Made On Earth — Technozoology

Craft & Design

“I’m in a bird phase,” says Ann Smith of Providence, R.I. The birds in question evoke playfulness and scientific savvy with a meticulous arrangement of mechanical and electronic castoffs, including keyboard mylar and tiny gears from watches.

These fanciful avian miniatures are just the latest creations in her growing mechanical menagerie. Past enthusiasms include bugs, goats, cats, antelopes, frogs, squid, jellyfish, dinos, and more.

Smith’s first robot-like figurine was a horse she made for an illustration assignment at the Rhode Island School of Design. She explains: “The topic of the project was technology and my idea was to make some sort of a Trojan horse of technology: technology being something people invite into their homes that eventually spreads and takes over.”


Both natural and mechanical forms continue to inspire Smith’s work, and the sources of her material are as diverse as the creatures themselves: sewing machines, clocks, computers, keyboards, phones, cameras, printers, typewriters, and other gadgets.

She starts her sculptures by focusing on the structural form of an animal, and then builds onto it, adding texture and detail. “A piece only feels complete when it’s acquired a sense of life and personality,” she says.

The distinctive personalities of her robotic figures have been used as illustrations for advertising and featured in prestigious magazines such as Wired and Architectural Digest (Germany). Her work is also in demand in shops and galleries nationwide.

But her new passion is breathing life into her creations through stop-motion animation. “They have always been alive and running around in my mind, and it is wonderful to see them actually come to life,” she exudes. “Eventually I’d like to start adding narration and sound to the pieces.”

In the meantime, her miniature zoo expands with more colorful and delicate birds. And, her imagination ever alert to possibility, a 3½-foot-long whale.

Ann Smith’s Sculptures:

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