Designing your own Automata takes a little time and effort. Coming up with creative solutions is not easy. Below is an outline of the process used by professional designers. It should help you to get started.

Inspiration
Mechanical toys and automata often appear to have a life of there own, the simple mechanical parts seem to produce an almost magical response to the the figures that they move. Automata come in a vast range of sizes and varying degrees of complexity. Some may keep your interest for several minutes whilst others you may just pass by.
What makes an automata “good” is very subjective. We all like different things and we don’t all find the same thing funny. As the great saying goes “ You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” So where do you start. The check list below gives some simple suggestions against which to test your ideas.

1) Is it visually exciting?

2) Is it funny?

3) Will it intrigue the viewer?

4) Will it hold the viewers attention for at least a minute?

5) Is it too complex?

6) Is the humour to obscure?

7) Will I enjoy making it?

This is just a general check list and is by no means a full proof system for producing the perfect automata, but it does help to weed out good ideas from the bad. As a general rule at the start, it may be a good idea to base your ideas on something that you are interested in such as a sport, a hobby, etc. Animals can provide a wonderful subject on which to base a theme for an automata.
As with any creative process, coming up with the idea is often the hardest part of the whole process. You may on the other hand be lucky and be brimming with ideas. But it’s probable fair to say that most people have to work hard at the inspirational or ideas stage.

Research
Once you have come up with an idea the next stage is to research it. The purpose of research is to get as much information as you can about your subject. This helps you to work out how something moves, the colours, the scale etc. Research can be broken down into two areas.

1) Primary Research: This is were you make drawings of your subject from life.

For example you may draw a camel at a zoo. You don’t have to be a great artist. Just looking and observing helps you understand your subject. You may not always be able to draw from life and the temptation is always to work from the easiest sources. But the best and most creative works always evolves out of good observation. This is true for all the arts and crafts and is the reason why so may artists spend so much time time drawing.

2) Secondary Research: Refers to things such as photos, pictures, photocopies etc.

This is usually the most accessible material to get hold of. The library is a good place to start and you can often photocopy relevant pages from books.

Designers often put together a “mood board” or “Ideas Sheet” which is made up from a range of material that reflects the theme. It includes colours, textures, surroundings etc. They are often used in the fashion industry but are of great benefit to any designers. In its simplest form you could paste up all of your research material onto A3 or A2 paper. Remember your ideas sheet is there to inspire you so make it interesting.

Designing
When you have got your research material, you need to start thinking about developing it into a working solution. A good idea is to start off by writing a “statement of Intent”. This is simply a few sentences about the automata you want to make. It’s a great way of focusing your thoughts and in effect is the basis for a design brief. The following headings should help as a guideline as to the sort of things you should be thinking about.

1) Whom is my automata intended for? Is it a small child,
12-14 year old or adult etc.

2) What size will it be? Automata can range from miniature pieces
for dolls houses through to hand held ones onto large scale works.

3) Simple or complex? One golden rule is to keep things simple
but even simple automata can get complicated.

4) What materials do I want to work in? Automata can be made
in paper, wood, or metal. Often you will work in a range of materials.

5) Dead lines: How long have I got to make it?

 

 

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