About Cecilia Schiller

Cecilia Schiller has been creating interactive gear-driven sculptures called automata, since 2009. This kinetic artwork magically comes to life in a whimsical story-telling event when a viewer steps up to turn the crank.

Working mostly in wood, Cecilia uses power tools, hand-carving, and laser-cutting in combination to fabricate the components for each piece. Then she finishes each part by highlighting the natural wood tones or applying colorful paints by hand to produce figures, scenes and hypnotic gears. It all comes together in a visually stunning and mechanically mesmerizing automaton.

Creating automata demands a wide skillset depending on how you want to approach it. Engineering, carving, woodworking, sewing, metalsmithing, and much more are all helpful skills, but more than anything one needs a certain amount of fearlessness because once you begin you don’t know for sure where you’ll come out.

Before making automata, Cecilia honed her skillset over many years fabricating puppets, masks, special effects and scenery for theatre. She also studied traditional woodcarving in her hometown, and traveled to Bali, Indonesia, where she learned traditional Balinese mask carving. She has no formal training in engineering, however scored highest in her 9th grade class on mechanical aptitude. That should count for something.

Cecilia lives in Northern Wisconsin, not far from the south shore of Lake Superior and has the pleasure of working from a gorgeous renovated barn studio.   She is an award-winning wood sculptor and has been recognized for her work with several grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work was featured on a segment of the program MNOriginal (a Twin Cities Public Television production). You can see her story and view the full episode at tpt.org.

In addition to creating original and custom automata, Cecilia Schiller shares her skills by teaching classes and offering DIY original laser-cut kits at Cranky Heart Automata.

Cecilia Schiller's Automata workshopCecilia Schiller's Automata workshop