(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#8 Steampunk Hands: Standing at Attention

The Evolution of My Workshop

Where do I do most of my steampunk related things – costuming, art and writing?

I admit my work gets spread over several rooms. Costume making spreads through the lounge room (when watching inspiring videos), the dining table and the veranda. I even invade my husband’s work area in the sacred shed, on occasion.

Some of the things produced in my floating workshop:

wings 1408octoarm bookmar2k1 mining help10 otto hat 2krakenchestbusteratRB12 brooch16 sewing in busk

A few years ago, we extended the house, adding a new room to house my sewing table, our costumes and ever growing number of bookshelves. For a short time my creations remained contained.

That did not last long.

Then I took up writing again. Now boxes of notes, pens and laptops vie for space. Notebooks have spawned all over the house. I spent hours writing at the dining table or using the stable table. Then I scored a rolltop desk – for free. Until recently I had been relegated to a spot on the dining table, or a portable table barely large enough for the laptop. Now I had somewhere else to sit and write.

The problem is some days I sit on my bum for two to eight hours – depending on my level of dedication at the time. In November, I had a health crisis; back and hip issues that took almost a month to recover from. Writing, sitting – even sleeping – was agony. I needed to rethink this sitting thing.

At about the same time I was ruminating about the health consequences of my dream vocation (On Writing, Health and Childhood Dreams), a series of articles reported about the ramifications of sitting all day. This is serious stuff (prepare yourself for the scientist in me):

  • 40% increased risk of early death (5)
  • losing seven years of quality life – mortality and quality of life (1)
  • an increased risk of type II diabetes (2)
  • Heart disease risk is increased by 64% (3),
  • with an increased chance of some cancers –  (6)
The Heart Foundation even has an information sheet on how to avoid sitting all day (4)

That was enough to scare this sedentary chick into action. I looked at my treasured roll top desk and sighed. I was not about to give up my prize. Then I discovered the benefits of a standing desk. I set to converting it to my very own stand up roll top desk. (A blog post for next month).

DSC_5419So now I have my sanctuary – my own writing corner. My precious. Mine! I have collected my boxes and files of notes, my beloved stationery and personal keepsakes to inspire me. A more recent addition was (yet another) bookshelf for my reference books and more note books.

For those who have had the fortitude to read up to this point, congratulations! You are now rewarded with more pretty pictures – my little corner of creativity.

A few of my favourite things:
DSC_5411  DSC_5412  DOCNaNoWriMo14

My repurposed standing desk. This is where I write my blog, workshop ideas for stories and write my current steampunk manuscript, The Department of Curiosities.


 Welcome to my workshop.


  1. Impact of selected risk factors on quality-adjusted life expectancy in Denmark. Impact Factor:3.125 | Ranking:Public, Environmental & Occupational Health (SSCI) 10 out of 143 | Public, Environmental & Occupational Health (SCI) 21 out of 162. http://sjp.sagepub.com/content/35/5/510.abstract

  2. SA Health: The Risk of Sitting too Much. http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/is+your+health+at+risk/the+risk+of+sitting+too+much

  3. Sedentary behaviors increase risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in men, Med Sci Sports Excer. 2010. May;42(5):879-85. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19996993

  4. Sitting Less for Adults. Heart Foundation of Australia. http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/HW-PA-SittingLess-Adults.pdf

  5. Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian AdultsArch Intern Med. 2012;172(6):494-500. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1108810

#8 Steampunk Hands: Standing at Attention

Sunday, February 22, 2015

#7 Steampunk Hands: Welcome to Our Workshops

A Showcase local creators and their workshops – and things they create

We are fortunate to have some very talented people in Adelaide who are part of our steampunk community. These include artists, costume-makers, writers and gadget makers. Let me introduce you to just a few of them. These generous people let me into their workshop and even answered some questions.

Terry Brown – Dragonsblood Creations.

terry steampunk expo_KarenJCarlisle2014Terry creates custom made wedding, goth clothing, Renaissance and medieval clothing. More recently she has been commissioned to make steampunk and burlesque ensembles. She also makes her own historical and steampunk costumes. Her dedicated sewing workshop is filled with a rainbow of wools and silks, findings and corsetry requirements. She also sells jewelry, hats, purses and all manner of accessories.

