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Automata – mechanical art workshops with Stephen Guy


About the Course

Catch the spirit of kinetic art in this two day, hands-on, experimental workshop that introduces and explores the low-tech creative power of cams, drives and cranks, powered by hand.
Using pre-made wood and metal components, participants construct a basic cam and crankshaft mechanism. This skeletal structure is the creative springboard to designing and constructing your own individual kinetic artwork or automaton. It can be hacked around in any way, including building up more complex mechanisms.

Creative ideas will likely by sparked by playing around with the movements and harnessing their intrinsic characteristics, and the junk, toys and curious bits and pieces supplied by the tutor.

Inventiveness, humour and experimentation will be at the heart of the workshop!

Participants are welcome to bring their own tools and any materials, objects or curios that could be used in the artwork.

This course is for you if:

You want to try a different medium to explore your creativity or artistic practice
You lack confidence in your potential mechanical and engineering skills
You want to combine engineering with art
You love automata but don’t know where to start
You want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in a fun, creative environment
Pre course prep

Check out examples of automata on the internet, look at the mechanisms and think about the style you like and might want to try.

Keep an eye out for interesting and curious objects that could be animated in your sculpture.

You will be sent an automated email on booking which prompts you towards documents that help you prepare for your time here. If this does not happen then please email James before the course.

Need accommodation?

If you are travelling from further afield and would like to stay in the area for your visit then have a look at our recommend B&Bs and hotels. Click here for the list.

Beyond The Course

Having completed a Phoenix Studio weekend many of our students choose to explore the medium further. They may come on another weekend course, start coming to our Creative Monday Sessions, evening sessions or carry on independently at home. We are more than happy to help and advise you in taking those first creative steps!

If you will be redeeming a CraftCourses gift voucher on this course, the voucher code must be provided at the point of booking.

What's included in the price?

Informal, relaxed & attentive guidance for every student, provided by Stephen Guy
The tutor’s collection of automata to study and inspire
Various automata books will be provided by the tutor for reference and ideas
Freedom to create any design that is rooted in the base structure supplied (subject to available resources, time and individual ability)
Opportunity to work with a variety of materials – metal, wood, plastic, wire, card, paper
Suitable for?

Suitable for all abilities subject to a basic competence in craftwork and using hand and powered tools, and being prepared to develop your own creative ideas.

We generally limit the age to 14 years old+ though exceptions can be made where appropriate. Please contact James Orts and ask.

What is included in the price?

Two full days tuition (10am-4.30pm)
All the components to make a basic working crank, cam and drive mechanism.
A decent range of tools, such as a pillar drill and scroll saw. (If you are unfamiliar with any tool, don’t worry, this is your chance to learn how to use it)
Lots of metal and wood construction materials, glues and fasteners. A variety of art and craft materials, and the eclectic junk box.
Printed hand outs of useful component suppliers for automata-makers
Tea, coffee, biscuits/cakes
Use of a beautiful, purpose built art studio
Beautiful countryside setting


James Ort at The Phoenix Studio
The Phoenix Studio
Chinnor Rd
Towersey, Near Thame
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Suitable for

  • Accommodation offered
  • Advanced/pro level
  • Engagement, birthdays & anniversaries
  • Hen dos
  • Intermediate level
  • Parking provided
  • Public transport
  • Romantic
  • Stag dos
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Teenagers
  • Wheelchair users

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2 days

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