Learning to Fly

The 100 Day Project Week Five

Learning to Fly

Learning anything takes time and patience. I constantly feel as though I don’t have enough of either.

I so desperately want to be able to create the things and creatures of my imagination now. Right now. I’m so impatient. I am learning, but my progress feels very slow.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to do something? To perhaps learn to play the piano, or to train your body to run the London marathon? Then you’ll know that it takes time and practice.

Learning to drive is a good example, it’s an experience that the majority of adults try at some point or other. At first we need to learn how to operate the car and grow proficient enough with its controls, before we can to turn our attention to our surroundings. And then finally we develop sufficient knowledge and confidence to travel to some distant destination on unfamiliar roads.

Learning how to make automata is very like this. It appears to be so darn simple. Just like driving.

At the moment I am learning the basics, how the fundamental principles work. It’s far more challenging than I had first envisioned. The mechanisms appear deceptively simple, but are in fact extremely complex. At present my current skill level is akin to being a learner driver who can’t quite get her head around the basics of changing gear, so I’m crawling along in first gear.

It’s painfully slow going. Inside I’m desperate to do the equivalent of driving from my home in the south of England, to the northern most part of Scotland to experience the Northern Lights. I want to instinctively know which mechanism to use and how to create it, to make my creatures perform the movements I dream of.

I know exactly what I want them to do but haven’t the faintest clue how to go about it. However, I am learning. And I know considerably more now than when I made my first little dragon automata from card, paper clips and a cork.

And oh my goodness, I’m loving every minute!

As you’d expect, if you know me at all by now, I have ideas positively bursting out of my head. However, the difficulties I had with my hare project reminded me of the need for slow steady progress. I tried to create something far too advanced for my current skill level. Learning any new skill requires repetition to practice and reinforce what is being learnt, so with this in mind this week I embarked on creating three simple birds. All the same basic automata mechanism, the same size and shape bird, just different colouring. My aim is to make them well and to a standard that I’d happily sell.

The idea for these bright and cheerful bird sculptures has been in my imagination for months but I couldn’t get my head around how to create the pattern. I tried several times but couldn’t quite achieve the look I was after, so my bird project was left on the back burner almost, but not quite, abandoned.

Isn’t it fascinating that sometimes a problem simply needs to be approached from a different angle, a different perspective? This time around, my focus has been entirely on the flight movement I want to create. A bird seemed the obvious subject so I searched on-line and studied the little quarrel of sparrows outside my studio window for inspiration and shape.

All of a sudden something shifted. The previous mental blockage was gone and after two prototypes, I had a usable bird pattern. What’s more, I’m fairly confident that I can adapt it to create other types of birds too. More doors to opportunities are opening.

This morning, another door opened.

Now I’m fairly confident that I know how I will complete the simple automata flight mechanisms for these three little birds. I will be reinforcing what I’ve already learned by repeating it. However, this morning I realised I can use a twist of the same basic mechanism to create an entirely different flight movement.

I will need to build a prototype to ensure it works in the way I think it will, but I can already feel the excitement bubbling away, encouraging me to dream of plans for my next automata.

Meanwhile this week, a friend has challenged me to create a three bee automata. Ideas for possible designs and the necessary mechanisms to operate them, are niggling away, trying to get my brain to work out how they might be possible. But creating the design that is in my head, would be like trying to drive on the motorway before mastering driving around a 20 mph zone. Therefore, as tempting as it might be to get carried away with ideas and plans, I have decided to wait until after my 100 Day Project is complete. Hopefully by then I will have amassed a better skills and knowledge foundation on which to build, to make my three bee automata a reality.

I’m taking one step at a time. Learning each skill properly before moving onto the next. Believe me, it’s taking every mental restraint possible to stop myself getting too carried away. The creatures from Concordia’s World are coming to life. Albeit in baby steps!

Now to get back to finishing my three little birds……

Have a wonderful week,

Until next time

Mary-Ann x


This weeks progress began with asking you to choose a colour scheme. My Facebook and Instagram followers made a different choice, so I made both, knowing full well I intended making three birds anyway.


  1. Isn’t it awesome how we can set our brain a challenge and by resting on it our brain works through the problem/challenge and works out an answer. We are fearfully and wonderfully made! So are bird flying automata! I look forward to seeing the prototype!!
    I love your progress towards eating the elephant – one mouthful at a time. Keep chewing!!

    • Oh Susan, I love this. Thank you so much.
      I have a little mantra I write every morning that reminds me to never give up!
      I’ve no idea if my dreams will come true but in a way it doesn’t matter. I’ve come to realise that it’s the journey rather than the dream that’s important. And I’m loving mine! Xx

      • Life is a journey, not a destination. So yes, enjoy the ride!! Watching your progress, your journey is fun!! I love the way you do things, work stuff through. Just keep it up 🙂

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