Sunday, April 18, 2010

Designing Automata Kit available from Amazon

OK...it may be a round-about route, but it is good news in the end: the Designing Automata Kit is now available via Amazon!

From the product description:
"The New Designing Automata Kit is great value and fantastic quality. No glue or tools are required, and you will learn about simple mechanics using cams and a crank slider mechanism. Many different designs can be made, and the kit used over and over again. Produced in Thailand using chemical-free rubber wood, from sustainable sources."

Here's the link to the Designing Automata Kit.


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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New encased motorized automata by Tom Haney

Tom Haney's Wanderlust automaton
Here is one of two new pieces available from Tom Haney.

The one shown here, entitled "Wanderlust", depicts a figure standing next to a globe. As the globe turns the man's pointer moves across the surface in search of his next destination. The globe stops at random spots every 5 seconds and the figure's head follows the pointer up and down the globe.

See more pictures and video of Tom Haney's Wanderlust automaton on his web site.


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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

An ancient mechanical genius you may NOT know

We have all heard the great inventors of antiquity such as Archimedes and Hero. Here is another name worth knowing: Al-Jazari. Al-Jazari was an scholar, inventor, engineer, craftsman, artist, mathematician and astronomer from Mesopotamia, who lived from about 1136 to 1206. He wrote The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, which describes some fifty sophisticated machines.

The video clip shown here from Ancient Discoveries covers Al-Jazari's elephant clock -- a fantastically elaborate device which employed automata. There are a working reproductions of the elephant clock in Dubai and Switzerland.

Here is the Wikipedia article for Al Jazari. Here is the article on the elephant clock.


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Friday, April 02, 2010

Lecture: A Brief History of Automata

Lecture: A Brief History of AutomataIf you will be in the NYC area on April 14th, this looks like a fascinating lecture and demonstration...

About this lecture:
"In this illustrated lecture, "Obscura Antique and Oddities", Mike Zohn will demonstrate his 19th Century taxidermy automata, as featured in last year’s Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest. He will explain its curious mechanisms, and, in an illustrated lecture, will introduce us to the history of these fascinating uncanny machines, tracing their trajectory from tools of religious coercion to prince’s plaything to Disney’s imagineering experiments."

Lecture: A Brief History of Automata
Lecturer: Mike Zohn, Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Date: Wednesday, April 14th
Time: 7:00 PM
Admission:
$5
Location: Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Ave. Brooklyn

Here is a link to more information from the lecture announcement.

[ Thanks Caleb! ]


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Friday, March 26, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret film stars cast

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
I did a post in 2008 about the children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which features a sophisticated automaton based on the Maillardet automaton at the Franklin Institute.

Martin Scorcese is in the process of making the book into a film. A recent announcement reveals that the human cast members will include Ben Kingsley and Sascha Baron Cohen.

Here is a link to the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.


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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Video of Leonardo's full-sized knight automaton

In this installment of the series Ancient Discoveries we see a recreation of a full-sized armored knight thought to be designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The internal gears and system of cables allowed the knight some limited forms of motion.

Learn more about Leaonardo's fascination with automata in Mark Rosheim's beautifully illustrated book Leonardo's Lost Robots.


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Friday, March 19, 2010

The coolest maker(s) of things in the world

Recently, I did a post about a book covering The Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria. To get a better sense for some of the inventions this ancient genius came up with check out this segment of The History Channel's series titled Ancient Discoveries. The amazingly talented maker of technical and historical reproductions, Richard Windley, recreated a working version of Hero's archer and dragon automaton for the show.

Learn more about Richard Windely's historical recreations on his web site.


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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: www.keithnewsteadautomata.com


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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

An unusual "Happy Meal" automaton

Here's an interesting (hidden) mechanism for you to ponder.


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Friday, February 26, 2010

Automata creations by Viktor Plotnikov

Check out these fantastic creations by Russian artist Viktor Plotnikov.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Martha Stewart learns the history of automata

Here's a clip of Martha Stewart learning about various forms of automata through history from the famous video game creator and collector, Richard Garriott.

