Do You Model, Or Are You A Modeler?
This post by Bill Engar has content from an article originally published a long time ago in the IPMS/USA Journal. Dem Brudders heartily recommend participation in this fine organization. Sign up today! Tell them Dem Brudders sent you!
Well, another neighbor talked to this neighbor, and somehow, the mistaken notion was born that my brother and I were MALE MODELS, and people wanted to know if we modeled clothing for catalogs, department stores, or what? Now, if anybody asks, my brother and I BUILD MODEL AIRPLANES! You figure modelers out there may have to put forth extra efforts to help the uninitiated understand exactly what it is that you do.
How many people go into a museum and ask if a finely crafted and finished replica was built by a kid? How many kids buy those 1/350 battleship and aircraft carrier subjects? Do they fork out a couple hundred bucks-plus for the large-scale kits from Trumpeter? How about the legions of resin kits that price in the several-hundred dollar range? Hey, mom! Can I have a raise in my allowance?
WHY DO YOU HAVE ALL THOSE UNBUILT KITS?
We all get this one, and do I really need to explain? Even within our own community, some modelers who have a stash of kits deny that they’re collectors. Face it! If you have more than one kit that hasn’t been started, you’re a collector! We all have plans to build new projects. We all know that some kits are not going to sit on store shelves forever just waiting for the year that we’re ready to finally start them. How many of us put more time and effort into our models than we used to? It takes longer to finish them, and projects stack up! I enjoy my large collection of unbuilt kits. I've sold some over the years on eBay, and made a return on my investment that would make any stockbroker green with envy. My wife took notice, and I don’t even need to smuggle my new models into the house any more!
WHY DO YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE OF THE SAME KIT?
I have a close relative that just can’t seem to get over this one (it’s NOT my brother in case you are asking)! If I have more than one of the same model, that supposedly makes me some kind of compulsive freak or something. Of course, I don’t mind being called a compulsive freak. I do love to point out how two completely different models can be created from a pair of identical kits. My best example at present is a 1/144 scale U-2 aircraft model that closely resembles that flown by Gary Powers, and a “Ferrari Red” F-104 in the same scale. Most people are quite surprised to learn that both models started out as two identical Crown F-104 kits. The U-2 did require more work to produce a good model, but not much. Those of you who’ve tried to build the F-104 will know what I’m talking about.
AREN'T THEY JUST TOYS?
After fielding the previous questions, if you get this one, you’re really dealing with an enlightened individual! First of all, if anyone produces toys detailed to the same level and quality that most experienced modelers put into their projects, then where can I buy some at a toy-like price? The same logic could be used to question anyone who buys any work of art such as a painting or a sculpture. It’s not the real thing; therefore, it must be a toy, right? Even if we follow the instructions to the letter, use kit decals and recommended paints, the skill and craftsmanship we put into our models makes them works of art in one sense. The kit is merely our medium. Now, I hope I don’t reignite that whole “fine art” vs. “it’s only a hobby” thing, but I want to make my point clear that both art and hobbies entail talent, innate or developed. To be a good ambassador for the scale modeling hobby, perhaps it is best to tell the uninitiated that it has evolved over the last few decades into a pastime that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
I KNEW YOU BUILT MODELS SO I BOUGHT YOU THIS KIT AS A GIFT! I HOPE YOU LIKE IT...
How often have you received models as gifts? Now, I’m not talking about gifts from fellow modelers. I always like those. I’m talking about the models as gifts from the truly uninitiated. One of our biggest challenges as modelers can be feigning excitement over a kit received as a gift when it is nowhere near our subject matter of interest or preferred scale. Perhaps you could reciprocate by giving the well intentioned person a new piece of clothing with no thought to appropriate size, color, or style. For example, let’s suppose you have a passion for ship modeling and Grandma buys you a slot-car kit for Christmas. For her birthday, why not pick up a black leather item for her from one of those “apparel and accessories” shops in the shady part of town? Actually, in an instance like this when someone gives you something you consider a modeling oddity at best, maybe you ought to bite the bullet and build the kit anyway. Venturing outside your normal modeling routine may just turn out to be a refreshing diversion and your skills range might be broadened as well. And you could hint that a gift certificate to your favorite hobby shop might be a unique surprise next time.
Marketers and media tend to gravitate to more brash and sensational activities nowadays. They know that bright, flashy colors and lots of action are needed to snag channel surfers. Perhaps if we build models inside a live volcano or while skydiving, the media will pay attention and give the hobby some exposure beyond the “boys and their toys” stereotypes that we sometimes get saddled with.
The model kit companies seem to be hesitant to expend the revenue that would be necessary to advertise their wares on national TV and into mainstream culture. One notable exception is Bandai. This company has marketed their vast Gundam robot model line to a young audience with great success. Until the other companies can do the same thing, it’s up to us individual modelers to get the word out. And how do we do that? First, let your friends and family view your collection. Endure and answer any of the aforementioned questions in a positive, diplomatic manner. Invite them to your club contests and meetings. Let them know where your local hobby shop is and encourage them to stop in. Give a non-modeler one of your kits as a gift! And you know where to get those! Give them the model that keeps on giving!
In conclusion, get a kick out of your hobby—and the unique questions others ask about it!