Tim Hunkin – automata maker (#5)


Tim Hunkin trained as an engineer, but then became a cartoonist (drawing a strip for the Observer called ‘The Rudiments of Wisdom’ for 15 years). His next career was in television (writing and presenting three series called ‘The Secret Life of Machines’ for Channel 4). He then worked for museums, curating and designing exhibitions and building interactive exhibits. Since 2001, he has mainly been making arcade machines for his ‘Under the Pier Show’ amusement arcade on Southwold pier and ‘Novelty Automation’ in London.

Website: www.timhunkin.com

Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.

Finding a large beetle in my workshop and freeing it from a bundle of old cobweb caught round one of its legs. It reminded me how amazing and beautiful they are, also that I particularly enjoy large insects because I can see the details so much better.

How would you personally define wonder, awe and curiosity? And how do they relate to each other?

I’m curious about things all the time, but most of the stuff is too mundane to be awe inspiring or wonderful. I enjoy finding wonder in everyday things that people take for granted – a theme when I was doing my Rudiments of Wisdom cartoon strip

What inspires you to be creative?

No idea. It’s possible people either can’t help it or shouldn’t be trying to do it.

Do you have any ‘rituals’ or an environment that aids your creativity?

Alcohol (particularly in a pub with a friend) or sitting on a train

What do you love about magic?

I enjoy suspended disbelief, just like watching one of my wife’s puppet shows. She’s in full view but I very quickly forget she’s there as I get involved with the story.

What sparked your interest in automatons?

I just like things that move. I thought automata was twee old French stuff until my 30s. My machines are all digital in as much as they all have computers to control them.  I’m fortunate to be on the cusp – I can cherry pick the best of analogue and digital.

One of the many things I love about your exhibits is the whimsy and comedy peppered throughout. Do you think wonder and laughter are linked?

Not intrinsically. There are wonderful things that aren’t funny and funny things that aren’t wonderful.

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