Social Distancing 101: A “Restorative” Video

Today’s Social Distancing tip is to relax and watch magic for a half hour. Christine McConnell—gothic artist, creator, restorer extraordinaire—has released a half-hour episode on YouTube in which she gives new life to an old gramophone. I wouldn’t call this a ‘restoration’ as she doesn’t do anything to the actual working parts, but she performs real magic on the horn and cabinet. This was originally intended only for her Patreon supporters, but she felt we could all use a distraction. I can’t think of a better way to spend half an hour, now that I’ve watched as many of “The Repair Shop” episodes as an American is able to see. Relax and enjoy.

Need more Christine McConnell? Subscribe to her channel on YouTube.

A Necklace To Fan Over

A long time ago, I moved from Seattle to New Jersey. It took a while for me to get employed and back on my feet, so I frequently shopped at (or sold things to) a nice second hand shop. On one of my visits to the shop, I noticed an unusual necklace and it was love at first sight. I paid five dollars for it. Not a lot of money, I suppose, but at that time it meant I’d have to skip dinner. But I had to have it.

I wore it a few times, but it really did look dirty and sad, and the clasp was loose. So, it’s been tucked in the bottom of my jewelry box for… eons. This week I decided it was well past time to try to restore it to its former beauty. Here’s the ‘before’ pictures.

Damascene Necklace
A bunch of googling tells me this necklace was produced by the Amita Company of Kyoto, Japan, in the very late 1930s or sometime in the 1940s.
Damascene Necklace
It’s well-worn and shows its age, but nothing is broken. The clasp got a little loose, but it’s just a wedge of metal. I found out it was easy to bend by hand to get a tighter fit.
Damascene Necklace
I can see Mount Fuji in the background, and some cozy homes up front. I’ve now learned that what I thought was black stone is oxidized steel. Sadly, the hanging tassel is really scuffed up. It may be the first piece of the necklace I try cleaning up.
Damascene Necklace
There’s that easy-to-bend clasp. Each side of the necklace has four fans featuring birds, butterflies, and village scenes.
Damascene Necklace
I can’t wait to start cleaning this necklace up. I hope it sparkles!

Can I get a drum roll please! Here come the ‘After’ pictures! After doing lots of research, I used Q-tips, plain warm water, and ivory soap. My method: Dip the Q-tip in water, rub it on the bar of soap, then gently scrub each fan. I went over the entire necklace (including the clasp) three times. Those Q-tips looked disgusting, which I found encouraging. For a final step, I heavily soaped up my hands and picked up the necklace to give it a gentle soapy massage. Then it got a final rinse in clean water. I pinned it to a cork board overnight to air dry, and this is what I woke up to. It’s a very sunny day here, and it just glistens in the sunlight! I’m very happy. I’ll be looking for a reason to wear it VERY soon.

Restored Damascene Necklace
The large fan really cleaned up well. All the details of a fishing village in the shadow of Mount Fuji are there. The silver will always look muted, but now it stands out more clearly.
Restored Damascene Necklace
The tassle is much better. Before cleaning,the three flowers didn’t look like flowers. It’s still not perfect, but I didn’t feel comfortable scrubbing it any more than I did.
Restored Damascene Necklace
Everything shines!
Restored Damascene Necklace
A view of one side, and the clasp fastener. There are four different scenes, which are repeated in the same order on the other side. The second fan from the top has a muddy Mt. Fuji and part of the silver fan wouldn’t clean up. I notice the metal ‘handle’ isn’t shiny either. I wonder what happened to this fan?
Restored Damascene Necklace
This side, and the clasp cleaned up quite nicely. The chain looks a lot better too. Just soap and water, who knew?

If you are interested in learning more about Damascene jewelry (I know I am!) here are some links to get you going.

The History of AMITA Co., Ltd.
About Damascene Jewelry (with pictures of the process)
Vintage Damascene Jewelry
Damascene Jewelry – Art and Science in Two Hemispheres
Vintage Damascene Jewelry: Three Key Traits

Gears, Beards, and Beers

GB and B 2
(Image belongs to the Facebook Capitol Steam group)

Good times do not get better than this. I had such a wonderful time last night! Here’s a highlight moment: As I was pausing in a doorway, just soaking up the eye candy, a young, cute wisp of a girl skittered up to me and laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. She said, “You are wonderful and adorable and awesome!” and then she skipped off. In a nutshell, this is My Steampunk. Happy, open, welcoming, creative people of all backgrounds and ages with one common dream. I can’t resist it.

