As a child Neil was intrigued by the works and drawings of Heath Robinson and Emmett, and that inspired him to make simple models based on their particular style and humour. Neil studied architecture and worked in practices in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh for thirteen years. In 1992, he decided to pursue automata-making full time and started in earnest designing and creating new pieces. He became a member of the British Toymakers Guild in 1993.
In 2005 Neil took part in the World Karakuri competition in Japan. Karakuri is the Japanese equivalent to automata. Out of 600 entries, 35 were invited to Japan for the final competition and he was one of a handful selected from Europe. The final event was televised on Japanese TV and he was awarded a special jury prize for ‘An outstanding work that showed original conceptualisation and creativity’. The work is now in a museum in Germany. Later that year he took up a residency in Australia at the Noosa gallery in Queensland. Automata is fairly unknown there and it was hoped through teaching and producing a few pieces for the gallery that a new interest would be born.
Since then Neil has been asked to make pieces for museums in Korea and Italy, and also asked by the Japanese organisers of the Karakuri to provide 2 large works for a new museum they are creating for automata.