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machinations museum of automata

Automata Exhibition

Machinations has one of the few Contemporary Automata collections (mechanical moving models) open to the public in the UK.

Most of the exhibition is the collection of Pat Osborne and was on show originally in Liverpool. The collection features nine different contemporary artists/craftsmen.
Some are like moving cartoons, others superbly hand carved or beautifully engineered. The exhibition has an educational value for all ages as well as being great fun.

It all started with Eric Williamson, one of the founders of Timberkits LTD and Machinations who started off as a wood carver making finely crafted automata on traditional themes. He may often be seen around the place looking like the archetypal mad inventor with a light dusting of sawdust and pockets full of tools. Visitors may feel free to accost him and tap into his deep fund of knowledge. 

Over the years Eric has made many large and extraordinary models, some of which are on show here but in more recent years he has focused on designing the ever developing range of self assembly Timberkit models, also on view and for sale in our shop.

Scroll down for more information on the designs and their designers featured in the Machinations exhibition.

The exhibition is free to view, some of the models are hand operated but some require tokens (10p each from cafe counter) to make them work.
Machinations timberkits eric williamson
machinations artist vicky woods armarda   Vicky Wood
Armada, 1992 Collection Pat Osborne

Vicky started out as a potter before moving into the world of automata. She and her husband were both fascinated by Medieval manuscripts, the wording and artwork of which formed a common theme in their collaborative work. They ran a gallery and studio in Totnes for many years where Vicky was a member of the Bovey Tracey based Guild of Craftsmen.
Norman Sanders
Beam Engine, collection Machinations

Fellow of the Royal Society and distinguished engineer specialising in micro materials and their applications. Norman had a huge breadth of experience in industry having started in the workshop and working up all levels to director of development at Milwards (needle manufacturers) where he registered a long list of patents in his own name and that of the company. The last stage of his career involved setting up a micro-needle making manufacturers in Llanidloes.

Norman had a major input into the semi automation of the Timberkits production process here in Llanbrynmair before the designs went to China for manufacture. He was and always will be a source of inspiration for Eric Williamson.

"Always allow yourself to dream", Norman Sanders.
  machinations automata beam engine norman saunders
machinations automata kate brakspear   Kate Brakspear.
Killing Time, collection Kate Brakspear

Kate gained a degree in Sculpture from Norwich School of Art before moving to Pembrokeshire in 1988. Here she joined 6 other sculptors to form the North Pembrokeshire Network of Sculptors.

‘’If I hadn’t been so shy I may never have set about teaching myself to make automatons. In them I found a theatre where I could indulge the repressed meglomaniac in me, with total control over the scripts, sets, costumes and actors in minutiae. I could voice my observations of lifes absurdities in as flamboyant a manner as I desired without ever having to step into the spotlight. I always start a piece with the figures and a clear image of what I want them to do…then conquering the challenges set by the mechanisms is part of the joy.’’ Kate Brakespeare
Philip Lockwood
Cat and Mouse, collection Pat Osborne

Philip trained at Junior School of Art and Design Sheffield College of Arts and Crafts and Leeds College of Art, Retford (Teaching Certificate). His work is included in collections in America, Norway, Austria, Japan, Australia and Switzerland as well as in the UK.
"When I first began making Automata, I was influenced by the Victorian craftsmen who took so much pride in their work that they would even embelish internal parts which would normally never be seen. I had a vision of rich mahogany frames supporting carefully polished moving parts. I produced "domestic" or "parlour pieces" which I hoped would become "family heirlooms". If this was to be the case, longevity was required, so I tried (and still try) to design each item to last as long as possible. My method of developing an automaton is to firstly produce sketches for each piece, followed by highly detailed working drawings with the mechanism fully developed. However, as soon as I get into the workshop and begin working in three dimensions - I change things!"
  machinations automata cat and mouse philip lockwood
machinations automata eric williamson cook   Eric Williamson
Cook, collection Machinations

Originally made for the pastry department at Selfridges, the Cook is a fine example of Eric's exquisite carving and attention to detail and Alison, his wife, made the miniature clothes. Eric was always obsessed with bringing wood to life in texture, colour and movement. He began by making marionettes but after getting fed up with shops ringing to complain about tangled string he started to think about puppets without strings - hence - automata.

His models got bigger and more elaborate over the years and, fantastically impressive though they were, it was impossible to quote realistic prices and time scales for their build. Having attended many craft shows with his models and meeting like minded eccentrics it occurred to him that sending out un-assembled components for customers to build their own models was more practical than painstakingly constructing them all himself, so began the germ of an idea which has since grown into Timberkits LTD.
Andy Hazell
The Cyclist

Based in the Mid Wales market town of Knighton in Powys, Andy Hazell is a prolific and popular maker whose broad spectrum of work ranges from tin automata to large-scale public art. He is a recycler of objects on a gargantuan scale.

Working with recycled tin and sheet metal, he creates automata that are often inspired by the actions of daily living. He makes little tin figures that represent moments in time. As he folds, bends, beats and solders bits of tin, time passes. Tea is drunk and biscuits disappear until he has made a person with a life of their own. He imagines what magazines they will read and whether or not they have a dog. Dogs make him smile. They are always ready for a diversionary walk even if they don't realise how hard it is to make trousers out of tinplate.

His work can be seen all over the world and a visit to his website will show you many of his works including film and theatre collaborations.
  machinations automata andy hazel
machinations automata nick grey   Nick Grey
This Little Pig, collection Pat Osborne
Keith Newstead.
A Brassy Mermaid.

‘’After studying graphic design at Essex University I went to work in an art studio in Newcastle but left after only six weeks suffering from extreme boredom.
I travelled to Finland and took a job delivering newspapers but as the temperature was minus 20 degrees I decided to come back to the UK to find warmer employment.
I became a motorcycle dispatch rider (a little warmer). During this time I started to make and sell jewellery and later I saw a TV program about automata. I found the mixture of art, craft, graphics and movement very exciting and it wasn't long before I made my first piece.
I took it to a shop in London called 'Cabaret Mechanical Theatre', which specialised in modern automata. That was 20 years ago and my fascination with automata has never left me. I love to experiment with new styles and materials and to find new ways of creating movement. I never aim my work at a particular age group, and it makes me happy that both children and adults enjoy my work. I am always happy to accept new commissions both large and small.’’ Keith Newstead
  machinations automata KEITH NEWSTEAD brassy mermaid
Machinations Peter Markey Cabaret automata mechanical model   Peter Markey

Born in Swansea in 1930, Peter studied painting at Swansea Art College then taught Art as a secondary school teacher in London and Falmouth. He was one of the first artists to exhibit at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre in Covent Garden which was a collection of contemporary automata.

Peter's work is characterised by a limited range of mechanisms but a wonderful eye for telling details. He claims to be a terrible craftsman as he can't work accurately or produce smooth finishes, "If I use varnish, for example, I always get wool from my pullover stuck in it." He never carves and if the wood he buys is square in section then the animals or people portrayed will be square, but, simplistic though that may sound, he still acheives wonderful characterisation and humour, whilst also producing models at a pace in line with his imagination and inventiveness.

Peter was instrumental in the first stages of Timberkits LTD as a designer.

"I make things because I can't stop", Peter Markey
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