At some point, I was tapped on the shoulder by a roving costume contest judge and told I was being entered in the contest. Didn’t win at any level, but as they say at the Academy Awards, it was an honor just to be nominated!  For the record, I was wearing my crocheted Gibson Girl wig, sorta matching crocheted bootwarmer-spats over utilitarian black biker boots, a black and silver corset from Corset Story (You gotta love Corset Story. Really. You must), a long sleeved scoop neck shirt, lots of flashy silvery jewelry, and a black western dance hall  style above the knee skirt, with black leggings beneath. And as usual, I had that little item that 98.5% of steampunks own, a jeweler’s loupe. Seriously, under $10 buys your glasses some steam-cred. And I know I can’t live without my glasses. Can you? I scribbled all over the metal on my loupe with a blood red marking pen. Love the effect. It will rub off so I’m careful, but it’s not that hard to avoid.

Yes, I am a very low budget steampunk. It’s more fun to warp items from my closet than to buy off the rack ‘looks’. Though I do spring for good corsets, cause…. CORSETS.

Hopefully pics will be forthcoming. I don’t know what’s out there but I will share as I find.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE LINKS! Explore and get to know these groups. They are each and every one wonderful.  Kudos and thank you to all!

 – My favorite set of pics from the evening.

Fantastic pics at

Mid Michigan Magnificent Steamy Sponsor!  Capitol Steam (Lansing area Steampunks Facebook Group)

Hirsute Hunks that Sponsored.  I love these guys! Jackson Beard and Moustache Club

Proceeds Benefiting! Cascades Humane Society

Venue! The Grand River Brewery in Jackson, Michigan. Perfect setting and extremely brave and tolerant waitstaff.

Vendors & Artists! Look for these places online – try – and support steampunk artistry.

Poison Ivy Designs
Steampunk Eddie
Errant Knight Photography
Detroit Beard Collective
The Spectra Nova
Spooky’s Geek Boutique formerly known as Spooky Designs
Off the Beaten Path Books
K3 Creations Artworks
Lush Lapel

I dropped a bit of cash at FiendishWear, as their items were too good to miss. I’ve needed something to hold my needfuls. I’ve been using a clutch purse made from 1920’s fabrics, and it’s fun, but I get tired of the clutching. So now I have a leather accessory hip case to hold what I need on a belt slung around my waist, and to keep it company and increase the collective coolness factor, I snapped up a 6″ brass extendable telescope with leather holster. It works, very nicely. Good for examining beards close-up.

And lastly but not leastly, our musical inspiration. Raven Song sounded so great, and yes, I sang along with “Whiskey In The Jar”. Here’s a random tune from Youtube so you can catch a bit of their sound:

Of Weddings and Apprentices

“Blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young; and doubly blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old”  — Anonymous (the wisest person on the planet, apparently)

We have now toddled back home from Up In The Aether: The Steampunk Convention, and are settling back in and re-acclimating to life in modern times.  It’s raining lightly, Ken’s STILL in the yard taking care of the vegetable garden details  (I came in an hour ago, I am not a lunatic) and I’m baking up some waffles for a breakfast-dinner if the addle-brained one ever comes inside and dries off.  Meantime, I wanted to share two anecdotes from the Con that may help explain WHY I like being a part of the Steampunk Community, and why I love, love, love going to a local con. Sure the outfits are purdy – but I’m not a cosplayer. And it’s fun to make up a character, but my roleplay days are behind me. And honestly?  I’m not really a con-person, this really is the only con of the year I attend.  But there’s one rock-solid reason I’m grateful for the Steampunk community at large, and why I align myself with it – strongly.

Steampunk – at it’s finest – respects and honors the past. Steampunk is armed with enough smarts and imagination to revel in it whimsically and perhaps a touch brilliantly, while setting an example for that wide-eyed, soaking-it-all-up generation of children that will take our place when we are gone.

This was the first year for Up In The Aether (it’s predecessor, World Steam Expo, ended last year), and it carried a challenge to form it’s own unique identity. We certainly don’t want to forever think of it as “that con that filled the hole World Steam Expo left.”  Personally, what set UITH apart for me this year was the extra focus given to Making.  The DIY sessions were exemplary.  I now know how to pickle copper for cheapsies, properly clean tools from last century, what sort of vile diseases may linger on some long forgotten hinge, and exactly what that doohickey really was that resembled Lucifer’s Tuning Fork. And more. Oh, and there were sessions for us FOODIES!  We learned about Victorian era cooking from a local steampunk/chef, who along with his longsuffering sidekick, cooked up a whirlwind for us – we were fed tomato and celery salad (better than it sounds after he whomped up a good vinaigrette dressing that the Victorians NEVER heard of), chicken croquettes (needed parsley) and raspberry shrub (INSTANT ADDICTION.)

