The Little World – Well Hush My Mouf’

Having recently written a post about contests amongst the model collecting society, you can imagine my feelings this week upon being presented with a trophy for the best rookie entry into the annual display…

I was taken aback, but pleasantly…I now have a large perpetual trophy to display for the year and a smaller one to keep forever. I’ll not get a chance to be a rookie again, but this will keep me on my mettle to present something good next time. Fortunately I have several something goods already made so I am ahead of the game. Still, there are so many more vignettes of life that can be modelled…no time to waste.

One thing that will have to be thought out…the size of baseboards for dioramas is a limiting factor in what can be done. In my preferred scale – 1:18 – there is only so much that can be put onto the surface area of a standardised 1000 mm x 820 mm baseboard, and unfortunately that is the largest size that can be carried in my little Suzuki Swift. A Lotto win might yield a larger Suzuki van, but I am not going to buy one for just this purpose.

I think it is time to go see what the model train enthusiasts do when they make layouts for public display. They must have similar problems and will have evolved strategies to cope. I realise that they work in smaller scales, but they do have larger pictures to draw, as it were.

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The Little World – The Unsalable Product Meets The Inscrutable Market…

If you are nervous about politics, ethnicity, or toy airplane kits, now would be the time to switch your computer to the next page. The rest of you can look on while I open a can of retail worms.

Nationalism, nostalgia, and narcissism are an integral part of the Little World. It is most readily seen in the model railway market – where firms who sell to a domestic market make marvelous ranges of models for their friends, relatives, and countrymen, but only pay the slightest attention to a foreign buyer. Märklin was just this in the 50’s to 70’s…they made superb models of German and European trains and dismal models of US prototypes. This was natural, and the only real puzzle was why they bothered to make a US model at all. It might have been to capture the US military market at the PX’s in Germany, for all I know…

In the die-cast car game there are many Chinese makers making models of US, European, and Asian prototypes for sale in those areas. They make Australian prototypes for Australia, and might indeed make other little ventures for other countries – provided there is sufficient money and buying pressure in those areas. This is as it should be, and my only gripe is that they do not make more 1:18th scale cars and trucks of the small domestic type. I am immune to super-cars and racing types…

But where the real interest in nationalism comes is in the die-cast aircraft market. Most of what sells to our local collectors is Western prototype. The predictable Spitfire, Me 109, Hellcat, Zero are all seen and there will always be a sale to someone of an airliner painted in QANTAS or Virgin colours. Why, I struggle to fathom, but I suspect that most of these go to grandparents stuck for a present.

But there is also a surprising amount of what I would have called unsalable stock in the local die-cast airplane market – the cheap productions of Chinese factories of Chinese, North Korean, Soviet, and other air forces. We might all recognise what a MiG 15 looks like, but very few of us want to have 14 of them in different camouflage schemes in our collection. The F-86, perhaps, but even here the offerings are nearly always of US or German markings and really don’t ring a local bell.

I was pondering on this in the new hobby shop, looking at the multiple shelves of Chinese MiG 15 models unsold, when it occurred to me that I might have forgotten something. The two suburbs closest to the shop – Winthrop and Leeming  – have a very high Asian population…specifically a Chinese one. Could it be that these MiGs are aimed at them? Is this the future of collection? Are they collectors of toy airplanes as well as of local rental properties?

Are they nostalgic for the good old days of fighter battles high over the Yalu?

The Little World – The Collector’s Contest

My monthly visit to the model collector’s club in June was very pleasant. I was presented with a trophy – ” equal second place ” for a diorama I had set up, and as it was the first time in decades that I have exhibited anything…including manners…I was quite flattered. But a little taken aback, as well, when I realised that each meeting has a keenly contested competition upon set lines for club members to display their models…to each other.

The items displayed were interesting…in some instances delightful. It was a modest little contest and I suppose eventually little trophies will be earned and awarded. But do I need trophies and contests to enjoy The Little World? Is not the sight of the models and the fun of either finding or building them reward enough? Will LW people fall into the trap of the photographic clubs and give themselves over to competition rather than artistic fun? Will they then take the next steps into certification, judging, accreditation, experts, icons, mentors, superstars, and ambassadors?

I hope not. I don’t think I could stand another set of superstars. Or bitter rivalries. Or brand-fans who fight it out verbally. Please just let it be pluggers, young and old, who like toys and models of things.

The Little World – Meets the Big World

And they do not meet at the hobby shop – they meet at the DIY shop – the Home Depot – the ironmonger’s – the Bunnings. And you have to be ready when they do.

We are accustomed in the Little World to being done. In some cases over, and in some cases like a dinner. We have long realised that our wallets and purses are merely containers for someone else’s money. We have patronised hobby shops, dollhouse shops, gamers shops, and toy stores for decades in the sure and certain knowledge that we couldn’t possibly live without whatever it is that has taken our eye, and that it will also take our drinking – and in many cases our eating – money for a month or more. We swim up to the counter with mouths open and gasping for goodies. We’re like human goldfish. No need to be koi about it…

But it need not be so. We can be modellers, miniaturists, and collectors without becoming the natural fodder of the hobby shop. All we need to do is adjust our viewpoint and our scale.

