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Category Archives: Steampunk

Assemblage!

Have you ever wanted to do something really badly, and then when you get a chance to you stare at it blankly, not sure how to get started?

I’ve been doing that with these assemblage steampunk pieces for several weeks. Arranging, rearranging, gluing, adding, then just staring. And staring.

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They’ve been looking like this for two weeks.

Well today I figured, enough is enough! For weeks I’ve been telling my design students to use “timeboxing” to get shit done; and today I put my money where my mouth is. My phone timer set to 25 minutes, I first attacked the mess in the studio, telling myself it didn’t matter if I got specific areas clean – just keep putting things away until the timer went off. I got a SHOCKING amount of things put away in that time, including using these adorable little boxes from the dollar store to sort my more special-er cabochons.

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cabochons

The timer went off a second time so I switched over some laundry and realized I was lightheaded. So – to the deck! I set my timer for 25 minutes again and grabbed some iced tea, my book, an umbrella, and some sun.

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Aaaaaand timer went off, so back to the studio! Where I managed, after a few timeboxes, to get this far:

Getting there!
Getting there!

But wait… What’s that? TIME FOR THE POOL?! Well sure, if I MUST!

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(I must)

My theme these days is self-care, so the pool is very important. I’m super lucky that my parents-in-law have this little oasis just five minutes down the road.

And when I came back… I had a nap! And THEN I finished these (not so very)little dudes. They’re belt leather, cardboard I metal-ized and patina-ed,beads, filigree, buttons, cabochons, watch bits, reclaimed jewellery , and aluminum and parawire.

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Hey, notice anything different? That’s because last week – instead of working – I made these fab little photo boards. My workbench is just getting too filthy for any usable photos.

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They’re canvas boards coverd in paper, paint, fabric and paper flowers, ribbon, lace, some rusty chain, and whatever else I could find. There are also a few other props hanging out in a new area in the studio as well. I think they worked out pretty well, despite my monitors being entirely non-calibrated and completely different from each other. What do you think?

Rustic Gear Pendant Sets

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Super fabulous sets of necklaces and earrings! I had the most fun making these… molds made from actual clock gears used to create polymer clay medallions, hand coloured with chalk and gilded, or painted with metal paint and patinaed with chemicals, then sealed with a diamond-hard finish. I strung these on bead chain with hand-forged clasps and hand-made earwires.

Enjoy!

Metal & Patinas

Did you know that salt and vinegar can be used as a jewelry soldering “pickle” to clean off residue? Did you also know that salt and vinegar creates a killer metal patina mixture? And did you know that you shouldn’t mix the two because one ruins the other? Ha! I don’t even care, I just mixed up a new batch of pickle when I was done because check it OUT.

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OK, so some of the orange and all of the purple in that top photo were faked with paints and inks. But the blues and the rust – that’s real, and adding this layer of chemical reaction over artificial color gave me such a rush of satisfaction. Here’s how I did it a couple of weeks ago!

First, I dredged a big pile of shiny brass metal bits & bobs in my poor sad pickle pot (which needed serious cleaning after this!). I dragged it all out (wishing I had used a strainer or something… those tiny pieces were a nuisance) – and laid it out on a paper towel. Some of the pieces I spritzed with alcohol, having heard it can increase reactions. I then just…. walked away.

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The next day, it looked like this:

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Mostly blues with a few greens! All that nasty garish shine is gone, and that was REALLY what I was looking for.

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But I’ll sure take those gorgeous teals while we’re at it. The colours deepened the longer they sat, of course. Not sure if you can really see what’s going on but these are the buckets of pieces I ended up with for my steampunk jewellery.

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I had done a bit of metal colouring before this using patina paints and alcohol inks, and it was rather unsatisfactory – figuring what the hell, I can’t make them any worse, I dumped them all in too, and it made for a fantastic array of colours and textures. I’ll definitely be doing this again!

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I was using a patina product on my clay and some other metal pieces; I actually think I might like the cheap-o version better!

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On the larger, rougher pieces of course I’ll need a sealant; but for the tiny bits I’ll let them be. They’re pretty safe.

I do love it when something unexpectedly becomes beautiful!

