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Posts Tagged ‘Antiquing’

Airships in Chicago

14 Dec

Early in November, I got a call from a man named David Krause of Big Works, Inc. Seems David, or “Big” as he is called, was hired to stage a corporate holiday party in Chicago. The theme of the party was to be steampunk and he found my website and wanted to commission two medium sized airships. After some discussion about specifics, I got busy working on them because he had a deadline of November 30, since the party was on December 3rd.

Since Big wanted progress pictures sent, I snapped a few shots as I went along…

Photo montage of a grunge steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks. Commissioned by Big Works, Inc.

Airship #1

Photo montage of a Victorian steampunk airship by Stephan J Smith of Artsmith Craftworks. Commissioned by Big Works, Inc.

Airship #2

When the airships were finished, Big drove from Chicago to Michigan to pick them up personally and take them back so they would be safe. When he arrived, he was very happy with them and excited to reveal them to his client.

Next post, I’ll include photos of the staging at the Chicago party, as well as reveal who the client was…hint…it’s a VERY well known company!!

As always, I look forward to your comments…

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Re-purposing… a personal passion

07 Jul

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about doing a regular post on the different elements that surround what I do. There are many topics to talk about, including re-purposing methods, raw materials, types of glue, detailing and antiquing, tools, assemblage techniques, dumpster diving, etc, etc.

Today, I’ll start with something simple, yet the very heart of my style…re-purposing.

As Americans, we throw away a lot of stuff. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve always had plenty. More than 500 years ago, we came to a land rich in natural resources and we’ve sure exploited them. The result is that there’s a steady stream of new, better, latest, bigger, faster and more. It used to keep us all working, but not so much anymore. Now it keeps the Chinese busy and the stuff we have is cheaper…in all ways. Things are now made to break and need to be replaced, Gone are the days when you had something repaired if it broke. Now, we just chuck it and get a new one…it’s cheaper to do that…by design.

Now we have land fills that are brimming over with not just our food waste, but our discarded stuff. Much of the stuff is still quite good, with a lot of life left in it, even if it’s not the latest style. This fact has prompted a movement that I certainly have joined, in which the discarded stuff is reused in some way. Sometimes it’s as is…vintage whatever. Sometimes we dress it up, put a fresh face on it and sell it as “reinvented” or “flipped”. What I do is even more deeply made over. I turn “junk” into parts for sculptures.

I say junk because often what I save are the everyday objects that truly, nobody else wants. Food container lids, bottle caps, pieces and parts from packaging materials, scrap plastic pieces, scrap wooden pieces, paper of all sizes, weights and colors, cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, paper and plastic tubes, pen parts, discount paint…and on and on and on. Believe me when I tell you that my wife is a saint. She not only has allowed me to fill our basement with all these assorted bits, but she actually participates sometimes in the hunt. She won’t go legs-up in a dumpster like I will, but if she spots something tasty, she’s been known to grab it. I have a rule at my house that no cool piece of anything gets tossed until I approve it. Even peanut butter lids are saved from the trash heap if I spot them first. I’m a hoarder, you say? Maybe, but if so, I’m a hoarder with a vision.

Photo showing scrap plastic objects that will be re-purposed into artwork.

Lids and caps

Photo showing scrap plastic objects that has been re-purposed into artwork.

Fin hub with stabilizers

I save all this stuff because at their very basic roots, these things are raw materials that I use to sculpt with. It’s really no different than any other artist going to an art supply store for their paint or clay or canvas or glue. I just use discarded shapes and colors and textures as my art materials. The really interesting thing is, these pieces already have an inherent character. A detail that adds to their appeal once incorporated into a sculpture piece. Anything can become anything if you learn to look at a golf tee and a ballpoint pen clip and imagine them as the nosecone on a steampunk airship. A piece of Venetian blind as a propeller blade, a section of a metal veggie steamer basket as a stabilizer fin. You just need to put on your special glasses and see things, not for what they are, but what they could become.

