopes, which pick up static electricity have been around for centuries and could have been used in placce of an  EMF meter, which along with other evidence could prove paranormal activity.

Victorian Ghosts - Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian Ghosts – Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian alternatives to communicating with the dead:

Seances – Engrossed in spiritualism and Gothic novels, many Victorians, haunted by ghost, held table rapping séances

Ouija Board – a popular board game, patened in 1890 http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/WebOuija.html

Steampunk Ghost Hunting:

Steampunk Ghost Hunting Gear

Steampunk Ghostly Tales

And last but not least – GHOSTLY STEAMPUNK READS:

4105jhfVChL__The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
by Leanna Renee Hieber

There is no unusual machinery in the story so I would not call it steampunk but still if you like steampunk you will like it. It’s set in Victoria England in London and involves ghost and gods. The characters are strong and haunting. It is a strangley beautiful paranormal/romance that I loved and I highly recommend it.

untitledGhost by Gaslight – edited by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers

This collection of seventeen Steampunk ghost stories, one has mummies, is outstanding. The authors are representative of some of the best speculative fiction authors of our modern time. It offers quite a variety of superb steampunk ghost stores. There is something for everyone in this anthology and you will be sure to claim a few as your favorite steampunk short stories. I loved it.

ToLoveALondonGhost_200To Love A London Ghost by Maeve Alpin

When Queen Victoria orders Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, to track down England’s missing ghost he stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. Though they both burn with desire, it’s difficult to quench their fiery passion since Ceridwen is so translucent. Every time Sexton touches her, his hands pass through her misty body. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.

If you live in Houston Texas, I wanted to share that I will be at one of my favorite haunts this weekend, Space City Con. Friday night, 08/02/13, I’m presenting a Steampunk Ghost Hunting panel from 7pm – 8:30pm. Please drop by if you can.

~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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1860RickettSteamCarriage_zpsf033c0ee

As promised last month, meet another piece of historical Steampunk technology: The Rickett Carriage. This steam-powered car was made in 1860 by Thomas Rickett, a Castle Foundry manager in Buckingham. His impressive work with steam engines inspired the Marquess of Stafford to order a steam carriage. It had a maximum speed of 19mph. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

This vehicle had three wheels, the single wheel at the front, and a rear-mounted coal-fired boiler and two-cylinder engine. The boiler pressure was 110 psi, and the cylinders had a bore of 76 mm and stroke of 178 mm. Transmission was by chain to the right-hand rear wheel. A maximum speed of 19 mph was claimed. A boilerman was seated at the rear, and three passengers could sit side by side at the front with the one on the right operating a tiller steering and the regulator, reversing lever and brake. The wheels had iron “tyres”, with the brakes operating on the rear wheels.

Rickett made a second model with a slightly different style for an Earl who used the car to drive an astounding 146 miles in Scotland!

Historically, the machine was short-lived and not terribly many sold, even for the low, low price of £200, but in my novel, Nickie Nick the Vampire Hunter reads about them in the paper and even sees one for herself!

This magnificent machine made it into my teen paranormal romance novel in a chapter called “Nickie Nick Sees a Rickett.” My description of a Rickett in The Zombies of Mesmer:

The alley was quiet this time when I emerged, and the smell of the blood was fading in the freshly falling snow. I went up to the mouth of the alley and stood just out of the light from the nearby gaslamp. The night had barely begun and the streets were rather busy with carriages and full of the sounds of clopping hoofbeats. My mind went back to the beautiful stranger. Where had he come from? Where had he gone to? One hears stories about how something very bad could be happening in an alleyway just adjacent a very busy street, but no one comes to help. I found that hard to believe before tonight.

Yet he had come to help. He had probably saved Conrad’s life.

And he knew vampires existed, that was a definite benefit.