Production Update

No time for writing today! Just some photos from the weekend. Back to silver – gotta make lots of things FROM the book to go along with SELLING the book. Yippee!

Beach glass bib necklaces:

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Polymer clay bib necklace:

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Steampunk assemblage pendants:

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Lampwork simple bead pendants:

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That’s it for now! Told you there’d be a wire explosion soon :D

Steampunk Inspiration

I’ve always felt a little squeamish putting the label “steampunk” on my work. Like putting watch bits in there doesn’t REALLY make it steampunk, you know? But someone else started calling it that when I made these:

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And I looked it up and I thought… OK… cool! In fact I think at one point one of my retailers was calling these Steampunkersiseries or some such silliness. And since I’m the worst at naming things, “steampunk” is sort of what they remained. Which is fine maybe for something like this: 

Gears of Time

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When I started doing these enormous pieces on belts, it felt better:
Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

But it still never felt quite right. I will wrap just about anything old and vintage-y, including driftwood, calipers, watch bits, and metal flowers; and I CALL it steampunk; but it’s still never felt… authentic.

That’s the word I’m missing. Authentic.

What makes it authentic?

Last week I started digging around looking for what the real steampunkers do – someone who does steampunk cosplay wears WHAT kind of jewellery now? – and it turns out the answer is, not very much.

Quick Google Images search for "Steampunk Cosplay"
Quick Google Images search for “Steampunk Cosplay”

But I really want to do something that these AMAZING PEOPLE would like to buy – even just to wear with their regular clothes! I wanted to dig deeper. And that’s when it hit me: What does Victorian jewellery look like, anyway?

Pinterest to the rescue! I started digging up Pinterest images on victorian and even art nouveau jewellery and I was amazed, delighted, and surprised by what I found.

What surprised me the most was how CREEPY it was! It’s all snakes and bees and spiders! Nobody I have ever met at a craft show would go anywhere NEAR a spider necklace (no matter how cool they are).
Various photos, original posters available at my pinterest board (link above)
Various photos, original posters available at my pinterest board (link above)

So what does this mean? I’m not sure, but it’s powerfully intriguing. I am drawn to the insects and reptiles in a way I wouldn’t have expected. The intricate filigree delights me, as well.

I feel something new brewing, just under the surface. I’m not sure what it’s going to look like but I am sure it’s going to be fun trying to get there! And I won’t stop until it feels right. Until it feels authentic.

Steampunk Polymer Clay Gears

Last weekend was my birthday weekend (yay me! and my mom, too, we shared the weekend) so I didn’t get into the studio. But I DID manage to play some more with moldmaking the weekend before. I had SUCH fun and I can’t wait to make more of these steampunk polymer clay gears. You know by now that colour is one of my driving forces, and just LOOK at these! The antique gold finish just makes it, for me.

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I rolled up and slightly flattened balls of clay and made impressions in the balls using actual gears my husband had torn out of a clock for me. I baked them and bam! Molds. So for these delicious pendants (which are waiting for wire), I rolled up more clay and used the new mold to flatten them out. Brushed-on clay gave the pieces their colour. I poked holes in the top of each and inset a grommet (really just a little rivet for scrapbooking) and baked. When they came out, they got a light fingertip brushing with gilder’s paste – I used “african bronze” for these – and after it set, I burnished the paste. Finally, two coats of varnish to seal and protect the finish.

Tomorrow is my last day of work before I get a 9-day vacation. You can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be wiring up these suckers – and the tentacles, and the flowers I don’t even know if I showed you…. and and and!

Oooh, bonus pic: Some more rustic/organic beads made from my texture molds – this time coloured with paint!

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How to Make Polymer Clay Tentacles

I’ve found a super great use for these Sculpey ball tools and the Etch N Pearl tools: tentacles! Everyone keeps asking me WHY tentacles but basically it’s a steampunk thing – like Jules Verne and such. Also… COOL. And they’re SO much fun to make I thought I’d put together a little DIY instructions for you.

At first, I rolled balls and poked them onto a snake with a tiny ball tool:

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But it didn’t seem right. After some actual research, wherein I discovered that octopuses have TWO rows of tentacles, and some trial and error, I found a better way!