How did you get into steampunk?

My first Steampunk event was either the Dress Like a Time Traveller Picnic 2010 that was held in Victoria square OR the second Flight of the Olympia run by Steve Scholz & Catherine Curl, at The (Adelaide) Fringe. I can’t remember when but through friends essentially.

What aspect of steampunk are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about the incredible talent and imagination the Steampunk community has.

dressdummy_KarenJCarlisle2015    workshop_KarenJCarlisle2015     workshop2_KarenJCarlisle2105

Anthony Fagan – maker of Steampunk Weaponry

11003936_10205801483614069_811639959_nAnthony has been attending events for some time now. He has a passion for creating steampunk weaponry from toy and water pistols, or by using everyday items and components found in the local hardware store. He recently ran a local workshop. He utilises the dining table, with a side table for gun making and modifications. There is a room outside for spray painting and drilling. The down side is that if anyone visits, he has to clear the table to eat.

1 mining helpHow did you get into steampunk?
We got our first introduction to Steampunk through a presentation at Aus Sci Fi and Fantasy club and Marianne Hooper came dressed in Steampunk costume. We had many questions for her and she certainly got us interested in the genre.

What aspect of steampunk are you most passionate about?
Steampunk gunmaking and meeting other Steampunk people are my main interests. I am a member of several on-line groups several of which are international groups – Steampunk Revolution & Steampunk Gun Club – and some Australian groups – Steampunk SA.
Photos: thanks to Anthony Fagan.

Damien Snell – Mystichaggis’s Bazar of Steamfoolery

flametophat_Mystichaggis's Bazar of SteamfooleryFBSMInfamous for his flame-throwing tophat, Damien is an afficiado of repurposing all manner of items and shaping them into functioning works of art. His work has been described as Steampunk, Teslapunk and Dieselpunk. He rarely uses plastic, preferring natural materials such as wood and metal. His workshop is an Aladdin’s cave of inspirational bits – and so organised! I could spend hours there and still find new things; I am in recycler heaven. He has repurposed old radios, frames, cabinets and vaccum tubes.
(Photo courtesy of MystichaggisBazarSteamfoolery)

How did you get into steampunk?
Steampunk has never been the primary focus for me. I have been modifying and fixing things since I was a child. The aesthetics I like can range from ancient styles all the way through to sci fi, more modern periods or my own imaginings. Steampunk is just a handy category some of my work falls into and I let other people use the description to set them at ease. 

What aspect of steampunk are you most passionate about?
I generally just tinker and use my love of mechanical, electronics and strangely engineered objects to guide me.

workshop1 workshop2

vacuum tubes clocks

David Carlisle – Squatter in Our Shed

David_KarenJCarlisle2014Our shed is a scary place. It is full to the gills with wood offcuts, sheets of metal and eclectic items collected over the years. David has a small area – 1.5m by 1m – with an old metal topped bench, jars of screws, scavenged bits, spraypaint, brushes, gluegun and tape. Here he makes a variety of accessories, paints steampunk guns, adding metal decorations and studs to leather items and making silicon molds for metal components.

How did you get into steampunk?
Back in the early 1990s, I was a fan of Cyberpunk. One of my favourite authors was William Gibson. Then I heard he’d written something a little different – The Difference Engine was Cyberpunk with a 19th century twist. Apparently it was known as Steampunk. Over the years, I ran across more steampunk influences – first in computer games (The Chaos Engine,  Arcana: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura) and later, movies (Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

What aspect of steampunk are you most passionate about?
At the moment, I’m getting into ‘punking up toy guns. I started without a clear concept of what I wanted to make, but after painting my Nerf Maverick, I started looking at what I could add to it, and wanted it to have a logical consistency to it. I started having ideas about adding lights, turning it into some sort of raygun… but that wouldn’t work for an obvious revolver like the Maverick, so I’m saving that for my next one (maybe a rifle?). I decided an electromagnetic Gauss gun would suit the style of the Maverick, so I’m adding various wire coils and vintage-looking electronics. And maybe some Victorian embellishments for style.

bits workshop1 weapon

These are but a few of the local steampunk artisans who create amazing items. I wish I had more time to interview them all! It is always exciting to attend events and wonder what new and fantastical creations we will feast our eyes upon.

