Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mechanical Typewriter Giveaway

Mechanical typewriter giveaway

A few years ago, as I was first learning about the steampunk aesthetic (discovering great artists like Datamancer), I briefly became obsessed with turning a mechanical typewriter into a musical instrument. (Something more melodic and standalone than the Boston Typewriter Orchestra.) My plans ranged from using digital sensors and synthesizers to rigging up some kind of pulley and chime system. Suffice it to say, my interests and skills have since wandered in another direction, and I'm trying to let go of plans that clearly aren't meant for me.

Since I'll be surrounded by steampunk fans when I'm at International Steampunk City, I thought it would be a good place and time to try to find a new, loving home for this cool piece of machinery. So during the convention, I'm giving it away for free. It'll go to the first interested person with good intentions for the typewriter who shows up at my table and asks for it. My booth will be located in the Waltham Watch Factory building, right next to the festival's opening ceremonies and many exciting performances. I'm not going to let anyone put a claim on it ahead of time--just show up!

If you're interested in it, there are a few things you should know: First, the condition it's in. It's missing its ribbons (so you can't type with it right now), it's dusty inside and out, and some of the keys stick (but no parts are missing as far as I know). I suspect that Cambridge Typewriter could clean and repair it, but I claim no knowledge of typewriter mechanics, and it's possible it won't be simple to restore to perfect working condition. Second, it's pretty heavy. A cart or dolly of some kind would be ideal, but carrying it a short distance to a car (pausing frequently to set it down and rest) would probably work too. Please don't plan to walk miles and miles carrying it in your bare hands!

PS: While I was writing this post, I discovered that Cambridge Typewriter has an active blog about the machines and goings-on in the shop. Some of the typewriters pictured are absolutely stunning, like finely-restored vintage sportscars. I could really get into typewriter collecting if I had more space in my apartment!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A peek at my costuming for International Steampunk City

I took a break from metalwork this weekend to think about my costume for International Steampunk City. I hadn't really been planning to dress up much--just a skirt and stripey socks or something. But then I realized I could make some purple steampunk modifications to a men's vest I picked up at the Garment District a month or two ago. And a vision of an outfit sort of spiraled out from there. Here's a glimpse of how it's going--the most exciting modifications are still in the works.
I still have a night or two more to go on the outfit as a whole, but it's pretty exciting. And planning to dress up is changing how I'm thinking of vending, too. Rather than some kind of trial or ordeal, I'm starting to think of vending as a party I'm throwing in celebration of the almost-two-years I've been doing this metalsmithing stuff. With decorations, costumes, maybe even party favors :)

I don't do a lot of sewing and embroidery normally, but I'm figuring it out. I keep thinking of The Tailor of Gloucester as I stitch and monitor my supply of purple thread--hopefully my housemate's cat won't hide the last bits from me!

I'll definitely post photos of the finished costume, hopefully a few days from now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bwahaha! A pile of shinies!


These don't have much story to go with them, but they look so awesome that I don't care. Heeheehee. So that's TEN pendants, most with gemstones and a couple without. There's amber, turquoise, garnet, malachite, labradorite, and carnelian in here. I'm contemplating doing a couple more with larger amethysts in the middle, too.

Hmm, I should make improving my light box (for taking nice photos in the basement studio) a priority after ISC. When I've just completed something, I'm so full of amazement at what I've done, so proud that I've managed to wrestle some scraps of metal into the shape and finish that I wanted, that I'm eager to take photos. It's like, I don't know, taking pictures of your favorite kitten or something--so much fun you can't even fathom not wanting to do it. When I save up new pieces to take a ton of pictures on a sunny day, that's when it feels like a chore. Good to know!

Oh, and ISC had some kind of website problem. Their website is now here: International Steampunk City Waltham.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Victorian jewel beetle wings

I recently read about the restoration of this Victorian dress, which is covered with real beetle wings. It grabbed my interest because I've been using beetle wings in my jewelry for quite some time--looking at my Flickr log, since at least March of 2008. I love their brilliant, iridescent colors, and their feather-lightness makes them perfect for earrings. So it was really cool to learn a bit about an important piece of fashion history that also incorporated the same kind of beetle wings over a hundred years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A new continent


I started out online in Myst fandom. And for me, it wasn't just about the games and books--it was about worldbuilding. Imagining Ages of my own; filling journals with detailed plans and maps and sketches; rendering them in Terragen or Blender. Making islands in my head and on my computer. I haven't actively worked on digital worlds in a long time, maybe because working as a programmer makes me want my hobbies to take me away from the screen. But I still love the idea of making worlds, and try to work it into my metalwork whenever I can.