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So check out this wee tutorial:

Roll out a snake of any size and any type of polymer clay, thicker at one end. Don’t make the thin end TOO thin!

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Use the smallest inverted ball end of the Etch n Pearl stick to make a row of circles down one side of the snake:tentacles-2 tentacles-3 tentacles-4

The deeper you indent, the better it will look at the end!

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Do a second row of circles down the other side of the snake, which will be getting flattened and kind of pointy in the middle!
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OK here’s the magic part. Take the medium ball end of the sculpey tool:tentacles-8

And push it into the middle of the hole. tentacles-9

It will splay out the center like a sucker! OK this one isn’t so great and I messed up the second one… but you’ll see.tentacles-10

Continue down the row of suckers with the ball tool. Be sure to push it as straight down into the hole as you can – don’t angle it or you won’t like the results as much.tentacles-11

Look at how sucker-y the ones near the tip are!!tentacles-12

And of course – do the other side!tentacles-13 tentacles-14

Let the clay rest for a bit.tentacles-16

Curve the tentacles any which way you like – either flat on the baking surface, or wrapped around something like these soldered circles:
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Now there are options for colouring – paint or mica powders – but my fave is chalk! I like doing it darkest at the back of tentacle and lighter to the sides; brush it lightly down the suckers but keep it mostly white. tentacles-24  tentacles-27 tentacles-26 tentacles-25tentacles-22

Bake according to the package directions (use paper underneath to avoid shiny spots):tentacles-23

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And then finish with 2 coats of satin finish diamond-hard varathane. You’ll love it!

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Colouring Clay

A friend took a trip into Artisans in the Attic this week and she pleasantly took some pics for me, which showed me that my clay pendants were getting low. Which means it’s time to make some more. She mentioned she’d like to see more colourful ones so I obliged! Normally I am random with the colours but this time I worked more systematically AND took note of my colour combinations so I’d have recipes for the next time. And then I realized that you probably haven’t seen how this works! Lots of people don’t realize that I colour my polymer clay with mica-based powders.

First, here is the raw clay. I condition the clay, roll it out, cut it with shape cutters, then texture each piece by hand using various texture tools I’ve collected and made.

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Now it’s time to start adding colour! I like the PearlEx powders personally. I have two sets which I’ve re-sorted into Metallics and Brights. 2014-03-23 12.44.11

 

Using the world’s tiniest brush, I start adding miniscule amounts of colour to the clay, one at a time. It’s easy to add too much and saturate the clay, so I have to take my time and pay attention to how much I’m adding and where I let the powder go. It can have a mind of its own!2014-03-23 12.34.07

 

I’ve found that blending colours on the clay adds much more depth and interest than just solid colour. Here I’ve built up several colours, overlaying them and creating new colours in the process.

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Next I came up with a peacock-inspired colour set.

(This is on the same blue background as above, the colour is all washed out… you’ll see the true colour when I take the final photos later on :)

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And a metallic set:

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Which one is your favourite?

 

Hood Ornaments – no, wait, I meant Statement Necklaces!

A while back I got myself some vintage leather belts, with some vague ideas of how I could use them as the base for some honkin’ big assemblage steampunk pieces. I didn’t really get a chance to start playing until a couple of weeks go. I cut up a couple of belts and started digging through my pile of vintage and new metals and bits and bobs, and began figuring out some placement. Here’s my original set of playing pieces:

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I glued up the larger pieces, leaving plenty of holes where I could back up the glue by wiring things down (I never quite trust glue). Then they sat on my bench for weeks while I had to get other stuff done. But today, I got to pull them together, add wire, extra embellishments, chains and clasps. And boy howdy do these make me happy!

The first one I ended up turning sideways – I just liked it better that way – and it needed more balance on the left so I added a few more feather charms. I used flat aluminum wire to create a light, airy balance on the bottom right.

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

I got to play with old keys I got at the local flea market, clip-on earrings & leather belts from thrift shops, bracelets and metal charms, vintage watch faces, aluminum wire, copper wire, glass beads, pearls, vintage buttons a friend gave me, and a couple of cabochons dug out of a bag of broken things sent to me by a friend who used to work at a jewellery warehouse.