This is the core of my passion. This is how I do art.

Join me…

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and re-purposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on re-purposing/up-cycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or at 810-516-7381.

 

Up, up and away!

22 May

Most of what I’ve done in the past from a steampunk standpoint has been dirigibles or airships. I love doing them and they can be quite different from each other while still maintaining the classic arrangement of envelope and gondola. However, in the gallery where my work is on display for sale, The Artisan’s Bench in Brighton, Michigan, there have been several requests for hot air balloons in the steampunk aesthetic. Well, I finally got to the task of creating one…a sort of maiden voyage, if you will…and here it is.

Maiden voyage

Maiden voyage

As anyone who knows my work already expects, this piece was made using re-purposed and up-cycled materials that I happened to have or collect.

Gondola close up

Gondola close up

The balloon part was the trickiest part…trying to maintain some symmetry without driving myself too crazy. Deciding on how to paint it, what colors, how to patina and antique it, how it would hang, etc.

Balloon close up

Balloon close up

All in all, I think it was a success, and apparently, so did the lady who bought it right away and ordered two more!

As always,  I encourage comments and dialogue. Drop me a line to ask questions, make suggestions or order a custom piece of your very own!

Stephan J. Smith is the artist and sculptor at Artsmith Craftworks in Swartz Creek, MI. Using recycled and repurposed materials, Stephan builds a myriad of sculpted wonders, including fantastic and whimsical steampunk airships that have amazed and delighted fans for years. A passion for reusing and up-cycling found items into beautiful and amazing art is what drives Stephan to make art that both teaches and inspires. Stephan also does commissioned work and is available to do talks and classes on repurposing/upcycling and may be reached at ArtSmithCraft@yahoo.com or by phone at 810-516-7381.

 

Small steampunk gunship #2

18 Dec

Another of the 12″ steampunk airships that I built for the 2012 World Steam Expo in Dearborn Michigan.  Similar in shape and design, but with some modification. Like my other airships, it uses recycled, repurposed materials.

12" Steampunk Gunship Airship 02

12″ Steampunk Gunship Airship 02

If this ship is one that you would like to have built as part of your own home steampunk display, don’t hesitate to email me for details!

As I said before, I welcome all comments!

 

18 inch Victorian steampunk airship #1

13 Dec

This is the first of a new mid-range sized airship I started which is about 18″ long. This particular airship has a Victorian aesthetic, with a ship-like gondola, suspended with netting and cable. The propeller is a frame and sailcloth style, rather than a solid style.

18" Victorian Steampunk Airship

18″ Victorian Steampunk Airship

From the bow, you can see a bit more detail in the gondola.

Bow view

Bow view

And a close-up of the propeller…

Aft view

Aft view

I’d love to hear what you think of this ship. Drop me a comment!

 

 

The battery compartment

01 Sep

As mentioned, the battery needs a believable housing and I started with a mint container, then cut it in half and created a lip so that a slide-on top was possible.

Mint container as a battery compartment

Mint container as a battery compartment

Building the battery compartment

As you can see, after the battery compartment was built, I added plastic pieces for detail and interest. I then painted the whole piece with an antiqued copper paint.

The painted battery case

The painted battery case

Then I added a patina with green acrylic paint…

Battery compartment with patina added

Battery compartment with patina added

Next time, I’ll show adding the “fur” to the steampunk deer. It’s coming together now! Stay tuned!

 

 

The mechanical cyborg steampunk eye (cont.)

25 Aug

Well life sort of got in the way and it’s been awhile since I last posted…sorry! To continue with the mechanical cyborg steampunk eye, I’m going to show what I applied beneath the eye before I attach it. My goal for the steampunk deer head was to make the cyborg eye light up. I figured while I was at it, a sublit antler would be cool too, but I’ll show that in another post.