Oh right. I mentioned two anecdotes.  I get sidetracked so easily!

Anecdote The First – The Wedding. 

Our hotel had also booked a wedding for Saturday afternoon. Apparently the wedding party had booked another venue, canceled when they found a better place, but unfortunately that place fell through.  Three weeks before their wedding, they booked the Double Tree in Dearborn. Now, this wedding wasn’t in some back room, it was RIGHT IN THE LOBBY. The same lobby that was the hub of all our activity, the same lobby we had to walk around all sides of to get to our event rooms.

Recipe for disaster?  Nope.  At some point, the wedding guests began to arrive, and a strange blend of Urban Detroit wedding-formal began mingling with all sorts of Steampunk. I personally saw respect offered from both camps, smiles and nods passed between folk, polite words were offered at every opportunity.  Some of the wedding guests inquired about who ‘all these well dressed folks in the hotel’ were. They were given friendly explanations, and a few of them even ventured out to browse the dealer’s rooms. During the actual wedding, the con-goers moved quietly around the perimeter, and spoke in hushed tones.  I LOVED the juxtapositioning of the converging special days for so many people.  Many of the steampunks offered good wishes and congratulations to the bridal party.  (Later, I learned that the bride hadn’t been given an advance clue about our con, and was less than thrilled  – I pity the wedding planner that forgot to tell her, but ah, what can we do?)

Amusingly, I recall the second year of World Steam Expo (our previous con) shared the hotel with both a wedding reception AND a Japanese convention. Somewhere, in some dust-gathering wedding album, is a family portrait of a very traditional, upright family, but that picture also includes a lady in a pith helmet, alligator skin corset and wielding a butterfly net. Thanks, elderly grandpa, for hauling me into the photo and snuggling up against me!

Anecdote the Second – The Master and the Apprentice

We attended as many DIY workshops as possible. Among those were a couple of REALLY good sessions run by Steve Brook. From the UITA website:

Steampunk Fabricators is a Detroit based Art, Design and Engineering guild specializing in one of a kind Museum quality art projects. Steampunk Fabricators Art Projects have enjoyed global recognition and have been shown in Museums, Galleries, Television, Video, and Fine Photography. The mission of the guild is to rescue and combine vintage turn of the century period objects in a modern way to create historic tribute to the craftsmen of the industrial age. Founder Steve Brook, a veteran Automotive Design Engineer, states: “Until recent times Art and Engineering were always two sides of the same coin. The art of Leonardo De Vinci is an example of the harmony between the two. Our goal is to restore the balance of art and engineering while celebrating the aesthetic qualities of the Victorian age.”

These were wonderful sessions. Steve has a respect and reverence for handcrafted objects (especially workshop tools) from the past. He spoke about how objects back then were created individually, by hand, for a specific purpose, by their builders.  And the fact that we can hold those objects today, and they are still strong and sound, and in many cases, still working perfectly, speaks so highly of the skill and dedication that went into the objects.  Steve is apparently an empath too, he feels about tools and crafted objects the way I feel about older buildings.  The energy and soul of the builders gets into the items they build.  He mentioned that he loves working with older shop tools, as the ‘mojo’ of those from the past that either crafted the items or worked hard with them over the years gets into the tools. He likes that extra boost to his own projects that comes from working in harmony with the past.

During both sessions we attended (“Rescue, Restore and use Vintage Tools” and “Working with Vintage Materials: The Good, The Bad, The Beautiful”), we shared the front row with a small boy who listened intently, did not fidget, and seemed as into the concepts as any adult in the room.  At the end of the first session, Steve turned his attention fully to the kid.  He asked him his name (Jeffery) and told him he had a present for him. Steve gave Jeffery a very, very old screwdriver set – those kind that are like nesting dolls, where you keep unscrewing them and there’s a smaller one, unscrew that and there’s another smaller one, all the way down to a tiny screwdriver perfect for repairing glasses. And this was no knockoff screwdriver set. It’s not like he had a bucket of them in the back to appease the kiddos.  This was a well made, vintage, quality item. He described it to Jeffery and then presented it to him.  Jeffrey took it gratefully, and dammit, I couldn’t see for a minute after that for the tears in my eyes. It was just one of THOSE moments.