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

A closeup of the flash of the labradorite on this one:

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

I love how things evolve. This last one was my least favourite when I started but now it might be my most:

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

I’m getting ready for the Holiday Spirit market at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design. I feel like these might steal my table’s show, which I’m totally happy with. So now I’m working on ways to display these giant sumbitches. I’m thinking… minimalist cardboard busts, covered in aged paper?

Concepts & Clay

I purchased a small fistful of these tiny watch parts one time because I couldn’t help but think they’d make perfect bird heads. Today the muse hit to give it a go!

I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted it to go, but first, I traced the watch part – doesn’t it look just like a head with a beak and an eye?! – and tried a couple of sizes and angles of body before I found one I was satisfied with. Next, I textured some clay and started cutting it out!

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After placing the heads and wings, adding a few more genuine watch parts, and doing a bit more texturing, I came up with two separate colourways and did half the birds in each using pearlex powders and a teeny weeny brush. One set is sorta peacock-ish and one is rather rustic and cosy:

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Loving it so far! I wasn’t sure what to do next, though – I had only thought through as far as the bird shape itself! Now what? Well, I knew I wanted some matching beads in there so I found a few that worked and, using some heavy gauge wire I built these bail-type things:

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But there’s an inherent flaw here! Can you see it? Well, basically, the big hole at the top is facing out but a chain would have to go side to side. D’oh! what to do, what to do…. I could turn the big loop but I liked the hammered look – plus, a single loop isn’t very stable for a bail. I dug around the studio to see what I could find and came up with a couple of ideas:

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Nope. Not working. That black cord with the lark’s head knot is almost right but the cord itself is too slippery and won’t stay. Doing the same thing with a chain just looks messy. Finally I realized I can CUT the chain and use jump rings to attach – then we get a Y-shape with a fun drop pendant, and everything lies nice and flat! After that I was able to quickly finish up my workday and get back to Deep Space Nine :D

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Another weekend, another project. And aren’t those colours to die for?!

Tribal/Steampunk Filigree Pendants

One night while browsing Etsy I discovered that you can get filigree blanks that are much larger than what I normally work with. I simply HAD to have them. I got a nice shipment of various shapes and then went to town with my Gilder’s Paste. This is a waxy kind of goo that you dab on to metals and burnish off, and it helps drab pieces turn into dynamic, colored WOW:

WHEE!! Original on left.

It's so fun! Original on the right, patinaed on the left.

I had SO much fun with these. As you know, colour is what floats my boat so figuring out what works was super delightful.

I'm having THE BEST TIME colorizing these giant filigrees with gilder's paste.

So when I was done I had these amazing pieces of metal:AHHH THEY'RE SO PRETTY I can barely stand it :D :D :D

And then… I was stuck. I wanted them to be part of my steampunk-y assemblage pieces but when I started pairing them up with my regular bits, nothing was working!! I tried keys and gears and hammered wire and rusty things and patina’ed metal and so many other things I can’t even remember them all. NOTHING was working. They sat on my bench for two weeks!

Seriously, it was awful. Look at this mess:

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Somehow, one day I found the answer, and it was this: Bling!

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Suddenly it all started coming together…

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and that meant it was time to add wire! And much like everything I do… they instantly became my new favourite :D

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I'm having trouble picking but I think this one is my favourite!

 

Are these not totally fabulous??

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I’m also really pleased to have found a new type of chain for my non-silver pendants:

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My bellydancer friends tell me these will work well in the Tribal Fusion community. Now I’m looking for a way to get them to see!

Steampunk, ever evolving

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Every time I pull out the antiqued wire or dig through my box of random metal bits or make another trip to the thrift store jewellery section, I end up moving in a totally new direction than I thought I was going to be going in.

I’m certainly not complaining! It’s wild and exciting to be constantly evolving.

Brooches! They're working out I think?

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Built a whole necklace. Front-clasp.

OK! Time to relax :)

But it also means my production times can get compromised. I spent most of the weekend in the studio and only got six sets done:

I made a pair of earrings to match each of these fun, dangly pendants. They're all at Artisans in the Attic, 2nd Floor Smart Shop Place downtown Sydney!

