Imagine the future had come a little earlier. What do I mean by this? Well, imagine, for example, that you have never found that little spark of electricity that, as if by magic, allows us to spin all sorts of gadgets and lights up our modern world. Imagine, if you like, what the world would have been like if we had left it to water instead.
This, for those like me who doesn’t know, is exactly the idea behind the retro sci-fi genre known as “Steampunk”. This alternate reality imagines that we went ahead and developed more advanced versions of the technology available in the Victorian era of the 19th century – and that all of our fabulous futuristic technologies were instead powered by the steam engine.
This then, for a certain context, is the interesting and rather beautiful world in which the creative creatures of local metal artist Mickey Craig reside.
In fact, if you ever stumble upon her stall (as I did at Loulé once or twice) you will see that these elaborate creations are so well done that it doesn’t seem entirely plausible that the gears and branches of one of her metal ladybirds, such as for example, it might suddenly start twirling and spinning and that the giant bug might actually come to life and “buzz”.
Meet the master craftsman
Mickey is originally from Texas and is truly a master craftsman. I thought he must have created these things all his life, but he told me that even though it was a hobby, he never imagined the life of a “starving artist” and it was only when he arrived in the Algarve 7 years ago that he was able to really indulge his lifelong passion.
However, he has always worked with metal in one form or another and so this helps explain my initial suspicions that Mickey’s artwork may actually “work”. For most of his life, it turns out that Mickey has been working on things that worked.
From my brief chat with him, it seems like he had a good life. After serving in the United States Navy, he entered the sheet metal construction industry where he worked outside and inside buildings. He then turned to shipbuilding where he worked on submarines and warships, and later spent many years in the Middle East.
Bringing the metal to life
At his stall were bugs, butterflies, seahorses, robots, a cheeky monkey and even what Mickey calls “a roller alligator” – which jokingly is an alligator found exclusively in the Algarve.
Inspired by his love of the ocean, Mickey also had an entire school of fish on display. To make these (like all his creations) he does not use molds, nor does he apply heat. He just hits them with a hammer on an anvil until, well … it looks like they might swim away.
He likes working with aluminum because it’s nice and light so he can create great works of art that aren’t too heavy to hang on a wall. He told me that he also likes to use copper but it is more difficult to find. That said, if you look at his work you can see that he can turn his hand to just about anything and use his incredible imagination to “recycle” any piece of metal he can find.
As for what you might call his creatures “inner workings” (which sounds like they can “tick” them), Mickey gets it from old watches and junk he finds at car boot sales.
Also make beautiful necklaces with just these watch pieces that make you feel like they have the power to make you travel through time. Or even, come to think of it, maybe they could turn you around in this alternate steampunk dimension, where all of Mickey’s work would come to life.
To find out more, visit his website www.mickelworks.com/
Or to contact him write him an e-mail to [email protected]