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Automata Constructions at Hauser and Wirth, Somerset

Crafting Curious Automata

With Stephen Guy

29 July 2022 - 31 July 2022

3 day course 10am - 4pm

This practical three-day course with Stephen Guy of Fire the Inventor explores the creative possibilities of automata using key mechanisms, such as cams, drives and cranks, using wood, metal and wire. Participants will explore how the mechanisms and linkages function, and craft their own (fairly) simple automata using these movements in tandem with their own ideas and artistic styles.

There will be structured exercises on the first day, then for the next two days, students work on their own projects under the tutor’s guidance. Students must be prepared to come up with ideas and work on their own initiative. The emphasis is on practical experimentation and prototyping rather than designing for a preconceived end product. This course is about being playful with mechanisms, thinking about how the movements themselves can inspire the artwork and how they can be harnessed for creative effect.

Stephen will provide a wide range of construction materials, art/craft resources and a junk box. Participants are welcome to bring along their own materials and any curious bits and pieces which could be incorporated into the designs. Participants will need the ability to use basic hand tools, such as drills, saws, pliers, and instruction will be given (if required) to use bench tools, such as a scroll saw and pillar drill.

By the end of the course you will have:

  • Learnt the fundamentals about how mechanisms work and ways to construct them, about the need for accuracy and good construction for machines to work well, and how to identify problems and solve them.
  • A solid grounding in combining art with mechanical movement, seeing the creative possibilities of different types of movement, and the confidence (if needed!) and inspiration to want to continue building mechanical sculptures.
  • Your own working automata! This will depend on the complexity of a piece, an individual’s skill level and working pace, but over the course of the three days you will have a working piece/s that you can take home with you

Previous Testimonials:

“We covered a huge amount during the workshop which was fascinating, educational and a lot of fun, Stephen was fabulous!”

“I liked the one-on-one teaching, the enthusiastic presenter, and how the workshop was hands-on.”

“We received clear instructions from tutor, and the class size was not too large.”

“It taught me the importance of play – even as an adult.

Download the full Course Itinerary here

Stephen Guy

Stephen Guy is a designer-maker and artist specialising in mechanical art. He generally works as Fire the Inventor and runs workshops, events and produces educational resources, and builds interactive automata for exhibitions, science festivals and schools in the UK and around the world.

His creative process is bricolage and hands-on prototyping. Much of his time is spent hunting down curious objects, components and toys, which are categorised and stored as a library of resources. The creative process is about composition, about finding striking, funny or weird juxtapositions of objects, adapting and hacking them, and constructing mechanisms that heighten the visual impact of the sculpture.

His first introduction to automata and the world of mechanically driven entertainment was at London’s legendary Cabaret Mechanical Theatre many years ago. He is still closely involved with them.

Recent workshops and events have been run for Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, Sligo Engineering Fair, West Dean College, Hauser & Wirth (Somerset), the Institute of Physics, Tower Bridge Museum, Hackney City Farm, the Institute of Imagination, Craft Central, Wilton’s Music Hall, Warwick University in collaboration with Indian Gond artists, and Rose Bruford College of Performance and Theatre.

He has had commissions from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, the Craft Council, and Compton Verney Art Gallery to create interactive  exhibition pieces for handling by visitors. He was a design consultant for the Craft Council’s A Curious Turn exhibition, recently had a solo exhibition at Craft Central, London, and was invited to be the first Artist in Residence at Bow Arts RAW Lab in 2017.

All our course days run from 10am till 4pm

We start the first day with introductions and go over the course and its objectives. Stephen will introduce the mechanisms you will be using throughout, including studying various pieces of automata which have been brought from Stephen's archive. You will begin with a warm-up making exercise: building a collaborative automaton from pre-made parts. After a short break, you will be given a run-through on the use of workshop tools including Health & Safety, along with the necessary guidance. The next making exercise will be: cam & drive using the tutor's Cam Box Kit. After lunch, you will be exploring mechanism making exercises (with a break). We will close the day with discussions/reflections and ideas about what kind of automata to make.

We begin the second day with a discussion of individual project ideas. Once these have been explored you can get started on your individual projects with Stephen's guidance. The day will be structured with breaks and lunch as required, but you have lots of time to make and continue with your individual projects. The day will close with group reflection/discussion.

You have a final day to work on your individual projects with Stephen around for guidance. The day will be structured with breaks and lunch as required, and you will have access to everything you need to finish off and test out your individual projects. The day will close with group reflection/discussion and sharing of the automata that you have made, ready to take home.

