Would you wear and use a vintage pocket watch?

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Wing's the Thing

The Wing's the Thing-- Gears and Wings Steampunk Earrings

     From my collection, may I now present:  my new wing and wing-related jewelry!
     When I see feathers and wings or winged creatures, it reminds me to think of the possible.  Birds never doubt their ability to stretch their wings and fly, and neither should we! (Metaphorically, of course.)  To me, that is what steampunk is about, as well. 

The earrings pictured above include detailed antiqued silver wings and silver pocket watch flywheel gears.

Nom de Plume - Silver Feather and Glass Bead Necklace

     I enjoy working with the wing and feathers because as symbols of freedom, they are beautiful and can inspire uplifting feelings of hope.

Special Delivery -- Brass Birds, Pearls, and Bows Earrings

     I added something to these earrings; they now have radiant, quality glass pearls nestled amongst their warm brass bird and bow components.  I think they are even more beautiful this way!

     Hope you have enjoyed viewing my latest creations, and that someone likes these pieces enough to give them a new home.  They are all for sale here, among many other one-of-a-kind pieces of steampunk jewelry: DreamSteam's ArtFire Studio .   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Foot's Afoot -- Victorian Shoes!

     In Victorian times, even more so than today, a person was often judged by his or her shoes.  The quality and condition of one's boots supposedly revealed the financial status and personality of the wearer; dirty or unkempt shoes were often taken for a sign of laziness, as properly maintaining the leather footwear took a good deal time and effort.   A basic shoe-care kit would at the very least contain shoe cream, brushes, saddle soap, wax, rags and polish.  
      When these substances would no longer keep the shoes in tip-top shape, people would have the footwear re-soled and re-heeled, which was much less expensive than purchasing a brand new pair.
     As for choosing footwear and stockings for ladies, the The Lady's Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, trans. Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 - Part II has this to say about it:

    If the foot is narrow and a little too long, the boot or shoe should be short in the toe, and laced or buttoned down the front. An ornament on the top . of the shoe diminishes the length of the foot in appearance.    A short fat foot demands a long boot, buttoned or laced at the side.
    A very flat foot requires rather high heels. If, on the contrary, your foot has that high arched instep ...  it is not necessary to exaggerate the curve by high heels, which shortens disadvantageously the foot that has no need of shortening, and throws it out of its necessary equilibrium.
Molière shoe, which makes the ankle appear thick, and cuts in two the arch of which we have just been speaking, should be abandoned in the name of aestheticism. The low-cut shoe is, on the contrary, very graceful and becoming.
    The Wellington boot is altogether unacceptable. The
brodequin and kid boot should reach higher than the ankle. No other boot is fit for winter wear, as the ankles must be protected from the cold. A black boot is the only really pretty one; but if made of stuff, it will add to the size of the foot much more than in leather or kid.
    A white shoe should only be worn on a faultless foot. And, indeed, it is best to wear shoes a shade darker than the dress. A white shoe enlargens and widens the foot.
    An open shoe may be worn in various colours which are forbidden in a boot. All the same, it is well to choose a colour that matches the dress, but is a little darker. Black shoes and black stockings diminish both the length and breadth of the foot.
    Women with thick ankles should wear stockings with embroidery high up on the sides in the length, not across the width: it will make the ankles appear smaller. When strong boots are worn with a light and elegant toilette, it is a sign of the very worst taste. If you cannot have nice boots and shoes, you should wear quiet and simple dresses

     Regardless of age, ladies were required to wear silk stockings (for the wealthy) or wool socks (for the less well-to-do) with their footwear, to cover the legs completely.   Modesty was considered a woman's greatest virtue!
     By 1850, manufactured shoes became widely available, and some say that this began the downfall of the cobbler and the rise of shoe "sweatshops" in Victorian England.   A scandal of sorts arose; shoe customers would often be "fitted" at a store, and the owner would then obtain a pair from the "manufactory" and sell them to the unwitting customer as custom-fitted; technically, the shoes were often still made "by hand", but often not by a lone lifetime cobbler and not specifically for the customer at hand.  Of course today, having a pair of shoes made to fit is a luxury of which most of us cannot conceive!
     Though the knee-high Wellington rain galoshes (or stall-mucking "Wellies") were not considered acceptable for proper Victorian ladies, there are other excellent choices if you wish to follow Victorian shoe etiquette.   You might try a pair of packers, spats, Gibson Girls, spool heels, Louis heels, opera boots, granny boots, pirate boots, or combat boots in Victorian, Edwardian, or Country styles.
Ladies' Gibson Girl Button Down Boots and Button Hooks

A wide variety of period replica footwear can be found online at: WesternWeddingBoots.com , and  http://www.victorianshoes.com/   contains a collection of paid links to shoes and other Victoriana fashion which may prove helpful in your search for the ultimate boot.

