Steampunk Katrina Douglas fights mobility issues in style – with a teapot video

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF.CO.NZ

Grymmstone and Treacle Emporium owner and steampunk enthusiast Katrina Douglas has come up with a unique way to aid her ailing back.

Katrina Douglas is "a mad hatter in a teapot".

The Christchurch woman owns Grymmstone and Treacle Emporium, the city's only steampunk clothing store, and is a milliner – a hat maker – by trade.

She also has mobility issues. Herniated discs "among other things" have made it difficult for her to get around, so she uses a mobility scooter.

Douglas and partner Willoughby – the mastermind behind the giant teapot.
Joseph Johnson

Douglas and partner Willoughby – the mastermind behind the giant teapot.

But it is not just any mobility scooter.

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"We're steampunks and we're fairly creative, so my partner and I bought a broken one off Trade Me and over a couple of months turned it into a giant teapot," she said.

Steampunks Katrina Douglas and Neave Willoughby have come up with a unique way to manage Douglas' back problems.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Steampunks Katrina Douglas and Neave Willoughby have come up with a unique way to manage Douglas' back problems.

Douglas has been spotted over recent months heading to and from work in her creation. The old scooter sat in her garage for nearly two years before work began.

It was never going to be a little teapot, but Douglas and her partner, Neave Willoughby, did their best to make it short and stout.

"From about New Years we started building it. [We] drew out a pattern on the computer, had to cut the base down to shorten it because it's long and it'd tend to tip over if it was overly long."

Douglas says her presence in central Christchurch brings smiles to the faces of most she passes.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Douglas says her presence in central Christchurch brings smiles to the faces of most she passes.

With hard work during late nights and weekends, the "Katmobile" was finished in time for its debut appearance at the Nostalgia Festival in March.

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"It makes people smile. You're always going to get a couple of people who are jerks but mostly it gives people a bit of a giggle because here's a mad hatter – I'm actually a milliner by trade – sitting in a teapot. It's like something out of Alice in Wonderland."

Putting the light-hearted nature of the invention aside, the Katmobile was a symbol of a little-known connection between steampunks and the disabled community.

Douglas negotiates a turn on a busy Colombo St.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Douglas negotiates a turn on a busy Colombo St.

"Teapot racing is huge. A friend of mine from Dunedin and her partner actually invented it in memory of a friend of all of ours who was quite severely disabled," Douglas said.

"She could sit in her wheelchair, could have a cool teapot and use a remote control to navigate it around the course. It's like something from Monty Python."

Such activities, and the mash-up of differing themes and sensibilities that characterised the steampunk scene, highlighted its diverse attraction.

Douglas and Willoughby, who created the 'Katmobile'.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Douglas and Willoughby, who created the 'Katmobile'.

Grymmstone and Treacle Emporium shop manager Poy Agnew said the scene allowed people who were otherwise reserved to come out of their shell.

"There's definitely a big sense of community. One of our biggest rules, if we have rules, is that nobody is made to feel like they're not welcome.

"We've got punks, goths, rockabillies … then we've got people who just mix it all up."

 - The Press

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