Tim Hunkin and the Issue of the Inventor’s Identity

A while back, the Core 77 blog led me to an archive of the 80’s series The Secret Life of:¦ which beautifully relates the history and design of various household items.

But the real star of the show is the presenter himself, Tim Hunkin. He is one of a few multi-disciplined tinkerers whom I count as a personal hero. Cartoonist, inventor, broadcaster, sculptor: his book Almost Everything There Is to Know was a formative influence in my childhood. He is a great example to any of us who want engage in this new world of designing, adapting and making, embodying as he does both passion for the end product, as well as a broad variety of skills and experience to get there. The great thing is with the enablement of the web, we can all be part time designers, or adapters, or makers, and indulge our multifaceted natures while still holding down a day job. If not making it a day job.

Tim Hunkin

Incidentally, I constantly have trouble defining what it is I do in my studio/workshop — increasingly I err towards the term “tinkerer” which is unsatisfactory, evoking activities of a more mischievous nature than they often are. On his personal site, Hunkin goes for “engineer/cartoonist”, which gives no indication of his myriad other talents.

We need a term for this new breed of inventors to which I belong and which sites such as Make, Ponoko and Instructables seem to attract. We are changeably referred to as makers, industrial designers, inventors, indie designers, hackers: none of which seem to embody the activity truthfully (the term “maker” really doesn’t cut it as a valid activity amongst some of my peers, who have the benefit of such well established terms as “doctor” or “telesales operator”). My favourite has to be “post-industrial designers”, as referred to in this discussion on Core77. It would certainly be good to stick to one job-title in the future, and this seems to infer the right amounts of professionalism, independence and irreverance for me!

Anyway, back to Hunkin. Have a look at his site and you will find an Aladdin’s cave of truly joyous objects, thorough explanations of his workshop and methods, all infused with the mana’s quiet, considered adoration for mechanical creativity. An inspiration, whatever he is and whatever we are!

The image above is a self portrait by Hunkin, and the images below, a human sewing machine from The Secret Life of the Sewing Machine and a cartoon from Almost Everything There is to Know, used with permission from Tim Hunkin.

Human sewing machine by Hunkin Hunkin on Music

4 Responses to “Tim Hunkin and the Issue of the Inventor’s Identity”

  1. Steven Says:

    I propose we do a global search for a one-word term from another language that we can co-opt into English.

  2. post secret archive Says:

    […] […]

  3. Ponoko Blog Says:

    […] Architectures of Control posted a while back on the subject of Sir Clive Sinclair, the British inventor behind the beloved ZX Spectrum, bemoaned C5 personal vehicle, and now the A-frame folding bike. Dan Lockton links to an interesting BBC interview in which Sir Sinclair talks about a prescient speech he gave back in 1984, the potential of online collaboration, and the highs and lows of being an inventor. It is interesting that Sir Sinclair defines himself clearly as ‘inventor’ after all he has been through in setting up Sinclair Research, a choice which I have discussed briefly before here. Planet Sinclair is a great resource on the man, more so than Sinclair Research’s own site. image from Architectures of Control […]

  4. Mechanisms, Automata and Ponoko « Ponoko – Blog Says:

    […] The Make blog led me the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre’s modular automata kit – a collection of wooden pieces that can easily be put together to form your own automata, while learning about the mechanical principles most commonly used in the devices. The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre once had premises in London’s Covent Garden, which are sadly no more, but the group continues an online presence, selling kits, books and exhibiting online the work of automata makers such as Paul Spooner, Carlos Zapata and Tim Hunkin, whom I have previously blogged about. […]

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