The mystery artist putting a smile on Norwich streets
- Credit: Steve Adams
Sweet-natured, kind, unassuming and gentle – words you wouldn't generally associate with graffiti. But one Norwich man is showing the soft side of street art as his cheerful army of paper robots set out on a mission to bring a smile to the face of city dwellers. Stacia Briggs met the elusive We Eat Robots.
It's art that doesn't stick around but which creates a lasting impression.
Norwich street artist We Eat Robots has been bringing smiles to the faces of passers-by in Norwich with his brigade of happy robots who adorn walls, abandoned buildings and broken street furniture to add a little bit of cheer to even the dullest of streets and the gloomiest of ordinary days.
Keen to remain anonymous, the mastermind behind We Eat Robots explained: 'I never studied art but I've always doodled and when I was little I used to draw on my bedroom walls which drove my parents mad! When I moved to Norwich from London, it was a big change for me because I had more time to appreciate where I was living.
'It also meant that I had time to spot the places where art might work. What I really want to do is make people smile as they pass by and send them on their way feeling happier than they were before. Everything I do is for fun.'
The majority of work includes a trademark robot: 'I liked the idea of naughty robots running riot around Norwich! My first robot was placed in the Pottergate underpass under Grape's Hill and I remember putting up the sticker as quickly as possible and walking away!
'At first I was putting up the stickers to amuse myself but I have to admit that I sometimes stand near the robots to see people's reactions to them. It always makes me happy if someone stops and smiles or takes a photograph.'
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With a significant following on social media, We Eat Robots uses paper stickers rather than indelible paint to create his art – it either degrades over time or can be instantly removed and in some cases, the art lasts only a matter of seconds ('Excalibur, a paper sword in a puddle, lasted for around five seconds after I took the photograph!').
In seven months, more than 70 transient designs have popped up around the city with another 30 in the pipeline.
The artist, who has a full-time job, has also collaborated with fellow Norwich artist QK and has a limited-edition print on sale at Moosey Art on Bridewell Alley in Norwich, draws each design by hand or on his computer and then creates stickers using a printer which he then places in areas he has already earmarked.
Each design takes a few hours to create but is placed in position in a matter of minutes.
'When you use paper outside, you have to be prepared for the fact that the art you make might only be there in the moment and after that it will eventually disappear. I keep a photographic record of everything, but I quite like watching them as they deteriorate,' said the artist.
'Most people are so wrapped up in what they are thinking or where they are going and their own little world that they don't look around them, so if the robots can encourage people to appreciate Norwich and look at it a little bit more, that would be great.'
We Eat Robots has become so popular that people have requested their own robots to take 'on tour' and there are now robots in Warsaw, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Barcelona and Disneyland. But their creator isn't looking for Banksy-style success.
'I certainly don't do what I do for the money, I do it because I love it,' he said, 'of course it would be great to be noticed. But then again, I like the fact that no one knows who I am. Lots of my friends don't know what I do, my parents don't know either. It's like my little secret.'
• Click here to see more work by We Eat Robots