automata

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Art

30 Hand-Cranked Machines Comprise Amusing Series of Miniatures by Artist Federico Tobon

June 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Similar to Lalese Stamps’s personal challenge to create 100 ceramic mug handles, a Los Angeles-based artist has crafted an amusing series of hand-cranked automatons in just 30 days. Federico Tobon, of wolfCat Workshop, used popsicle sticks, metal clips, paper, and scrap material for One Month of Small Machines, a four-week-long project that generated different, moveable figures and animals each day. “The A-HA moment from these projects was when I discovered that using paper gives these machines a very organic feel,” he said. “Some of them would look very stiff and mechanical otherwise.”

Since November 2017 when Tobon created these miniature apparatuses, he’s taken on more month-long challenges, which he often shares on Instagram. Check out the full collection on his site or by watching the video below. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 

 



Art

Follow Nectar-Hungry Birds as They Soar Through New Automated Flip Books by Juan Fontanive

March 26, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Artist Juan Fontanive (previously) constructs ornithology-oriented flip books which constantly loop with the help of a few hand-built mechanics. The still images are sourced from 18th and 19th-century natural history illustrations, and when combined imitate the motion of a bird in flight. Although these works were completed this year, Fontanive has been working on the series since 2004 while he was studying at the Royal College of Art. Previous animation explorations have featured butterflies and birds drawn with graphite and colored pencil. You can see more of his automated sculptures on his website and Vimeo.

 

 



Art Design

The Quirky Wooden Automata of Kazuaki Harada

February 28, 2018

Christopher Jobson

With the push of a button or the crank of a handle, these whimsical wooden automata by Japanese woodworker Kazuaki Harada spring to life, with figures that bounce and dance across a miniature stage like puppets. Harada is a prolific designer of mechanical designs fashioned from wood both large and small, from tiny single-crank pieces to giant labyrinthine playscapes in galleries and museums. The delight in many of his automata is derived from their simplicity, but lately he’s explored increasingly elaborate devices like a dot matrix printer and longer sequences akin to a Rube Goldberg machine.

Harada shares his latest work on Instagram and you can watch nearly a decade of his completed pieces on his YouTube channel. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

 



Art Design

Elaborate Hand-Cranked Automata by Dave Hall

June 21, 2016

Christopher Jobson

The mechanics for creating a basic hand-cranked toy automata aren’t particularly complex. A few pieces of wood, a crank, and a some bent wires and it’s possible to produce some basic movements. However designer Dave Hall takes things to an entirely different level with his ludicrously complex contraptions that move dozens of interconnected parts with the help of a single crank. His latest piece depicts a man riding a quirky kangaroo accompanied by a trusty cat clutching a fish surrounded by numerous birds and flowers. Hall works out of his house and claims to not even have a studio or work with special tools with the exception of a dremel. You can see more of his automata creations on his website. (via Hi-Fructose)

 

 



Art Design

An Amazing Collection of Mechanical Singing Bird Automata Filmed by Douglas Fisher

July 21, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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)

 

 



Art

New Bird & Butterfly Flip Book Machines by Juan Fontanive

April 15, 2014

Christopher Jobson

flippy-2

Artist Juan Fontanive (previously) constructs perpetually looping flip book machines that depict flying birds lifted from audubon guides and illustrations of butterflies. Part film and part sculpture, almost every aspect of the flip books are assembled by hand from the minutely toothed gears, clips, nuts, bolts, wormwheels and sprockets to the carefully screen printed imagery. Of the curious devices Gild Williams remarked, “Fontanive’s artworks seem strangely possessed, producing curiously moving animals that are neither living nor dead, or creating ghostly systems which seem to float mid-air and follow a pace and logic of their own.” You can see much more of his work over at Riflemaker.

 

 

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