I started with a small, single diode, battery operated LED light. Since this runs on a single 9-volt battery, I need to provide a housing for that, as well as a switch. I elected to go with a red push button type switch. I also want the light to be reflected so that it’s amplified a bit. A piece of foil from the packaging of a contact lens seems to fit the bill.

LED light, switch and reflector

LED light, switch and reflector

First, I added the foil for the reflector behind the cyborg eye…

Reflector in place

Reflector in place

Then I ran wires for the light, taped them in place, then went over them with more mache strips to conceal them.

Taped wires

Taped wires

More tape added

More tape added

Next post, I’ll show the building of the battery compartment…and I promise not to be gone so long!

 

 

The mechanical cyborg steampunk eye

20 Jul

First of all…an apology for not posting in so long, but after the show at the Artisan’s Bench, things got hectic. I not only got a couple orders for commissioned airship pieces, but I’ve been preparing a new workspace and all that has taken a lot of my time.

Today, I’m posting how I built the mechanical eye on the steampunk deer head. I had an old bakelite 220 plug cover that looked cool, so I scuffed it up and painted it copper, antiqued it with a green patina, then drilled out a hole large enough to accommodate an old magnifying glass that I’ve had literally for years. I thought that the combination of these two things would make a cool eye.

Painted Bakelite plug in upper left

Painted Bakelite plug in upper left

Drilled out Bakelite plug

Drilled out Bakelite plug

Magnifying glass in place

Magnifying glass in place

For grins, I thought I’d make the eye red. This is simple, since I collect pieces of broken auto tail lens as well… (don’t ask…). So I shaped a piece of this tail lens and glued that to the underside of the eye.

Tail lens piece and underside of eye

Tail lens piece and underside of eye

Lens in place in mechanical eye

Lens in place in mechanical eye

Now that I’ve shown the construction of the steampunk cyborg eye, I need to show what I decided to put under it, but I’ll save that for next time.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

The gondola

24 Feb

I’ve made quite a few gondolas that were the typical boat style, but I wanted to do something different for this steampunk diarama. I thought that making something that looked like a tube or bubble would be cool, so I started rummaging through my boxes of pieces and parts to find an object that would be suitable to repurpose. What I came up with was two plastic scoops that came out of a powdered drink mix or something, (I collect anything that’s interesting!). Shown here, I’ve already painted the handles and attached a plastic piece with a spiral as a “bowsprit”.

Plastic scoops as gondola

Plastic scoops as gondola

Here’s a close up of the bowsprit and the front of the gondola.

Bowsprit closeup

Bowsprit closeup

I glued the two scoops to a plastic disc for some visual interest, then added a flat plastic piece in between the handles, (not pictured), then I created a rudder fin to go on the stern of the gondola. I used the same technique as I did for the stabilizer fins.

Rudder fin

Rudder fin

The final gondola was then given an antiquing of patina color where appropriate (brass and copper areas), and attached to the airship body. This attachment required a careful snipping of the paper airship skin so the handles of the scoops could be inserted and glued.

Finished gondola

Finished gondola

Here’s a closeup of the attachment.

Closeup of gondola

Closeup of gondola

Next post, I’ll show how I prepared the “box” part of the diarama. That is certainly an example of recycle, reuse and repurpose! Thank you for your continued interest in my work…

How would you have built the gondola?

 

 

 

 

Adding the stabilizer fins

07 Feb

In building the stabilizer fins for the steampunk diarama airship, I first had to choose a shape. On other ships, I’ve made them rounded, but I like the feeling of a scalloped fin. I’ve also made different scalloped fins before, with some being a solid fin with ribs and others having a support structure, to which was attached actual cloth sailcloth. For this small zeppelin, I decided on the former for its ease at this relatively small scale. This decided shape I then cut out of an index card stock I had lying around. To give them age and interest, I sponged them with a light brown watercolor (not pictured, sorry!)

