Enamelled metal automata with John Grayson

Automata, puppets and clocks

Ref: S4D11912

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About this course

Make a small individual automaton. You will learn about using simple mechanics, fine metal forming and fabricating methods, and wet process enamel decoration techniques.

Course Description

You will make a small individual enamelled metal automaton approximately 100mm wide, 60mm deep and 225mm high. The project aims to give you skills and confidence in three-dimensional designing and making, and personal creativity, through an introduction to simple automata making. You will learn maquette making in card, simple mechanics, metal forming methods, and wet process enamel techniques for decorating copper surfaces.

A template design for the automaton and its mechanism will be provided that can either be reproduced or adapted depending on your ambition and existing skills set. The course will combine a series of process workshop demonstrations with tutor-supported student independent making time.

The course starts with an introduction showing examples of different automata and a summary of the project to be undertaken. This will include processes to be covered and approaches to developing a personal design. It will conclude with an opportunity to consider initial design ideas in readiness for the first workshop day.

The first full day focuses on making a card and wire maquette, developing a design idea by adapting the design template/mechanism supplied and synthesising it with your own creative ideas. Through this, you will develop an understanding of mechanical principles needed to create movement in the object and create a personal design template to work to over the following days.

Day two concerns translating the card design into the three-dimensions metal components for the automaton. You will learn to use hand tools including saws and tin snips to cut metal, and punches and hammers to emboss and form the thin sheet copper into the automaton form.

Day three will focus on decorating the copper using wet process enamel methods. You will learn how to apply it, explore mark-making techniques including painting effects, stencilling, sgrafitto, and learn to kiln fire.

The final day you will complete the enamelling and then bringing movement to the automaton. You will transform brass tube, rod, wire and strip into a mechanism, then assemble and finally demonstrate the automaton.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the tutor will supply most of the materials for the project, including copper sheet and tube, wet process enamel, and sundry materials needed.

What students need to bring

  • Apron/overalls for when using enamel (essential)
  • Workshop appropriate clothing and footwear – that cover the foot (essential)
  • Scissors, drawing pencils, craft knife, rubber, ruler (desirable)
  • Sketchbook for ideas development (desirable)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Piercing saw blades
  • Paper for ideas development
Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals.


John Grayson

John Grayson has 30 years of experience in making and teaching craft. His automata and narrative objects have been exhibited internationally, led to numerous commissions and feature in UK collections including the Crafts Council.  


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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