with Penny Thomson
A host of wild creatures inhabit the whimsical world of artist Penny Thomson (previously), who creates intricate, kinetic sculptures that fit in the palm of your hand. Joined in her Derbyshire studio by her daughter Briony, she works primarily with papier-mâché, which she began experimenting with when her children were still young. “Using pulp, laminated and household waste paper, and cardboard, I made a seven-foot giraffe and conducted a workshop in my son’s school, which involved all the pupils in making a 14-foot Diplodocus,” she says.
Since then, Thomson’s creations have scaled down quite a bit, but her interest in working with paper and recycled materials continues. After creating a diorama for illusionist Sam Drake’s House of Magic, she became fascinated with automata and combined skills she acquired over her career to develop the mechanical miniatures. Briony adds, “That is why we say that a batch of two or three kinetic sculptures usually take between one week and 40 years to make!” Each expressive, miniature figure incorporates a mechanism with a small handle that sets it in motion, giving life to hungry chicks, impatient zebras, and joyous penguins.
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Fish writhing through the ocean, colorful butterflies taking flight, and owls leaving their perch are a few of the creatures featured in Penny Thomson’s miniature ecosystems. The Sheffield-born artist deftly captures marine and land animals’ movement in her kinetic sculptures that operate with simple hand-cranks. Coated in moss, sprawling branches, and other foliage, the whimsical works are tiny renditions of their real-life counterparts. Thomson offers the lively creations on Etsy, but they sell out quickly so watch for shop announcements on her Instagram to snag one.
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