Friday 27 December 2013

Mechanical Circus: Automata Workshops

George slaying the Dragon Automata

Throughout November I was busy running a series of workshops in schools across Cumbria and up to Dumfries for Tullie House. The workshops involved me working with Keystage 2 children to help them make simple automata. In February Tullie House has a big automata exhbition coming up, called Mechanical Circus and the idea of these workshops was to stir up interest. The main exhibition will be in the art gallery and in the foyer some of the automata made during the workshops will also be on display.

My samples

My samples

I have blogged a little about this project before and it was something I was really looking forward to, and now having delivered the workshops I can say how much I enjoyed it. It was great working with all the different schools, the teachers and students were so enthusiastic and had some fantastic ideas. I was very impressed with the automata they have made and can't wait to see them on show in Tullie House.

Putting the mechanism together

Checking the mechanism is in the right position

In the workshops I introduced cams and then each child made their own simple automata with a cam mechanism that made an element either spin or move up and down. I designed the project so that it would be possible for each child to make a moving model and so I chose cams as it is a relatively simple mechanism and easy to get right. So, for more mechanically minded students they could see what they could make a cam do and for those more interested in visual things there was the option of really going crazy with the decoration. I did provide templates for the decoration but encouraged people to come up with their own designs as much as possible. There were some amazing creations including a chattering skull, a trampolinist and a beautiful ballerina to name a few.

Getting creative

Beautiful balloon and scenery

One of the things I really enjoyed about these workshops was how differently the students approached things and the different aspects of the project that they either excelled at or struggled with. Some groups got to grips with the mechanism straight away but struggled with design ideas whilst other classes were the other way round.

Seal balancing a ball

And a door to show how it works

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and I hope to do more work in schools in the future. All the schools I visited were friendly and welcoming and seemed to value what I was doing. I think that workshops like this are a great opportunity for the students to try something a bit different and really get to test their creativity. I was truly inspired and impressed with some of the work that the children produced and I'm excited to have been part of it, I hope that I have inspired some of the students to try new things and be a bit more confident in their abilities.

Seal with a bouncing ball

Twirling ballerina

Monday 23 December 2013

Life Drawing: October-December

Usually I try and post about each life drawing session I run within a week, partly because I like to keep up to date with things and partly because otherwise I forget what happened. However, as things all went a bit crazy in October/November I totally failed to post about any of the sessions or indeed about anything else. So, here is a selection of drawings from the last four sessions. The photographs aren't great quality on account of the fact that either there has been no decent daylight in which to take pictures or when there has been I have been out. 

31st October

Water soluble graphite stick

Blue pen

Pen, continuous line



14th November

Continuous line, pen

Continuous line, pen

Continuous line, pen. Detail of a bigger drawing.

28th November

This session was a lot of fun as the model brought his bike in and did a set of poses on the bike. It was quite a challenge but really good to try something different and it really helped to get some more dynamic poses which hopefully translated into more exciting drawings.

Continuous line, pen



Detail of head 

Continuous line, pen.

12th December

It's been a funny set of sessions; out of 5 sessions I had to re-arrange the models for 3 of them. Luckily I have a group of excellent and very reliable models who were able to help me out, sometimes at very short notice. I'm looking forward to getting going again in the New Year and hopefully trying a few new things out.


Possibly my scariest drawing to date

Water-soluble graphite stick

Continuous line, pen

Sunday 8 December 2013

International Art

Flower designs inspired by Polish folk art

Last half term I did a couple of mornings at Pennine Way Primary School as part of their International week. Working with each class in Key Stage 1 we looked at patterns from their chosen country (each class chose a different country) and then used fabric pens and collage to each make an individual fabric patch.

We used fabric pens and collage

Ceramic tile designs from Portugal inspired another class

Each class also worked on a large group collage to do with their chosen country and I then took away all the pieces and sewed the individual patches around the group collages to create a hanging for each class. Because I've had so much other work on I've only just finished sewing all the bits together and I'm looking forward to taking them to the school this week. I've backed them all with a nice bright red cotton and put ribbon hanging loops in. I hope they'll be pleased!

The flag of the USA surrounded by individual designs

Some of the individual patches 

Working with nursery we looked at the USA and they did a group collage of the flag and then individual patches based on animals. We looked at native American art for inspiration.

Uluru was chosen for the group collage for Australia 

Animals of Australia 

This patch uses the colours of the Aboriginal flag 

A very happy kangaroo

A scary number of spiders!

Another class looked at Australia and so we looked at aboriginal dot paintings and most of the patches were based around the animals in Australia. The designs from this group were full of character and they were really imaginative.

This class collaged a map of Portugal

They based their designs on ceramic tiles

They were really good at using colour

They came up with some beautiful patterns

For the class who had chosen Portugal I found some images of beautiful patterned tiles. The children did a fantastic job of both copying some of the patterns and creating their own on their patches.

The Polish eagle formed the centre of this classes piece

Their individual patches were based on floral motifs

Floral designs

Lots of floral designs inspired by Polish folk art

One of the other countries we looked at was Poland. Again we looked at traditional folk art and noticed that there were a lot of floral motifs so the children made their patches very floral. I was very impressed with some of the lovely designs they came up with.

The Eiffel Tower was chosen to represent France

The patches were all based on France's national flower, the lily

Another lily design

France had also been chosen by one of the classes and the teacher had asked each of her students to draw a lily, the national flower of France, on their patches.

I really enjoyed working with the students and teachers at Pennine Way. It was interesting seeing how differently people approached things and how this affected the finished pieces. I learnt a lot from this project and hope that the school got a lot out of it too.