Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Being Busy Not Writing


Sharon Wildwind

This blog has very little to do with writing. Sometimes putting aside the journal and ignoring the keyboard for a bit of play does wonders for creativity.

Next weekend Calgary hosts the Comic and Entertainment Expo. This event started many years ago as a small, geeky celebration of comics and graphic novels and has exploded into a gargantuan event. The big auditorium at the event holds 5,000 people and since the headliners are the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m not sure 5,000 seats will be nearly enough.

While I’m a great fan of ST:TNG, the person I’m drooling to see is Stan Lee, the who with Steve Ditko created Spiderman and with Jack Kirby created Thor, Iron Man, X-Men and The Fantastic Four. This was my illicit childhood reading list, courtesy of Nancy, my neighbor two houses away, whose mother let her buy that kind of reading material. Nancy and I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons slouching against bean bag chairs in her bedroom closet.

I said that this blog had very little to do with writing, but what I learned from Stan Lee’s characters was that saving the world had a price. Not a bad thing for a writer to know.

Being a cog (member) of the local Steampunk Assemblage, my arm was twisted to contribute to our booth at the Expo. Sure, I’ll make a couple of dozen pieces of steam punk jewelry. Remember me? I’m the cloth artist. I don’t do metal, but what the heck. How hard can it be?

The first thing that was required was a visit to a local warehouse. The guy who owns it buys case lots of interesting things. Weird things. It’s sort of if you can figure out what an item is, he’ll sell it to you at a great price. Like twenty-five cents for wonderful black thingys that my husband told me were Canadian Forces Web Equipment Buckles.


Since the buckles were black and grubby, I soaked them overnight in vinegar. The next day when I scrubbed the vinegar off, lo and behold, they were solid brass.


Now I was pumped. I may not have made jewelry before, but I’m an old hand at making jambalaya, which, between you and me, is a dish designed to use up leftovers in the refrigerator. A little of this, a little of that, mix the flavors, and never expect it to turn out the same way twice.

I had solid brass bases. What little of this and that did I have with a steam punk flavor? Scraps of red leather, wire, glass marbles, washers, alcohol ink, grommets, beads, and a few clock parts.

I discovered that wiring red leather to brass bases is actually dead boring. I spent an entire day last week doing just that, while also watching seven episodes of Star Trek Voyageur back to back. Come on, I had to have something to focus on. Truthfully, I got so involved in the wiring that after I finished fifteen brass hangers, just for fun, I also wired three clock parts, a door hinge, and two door stoppers.

Remember that this blog isn’t about writing? The problem was that more I wired and, later, the more I embellished, the pieces started to tell their own stories. Before I finished making the jewelry, I had a whole raft of stories about how individual pieces came to be.


The two door stoppers became crystal-powered communication devices, you know, like when Captain Picard slaps his chest and says, “Make it so.” Only since these work in the Steampunk world, you have to slide the central knobs down half-way to turn them on. Of course, the communicators work only in the Martian atmosphere, but I’m hoping for a buyer who is imminently leaving for Mars, and who won’t ask too many questions about why I happen to have classified British naval technology for sale. The answer is probably a long story, but I haven’t written it yet.


Hook pins were the most common type of pin made by British sailors in the Ether Flyer Fleet. The base was often a brass hook, found in abundance on straps used to secure cargo, but all types and shapes of brass pieces were used as bases.

Pin design and materials used created intense competitions among crew members and ships, with each ship and sometimes individual sailors developing a personal wire wrapping style of wrapping and combination of materials used for embellishment.

Two elements were almost universal. Each pin had to contain crystal elements and a miniature ether flyer propeller. The propellor signified the hope that the ship and its crew would reach home safely.

Crystal was a charm to invoke clear sailing. Superstitious seamen used two crystal shapes on the same pin for increased luck. The crystal was in the form of beads, a square or rectangular glass piece from an old lift engine housing, or a crystal sphere. All sailors could use clear or white crystal elements; men who had served in the skies above Mars were allowed to use red or pink.


Hook pins with the crystal on the left and the propellor on the right were for sailors. If a non-crystal element was on the right and a love token or heart used in place of the propellor, the pin had been made for a wife, mother, or sweetheart. Again, men who had served on Mars could add red or pink beads to those pins.


Sailors being sailors no doubt they would have created special pins to present to beloved officers.

Beloved officers were presented with a pin made by their men on the occasion of their retirement or leaving the service. Instead of being made from hook brass, these presentation pins were made from a metal plate cut from the ship. They had the word Time on them, a remembrance of the time spent together. They always contain a crystal element for luck, and the hole where the propellor was attached was left empty, as the man was considered already safely home. Receiving such a pin was a great honor.


Of course, a well-respected retiring Captain would be given the most elaborate pin of all.

So that’s my story on how I spent last week not writing, but how writing crept in nevertheless.

You can still catch a plane to Calgary for next weekend and attend the Expo. Stan Lee signs autographs at 4:30 on Friday afternoon. See you there.

3 comments:

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Sharon, your creativity is amazing. Loved the steampunk art--but what made me chuckle the most was your mention of "Star Trek Voyageur." Is that Canadian Correct for what here in the US we call "Star Trek Voyager"?

Sharon Wildwind said...

I guess Canadian spelling strikes again. Having my spell checker set for Canadian spellings trips me up like that all the time.

Julia Buckley said...

I love these! I'll bet they sell like hotcakes.