Saturday, March 13, 2010

Keith Newstead: profile of the artist and new blog

Kieth Newstead submarine automaton
There is a great profile of automata-maker Keith Newstead over at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre site.

Also be sure to check out Keith Newstead's blog which he just recently started.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

The Boneshakers by Fourteen Balls Toy Company

Check out the motions on this amazing piece!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre shop site:
An ingenious new piece from the Fourteen Balls Toy Company. Three skeleton cyclists are being chased by a dog. In turn they turn their heads to see if he is still in pursuit, tongue wagging! Matt Smith's new exhibit design has a tremendous sequence and meticulous workmanship. An exquisite collectors piece,

Here's where you can see more pictures of The Boneshakers automaton.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Automata exhibit at the Miami Science Museum

Automata exhibit at the Miami Science Museum
Head on over to the Cabaret Mechanical blog to get all the details on an exhibit of automata now showing at the Miami Science Museum through to September. The exhibit features automata from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and from the collection of Dr. Andrew R. Hirschl.

Here's the news of the Miami, Florida automata exhibit at the Cabaret Blog. Here's is info about the show from the Miami Science Museum.

[ Thanks Ellen! ]

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Satyr Head of Mystery - magical mechancial prop

The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre Blog has been ups to some really great things this month. Yesterday, they posted about this amazing mechanical prop meant for use by a stage magician. It's wonderful prop, though it seems like it may take some practice to get the hang of it.

From the video description:
Made of strong papier mache, gessoed and painted with leather eyelids and fine glass eyes in the tradition of the Parisian automata makers. Designed to produce one or two items from the mouth and top of the head. The final issue is due to awaken in the Spring of 2010, expressions of interest are invited.

Here is the link to the full post on The Mechanical Blog.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Le Bureau Automatique automaton by Paul Spooner

Take a look at this clever automaton by famed maker, Paul Spooner, titled Le Bureau Automatique.

Learn more automata-making legend, Paul Spooner, at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ron Fuller's Sheep Shearing Man Automaton

Here is a great little video featuring automata-maker Ron Fuller explaining the mechanics of his classic piece Sheep Shearing Man.

Ron Fuller was one of the early contributors to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and is one of many artists featured in the book Automata and Mechanical Toys.

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tempus Fugit automaton by Simon Venus

Here is a short video of a Tempus Fugit -- a mechanical tableau by Simon Venus.

Learn more about this automaton and Simon Venus at

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's exhibition in Spain

Here is a video with a few highlights from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's exhibition at El Parque de Las Ciencias in Granada, Spain -- including work from Russian theater company Sharmanka. I wish I could be there to see it in person!

Here is where you can learn more about the amazing Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cabaret Mechanical Movement in Spanish!

Cabaret Mechanical Movement in Spanish!
The good folks over at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre have recently shared some great news: their seminal book Cabaret Mechanical Movement is now also available in Spanish.

From the book description:
El libro 'Cabaret Mechanical Movement' (Version Español). 'Autómatas. Arte y Mecánica'es traducción y una adaptación del Parque de las Ciencias en Granada, España.

Del movimiento y de cómo fabricar Autómatas.

El libro incluye una buena parte de teorí a y también proporciona consejos prácticos e ideas para crear tus propios autómatas, mover juguetes o esculturas mecánicas.


Here is where you can order copies of Autómatas. Arte y Mecánica.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

'Bird Catcher' automaton by Keith Newstead

Take a look at this great new version of Keith Newstead's 'Cat Copter' automaton.

There are some beautiful large images showing the lovely details in the 'Bird Catcher' on the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre web site.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pierre Mayer's Siegfried and Roy Automaton

 Pierre Mayer's Siegfried and Roy Automaton
A new magic-themed automaton by one of my favorite makers: Pierre Mayer. Here we are given a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the magic happens!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre shop:
The latest piece from Pierre Mayer is a homage to the legendary Las Vegas performers. The illusion that they perform here is known as The Substitution Trunk, and was popularised by Houdini.

Here's the Siegfried and Roy automaton page at CMT.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

'Be still my blinking heart' by Paul Spooner

I guess with February right around the corner, it's not unreasonable to start thinking about Valentine's Day...or at least heart-themed automata! This cute little blinking heart automaton is another fine Paul Spooner creation.

Here is a link to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's page for 'Be still my blinking heart'.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Manet's Olympia - a classic Spooner automaton

You have to admire the organic, even sensual, motion that renowned automaton-maker Paul Spooner achieves with this piece based on Edouard Manet's famous painting 'Olympia'(shown below).

Manet's Olympia
What a great idea to use a famous painting as the basis for an automaton. Of course, the substitution of Anubis in the background of the automaton adds a very distinctly Spooner touch!

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to be Foreign automaton by Paul Spooner

Another nice automaton by Paul Spooner. He's used a similar mouth/head mechanism in the design of several pieces. It is quite effective, I think.

