Come with your idea and be taught either at my workshop in the busy artist studios in NW London, or on Zoom. As a teacher with experience at secondary and university levels I’ve designed the course so that the student can realise their automata project through a process of simple stages. The course is flexible to fit with your schedule - it will involve an initial discussion with you over the phone or by video-call, where you can describe what you wish to make. Please contact me via the "message the tutor" button on this page to discuss possible dates and any other questions or concerns prior to making your booking. The level of complexity depends on tools you have available, however simple automata can be made with few basic tools, but with ingenuity and time. The process starts with your sketches, following through to 2D card models - where you show me the movement you wish to achieve, through to 3D card and MDF sketch models to the final automaton or mechanical toy. Along the way there is the opportunity to learn about different types of mechanisms and skills, such as silver soldering, metal-work and making your own pulleys. Also mold-making, papier mache, simple electro-mechanics, electronics and Arduino coding. By the end of the course you will have completed a finished working automaton from one of my projects or your own design. Most materials are included except for specialist hardwoods, electronics, motors but I can advise where to obtain all these, in advance if necessary. I actively encourage the use of reclaimed and recycled materials and parts as this can imbue the work with special qualities. A little bit about my working background - I have taught for over 25 years in schools of all ages and am a qualified secondary level teacher. For 5 years I was associate lecturer at UAL Wimbledon College of Art in puppetry, animatronics and automata - some of the work can be seen here. I also run Meta Props and am co founder of Arts Republic, making environmental kinetic sculpture. There are a variety of projects for all levels of experience and skill - you could make a hand-cranked or motorised automaton you have in mind, or you could do one of my projects, for example 'To breathe life into an inanimate object with a hidden mechanism'. In this project you would choose any small everyday object, such as a book, and make it open - as if by magic. In this project the means of producing the movement is up to you - it is wide ranging from the low-tech of motors and cams as in automata, to the high-tech of Arduinos and servos as used in animatronics. I also have all kinds of projects that will suit your ability, from beginner to the advanced student. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss a project you have in mind. Often the course can be paused to suit the students schedule if we've reached a stage where there is a lot to do by the next week. Before embarking on the course try to acquaint yourself with different mechanical terms such as crank, pulley and cam, from books and the web. 'Cabaret Mechanical Movement' is an excellent book for beginners I look forward to hearing from you.

What's included in the price?

Eight, one hour sessions at £265 (including £25 inc. p&p for consumables and materials). There are places for two students at each session. The twelve session course includes £20 for consumables and materials. I will send special materials and components form my workshop where I stock a huge range of materials. During this time you will be able to make a moving automaton with perhaps 2-3 mechanisms. A longer (twelve session) version of the course is also available (see More from this Maker below).

What you will need

For this online course you will need access to a drill, preferably a pillar bench-press type but not essential, a range of hand tools; pliers, hammer, punch, vice, hack-saw, jig-saw, fret saw. Card, MDF, birch ply, various woods, steel, brass, silver or bright steel metric sized rods.


8 hours

Cancellation policy

Easy - Cancellation and a full refund can be obtained up to 2 weeks before the course starts



Tom Wilkinson

with Craft Courses since 2019

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Since graduating in 1977 in Film Graphic Design at Kingston Polytechnic he has worked in visual effects, automata and large public artworks. He has shown internationally with Kinetica Museum, including the Contemporary Art Society and Ars Electronica. He is also co founder of Arts Republic, an arts collective specialising in environmental art for schools and museums and is Associate Lecturer at UAL Wimbledon School of Art in Technical Arts and UCLBartlett

Suitable for

  • Adults
  • Seniors
  • Teenagers
  • Hearing impaired
  • Limited mobility
  • Easter
  • Spooky
  • Fairs, festivals & exhibitions
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced/pro level
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What does this mean?
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This course is taught online