While there was an incredible collection of fantastic vendors at the Steampunk World’s Fair, there was one incredible stand-out: Oil and Lace, an outfit that sells amazingly detailed animatronic animals, and it was easily my favorite by a large margin.
I spoke briefly with Katrina Davies, one half of the husband-and-wife team that runs Oil and Lace, and she clued me in as to how these quirky little critters are made; it turns out that they’re not nearly as complicated as they might look at first glance. That being said the work that goes in to creating even a small animatronic animal is decidedly massive.
Katrina and her husband had animals of all shapes and sizes for sale at SPWF ranging from small penguins, top-hat wearing tyrannosaurs, full-size parrots, or even a triceratops the size of a bulldog. They all had one thing in common, though: they had all begun life as a child’s toy of some sort. In an ingenious feat of re-purposing, Oil and Lace takes defunct toys destined for the scrapyard and refurbishes them before stripping them down and embellishing their outer shells with a brass-and-copper paint job that turns something you would have found in the reject bin at your local toy store into works of art.
And yes, they all move. Each of Oil and Lace’s animals does something special even if it’s just moving its head and flapping its wings, and they’re all accompanied with a sound. Katrina told me that she lets the toy companies do all the hard work; while she could look into custom sound chips for each of her creations it’s much more cost-effective to simply leave the one that came with the original toy. It’s a smart bit of design on Oil and Lace’s part, and it works – the little creatures are absolutely adorable.
Static pictures alone simply don’t do it justice. Take a look at this intricate animatronic elephant toy:
Want your own little steampunk critter? Get in line – right now Oil and Lace’s Etsy shop doesn’t have anything listed, as they’re gearing up for FaerieCon in November. However, Katrina does take custom orders. Maybe if you’re really nice to her – and tell her that I sent you her way – she’ll be able to get you a little steam-driven pal of your own.