We have a fantastic accommodation offer onsite, and would recommend staying here for the fully immersive Clayhill experience. All our accommodation is reserved for the students for the duration of the course and you will have a bedroom of your own. Our rooms have been converted from a series of old cattle sheds and from an old milking parlour and retain characterful features such as exposed wooden roof timbers and stone walls. Each bedroom has its own tea and coffee making facilities and outdoor seating area.

We also have an onsite laundry should you need to use these facilities during your stay with us. WIFI is available throughout the complex, heating and hot water is supplied by biomass technology, electricity by solar technology and all of the water around the site is fed by a natural spring.

Accommodation is offered at £80/night. If you would like to make your stay here more comfortable, you can also buy single additional nights before or after the course. (Please note any additional nights will not be catered, we are happy to recommend some local places to eat).

All courses at Clayhill Arts are fully catered, and our locally-sourced food is included in the price of your course ticket. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided. To read more about our food offering, follow this link. About our catering

Anyone with an interest in combining art and mechanics and making kinetic sculpture. No previous experience is required as Stephen will talk you through each part of the process.

In the language of educators, Stephen Guy/Fire the Inventor is about adding a missing ‘A’ to STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Mathematics – STEAM) encouraging a hands-on making, crafting, inventing, tinkering and repairing culture, and giving ourselves the time and opportunity to play around with a bunch of materials and (re)discover playful creativity.

All equipment and materials will be supplied but please bring sketchbooks and notebooks for ideas. You will need sensible clothes and shoes fit for a workshop environment. All hand tools will be supplied, but if you do have your own tools that you like to use, please bring those.

Yes! We provide refreshments throughout the day and a home-cooked lunch which is freshly prepared in our Granary kitchen. Lunch is served around our communal dining table, offering you a great chance to get to know everyone on the course and share in the making processes you have been developing throughout the day. Please advise us of any dietary requirements before arrival.

Yes! All of our bedrooms here at Clayhill are en-suite so you will have your own private space to retreat to and relax in after spending your day in the meditative space of the Studio. We provide you with your own towels and bathroom products for use throughout your stay and you can enjoy the extensive grounds well into the evening. If you do choose to stay with us a bespoke evening meal as well as breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Buy Tickets


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Course ticket - Crafting Curious Automata
£ 350.00
2 available
Course Accommodation - Crafting curious automata
£80/night x 2
£ 160.00
4 available
Extra night - Before
£ 80.00
8 available
Extra night - After
£ 80.00
8 available

We have also set up a payment plan so that you can spread the cost of the sessions over the next 4 months. You will find the option for doing this as you enter the checkout page.

Find out more about our Partial.ly Payment Plan here

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Working with Deborah and Michael was such a pleasure. They understood the project from the beginning, what the needs of the makers and our audiences would be, and acted as thoughtful ambassadors for the project when we were not able to be there. Every aspect of the exhibition and events was facilitated in such a calm and confident manner, which made my job of coordinating a group of artists so much easier! The whole event became a pivotal moment for the project, bringing people together in a way I could never have anticipated, and which has altered my thinking about the future of the project. Thank you for making us feel so welcome.


The weekend I spent at Clayhill Arts was a very welcome change of scenery to my otherwise urban setting. I felt calmed yet invigorated by the surroundings, and the accommodation was beautifully tasteful and very homely. The main space is wonderfully considered and very versatile - an ideal space for creativity and dynamic discussion. I left on the Sunday feeling energised and inspired by the experience of staying at Clayhill.


As a singer it has been one of the best spaces to sing in with generous reverberation and acoustics.  It is a space which complemented the type of instruments I was working with and the songs.


I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed being at your venue. It is a lovely and inspiring artistic space. The food was fantastic, homely yet unusual. I really enjoyed the day.


As an artist retreat, the venue at Clayhill Arts provided a warm and welcoming environment, allowing a safe and constructive space where individuals creative needs can be met. 


We were lucky enough to be able to take over the whole venue for a weekend, using the Granary as our base for experimentation, discussion and shared learning. The informality of the accommodation, and the relaxed surroundings, put everyone at ease and offered a space where cooperation and encouragement evolved naturally.


Everything was wonderful! This is a beautiful place. Thank you, we really enjoyed our stay.


Clayhill feels remote which is great but it also is close to Cannington which has everything, so supplies can be bought without travelling a great distance...I also really enjoyed that it is still a working farm, because it feels productive and there is such a lot of life around us which is very inspiring


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