Then the strangest contraption caught my eye. It was a carriage without a horse, clattering down the street with the rest of the carriages. Being the daughter of industrialists, I certainly was not ignorant of modern machinery. After all, mother and father had some quite impressive steam machines that facilitated production in their textile factory. Even Franklin himself came up with truly ingenious inventions just from assembling junk and such, but this was like nothing I had ever seen up close. It looked every bit like a carriage, only instead of four wheels, it only had three, two large ones in back and a smaller one in front. From the large back wheels, chains ran from gears on the wheels to other gears extending from an axle beneath the carriage’s floor. A man sat on the right, fully dressed for the evening in a top hat and fine overcoat, holding onto the steering rod with his left hand and another lever with his right. A woman wrapped in a fur stole and earmuffs sat beside him.

Stepping up to get a closer look as the thing puttered by, I saw that there was a mechanism beneath the carriage floor that turned the gears, which in turn, turned the wheels. I stooped down to get a look of the thing from beneath, but it had already passed. There on the back sat the engine. It looked like a coal boiler and a long pipe extending up from it belched out steam.

“Interesting, no? A far cry from a penny-farthing,” a smooth voice above me said. I stood up quickly to find that it was none other than my beautiful stranger.

“Yes. It is a Rickett Carriage. I read about them, but I have never seen one before. Simply amazing,” I responded calmly, although some rather large fluttery things had taken up residence in my stomach.

“You read, do you? Also interesting. This evening is just full of surprises, is it not, Nick?”

“How do you know my name.” It came out as a whisper, for I was breathless. He filled my world. It was as if all of London fell away from my vision, and there was only him. Black eyes twinkling in the gaslight. One side of his cinnamon lips curled up in a half-smile. Pale skin covered in soot and jaw-hugging sideburns. I shivered, and it was not the cold December night that caused it.

“Your friend said it before. It is beneficial to pay attention to the details in life, don’t you find? I am called Ashe.” He offered a gloved hand. “We were not properly introduced before.”

I took his hand and gave it a manly shake, which was not too difficult with my new strength.

“Strong, too, for such a young lad,” he said, putting his hand back in his pocket.

I felt my brows furrow at this. He thought me a boy, and a kid at that. I was no kid. I was The Protector, after all.

“I’m not all that young.” I deepened my voice perhaps a little too much. My cheeks suddenly felt very hot and flushed, so I turned my face into the cold wind and let the snowflakes cool my no-doubt-rosy-cheeks down. “Bet I’m as old as you.”

Great. That sounded quite mature, Nicole.

“Do you now?” he said. “Thought I told you to stay safe and inside. This is no place for children. Where is your friend. Is he all right?”

I bit my lip to stop from scolding this infuriating man, and I turned back to him, ready to do so anyway. As soon as I caught his eyes again, however, I was unable to speak. Literally. The ability to form words completely escaped me.

Read the rest of the Chapter, or even more of the book, for free on my blog, Caught in the Cogs, or get your very own copy from Amazon.

Return again in two weeks to learn more about real history in fiction.

-_Q

 

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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The lovely Lolitas of STEAMED! have asked me to contribute twice a month, and I am quite honored to do so. Initially, at least, my articles will revolve around the interesting historical tidbits of the Victorian Era that appear in my novels and stories.

One my favorite things about writing Steampunk is the research. It’s fascinating, really. So often in my fiction, I incorporate historical people or events or places or even technology. My imagination for technology is rather limited, I’m afraid, as my strengths as a writer are characterization, emotional depth, and dialogue. Technology and world-building are far down the list, so I work with what’s already there, although much of what I incorporate into my work has been all but lost to history. These little-known facts and events and gadgets find new life in my work. With that splendid thing known as creative license, I embellish and bend historical events and 19th century technology to fit the needs of my story.

Today, I’ll focus on The Air Loom: The Human Influencing Machine, something devised in 1810, even before the Victoria’s Reign began in 1837. While doing research on the notorious Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital, aka Bethlem) Asylum for a guest post called “Lunatics in London” for Bitten by Books during a blog tour, I watched a fascinating documentary on the infamous hospital. Within, they introduced one James Tilly Matthews, the first documented paranoid schizophrenic. I was immediately fascinated by this person and his concept of The Air Loom, so I vowed to work it into my next novel.

