6 Nov 2013


It was earlier this year that I was summoned mysteriously to Greenwich,London, along with seven other Steampunk artists including modelmaker Herr Doktor, multi media experience designer Yomi, author Robert Rankin and illustrator Dr Geoff|! 
Approaching the iconic date line, we were met with smiles, coffee and biscuits by the curators astronomers and organisers of the exhibiton who explained exactly what they wanted from us!
Now I can confirm I  have been asked to create four costume art pieces for The Royal Greenwich Observatories and National maritime museum! They are going to form part of a brand new steampunk exhibition about the 18th century competition to discover a reliable way of measuring longitude...
All the artists are very excited about their works and we shall be very busy over the winter months, tinkering in sheds, drawing in garrets and writing in coffee shops! 
If you'd like a chance to have one of your artworks displayed alongside ours in the museum, there is a great competition organised by the museum to create an extra artwork for the exhibition! find out all about it HERE!

10 Mar 2013

New Books Pre-Order Offer!

I'm sure you may have noticed I have not one but TWO, yes TWO books being published this year, and I thought it might be rather nice to give you a chance to pre-order  signed copies to be delivered after publication and get a nice free gift or two!

In MAY 2013 you can learn how to create some more spectacular steampunk jewellery pieces as well as some sewn accessories (yes there is my special secret couture mini top hat in there, and a fabulous cravat pattern...) while the amazing adventures of Emilly ladybird continue in Steampunk Apothecary as she falls through the rabbit hole and into a realm of Dark Fairytale steampunk adventures.

There's easy to follow step by step instructions for all projects and luscious photography throughout. 

So, fancy a lovely free gift?

 With each of the first 20 pre-ordered signed copies of Steampunk Apothecary, you will recieve not only  the dedication of your choice, but a little pack of fairy wing film, AND a kit containing all the beads, cog and wire you need to make this adorable fairy wing pendant!

In AUGUST 2013 you'll need to put on an apron and get those rolling pins ready, as Steampunk Teaparty will be available! Full of scrumptious recipes for absinthe cog biscuits, gin and tonic cake, the Steamer B cocktail and more besides, this is a peep into Emilly's notebook as she attends a giddy whirl of teaparties across six steampunk themes.

From the depths of the ocean supping with a group of engineers aboard a jovial submarine, to the far reaches of the galaxy with the First Lunar Regiment on Mars, loads of amazing characters, rambunctious tales of derring do and their favourite foods are brought to life.

And now to the presents! 

With each of the first 20 pre-ordered signed copies of Steampunk Teaparty, you will recieve both the authors flourish of an autograph dedicated to a name of your choice, and a set of six postcards each featuring a stunning group picture from the chapter themes to inspire you and six extra exclusive recipes on the backs!

If you'd like to buy a book in person at one of the many UK events I attend, you are most welcome, I'd love to meet you. 

Any events I'll be attending are displayed in the events section of my Facebook page (Things like MCM, the book launch parties, The Asylum etc.) remember it'll be any event from 18th May for Apothecary and 1st September for Teaparty.

UK Postage: Choose Your Book
Name & Text for Dedication

World Postage: Choose Your Book
Name & Text for Dedication

All posted books will be sent out via Royal Mail or air mail as appropriate and should be recieved within 10 days of postage! There is one postage rate for the UK and another for overseas. Do make sure you pick the right one, I am just charging postageand packing at cost...

5 Mar 2013

Creating my Books (Part Two)

So, all the pieces are finished, all the text is written, what next? surely it's nearly finished?

A project "Beauty Shot" and story page from "Steampunk Apothecary"
Well, next comes the "beauty photography". Thats the lovely picture you see at the start of a project, which shows the finished item, often in a tableau with other items to help tell a story or suggest  a theme.

Martin Soulstealer
This is often done "in house" at the publishers with a photographer whose often kept on a retainer fee to work on many different projects as and when needed.
For both Steampunk Apothecary and Steampunk Teaparty I've been lucky enough to choose my own photographer, and I decided to work with Martin Soulstealer, whose work I love.

layout pages from "Apothecary"
I collected all sorts of exciting props and objects d'art to use as "dressing" in the tableaux, a history of film and art direction helped here, and I borrowed lots of gorgeous things from family and friends too. Martin and I built mini sets for each picture in both his studio and mine, taking several photographs from different angles etc before we decided on The One that we loved.

An early version of the page layout and design, we decided it wasnt vibrant enough
Once all the beauty shots had been adjusted for colour and cropped if necessary, they were sent to the publisher who could begin the design and layout process with their in-house designer.

early cover
final cover
The designer creates a BLAD (Book Layout And Design) for everyone in the team to look at and comment on, usually just of one project and a front and back cover. then after discussion/reworking of the design, the rest of the book is laid out, pages numbered and a first copy printed on flat paper.This design process can take 2-4 months depending on other book commitments at the publishing house and simplicity or otherwise of the design. Mine are quite complex obviously and I like to give the designer loads of reference material and ideas to make sure they know whats in my mind straight off.

flat copy for proofing
Once I have the flat copy, I have to check everything is where it should be, the correct picture is with each step etc and that the measurements are correct. then a copy editor re-checks everything, finding any other flaws and sometimes a technical editor will check it too!

