Makers That Inspire: Sam Cobb

We’re kicking off a new series on Meganerd Media to highlight some of the makers, artists and creators that inspire us. They could be people that we’ve met, that may have ignited the creative fire in us when we were young or someone we follow on the internet that we respect and who drives us to learn and create more.

The maker I’m highlighting today is a creator of automata sculptures, Sam Cobb. Some may remember Sam from the first season of the reality makeup artist show Face-Off on the SyFy network, though my first exposure to her work was a few years ago on the website Tested.com (run by another maker/creator/inspiration-generator extraordinaire, Adam Savage). On their “Tested Builds” series special effects artist Frank Ippolito and Tested host Norman Chan build Sam Cobb’s Anglerfish resin automata kit.

Let’s talk a little about automata first. I’m sure you’ve come across it before, be it something simple like a cuckoo clock with flapping wings or more complex like those made at the turn of the 20th century in France (see the video below of an example that I saw in person at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ). Automata can be wound up with a key and have a system of clockwork-like gears or just run off a hand crank and bent wire crankshaft.

Sam sculpted the Anglerfish to be an automata with a crank that would make the fish body sway left and right and with a jaw that opens and closes. The design makes me think of the Nautilus submarine from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, including some great flourishes around each segment of the fish’s body. She sells completed versions all painted and built or as an unpainted resin kit that allows you to use your imagination and learn some tricks to automata movement while building (and admire the amount of planning and design that has to go into including the automaton movement).

Last year Tested.com interviewed Sam and showed off some of her other automata kits including a Krampus I fell in love with. The design is classic Krampus with a switch of sticks in one hand and a bad child tucked away in his bag all on top of a bag of coal and a huge furnace. After seeing it in action I ran right over to her website and purchased my very own Krampus kit. This was the most difficult of her designs to build but I do love a good challenge and I’ve never put together a resin kit like this before.

Once I had the parts in my hand, I could see the amazing level of detail that Sam designs in to these sculptures. The Krampus has a very expressive face and the sculpt lends well to painting and shading. I love to work on projects that were designed to be fun to paint. So much attention was put into how the Krampus would move with just one crank and a few strings. I will admit that this was a challenge to put together but Sam includes step-by-step instructions and also was available via email to answer any other questions I had when building. Unlike the examples on her website, I decided to go for more of a “Snow” Krampus (I will create a separate post about building this awesome resin kit in the future). Sam has another kit that I have been eyeing - the many armed Goddess, which I may pick up for a future project.

While Sam Cobb’s work looked great on her site, once I saw the sculpt up close I admired her art even more. The Krampus kit inspired me to jump into building an automata and venture down a painting path of my very own. Now I have an amazing piece of art on my desk that I am proud to display year round.