Website Links

Photographs (c)Karen Carlisle 2015 (unless otherwise stated). Please do not use without permission.

#7 Steampunk Hands: Welcome to Our Workshops

Friday, February 20, 2015

Steampunk Hands: International Steampunk Q&A

Wow. What a week!

I finished painting and gluing my steampunk Fairy Eliminator, visited local artiscan’s workshops for photoshoots and had my first internation request for a guest blog post, translated into Spanish.

I was also asked to take part in an International Q&A Interview (of several fellow steampunks all over the world) by  Raydeen, who writes the blog – My Ethereality. Today she posted part one of the interview. 

Thanks to Raydeen for asking me. I am honoured to be in such great company.


Steampunk Hands: International Steampunk Q&A

Thursday, February 19, 2015

#6: Through the Looking Glass

Steampunk Hands Around the World: Our Workshop – Creating the Steampunk Aesthetic

Steampunk is not just a writing genre or a series of philosophies (encompasing the reuse, recycle and repurpose ethic, its promotion of hand-made craft and positive outlook on life – Back to the Future). It is also an aesthetic, encompassing style, clothing, jewelry. It is an expression of individuality.

Google defines aesthetic as a set of principles underlying the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.  So how does steampunk actually look and feel?

Look into the mirror and what do you see?

Are you wearing comtempory clothing or are you garbed in a steampunk outfit? Steampunk attire may have a Victorian look but there is more.  Historically, clothing can denote social rank, wealth, associate links with specific groups or project a desired image. (Keeping up with the Medicis – historical re-enactment article 2006. pdf) Throughout history, sumptuary laws have attempted to restrict the lower classes masquerading as their betters or to control the economy.

Subtle changes in the cut or design of Victorian clothing can earmark the wearer as a wannabe or the genuine article. Accessories can reveal (or betray) a vocation. It can tell the outside world who you are, and possibly how you feel about the world around you.

Do you prefer the appearance of a toff, a socialite or an explorer – a mechanic, a pirate or a street urchin? It is up to you. Do you love the feel of silk, the practicality of leather or the shine of bronze?  How do you want to express yourself? Steampunk allows you to decide. You can recreate yourself in whatever guise you wish.

IMG_6369  IMG_6477IMG_6286  IMG_6516

How do you achieve the steampunk look?

3 explorers belt25 tea box canary victoria Imagination is the key. In 2011, I participated in a Steampunk Panel, expounding the virtues of accessories. They are my passion. Any outfit (or costume), no matter how spectacular, can be unmade by the use of inappropriate accessories. Conversely, well chosen accessories can elevate a plain outfit into something amazing and rememberable.

Last September, I showcased some of my accessories – More pictures can be seen at September Steampunk Accessories Roundup.

IMG_6251Think about your character (or persona). What could they afford – or want to afford? Is there anything interesting they may collect? What is their occupation? What items would they use? Do you wish to be historically accurate or is that only a starting point? Do you want to mashup another fandom – steampunk Tinkerbell, steampunk Doctor, steampunk Disney princess? Do you prefer an original idea? Again, it is up to you? What do you desire?

How does Steampunk feel?

The steampunk movement is not restricted to clothing. The look is popular right now. We may have been decorating (at least some of) our houses with Victorian and/or steampunk items and furniture for some time, but now it is becoming mainstream – even renovation and home improvement websites and television shows are dedicating articles on how to steampunk your house. 

IMG_7786  IMG_7802

Steampunk can be a philosophy, fashion, decor or a lifestyle. It can reflect your desires, your hopes. It is what you make it. You choose.


Photographs (c)Karen Carlisle 2014-2015

#6: Through the Looking Glass

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February Tea & Tidings is due out this week.

Do you like reading my blog?

Are you interested in knowing more about my writing or backgrounds to my stories?

Do you want to read preview snippets of The Department of Curiosities or The Adventures of Viola Stewart?

Are you dying to know more about Doctor Jack?

Do you want exclusives or information before it is revealed on my website?

Invite your friends as well, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter – Tea and Tidings with this form, or at the sign-up page. You can follow my blog by email as well. There is a widget for that, on the right sidebar.