In my Steampunk teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer, we visit the horrible Bethlehem Asylum. Although set in 1880, my Bedlam’s halls contain the misery and pain seen in the hospital in Matthews’ time there. After being released from a three-year stint in a French prison for suspicion of being a double agent, Matthews returned to London and proceeded to accuse the Home Secretary of treason in a rather dramatic and publicly disruptive way. Matthews was committed to Bethlem Asylum in 1797 as a lunatic. Fortunately for Matthews, a resident of the hospital for over a decade, he had a relatively cushy room there and ended up drawing plans for the renovation of Bethlem Hospital among many other helpful things. In 1810, he wrote a book called Illustrations of Madness in which he illustrated the influencing machine in great detail both in design and description of purpose. Matthews believed that scientist spies, experts in “pneumatic chemistry,” had set up near Bedlam and was tormenting him by means of rays emitted from The Air Loom.

The Air Loom was a piece of advanced technology, but in the early part of the industrial age advanced technology often meant enormous machinery, rather than the increasing minutarisation that characterise the 21st century. The Air Loom was enormous. The mechanism stood seven metres tall and occupied a footprint of nine square metres, and it was constructed from oak with machined brass fittings.

It was surrounded by barrels that fed noxious gases through oiled leather pipes into the main body of the machine. The gases were derived from substances including ‘gas from the horse’s anus’, ‘seminal fluid’, ‘putrid human breath’ and ‘effluvia of dogs’. (Source)

The machine’s rays exacted such horrendous tortures onto Matthews’ mind like “kiteing,” where ideas were forced into his brain; “thought-making,” where thoughts were removed and replaced by others of the scientist’s choosing; and Lobster Cracking, where “the external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed was increased, ‘so as to stagnate his circulation, impede his vital motions, and produce instant death’.” Other torments included “lengthening of the brain,” “thigh talking,” “fluid locking,” and “bomb bursting.”

Read more about this fascinating machine and see images of The Air Loom, built by artist Rod Dickinson using Matthews’ illustrations at http://www.theairloom.org.

An altered version of The Air Loom appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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I have a special treat for everyone today, and I don’t mean the drop of whiskey I put in the tea, Camryn Forrest has boarded the airship today. She is a Steampunk artist, who works with  the enchanting, whimsical and technical art of water globes and snow globes. We take our seats on the crimson settee in the parlor just in time for tea. The engine purrs for take off.

Airship One

Airship One

“Camryn, we’re so pleased to have you aboard the Steamed airship today. Your Steampunk globes are fascinating. Why did you choose this particular art?” I lean toward her. “What draws you to water globes and snow globes?”

 “I am drawn to small items. As a child, I made my own dollhouse furniture – carving little legs for my chairs, making a clay bird in a wire cage, covering tiny books with strips of leather and painting titles on the bindings. Over the years, I’ve collected tiny chairs, souvenir buildings, bone china animals, Micro Machines, Little Kiddles and painted lead soldiers. I loved Hot Wheels and anything small enough to be in a vending machine. Once, I helped my mother with a dollhouse, embroidering tiny bits of cloth for bedspreads and framing postage stamps for wall art. My father use to pour and cast his own toy soldiers and I helped with the tiniest painting details.

Birdcage Gramaphone

Birdcage Gramaphone

A family member repairs and makes snow globes, which has always fascinated me. I always looked for them at fine arts shows, and never saw any. Not a one.  I’m not a pink and purple Disney princess kind of person. I longed for snow globes made for grownups, with the quality and depth of the artwork I loved from other artists. I wanted to see snow globes that made me think and feel the way I do about other art.

Rough Sailing

Rough Sailing

So I took my love for tiny things and my appreciation of snow globes and put them together. It wasn’t easy … I knew I didn’t want ‘snow’ – the crushed white pieces in most snow globes – so I thought it would be cool to use tiny watch gears as glitter. Well, it doesn’t work. I kept that first test globe and the metal gears have disintegrated into a little pile of rust. Shake it and you see nothing but brown.

I had no idea about the types of objects and items which could handle submersion in liquid. There was no guidebook. So it’s been a labor of love, trial and error. I’ve talked to guys at the hardware store about sealants. I’ve tested items for weeks, letting them sit in liquid. The family snow globe repairman, who I sometimes call my snow globe engineer, is my patient mentor. His do’s and don’ts are invaluable. From seeing the workings of hundreds of broken globes he’s fixed, he knows what will work and what won’t. He lets me know when I head too far down the wrong path. You can torture me all you want, but I’m not giving up his name – at his request.”

“Oh, no, dear, I wouldn’t think of it, here on Steamed, we reserve torture for enemies of the Queen, but a snow globe engineer, I like the sound of that, whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. Speaking of which, why Steampunk?” I poured a cup of tea and offered it to her.

“I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.” Camryn took a sip of tea then set the saucer on the round, marble top coffee table.

“An early comment that stuck  with me, about my first series, came from another friend. In a puzzled voice she told me, ‘They are so masculine.’ I took it as a compliment. I love the contrast of machinery and hardware, and the dark colors of steampunk metals and rich wood in a snow globe, an object that is often sweet and cloying, pink and pretty. I wanted power, not pretty.

I don’t consider myself purely a steampunk artist. I’ve thought about it every which way, and the truth is my notebooks of sketches and designs for snow globes precede my awareness of the Steampunk movement, which is fairly recent. (Here is where I must give credit to two people who brought Steampunk to my attention, John S. and Max G., who are much hipper than I will ever be, introduced me to the genre.) The first time I saw something called Steampunk, I felt a huge connection. Steampunk appealed to me in a deja vu kind of way; it made so much sense to me. I felt at home. The craftsmanship, the appreciation of detail, the willingness to take the time to make something by hand … it all calls to my sensibilities.

Raygun Shaken

Raygun Shaken

On the other hand, I was already making artwork that looks like the work I do now, long before the term “steampunk” entered my experience. I admit that I’m very influenced by Steampunk icons and images –  obviously I would not likely have airships and ray guns otherwise – but some of my work, such as the Escheresque staircases, and the glass heart series, are simply sculptures I wanted to make, regardless of the style. Steampunk purists, if there is such a thing, can argue amongst themselves what makes artwork steampunk or not. I’ve been called a Steampunk tourist, and I accept that with a chuckle. I’m grateful the steampunk “natives” allow some of us to visit their world now and then, and soak up the culture. When I contribute, it’s my own vision, and if someone appreciates it, I’m glad, but I would have made it either way; that’s how my mind works.”

“Believe me, when I look at these globes I see you, their creator, more as a tour guide then a tourist. They are Stempunk to me. In my opinion your passion to contribute your own vision is the essence of Steampunk.” I dropped two sugar cubes into my cup and stirred. “A lot of work must go into making your vision real. How long does it take you to create a Steampunk water globe or snow globe?”

Camryn leaned against the velvet cushioned back of the settee. “You can measure that two ways: how long it would take to make a snow globe if I knew exactly what I was going to make, and how long it takes when I go through trial and error, mixing different elements, sculpting/molding/remolding pieces to the right size and shape, and getting distracted, leaving pieces half-done to work on something else. The simplest answer is, I might produce one completed snow globe every two weeks.

Uncharted Skies

Uncharted Skies

Last spring, I wanted to make a metallic hot air balloon — not much more than an inch tall. I worked on this concept for several months. I made balloon shapes too large to fit in a globe or too ornate or too simple. They just didn’t look right. I wanted a feeling of adventure, not a circus ad. Finally one day I completed two balloons that came out well. Then I went through another process to decide what to put below the balloons. One has a wire basket, with more nautical details such as an anchor and ship’s wheel. The other is a tiny clay sailing ship with metal sails. Then, I installed the balloon sculptures with each raised a little. One is carried on wispy tendrils, intentionally vague – they might be ocean waves or they might be the tentacles of a sea creature reaching up. The other has cloud-like shapes below the ship. So those globes, from start to finish, took all spring – several months. I hope the next time I’m inspired to make a hot air balloon, I’ll be able to use what I have learned to streamline the process a little, but I don’t know.

