Back in 2012 we featured a brief video about a small automaton that could almost perfectly mimic the song of a bird. Using mechanics similar to a clock, the fully automated wind-up device sucks air into a small bellows and forces it through a tiny whistle that sounds exactly like a singing bird. What my non-automata-knowledge-having-self didn’t realize at the time was that the century-old gadget was just one part of a much more intricate miniature automaton called a singing bird box.
The invention of singing bird boxes is attributed to Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz who also played a significant role in the creation of The Writer, a programmable automaton of a writing boy that recently inspired the movie Hugo. The basic device includes the bellows mechanism mentioned above along with a fully articulated bird with a moving beak, rotating head, and flapping wings. Several 18th and 19th century watchmakers including Jacob Frisard, Frères Rochat, and Charles Bruguier, were inspired by Jaquet-Droz’s to create their own opulent variations of singing bird boxes which are highly prized by collectors today. Variations include cigar holders, singing bird guns, and jewelry/makeup boxes.
One fantastic source of many antique bird boxes is London-based Douglas Fisher Antique Automata who carefully films almost all of their devices and makes them available on their YouTube channel. Included here are a few of my favorites, and you can also watch a number of fantastic technical videos about singing bird boxes filmed by Troy Duncan. (via The Presurfer)
Photographer Chris Morgan snapped these great macro shots of hummingbirds in 2011 at Bosque De Paz, a 3,000 acre privately-owned biological reserve in the middle of Costa Rica. The top photo is a Green-Crowned Brilliant, a bird that only grows to a length of 13cm and is not known for its ability to sit for portraits. You can see more of Morgan’s bird photos here. (via Lost at E Minor)
Year after year, artist and designer Diana Beltran Herrera (previously) continues to astound with her near perfectly accurate reproductions of birds using paper. The fragile sculptures shown here are a mix of private commissions and pieces for several luxury brands who use her work in displays and advertising. Originally from Columbia, Herrera studied in Bogota before spending time in Finland to study ceramic sculpture. She is now currently working on an M.A. in fine art at UWE Bristol and creates paper birds in her spare time. She most recently spoke at Pictoplasma in Berlin and had work at Centrespace in Bristol. You can see many more paper creations over on Flickr. (via Yatzer)
Apropos of nothing, here’s a quick video of a Japanese illustrator who goes by the name Satsuma, working with a Northern white-faced owl perched on his hand. The clip is humourous in and of itself, but it’s especially fascinating to see the stabilization of the bird’s head and eyes while he works. Strangely mesmerizing. (via Tastefully Offensive)
It’s Friday, so here’s whacky animated short from Helene Marchal who vastly improved this footage of a seabird poking around along the seashore with a few animated flourishes and a quirky soundtrack. On behalf of the internet would like to request many, many more of these.
Robin, 12cm tall. Copper wire and telephone cabling.
UK artist Celia Smith works with various forms of wire to create delicate bird sculptures and installations. While somewhat abstract in appearance, the pieces are almost lifelike in form and scale as if drawn with a pen. You can see over 50 different pieces by the artist on her website, and catch an interview over on Ideas in the Making. Not shy about her process or methods, she also offers wire sculpting workshops.
Egret, 48cm tall. Steel wire and telephone cabling. / Peacock, 110cm Tall. Steel bar, copper wires and telephone cabling
Mumeration of Starlings. Installation of 60 wire birds dimensions variable. Paper coated telephone wires and steel wire.
Lapwings. 30cm high. Copper wire and telephone cabling.
Swirling Lapwings. 1.5m X 1.5m steel wire and telephone cabling.
Starling Wreath. 100cm diameter. Paper coated telephone wires and steel wire.