FEATURE: Meet Lincolnshire’s madcap inventor and his creations

Reporter Gemma Gadd went along to meet a madcap inventor in Lincolnshire and see his amazing creations:

David Cranmer (inset) and one of his giant madcap creations - the geometric chick on wheels.
David Cranmer (inset) and one of his giant madcap creations - the geometric chick on wheels.

From 20-foot tall metal chicks on wheels, to robot penguins and giant crows spitting party string.

All are the crazy, creative genius of David Cranmer, a Lincolnshire inventor, designer, engineer and welder all rolled into one.

The dad-of-two makes mechanical sculptures, robots and interactive electrical instruments among other things at his home in Keal Cotes.

While many of his projects are commercial commissions, some of the colossal creations were made just for fun.

Explaining his background, David said: “I worked in the special effects industry in London before moving to Lincolnshire a few years ago, and it was lots of fun.

“Fire, fake blood, explosions, and lots of wonderful challenges and requests like ‘we need a radio controlled talking photocopier two days from now’.

“I’m still doing the same stuff but have my own workshop now.”

The driveable Big Blue Robot - with owl sitting on top.

Two of David’s most impressive creations greet guests upon arrival to his home, a giant six metre tall chick and a four metre high robot which tower over the landscape, peering out of his garden towards the Wolds.

“People sometimes shout compliments out of their car window as they drive past the garden and some people stop for a chat,” said David.

“Some of them say they enjoy seeing the sculptures, while other people are simply confused and want to know what their exact purpose is.”

The giant chick has been named ‘Cluckminster Fuller’ in honour of the architect and polymath Buckminster Fuller. David designed it so people could interact by climbing up inside its rear end and looking out of its eye domes.

David Cranmer and his blue alpaca soundsystem.

Introducing me to the ‘big blue robot’ also sitting on guard in his garden, David explained: “He can be driven around, his head and hands spin, his arms move, and his body projects laser lights.”

There was no explanation for the bizarre white owl perched atop the robot’s shoulder however, but I noted during my visit that David is a fan of American cult TV series Twin Peaks, which featured mysterious owls as a recurring motif. This may partly explain the bizarre ‘owl organ’ he created for a festival in Berlin with 50 resin owls which hoot in tune when a keyboard is played, their eyes also lighting up when each corresponding key is pressed.

Likewise, his ‘owl theramin’ commission was crafted for a man who wanted to combine his love of owls and high-frequency electronic musical instruments controlled by hand movement.

Indeed, the bird theme is prevalent in David’s work – although he says this is just because beaks are simple to create.

The 'Bubblophone' David made for the 2018 Aero chocolate TV advert.

“I’m not sure where the animal theme came from,” he said. “Perhaps it’s just a way of adding character to a machine or musical instrument. The bird theme may be because beaks are easy to make.”

Another mechanical sculpture – a ‘rave kestrel’ – was created specifically for a New Year’s Eve party in Dorset.

Entitled ‘A Kestrel Manoeuvres in the Dark’ (get it?) - the comical creation features a taxidermy kestrel spinning and bobbing atop a mechanical plinth with rave music, laser lighting and a smoke machine.

This was accompanied by a giant ‘talking’ crow with mechanical features and the amusing ability to spit party string out its beak and laser-beams from its head.

Other creations include a life-sized blue alpaca sound-system and a chainsaw-powered robot penguin which plays various percussive instruments and car horns.

Punters entering a nightclub in London’s Mayfair were also greeted by a snapping crocodile head David helped to create. “I only had six days to work on that one, so I had to make it snappy,” he joked.

David Cranmer with the giant modular synthesiser he built in his house.

Readers may have even seen some of his commercial commissions before – such as the chocolate bubble-blowing ‘bubblophone’ which he created for a 2018 Aero chocolate TV commercial, or the LED Duracell Bunny powered entirely by used batteries which he produced to highlight Duracell’s energy-saving campaign.

He has also made several stunning mechanical sculptures for healthcare companies – including a clockwork brain, a 2.6 metre tall pair of LED lungs, and a giant pulsating brain constructed from lightbulbs. David’s madcap creations have not just made it into commercial events, TV adverts or his own garden.

Inside the home he shares with his wife Charley and children Fred, 10, and Emily, seven, David has transformed an entire wall into a giant modular synthesiser.

Standing in front of the thousands of knobs, lights and connectors, I jokingly asked: “Do you know what all the knobs do?” thinking this would surely be near-impossible. But David replied: “Yes, about 95 per cent.”

And that impressive level of attention, dedication and madcap craftsmanship can only be applauded.

For more on David’s creations, or to enquire about a commission, visit his website.

A mechanical clockwork brain David made for a healthcare company.
Part of the 'owl theramin' David created for a commission.
The giant crow and 'rave kestrel' left, and Brian the Robot Penguin, right.
The Duracell bunny make out of LED lights.