Sunday, April 26, 2015

How Well Do You Know Fiona Dorothy?

Our Etsy vintage and supply shop, Fiona Dorothy, is overseen by Fiona Dorothy herself.  Her unique paws-on approach ensures the highest quality customer service from order to fulfillment.  Nothing gets by Fiona Dorothy.  And yet she's a cat, so she communicates through facial expression and body language. How well would you understand Fiona Dorothy if you worked here?


1   a.  Did you answer those convos?
     b.  Hey, are you taking a break?  I don't think so.  
     c.  Did I hear the phone ring?
     d.  It's time for my nap.


2.  a.  What's that on the top shelf? 
     b.  Is there room here for all our new inventory?
     c.  Lower that price.
     d.  Lunchtime!


3.  a.  That sale went well.  
     b.  I'm pleased with your photographs.  
     c.  Have you worked on our listings today?  
     d.  I need a nap.


4.  a.  How are we doing on Google?
     b.  Reorganize those items.
     c.  Stop talking and work.
     d.  Look at my tummy!


5.  a.  You've all done pretty well today.
     b.  When I open my eyes, you'd better be dusting.
     c.  Make me a sales chart.  
     d.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Scoring:  No points at all for a, b or c answers. The correct answer is always d.  There would be more options if Fiona had more than four toes.  

FIRST PRIZE:  Free visit to FionaDorothy 
SECOND PRIZE:  Two free visits to FionaDorothy
THIRD PRIZE:  You get the idea.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Sunbeam Silencer

Listing things for sale on Etsy has shown me exactly what I will and won't part with.  I've been making things for several years.  It's only when push comes to shove that I discover what I'm not willing to list.

One favorite is The Sunbeam Silencer.  This was a project that kept me going almost without sleep for over a month.  It was the first thing I thought of when I awoke, and the last thing I worked on in my head at night.  In between, I constructed it.  And deconstructed it.  Then made it again.  

Comrade Nick aims the Sunbeam Silencer
The Silencer started with a vintage Sunbeam hedge trimmer.  As soon as I saw it in the online auction, I knew I had to have it.  An idea for a steampunk gun had been germinating for a while at that point.  The hedge trimmer would be the base of it.

If I'd had any idea how difficult - and dangerous - it can be to take old tools apart, I might have thought twice.  The bolts were frozen in place.  The interior was loaded with black grease that resembled toxic primordial goo.  One good thing about vintage tools is that they actually were made to be disassembled for repair, unlike modern tools.  So there is usually a way to get them apart.  And if there is a way, I will find it.  

The Sunbeam Silencer on its stand.  The original handle
can be seen hanging from the bottom.  Most of the
base of the lower part of the Silencer is the original
hedge trimmer.  
Planning and contemplation are always a large part of assemblage projects, but this project was about 99% planning.  And unplanning.  There are limitations to what I can do when I don't use solder.  With the exception of the electric drill, all my tools are hand tools.  I do have a lot of epoxies and other glues in my arsenal, and I have a huge collection of screws and bolts.  Also, at the end of the day the Silencer had to make sense.  It had to appear to be usable.  Its parts all needed to contribute to the whole.  The last thing I wanted to end up with was some silly toy gun.  No one was going to react with "Oh, how cute!"  This dude needed to look dangerous.  

Throughout the construction I paused and held up the Silencer as if I were aiming it.  If it didn't feel right, something was wrong, and I reworked it.  Anyone who has ever become absorbed in a project will understand my absolute fixation.  I even dreamed about the Silencer.  Since I try to be all about balance, at times my absorption scared me.  But I went with it.
The handle end.

Pictured at right is the handle end of the Silencer.  You can see the white rotating mirror, perhaps used for distraction or refraction.  Not sure what the crystal jar is for (spices?), but it fits and it looks right.  Of course I managed to get a vacuum tube into the mix.  The metal housing that joins the vacuum tube to the Silencer body is a random piece of hardware that works.  I wrapped the handle with red velvet from an antique record player case, linen ribbon, and a length of vintage leather-studded dog collar.  The handle needed to be decorative but still usable.  

Another shot of the front, showing the rotating mirror, and the Sunbeam Silencer promise, "Ends the Noise."
The upper assembly of the Silencer was the most problematic.  It was very challenging to find a way to attach the assembly securely and extend it out to form the business end of the gun.  I tried two or three things that simply didn't work, and I liked some of them quite a lot.  Finally I made use of the
The business end.
metal housing of a flashlight Nick had picked up years ago on the shores of Lake Erie.  I was able to attach that securely at the back and the base in ways that looked organic.  More of the velvet, wrapped this time with vintage string, and an upstanding metal loop (adjustable, of course) for a sight.  I love the bushing at the end.  It looks like it could send out some deadly energy.  I have no idea what most of these parts were in their former lives, but I have many boxes of interesting bits in the studio, and I can usually find a piece that works in a way I'd never thought of but which feels perfect.  

Once the Sunbeam Silencer was complete, the problem of how to display it reared its head.  I wanted it standing.  My research showed that most steampunk guns were photographed lying down.  Not good enough for the Sunbeam Silencer.  I finally made a basic framework with good old Erector Set parts, of which I have just the right amount.  I adore Erector parts.  

The aiming end
Just one last shot (right) of the aiming end.  I felt the piece was a bit somber and could use a splash of color.  I also thought that a dial like this might adjust the power.  It's never cool to use more force than necessary, is it?   The photo at right gives a good idea of what it's like to look down the length of the Silencer, preparing to end the freaking noise.  It's a wonderful feeling.

This photo shows the detachable small telescope on the left side of the Silencer.  I felt this might come in handy for pinpointing targets, or for starting fires in an emergency.  It is attached to the Silencer with two tool holder brackets.  You can also see it clearly in the first photo I posted.

So this is something I'm holding onto.  I guess if someone offered me several thousands of dollars I'd have to reconsider, but that's not likely to happen.  At the present time, since my neighbors act up from time to time, I need the Silencer.  It doesn't have any real effect on noisy behavior, but I feel so much better just knowing it's there.  

With great power comes great responsibility.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Flirting with Cradled Boards, Chickens and Hogs

I love making jewelry, even though I don't wear it very often.  Each piece of jewelry is a small sculpture.  Given adequate inspiration, jewelry goes together fairly quickly.  There are always several technical issues to solve, but nothing too taxing.  Jewelry is fun.

Looking at a blank canvas, on the other hand, can be terrifying.  Try it with a piece of paper right now.  I'll wait.

And yet I also like the feeling.  I also like cradled boards, which are smooth wood surfaces with attached sides of varying depth.  My latest series of collages is done on cradled birch panels.  For the most part I'm using the 10x10 inch boards because I find them to be a manageable size.  I like the 1" depth.

I also like old woodcuts and illustrations of animals, when I can find any online that Shutterstock hasn't appropriated.  Graphics Fairy is a good source for these, as for so many other amazing images.  I found a picture of a chicken, and away I went.

The original Perl Emory the Chicken was something I made for myself.  I posted it on Facebook, just to share.  After a week or so I was asked if I'd sell it.  "Uh, sure," I responded.  Since then I've made several more Perl Emory boards, and just now a rather alarming Clement Richard the Hog board.  With the exception of  Perl Emory #4, which I'm planning to keep for a while, they are listed for sale on the Sprockets Inside Etsy site (link at top right of this page).   Here is Clement Richard the Hog:


The Perl Emory Series uses the same graphics and general layout, but there are significant differences, and each one is an original.  I'll provide the fronts of the Perls here, for comparison.  As you might imagine, these are very fun to make.  Their reverse sides are painted as well, with sawtooth hangers at the top and felt bumpers at the bottom.

Perl Emory #2
Per Emory #3

Perl Emory #4
Check back soon for something completely different.  Time is short, and I have miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Legend of the True Chain

The "True Chain" is the name for reputed physical remnants of the fabled chain which bound Prometheus to the rock
for the crime of texting while driving.  
 According to the Greco-Romanian historian Plodicus, the Empress Stigmata travelled to Mt. Olympus in the summer of 383.  While picknicking at a popular overlook, she discovered a length of seemingly ordinary rusty chain hidden under a rock.  (When asked later why she was turning over rocks, she admitted she was looking for lizards, "the fat, juicy kind.")

The Empress had forgotten to bring her purse on this vacation, and she desperately needed gas money for her camper, Stigmata asked the local garage owner if the chain was valuable.  "Valuable?" He was said to have screamed as he sunk to his knees.  "Your Most Exalted Superb Empress, this is the True Chain!"  He recognized it, he said later, because the tag on it said "This is the True Chain.  Honest.  Make of it what you will."

Empress Stigmata
At this time the Empress also claimed to have found the remains of the stone the chain had originally been bolted to, but this was quickly revealed to be nothing more than a fist-sized rock with some lizard skin stuck to it.  Stigmata took the chain back through customs, declaring it a "restraining device," and put it in the Royal Museum for all to see.  There it remained for over 22 years, until her kingdom was overrun by robots, and all its valuables were plundered.  Thus began the quest to reclaim the True Chain.

Over the centuries, the Chain was captured and lost, only to be recaptured, hidden in a closet, taken out with the trash and reclaimed, before finally being broken into a few links and many more crumply pieces that looked like rubbish.  Around 1009, Arnold Male Horn, the second Latin King of Remy-Les-Chapeaux, tortured farmers who were in possession of its remains to reveal its location.  Fifty seven farmers died, but only a small rusty flake was recovered.

The Chain was captured by Salad Head during the Battle of the Hats in 1186, and he used it to bind his enemies in a great big lump which he then had his men practice archery on.  After triumphantly parading the chain through the streets of Saladville upon his return home, he was so embarrassed by the realization that this was not the True Chain but rather a piece of barbed wire that he drowned himself in a local pond.

Battle of the Coddles
By 1200, most of the very small remaining pieces of the Chain were located in Lower Princes Coddling in Buckinghamshire, England, where they had been purchased by a local vicar in a plague sale.  This city was captured and sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1208 in the Battle of the Coddles. The captured shards disappeared from public view for a long time thereafter.

By the end of the Middle Ages, so many people claimed to possess a crumbly little bit of the True Chain that the noted wit, Cuthbert Tame, said there was enough metal, if gathered together, to make a lid for a good-sized apothecary jar.  His witticism was repeated far and wide.  [Note:  "Apothecary jar" is a dirty, filthy euphemism for something which isn't all that wrong if you're married, and it's also Cockney rhyming slang.]

From 1400 to the present day, the remaining rusty bits and several links bounced around in some old shoe box or other, from attic to suitcase to tea jar.  This provenance, although not well-documented, is as sound as it's going to get, so never mind.

In modern times, four surviving full links of the True Chain are claimed:  The first, located in a roadside inn in Rome, was examined and was found to be made of cat hair and sticky rice.  Another in Notre Dame in Paris was analyzed and is reported to be constructed of aluminum foil mixed with cocoa powder and a dusting of pig blood.  The third, in Florence Cathedral, was found to be a small but intricately crafted paper airplane from 1912 with the words "die, you rat" written under the right wing.  The fourth link, whose owner prefers to remain anonymous, was declared by Nicola Von Schreder, a professional sniffer of antique doll clothing, to be "a good deal more likely than the others to be genuine, especially on a Tuesday."  It is currently for sale in a major online shopping venue, embedded in a very attractive necklace.

Click here to see the listing for this link.                   
Piece of the True Chain