Circular Logic

Circular Logic

I timed myself once, to answer the question, ‘how long does it take?’ Another globe, Circular Logic is basically a Ferris Wheel-inspired curious invention of spinning gears. The entire family went away for a weekend and I stayed on task with that one sculpture, working 18 hours with almost no breaks to complete the intricate machine. With no one home to tell me it was time to go to bed or I should eat,  I kept working on it, having a great time. I survived on Mountain Dew and pretzels. That gives you an idea of the range of time I will spend on any one globe. Usually I’ve got five or six sculptures partially begun and will work a little here, a little there, so it’s hard to know how long any one can take.

Love Complicated

Love Complicated

I rub my lips together. “My next question may be as difficult to answer as how long does it take. Which is of all your wonderful creations, which globe is your favorite?”

“Tough question, it depends on my mood. I thought Love, It’s Complicated and the Always heart were very simple and beautiful. Deadline featured a tiny antique typewriter, which is one of my favorite items, and now belongs to a former journalist, so I have great memories of that one.  It has a lot of details, such as copy editor’s notes and a message hammered into metal “paper” curling out from the typewriter platen, that only the owner can see now, making it cool in its own way. Ray Gun One was a challenge to myself to make a believable raygun, and it always makes me smile.

Rain Gear

Rain Gear

But actions probably speak louder than words. The only one I have on my desk, is Rain Gear. I absolutely LOVE the jaunty little step from my headless robot stomping in rain puddles. I am intrigued that a pair of metal galoshes can project emotion. So I can babble all day about which ones I love, but Rain Gear is the only one I’ve kept for myself so far.

Snow Globe Array

Snow Globe Array

I glance at some of her snow globes , arranged on the crisp white table cloth on the round table at the side of the settee. “Rain Gear is  intriguing. Actually, they are all incredible, but as a writer the one you just described, Deadline, fascinates me. Speaking of writing, when any author looks at your globes, I’m sure your creations trigger a slew of story premises and plots. I just have to ask you the question always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

“I am both a writer and a visual artist, and while I have occasionally dealt with writers’ block, so far I have never had artist’s block. Case in point: by just writing the phrase ‘artist’s block’ I thought of a way to illustrate that in a globe, maybe with a cube with six different archetypes shaken like a die. Perhaps a Magic Eight Ball for creative types. But I digress …)

Images and ideas tumble around my brain like a shaken snow globe, whirling and spinning, balancing precariously atop one another. One weird thing is, I keep notebooks where I dash off snow globe ideas as they come to me, sketch little scenes, capture a pun to name the globes, but I rarely go back and look at the past ideas. When I’m in the workshop, the materials themselves suggest new shapes and landscapes.

I recently got up at about 3 or 4 a.m. whirling with ideas I wanted to capture and I spent an hour or so dashing them on paper. Then I turned the page BACK to see the previous entry and it said ‘Drink deeply from the stars.’ I don’t know what I was going for with that phrase, but I want to ponder it and make it real.

There are so many snow globes I’d like to make. I will get inspired by a word I hear, or a shape, a shadow, a snippet of a song or the way someone repeats a phrase. The nose of an Elmer’s glue container, the little orange cap, inspired one of my first airship sculptures.  I ‘saw’ the glue bottle for the first time, clearly, and thought, ‘that’s the nose of a zeppelin.’ I have no idea where that thought came from; I’d only seen Elmer’s Glue a thousand times before. That flash of inspiration prompted me to sculpt a shape that would pass for an airship.

Any small thing can capture my attention, such as a piece of twisted metal in the street, a broken toy, the way a stack of coffee stirrers is displayed at a shop. I love wandering through hardware stores, looking at random pieces of plumbing pipe, nuts and bolts, repair kits for garbage disposals. Recently, the back of my office chair fell off. Instead of inspecting the damage to the chair or putting it back together, I spotted a strange gear that had come loose, and thought, ‘Where can I can more of these?’

