Steampunk inspiration and resources

Home Decor and Accessories

For Whom the Gear Turns is now on Etsy!

Hiya Gear-heads

I am happy to announce that I have “opened the doors” on my online shop, I have altered canvases, shadowboxes, and handmade cards ready to go and I have been having a lot of fun writing the descriptions. Rather than just saying something is “yay wide and yay high”, I have been writing tantalizing micro-fiction for most of the artwork. Here is an example:

Fern altered canvas by ForWhomTheGearTurnsThere is a box in the attic that is calling to you. It is nestled so snugly you somehow never noticed it before. The hinge creaks as you gingerly lift the lid, revealing an old, leather-bound journal within. You recognize your great grandmother’s name scribbled inside the cover, and each page holds a pressed flower from her garden. An envelope slips from somewhere deep in the journal. A letter written by another hand…


So come on over and check out my mini-stories, as well as my wares 🙂 I will continue to post some of my work on this blog, but I am creating too fast to keep up here.

I also do custom orders, so if you are shopping  for the Steampunk who has everything, consider commissioning a unique piece of artwork!

And as a special thanks to people who follow this blog, I am offering a coupon for 10% off your purchase between now and Oct. 9. On any item over $50 you can save 10% by entering Gearhead10 at checkout.

Some Steampunk Home Decor Ideas from Homedit

An article I recently found on is mostly a protracted advertisement for Restoration Hardware, but it also has some cool ideas for things you do to add a little Steampunk to your own home, and lovely images to inspire you on your next home decor project. Here’s a few of my favorite images, but the article has a lot more!

Check out the full article here.

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!

Weekend at the Asylum: The Markets

Europe’s largest Steampunk convivial was the host to several markets and tons of talented traders and craftspeople. There was one open to the general public in Castle Square, but the rest were only available to convention attendees. It was fun to be at the open market because of the opportunity to see all the “normals” mixing with the Steampunk crowd, but the closed markets were a great opportunity to visit booth after booth without being overcrowded.

I got a chance to talk to lots of people and collect several business cards, so I will do some posts on individual folks and businesses where you can get some stuff to add extra steam to your own cosplay. For now, here are some pics of the general hub-bub and the kinds of things you could purchase as part of the convention. Even with the pounds to dollars conversion I found the prices for vintage and handmade goods to be very reasonable. I picked up a utility belt, some art supplies and lovely lace collar for less than 50 GBP total.



Victoria and Albert Museum Part 1: Incredible Iron

Some people might think the V&A is not up their alley if they hear the focus is on ‘decorative arts,’ but believe me when I tell you this is not a place where you are going to be inundated with doilies and end tables. Personally, I love the decorative arts because these are the objects that people really did touch, see and experience in their everyday lives, including architectural features. In addition to the fabulous clothing and sumptuous household goods, there is an amazing gallery of just samples of ironwork.

There are still lots of examples of wrought and cast all over London (which will get their own post soon), but these items have often been painted and repainted so many times that the delicacy and detail that can be achieved when working in metal has been totally obliterated. This is not so at the museum, where everything from window grates to railings to candlesticks have been preserved for posterity. If you are a fan of metal, you should definitely make sure you stop by the Victoria and Albert Museum if you are visiting or living in London.

Here is sampling of what I saw when I visited.

“Journey” 3D Diptych

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I created a travel-themed diptych for my parents as part of my Kickstarter campaign, but I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the shadow boxes in situ before I left for Greece. My mom took a couple shots for me so now I can give you little window into how I get from start to finish. I can’t really do a tutorial exactly because there is a lot of madness and only a bit of method, but I hope anyone who is looking for tips on how to create your own work of art will find it helpful.

So here is the finished product:

Journey diptych

Journey diptych

Journey diptych panel close up 1 Journey diptych panel 2

But how did I get from point A to point B? Let’s take a look.

I start each shadow box with a canvas. This is the largest expense in each shadow box so I try to wait until Michael’s is having a sale and then stock up. I prefer the “gallery wrapped” variety of canvas for anything that is going to need to be able to be free-standing, but the cheaper varieties work fine if you composition only needs to hang on a wall. Gallery wrapped canvases are those that are not meant to be framed, so the edges are much smoother and a free-standing shadow box won’t wobble. The 18” x 22” canvases I used for this composition were about $16 a piece. It is a good idea to glue the canvas itself to the wooden frame, especially if your piece will hang on the wall.

Next, I go through my paper pads, scraps and box of metal goodies and pick out paper and objects that go with my theme and intended color scheme. Usually I am not limited by anything but my own ideas, but this time I was working on commission so I had to take the color scheme of the room into consideration as I chose my materials. The wall these pieces were to hang on was a pale grayish-green, which I first tried to match and later decided to complement instead. It is really hard to find an exact match so in the end I used hardly any green at all. Instead, I focused on the accent colors in the room, which were beige, dark red and espresso.

I knew a couple things going into this piece; I wanted a 3D element in each box and I wanted each piece to resemble a suitcase. I started by combing the local antique and thrift shops for antique suitcase handles, but I couldn’t even find a cruddy enough suitcase to justify destroying it. So in the end, I made some handles out of vinyl. The material gave me some trouble, but it was the only thing I had the looked like leather and acted like paper. I would love to try the technique again with cardstock, I think I would have gotten more cooperation. As you can see below, I had tabs that I inserted into slits, but with the vinyl I couldn’t get the tabs to stay stuck down. After burning my fingers on the the hot glue gun for the 10th time, I just decided to use ever scrap bookers friend: tape!

