Monday, April 19, 2010

Fingers - motorized mechanical sculpture

A great little video of the mechanical fingers designed by mechanical sculptor Nik Ramage and manufactured by Laikingland.

Here is where you can learn more about Fingers by Nik Ramage.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Wallingford clock at St Albans Cathedral (England)

Wallingford clock at St Albans Cathedral in England
At St. Albans Cathedral they have made a replica of the 14th Century clock and astronomical indicator designed and built by Richard of Wallingford. It takes 18 years to complete full cycle! When it was created, Richard's clock was probably the most complex clock in the British isles -- and among the most sophisticated anywhere.

Here is a web site dedicated to the Wallingford clock at St. Albans Cathedral.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brass Pegasus by Keith Newstead now available

Keith Newstead made his first Pegasus automaton about 20 years ago. This, his latest creation, has been laser cut from his original artwork. Each one is signed and numbered and measures about 30cm high.

Here is where you can order your own Brass Pegasus by Keith Newstead.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Video of a trebuchet capable of throwing cars

A little off-topic, but hey...I've got trebuchets on my mind these days.

Bring the subject back to smaller-scale contraptions, you might want to check out my review of this working wooden catapult model.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Discovery during the restoration of an automaton

Check out this video to see the incredible discovery Michael Start made while restoring this antique laughing sailor coin-operated automaton.

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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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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sargent Paints Hemy automaton by Newstead

Take a look at the many subtle and organic motions in this fantastic automaton by Keith Newstead. There are some great views of the mechanism in the video also.

See more automata by Keith Newstead on his web site:

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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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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Artist Matt Smith's Silversmith automaton

Here we see the things that make automata from Fourteen Balls Toy Company (this one designed and made by Matt Smith): mechanical mastery, excellent carving, incredible attention to detail, subtle motions, and wonderful humor.

See more images of the Silversmith automaton by the Fourteen balls Toy on their web site.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

'You have captured my heart' brass automaton

Check out this Valentine's Day automaton by Keith Newstead made with laser-cut metal.

See more automata by Keith Newstead on his site.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Some early machines created by Tim Hunkin

Here is a real treat for you: nearly 10 minutes of video showing large-scale coin-operated machines and automata by the inimitable Tim Hunkin. Hunkin is a not only a great automata-maker, but a cartoonist, engineer, and host of a television series called The Secret Life of Machines.

Learn more about Tim Hunkin
on his web site.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sand-driven dancer automaton by Ron Fuller

Here is a nice example of gravity-powered automaton. Sand in the back of the piece, powers the dancing figure who performs some very expressive moves for such a simple mechanism.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kinetica Art Fair 2010 - London, Feb. 4th - 7th, 2010

Kinetica Art Fair 2010
Kinetica Art Fair 2010 developed by Kinetica Museum will take place in London from February 4th to 7th. Over 25 galleries and organizations specializing in kinetic, electronic, and new media art are taking part and over 150 artists exhibiting.

From the Kinetica 2010 press release:
A family of holographic light beings, sculpting and drawing robots, an orchestral milk float, a giant vertical electronic wave and a special feature exhibition of work from the masters of kinetic art and the groundbreaking Cybernetic Serendipity show, are just some of the incredible exhibits at Kinetica Art Fair 2010. Kinetica Art Fair takes place from 4 - 7 February 2010 at the P3 space in London and is the UK's only art fair dedicated to kinetic, robotic, sound, light and time-based art. Art that has a life of its own, talks, workshops, performances and more create an art fair like no other.

Visit the Kinetica 2010 web site for more information about this amazing event.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Amazing animatronics and mechanical costumes

John Nolan Films
I urge you to pay a visit to the John Nolan Films web site where you can see a gallery of amazing special effects projects including animatronics and mechanical costumes.

Here is the gallery of images showing various animatronics and here is their demo reel showing video of animatronics in action.

[ Thanks Bre! ]

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

L. & A. St. Leger collectible miniature automata

L. & A. St. Leger collectible miniature automataL. & A. St. Leger create very small, metal automata. Their automata are typically less than two inches high and very clever. They offer a wide variety, which would make nice little gifts. For an addition fee, they will also do custom pieces.

Here's the page with a full listing of L. & A. St. Leger miniature automata.