But what sets they are!! I can’t be sad about the time I spent hemming and hawing and trying new things and playing with patina and looking for dangly things and making decisions when the results end up like this:

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Steampunk Clay Pendants

I’ve been sculpting in polymer clay for a long, long time – before there was much online to help folks out. Recently I’ve been digging into it again and loving it! I even signed up for the Metal Clay class at Craftsy.com just today… can’t wait to find some time for it. But meanwhile, here’s something I’ve been doing recently: Steampunk Clay Pendants When I first got back into clay in terms of jewellery last year, I started sculpting little hearts and nautilus shells. I had all these leftover teeny watch parts that were too small to wrap, so I started jamming them into the clay. I was in love with them! But then my husband said, “That’s great Gayle. But how many of those can you make in an hour?” I feebly said, “um, two?” That was clearly not fast enough for my limited production time, so I took the lid off a watchmaker’s case and started cutting out circles. Voila! Steampunk Clay Pendants It didn’t get super fast though until I finally broke down and bought a pasta/clay machine. For the sake of 30 bucks I have no idea what I was waiting for! This thing is genius. It conditions and flattens the clay in literal seconds, with absolutely no hand pain. The last piece of the puzzle was PearlEx powders. I’d been seeing them around and finally I bought a case… and then another. And now I’m completely addicted! I made two dozen of these last weekend, and another two dozen throughout the evenings this week! Steampunk Clay Pendants All I need to do now is get ’em all wire-wrapped to make them ready for sale. My next batch, I’m thinking of doing a tutorial for it. SO pleased. So, so pleased. Steampunk Clay Pendants Also, am I the only one who just stares at her own work?! Especially photos where you can really see the details!

A Spoonful of Ocean

You ever get new materials and then have to wait until you have time to play? Spoonful of Ocean And then MORE new materials come in, and you still can’t get to them… and it builds up until you end up combining them all at once into some crazy conglomerate project? Spoonful of Ocean Well, that’s how these pendants came into being! Spoonful of Ocean Teaspoons, copper wire and beautifully dyed ocean sediment jasper were piling up in my studio while I got married. Spoonful of Ocean Well, the honeymoon is over and here they all are on one new pendant line! Spoonful of Ocean I love the contrast of the brightly coloured stone against the patinaed age of the silver. Spoonful of Ocean And then I had fun taking them outside to take photos. Spoonful of Ocean So happy right now!

Steampunkerflowersisies

Steampunkerflowersisies In the midst of unbelievable chaos, I managed to complete a last-minute batch of steampunk flower pendants before the CBCCD show in 4 days! Steampunkerflowersisies I especially love the one with the red/orange leather, below: Steampunkerflowersisies I had to make some more because I nearly sold out at my last show! These things go very fast. Steampunkerflowersisies I was tucked in behind the table at the C200 show and it was fun watching jaws drop from my nearly-hidden vantage point. Steampunkerflowersisies I started playing with sheet metal – copper and aluminum – shaped, hammered and hole-punched as a basis for the flowers. It’s working pretty great! You can see it on the left, above, and in the middle, below. Steampunkerflowersisies In other news, about a month ago I was building flat, round, upholstered display discs (see turquoise, above!) and in so doing, I think I over-used the duct tape and strained a tendon in my right index finger. It could also have been the heavy wire-work I was doing for ornaments and neckwires. In any case, working was painful and it seemed the best thing was to rest the finger. So aside from my day job, I’ve been avoiding using that hand for four or five weeks now. Getting back to the bench and being able to create again was a relief! It’s still a little stiff but I couldn’t help myself. I hope to get a few brooches done before the show, but it is hard to say if I will have the time. The fancy martini fundraiser party is this Thursday, and you can contact CBCCD for tickets. After that, we are open Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday for only $2.00 admission. Hope to see you there!

Crazy New Vintage Steampunk Flower Birchbark Clocky Things

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Hoo boy, I love this batch. I had several new sets of components I had wanted to try – enameled flowers I got from an artist on etsy, lacquered birchbark I’d harvested from a friend’s woodpile, skeleton keys my dad salvaged from his basement, and stamped bronze and copper filigree that I’d coloured and varnished myself. I meant to do four different styles, but somehow they all got mashed up into my steampunk line and turned into something crazy and awesome.

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