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valentines day fish 2015


February Tea & Tidings is due out this week.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

#5 Steampunk Hands: Weapon Workshop

open wings david ruwoldtHow is this for timing? I searched for a recent workshop to write about – as an example of something I learned or made because of steampunk. I had already written about my articulated aviator wings in On Making My Steampunk Wings. I contemplated posting about a recent corset workshop, but that was not exclusively steampunk related (though I did make a new corset for my aviatrix outfit).

I had completely forgotten about this month’s Costumers’ Guild workshop on painting steampunk guns. Over the past few years we have been collecting interesting Nerf guns, water pistols from cheap shops, opshops or garage sales. Now we get the fun of steampunking them up.

The workshop was fun; my artistic muse came out to play. I created a new individually-crafted steampunk accessory and practiced the philosophy of reusing and re-purposing items. A win-win.

Then I thought, rather than write this post about the workshop itself, I could share what I learnt – creating a virtual classroom, and invite you to try it out for yourself.

Last weekend I learned the basics involved in painting up a plastic gun. Here they are:
  • First you need find a toy gun or water pistol to use as a base.
  • Start collecting bits and bobs – bottle lids, tubing, bolts, small plumbing bits – anything that can be glued on to make it look cool. I also have some brass candlesticks that I am planning on using for another weapon. You can buy bits, but I love finding interesting shaped bits and reusing them.
  • Sand back – using fine sandpaper to rough up the smooth plastic surface, so paint will adhere to the gun.
  • Unscrew the bits – lay them out so all areas will be accessed when spray painting.
  • spray paint primer undercoat – to allow the paint to stick to the glossy plastic
  • some decorative bits will be glued on before painting. Others, such as clear tubes, are best attached after painting the rest of the gun (and the pretty bit), so all areas are accessible. Glues such as two-part apoxy, PVA glues, superglue and hot glue guns (though these don’t handle heat very well) can be used, depending on what materials you are gluing.
  • Painting metallic/coloured paints – gold, brass, silver, blue, green (whatever takes your fancy) to give the desired look. Acrylic paints (such as craft paints from Spotlight or craft stores) make it easier to clean up afterwards.
  • some larger areas are best spray painted. Plastic bags and paint tape (sticky tape that does not pull off paint) can be used to mask areas to be unpainted.
  • distressing the gun, by using paint washes (painting a watered down, black paint wash and allowing it to pool in crevices and wiping back from unwanted areas) or using rub and buff over black undercoat
  • add a clear final coat to protect the paintwork and make it more durable.
  • The last thing I added was the leather strips to the handle (so they were paint free)
1 undercoat 2 Spraypainting Karen J Carlisle

. Undercoat (grey or black) 2. taping off sections to spray paint

3 handpaintin Karen J Carlisle 4 rub and buff aging Karen J Carlisle

. handpainting with acrylic paints 4. Using rub and buff to make look used and aged

mine 7 gluing on bits

mine 6b transfer and decals

5. Gluing on tubes and final gun furniture.  6. Adding transfers and painting decals

Introducing my latest creation: It was originally an ex-Nickelodeon Slime Blaster, found at a garage sale for $2. It is now transmogrified into my latest invention -own personal weapon – The Pump-Action-Fairy-Eliminator (the very latest in Irksome Pennate-Being Negation Systems), perfect for my Fairy-hunter outfit (you know – those pesky little biters who insist on raining havoc on the human world)…

mine done mine finished

6. The finished Pump-Action Fairy Eliminator

Why don’t you give it go? Make a pair of steampunk wings or paint up an old toy gun – and share them with us? I would love to see your pictures.

#5 Steampunk Hands: Weapon Workshop

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My first international Guest Blog Post.

It is steampunk month. I have been participating with blog posts as part of Steampunk Hands Around the World. Not only am I enjoying reading the posts, I am discovering how steampunk is celebrated and how each culture interprets it. (Huzzah for Google translate.) I have already met some lovely people from around the world. I love the steampunk community, its imagination and inclusiveness!

This week I was asked to do my first international guest blog post – translated into Spanish! Thanks to JosuĂ© Ramos who asked me to contribute to his MondoSteampunk blog.  You can read my guest post Best of Both Worlds at his website.


My first international Guest Blog Post.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

#4: Back to the Future

#4: Steampunk Hands Around the World: Our Classroom

What have I learned from the steampunk movement?