[ Thanks Karin! ]

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Monday, February 08, 2010

CPR wood automaton with available plans

Here's a video that shows a fun automaton designed by Ken Schweim. He has written complete construction plans describing how to build it. It has 36 pages, 36 photos, and 26 blueprints with complete step-by-step instructions. It is available for download for a cost $10 payable through PayPal. This might be a great way to get into making wood automata.

You can purchase and download plans for this wood automaton at Ken's Devil Dog Automata page.


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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Automata-maker Dug North and his workshop

Automata-maker Dug North and his workshop
I thought it might be fun to give you a glimpse of my workshop and some photos of me in it.

The shots were taken by the talented portrait artist, Adrien Bisson who also resides in Lowell, Massachusetts. The photographs show my workshop, some parts of the wood clock I am making, and a prototype automaton that is in the works. The workshop it is actually built into a century-old walk-in vault.

To see more photographs from this shoot, check out Adrien Bisson's photography blog.

And, as always, thanks for reading The Automata / Automaton Blog!


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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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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Automata Orchestra in Malmo Sweden

Automata Orchestra in Malmo Sweden
Reader Jerry Johansson wrote to ask about this amazing automata orchestra that is currently on display at the Technical and Maritime Museum in Malmo, Sweden.

Jerry writes:
Little is known about the orchestra but it's said to be constructed in England sometime during the 1920s. A well known Swedish toy expert came to the conclusion that the orchestra must have been serial made, but due to the size (it is life size) of the orchestra, and the rather complicated machinery, I don't find that statement plausible. I was wondering if you might have any information regarding robotic orchestras, or indeed any robotics manufactured in England during this time period?

For so little to be known about such a large and complicated system does seem a strange mystery. If you happen to know anything about this or similar automata bands, leave a comment at the end of this post.

Here's a link to a video featuring the Automata Orchestra.


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Sunday, January 03, 2010

More video of Pablo Lavezzari's 'The Jailer'

I posted video of The Jailer automaton in action the other day. Here is more video of this automaton by artist Pablo Lavezzari showing the back of the piece and how it is operated.

From the video description:

Explanation about the piece THE JAILER. Death locks the souls in jails from where they will never be able to escape and return to the world of the living. But this time Death herself has been trapped. An despite of all her fury, a dog-shaped and a crow-shaped demon will prevent her from escaping.

See more automata by Pablo Lavezzari on his web site.


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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Animated sculptures by Nedko Zhechev

Animated sculptures by Nedko Zhechev
Check out this excellent mechanized wooden hand by artist Nedko Zhechev.

See more animated sculptures by Nedko Zhechev on this web site.

[ Thanks Philsing! ]


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Timberkits - wood automata kits make great gifts

Timberkits - wood automaton kits
It's not to late to get the people in your life the gift of automata for the holidays. One nice option are Timberkits -- all wood automata kits featuring a variety of themes and characters. Shown here is their Penguin Wooden Model. All of their kits come with pre-cut parts that need to be pegged together and glued. You can leave it unfinished or add a personal touch by painting it.

Here is a link to a full range of Timberkits Wood Automata Kits


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Monday, December 07, 2009

The assorted wood automata of Michel Fleau

The wood automata of Michel Fleau
Check out this wood automaton by Michel Fleau, entitled Mister Bone.

Here is a link to more images and video of automata by Michel Fleau.

[ Thanks Charles! ]


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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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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Video profile of New Zealand automata maker

video
Blair Somerville is an automata maker in New Zealand. Here is a nice video profile of him from a New Zealand news station. He really comes across like a warm, playful, and creative person.

Here is the link to the written profile of artist Blair Somerville.

[ Thanks Phil Sing! ]


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Large wooden spider automaton

Check out this automaton of a spider by Tim Douglas. Crafted of oak and walnut, the automaton beautifully depicts the motions of a spider.


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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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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The mechanical wooden art of Per Helldorff

Check out about ten automata and other mechanical wooden creations created by Per Helldorff on his web site.

I don't know what all of the pieces do, but it is clear that there is some serious creativity and ingenuity behind them.

