Friday, January 8, 2010

Dynamic Movement!

As you know, I am constantly trying to experiment & explore the possibilities of felting. So far I've done a few pieces that jump outside the box of traditional felting techniques. Mostly done with the addition of different materials (like metal) or electronic components (like lights). Well, the evolution of FeltedChicken is about to take a giant leap forward!!! Here is what I have been working on trying to incorporate into my next large sculpture....

An automaton (plural: automata or automatons) is a self-operating machine. The word is sometimes used to describe a robot, more specifically an autonomous robot.

So I've been trying to learn ROBOTICS!! It's my eventual goal to basically make my felted sculpture come to life with animatronics. It's a pretty lofty goal, but I'm slowly taking baby steps. I have started to teach myself basic electronics (circuit building, soldering, etc.) That is taking a REALLY long time, since I have never done a single thing involving electricity or volts. But now it's time to teach myself how to make things move!!

**This drawing of a Duck Automaton shows how the duck would eat something, then poop it out!! Not sure how it works, looks complicated!

What the heck is an Automaton?!?!? You might not know the word, but everyone has interacted with one!! The most common automaton is probably a clock or watch. It is a rather complicated automaton, but has all the parts. Gears, springs, cams, non-human power source, etc. I say "non-human power source" because this is the key to an automaton. The difference between Automata Toys & Puppets is that a puppet needs constant human input to manipulate the object's movement. An Automaton may be "human-powered" by a hand-crank or winding up a spring, but it will complete it's movement cycle on it's own.

Another simple, yet common, automaton that you might know is called a Jumping-Jack!! The toy is strung so that when you pull the string down, the figure preforms a dynamic movement on it's own. Very simple (actually I should start with this type of automaton because it is simple & fun). But... of course... I've decided to jump head first, right into some more complicated pieces!!

Here is a drawing of one of the first large-scale Automaton that I want to make. It's a tattoo inspired Japanese Koi fish that will (hopefully) swim. In theory, when someone turns the crank, the fish will move it's head and tail up & down, and side to side. I'm in the process of making my first mechanical mock-up for this piece. Since I don't quite get how all the parts work, I'm making the parts out of FoamCore & clothes-hanger wire. Once I get all the moving parts perfected, then I will need to make it out of wood or another more permanent material. The fish will be made out of felt (of course) and that's one reason that I love wool!! It is so forgiving and easy to manipulate, that I can incorporate it into any new art process that I want to!

This is another idea for a piece I want to make. With this skull, in theory, the jaw will be hinged and it will move up and down to make it appear that the skull is talking. The mechanics for this piece are easier than the Koi fish piece, so I might be making this one first, just to baby step into the art of Automata!!

So I hope I peaked your interest & introduced you into a new art form. Automata are seen throughout history, as far back as ancient Greece. Even in ancient times, people were fascinated with giving life to otherwise inanimate objects!!


  1. All that sciency stuff hurts my brain but I look forward to seeing your experiments and I've always been a sucker for inanimate objects becoming animate....(like my wind-up Godzilla that shoots sparks).

  2. HAHA!!! That's funny cause more-often-than-not, when I'm working on teaching myself the "science-type stuff" I actually tell my boyfriend that I need a break... cause my brain hurts!!!