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Laughter Machines: Spotlight on participatory artist Steve Elliot

By in Interviews


See more of Steve’s work at:

Being an artist

Please give us a few words of introduction about yourself

My work is based on a creating opportunities for participation in the arts, to encourage learning and development of skills and self esteem.

I run workshops and also create my own opportunities to develop my knowledge of materials and processes which can then inform possible workshops.

When did you decide to pursue art as a career?

I studied after leaving school.

What training did you have?

BA in Art & Design, many applied art industry jobs, PGCE in Design Technology, community arts training, masks and puppet making training, research in folk art traditions and carnival.

General Questions

Who is your favourite artist?

Klee, Chagall, Magritte, Matisse, Tatin among many others.

Is anything holding you back?

Resources of all kinds.

You and art

What feelings or reactions do you hope to arouse in people who view your work? Are you ever surprised by reactions that you get?

My work is about generating happiness, particularly the Little Giants and Bighead masks I make. They are laughter machines. When people try them on and dance about in creates laughter and photo opps for everyone.


From start to finish, how long does it take for you to create your work?

Time is not a useful measure when being creative. The process takes you out of the awareness of time if it’s really being successful.

What music do you like to listen to when you work?

Generally instrumental sounds but the each stage of creativity demands different music. Sometimes silence is the best.

What are you working on next? Any future plans or projects in the pipeline that we should look out for?

I would like to make more Little Giants and I’m enjoying creating window paintings recently.


Being inspired by art

Who (living or dead) inspires you? and why?

All folk artisans across every culture, often un-named, who have carved/printed/woven/built/grown/painted/performed their work and passed on their experience into the traditions and decorated our world.

What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?

Creativity is a great feeling. Getting the next idea, visualising the possible outcomes, working out the practicalities of design and making, gathering the materials and doing the process required.

It is inspiring to remember your successes and achievements when feeling stuck.

What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far and why?

I’m proud of a series of paintings I did some time ago about the lives of Jazz and Blues players.

The Little Giants and Bighead masks work as sculpture but also as opportunities for everyone to enjoy regardless of age or status.

an artist’s advice

For those thinking about turning a passion for art into a career, could you give any advice?

Learn and practice the craft elements of your chosen artform, drawing/design/colour mixing/use of tools etc. Research the old hand tool methods to give a context to your work.

Choose to make what you enjoy and what makes you a living. Don’t get involved in theories of art.

Don’t expect to make a fortune, few artists are rich. Keep trying, take a second job while you find the way.

Any tips on how to get your work seen and get the commissions coming in?

Network in all the ways you know.


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