Here's the link to the 'Mekanik' section of Per Helldorff's web site.

[ Thanks Charles! ]


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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Musical Machines & Living Dolls exhibit

Musical Machines & Living Dolls exhibit
The Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, is home to a large and impressive collection of automata and mechanical music machines. There is a nice review of the exhibit over at the Curious Expeditions blog.

From the blog post about the museum:

The museum does a nice job displaying these fragile, if eerie, machines. Short films show the more delicate automatons in action and a daily demonstration displays some of the less delicate pieces. Beautiful and strange automatons line the walls behind glass cases, in sumptuous dress, with bright faces. Those that do not fit in the gallery are on display in the basement, a storeroom of lonely un-wound figures behind two panes of glass for curious visitors to peer at.

Read the complete review and check out this flickr set of photos from the Morris Museum.


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Friday, September 25, 2009

Lady Cut in Half by Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo

Mechanical doll maker, Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO has a new automaton titled "LADY CUT IN-HALF".

From the artist:
The LADY is a classical automaton...with 6 movements, drum and music mechanism. This is a new version of Lady Saw'd in Twain, but instead of a saw the Magician holds a huge sword... There is a rolling drum sound prior to the sword moving down... But everything ends happily and the LADY makes a bow. The music mechanism provides two-tunes using a 72-note musical movement.

See this and other automata by Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo on his site.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Automata of Steve Armstrong - Part 3

You guessed it -- here is the third and final video about the beautiful automata art of Steve Armstrong.

Here is a link to Part 1 of the video.
Here is a link to Part 2 of the video.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Automata-making workshops in Portland, OR

Karin Gale -- one of the creators of The Raven automaton I posted about some time ago -- will be hosting a mechanical bird automaton workshop in Portland, Oregon in a couple of weeks and still has a few spaces left.

Karin writes:
"These are not advanced workshops from a mechanical perspective so it would appeal to beginner level automata makers for this reason. But advanced makers might benefit from our construction techniques which allows a lot more freedom than some of the traditional automata construction methods using wood and metals."

Here is the link to the 3 Bird House automata workshop.


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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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Friday, August 28, 2009

Hand-cranked bell ringing cat automaton

Another great piece by Osamu Kanda, or Okan.


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amazing LEGO-based automata theater

'The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater' combines LEGOs and the programmable LEGO Mindstorms NXT components to create a 3-dimensional miniature mechanical theater. It's a wonderful combination of old story telling techniques, puppetry, automata, toys, and programming. The effect is not unlike some of the old coin-operated mechanical scenes you might find in Penny-in-the-Slot Automata and the Working Model. The film runs about three minutes with some cool behind-the-scenes shots at the end.

Visit this site to learn more about The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater.

Here's a link where you can get your own LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits and instructional books.

[ Thanks Mario! ]


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Film about Spain's traveling automata theater

The Teatro De Automatas
The Teatro De Automatas is a traveling automata theater. The automata are mounted to the back of a truck. Once on the scene, an elaborate and beautiful stage and tent are set up around the truck to hide it and showcase the diverse automata that make up the exhibit. Their web site features a wonderful 10 minute film (in Spanish) that profiles this amazing theater. There are many nice shots of the exposed automata mechanisms. Whether you understand Spanish or not, it is well worth watching.

Here is a link to the film on the traveling automata theater -- The Teatro De Automatas.

[ Thanks Mario! ]


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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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Saturday, July 11, 2009

King of Magic automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO

King of Magic automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO
Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO, mechanical doll maker, has announced his new creation entitled 'KING OF MAGIC'.

From the artist's description:
The King is a classical automaton about 2 feet high with 9 movements and music mechanism. The action is operated by specially designed heavy duty winding motor 36 lb-in torque. The King makes his magic with street monkey-gambler, and monkey-gambler makes his own trick with dice.

More about this automata -- including video -- will be posted soon on Anatoly's site.


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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ellen Rixford mechanical puppets & automata

Ellen Rixford mechanical puppets & automata
Ellen Rixford Studio has been in business for 35 years and specializes in sculpture, art dolls, mechanical puppets, displays, and miniature sets.