Shoes Your Weapon

Shoes Your Weapon

I am also a word person. Words can start a chain-reaction of images in my brain. When I heard the old Gene Autry song, I began to mentally sketch a man climbing down a ladder through a manhole opening into a dark and murky place. Back in The Sad-Hole.

I love verbal and visual puns, such as Shoes Your Weapon – which is a cannon made from a Victorian laced-up boot. I’m working on one called Too big for his bridges. I love merging words and shapes, and twisting tired clichés so they are fresh. I crack myself up, and I pretty much create everything selfishly because it inspires or amuses me. The ideas bombard me constantly. I’ll be reading a book (Cloud Atlas, at the moment) and suddenly I’m reaching for my notebook to capture a passing thought.”

I pick up my porcelain cup and take another sip of sweet, warm tea. “I can feel your creative energy as your talking. Exhilarating. Speaking of globes sure to inspire writers, your airship voyager water globe is another work of art sure to trigger story ideas.

Airship Voyager

Airship Voyager

I blame a writer named StoshK for that one. StoshK wrote a short, complimentary blog about my snow globes and included a note that I should realize more airship snow globes were needed – just a little joke in the article. But, it stuck with me for some reason, in a positive way.

Then, a museum asked for several pieces for a special exhibition, and one was my original airship StoshK liked, which had sold. I couldn’t get the original back to be loaned for the museum exhibit, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll just make a new one.’

The new airship refused to be a duplicate of the first. It felt darker and richer, and I wanted it to be more powerful in a way. I wanted the ship to have gone places, done things, survived hardships, led adventures.  I had seen Steampunk images of great airships carrying sailing ships below a zeppelin and dismissed them as too intricate for something as small as a snow globe. And as I sat in the workshop trying to remake the first airship, I kept creeping toward the idea of a sailing ship below.  It just felt right to go that direction.

I loved the idea of taking a ‘ship in a bottle’ and making it an airship in a bottle (snow globe), both balance and contradiction. Once the idea got stuck in my head, the only way to release it was to make it real. I  worked on it until I solved all the technical problems that made it seem impossible.  When I look at Airship Voyager now, I am sure it has been places and seen things, it feels real to me.”

Point of View

Point of View

After setting the cup back on its saucer, I clasped my hands together. “It’s incredible, I love it. You mentioned your interest in phrases such as ‘point of view’ and your globe by that name is pure genius. An incredible piece of art. I can’t imagine the time and  work that went in to creating such a marvel. I often find life is like climbing a staircase sideways. Then, when you turn the globe upside down or on its side you get a different view. It’s like several globes in one. I could look at it all day.”

“I’m glad you mentioned Point of View.  It’s a departure from what most consider pure Steampunk – but again, I make what interests me and try not to edit myself by sticking with a single style. I’ve always loved Escher, but I didn’t set out to make that globe consciously as a tribute. It snuck up on me. While working on a tiny Plexiglas escalator for a postponed project called Reincarnation, I briefly set the stair sculpture on its side. Suddenly, looking at the stairs from a different direction, reality shifted sideways. I realized the stairs went up,  down, and sideways depending on where I placed the figures.

Crossroads

Crossroads

From there, I was obsessed for a while, with Point of View and a similar globe, called Corporate Ladder (I may be the only person who finds the idea hilarious.) Then I put a family of fishermen on a criss-crossed stairway, and added poles, and called it Fishing the Black Hole as the fishing lines broke different planes in the design.

But my favorite in  the series is Not a level playing field in which I put football players into Escher’s uneven, gravity-defying world, and had the wide receiver at one angle, the quarterback throwing into hyperspace, and would-be tacklers reaching into a new dimension. I think I’ll go back to that idea again sometime, because it was fascinating to realize in a snow globe, I am in charge of the law of gravity. It’s a heavy responsibility, running around breaking the laws of physics.

I’m working on a new stairway series now, but instead of plexiglas, I am using old computer circuit boards to make the stairs – still with little figures breaking the plane of perception and ignoring the laws of gravity. It has a ‘Tron’ feeling to it, being inside the machine. I always sensed  little figures inside my laptop ran around retrieving files and saving my work, so I am comforted to see them.”