[ Thanks Joe! ]

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

David Knight's watchmaking as miniature sculpture

David Knight's watchmaking as miniature sculpture
David Knight is a watch repairer turned watchmaker. He designs, engraves, crafts every part except for the jewels and springs! He does not use any other mass produced parts, or outsource any of the work to others. His unique, sculptural watches typically take at least 2,000 hours each to make and are priced in the tens of thousands of GBP.

See more images and read some articles on David Knight, maker of sculptural pocket watches.

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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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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Flying Couch Potato by Keith Newstead

Here is a piece that Keith Newstead made about 6 years ago. He just had it back in his possession in order motorized it and shot this video. He is a master at creating crazy flying contraptions!

See more automata by Keith Newstead on his web site.

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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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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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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Skeleton Band Automaton by Wanda Sowry

Check out this excellent new motorized donation box automaton by artist Wanda Sowry!

See more automata by Wanda Sowry on her web site.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The automata of Sophie Catherine Naylor

Here is a video of a creative automaton done by Sophie Catherine Naylor. She just graduated from Loughborough University having studied illustration and animation. She specialized in automata during her final year.

I expect we will be seeing more automata from her in the near future.

Check out pictures and video of many other automata by Sophie Catherine Naylor on her web site.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Big Man Walking, Scotland's first giant puppet

Check out this video of an impressive 8 meter tall blue giant of a puppet known as Big Man.

See more photos and additional videos at the Big Man Walking web site.

[ Thanks Bill! ]

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Friday, October 09, 2009

The Dog Ate My Homework paper automaton

The latest fun paper animation kit from Rob Ives: The Dog Ate My Homework.

Like his other offerings, this model comes as a downloadable file that you print onto thin card-stock with your printer. Once printed, you then cut out the parts and follow the illustrated instructions to make the animated model.

The color version can be purchased now for a modest price. A free, uncolored version will be available on October 20th.

Here's the link for The Dog Ate My Homework paper automaton.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Drumming fingers - mechanized impatience

Drumming fingers - mechanized impatience
Artist Nik Ramage has created a mechanical copy of his own hand that continually drums its fingers.

From the the Dezeen blog:
Called Fingers, and featuring resin fingers cast from Ramage's own, it will be shown by kinetic brand Laikingland at 100% Design at Earls Court, London from 24-27 September.

You will recall the Laikingland are the people that produce the Applause Machine.

Here's the Dezeen post with more information and images of Fingers by Nik Ramage.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Build a paper automaton that can draw a picture!

Perhaps there is a theme this week; take a look at this amazing paper automata kit that draws a little picture on a Post-It Note!

From the kit description:
When the handle is turned the artist looks up at his model, then down at his easel and -amazingly- he starts to draw. Keep turning and you'll be amazed to see that he actually does a real pencil drawing of the model on a 'post-it' note! Although the model of the artist, the lady and all the little accessories (Paints, brushes,etc) are detailed and amusing, the real complexity lies within the case under their feet. The handle operates a 'worm' gear which in turn drives two large cams. One controls the forwards-and-backwards movement of the artist's arm, the other the 'side-to-side' movements. A series of levers transmit the movements and the combination of both actions results in the drawing.

Here's the link to The Artist Automaton kit page.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Tippoo's Tiger - automaton and organ

Tippoo's Tiger is famous life-size carved wooden tiger shown attacking a man. The automaton makes sounds for the tiger and the man and also has a basic playable organ built in. A one-of-a-kind piece with a remarkable history.

From the Victoria and Albert web site:
Concealed in the bodywork is a mechanical pipe-organ with several parts, all operated simultaneously by a crank-handle emerging from the tiger's shoulder. Inside the tiger and the man are weighted bellows with pipes attached. Turning the handle pumps the bellows and controls the air-flow to simulate the growls of the tiger and cries of the victim. The cries are varied by the approach of the hand towards the mouth and away, as the left arm - the only moving part - is raised and lowered.

Another pair of bellows, linked to the same handle, supplies wind for a miniature organ of 18 pipes built into the tiger, with stops under the tail. Its structure is like that of European mechanical organs, but adapted for hand operation by a set of ivory button keys reached through a flap in the animal's side. The mechanism has been repaired several times and altered from its original state. It is now too fragile to be operated regularly.

Here is a link to more on the history of Tippoo's Tiger.