Then it's off to the printers and a long wait...... again 2-4 months for the printing. I get an authors proof copy to read carefully just in case, and if everythings ok, then the print run is completed!
Signing at Waterstones

Finally the book is in the shops and sent out to press and reviewers. I can have a lovely launch party to say thankyou to everyone who helped and sign some books too!

1 Mar 2013

Creating My Books (Part One)

I love books, all kinds of books inspire me; novels, reference and how-to's. 
I've learned pretty much everything I know from books, so I find it terribly exciting that I'm now in a position to be comissioned to create my own. It takes very long time to make a quality how-to book, so I thought you might like to see how the process works!

I am a very hands on author, I like to have input into the final design and layout to ensure that my books have the right old world vintage feel to them. It's very unusual for an author to be allowed to do this and I'm very grateful the publishers trust my vision enough to let me guide the visuals. I'm sure this makes me a nightmare for the layout artists but they always rise to the challenge and create beautiful work, as I'm sure you agree!

 Each book starts with my pitch to a specific publishing house, it's usually compact, just two sides of A4 with the books overall concept, my artistic and book writing credentials, who the book is aimed at and a list of the rough idea for chapters and projects to be included. I have to do this for each new book I suggest, and I may suggest 3 or 4 different concepts to several publishing houses before a comissioning editor sees one they think will sell. Obviously as a freelance writer this is all unpaid work.

Once a publisher has spotted something they like, they will put it forward at a publishers meeting. If everyone agrees it's a great idea then it will go forward to the next shortlist meeting, if they don't, it's back to the drawing board for me, sending out more ideas or trying a different company! 
If they like it they will ask for a more detailed breakdown of the proposed book, this will have more descriptions of each project, maybe some moodboard visuals just to get the visual concepts across.

The publishers will have another meeting at this point, often with the sales team to see if it fits with their book list and outlets, maybe talk about slightly different angles or projects too. 

To get a proposal up to this point can take anything between three months to a year and if the sales team dont like it or someone decides its not quite right, the idea can still be rejected at this point.

If everyone likes it, hooray!  I'll be offered a contract with the royalty
percentage, lots of legal details and the "advance" (which has to be paid back from any sales before I start earning royalties) as well as the deadline schedule. The deadlines are usually between three and six months, so from here on I go from 0 to 90 miles per hour in a frenzy of writing, photographing and making!

The fun can begin! I draw sketches and notes for each project, then start to make each one up, photographing it step by step myself in my little photo studio  which has been especially designed for this work. I use a light tent and two small daylight photographic lights and a Fuji Finepix bridge camera on a tripod. I often have to use a self timer because obviously I need both my hands to hold or demonstrate the technique I'm using!

Sometimes something doesn't work the way I thought it would, and I have to retrace and rephotograph a project, or a few steps too, this is just part of the process and I've made some truly spectacular mistakes sometimes, but hey it's good, because then I can give all the helpful tips of how not to do things as well as how to! I write all the steps up as I go along in huge detail, then simplify into more understandable methods for my readers afterwards...

Parallell to writing the projects during the week, at the weekends I'll be dressing up and photographing the models for the intro stories, this is always epic fun, and a nice chance to see my friends and be silly. We joke that if you come for a visit and stand still long enough in my studio, you are bound to be dressed up and photographed!

They are photographed against a plain wall or back drop, then one of my pet digital artists, like Julian for Steampunk Emporium or Terry for Teaparty and Apothecary can be getting on and creating a beautiful fantastical background from my notes and sketchups,  making a beautiful picture for the chapter openings.

Once all the projects are photographed and written up into steps, I can start on the intro stories, I love writing these whimsy pieces, this is the bit that feels like pure fun rather than work! They are inspired primarily from the actual object and then sometimes by friends or conversations in the steampunk community too.

Finally I have a finished manuscript and the step by step photos. Time to double check, triple check, edit and rewrite before submitting it to the Publishers!

(to be continued in part 2 next week, so do check back then!)

26 Feb 2013

Tamarind Forever

I am a little taken with tamarind at the moment.

For you hardy adventurers who have not come across this delicious fruit, it is an almost citrus type flavour, the seed pod of the tamarind tree, originating in Africa, and now growing in many tropical and subtropical climes 

http://caribbeanpot.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/tamarind-sauce.jpgIt is often sold as a paste or syrup, I buy it as a slightly dried and compacted block of pulp, which you can then cut chunks off, add a little boiling water to and pass through a sieve to make your own fresh pulp, it's cheaper and lasts longer if you purchase it that way. It adds a glorious check sucking sour edge to many chinese and indian dishes. you could use it in place of lime or lemon juice, though it has a very unique flavour all it's own....
As all adventurers need to get used to local delicacies, with no thought of personal danger, I have been experimenting with a cocktail for you!

http://www.sukamtradingcompany.com/full-images/whole-tamarind-819947.jpg2 measures Hendricks gin
1 tablespoon tamarind syrup
The juice of a fresly squeezed blood orange

Shake over ice and pour into a chilled glass with a couple more ice cubes and a twist of lime peel for garnish, you can top up with plain soda or tonic water for a longer drink.

