Have you ever heard of an antiquarian horologist? Well, in this century it is rather rare to find this skill set developed due to the digitization of our world. Brittany Nicole Cox, however, has found a way of resurrecting this profession and turning it into a long life passion.
She started her fascination at a young age while hanging out with her grandmother. She got little gifts like music boxes and musical snowballs that she took apart to understand how it worked.
She said “I would always take the mechanisms out of the bottom and chuck the rest of it. It was really quite special, seeing everything working, seeing how delicate it was, and fragile. Producing something that was so tangible and beautiful to me, I got a lot of comfort out of that” during an interview with The Stranger.
Although this was her fascination, she did not know that it could be studied and thus went on pursuing other things. She went to college and put her efforts into the study the philosophy of metaphysics.
Having being trained to be a jeweller, it all seemed like a strange mix of skills. While studying the philosophy of metaphysics her love for automata was sparked. Automata machines basically refer to artificial life that ran in the renaissance era.
These Automata do not depend on electricity but rather in gears that are interconnected and mobile to create motion. They can be flowers, musical boxes, animals, birds, among others. She acquired an even larger understanding when she attended the West Dean College.
The pristine college is known for its involvement in restorative arts and education. Graduating with a masters in Horological conservation, she hasn’t been able to stop since.
Her workspace is never clattered, she is well organized and meticulous. Since her work is very detailed, she has to record everything. Every time she pulls a clock or a musical box apart, every piece is accounted for.
Sometimes she gets to work with one of a kind pieces that are broken. Considering that some of these items were made in the 17th century, spare parts are a bother to find. That is when she relies on her knowledge to create these missing parts. She has seen hundreds of pieces resurrected, which fills her with joy.
In her line of work, she has worked with big institutions such as the National Trust looking to restore important artifacts. For example, she worked on the famous Pagoda clock that contained more than 600 pieces for complete restoration. The 6-month project unveiled a lot of damages to the clock but it was restored and returned to Anglesey Abbey.
Song Birds happen to be another thing that she has worked on extensively. They come in various sizes and mechanisms. She says “They seem to delight people in a way that pretty much nothing else does, everyone loves the birds.” She is working on a disquisition on the bellow feature found in all songbirds. She believes it will help other aspiring horological students to learn the craft.
“It was the most meaningful moment in my whole horological career.” Says Brittany Cox regarding on working on the silver swan. The silver swan is a priceless automaton that is 250 years old. This exceptional work of Merlin is famous all over the world. It was a checkup to see if the mechanisms were working properly but the fact that she laid her hands on it, was magical.
She does not want to sit on her knowledge. She is keen on helping others understand her craft. She has a workshop situated in south Seattle that she uses to teach classes and also work on personal projects. She teaches subjects such as gearing and engine turning which happens to be an old technique.
Her work studio is full of projects and tools indicating that is a work is constant. For many, the idea of an antiquarian horologist might be baffling but once you see those automata full restored to their full glory, it’s hard not to be amazed by their motions.
There are people in this century still making automata in this century, some simple and some exquisite with gems on them. Are you interested? Why not take a class or two, you never know when the passion will come
Remember that old is gold.