Here is a link to a 26 minute video on Tippoo and a bit about the Tiger.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Museum Residency: Automata Maker at V&A

Tippu's Tiger.jpg
The the Victoria and Albert Museum is currently accepting applicants for an automata residency. This is a great opportunity for UK-based automata artists. Shown above is the famous piece known as Tippu's Tiger from their collection.

Museum Residency:
Automata Maker Bursary offered and studio space provided The V&A and the Crafts Council are collaborating on a series of three six month residencies in the Sackler Centre for arts education at the V&A. This third Craft Residency presents a new opportunity for mid-career practitioners to have a studio at the V&A for six months commencing in July 2010. Proposals are invited from UK based artists and makers working with, or wishing to work in Automata, who want to develop their practice through working with the V&A collections and engage in public participatory programmes in working with the V&A and Crafts Council.

For more details and to apply online, visit the V&A's website. The closing date for applications is 3 November 2009.

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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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Friday, July 24, 2009

'Clocks Revenge' automaton by Richard Willmott

The Clocks Revenge automaton by Richard Willmott
Horologist Richard Willmott in the U.K. created this automaton (shown above) called "The Clocks Revenge". He wrote a note explaining how he created this piece that was inspired by my own automaton called "An Interesting Specimen".

From Richard's letter describing the piece
I applied my twisted mind to dreaming up a similar model which would involve clocks and came up with the idea that over the years old clocks must have suffered terrible indignities at the hands of incompetent repairers. So my model would be "The Clocks Revenge". I had a 6 inch glass dome and in the local charity shop found a child's toy which had a musical movement that played the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock. A plywood box was made to take 3 aluminum shafts, one for the cranking handle, one to take the two lifter cams to operate the arms and one to operate the music. The musical movement needed to run at a speed slower than that at which the handle was cranked so a small gearbox was built using clock wheels and pinions from my scrap box. Loose pin and slot joints were used where the shafts joined the gearbox and the musical movement to cover for alignment inaccuracies in my construction. Now I built a clock workshop to go under the dome. The notice on the wall is based on one that I saw in a clock repairers workshop in the USA. From limewood I carved the figure of the clock repairer. It had arms jointed at the shoulder and operated by fine wires linked to levers operated by two four leaf cams in the box. The whole lot was then fixed to the box and the representation of a clock with an angry face was attached to the back with its hands (arms) holding down the glass dome. Finally a humorous verse to give some idea of what was going on was composed and affixed.

His note went on to say that if you are an automata or clock fanatic and live within traveling distance of Elizabeth City, NC he would love to see you when he visits the U.S. in the spring 2010. He can be reached by email at: dickytickers at

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Applause Machine soon in five new colors!

Martin Smith and the good folks over at Laikingland are putting the finishing touches on a batch of their famous Applause Machines in a new range of colors.

The new colors are:
As with the original colors, each new color will be limited to just 250 machines. Numbers 1 to 10 will be available to pre-order at the end of August ready for delivery at the end of September 2009.

The Applause Machines are available directly from Laikingland's online shop.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Singing bird automata makes for high fashion

Singing bird automata makes for high fashion
To celebrate her 20th anniversary in the business, British designer Lulu Guinness decided to make a singing bird automaton -- within a handbag!

She tapped Adam Wright, a film animatronics maker, to help with the mechanics of the piece. He, in turn, looked to Michael and Maria Start of Automatomania -- experts in the repair and restoration of automata -- for their specialized knowledge and skill.

According to Michael Start, "He spent a few days with us learning about singing birds and then sent us the bird body for Maria to feather in scarlet feathers."

When it was completed they went to an unveiling party at London's Victoria & Albert Museum -- a star studded event with the handbag as a center piece. It's official: automata have become high fashion!

Here is a video about the Singing Handbag.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Song for a Dead Moon - new look for an old theme

According to the artist -- Keith Newstead -- this is a steampunk version of a 19th century automata.

See more of his work at Keith Newstead's web site.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mobile toyshop by Keith Newstead Automata

A charming piece by Keith Newstead depicting a traveling toy shop. Enchanting.

See more of excellent automata on Keith Newstead's web site.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

3 classic automata from Fourteen Balls Toy Co.

