Automata – Mechanical Art Workshop with Stephen Guy, 10/11 October

Automata - Mechanical Art Workshop with Stephen Guy, 10/11 October

Catch the spirit of kinetic art in this two day, hands-on, experimental workshop that introduces and explores the low-tech creative power of cams, drives and cranks, 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 with the movements and harnessing their intrinsic characteristics, and the junk, toys and curious bits and pieces supplied by the tutor.

Inventiveness, humour and experimentation will be at the heart of the workshop!

Participants are welcome to bring their own tools and any materials, objects or curios that could be used in the artwork.


DAY 1:

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 excercise: the whole group makes a collaborative mechanical sculpture from an easy to assemble kit of parts and a junk box

(not for taking home though!).

Start making the basic skeletal structure with instruction from the tutor, experimenting with the mechanisms and developing creative ideas.

DAY 2:

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?

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 Orts 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.

Need accommodation?

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!

£200 for the whole weekend including your tuition, tools and materials


Complete the booking form (top right of your screen, or scroll down if you’re on a mobile).


Stephen Guy

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!

James Ort

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.

Stephen Savage

It taught me the importance of play – even as an adult!


£200 for the whole weekend including your tuition, tools and materials


Complete the booking form (top right of your screen, or scroll down if you’re on a mobile).

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