Anubis and Other Automata

Since the 80s, Paul Spooner, Matt Smith and a few like-minded craftspeople have been turning out hand-cranked wooden automata which are in varying degrees witty, dark, twee and incredibly intricate. Once upon a time, their work lived at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre in Covent Garden, now long-gone. Since then I had lost track of the whole scene, but according to the Observer last weekend, this stuff is now considered very collectable. There’s a retrospective starting at Gallery 27 in Cork Street on September 20th.

Evidently Spooner’s intricate mechanisms are inspired by the four-volume Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers and Inventors, edited by Franklin D Jones (Industrial Press, Inc, 1930). Still in print. I can see the fascination — just skip through to the Index pages…

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