In addition to being sought out by corporate and private collectors, some of their large pieces have been acquired by the Doll and Toy Museum of New York City, and the Ballard Institute of Puppetry Museum at the University of Connecticut.

Visit the Ellen Rixford Studio web site to see all of their wonderful creations.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The mobiles and automata of Steve DeSpirito

The mobiles and automata of Steve DeSpirito
Artist Steve DeSpirito creates hanging mobiles that use a balance between gravity and gentle air currents to add life and motion to his pieces.

From the artist's statement:
I like to think of my mobiles as a reminder that although life is ever-changing, one can always find beauty and joy in it. All one needs to do is stay balanced and bend slightly with the breeze.

Quite so. He has also created a few hand cranked automata like the one shown above entitled "Winged Thingy".

Check out all of the kinetic art by Steve DeSpirito on his new blog.


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Monday, June 15, 2009

New site for the magical automata of Pierre Mayer

The magical automata of Pierre Mayer
My friend, collegue, and hero -- Pierre Mayer -- has a new web site featuring his amazing work! He specializes in contemporary wood automata that perform magical illusions. Be sure to check it out!

See all of Pierre Mayer's magic automata on is new web site.


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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Authoratative web site on singing bird automata

schematic of a singing bird mechanism
Falk Keuten of the Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog informs me that www.alte-spieluhren.de -- run by from Detlef Knick of Berlin, Germany -- is the most comprehensive site on the web on topic of singing bird automata. The site is in German only, but has many wonderful photos and diagrams. Shown here is a schematic of a singing bird mechanism. If you can read German, I am envious!

Visit the Singvogel-Automaten page for more on singing bird automata.


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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Video of paper prototyping a griffin automaton

Katy Hargrove has created a great video in which she describes the process she is using to prototype an automaton project. Using manila folders, paper clips, scotch tap, and metal paper-fasteners, she has managed to create a very interesting motion for her griffin project. This is a great demonstration of an easy and effective process for working out the proportions and motions for various automata figures.

Check out more of her projects on the Art by Katy Hargrove blog.


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Sunday, May 31, 2009

K.G. Griesbaum singing bird automaton video

video
Here is a nice singing bird automaton by K G Griesbaum from Germany.

From the eBay description:
This 12 1/2" tall automaton is in excellent working condition, comes fresh from an estate, with no damages, just a little tarnishing on brass cage, bird sings and moves so beautifully. The on off works perfect (some one put a little magic marker near the switch, nail polish [remover] will take it right off, I don't have any). There are no issues to report at all other than the a little dust that will need to be cleaned.

Here's the full eBay listing with many really large photographs of the K.G. Griesbaum singing bird automaton


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Friday, May 29, 2009

The inner workings of a German singing bird box

Here is a great video giving us the rare opportunity to see the inner workings of a miniature singing mechanical bird. This piece was restored in the clock and automata shop of Ray Bates who specializes in the professional restoration of antique clocks, marine chronometers, and automata.

Learn more about Ray Bates at The British Clockmaker site.


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Reader Contribution: Dog with Ball automaton

We haven't posted any reader-made automata in a while and it's time to remedy that. Here is a first attempt by Automata / Automaton Blog reader Gary Brown.

From Gary's YouTube description
Inspired by *The Invention of Hugo Cabret*, I built this automaton from scratch, using information I found around the Internet. The dog moves his head and tail while a ball bounces next to him. Though simple, the mechanism uses a cam, a crank, a crank slider and linkages. It was the most difficult craft projects I've ever attempted, and the result hardly shows it. But it was a fascinating endeavor.



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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ambigram + Automata = Ambigramautomata

Check out this totally brilliant word-oriented hand-cranked automata. Created by artist Tom Banwell, he calls these creations "Ambigramautomata" -- a combination of the words "ambigram" and "automata".

From the artist's site
The S, I, L, and T are all vertically symmetrical so that they read the same when rotated 180 degrees. The disc with SIL is on a cam so that it moves left and right when rotated. The EN is stationary.

