There is something about Automata that resurrects the inner child that resides in us all. I can honestly say that my favourite moments from last year was witnessing the ecstatic joy and glee on the faces of fully-grown adults as they cranked and whirled their automata into life!
Automata brings out our curious and inquisitive sides, sides that we rarely get to experience these days. Magically, the joy they bring unites and bonds previous strangers in a way that I have not seen before in my decade of running the studio. It was wonderful thing to be a part of!
So come join Stephen Guy for two days and he will tap into your forgotten love of kinetic art and toys. This hands-on, experimental workshop introduces and explores the low-tech creative power of cams, drives and cranks – all of which are powered by hand.
Using pre-made wood and metal components, participants construct a basic cam and crankshaft mechanism. This skeletal structure is the creative springboard to designing and constructing your own individual kinetic artwork or automaton. It can be hacked around in any way, including building up more complex mechanisms.
Creative ideas will likely by sparked by playing around over the two days. Experiment with various movements to harness their intrinsic characteristics, and add flare with the junk, toys and curious bits and pieces supplied by Stephen. Indeed, participants are encouraged to bring their own objects or curiosities too. They may have sentimental value, or just make you smile.
Inventiveness, humour and experimentation will be at the heart of the workshop! Watch the videos below to get a sense of what I am talking about!
General introduction to basic mechanisms, mostly by studying a collection of exhibits brought in by the tutor.
General hints and tips about making automata.
Taster making exercise: Participants playfully experiment making simple machines out of wire, wood and card.
Start making the basic skeletal structure with instruction from the tutor, experimenting with the mechanisms and developing creative ideas.
Continue on your own building your mechanical artwork with the tutor on hand to advise, help and guide.
Participants should end the day with a working machine, but this will depend on the complexity of the design and an individual’s skill and working speed.
This fun course includes:
- Informal, relaxed & attentive guidance for every student, provided by Stephen Guy
- The tutor’s collection of automata to study and inspire
- Various automata books will be provided by the tutor for reference and ideas
- Freedom to create any design that is rooted in the base structure supplied (subject to available resources, time and individual ability)
- Opportunity to work with a variety of materials – metal, wood, plastic, wire, card, paper
Suitable for all abilities subject to a basic competence in craftwork and using hand and powered tools, and being prepared to develop your own creative ideas.
We generally limit the age to 14 years old+ though exceptions can be made where appropriate. Please contact James Ort and ask.
What is included in the price?
- Two full days tuition (10am-4.30pm)
- All the components to make a basic working crank, cam and drive mechanism.
- A decent range of tools, such as a pillar drill and scroll saw. (If you are unfamiliar with any tool, don’t worry, this is your chance to learn how to use it)
- Lots of metal and wood construction materials, glues and fasteners. A variety of art and craft materials, and the eclectic junk box.
- Printed hand outs of useful component suppliers for automata-makers
- Tea, coffee, biscuits/cakes
- Use of a beautiful, purpose built art studio
- Beautiful countryside setting
This course is for you if:
- You want to try a different medium to explore your creativity or artistic practice
- You lack confidence in your potential mechanical and engineering skills
- You want to combine engineering with art
- You love automata but don’t know where to start
- You want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in a fun, creative environment
Pre course prep
Check out examples of automata on the internet, look at the mechanisms and think about the style you like and might want to try.
Keep an eye out for interesting and curious objects that could be animated in your sculpture.
You will be sent an automated email on booking which prompts you towards documents that help you prepare for your time here. If this does not happen then please email James before the course.
If you are travelling from further afield and would like to stay in the area for your visit then have a look at our recommend B&Bs and hotels. Click here for the list.
Beyond The Course
Having completed a Phoenix Studio weekend many of our students choose to explore the medium further. They may come on another weekend course, start coming to our Creative Monday Sessions, evening sessions or carry on independently at home. We are more than happy to help and advise you in taking those first creative steps!
ABOUT THE TEACHERS
Stephen is a designer-maker specialising in mechanical art. He runs workshops, events and produces educational resources, and builds interactive automata for exhibitions, science festivals and schools in the UK and around the world.
His first introduction to automata and the world of mechanically driven entertainment was at London’s legendary Cabaret Mechanical Theatre many years ago. He is still closely involved with them.
If someone spontaneously laughs at the sight of one of my automata, then for me that’s a success!
Stephen Guy – Course Tutor
We get wonderful feedback from the people who attend this course. Here are just a couple of testimonials:
I had the pleasure of being taught by Stephen and instantly thought that I need to get him to the Phoenix Studio! He was attentive, inspiring and very approachable. We have are well known for our sculpture courses here but what Stephen teaches brings a whole new dimension to 3D art! I can’t wait for the course – one space has my name on it!
I really enjoyed meeting you Stephen and thought the workshop great fun, instructive and well prepared not least due to the remarkable amount of wonderfully kitsch bits and bobs you brought! Many of which I seem to have incorporated in my effort.
It taught me the importance of play – even as an adult!