“…wishes and thoughts in stone and wood and steel and brass.”

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 Harris with some of his creations.

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!

Steampunk weapons and gadgets.

Some of Chris’ creations.

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…

Close up of the sonic gun.

A beautifully decorated sonic gun.

…and walking sticks (and oh, how I coveted his modified sword cane, which I foolishly neglected to photograph)…

Close up of a decorated walking stick.

A copper-handled walking stick.

…but he also adds a touch of idiosyncratic steampunk style to objects such as this jetpack-equipped duck.

Duck statue with a copper top hat and jet pack.

A dapper duck statue.

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.

Assorted steampunk weapons and devices

More of Chris’ work.

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.

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Strangeness & Charm

The things that we make,
Are one of a kind.
They're out of our heads,
We're out of our mind.
We live on a boat
With dragonfly wings -
We're Strangeness & Charm,
We make shiny things!