Visit Cabaret Mechanical Theatre to see more automata by Paul Spooner.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Murophobia (fear of mice) by Keith Newstead

Keith Newstead is one of those automata artists I have admired for a long time. Take a look at this great new piece in which a cat's worst fears come true.

Not only is it wonderfully funny, but it is a great example of how a fairly simple motion --in the hands of a master -- can create a very complex effect.

See more of Keith Newstead's automata at

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Stirring Lady Automaton in Metal by Lucy Casson.

Take a look at the wonderful fluid motion Lucy Casson achieves with recycled metal in this piece called Stirring Lady.

You can learn a bit more about Lucy Casson on her profile page at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre web site.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Movable Illustration - Book by Aquio Nishida

On my list of Essential Automata Books, Movable Illustration by Aqui Nishida is rather hard to get outside of Japan. Cabaret Mechanical Theate's online shop has them back in stock.

From the CMT site:
Specially imported from Japan, this is a delightful book by an automata maker and director of the Contemporary Toy museum of Japan. Plenty of drawings and photographs, text is in Japanese, with only partial English translations. However, it still of great interest to the automata enthusiast, and contains many examples of Mr. Nishida's work along with his ideas and tips and plans for making automata.

Here's the link to order the book Movable Illustration by Aquio Nishida.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Photos of Automata in Paul Spooner's Tribute

Paul Spooner: A Cheap Automata Shop
Our colleagues and friends over at the blog Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik have directed me to a massive picture pool of automata by dozens of artists that participated in the exhibit celebrating Paul Spooner.

Paul Clarke, and his mother Margery Clarke, operate "The First Gallery" in Southampton, England. The assemblage of photos is by Paul Clarke and is located on the Gallery's website.

Visit the Paul Spooner Tribute Exhibit photograph page.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Life, Love, Death Automaton by Paul Spooner

An automaton triptych depicting the phases of life. I don't want ruin the experience by saying too much. Note: This video is rated PG-13 for some adult themes (nothing overly graphic, mind you).

See more of Paul Spooner's work at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

Spooner's Moving Animals or the Zoo of Tranquillity
If you love Paul Spooner's work as much as I do, you might like his book: Spooner's Moving Animals or the Zoo of Tranquillity which is an assortment of printed paper patterns and parts, with instructions for cutting and assembling a variety of animals and machines that move.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spooner's First Puppet to Swim the Channel

From the wonderful mind of Paul Spooner, we have an automaton in which a figure is controlling a swimming marionette. There is something delightfully reflexive in an automaton figure manipulating a puppet figure. You -- as the user of the automaton -- are animating them both...which leads to even deeper questions.

Keep your eyes open at the end of the video to see the ingenious profile-cam used to make the swimmer's arms move.

See more of Paul Spooner's Automata at The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre web site.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Spaghetti Eater Automaton by Paul Spooner

Here is a Paul Spooner classic entitled The Spaghetti Eater.

See this and other Paul Spooner automata at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online shop.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre - Automata Website!

There are many notable figures who helped to bring automata as an art form into the latter part of of the Twentieth Century. Among them are Alexander Calder, Sam Smith, Jean Tinguely, Frank Nelson, and Rodney Peppé, and Falk Keuten.

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, its creators, and its artists also deserve very special recognition in defining and popularizing contemporary automata as an art form. They have just launched a redesigned web site that is full of great information, both old and new.

Here is a link to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's new web site. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Our ways are not your ways" - Surreal Automaton

From the quirky, ingenious mind of Paul Spooner comes this surreal automaton. I don't want to spoil the effect, so please...take a moment to watch this little video. Not your ways, indeed.

When you're done head on over to to learn more about Paul Spooner and many other top automaton makers.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Early Newstead Automaton: The Temple of Doom

Early Keith Newstead Automaton: The Temple of Doom
A dedicated reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog has been gracious enough to share with us here an automaton made by the talented UK-based artist Keith Newstead.

Entitled The Temple of Doom the piece is dated April, 1991.

The proud owner describes the automaton:
Basically it's a model of little church tower with a clean-cut kind of a guy pulling a bell-rope. Upon the first pull a little bell rings, but upon the second pull the roof of the tower lifts up to reveal a little red devil. The devil has a kind of inquisitive look about him as to if to say "who's that calling me?". After that, the roof shuts and the cycle is repeated.

Early Keith Newstead Automaton: The Temple of Doom
See more automata by Keith Newstead on his web site.

[ Thanks Frank! ]

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Organic Butcher Automaton by Paul Spooner

Paul Spooner's work never ceases to amaze me. This video shows what looks to be an incredible work-in-progress. The automaton features a little devil figure that emerges from doors in the floor. The figure raises its arm and an air organ begins to play. Two doors in the structure above the figure open in turn, one showing the organ pipes. The sequence is then reversed. All of this magic is powered by a hand-crank!

