100 Day Project – Week Two


Automata might seem like a strange direction for my art to take, so I thought you might like to know where the idea came from.

If you’ve been following my creative development over the past few years, you’ll know that my art keeps morphing, much to the frustration of my daughter. Why can’t I stick to creating one thing?

But I’m sure you know by now that I feel compelled to follow my creative instincts to see where they lead.

Even before Concordia’s World was conceived, my creative imagination kept envisioning making my creations more alive, more real some how, hence why I moved from 2D to 3D sculptures. And I’ve delighted in being able to create textile sculptured versions of the creatures who reside in my imaginary Concordia’s World.

However, it’s still not been enough for my inner creative child. She wants more. She wants to make them move!

From time to time I’ve debated creating mobiles, yet I knew that type of motion wouldn’t be quite right. I’ve had this deep sense of the movement needing to be controlled.

I’ve long been inspired by Samantha Bryan’s adorable Faries, but I can’t help wishing the wonderful Victorian inspired inventions moved in some way.

With the benefit of hindsight the clues have always been there, like a trail of breadcrumbs waiting to be discovered.

Looking back it’s easy to see that I’ve always been obsessed with the mechanics of movement, especially whimsical Victorian inventions. You know, the type seen in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, or those invented by Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

As a child I would spend hours trying to create slot machines from old cereal packets, simply to watch a penny tumble through a series of movements before dropping out of the bottom.

I loved my marionette puppets and would try to make my own. The only books on the subject in the library, were designed for adults and involved the use of tools and equipment that were too advanced for me. But I tried anyway.

I played with my brothers Meccano endlessly to create ferris wheels, swings and other versions of Victorian style fairground rides with gears and pullies and a crank handle or sometimes a wind-up motor, to make them work. A simple wheeled vehicle was never enough.

For those of you of a certain age, you may recall the mad inventions featured on Vision On? Looking back I’ve come to realise that, much as I loved watching Tony Hearts art, I only ever watched that programme in the hopes of seeing a new invention.

On childhood holidays my parents struggled to drag me away from watching the magical astronomical clocks like the one at Wells Cathedral.

When facing the agony of indecision regarding which career to pursue on leaving school, I desperately wanted to study art, sewing and mechanics but felt that was ridiculous combination, so choose instead to go straight out to work at sixteen in the hopes that I might at some future point, have a career revelation. Would I have made the same decision if I’d known it would be another forty years before that revelation came?

Another clue is my job, working at the ancient tide mill at Eling. I absolutely adore watching the mills mechanism, the rush of water as it brings the huge interlocking wheels to life. I remain transfixed, mesmerised by the movement in a way that it difficult to explain. To me, the deep rumble of moving parts that vibrate through the entire building, feels like the mill’s heart beat. A magnificent monster come to life.

And finally I’ve come to realise that my beloved old Singer treadle sewing machine was probably the biggest clue of all. The present I was given for my ninth birthday. Much as I loved sewing, it was the love of making that treadle work that hooked me. The perfect combination of mechanics and sewing.

My trail of breadcrumbs has bought me back full circle to my childhood dreams. I’m designing and creating art that combines my deep love of sewing and mechanisms in a way that I could only dream of as a child.

Together the combination feels like magic!

In hindsight it seems mad that I made my first ever automata toy on my birthday this year. Why on earth has it taken me this long to work out what I’ve needed to be doing all along?

As you may have guessed, if you’ve read this far, I’m now hooked. I’m currently taking baby steps, trying desperately not to run before I can walk. I’ve so much that I want to learn in a hurry.

I want to animate my stitched creations with whimsical automation to bring them to life.

Using this 100 day project to teach myself 10 automata toy mechanisms seemed like the perfect way, albeit a rather ambitious way, to get started.

I can’t help wondering where this latest avenue of creativity might lead? What an exciting journey of discovery.

I’m loving every minute!

I hope you are too?

Until next week lovely follower

Mary-Ann x


Here’s a run down of this weeks progress:

Day 9: I took my butterfly with me to my regular monthly sewing group, where I happily stitched away adding embroidery to her body and securing her wings in place. Sewing complete, it was time to attach her to the mechanism. Would it work?

Day 10: Yep! 😁 Automata number one complete.

As always, I learned much from the creative process, so there are things I would do differently next time.

Day 11: I began creating a simple mechanism for my next automata.

Day 12: Ideas for the character I would create began to emerge.

Day 13: After much playing with bits of wire and cardboard I finally had a working prototype.

Day 14: Not a great day. I made a pattern and began creating the body of my tiny hare, but my choice of fabric simply wasn’t going to work. So I scrapped what I’d made, ready to begin again on day 15.

Day 15: I cut out the pieces once more and finally began making headway with my tiny textile creation.

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