Late last month I got word from Matt Smith at Fourteen Balls Toy Company that they would be making some new editions of classic Fourteen Balls automata. Among the editions to be made are:

The Misers Deathbed

An Allegory of love

Being Followed

Check out all of their amazing creations at Fourteen Balls Toy Company.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Wind-up automaton dancer from 1800s

Wind-up automaton dancer from 1800s
According to the eBay description for this item, it is a wind-up dancing automaton from the 1800s. The piece was made by Perry and Company, London.

For more details and additional pictures here is the eBay listing for the Wind-up automaton dancer from 1800s By Perry and Co.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Video clip of The Applause Machine in action

Here is a great video clip of The Applause Machine (designed by artist Martin Smith) in action!

Applause machines are available in orange, green, red, white and black. They may be purchased from Laikingland.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kinetica Art Fair exhibit opens February 27th, 2009

Kinetica Art Fair exhibit 2009
Kinetica Art Fair is the UK's first art fair dedicated to kinetic, robotic, sound, light and time-based art. The exhibit opens in London on Friday 27 February, 2009.
More than 25 galleries and organisations specialising in kinetic, electronic and new media art are taking part with over 150 exhibiting artists. The Fair will be like no other with living, moving, speaking and performing art.

The Fair provides unparalleled opportunities for the public and collectors alike to view and buy work from this thriving international movement and to participate in the programme of talks, workshops and performances.

Here is the link to the site for Kinetica Art Fair 2009.

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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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Friday, January 30, 2009

Miniature woodshop models with amazing detail

Miniature woodshop with amazing detail
Setting the scene for an automaton often requires making miniature versions of things. Having done bit of this myself, I can really appreciate the work of David Brookshaw who makes 1/12-scale miniatures of tools and workshop equipment.

Brookshaw is working on a fully-equipped Victorian workshop. In the photo above that is a U.S. Quarter clamped to the bench vise!

You can visit David Brookshaw's web site to see more photos of his work

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Steampunk Romance - video of the automaton

The other day I told you about A Steampunk Romance -- the new book by Keith Newstead. Here is a some video of the actual automaton he created and documented in the book. Wonderful! He is so good with metals and contraptions. I'm a big fan.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Friendly Gesture automaton by Philip Lowndes

Take a look at the astonishing level of complexity of motion and mechanism achieved by Philip Lowndes in this automaton entitled 'A Friendly Gesture'. A very skilled bit of work!

See more about this piece on Philip Lowndes' web site.

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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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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs - Fantastic machine

The Corkscrew by Rob HiggsIn case you missed this on various blogs the other day, I really must ask that you check out this machine.

Mechanical sculptor Rob Higgs assembled an machine that opens a wine bottle and pours a glass. He uses many old parts, some as is, some modified and recasts them in bronze. The result is astounding.

Here is an article on The Corkscrew. Here is a link to a video of The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs.

This story comes to us by way of

[ Thanks to Jim Jenkins! ]

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Applause for The Applause Machine Event!

The Applause Machine
Laikingland's first product -- The Applause Machine -- was designed by famed Automata-maker Martin Smith. When you press the button, The Applause Machine enthusiastically claps its hands. If you are still looking for gifts, this is one anyone is sure to treasure...even if it is a bit late!

News from Martin Smith on Laikingland's Open Day:
The first Laikingland Open Day was a great success and we celebrated our first year and first design, "The Applause Machine", with friends, family, suppliers, collectors and customers. They all seemed to enjoy the chance to look around what is usually a closed workshop and studio. Lots of questions were asked about the next design and lots of comments were made about how much more beautiful the Applause Machines are in real life than in the photographs.

Here are some shots from the Laikingland Open Day event...

The Applause Machine
The Applause Machines are available in five colors and are a great all-purpose gift, self-esteem booster, or recognition of achievement.

Visit Laikingland's site to see more and to order The Applause Machine.

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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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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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Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Great Video of Giant Spider, La Princesse

This footage of the enormous mechanical spider recently on the move in Liverpool, England was filmed and edited by Giselle Leeb.

Watch the giant spider of Liverpool arrive at the city hall, wake up after a sleep and, in a nice bit of dramatically sped up footage, crawl up a building to rest.

La Princesse was created by a French company, La Machine, as part of the Liverpool European Capital of culture programme.

[ Thanks Giselle! ]

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Giant Mechanical Spider on the Move in Liverpool

Giant Mechanical Spider Spotted in Liverpool
Obviously, I've been busy if I missed this on the web a few days ago. Check out this giant mechanical spider that crept down the streets of Liverpool, England. I don't have an adjective in my vocabulary to describe how amazing this is as an artistic and technical accomplishment.

