Rose Bay Country

 RSS Feed

  1. If you were wondering what happened to my blog post last week, well, I was on a field trip. (No, not an actual field you understand...) My design inspiration can come from anywhere – a random comment from a friend or family member, an interesting colour combination, or something I've seen while out and about. But because I love historical jewellery, often the initial spark will come from that, and there is nothing quite like actually going to visit a good fashion or jewellery collection to see the item sitting in front of you.

    So last week we scooted off to Bath to visit the Fashion Museum. It's a beautiful place and was certainly well worth the journey. The museum has a lovely selection of clothing and often does extra exhibitions. It was one of these that I wanted to see – namely a collection from Royal Women. This exhibition finishes in about 10 days, but if you are in the Bath area, please go and visit; it's worth the trip!

    A quick warning about Bath if you have mobility issues. This area of Bath is very hilly, and something of a mountain goat trek, but there is one of those on-off tour buses that covers all the main attractions and costs around £16. The museum itself is in a very old – and very lovely – 18th Century Georgian house with lots of stairs. The conveniences are down a couple of flights of stairs but the museum is accessible for all, just speak to a member of staff who will escort you to the lift. For the record, all of the staff we spoke to were extremely polite and professional, and I'm sure they will be able to sort out any problem you may have.

    This elegant house was designed by John Wood the Younger and finished in 1771. There are some impressive inter-connecting Assembly Rooms, picture of the Ballroom below, and these, as are many old buildings in Bath, also available for public hire. The Assembly Rooms are lit by nine 18th Century chandeliers, measuring an average of 8 feet in height and were made from Whitefriars Crystal (from the Whitefriars Glass works in London). These chandeliers were originally lit by between 40-48 candles per chandelier, changing to gas in the 19th century and then altered again for electricity.


    The standard exhibition here is 'A History of Fashion in 100 Objects' and shows off a fabulous collection of items from the 1600's to the present day and includes dresses, shoes, underclothes and men's wear as well. Alongside the Georgian and Regency clothes you will also find more contemporary fashion sporting names like Christian Dior and Norman Hartnell.

    But my reason for visiting the Museum was to the see the 'Royal Women' display, and in particular, this stunning mauve/purple wedding dress originally belonging to Princess Alexandria in 1863.



    It did not disappoint, and my picture doesn't really do it justice, but it was every bit as beautiful as it looked in the pictures I've seen of it.

    The Royal Women display also included clothing from Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret.

    The Museum has a small display of clothing for dressing up purposes, for both adults and children. Several children were having a whale of time in there when we passed through, but sadly there was nothing in there in my size.

    Children can also take part in a sticker trail (info from reception) and there are drawing cards in the galleries to amuse them.

    There is cafe which serves a variety of tasty items but we can personally vouch for the delicious cake on offer!

    A nice shop selling books and knick-knacks was available, too. I bought a book covering the '100 objects' collection and a little booklet for the visiting Royal Women collection as well.

    Bath has an abundance of museums and art exhibitions as well, and you definitely should see the Roman Baths – yes, it really is that old – and still pretty impressive. If you intend to visit both the Fashion Museum and the Roman Baths, you can buy a combined ticket to save a little money.

  2. What is Steampunk?

    That's a good question, as it seems to mean different things to different people. Even the definition of Steampunk alters depending on who you talk to, so for the purposes of this simple guide, I am giving you the definition as I understand it. Any products or accessories from the genre can only be subjective, for that reason. When people ask me what Steampunk is about, they don't want a long-winded explanation, they just want a short answer, and in that case, I will generally call it 'Victorian science fiction'. Its more complicated than that, of course, as we shall see.


    When did Steampunk start?

    Many people believe the genre to be rooted in the 19th Century novels of the French author, Jules Verne. Of course, he didn't know he was writing Steampunk – or science fiction, for that matter – as both terms hadn't been invented then. H.G Wells is another candidate for the steampunk storyteller crown, and after the term was introduced – around 1987, there have been plenty of authors actively writing in the genre since.

    What elements make up Steampunk?

    If you want to write in the genre, or make your own costumes, jewellery and accessories, you'll want some clue as to where to begin. I don't think you can go too far wrong by starting in the Victorian era, and then adding layers. Or distorting layers. Corsets, for instance – we all know that the ladies used to lace them up and then hide them under their dresses and bodices. Not so with Steampunk – wear them loud and proud ladies! (or gents, if you are so inclined...) Use bright colours, fancy materials, or moody leathers, and pop them on over your dress or shirt for maximum impact! No longer need they be devices of torture, they can now be fun and sexy.

    Time is a prominent component and gadgets feature heavily, too. The quirkier the better. Have them steam-powered, or using technology available in the Victorian era but spiced up as much, or as little, as you want. Fancy having a steam-powered computer? Why not? Its your world – play with it!


    Materials for making Steampunk jewellery

    The world is your oyster!

    Think found objects - you can have such fun scouring car boot sales, thrift stores and charity shops for the items listed below, and once you get your eye in, I'm sure you'll be able to come up with lots of your own ideas, too.

    Think mad scientist – curiosities, test tubes, scientific bits and pieces

    Think mechanics – copper, steel, brass, locks and keys, valves, small nuts and tiny machine parts

    Think Victorian – lace, cameos, chain, charms, flora and fauna, old broken jewellery and watches (please be careful if you disassemble old clocks and watches with glow-in-the-dark hands, as they may contain radium)

    Think stones – amethyst, coral, jet, turquoise, pearls, onyx, ruby, etc

    Think colours – black, grey, burgundy, red, purple. Mostly the colours were fairly natural in the Victorian era so not as bright as we'd be used to. Purple was discovered by accident by Sir William Henry Perkin in 1856. He was looking for an alternative to quinine (used to treat malaria) and started the trend for synthetic dyes instead when he discovered mauveine, which was made from aniline.


    Is Steampunk the only genre of its type?


    Whereas Steampunk is generally Victorian/Edwardian, rough timelines for some of the others include:

    Cyberpunk – 1960's and 1970's

    Dieselpunk – war eras 1920's to 1945

    Atompunk – atomic age, circa 1945- 1965

    And then there's

    Solarpunk – a wonderful, positive, Utopian world where everyone is equal, power is clean and renewable. I think I like that optimistic future... lets try for that, shall we?