Diptych 016But the handles were one of the last things I did. After I chose my materials, I started to lay out paper that I liked. I usually don’t start to fold or bend any paper until I am about 2/3 of the way through a layout because there are many types of paper that will show creases, and if you change your mind you can’t always use the same piece in another place. Make sure to start with larger pieces that fold all the way over the edges so the entire border gets covered, and then you will be freer to add small accent pieces onto the front. I will often take a photo of my initial layout idea in case I forget what I was intending once everything has been moved off to start gluing.

Diptych 039I almost always start with the frame, but it is a good idea to decide ahead of time if you want to see any of the frame paper in the center or if it will all be covered by the paper in the center. (I would definitely recommend the latter, otherwise you will need to be very precise with how much of the frame paper is showing to get a consistent edge.) Pictured at left is a canvas after I finished the layout phase and started to bend and fold my paper around the frame. When possible I have a small amount of overlap from the frame to the center to make sure there are no visible gaps once the piece is mounted on a wall.

To create the 3D hot air balloon, I took a slightly different approach this time than my first balloon in the Discoveries shadow box. I wanted to get a more tear drop shaped balloon, especially because this one was about twice as big as the first. To give it extra structure I decided I needed a horizontal bar, so rather than cutting individual strips I cut out the shape below. The tabs on the sides and the long strips in the middle are how the balloon gets attached to the background paper and appears to float.

The door knob presented a whole new set of challenges. I started with an antique face plate and had to build out the knob itself. The weight of the face plate worried me, but in the end a few brads directly through the canvas held it in place very securely. Canvas is very strong and as long as you glue it to the frame it shouldn’t have much give. The knob was made just like one of my Christmas cage ornaments, but with the brad pointing out instead of up.

Have a great weekend and happy Steampunking!


10,000 Views and Counting…

Poster for Vidoqc (French version of Dark Portals: Chronicles of Vidoqc)

Overnight last night my ticker for total views of this website reached and then surpassed 10,000! It’s amazing what can happen even when you are sleeping. Thanks so much to everyone who has been sharing my site and my Kickstarter project around the interwebs, I wouldn’t have come this far without you.

But, many of you fine people have only been following me for a short time, and you may have missed some fun stuff before you arrived. In honor of my first 10,000 views, I am highlighting 10 posts from that time period for you to check out. I am also a stats junky, so I am including some facts from my stats that I also find interesting at the bottom.

10 Posts You Don’t Want to Miss!

(in no particular order)

The Illusionist poster

The Illusionist (2006)

1. Steampunk Sourcebook: The Illusionist. This was one of my first “sourcebook” style posts, and I learned so much about slight of hand and magicians from the steam era during my research. I will do a similar post of The Prestige at some point in the future, but The Illusionist is so hauntingly beautiful I had to do it first.

2. Festival of Flame at the 2012 Paralymics. Did you know that the closing ceremony for the Paralympics was totally steampunk? There is a nice photo gallery and a youtube video in this post.

They didn't call it the Festival of Flame for nothing!

They didn’t call it the Festival of Flame for nothing!

3. Making it to the Party Early Does NOT Make it Your Party. This is by far the longest editorial article I have written, and I feel strongly that Steampunk needs to be an inclusive movement to stay true to its roots.

Jellyfish, artist unknown

Jellyfish, artist unknown

4. Mechanical Menagerie: Under the Sea. I found some fun mechanical animals to showcase, as well as an amazing short film featuring fish and other under sea beasties made out of everyday things.

5. Music to Steampunk by: Caravan Palace. I LOVE this electronic-gypsy-swing band and I think you will, too.

6. Steampunk Sourcebook: Cephlapods. Since the Cthulu first started to call, octopusses and squid have been wiggling their way into Steampunk. Check out this photo gallery of photos, as well as a mind-blowing documentary called Kings of Camouflage. 

7. A Few Thoughts About Steampunk and War. This was my rebuttal to an article by Harry Markov in Beyond Victoriana that insists that Steampunk is inextricably linked to war.

Curiosities Shadowbox  by ForWhomTheGearTurns

Curiosities Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

8. My Artwork  I don’t want to brag, but I have been making some pretty cool stuff lately. I sort of work in 2.5 dimensions to create shadow boxes with elements that suggest a 3 dimensional object. I love using scrapbook paper that resembles maps, newsprint, scientific illustrations, and Victorian wallpaper patterns to infuse my geometric layouts with a Steampunk vibe.

9. Steampunk Book Review: The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack. I really enjoyed this book about the truth behind a Victorian bogeyman.

10. The Brothers Grimm (2005) Punks Your Favorite Fairy Tales. Can you spot more than the dozen fairy tale references than I did? This is a really fun movie with a great cast.

Most Popular Posts

Van Helsing movie poster

Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing Mixes Monsters for Movie Magic. Alliteration aside, I really enjoyed Stephen Sommers’ re-imagining of the stories of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and wolfman, and apparently so do many people! This post has gotten 3 times the traffic as any other.

Music to Steampunk by: Lindsey Stirling. There are two awesome videos awaiting you in this post about an amazing young violinist who fuses the old and the new.

Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq. This surreal french film practically drips Steampunk and is gorgeous to boot.

Have a great weekend!

Only hours to go… Steam Tour: An American Steampunk in London

“Sky” Hot Air Balloon Shadow Box

"Sky "Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

“Sky “Shadowbox by ForWhomTheGearTurns

This is my third and final 8 x 8 to feature a small jewel as a hot air balloon and a hanging gear to represent the basket. Later today I will post it to the Kickstarter campaign, and it will be available for  $75 pledge (US shipping, zine and bumper sticker included, $5 for shipping abroad)