Index stock fins cut out

Index stock fins cut out

I then had to make the ribs, and to make it simple, yet appealing, I decided to cut these out of a similar stock, but in this case, since they would be painted anyway, I decided to use cereal box cardboard and then paint them to contrast and have interest. Remember, I throw nothing away that may have a raw materials use when reused, repurposed or recycled!

Fin ribs cut from cereal box cardboard

Fin ribs cut from cereal box cardboard

I painted them by spraying a basic green enamel. I did this because a water-based paint would have been repelled by the coating on the cereal box. I then antiqued a patina on with a lighter water-based green acrylic, then applied to the fins.

Finished fins

Finished fins

After finishing the fins, I glued them at top and lower angled positions to the airship body with standard white glue and let them dry. To add another element of interest, I used dimensional paint to “dot” copper rivets on the fin ribs. I forgot to mention that I had done this to the propeller scaffolding as well. (How many of you noticed that?) So here’s the finished attachment…

Attached fins

Attached fins

Next time, I’ll show the process of building the gondola. It’ll be fun too, because it isn’t your run-of-the-mill boat shape!

Stay tuned…in fact, tell all your ‘punk friends to subscribe!

 

The airship propeller

31 Jan

Last time I finished putting the propeller support scaffolding on the steampunk airship that is to be part of my diarama. Now I’ll start the propeller itself.

I can’t emphasize enough that you don’t need to buy much in order to create amazing art. Just look around you…I save plastic jar lids, pen barrels, scrap paper and fiberboard, plastic closures, fixtures, hangars, fasteners…everything. I’m a hoarder only in the sense that what I save looks like junk, but it all has artistic value when you realize it can be repurposed, reused, recycled and otherwise transformed into cool things of beauty!

To start the propeller, I found a piece of medical equipment my brother gave me. It’s an inline tube filter (new of course) that’s used in a suction device for surgery, but it looks very “hub-like”. I simple glued flat toothpicks at regular intervals around the perimeter of the “hub” and let them dry.

Propeller hub

Propeller hub

Flip side

Flip side

Once dry, I spray painted the piece an antiqued copper color and then gave it a patina of green “rust”. For the propeller blades, I cut triangles of a white scrap printing paper I had, gently curled one point for pitch and glued the edge to the toothpicks. I used some plastic pieces to stilt the blades while the glue dried.

Blades added

Blades added

Here’s the finished propeller…

Finished propeller

Finished propeller

And now we slide the propeller onto the end of the airship. I used a skinny plastic straw as the shaft and I split it and frayed the end so that by holding it together, I was able to slide the propeller onto it, and once the frayed end was inside the hub, it spread out enough to lightly hold the propeller on without glue. This way, I can manually spin it!

Propeller in place and spinnable!

Propeller in place and spinnable!

Next post, I’ll build the stabilizer fins, so stay tuned… 🙂

 

 

 

 

Airship nose and propeller shaft

24 Jan

I need to put a nose and tail cone on the diarama airship, so I used the same technique I use for my airship kits, which is to sart with a cut circle of card stock (I use old file folders). I then punch a hole in the center with a standard paper punch and with scissors, I cut about a quarter of the circle away. This then gets formed into a funnel shape, then glued with white glue. To make the nose spire, I used a painted wooden golf tee and pushed that through the nose cone, then attached it. The tail cone was made in the same way, but required a different structure beyond that because the tail also holds the scaffolding for the propeller.

Nose and tail cones in place

Nose and tail cones in place

Next, I constructed the scaffolding for the propeller by cutting strips of cereal box cardboard, then gluing them into the appropriate shape. (Can you tell that I never throw away anything that might have an artistic use?!). When dry, they were sprayed with copper paint and antiqued with green acrylic paint, (seen in next photo).

Propeller scaffolding

Propeller scaffolding

A piece of repurposed plastic tube that used to be the guts of a click-type ball point pen serves as the propeller shaft when painted and attached to the tail cone of the airship. The scaffolding is then attached to the shaft and the sides of the airship body. White glue works fine for most pieces.