Yesterday, I tried out my new crucible by melting down scrap and pouring it onto salt to make a textured silver blob; tonight, I sawed that blob in half, so that the interesting half can be soldered onto something. Something maplike, probably. I don't know exactly what it'll be; the sharpie doodles on the copper in the picture are just the visual equivalent of thinking out loud. But the silver reminds me of a continent rising out of the water, and it makes me so very happy to be building islands again.

Oh, and I'm also feeling nicely productive about making more of those shiny gear pendants for International Steampunk City! I'm waiting on a polishing attachment to come in the mail before proceeding, but I'm done with all the soldering for all of these:


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Gears and malachite


After that huge, ornate no-solder compass pendant, I felt like doing something in the opposite direction last night--something smallish and simple, very glossy, involving soldering. So I put this together from some bits I had lying around the bench. Maybe it would be good for someone with a more minimalist-leaning love of steampunk at ISC.

I realized that I'd unwittingly echoed one of my very first metalwork pieces, which also features a brass gear, malachite, and soldering:

I made that pendant on the right during the same class where I made my Hello World ring. The intensive weekend introduction to metalsmithing I took at CCAE in the summer of 2009 was really the start of all this. Seeing that it was possible to solder gears onto metal was pretty exciting! But unlike my Hello World ring, this pendant isn't something I wear proudly to remember the start of my metalsmithing adventures--it neither feels like something that goes with my current wardrobe, nor like a good representative of my techniques. I'm probably going to take it apart and recycle the silver, so I thought I'd take this picture and write a bit about it in order to have a record of my second-ever piece of metalsmithing.

Monday, April 04, 2011

New finished pendant: Copper clockwork compass

Copper clockwork compass

I'm really proud of this one. Yes, it's kind of enormous (the piece in the center is an inch in diameter), and maybe the cutouts don't show up as much as overlays in a contrasting color would've--but now I know with certainty that I can make a complex, interesting piece to hold a watch movement without soldering. My current torch doesn't have the output to heat pieces this big, and while I want to upgrade to something hotter someday, I'm so glad that I can showcase these little mechanisms right now, in time to make things for International Steampunk City. And if I wind up giving a demo at ISC in a space where I can't use a torch, I'll probably make something like this.

Copper clockwork compass

This design and the textures make me think of an airship navigator with a mysterious device to help her steer even when storms and fog are obscuring everything. It's definitely a statement piece--it says "why yes, I do know where I'm going, thank you very much". I have more ideas for variations on this theme--earrings, smaller pendants, pendants in different shapes, different things as centerpieces, etc. I can't wait to make them :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011


WIP compass pendant
(This is a compass-themed pendant I'm working on. Seems fitting for a post about the directions I want to take my work!)

So, for the longest time, I've been thinking of the things I make in terms of setting. I imagine other worlds--anything from a glimpse of a place that's a little different, a past that never, was, to a fully-mapped-out fictional universe. And I imagine my pieces as artifacts of those worlds--as products of the culture, geography, and mythology of the place. Almost as though they were exhibits in a museum about the worlds I've imagined.

But things are shifting around a bunch in my head. I'm starting to also think about my pieces in terms of character. Still a product of imaginary places, but designed with people in mind--both the real people who end up buying and wearing my jewelry, and imaginary awesome characters living in fictional worlds. People with cloaks and walking sticks; people on quests; people with secrets and maps and destinies.

How will this shift in perspective change the way I work? I'm not sure yet--but my hope is that I'll make pieces that feel more wearable and are easier for people to connect with, to imagine themselves wearing on their own quests. But even if it doesn't change any outward facets of my jewelry, it's changing my process. It's making me more excited about getting things made and in the hands of cool people, and I'm finding more time to go into the basement studio and do stuff. I'm getting inspired by characters I find in books and visual art. So--more finished pieces ahead! And more exciting ideas popping into my head. (Are people interested in seeing more pictures from my sketchbook?)

If you're an artist, how has the way you think about your art changed over time?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Update on those earrings

Here's how one of those pairs of earrings I was working on last night turned out: