I am an artist with very broad interests, and sometimes I get caught between them, wanting to make felt frogs, or write about flowers, or, y’know, the work that actually brings in some money (Thank you, Zazzle patrons!). There’s always one thing I have time for, though, and that’s shopping for interesting things to be turned into steampunk builds.

(There’s a lot of “things that shall be used to make better things” in my house. I watch all the hoarder shows so that I remember to slow down my “this is cool! I will make a thing out of it!” tendencies.)

When we lived in Maryland, we were right near Laurel, which has some run-down bits, and therefore, some awesome thrift stores. I got into the habit of checking them frequently, along with antique stores and discount stores. Now that I live in the middle of nowhere, I look for antique and thrift stores in out-of-the-way places. I stay away from the antique stores in big tourist towns (I’m looking at you, Williamsburg!), because they are always high-priced, and part of my build ethos is getting items for cheap. I picked up two brass horns the other day for less than $22. With a little love and Brasso, they should be great. Al Hoff, author of Thrift Score (ISBN 0-06-095209-1), calls it “the never-ending treasure hunt”, and that is exactly what keeps me looking.

(Bob is also an excellent builder. He once made a 3/4 size Dalek out of cardboard and foam balls, and put an ice bucket in the head. I wish we’d been able to keep it, but we didn’t have the room, and it took up too much space in our long-suffering friends’ closet.)

So, building is all about finding weird and broken stuff and making it fun again. There’s still a big vogue for putting strings of “firefly lights” (LED light strings) in glass cloches, and this next small build took advantage of one that had chips and scratches on the base. I got it on sale (of course!) because it was damaged, and initially, because of the party deadline, all I did was put in an arch of 16 gauge black wire, wind the light string over the wire, and glued a bird finial (from http://www.victoriantradingco.com) to hide the base of the wire.

Bird in a cloche (left), sitting next to a number of other pseudo-Victorian things for the 2018 Steampunk party. Photo by L. Mellin, 2018.

After the party, I went to work to make it more attractive. I painted the base black and put in a new battery for the lights. I had found a bunch of mulberry paper buds and flowers, and used those and some small matching berry sprays to decorate the arch. Considering how simple it was, I was very pleased with how it looked:

unlit bird cloche resize
Unlit bird. photo L. Mellin, 2020
Lit bird cloche resize
Lit bird! Photo L. Mellin, 2020

A close-up of the flowers.

side view 1 resize
Side view. Photo L. Mellin, 2020

Most of my work was done for me, since I bought the cloche and lights, and the bird finial, but I got them for cheap, so there’s that. It became one of the little extras we put into each room at the Steampunk party that added to the atmosphere.

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