The next session we attended, guess who was in the front row again?  Yep, Jeffery!  We learned a lot about the dangers and delights of working with old icebox handles and other wacky bits of hardware from days gone by.  Steve had a scrap box filled with intriguing goodies he used for his demonstrations.  At the end of that session, he targeted Jeffery once again, and told him he could choose anything he wanted out of the scrap box to keep. Jeffery chose a very intricate looking whatsamathing. Steve told him “you can’t just use it like that! Take it all apart and make a lot of cool things.”  By now, you could sense the bond between the man and the boy.

I like knowing that the world I live in has a Jeffery in it, who’s possibly using that vintage screwdriver right now to make a few cool things out of that thingermabobber.  Who knows what Jeffery may offer up to the world as he grows, learns, and experiments?


















The Busiest Two Weeks Of The Year

Today may have been my peak day in the seasonal cycle of Spring, which masqueraded as Summer today, being in the 90’s. As usual, the yard and gardens have turned into a jungle. Michigan likes to dump endless rainstorms, laced between heat waves in the Spring. This is very annoying to gardeners, but the plants sure seem to like it. A little too much if you ask me.

This weekend has been a good one for taming the growing beasts. And of course, since I am lucky enough to have not just a First life, but a Second life too, there’s a huge convergence of activity all across both Terra, and the Grid.

Next weekend brings World Steam Expo. We’ve enjoyed both previous years of this con and are *definitely* looking forward to round three! I am not by nature a con-person. I am not blase about these things, I don’t go to heaps of them, I don’t know con protocol… I’m the happy clueless steampunk who just loves going down to Dearborn and soaking up the fun with people that feel ‘right’ to me. The first year, I threw together random bits of clothing and just bumbled along. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t looking for a best-dressed honor. I got to meet some Second Lifers and I had a great time. Last year my costuming skills grew a bit, I wore an actual Serious Corset (fake alligator skin, brutal boning, loved it anyway), a pith helmet, crafted a skirt and a butterfly net and SteamEarthMomma’d my way through the con.

This year I’m aiming for a ‘casual steamish pirate’ look. I handmade my corset (yep, the entire thing, it’s doubled thick yarn single crocheted to be very firm, thick cord X-lacings up the sides and spine, seven sweet little metal cloak-clasps attempting to tame my belly), acquired shiny accessories, such as my brass compass which I cannot stop playing with and a silly little pirate gun – and of course a battered old tricornered hat. My logic was that I love corsets, but driving 90 miles in one is not very fun, nor is trying to sit for long spells with boning jamming my thighs. So we will see how this goes. Life is an experiment!

Anyway… with Expo coming, and lots of crafting and plans for that – and the Annual Yard Explosion – and a need to be out of town on the coming Tuesday – there’s a lot to do. It’s been one heck of a weekend and it’s nowhere near done yet. I’m just taking a little breather (insert mandatory dwarf joke here) with a cool drink and thought I’d babble a bit.

I noted SEVEN, yes SEVEN events in Second Life I would have loved to attend today. The Home and Garden Expo is underway and you REALLY need to go enjoy that – especially Prim Perfect’s sim, which I’ve been lucky enough to help a bit with from behind the scenes. Go see! It’s lovely, and based on a wonderful conceptual binding theme. I am very proud of everyone involved! We’re hosting a full series of “Meet the Designers” talks all week long. Some of your favorite designers will be there and you know you want a chance to meet them and hear them speak their minds. Follow the Prim Perfect Blog for all the details through this amazing week of the Home and Garden Expo.

Well, there’s a bit of sunlight left and I shouldn’t waste it. But here’s a little view into what sort of gifts Spring gives me, and why I am happy to sweat and ache and burn the calories every spring, out here in some very beautiful countryside – and also why I’m happy the internet reaches out into little cowtowns like mine.

Fresh rocket lettuce to compliment tonight’s crab and pasta salad
A HUGE bundle of fresh spearmint stalks, tied and hanging from my herb-hooks in the kitchen to dry. Smells amazing.
A bundle of catnip stalks up on the hooks. Have I mentioned I grow my own teas?
Chamomile flowers in bloom, which I will go pick as soon as I post this.