See more of Tom Banwell's many creations at his web site and on his Etsy site featuring some AMAZING masks.


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Automta in antiquity article from SPIEGEL Online

Automta in antiquity article from Speigel Online
The German magazine SPIEGELhas published an article on automata in antiquity. Or...at least that's what I believe it is about. I cannot read German. Nevertheless, they have a number of wonderful drawings and photographs that accompany the article.

Once again the credit must go to Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik for finding this great resource.

Shown above is a diagram of Hero of Alexandria's clever method for automatically opening temple doors. The fire in the pot, creates pressure in the large water tank. This causes water to spill into the bucket, the weight of which works against the counterweight to rotate the vertical axle attached to the temple door. Very clever. Done with the right amount of ceremony, this must have seemed very magical indeed to the ancient Greeks.

Here is a link to the photoset associated with the article. If you are able to read German, you might also like to read the original article on automata in antiquity.

[ Thanks once again to Falk Keuten! ]


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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

BlueBell Folk Art Gallery featuring wood automata

BlueBell Folk Art Gallery featuring wood automata
Michael and Marlene Forte create one-of-a-kind wood and fabric folk art -- mostly featuring animals -- from their studio in rural Vermont. They also have a few automata on display in their online gallery.

Here is a link to the BlueBell Folk Art Gallery page with wood automata.

[ Thanks philsing! ]


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

automatesgalerie - automata museum in Belgium

Our colleagues at the Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog have alerted us to some exciting news. A new automata museum has open in Brussels, Belgium featuring the following automata artists:

- Keith Newstead
- Robert Race
- John Grayson
- J Ch Detallante
- L & A St-Léger
- Wanda Sowry
- Philip Lowndes
- Peter Lennertz
- Neil Hardy
- Jason Cleverly
- James Chedburn
- Jacques Jauniaux
- Ian Mckay
- Dominique Corbin
- Carlos Zapata
- Jon Mills
- Jan Zalud

Learn more at the automatesgalerie web site.
[ Thanks Falk! ]


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

'Flying away from my demons' - automaton video

Another amazing new automaton by artist Pablo Lavezzari.

See more of Pablo Lavezzari's automata on his web site.

[ Thanks Pablo!, Thanks Sergio! ]


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wanda Sowry's wonderful wood automata @ flickr

Wanda Sowry's wood automata images on flickr
Be sure to check out the videos and photographs of Wanda Sowry's wonderful automata now accessible via a flickr photostream.

Shown here is her piece entitled 'Skeleton Xylobone'.

Here is the link to Wanda Sowry's automata on flickr.


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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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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Monks at Exploratorium make cardboard automata

As part of the Exporatorium's Cardboard Automata activity, a group of monks observed, discussed, and then made their own hand-cranked automata. So cool!

See photographs and read more about the monks' adventures during this workshop on the Learning Studio Blog.

[ Thanks philsing! ]


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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Artist Andy Hazell's web site with metal automata

A dedicated reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog was kind enough to draw our attention to the relatively new web site of artist Andy Hazell.

Among the many things this artist does (including photography, sculpture, and film) are very nice tin automata like the one shown here entitled 'Monday Morning'.

Check out all of the cool creations on Andy Hazell's web site.

[ Thanks Sergio! ]


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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alchemyst's Clocktower - Automaton by T. Kuntz

There is a reason Thomas Kuntz is one of my very favorite automata artists. Just watch this video to see why.

The artist on 'The Alchemyst's Clocktower':
This particular show is called "Pillars" It took many years to realize this automaton and care was used to make the advanced technology below stage adaptable in the future while keeping the figure itself purely mechanical.The Alchemyst is only 12" tall and consists of hundreds of hand machined brass and steel spieces.The tower itself was built from scratch out of wood, steel brass and fabric and just about any other high quality material where needed.

Visit the Artomic Design Studio web site for more works by Thomas Kuntz.


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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The automaton who saved the world!

According to the YouTube description, we all may owe this drinking bear automaton a lot!