Here is a link to a flickr set of photos that captured the event.

[ Found via Make blog, who credits the BBC coverage. Also found via the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog coverage. ]

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Edition of Tiger Tamer by Frank Nelson

New Edition of Tiger Tamer by Frank NelsonThis is a new improved version of the Tiger Tamer automaton originally produced by Frank Nelson in the 1970's. In this version, the tiger moves independently of the platform on which he is standing. There will only be 5 of this run made.

From the Description:
"When you turn the handle you will see the Tamer crack his whip once, only for the Tiger to refuse the command by shaking his head. This is repeated on the second crack of the Tamer's whip. On the third and final crack of the whip, the Tiger nods his head in acceptance and then does his trick by swiveling around to put his head in the Tamer's mouth."

Here is the link to the listing for Frank Nelson's New Tiger Tamer Automaton.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Article on the Exhibit Celebrating Paul Spooner

Article on the Exhibit Celebrating Paul Spooner
The eminent automaton artist, Paul Spooner, will be honored in an exhibit featuring his work and the work of dozens of other automaton makers. This is sure to be an amazing exhibit.

They will also be devoting a portion of the space to honor Sam Smith (1908 - 1983), a sculptor whose work inspired Paul Spooner, Peter Markey, Frank Nelson, and many others to become automaton makers.

The exhibit will be at The First Gallery in Southampton.

Here is a link to the article on the exhibit to honor Paul Spooner's 60th Birthday. Here is a link to the image gallery of automata to be shown in the exhibit.

Found via Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik

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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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Friday, August 15, 2008

British Wood Automaton Artist Peter Lennertz

Wood Automaton Artist Peter Lennertz
While working in Covent Garden in the late 80's, Peter Lennertz discovered Cabaret Mechanical Theatre. A Plumber by trade, he has always loved woodworking. By the 90's, Lennertz was making humorous wood automata of his own like the one shown above enititled Old man and the sea.

The British Toymakers Guild voted Lennertz toy maker of the year in 2007.

Check out dozens of great automata on Peter Lennertz's web site.

[ Thanks David! ]

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bon Jest Wooden Automaton by Frank Nelson

Bon Jest Automaton by Frank Nelson
Here is a hilarious wood automaton by Frank Nelson entitled, "Bon Jest". The automaton is operated by a hand lever on the back.

From the Frank Nelson's web site:

"This is a one-off original automata. The two figures standing on a wooden carved fort. When the lever is pulled to the right the jointed Officer presents a medal. He leaps into the air – raising his head. The soldier turns his head, salutes, and receives a kiss on his right cheek. Pull the lever to the left and the opposite cheek is kissed."

Check out the video and images of the Bon Jest Automaton by Frank Nelson.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Martin Smith's Applause Machine Automaton Video

When the you push the button, The Applause Machine claps it's hands for you.

The Applause Machine is a motorized automaton designed by Martin Smith that will be widely available in September of 2008.

The piece is constructed of coated steel, brass, Walnut, plastic and a small motor. It measures about 45cm in height and is powered by 2 AAA batteries. It will be available in a number of very nice colors.

Learn more about The Applause Machine designed by Martin Smith and manufactured by Laikingland at

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Paper Automaton Kits by Peter Markey

Paper Automaton kits by Peter Markey
Here is a site that sells a line of paper automata kits by the inimitable automaton artist Peter Markey.

Markey is a master of getting great motions from simple mechanisms. These kits highlight his skill in this regard. Here is a chance to make one for yourself!

Visit Optical Toy's site to see their offering of Paper Automata by Peter Markey.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coin-Operated Funeral Parlor Scene Automaton

Undertaker Scene Coin-Operated Automaton
This interesting automaton is marked as being manufactured by J. Dennison.

The scene depicts a man in his coffin at a funeral parlor. When a coin is inserted into the mechanism, a skeleton head appears behind the coffin, the corpse bolts to an upright position and turns his head. Then, the skull disappears and a devil appears. I'm not sure what this humorous and macabre scene means. Thoughts?

Originally, the machine worked with a large English penny, but has been converted to take U.S. coins (I'm not sure which). The listing says the automaton is in working condition.

