Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Good old Ralph Waldo Emerson – he did have a way with words. In his book Society and Solitude, he suggests that a quality to be greatly admired is the ability to turn insubstantial thought into physical reality. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in the inventions of steampunk folk, who take mundane objects and raw materials, and transform them into mechanical marvels and other objects of delight. By way of illustration, let me show you the work of Chris Harris, of Scrap Mental Designs.
Chris, pictured here with some of his wonderful creations, is a quietly-spoken man who seemed – when we met – to be slightly bemused at the attention and fascination his table was attracting. I was fortunate enough to spend a short while talking to him about his work, and it was clear from the start that he makes things for the sheer pleasure of invention, for finding a new purpose for this or that oddly-shaped piece of metal.
I should state from the outset that these pieces are not currently for sale; he was invited to the Steampunk Solstice market purely as an exhibitor. And what exhibits!
I think this is what one would call ‘an embarrassment of riches’. In the forefront of this image, you can see a sonic weapon – the control pack is the small leather satchel on the edge of the table, and is operated by digito-hyaline interface*. The ornamented box with the crystal skull decoration is a working amplifier. Chris’ creativity extends not only to weapons…
…and walking sticks (and oh, how I coveted his modified sword cane, which I foolishly neglected to photograph)…
…but he also adds a touch of idiosyncratic steampunk style to objects such as this jetpack-equipped duck.
I would call these things works of art, but art is such a divisive subject – instead, I’ll stick to what I know and say that Chris Harris produces works of craft. I don’t blame him for not selling them – I think if I’d made them, I’d be reluctant to let them go, too. They are unique, beautiful and entirely worthy of all the admiration they receive.
As we entered on an Emerson quote, I’ll close with another.
“Every man I meet is in some way my superior; and in that I can learn of him.”
I hope that Chris’ creations inspire readers to try their hand at making something new. I certainly hope he will continue to share his ingenuity with the world of steampunk.
*Touch-screen to the uninitiated.