I shift one arm to my side, while resting he other on my lap. “Speaking of breaking the laws of physics, I have to ask you about Tesla.  I love that you appreciate his scientific work for its artistic quality as well as its contributions to modern day life and our future. What artistic qualities do you see in his inventions?”

Tesla Coil Copper

Tesla Coil Copper

The shapes used in Tesla’s inventions and machines are so beautiful. They are meaningful to scientists, but even if they produced nothing, I would be inspired. I love his wrapped copper coils and the visible bursts of light and energy. The proportions of the upright Tesla coil are like a man-made flower, a blossom of energy. I’m drawn to the straight lines, the encircled columns and the unpredictable element of electricity. The copper and brass is stunning. Simply beautiful. He blended symmetry and balanced assymetry in an unspeakably gorgeous and inspiring way.

I think, at some place beyond my understanding, Tesla’s work tapped into the very nature of the universe. In the way that an insect’s wings or a cross-section of a tree or the Grand Canyon is perfect, there is something perfect about the shape of Tesla’s inventions, pared down the essence of what works.

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

I shut my eyes a moment as I think about it. “Art and science merged as one. Incredible.” Blinking my eyes open, I see the tea cups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I lean forward and ask Camryn my last question. “What water globes and snow globes are you working on now?”

“I’ve been toying with one called I Love Sho, an homage to footwear, which I seem to collect in real life. The interior has about a dozen tiny shoes in an abstract sculpture: boots, heels, slip-ons … it’s just something fun, and I’m addicted to visual puns.

I also just combined the horn of a tiny gramophone with a glass heart. In contrast to some of my intricate sculptures, it is simple and yet very appealing. I had a long and complicated title for it, but then I shorted it to one word, Listen. When I look at it, I get a pang. It will be hard to part with it.

On a lighter note, I am working on rocket ships and space themes. I have a rocket ship going into a black hole and another with a decked-out Steampunk flying saucer hovering over what might be the moon. I wanted to make a special globe for TeslaCon, with rows of flying saucers at a drive-in movie, watching ‘Trip to the Moon’ (the 1902 movie), with the rocket-in-the-moon’s eye image popping off the screen in 3D. I’ll do it someday, but I couldn’t work out the technical details yet. The drive-in screen was only about ¾” wide, for example, which gave me about a half inch for the rocket. But it will happen in some form. It’s too appealing not to try.

A recent breakthrough for me is the double-tiered globe. I made the first one for a display for the Sacramento Steampunk Society, after an inspiring conversation with one of the members, Doug Hack (perhaps better known as Alexander Watt Babbage.) The water globe sits above a columned base and has liquid-filled pieces as well as air-filled space in the tier below. By breaking the plane of the glass globe, and continuing the design into the open space, it opens a new frontier for my work.”

“The airship has landed, drawing the interview to a close. But before you go back to your studio, I want to share your calling card with all our readers.”

http://camrynforrest.com/
Camryn Forrest Designs

Also five of her  pieces are on display at the Glass Museum in Sandwich,MA, from November 19 to December 30, 2012, as part of a special event on the history of snow globes.

Readers if you have any questions are comments on Camryn and her globes, please post them below.

Maeve Alpin

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Steampunk Greek Gods – photographed by Foodbyfax at DragonCon 2010

Steampunk writers and readers love clockwork automations but they go back much further than you may think. They begin as long ago as ancient Greece, third century B.C. with Ctesibus, the first head of the library in Alexandria. He invented the hydraulis a water organ and the first keyboard musical instrument, the ancestor of the modern pipe organ. Clocks are a big part of Steampunk and his, the clepsydra, kept more accurate time than any clock until Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock in the 17th century AD. If Ctesibus invented such a marvelous clock, what else could he, someone, or others have created to technologically revolutionize ancient Greece? Does your muse have you thinking about togas? What about a Steampunk and Greek mythology? Steampunk Greek Goddesses.

