Ken Stradling Collection aids Student Automaton Builder

The recent addition to the Ken Stradling Collection of a group of automata by Peter Markey as part of the Beales Bequest has provided it with a valuable resource for students wishing to explore the area. 3D Design students from the Foundation Diploma course at Bristol School of Art visited the collection recently as part of their studies and one in particular has made good use of the opportunity to see and handle these pieces.

Hanah Middlefinch’s Fortune Teller has given her a few headaches and the mechanism is a sophisticated use of wheels and pins that allows the figure both to nod her head and move her hands across the rune-stones on the table in front of her. She is built of wood, mdf, porcelain and textiles and operated manually by a handle at the side. The mechanism is allied to that used for the Kissing Couple piece in the collection although more complex. The drive shaft operates a crank to rock the head and two pinned wheels to drive the hands – one to the left and the other to the right.  A tricky bit of construction requiring a considerable degree of accuracy. The battery pack enables the candle to light to be lit.


The Fortune Teller prepares to reveal her hand.


The triple action operates the two hands and the head individually allowing one wheel l to push to the left and the other to the right.


A cold gaze as the rune-stones are shown. What will they say?

The Fortune Teller can be seen in action on YouTube here

Mixed media automaton. Head and hands are made from ceramic, the runes are made from polymer clay. The candle was attached to the battery pack and lit up as the head moved up but the connection short circuited and I’ve yet to fix it! HM

We wish Hanah all the best with her studies and at University next year.

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3 Responses to Ken Stradling Collection aids Student Automaton Builder

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