     For real handmade reproduction vintage shoes, you might try:  My Vintage Sole
from the site:  " My specialty is in providing quality made affordable Reproduction vintage shoes and Victorian and Edwardian style boots that are historically accurate in appearance.  They are custom made (meaning that each of our shoes/boots are made to order; the patterns are hand cut and then hand sewn, you then have options to choose your material, type of heel, perforations, type of sole etc.) by a dancewear manufacturer with over 20 years of experience."

     And finally, here is a fascinating article about Victorian Shoes in the Making.  It precisely follows the process of creating a ladies' button shoe step by step, showing images of the patterns and parts which a mid-1880's shoe factory would use.

     I hope you have enjoyed this sampling of Victorian footwear.  May the soles of your shoes never let in the rain!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's Petrol Got to Do with It? -- A Look into Dieselpunk

What is Dieselpunk?

WikiPedia: "Dieselpunk is shorthand to describe a fantasy society with an industrial level of development."

Dieselpunks.org says: "Dieselpunk is a subculture and a genre of art blending the aesthetics of the 1920s through the early 1950s with today. To us, the 'diesel era' was a time colored by Art Deco, pulp heroes, swing music, and noir gum shoes."  (Their site has Dieselpunk and steampunk culture, articles, music, events, photos, and fashion.)

     Is dieselpunk the same thing as steampunk?  No.   Dieselpunk is a darker, dirtier version of steampunk, with a distinct fascination and attraction for innovative machines, especially transportation vehicles of all types.  Petroleum power replaces steam power in those machines, which can still be quite innovative.

     There are two divisions in dieselpunk fiction--one includes a bent towards wartime (especially WWI - II) and the other involves post-apocalyptic visions of the present and future (often known as petrolpunk: think "MadMax").  The people who lived during the industrial revolution both admired and sometimes feared the new technologies that were rapidly shaping their world, and it is these sentiments that often come through in the fiction of those times.

     In today's dieselpunk, larger-than-life airliners and ocean liners abound in art and fiction as a symbol of power and freedom.  Art deco is the predominant style of fine art and of architecture.  Clothing fashions tend to have a snappy military touch, most likely due to wars both real and fictitious. Epaulets for everyone!

     Don't have any old airplanes lying about to disassemble and create your own 3-D dieselpunk art?  No worries!   This innovative company, MotoArt, creates furnishings and more out of airplanes.  All kinds of furniture, all kinds of parts from airplanes.  They have an online store where you may purchase smaller (and less expensive) items to display in your home, as the larger pieces will set you back thousands of dollars.  (Piston lamp or fuselage picture frame, anyone?)

     If you would like to read and see more about this fascinating genre, check out the dieselpunk entry on Dark Roasted Blend, here.  They trace the evolution and expansion of the genre from before WWII to the present day in pictures and words.

Tank Girl!
      And of course, the all-knowing WikiPedia has extensive entries on the subject and all aspects thereof; my favorite section is the list of dieselpunk movies.  Of the post-apocalypse movies listed in Wiki that I have seen, I like the Tank Girl movie from 1995 as an example just because it is fun, if a wee bit ridiculous!  Who says we can't have our fictional post-apocalyptic crisis and laugh at it too?  Joking aside, the genre really does expand on and fit with the imaginative aspects of steampunk that we like so much.  I hope you have enjoyed this look into dieselpunk!

~ DS

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wearing the Dead -- Ossuaries and Memento Mori in Jewelry and Art

Memento mori -- it means "Remember thy death."

     Like them or not, memento mori, ossuaries, and other remembrances of mortality seem to have found a niche in the steampunk world.  
     I must admit that I do not care for the more gruesome pieces out there (I have no desire to display someone's deceased pet in my living room, thanks!).   But since I understand and sometimes even share the human desire to remember and honor the lives of those who have exited this humble plane, I have decided to address this subject briefly to give you a glimpse of what it is all about.  (There are many other pages on the internet to tell you about the large and elaborate ossuaries which have been created around the world, so I shall keep this post within the scope of jewelry and other small items.)