To make the syrup, mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup of water and boil for three minutes. add 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste or sieved pulp and mix well, removing from the heat and bottling when cool.

Drink with style!

25 Jan 2013

So many Interviews so little time!

As I'm getting some lovely email requests for more information for people writing Steampunk dissertations and projects and things, I thought I'd make it easy for those adorable academics amongst you and pop all the links together in one place.....

So this is just a short list of links to all the blogs/articles that I have been invited to contribute to over the past couple of years... you should find plenty of background information in this lot!

I also have no doubt that with two new books out later this year! (woohoo and more about that later....) I shall have plenty more wisdom to impart, (why is Mr Woppit laughing?)

Let us start with a fun one I did with for the adorable Magda at Mookychick

Next, this is a nice introduction to my world and art with Altered Bits Blog

This is from the Steampunk Community blog!

Then a lovely one with the team who featured me in the Steampunk Bible...and theres even a part two...

If you love my dresses and would like to hear more about how I started out in costume design, this one with Triskelle pictures is for you!

To watch an interview about steampunk fashion I did with The Muse TV click here for part one and here for part two!

Oh and a heres a radio interview with The Geek Show

A crafty one with the Sweater Surgery and a fun one where I rant about gear wheels and Cogs for Steamed Blog.

To learn about my place within the virtual worlds of Caledon and second life you may enjoy The Primograph

Last but not least, of course, another two parter with Steamunk Chronicles here and then here

There are probably more loitering about.... do let me know if I've missed yours or forgotten any and I will add them!


16 Jan 2013

The Shortbread Cog Machine!

You may have occasionally heard me mention Chief Engineer.

He makes marvellous things in his sheds (note I say Sheds plural) and one of his latest constructions is a Pantograph.

This is not actually a machine for creating frilly bloomers,oh no. It is a very clever mechanism designed for creating exact copies. It was first used in 1603 to copy diagrams and plans accurately.

Chief Engineers machine has been designed to use a fine tipped router to carve an exact copy from a three dimonsional original, reducing the carved design by a 2:1 ratio. This means that from one original model he can create any number of exact half sized replicas.

So, he created me a gorgeous gearwheel shortbread cookie biscuit mould!

It is carved in mahogany and is a beautiful object in its own right. while it can also be used to mould fondant icing, or marzipan, I wanted to test it's cogs upon some biscuit dough....

This is my recipe, it is very delicious but because it's quite buttery the gear wheels do spread slightly when baked....

125g butter
40g caster sugar
20g rice flour
170g plain flour
1 dessert spoon powdered cinnamon

preheat the oven to 150degrees C

  • cream the buter and sugar together, mix in the flour and cinnamon to a firm dough. Cut into roughly the right size slices for the gear wheels.
  • leave in the fridge for half an hour. 
  • Oil the mould with a brush and wipe out any excess with paper towel. pour flour into the mould, tap round so every area is covered, then pour all the flour out.
  • press a slice of the dough into the mould and level off with a blunt knife.
  • tap the mould gently to release the biscuit.
  • repeat with the rest of the dough, though you only need to oil the cog at the beginning of each batch, for the second cookie onwards just flouring the mould is fine.
  • place on an oven tray, a little appart and return to the fridge for an hour, this should help stop the cookie spreading when baked.
  • bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
leave to cool on the tray for a minute then finish cooling on a wire rack.

There may be a limited number of these available to buy in my etsy store soon, all hand carved by me and The Chief, so do let me know if you'd like one!

9 Jan 2013

The Steampunk Gin Bustle

Whilst thinking about cocktail cabinets and the dificulty of getting to the bar at a crowded soiree, I came up with the idea of a bustle that concealed a hidden drinks cabinet!

The construction of the outfit is described in detail here and you can also see me talking about it in a video for TheMuseTV

The actual gown has been featured in a few different exhibitions and books now, and it is so much fun to wear, it always turns heads....

 It features a quite traditionally victorian cuirasse bodice pattern cut, unboned but worn over a steel boned corset, with a velvet front panel and sumptuous peacock patterned satin sleeves. The actual bar is made from buckram and is rigid enough to support cocktail shaker, hendricks gin bottle and is lit from above with white LED's. 

The bustle swag is created from a piece of Saree fabric which drapes much like a venetian blind over the rigid bar structure. when a tassel is pulled the swag swishes apart and upwards like theatre curtains to reveal the bar!
It is quite heavy when the bar is fully stocked and also because it's rigid (unlike most of my other costumes collapsable bustles) it's not the greatest thing to sit down in!