Steampunk Wunderkammer

For some time now I have been enchanted by the concept of the Victorian “Wunderkammer“, and wanted to create a piece that in some way evoked that feeling of strangeness.

wk-front

Eventually I found the right junk items to form the basis of my Cabinet Of Curiosities – a small wooden jewellery cabinet with four central drawers and a framed glass door on each side. This was coupled with an aluminium mantel clock – both items found languishing in charity shops!

The Cabinet

First I removed the doors, hinges and interior fittings. Then I removed all surface finishes with varnish stripper, scrapers and sandpaper. I bought four sets of miniature drawers from The Works, and glued them in where the cupboard parts used to be, filling in gaps with simple balsa wood joinery.

wk-drawer-detail

The Clock

The clock was a really good find – not least because the electric mechanism was still working! I dismantled the clock completely in preparation for decoration, and coated the metal with primer paint. I considered that the base of the clock was just a little too small to provide a pleasing visual connectivity with the top of the cabinet, so I cut a wooden plinth of intermediate width and depth to sit in between.

wk-clock-detail

Preparation

The preparation for decoupage involved my (now “usual”!) method, i.e.:

  1. Two coats of blackboard paint.
  2. Dry-brushing of edges with silver metallic paint (acrylic).
  3. Several coats of spray-on acrylic clear gloss varnish.

This leaves all surfaces gloss black with a very slightly metallic look achieved via the dry-brush.

Copper Panels

For this piece I tried out a new (for me) approach, using real metal rather than paper or card as a decoupage medium. After reading about copper in the context of jewellery-making, I figured that I could apply many of my familiar card-making/decoupage techniques using very thin copper sheet instead of paper.

After working out where to use the copper as a decorative feature (trying to be careful not to over do it), I cut the copper sheet (using ordinary scissors) to fit various panels. I then used a heat gun to raise a patina on the metal. The application of a few strategically placed black disc-shaped embellishments and a large central embellishment created the final panels.

kw-copper-panel

Decoupage

The steampunk style decoupage panels were created using the wonderful graphics kits from IllustratorG, and simply applied using acrylic (“PVA”) glue.

drawer-set

Finishing

After attaching all of the decoupage panels, I replaced the original clock face. The new clock face is based on a ready-made, (again by Georgie Retzer – thanks so much!) I just placed some numerals on it using Caslon Antique typeface.

wk-clockface

Then the clock was glued to the plinth, and the plinth attached with screws to the main body of the cabinet. Some strips of self-adhesive silver embellishment trim completed the top surface, and enhanced the inside rim of the clock.

The “floor” of each drawer was decoupaged with different, but complementary printed papers.

It only remained to make some new drawer handles. The four central handles were made from copper discs with steampunk style wheel and cog embellishments. The minor drawer handles were made using jewellery findings.

A final few coats of gloss varnish were applied to seal everything, and the clock mechanism re-installed with new hands.

Curiosities

The purpose of a traditional Wunderkammmer is to present items of an odd or unusual nature, via which to stimulate the curiosity of the observer.

My intention is slightly different. I wanted to include either single items, or collections of things which would (when the drawer is opened) present an objet trouvé or perhaps a collage trouvé. These miniature “artworks” are framed quite literally by the structure of the cabinet and its drawers, and so are almost by default being presented as worthy of consideration in their own right.

There is (hopefully) an aspect of added interest in that the items are not affixed in any way within the drawers, and so there is room for accidental or deliberate movement over time. Each drawer is thus unique at the moment in time that is viewed. The gallery below presents the contents of the drawers as at 18:00 hrs on October 26th 2015.

 

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