An automaton bear that was played with by Gromyko at an important UN meeting during the Cold War, after a frosty start, the automata were produced, and this one melted his heart. The result was he took his finger off the red button. I have the pictures to prove it!

From our friends at www.automatomania.com.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Oceania' kinetic art by Casey Curran

Take a look at the amazing hand-cranked automata of Casey Curran. The artist uses twisted wire of various materials to create very original and organic forms. There is no welding or soldering involved -- just twisted wire! Kudos all around!

Casey Curran's work can be seen in person at Gallery IMA in Seattle, Washington.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Aquio Nishida, Automata-Artist (1946 - 2009)

Aquio Nishida, Automata-Artist  (1946 - 2009)It is with great sadness that we note the passing earlier this month of one of the world's great makers of contemporary automata -- Aquio Nishida.

Mr. Nishida was an automata designer, author, teacher, and the Director of the Contemporary Toy Museum of Japan.

Sue Jackson, founder of of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, says that "Aquio was very remarkable, as he not only made automata himself but also wrote his own book on the subject which was translated in 2 languages, and ran his own, very extensive, exhibition. I was honored to receive one of the first toys -- which I still have -- on meeting him for the first time in Japan. Aquio and I exchanged merchandise, his book for our videos and book; The relationship worked well for both of us."

Nishida Horse AutomatonHis automata were notable for their graceful lines, beautiful wooden gears, and their all-wood construction, which included even the linkages, pivots, and fasteners.

Mr. Nishida often incorporated music boxes into his works adding to their already considerable charm. He was particularly adept at creating automata that accurately depicted legged animals in motion.

Automata: Movable IllustrationMr. Nishida was the author of one of the best books on making contemporary automata, entitled Automata: Movable Illustration (Tokyo, Japan: Fujin Seikatsu, 2002). Written in parallel Japanese and English text, the book is part journal, part sketchbook, part do-it-yourself manual. Movable Illustration examines Nishida's process of automata creation and construction. The book manages to offer helpful advice to aspiring makers, while also serving as a portfolio of his beautiful work. The detailed plan drawings and full page color photographs of the Nishida's distinctive automata make this book a delight to peruse.

Here is some video footage of some of Nishida's automata:

He was known to be a generous teacher to those wishing to learn how to make wood automata. He leaves behind a fine legacy of outstanding craftsmanship, playfulness, and artistry. He will be missed by many.

Here is a series of photographs from a Nishida exhibit.

Mr. Nishida's book, Movable Illustration, is imported from Japan and may be ordered from the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online shop.


Update:
10 March 2009 Sadly CMT has no books in stock at this moment.


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Rare Black Forest 'Rat Eater' Automton Clock

A fairly common animated figure in Black Forest German clocks is 'The Dumpling Eater'. The folks over at North Coast Imports shared this video of a rare variation. Rather than dumplings, the animated pirate figure on this clock is eating rats!

Check out this an many other interesting Black Forest automata clocks at the North Coast Imports Blog.

[ Thanks Dolf! ]


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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dancing dog with a chicken on his head

Dancing dog with a chicken on his head
Here's a fun looking automaton featuring a dancing dog. With a chicken. On its head.

From the automaton description:
If you can imagine a dog who had one too many at the local bar and ended up in the 'Dance with a Chicken' contest. When you turn the handle on this automata, the loosely jointed dog dances on the stage and the chicken turns on his head! Measures about 4 X 15 X 11 inches tall.


Check out this and several other automata from the Blue Bell Folk Art web site.

[ Thanks Charles! ]


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Monday, February 02, 2009

Cupid, Robot and Grumpy Goat Downloads

For a limited time, Rob Ives of Flying-Pig Paper Animations Kits, is offering three of his downloadable kits for one special price.

You can get the files to download and make a cupid, grumpy goat, AND robot (shown here) for £4.99 GBP or a little over $7 USD.

After February, these three kits will only be available printed form.