     For a large collection of embellished insect specimens, Mike Libby Insect Lab  is a source.  He takes parts from pocket watches, wrist watches, typewriters and sewing machines and combines them with non-endangered insects from the world over.  He will even customize a bug for you; "just ask" he says!

     This maker, NouveauMotley of the Etsy SteamTeam, has just about cornered the market on ossuaries for sale on Etsy.  The pocket watch cases are beautiful.

     Next, Julia de Ville takes the dead to a whole new level; her works are sold in exclusive galleries/studios around the world.  She uses precious metals to re-create body parts as jewelry, and also uses real carcasses.  (Note: If you are sensitive about seeing dead animals, do not visit her site.  There are some there.)  Personally, I skipped the section that displayed dessicated household pets, but here are photos of some of the prettier pieces I saw.

     In my opinion, if the artist's intent is to honor those who once lived, and that intent is clear in the piece, then it has value; if it is merely to shock and disgust the viewer without any apparent respect for the dead beings involved, then to me, the work has less value. (possible example - the dessicated baby animals, with no steampunk aspects included, in deVille's studio)

    Regardless of my own sensibility, if these artists created their pieces with the intent of reminding us of our own mortality, they have succeeded.  That said, you will probably not find many memento mori among my jewelry for sale in the near future, but lucky for those who like the art form, there are plenty of other places to purchase them.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow
Macbeth, Act V, Sc. V

For something quite humorous, apropos, and completely different, read the essay: "This Thing Called Death"  from the webcomic "Buck Godot, Zap Gun for Hire" by Phil Foglio, creator of the steampunk gaslamp fantasy comic Girl Genius.

Results of the Poll question on this topic: 
Should memento mori/ossuaries have a place in the steampunk genre?
68% of folk answered yes (17 votes), 0% answered no they do not, and the remaining 32% answered "maybe - if they are "not too graphic and have other steampunk aspects to them." (8 votes)

Thanks to all who voted!  Be on the lookout for the next poll.  =)

~ DS

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Very French Connection -- Sherlock Holmes to Le Tour de France

   Holmes statue in London, England
The Tour de France is here! 
For fun and a short break from most gears (but still involving Victorian times and bicycle gears) I give you a creation from my own warped mind...

The connection between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian London character Sherlock Holmes and Le Tour de France
    The Sherlock Holmes story "The Hound of the Baskervilles" references Alphonse Bertillion;   one of Holmes's clients refers to Holmes as the "second highest expert in Europe" after Bertillon.  Also, in "The Naval Treaty", speaking of the Bertillon system of measurements Holmes himself "...expressed his enthusiastic admiration of the French savant".

     Alphonse Bertillon (April 24, 1853 – February 13, 1914) was a French police officer and biometrics researcher who created anthropometry, an identification system based on physical measurements. Anthropometry was the first scientific system used by police to identify criminals.  He also created fingerprinting, the mug shot, and the systematization of crime-scene photography which remain in place to this day.
     Bertillon was a witness for the prosecution in the 'Dreyfus Affair' in 1894 and again in 1899. He testified as a handwriting expert and claimed that Alfred Dreyfus had written the incriminating documents. However, he was not a handwriting expert, and his convoluted and flawed evidence was a significant contributing factor to one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice - the condemnation of the innocent Dreyfus to life imprisonment.

     The Dreyfus affair (French: Affaire Dreyfus) was a political scandal that divided France in the 1890s and the early 1900s. It involved the conviction for treason in November 1894 of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly having communicated French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was sent to the penal colony at Devil's Island and placed in solitary confinement.

     The intense political and judicial scandal that ensued divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus (the Dreyfusards) and those who condemned him (the anti-Dreyfusards).
     "Le Velo", then the largest sports daily in France, was Dreyfusard. In 1900 a group of anti -Dreyfusards started "L'Auto" to compete with "Le Velo".  "L'Auto" was not the success its' backers wanted. By 1903, its' circulation was declining.  To boost its' circulation, "L'Auto" launched a new long-distance bicycle race, with distances and prizes far exceeding any previous race.   This was the Tour de France.