Scaffolding attached to the airship

Scaffolding attached to the airship

Next time, I’ll show how to build a cool propeller for the zeppelin out of simple repurposed objects. Reusing and recycling can be easy and fun. Try some of these techniques to start a project with your kids. It’s a great way to find common ground with a teenager!

 

 

 

From scrap to steampunk sunglasses

14 Sep

Even though my mainline is steampunk zeppelin airships, one of my latest projects has been to fashion a pair of steampunk sunglasses. Now I know that goggles are a steampunk icon, but I’m a bit of a sunglasses collector, having accumulated about 125 pair over the years. I have new wave and punk rock styles, Buddy Hollys, Venetian blind shades, owls, John Lennons, grannies, hippies and all sorts of themed varieties. What I didn’t have were any that were of a steampunk nature, so I put on my thinking cap and designed a pair. Of course, I had to stay with my mantra of “recycle, re-use and re-purpose”, so I built my sunglasses using materials that would have been junk otherwise. With a little painted patina and antiquing, some suede scraps and a lot of plastic pieces and parts, I was able to fashion a pair of wearable, however somewhat impractical, wild and crazy steampunk fashion sunglasses.

Steampunk sunglasses

Lens detail

Right temple detail

Left temple detail

Lens detail

Most of the pieces are re-purposed plastic pen barrels, odds and ends of metal, brass screws, scraps of suede and toy parts. The lenses are actually welding goggle lenses that have been inserted into vitamin bottle lids.

I’d love to hear your comments! How would you have made these?

 

 

 

 

Vent tubes

03 Aug

So in case you were wondering how to make a cool and convincing steampunk vent tube that you would see on something mechanical, coal-fired, steam-powered or something lighter-than-air…say like…an AIRSHIP, here’s how I do it. I have a bunch of medical surplus tubing connectors. They use these to connect rubber hoses in ventilators and such. What I do is trim off any sharp edges, which there shouldn’t be too many of if it’s medical supply pieces. Rough it up a bit with a piece of fine sandpaper and then hit it with your favorite metallic brass or copper spray enamel. When it’s dry, add rivets with metallic puffy paint and then patina the piece with some green acrylic paint. What you wind up with is something like this…

Vent tubes

To add these to the Diabolus, I glued pieces of bamboo skewers into them with the sharp ends sticking out. I could then push them into the sides of the airship. Before I did that, I created a flat plate for effect using cardboard with puffy paint rivets as shown.

Flat plates

Once painted and patina antiqued, these become the bases that the vent tubes get pushed into for the final effect shown below.

Vent tube installed

 

Turret construction

09 Jul

Today, I’m going to show you how I put together the observation turrets that are on the sides of the Diabolus. Believe it or not, I used repurposed pieces for these as well 😉  Really, you say? I don’t believe it!   Well, it’s true…read on to see more!

I started with the bottom of one of those 50 cent gumball machine toy bubbles as shown below…

Gumball toy bubble

In order to make it look like a paneled turret, I need something that not only looks like metal, specifically brass or copper, but also is thin and flexible. I could use thin sheet craft copper, but remember that I like to reuse materials or repurpose things. What I do is to paint tape, then cut it into strips. You’ll also notice that I added “rivets” and patina before peeling up the strips to apply to the bubble.

Painted tape cut into strips

Next, of course, I add the strips to the bubble in a fashion that is reminiscent of the gun turrets on a WWII bomber, or the bridge of the Millennium Falcon, whichever you prefer!

Finished turret

So this is how the finished turret looks. In order to add it to the side of the Diabolus, I need to build a “background”, and I’ll show you how next post!

 

Propeller Assembly

16 Apr

Now we get to see what the propeller assembly looks like all put together. It certainly starts to put things in context. The patina gives the overall aged look to the brass…wait a minute…brass? Remember, this is not metal! It’s reused paper, cardboard and plastic pieces!