Asian Steampunk at Aetherfest 2012

But before Huygens came along with his swinging pendulum, a Chinese monk, Su Sung, created atowering clepsydra in 1092 AD. It stood five stories high, and was operated by a large water wheel, which acted very similar to a modern clock escapement. It most likely was the first mechanical clock. Every fifteen minutes the water wheel turned, then all the other cogs and gears, which opened and closed doors that released the automata. Here is a scale model of Su Sung’s clock. Just imagine, historical China and Steampunk, what a perfect combination for an exotic, adventure tale.

Let’s go through the mist of time from China to Japan back when Shoguns ruled and to the invention of karakuri dolls, the ancestors of modern robots.The dolls were crafted of paulownia wood with gear wheels to move the joints, and whale whiskers were used as the springs in the mechanism.

Just think, Shoguns, robots, and Steampunk, who could ask for more.

I hope you find this information interesting and aslo helpful for anyone who’s writing a Steampunk story set much further back than the 19th century.

Maeve Alpin

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two of our tour guides dressed the part

two of our tour guides dressed the part

42nd airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

42nd Airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

Recently with the help of the Steampunk group, the 42nd Airship Battalion, I organized an outing to the Houston Maritime museum. The tour included over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. As you can see from the photos we all had an amazing time.

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

The museum exhibits included models of steam paddle ships. Riverboats conjure images of fun and adventure and are therefore a perfect setting for a Steampunk story. Paddle boats were highly popular in the 18thcentury for navigating well in shallow waters as well as up river against fierce currents. Prior to the development of the railways they were a favorite ways to travel. The interiors of the antebellum riverboats were luxurious with elaborate crystal chandeliers, lush hand carved furniture, oriental rugs, and so much more.  Of course one needs drama and trauma in any novel and there is plenty of opportunity for that on a steam paddle ship.

at the Houston Maritime Museum

at the Houston Maritime Museum

Fire is always s a great disaster for fiction. At the museum I learned the double steam stacks towered so high to keep sparks as far away from the wood boat as possible. Still sometimes an ember would hit the ship. Wood and paint are highly flammable so fire, panic, and catastrophe would ensue. If you want something even more dramatic, the boilers sometimes exploded in a huge, ear splitting, blast of fire and smoke, resulting in the deaths of many passengers and leaving even more injured.  Body parts were literary blown off.  In 1830 the US Congress funded research to end boiler explosions. Here is a website that even list River Boat demise with the reason and year of the loss.

The museum also had an exhibit on the Texas Navy which served the Republic of Texas when it stood as a separate country from 1836 into 1845 after gaining independence from Mexico. The idea of combing the wild west with Victorian nautical influences thrilled my muse. You can see more of these valiant fighting men in tiny but feisty ships on this youtube video.

To me the most important Victorian submarine was the Plongeur, simply because when Jules Verne saw it at the Exposition Universelle in 1867, it served as his inspiration for the Nautilus. However, the museum’s model of and news clipping about the confederate submarine the H. L. Hunley intrigued me. This combat submarine, named after its inventor Horace Lawson Hunley, was the first sub to sink an enemy warship. However, the Hunley itself sunk three times in its short career. The second time it sunk, Horace Lawson Hunley was among one of the men who drowned. After the Hunley’s successful attack on the screw sloop, the USS Housatonic the sub sank for unknown reasons and was lost.

Speaking of the confederacy and the U.S Civil war the museum included models of the ironclad ships, the rebel Merrimac and the union Monitor. Ironclads refer to steam powered warships of that era, protected by iron or steel armor plates. By the end of the U. S. civil war the Union was building triple turreted ironclads with twenty inch mounted guns. By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines. Modern day battleships developed from these ironclad ships.

If you have a maritime museum in your local area, I encourage you to visit. Organize a Steampunk outing there if you are able, I guarantee you it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m sure you’ll gather inspiration for your Steampunk writing. After all, it’s sad to think of this, but if  Jules Verne had not attended the Exposition Universelle in 1867 and seen the Plongeur, we might not have 20,000 Leauges Under The Sea, which readers enjoy to this day, over 140 years after it was first published.

There may well be an exhibit at your local museum just waiting for you to discover it and gain inspiration for your next book.

Maeve Alpin

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