Tuesday, December 29, 2009

THE JAILER - automaton by Pablo Lavezzari

Another amazing automaton by Pablo Lavezzeri. As usual, the video production is as impressive as the automaton!

See more automata by Pablo Lavezzri on his web site.

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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.

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

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Falk Keuten - Expert in Mechancial Objects & Art

Falk Keuten, mechancical objects expertThere are a few people that have really helped The Automata / Automaton Blog grow since it started in the summer of 2006. I would like to introduce you to one of those people now -- Falk Keuten of Bonn, Germany.

Herr Keuten has devoted years to collecting information, books, videos, and examples of things directly related to what is presented on this blog.

Among his many interests are:
• Mechanical toys
• Wooden automata
• Coin-operated automata, gambling and vending machines
• Amusement machines for fairs and festivals
• Odd machines, strange mechanics, mechanical chain reactions
• Paper mechanics including books, figures, and greeting cards
• Machine Art / Kinetic art
• Rolling ball sculptures as toys, construction kits, and art

Not content to simply collect items and information, he has invented some of his own things that can be described as a being a mix of toys, art, and mechanics. Herr Keuten has many connections to artists within his diverse areas of interest.

Mechanische Spielobjekte und AutomatenHe is the author of a wonderful book: Mechanische Spielobjekte und Automaten, Munich 1987, now out of print. The title translates in English as something like "Mechanical Toy Objects and Automata". I am informed, though, that in the German "automaten" includes more things than the English word "automata".

Herr Keuten has written many articles for professional journals. He writes a regular column "Virtuelle Wunderkammer" for a German journal aimed at Design and Technology teachers called tu.

He is also a key contributor to the fantastic site www.kugelbahn.ch, providing many of the links found on their kinetic arts page and the author of a comprehensive media list.

Herr Keuten has been involved in many school-based exhibitions. His last general exhibition entitled "Rollende Kugeln" (Rolling Balls) was at the gallery Studio Dumont, in Cologne, in December of 2007.

My admiration and my gratitude are sent to Falk Keuten, an expert with a generous heart.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Creative Kinetics: Mechanical Marvels in Wood

I don't know about you, but I have pre-ordered this, the latest book from Rodney Frost entitled Creative Kinetics: Making Mechanical Marvels in Wood. Amazon informs me that it is due to ship in the first week in April of 2008.

From Amazon.com:
Artist, inventor, and longtime author Rodney Frost is known for wacky, whimsical woodworking books that encourage readers to experiment. With his newest, most creative volume yet, he provides an introduction to the wild and whimsical world of kinetic art -- art that moves. Using plenty of informative sidebars and dynamic illustrations, Frost teaches the basic techniques in his own inimitable style, beginning with easy, fun projects like weather vanes and mobiles powered by air currents alone. Then it's on to simple toys you manipulate with strings, and art mechanized by levers, cranks, cams, and cogs. Far from a routine woodworking book, Creative Kinetics will inspire even the least craft-minded reader to pick up some scissors and turn a tuna can into a propeller or cardboard into a jumping-jack.

Pre-order (at a discount!) Creative Kinetics: Making Mechanical Marvels in Wood.

Check out Frost's other book on automata sold first as:
Whacky Toys, Whirligigs & Whatchamacallits and now sold under the title Making Mad Toys & Mechanical Marvels in Wood

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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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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Featured Maker: Thomas J. Kuntz

Here is the website of a truly talented automata maker -- Thomas J. Kuntz. The attention to detail is amazing as is the completeness of his artistic vision and craftsmanship.

He has several magic-themed automata, which automatically makes him one of my favorites.

From his web site:
Unlike the quaint automatons of old which usually served as cheeky entertainment and used "found" doll parts in the process in addition to the skills of many specialized artists to complete them. Kuntz does all the work himself to keep the focus and spirit of each piece as it was originally conceived. The focus is on sculpture and the mechanical contrivances are a means to a magickal end. His Personal works are often dark and satirical and are the only of their kind in the world. They have found their way into special collections around the world.

Visit the site of Thomas J. Kuntz

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Automata-Maker: Don McGranaghan

Back in October of 2006, I posted about Don McGranaghan's Einstein Automaton. In the posted I wished that there were pictures to accompany the article.

The artist was kind enough to direct me to his web site -- McGranaghan's Artistic Resources -- where plenty of pictures can be found. The site features his other artistic pursuits including painting, sculpture, illustration, and architectural installations.

Visit http://www.mar-studio.com/

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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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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Automata Maker Profile: AQUIO NISHIDA

Horse automaton by Aquio NishidaJapanese Artist Aquio Nishida had a nice exhibition this year at the Toy Museum Seiffen.

I don't read German, but I don't have to in order to appreciate the work of this automata-maker. He seems to be the expert at animating four-legged animals using many cranks and long linkages.

Visit The Toy Museum's page on the Aquio Nishida Exhibit. (Click on the small gear icons on the lower part of the page to see his work.) [Thanks Falk!]

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Automata Maker Profile: John S. Morgan

John S. Morgan - Hen AutomatonFellow automaton-maker, Saul Bobroff, recently directed me to the work of John S. Morgan. He's got a great aesthetic style and well as mechanical style. I love the extensive use of wooden gears. The woodworking looks really well done too.