Monday, July 12, 2010

8 Minutes of NeverWas -- video starring Catherinette Rings' Daniel Proulx

For many years, I have admired (and even envied) the wire-wrapping talents of the Canadian steampunk jewelry designer Daniel Proulx. He combines wire, gears, and round gemstone beads to create rings, bracelets, and even tiny steampunk robot critters for sale on Etsy and ArtFire. I own a ring by him; I had waited a long time to buy one, then finally took the plunge. He is a very busy person, but made the ring according to my wire and stone choices for no extra charge.

As you may have noticed, I usually mention my own jewelry or steampunk items made by other independent artists who have told me that they would appreciate a mention.   Though he and his distinctive jewelry are already world-famous in acclaim and certainly do not need attention from my humble blog, I am giving them attention anyway! Add videography to his list of talents; this is a creative eight-minute-long post-apocalyptic video he made to promote his jewelry.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Amazing Antique Pocket Watches

     Just because I can... here are, you guessed it, some really amazing pocket watches that I wanted to share with you.

     I was researching the origins of the pentagon pocket watch case, from one of which I made a pendant which is still for sale (hint hint), and found these along the way.  (I will post about the history of the five-sided beauties another time.)  Here are some of my favorites!

     These were but a few of the pieces for sale by this antiques merchant, Lang Antiques; they have four glorious pages of pocket watches, lapel watches, and the like.  (Disclaimer: I do not work for them, I simply spent time drooling over their merchandise, whatever relationship that entails, if any.  =p)

     If you adore pocket watches as much as I do, it will be worth your while to take a look at the rest of their inventory.   It warms my heart that such care is being taken to preserve these beautiful works of art.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Dandy Use for Hot Air -- Stirling Engines

     "A Stirling engine is a heat engine that operates by cyclic compression and expansion of air or other gas, the working fluid, at different temperature levels such that there is a net conversion of heat energy to mechanical work. - WikiPedia

     These fascinating contraptions have been in existence since 1816, invented by Robert Stirling; they were widely known generically as 'hot air engines' until 1945. 

     The simplicity, quiet operation, and efficiency of the invention made it popular in the 19th  century to early 20th century for uses such as pumping water from the ground for homes and providing air for church pipe organs. 
     Today, their efficiency and the fact that the engine can run on almost any source of heat (solar, geothermal, biological, nuclear sources or waste heat from industrial processes) seems to have attracted the attention of proponents of renewable energy sources as well as other energy interests.

Where can I get one of these stupendous samples of steam-ish science, you ask?

Purchase a small Stirling engine for 125 GBP at Maidstone Engineering.

Alternatively, if you would rather try to make a Stirling engine from scratch, do take a gander at the creations and instructions by this inventor.

     There are as many styles of engines and ways of building them as there are makers, but the basic instructions provided at these links should help get you started in making an engine, or at least in understanding the processes involved:

How to build Jan Ridders' new simple low temperature differential Stirling Engine
A Materials List for Jan Ridders' Stirling Engine

     These are just a few of the many fascinating videos and sites dedicated to these compact wonders of early technology.  If you build one, please join and post a link to your creation. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Steampunk Motorcycles

     Venturing far from the venue of tiny handmade jewelry, I now give you a look at several unique machines.  Steampunk motorcycles!  They certainly are wonders to behold; some actually are ride-able and run on steam, some simply use steam as an accoutrement.

     Machines made to run on steam are often beautiful, but the process of harnessing such energy can have a dark side.  Instructions for the Field Steam Bike humorously remind the user of the volatile and often dangerous nature of steam power.   From the Steam Car Club of Great Britain site:
1.  Fill main tank with water and low-lead petrol
2.  Fill metholated tray for pre-heating vaporiser
3.  Pump up fuel pressure to 20psi
10.  To progress gently move cut off lever and PRAY. 

 Barro Motorcycles "steampunk" chopper
Some models are simply compilations of wondrous parts, made to resemble motorcycles.

     There are dozens of fine examples of steampunk motorcycles on the web.  The ones I have shown so far are real ... but web rumor has it that this one may be a concept only, but what a concept! ...

Whether ready-made or made-up, the vast world of mechanical steampunk creations continues to provide fascinating images for us to enjoy.  I hope you have enjoyed these!


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