Steampunk propeller assembly

Here is the propeller assembly mounted to the housing and then to the body of the steampunk airship itself. Once attached, it’s thrilling to see how it’s taking shape. Pieces look like pieces, but when it all starts to come together……

Propeller assembly attached to airship

And here’s a closer look…

Attached assembly close up

Stay tuned…next time, we’ll take a look at the fin mounts!

 

Propeller painting

07 Apr

Now we brass paint the propeller. Usually I would add rivets before painting, but originally, I wasn’t going to put rivets on the prop, so I went ahead and painted it. When I looked at it afterwards, I decided it would look better with rivets, so I added them over the paint then repainted it again.

Painted propeller with rivets added

After the second brass painting, the prop looks like this.

Repainted propeller

The final step is to patina paint the propeller to give it the proper aged look.

Green patina on the propeller

The results are pretty amazing! Now we have a very steampunk looking propeller for our zeppelin. The rest of the exterior pieces will have this same aged brass look. In the next post, I’ll be showing how the propeller assembly looks after it is attached to the airship, so drop back by and visit soon!

 

Antiquing the airship fins

25 Mar

Now we move to applying the green patina that will lend an aged, gritty look to the airship sculpture. Steampunk may be about metal and gears, but they’re not always clean, shiny and pretty!

I use a water based acrylic, minty green craft paint to patina with. I know I said that the oil based enamel spray was preferable, but now that the paper is coated and sealed with the enamel, you have more control and no fumes with the acrylic paint. I apply it with a sea sponge and wipe or blot off any excess with a damp cloth or a clean, damp sponge before the acrylic dries. Work fast because the thin, sponged layer of acrylic does dry quickly, and once it does, it’s permanent.

Patina painted airship fin

Closer look at the patina

Airship patina detail

Another thing I do, just for contrast and visual appeal, is to take a damp cloth and very lightly and carefully wipe across the very tops of the rivets. I do this while the green paint is still wet so it wipes off completely, revealing the shiny brass paint beneath. I just think it looks cool to have a bit of shiny brass peaking out of the patina. It gives the piece a bit more of a 3D look!

Next, we’ll look at some of the other pieces on the steampunk airship sculpture and how we construct and paint those…

Stop back soon!

 

Airship fin painting

23 Mar

Now that the rivets have been added, you can concentrate on the painting of the metallic color. You can use a copper or brass spray paint, or even a pewter color. I like ones that are of the antiqued variety. I used spray because it’s easier and less saturating than liquid. I also use oil based enamel spray paint instead of a water based liquid paint because even though it’s more toxic, it causes less absorption buckling of paper, papier mache and cardboard, (which can ruin your project).

You can see that before painting, I also added a recycled foam edge to the fins so that it looks like a metal, girder-like structure…again adding to the gritty, steampunk look.

Brass painted airship fin

Brass painted fin detail

Next step in the process is adding the patina that will make the airship look aged and rusty. Shiny brass looks cool, but also doesn’t look very realistic. A bit of green patina makes the airship sculpture look much more believable and battle-scarred. Stay tuned!

 

External elements

12 Mar

Well, I apologize for the delay in posting. Just a lot going on!

This post, I’ll show some of the external elements that will be added to the new airship. Like I said before, this airship is not the Victorian whimsical variety that you’ve seen before, but rather one that is more gritty and “heavy” looking. It will have four large fins that resemble brass/metal girders. Like the rest of the pieces, I constructed these out of scrap cardboard and then I covered them with scrap file folder paper to give them a smooth, paintable surface. Of course, this is also the way I stay close to my heart and use recycled and repurposed materials. While the fins aren’t papier mache like the body of the airship, they are old boxes that were pretty much junk.

In the next post, I will simulate rivets, so watch for it!

Cardboard ribs cut out

Scrap green file folders

Fins covered in file folder cardboard