Steampunk inspiration and resources

Tips for Makers: You Can Fake it When You Make it Part 1, “Gathering Resources”

I hope you have been enjoying my Tips for Makers series based on the sessions at the Weekend at the Asylum festival so far. “Taming Metal” parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, were for the people who want to use real metal in their props, costumes and gadgets, but that’s not for everyone. Sometimes you want things to look a certain way but you don’t have the time, materials or skills to make it happen. And there is no shame in cutting corners or substituting one thing for another. I know some people are all about the “authenticity” but Steampunk should be a bit of silly fun and lack of know-how shouldn’t keep you from trying your hand at making something cool.

I went to a session hosted by “Major Quicksilver” during my great weekend in Lincoln and he had tons of advice about materials and how to get them at an affordable rate. The most important thing he told the audience was if you see something, buy it right then and there. Don’t wait for a project to start gathering materials, because chances are when you go back to get something it will be gone, or it will have gone up in price. I have been moving around a lot in the last few years so I have been holding off from gathering too much myself, and I can’t wait until I get settled enough to amass the craft room of my dreams.

"Sky "Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

“Sky “Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

But even with my space restriction I can’t help myself from going into overstock and scrap store I come to, and I usually leave with at least one treasure. It may take years before I use it, but whenever I start a new project I take infinite pleasure in going through my materials and rediscovering things that will enhance my work. For instance, I started collecting pieces of chandeliers because they were crystaline and shiny. Then I discovered if you turn them upside down they make wicked mini hot air balloons. Some of the scrapbook paper in this piece were from the first pad I ever bought years ago.

There are lots of random things around your house that can be put to new uses. Pill bottles, for instance, can hold tiny things like beads or screws, and the covers can be used as knobs or dials on a jet pack or ray gun. I made a pair of aviator goggles for my toy poodle and I used the caps from pill bottles as the makeshift lenses. He was never going to let me put goggles on him for real, so it didn’t matter if they were functioning. Unfortunately he and the goggles are back stateside or I’d post a photo, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they are adorable.

Want to add a little brass? The wire used for hanging framed art comes in a brassy color and you can get it for pretty cheap. There are also a lot of old cameras and other gizmos at your local thrift store just waiting for you to take them apart and find all the goodies inside. Drawer pulls which can do double duty as various cosmetic adornments and come in lots of shapes, sizes and finishes and there are often bucketloads of these are scrap yards.

So get on out there and start gathering your resources, you never know when a project will come up!

Here are a few places where I get my arts and crafts supplies. (Sorry UKers, I mostly make and therefore shop in the US).

Ax-Man (4 locations in MN)- hands down the best place to get random mechanical parts that actually function, or just look cool. Glass bottles and beakers, circuit boards, switches, leather scraps, magnets, you name it, they have it and it is SUPER cheap.

ArtScraps (St. Paul, MN)- When I got married I made my own wedding invites by getting cheap art prints and cutting them down to size. They have stamps, fasteners and bulk randomness, plus classes and birthday parties for kids.

The Scrap Box (Ann Arbor Michigan)- This is where I got all those pretty chandelier dangles that I use in my shadowboxes. There is a back room where they charge you by weight so you just go in, load up a grocery bag and it may cost you $5 for a full one.

Scrap Creative Re-Use Center (San Franciso, CA)- This is advertised as a great place for teachers to come and get supplies for their classes. In addition to overstock and bulk goodies, there are magnets, wooden blocks and whiteboards.

Urban Ore– This is a pretty hardcore scrapyard with lots of doors, furniture, marble tiles and other home

Do you have and advice about where to find cool and useful stuff? Please comment below!

6 responses

  1. Another great post! I am convinced that having access to materials–whether it’s interestingly shaped pieces of plastic you didn’t throw away, scraps of leather, old brass fittings, treasures from thrift or scrap stores, or some piece you splurged on and bought (gasp!) retail–are the key to creativity. Thomas Edison said “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

    Like

    October 23, 2014 at 11:34 am

  2. Reblogged this on The Obsession Engine and commented:
    Another topic from the great people who brought us the “Taming Metal” series.

    Like

    October 24, 2014 at 7:40 am

  3. Pingback: Tips for Makers: You Can Fake it When you Make it Part 3, “Plastic is Your Pal” | For Whom the Gear Turns

  4. This is the first time I’ve seen this blog, and I’d just like to say thank you for coming to my talk! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and that you found it useful. I’ve a few videos on youtube that offer some more advice, and show you what you can end up with as well:

    https://www.youtube.com/user/divegorilla/videos

    All the best

    Dene ‘Major Q’ Woodman, AKA Major (now Doctor?) Wolfram Quicksilver

    Like

    March 28, 2016 at 10:47 am

    • Hiya! So sorry about the doctor thing, I swear that is what it said in the Asylum program… Fixed now! I am glad you stopped by. I’ll check your videos 🙂

      Like

      March 28, 2016 at 11:38 am

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