Kitchen Therapy:
Crab, Pasta and Veggie salad
Brownie Bites (mini muffin pan FTW)
Fresh strawberries sliced and sweetened to go over brownies
From-scratch lemon-limeaide (did I mention it’s 90 degrees out?)
Lemon Poppyseed muffins
Huge breakfast yesterday of cheesy eggs, sausage, and from-scratch hashbrowns

Second Life:
I have snuck around the Expo under cover of darkness. And I love love love it.
Am very gratified by the success of Armada’s Treasure Hunt. Tis just a handful of stops, maybe a dozen? – you can do that! And you’ll enjoy getting to know our city built on the bones of boats. The hunt runs till the end of the month.
I plan to watch the lanterns for peace be released one night this coming week. You should too. Read this amazing, touching explaination by Alchemy Immortalis to see what it’s all about.

Crafty Therapy:
Finished the pirate corset since my cloak-clasps arrived in the mail yesterday
Experimental crocheted boot-cuffs. May be a Fail. Maybe not. Will see.

And off I go again…. dinner will be late, as  sunlight is precious and must not be squandered.  I’m going to seem very scarce through next weekend, but be assured I’m not really very far away.  And with any luck I smell like mint. 🙂   Or gunpowder, arrrgh.



Treasure Hunt

I work at a Very Old University (established 1855). Over the decades, various storage rooms, closets, and little-used offices have accumulated a lot of paper, steelcase furniture pieces, broken chairs, cartons of floppy disks, and lots and lots of mystery items.  All the stuff that gets shoved aside in favor of The New.

Recently we decided to have some fun with the little ‘lounge’ area leading into the ladies room in my office suite. I knew I’d seen some interesting pieces lurking in the dark corners of my building, and so I suggested we go on a treasure hunt to see what could come upstairs and find new purpose.

I already knew the first treasure I wanted to nab – I’d lusted over this piece for years, but never had a place to bring it back to light. Now I do! This cabinet has set the theme for our decorating project – we’re going (yay) Victorian! Pardon the tilt of the shot, I literally was scrunched up against a counter and couldn’t get a decent angle. It’s about six feet tall.

And that set our theme. Next!  I stumbled over a newer piece, but well built, and dark wood. This is SOLID wood and with some lace atop and some sort of decoration, will work on a side wall.

These two little chairs are oddities – and we have had them in the ladies room for at LEAST 25 years.  But they’re cute-kitchy.  I’m thinking to pull some ornate pillowcases over the backs, tie them off at the base with thick plush ribbon, and call it a day.  I don’t want to get rid of them as I am sentimental about them.  The countertop and mirror will get some sort of treatment… the old linoleum is blech.  Not sure what I’ll do yet.

I’m saving the best for last. Not sure how these will be used, but damn!  The tallest piece is about a foot tall. They need polished. But they are beautiful, heavy silver pieces. Maybe something on the little countertop, with flowers in them?  I DO know their history.  One of our deans, back in the 1960’s, used to like his afternoon tea. His secretary would prepare it, and serve it to him and guests on an ornate tray.  The tray seems to be undiscovered so far, but we did find the rest of the set!

(And the silver is sitting on my beloved 1940’s era credenza in my cubicle. Mine! You can’t have it!)

With all these bits collected, I think we have some good ideas for gathering in artwork for the walls, and bits of frippery to complete the look.  We were given a $50 budget to buy anything we wanted.   I’m hesitant on adding a rug, knowing how the custodial staff treats the floors. But maybe.  I know a really good second hand store for rugs…

Shall be nice to have a bit of genteel Victorian times in our otherwise drab 1948 institutional building.

Victuals! November Aether Salon

Aether Salon November 2011
Sunday, November 20 at 2 pm slt
Babbage Palisade & Academy of Industry

What’s that bubbling in the pot on the stove? SCIENCE! Kitchen technology took great strides in the Victorian era, thanks in part to discoveries by Louis Pasteur, Gale Borden, George B. Simpson and many other inventive and scientific minds. Learn about surprising changes in food preparation of yesteryear – and how you can bring a bit of vintage techniques into your kitchen of today.

Salon presenter Ceejay Writer practices what she preaches. In her First Life, she grows and preserves foods to last through the winter months. She is a self-taught herbalist with extensive herb and tea gardens, an organic vegetable gardener and forest forager. Besides traditional canning, she enjoys figuring out new uses for her beloved dehydrator. Most of her favored food preparation methods pre-date her own birth.

‘Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry…’