Here is the link to Aardvark Studio. (Click on the little box at the bottom center of the page.)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Automata Maker Profile: Minoru Takahashi

Minoru Takahashi is another of the artist with work on display in Gadgets, Gears, and Whirligigs at the Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, Massachusetts. I stood and turned the crank on his dragonfly automata for several minutes. The motion is very captivating. I was really impressed with the wooden chain drives he uses.

It is a great honor to have a piece on display next to those of Minoru Takahashi.

Here is Minoru Takahashi's web site in English. There is even more to see if you click over to the Japanese version of the site.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Moving Exhibit - Article on Automata Exhibit

Here's a nice little article about the Charles River Museum of Industry exhibit that examines motion toys and automata.

This is the exhibit in which I have a piece on display.

Here's a link to the article: A moving exhibit

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dug North - Santa Automaton on Display!

If you live in Massachusetts or New England or are planning on visiting the Boston area, you can see one of my automata in person. I've allowed the museum to let people turn the crank themselves.

My automton Training for Christmas featuring Santa Claus doing exercises, is on display at The Charles River Museum of Industry in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. The exhibit shows automata through time and has a section featuring automata that visitors can operate. My piece is on display among a number of others by automata artists you may know, and some you may not know, but should.

The museum has lots of other things of interest to the mechanically-minded: engines, machine tools, pocket watches, bicycles, and a car from 1907!

Here's a link with contact information and directions to The Charles River Museum of Industry.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Ernie Fosselius in Make Magazine Print Edition

Automata Maker Ernie Fosselius is featured in a two page spead in the latest print edition of Make magazine (vol. 8, O'Reilly).

The spread features photos of eight of his automata and a short article.

From the article
"I'm creating little characters, situations, and stories that hopefully make people laugh".

Well, said!

Check out an interview with Ernie Fosselius at Make Zine and his entry on Wikipedia

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Arthur Ganson Show in North Carolina

In case you missed the post on The Mechanical Blog last month, a gallery show of kinetic sculpture by Arthur Ganson began on November 4th in Charlotte, NC.

From the McColl Center for Visual Art web site:
Arthur Ganson creates contraptions composed of a range of materials from delicate wire to welded steel and concrete. Most are viewer-activated or driven by electric motors. All are driven by a wry sense of humor or a probing philosophical concept.

I've seen some of his work at MIT. It's really cool!

Here's the link to Machines and Mechanisms: Kinetic Sculpture by Arthur Ganson

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Automata Maker Profile: Pablo Lavezzari

I was recently contacted by Argentinian automata-maker Pablo Lavezzari. He directed me to his web site, which I had not found on my own. Here is a beautiful site featuring the work of a talented automata maker. Be sure to check out the "Galeria de fotos" where you can see images of his work. The artist has informed me that videos are on the way, though he already has a number available on YouTube.

Visit Pablo Lavezzari's website

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Don McGranaghan's Einstein Automaton

Here's an article entitled Art in Motion from the Scranton Times-Tribune profiling the work of automata maker Don McGranaghan. McGranaghan's work sounds like it borders on animatronics as he uses electronics, cables, aluminum, stainless steel, silicone rubber, and swne clothing.

In addition to a good article, there is a nice little sidebar on the history of automata. I only regret that the article doesn't include photographs.

Read about Don McGranaghan's Einstien Automaton

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Francois Junod: Master of the Automate

This article is about Francois Junod -- one of the world's finest creators of Automate (or automata as we English speakers say). Ron DeCorte, the author, describes this as a photo-essay and, indeed, there are many, many fine photos of Junod's work.

Enjoy the work of Francois Junod, Automatier

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fourteen Balls Toy - 1 Meter High Wood Automaton

These folks make the best (and the most) contemporary automata. Fourteen Balls Toy Company is made up of Paul Spooner, Matt Smith, and Sarah Smith. I think you'll see more automata here than any other web site.

Be sure to check out the 1 meter tall version of their Head-off Anubis. Wow!

Check out the Fourteen Balls Toy website

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Automaton Kinetic Sculptures by Keith Newstead

Kinetic Sculptures by Keith NewsteadAs you've all probably gathered by now, I'm a fan of all the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre artists. In addition to my fondness for the work of Paul Spooner, I've always like the pieces made by Keith Newstead. In particular, I like the style of his figures, the inventive vehicles, and his skill with the use of brass.

Here's the link to Kieth Newstead's site

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Automata Flickr Set by Mark Frauenfelder

Drat! I'm not the only automata-maker who wears a derby! (or bowler, if you prefer.)

Oh, well...I've still got the goatee for the added time-traveller-artist-from-the-past look.

Derby competitor or not, it would appear to be Ernie Fosselius week in the automata world. His work is fun stuff.

Double admiration for this link as the photos are by one of my heroes, Mark Frauenfelder.

Here's a flickr set of Ernie Fosselius's automata.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Automata by Pablo Lavezzari

Here's a video clip of some automata by Argentinian automata-maker, Pablo Lavezzari. He's got a great style and some really wonderful designs. If I knew how to say "my hat is off to you" in his language, I certainly would!

Click out Automata by Pablo Lavezzari at YouTube.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin is one of my all-time heroes. He was a clockmaker, magician, , automatier, inventor, experimentalist, and goverment operative. His name was the inspiration for a young magican in search of a stage name. Thus, Ehrich Weiss became forever known as "Houdini".

Here's a great page about Robert-Houdin. I highly recommend the film by Jean-Luc Muller.

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