"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

An Exhibition of Emett's "Marvellous Machines"

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has held an exhibition this summer showcasing the whimsical machines and cartoons created by the eccentric English inventor Rowland Emett. The exhibition is the largest ever display of Emett's work and it follows the story of his life from his childhood in Birmingham to becoming an international figure.

Frederick Rowland Emett was born in New Southgate, London on 22nd October 1906. His father, Arthur, was very inventive and patented a number of ideas. At the start of World War 1 the family moved to Birmingham where the young Emett attended Waverley Grammar School and then the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Rowland began his career as a commercial artist but very soon had cartoons accepted for Punch magazine. In 1941 he married Elsie Evans and after the war they moved to Cornwall with their daughter. The Festival of Britain in 1951 was another turning point in Emett's career when his railway design was a success and he began to design more animated machines. Following several trips to America he received a commission for Life Magazine for a 12 page article and he earned enough money to buy their first house - Goose Cottage in Sussex where he lived for the rest of his life. Throughout the fifties and sixties he produced many ingenious machines and in 1967 he received an important commission to make several household machines for the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He continued to produce machines for many years including a clock for a Shopping Centre in Newcastle and "Cloud Cuckoo Valley" for a Shopping Mall in Basildon.

The Featherstone Kite Openwork, Basket-weave, Gentleman's MKII Flying Machine.

Three of these were built to promote British Oxygen, then British Airways and finally Hawker Siddeley.

The "Eiffle" altimeter gives 3 heights every pilot should know - canal level, own chimney and Milky Way!!!!

The Exploding Luna Cycle - originally built to promote cycling events for Skol Lager

After a soft moon landing the Luna Cycle pedals off in all directions to explore. The stained glass cover brings a breath of fresh air to the moon while the bicycle pumps up the oxygen. The cycle carried samples of moon rock and a cheese comparator to help identify the composition of the moon!!

The Fairway Birdie MkII - The Self Golfing Golf Machine

The Clockwork Lullaby Machine

The Visi Vision Machine

As well as the amazing machines above the Exhibition contained many of Emett's sketches, illustrations, greeting cards and cartoons. I've shown just a few below - sorry photos not of the best - lots of reflecting light and wobbly horizons not to mention basic cropping!! but it will give you an idea of the amazing variety of his work.

I was so glad we'd made the effort to visit - even if we did leave it until the last afternoon of the exhibition!

We had a quick look round the rest of the museum - The Staffordshire Hoard display is closed at present as a brand new one is due to open this October. I know I shouldn't really be adding yet more books to my collection but I just couldn't resist a Shire Publication on Stained Glass which traces the history from Anglo-Saxon times right up to the present day.


Margaret Adamson said...

Hi RR What a wonderful exhibition and such intriate work in those machines

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret - I found the whole thing quite magical :)

SeagullSuzie said...

I've never seen anything like that before, how absolutely wonderful.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks :) They were incredible especially when they were moving about! What a superb imagination Emett had :)

Em Parkinson said...

I absolutely love them! Particularly the drawings of them...

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Thanks so much - so glad you enjoyed them :) Actually thought of you when I was there and looking at the drawings :)

amanda peters said...

Think we had one of his "works" at Leeds shopping centre when the bike race was on... amazing work I do like the drawings though..
Amanda xx

Countryside Tales said...

Fantastic! What a great place. I love the intricacy of it all and the darker one of the paintings is absolutely lovely. Thanks for posting- that was really interesting and different :o)

Chris Rohrer said...

Very nice....it's fantasy made reality. Love it!

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks :) I understand a Rowland Emett Society was formed a few years ago so perhaps there will be even more exhibitions. Interesting about the shopping centre.

Countryside Tales. Thank you CT so glad you enjoyed :)I couldn't get over all the tiny details in the pictures :)

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris. I think you've hit the nail on the head there :) Totally magical :)