The aspects and philosophies of steampunk encourage my desire to learn:

  • re-imagining the past as the inspiration to build a better future

  • optimism about human potential, encouraging individuals to explore their creativity

  • the spirit of freedom

  • science with beauty (seen in the wonderful crafts, machinery and inventions).

  • rejection of mass marketing and encouragement of hand-made individuality

  • Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.

  • encourages individualism and self-reliance, allowing us to break free, to be creative, unique and express ourselves (the punk part).

  • the acceptance of others

On a practical level, I have been inspired to do research on people and events of the 19th century. I have learned things I was not taught at school; we learnt about Darwin, Edison and Freud. But where were the lessons on Tesla, Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Blackwell or Margaret Eliza Maltby?

I have researched 19th century transport, communications and historical events (being a writer of steampunk, this was inevitable). I have investigated the inner workings of Queen Victoria’s household and servants. I have attended lectures on tintype and daguerreotype photography and gained insights on the Victorian mindset via research on post-mortem photography. My bookshelves are now groaning under the weight of extra books. (I can never have too many!)

I have delved into the construction of 19th century clothing (being a costumer, this was also inevitable). I have visited museums, studied extant items and searched the internet for information on the fashions of the era.

Some useful books are: 

Fashion, art, philosophy, economy, society –  all are available for us to study. The good, the bad and the ugly. Bad things happened. We know this. With history at a safe distance, we can choose to emulate the best of the past. We can learn from past mistakes.

We have a choice. We have the opportunity to improve the world. We can choose to rekindle loyalty, manners. We can choose to help those in society who are less fortunate than us. We can make medical care available to all. We can reflect on the 19th century’s impersonal industrialisation and its repercussions on the environment. We can choose to work to protect the environment by conscientiously designing our scientific advancements and encourage sustainability. We can learn from the philosophy of make do and last by not perpetuating our throw away society.

Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.

On a More Personal Level

I have a dual life – my art/writing and science. After high school, I chose University – a Bachelor of Applied Science. I chose a safe, secure career. I denied my artistic side. Steampunk has taught me to embrace all of my passions. It has reminded me I all allowed to have both; science can be artistic. Creating – whether it be writing, art or costume – is cathartic. It is teaching me to deal with anxieties of the modern era, via my writing. When I create, I am free. Anything is possible.

victoria visual

Welcome to my classroom.

#4: Back to the Future

Sunday, February 8, 2015

#3: Steampunk Hands: My Local Playground

Steampunk sneaked up on me. I picked up a book. I had no idea what it was, no idea of the impact it would have on me, fifteen years later. Then there were movies: Wild, Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I rewatched classics like The Time Machine, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

I still had no inkling that steampunk was a distinct genre. I thought the costumes were cool – a mash up of historical re-enactment (I had been in the SCA for years) and science fiction. Cool! I could let my imagination loose!

2008 SP contingent ballThose were the early days. Dearheart and I finally found local kindred spirits when we brought our steampunk costumes out to play at the 2008 Australian Costumers Guild Ball.

Next was the 2009 Maiden Voyage of the Olympia – a live action roleplay event run by some local members – a fantastic turnout. We had discovered so many like-minded playmates!

 Olympia 1 olympia 2

More events followed. Steampunk Safari at the Zoo, Steampunk Picnic in the Park, Photo shoots in the South Australian Library…

parasol explorer mortlock libraryWMsm 

More Balls, Conventions, a charity afternoon tea called Teanannigans (complete with Tea duelling) to raise money for the Cancer Council. Last year we relived the glory of steam trains at the first Steampunk Expo, held at the Railway Museum (now to become an annual event. Huzzah!)

ACG ball 2014 group steampunk expo 2014 group

IMG_7270Our most recent romp was at the annual Time Traveller’s Picnic, in December.

Each event a success due to those like-minded steampunks who make up our friendly Steampunk SA  community. My steampunk friends have helped me through a dark time in my life. They have reminded me how to have fun, demonstrated a positive outlook and helped me to find my inner child once more and revel in the wonder that is the world we live in – and the world we can make it.

Fifteen years after finding that first book, steampunk has provided me with an entirely new playground – and hopeful career as a writer. Who’d have thunk it?

And did I mention the really cool clothes?

#3: Steampunk Hands: My Local Playground