Take a look at the eBay listing for the Dennison Coin-Operated Funeral Parlor Scene Automaton.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Video of Swimmer Automaton by 14 Balls Toy Co.

Here's a video of a classic from 14 Balls Toy Company. The piece was designed by Paul Spooner and made by Matt Smith. How to Swim cleverly animates a swimmer whose legs kick, arms rotate, and head turns. Notice that everything on the swimmer moves at the right pace. Brilliant.

Here's the link to the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre page for How to Swim

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Automaton Maker Frank Nelson's New Website

Automaton maker Frank Nelson's Lion TamerLegendary automaton artist Frank Nelson has a brand new web site featuring photos and video of his automata, drawings, and paintings.

Shown here is The Tamer (Lion), 1975. Mixed media. Hand operated: Size: 51 x 28 x 18cm. Performance time up to one minute.

This is one of several of his works featured in the book: Automata and Mechanical Toys.

Frank Nelson on The Tamer:
"The Tamer is the best idea I have ever had - originally designed back in 1975 - two decorative figures interacting with each other. The Tamer cracks his whip twice and gets a refusal each time from the animal who shakes his head from side to side while his tail rotates. On the third crack of the whip however, the animal accepts the command and nods his head and does his trick - putting his head into the Tamer's mouth."

Here is the link to Frank Nelson's Automata web Site.

[Thanks Sergio!]

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Huge Automaton Clock Sculpture @ London Zoo

Master mechanical artist Tim Hunkin has created a giant automaton clock for the London Zoo. This amazingly complex kinetic sculpture is base on the theme of Victorian Era attitudes towards the animal kingdom.

The artist has a section of his site devoted to the London Zoo Tropical Aviary Clock. The pages show his photos and sketches (he's also known for his cartoons) of the automaton, rejected design ideas, technical aspects of the piece, and various other factors that influenced him along the way.

It is wealth of information, a fascinating look at one kinetic artist's creative process, and very entertaining. The video is a few minutes long, but only because the sequence of the automaton is so elaborate. Well worth it!

Here the page devoted to the London Zoo Tropical Aviary Clock. Here is the page about the design of the clock.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Automaton of Lion Tamer by Maker Frank Nelson

Frank Nelson's Lion Tamer AutomataTake a look at this beautiful Frank Nelson prototype that just sold on eBay. This piece is featured in Automata and Mechanical Toys

From the eBay Listing:
A hand-operated circus Lion-Tamer automata by Frank Nelson. Born in 1930 in Blackpool, Frank Nelson has been a well-regarded automata-maker for over 35 years and retired in 2000. This automata is a prototype from his private collection. Nelson originally first produced Tiger Tamers and Lion Tamers in the 1970's. This was a prototype for a new improved model. "I always felt the need to make these changes but it meant a great deal more work".

The Tamer stands facing the Lion who is sitting on a plinth while behind them is an illustrated backboard of a circus tent. In this version the lion moves independently of the plinth on which he stands. Turn the handle and see the Tamer crack his whip once, only for the Lion to refuse by shaking his head. The refusal is repeated again on the second crack of the whip. Finally The Tamer cracks his whip a third time and then the Lion nods his head twice and does his trick by swiveling around and putting his head into the tamer's mouth.

Frank Nelson's automata tell a story with a twist in the end. "The Tamer is the best idea I have ever had - two decorative figures interacting with each other". Made in mixed media and in excellent condition and full working order. Signed by the maker with his distinctive logo on the back.

Size 36cm high; 27cm wide; 17cm deep.

See more photos of The Lion Tamer and check out the impressive sale price at eBay.

Also learn more about the artist and automata-making from Automata and Mechanical Toys

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Miser's Deathbed by Paul Spooner & Matt Smith

Here is a short video clip of The Miser's Deathbed automaton by two of my favorite artists - Paul Spooner and Matt Smith. The video gives you a sense of the humorous scene. Timing is everything!

Visit The Fourteen Balls Toy Company web site to see some great close-up photos of The Miser's Deathbed.

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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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Friday, March 07, 2008

Automaton of Magician Doing a Levitatation Trick

I adore and admire the work of automata maker Pierre Mayer. Here is one of his recent pieces depicting a magician levitating from his stool. Simply amazing!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre:

Fechner's Levitation on Stool Automata

The latest piece from French magician/automatist Pierre Mayer, this piece is based on the cigar smoking magician Fechner, who levitates above his stool, even more puzzling is that the arms raise during the levitation without any links to the mechanism -- many magicians have already been fooled by this!

