Ray Sopko in his workshop|Charles Mostoller1/3 Ray Sopko in his workshop|Charles Mostoller
Ray Sopko in his workshop|Charles Mostoller2/3 Ray Sopko in his workshop|Charles Mostoller
Some of the Clockwork Critters designed by Ray and Erin Sopko|Charles Mostoller3/3 Some of the Clockwork Critters designed by Ray and Erin Sopko|Charles Mostoller
These toys aren’t for children, but there are some adult-sized kids that really like them.
Norristown-based husband and wife duo Ray and Erin Sopko are turning heads by repurposing childrens toys into steampunk-themed collectables.
For those that don’t know, steampunk is a somewhat obscure style that mixes Victorian-era clothing with the steam-powered aesthetic of the late 19th Century. Think dirigibles, fancy clocks, monocles and spyglasses combined with corsets and top hats.
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Their toys, called Clockwork Critters, follow the same vein. Elephants have leather ears. Dinosaurs get little top hats, and cats get spiral metal tails that evoke a the innards of a thermostat.
The best part is, they move.
The toys begin their lives as a line of fur-lined animals sold at regular toy stores. The line the Sopkos prefer have limited, animatronic movements. Mouths open, elephant trunks unfurl. A few of them walk.
The couple buy them at yard sales and flea markets.
“It’s very hard to answer the question ‘did you make these,’” Erin Sopko said.
Ray Sopko strips off the fur and does minor surgery -- by filling in manufacturing holes fixing imperfections where he can. They’re then given a coat of paint. Tarnished brass and metallic finishes are popular because though the toys are generally made of plastic, the Victorian Era didn’t have plastic.
Erin then takes over by adding decorative flourishes.
“The drew a really really big crowd outside their booth,” said Wilder Scott-Straight, a co-organizer of the GoWest! Craft Fair, which was held April 21 in West Philly’s Woodland Cemetery.
The couple got the idea after watching a video of a steampunked Furby doll on the internet.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Furby without it’s skin,” Ray Sopko said. “They’re sort of skeletal and their eyes are really big. They’re just creepy.”
The Sopkos wanted to do something similar, but cuter.
“Even without their fur on them, they still look like an animal,” Ray said.
The couple sell their creations for $55 to $350, but they’ve made a few toys they like so much they wouldn’t sell them.
One of those is Doug, a T-Rex that the couple scored for $5 at a flea market
“He’s now our pet,” Erin said.