[ Thanks David! ]

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Flying Mechanical Icarus Automaton at CMT

Flying Mechanical Icarus AutomatonCabaret Mechanical Theatre has announced the return of an old favorite from Keith Newstead, Icarus. The figure of Greek myth is in the process of flying too close to the bright brass sun.

As always, Keith Newstead's brasswork and figures are outstanding.

This piece measures 49cm high x 22cm wide x 25cm deep. A smaller version was popular back when CMT had a public museum/shop in Covent Garden, London.

Here's a link to Icarus automaton on the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online shop.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Brassy Dragon Automaton by Keith Newstead

Keith Newstead's Brassy Dragon AutomatonTake a look at the beautiful metalwork in Keith Newstead's classic dragon automaton. The piece is available once again at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online store.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

PhantasieMechanik Exhibition at phaeno

Head over to The Mechanical Blog to read their recent posting about an upcoming exhibition in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The show will include 40 pieces from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and 18 from American artist Arthur Ganson. There will also be works by Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Eduard Bersudsky, and Norman Tuck.

Read all of the details about The PhantasieMechanik Exhibit.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tiny Fighting Knights Automaton for Sale at CMT

You've got to visit the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre web site to see this really cool and REALLY small automaton of two knights fighting.

Granted, the motion isn't too elaborate, but the incredibly small size, nice detail, and great concept make this piece a gem.

Check out the full description and watch a video of the dueling knights at CMT's online shop.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Great Review of CMT Exhibit with Photo Sets

Over at the Pixelsumo blog, the author has a great review of a visit to the newly opened Cabaret Mechanical Theatre exhibit at Kinetica Museum that I told you about here.

The post features links to a huge set of flickr photos of the show itself.

Check out this great review of the CMT show at Pixelsumo.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre at Kinetica Museum

If you can be or will be in the UK between April 6, 2007 and May 5, 2007 you must visit Kinetica Museum located at Old Spitalfields Market, London.

Kinetica will be hosting
a major retrospective show on Cabaret Mechanical Theatre which includes more than 80 automata and a number of previously unseen works.

The show will feature artists including: Ron Fuller, Arthur Ganson, Tim Hunkin, Will Jackson, Pierre Mayer, Keith Newstead, Paul Spooner, and Carlos Zapata. (Many of my favorite artists are in that list!)

The exhibition will also include a series of talks and hands-on workshops by the founders of CMT and prominent British automata artists. Speakers will include: Tim Hunkin, Sue Jackson, Sarah Alexander, Will Jackson and Paul Spooner.

Learn more at CMT's Mechanical Blog or visit Kinetica Museum's site

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (CMT) dates back to 1979, when a handful of automaton artists began to work together as an artists collective.

The group, founded in 1983 in Falmouth by Sue Jackson, moved to London’s Covent Garden shortly thereafter, where their collection of automata immediately received both critical and popular acclaim.

They produced a book (shown at left) that teaches about basic mechanics and the construction of automata.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Faboulous Animals: Automata of Neil Hardy

Using wood, metal, paint, fleece and other materials, automata-maker Neil Hardy illustrates the epic side of Nature while making powerful philosophical statements few would ever attempt.

I'm willing to bet that you will love his humorous animal-themed automata available on his site.

Learn more about the artist Neil Hardy.

Visit his gallery of Fabulous Animal automata.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

A Cabinet of Curiosities

I was fortunate enough to see a DVD recently released by Cabaret Mechanical Theatre -- home to many great automata-makers. I was delighted to see work by CMT artists old and new. The DVD covers many items currently available in their online store. For example:

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Paul Spooner: One man and his cogs

This is a great article from a few years ago that appeared in the daily newspaper The Observer originally published in September of 2004.

The British Automata-master, Paul Spooner, is the focus of the article around the time of his solo show entitled A Day at the Butcher's.

I really appreciate this story for several reasons:
  1. Descriptions of Spooner's work

  2. Spooner's own thoughts about his creations

  3. Good money is being paid for good artwork
    (Here's a currency converter for those not used to Pounds.)

  4. A bit of history about the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre (to whom all contemporary automata lovers owe a debt)

Here is the archived version of One man and his cogs by John Windsor

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fourteen Balls Toy - Occupational Automata

Fourteen Balls Toy company has installed five big automata in the Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. This is really amazing automata work.

The automata depict various trades: clogger, filecutter, childminder, silversmith, and pawnbroker.

The link below goes to a large portfolio of nice photographs showing the amazing detail, craftsmanship, and artistry. The clogger's set of drawers have dovetail joints!

Admire the Weston Park automata

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre Footage on YouTube

Some kind soul has put together a little video of a Cabaret Mechanical Theatre exhibit that was at the Oxo Tower Gallery a couple of years ago. You can see automata in action from most of the CMT artists. There are pieces by two of my personal favorites: Keith Newstead and Paul Spooner.

Cabaret Mechanical Theatre clip

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