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I made all the holiday gifts I gave to grown-ups this year, and these three polymer clay miniatures were without doubt the most fun to construct. I made one each for my husband and two close friends, all of whom like Steampunk and the work of H.P. Lovecraft. For those of you not on that particular bandwagon, be warned: you may feel yourself growing geekier as I explain. ;)

Lovecraft was a prolific horror fiction author from New England who lived in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Cthulhu is one of his monsters of the deep, a sort of winged cephalopod with a few human cousins somewhere on the family tree. Cthulhu is one of Lovecraft’s most beloved creations and has gone on to inspire a whole range of modern fiction and film. (I personally attribute his popularity to those charming tentacles.) Of course little did Lovecraft know, he wasn’t even scratching the surface — have you seen the stuff that actually lives in the deepest parts of the ocean? (Don’t get me started on that episode of Blue Planet with the anglerfish…)

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On to our second geeky definition: Steampunk is a science fiction sub-genre based on a sort of anachronistic alternate future, modeled after Victorian England’s technology. Just picture our society as a Victorian might have imagined it — steam-powered, clockwork-driven, and founded on the principle that everyone wears hats and gloves at all times. Jules Verne wearing goggles + metal gears + computers = Steampunk.

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I love working with vintage materials and I appreciate a vivid literary imagination, so these projects were a good fit. I decided to blend the two genres and create captured, clockwork Cthulhus, so I emptied out my jar of pocketwatch parts, grabbed a pack of glow-in-the-dark Fimo, and got to work. I really enjoyed crafting the tiny clay miniatures, brushing them with mica powder, and posing them in their new habitats.

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I am such a sucker for anything luminescent, and I spent as much time sitting in the dark watching these glow as I did actually sculpting. :) The smallest Chtulhu is about an inch high and spends his life inside a pocketwatch case. The other two measure about 2″ and 4″ across and make their homes in vintage mainspring advertising tins. I used tiny old screws, cogs, and rivets to add a little extra Steampunk flair.

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While studio time is often both cathartic and challenging for me, the hours spent on these were just plain old, inventive fun. They were also a great exercise in using what I already had on hand to create what I had in mind. I vow not to stop here, and there are definitely more tiny clay creatures in my future. I’m thinking a tiny jar of miniature, glow-in-the-dark, mechanical fireflies…

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If you’re interested in making your own Steampunk creations, you might check out Steampunkery: Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Projects by Christi Friesen. Her design sense is a bit different from mine but wholly inspiring nonetheless, and she has a fantastic sense of humor. It’s a great starting point, especially if you’re new to the world of polymer clay. Happy Steampunking!

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