Do visit the CMT online shop to see Fechner's Levitation on Stool Automata and MANY superb automata.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Roullet et Decamps Leopard Automaton Video

Michael and Maria Start have been performing high-quality restorations of automata and singing birds for 12 years. I love the action of the this creeping leopard by Roullet et Decamps.

Michael Start is a trained Horologist, winning several awards for his practical and theoretical clockwork.

Maria Start is a trained sculptor and artist, specializing in perfect color matching and replacement body parts. Maria uses traditional techniques and materials, with authentic papier mache and gesso recipes.

Visit their site entitled AutomatomaniA.

You can learn a bit about the restoration of antique automata in the a chapter of the book Automata: The Golden Age.

Seen on the MAKE blog

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Automaton Artist: Philip Lowndes

Here is a work in progress by UK based automata maker Philip Lowndes. Entitled, Quiet contemplation of a sandwich, it is an impressive bit of work.

The boy looks around, as if surveying the scene, occasionally takes a bite of his sandwich and chews it. The other hand moves up to scratch the boy's head occasionally. There is an impressive amount of subtle motion and some well-timed actions in this piece.

A video clip is can be viewed here.

I cannot wait to see the finished piece. It looks like it will be charming.

Visit the web site of Philip Lowndes to see this and other pieces.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

UK Crafts Council - Great Automata Resource

A kindly reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog was kind enough to share with me a fantastic resource. The UK Crafts Council has their permanent collection displayed in a searchable interface on Photostore.

Should you visit their search page, simply select "automata and toys" from the "Discipline" drop-down menu. You will be presented with 56 pages of automata images by many of the most famous, distinguished, and notable automata-makers. Shown above is a great collection box automaton by Tim Hunkin.

As I explore the collection more, I'll keep you posted on what I find. If you find items of note, leave a comment on this post, or drop me a line using the Contact Dug North link in the right sidebar.

Search the UK Crafts Council collection of images.

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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, August 21, 2007

Automaton Artist: Kazu Harada

The Automata / Automaton Blog is pleased to present you with Japanese automaton artist Kazu Harada.

Automaton by Kazu Harada
After studying Art History at in college, Kazu worked mainly as a computer operator. He started making automata as a hobby in 2002. Last September, he traveled to England "to meet great automata makers and develop my automata making skills".

Kazu chose his destination wisely; he has been apprenticing with The Fourteen Balls Toy Company -- under master automata makers Paul Spooner and Matt Smith -- while studying at Falmouth University.

See Kazu Harada's Automata Gallery at

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Automata / Automaton Blog Reviewed

The Automata / Automaton Blog has been reviewed on Intute -- an online service that provides access to web resources for education and research. The service is created by a network of UK universities and partners.

They give a good description of my personal site, and the resources I've referenced there. The also mention the blog, and I'm glad the word is getting out!

Check out listing of

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Looking and Pointing Automaton by Martin Smith

Check out this short video of one of Martin Smith's clockwork-driven automata. He has a great style, and he makes the most out of a simple motion in this peice.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nancy - The Knitting Woman Automaton Video

The good folks over at AutomatomaniA ( have started to post videos of pieces in their workshop -- mainly antiques. Check out this clip of an automaton featuring a woman knitting.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Paper Pirate Automaton

In keeping with all the pirate-based media in the air these days, you might want to check out this paper pirate automaton.

As with many of the models at, this is a die cut model for you to pop out and glue together. Follow the fully illustrated instructions and, with an evening or two of your time and some white glue you can have this delightful model for your collection.

Check out Jolly Roger, paper automaton at

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hitchcocks' Automata Exhibit @ Bridport Art Centre

Hitchcocks of Bath is a web site / gallery that features British mechanical toys, German folk toys, cut outs, and hand made wooden toys for children.

Here is a page showing automata that are currently on display and for sale at the Bridport Art Centre in Dorset, UK.

Among the distinguished automata artists are: Jan Zalud, Wanda Sowry, Robert Race, Simon Venus, Ian McKay, Peter Markey, Rachel Larkins, Ron Fuller, John Grayson, and Melanie Tomlinson.

Visit the page for Hitchcocks' at the Bridport Art Centre 2007

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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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