Here's a link to the Cupid, Robot, Grumpy Goat package deal.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'Illumination', third recent Automaton by Tom Haney

Illumination Automaton by Tom HaneyHere is the third of the recent motorized automaton by Tom Haney. This one is entitled 'Illumination'. This piece along with the other two -- 'Dubious' and 'Relique' -- will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of Illumination by Tom Haney.


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Junod's Wonderland - video of a true master

A wonderful video with English translations profiling a modern master of classic automata. I'm so glad people like Francois Junod and his team still exist.

From the YouTube description:
Swiss artist Francois Junod has changed the automaton into a new art form. He calls his unique creations androids - mechanical robots designed to resemble humans in both appearance and behaviour. (swissinfo, Julie Hunt) visited his studio in St Croix, in the Jura mountains.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

'Dubious' - Awesome automaton BY Tom Haney

Take a look at the shady character depicted in Tom Haney's new automaton entitled Dubious.

This charming piece and two others (stay tuned to this channel!) will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of Dubious by Tom Haney.


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Friday, January 16, 2009

Butterfly paper automaton kit from CeraCera

Butterfly paper automaton kit from CeraCera
The folks over at CeraCera have just come out with four new paper automata kits. Among them is this charming Monarch Butterfly that gently flaps its wings when you turn the the crank.

Here is a link to the Monarch Butterfly paper automaton kit from CeraCera.


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is there a site that focuses on documenting toys?

A reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog recently wrote to me about a neat little motorized toy he has. He also posed a question.

Reader John Grabowski writes:
Last Christmas, my mom gave me a wind-up tin toy Santa that they got a couple of years before I was born (circa early '60s). I have always loved this wind-up Santa, so I searched the web to try and find out more about him or see similar pieces. I didn't find any like him anywhere though. This year, I got him working really smoothly again, so I filmed a video of him doing his thing. That way, I figured anyone into this sort of stuff would get a chance to see him. Do you know of any site that focuses on displaying and documenting toys (rather than simply selling them)?

I don't have an answer myself. How about the rest of you out there? Do you know of a site like the the one John asks about? If so, post a comment here. Thanks! -Dug North


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Gizmos -- The best paper automata deal around!

I made a huge oversight in my recommendations for mechanical toys. The Gizmos kit gives you everything you need to make eight Rob Ives models. For one very affordable price, you get:
  • A 144-page book with an introduction to automata and the simple mechanisms
  • A pre-made pop-up frog ready to jump
  • Punch-out parts for two snap-up models
  • Complete punch-out parts to create six fully animated paper machines: Die Fledermaus, Mouthy Moose, Schrodinger's Cat, Shrimp Boat, Surf Bunny, and Marching Robot
  • Reusable templates for each of the model parts, to get you started on future projects
Gizmos is a great way to learn basic mechanical principles and paper-engineering techniques.

Here's a link to Gizmos by Rob Ives


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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'The Whole World and You' with automata actors

An automata-based reality sets the backdrop to this very catchy tune. The song -- titled "The Whole World and You" -- is by the band Tally Hall. I think I like these guys!

[ Thanks S.C.! ]


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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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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paper snowman model, automata, & surprise gifts

Snowman paper model kitRob Ives over at Flying Pig Paper Animation Kits has just released a new paper model for the holiday season. The snowman shown here is a downloadable model. You simply pay online using your Paypal account or a credit card, then download the .PDF that contains the pattern and instructions. Don't worry if you are not used to paying in Great Britian Pounds (GBP) -- PayPal will convert the transaction into your currency. Most cost less than a cup of Starucks coffee. Once you download the file, print it, cut out the pieces, and glue it together as instructed.

If you have kids at home on vacation complaining of having "nothing to do", check out all of amazing paper animation kits from Flying Pig. There are dozens, ranging from dinosaurs to working paper locks. You can let the kids choose the model and have the kit printed out in just minutes. That ought to keep them busy!

Struggling for what to get the crafty/clever person in your life for the holidays because you think they already have everything? Why not surprise them by pre-ordering Rob's forthcoming book? It's called Paper Engineering & Pop-ups For Dummies.Give them an envelope with a print out of the book's cover and they'll look forward to receiving a great gift in just a few months.


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