As you get bigger in scale, the designs, materials, and techniques employed get much closer to real life. And they get, surprisingly , cheaper. Oh, it is more expensive to buy a 1:1 scale Chrysler hemi engine than it is to buy a 1:24th scale model, but the reverse is the case when all you want is corrugated iron. And when it comes to paints, scale equates in a logarithmically reverse order to price. If you painted a Ford Prefect in 1:1 with pots of Tamiya paint it would come out to the price of a Bugatti Veyron.

So. So take advantage of the low prices on paint when you need it for a 1:18th, 1:12th, or 1:6th structure or vehicle. You can get perfectly good coverage for any of these in the hardware store. Bucket or spray can, the paint can be made to look scale-correct with a bit of thinning and in the case of some of the enamel sprays can do a damn sight better job than an airbrush. You can score sample pots of paint and complete a whole project for $ 5.

Likewise fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts, and odd bits of casting made for many other purposes can all be swung into battery with the larger scales and at hardware shop prices. The oak strip wood and moulding racks are your friend and even the humble MDF stacks can be the materials of your dreams…if you dream big.

I have yet to find a good scale reason for regular doorknobs and bags of chicken manure, but I’m still thinking about it. At least in Australia you need not think hungry – Bunnings does a regular sausage sizzle on Saturday that most of us regard as sacred. Sacred with onions.

The Little World – The Perils Of Perth

Perth, Western Australia is a good city to live in. We eat and drink well, sleep safe, and have about as much fun as we deserve. But it can be a frustrating place when it comes to buying certain things.

You can apparently get narcotics here and there and hamburgers everywhere. I have avoided both for years. People who regularly dose up on either of these are a nuisance.

But the real nuisance is the fact that we are at the end of the world as far as retail goods go. This is no new thing – we’ve missed out on stuff for the last 200 years. But now we have the instant reportage of the internet and we find out about it all daily. Unfortunately the local retailers and wholesalers are limited in the amount of stock they can afford to carry and there are vast classes of desirable things that we never get.

How frustrating to have this paraded and reviews, forums, and overseas travellers crowing about our loss.

For those who point out the internet trade as the answer, we can only say that you have to look carefully and sadly at the cost of shipping for whatever you want. You might be able to order some new thing from New York but if the cost of transport makes is double the purchase price, the joy is gone before it arrives. Fools run out of money faster than wise people.

For modellers there is always one golden Western Australian rule: If something is offered for sale and you both want it and can afford it…buy it. There is a very real possibility that it has come as an extra in another shipment and will never be seen again. If you wait a week, you lose it forever.

You will also need to be careful in your online dealings as there are shops who will not sell to you…preferring to deal with people who do not live at such a remove. It is sad, but you cannot force someone to take the time and trouble to post something to you if they are not used to doing it for their own countrymen. Take it as an encouragement to scratch building and the development of skill. It is no different in other remote regions.

Also take advantage of the extensive do-it-yourself shops and suppliers here. If you have  a Little World hobby that is a larger scale, there are no-end of things in a regular hardware shop that can be turned to good account. Do not be afraid to buy from furniture stores or IKEA either – I have been building structures for years from the off-cuts of IKEA wooden slat blinds.

The retro markets and collector’s warehouses that dot the outer suburbs are tempting – their advertising suggests everything you have ever desired. I cruise their stands, but find that their definition of retro and/or treasure is drawn from a different dictionary than mine. I read Webster – they read Captain Kidd.

And the toy stores? Large amounts of several items…

The Little World – A Rainy Sunday

” A Rainy Sunday In Cannington ” is not exactly the title of a show-stopping Broadway tune. Even given full Eurovision treatment, it is unlikely to get in the semi-finals…Yet it was as much fun as any exhibition could be. Here are photos of the day, and you can pore or gloss over them as you like. The aficionados will know what they are seeing and the rest of the populace can occupy themselves with looking at the enthusiasts and shaking their heads…

It was fun to see the wheelers and dealers circling each other’s wallets as well. It is quite reminiscent of the camera markets in Leederville…

The Little World – The First Exhibition

Yesterday was the first time I got to exhibit a model diorama at the West Australian Model Collector’s Club…and it was a good experience.

Dropping into a fresh milieu can be a daunting thing, but the members of the club made me feel welcome, and my display was easy to set up. It encourages me to try my hand at further shows.

I’m not a seller of toy cars. I’m barely a seller of anything these days, unless you count cheesy humour – but I did get a chance to show off what I do to an audience that knows what it is looking at. As any artistic person will tell you, that is the most valuable thing of all. You may not be liked, but you are understood.

I think they liked the display of McConnell Beach and Muzz Buzz. These are two dioramas…or snapshots of life…that I have created with my 1:18th scale cars and a buildings. They are both uniquely Western Australian and as such can be readily recognised. They resonated with all the visitors at the fair. I think this was reason I chose them out of all the other dioramas available – the ease of social access.

Later in the year I will try another club and another exhibition – and the more difficult task of showing dioramas of a different country and time. I am counting on the universality of western experience to fill in gaps of perception for the people who see Mangina Motors and the Tomahawk Cafe.

If it seems to work, I will forge ahead with Crestline Drive and Mission…my slices of life in Spokane, Washington and Calgary, Alberta in the 50’s. If not, I will choose a local subject from Victoria or a country town in WA.

Did I have a good time today? Yes, I did. Did I buy some new cars? Yes, I did…though they were the bargain sort rather than the premium offerings. I have an airbrush and the desire to make my cars look real rather than fabulous. I am not daunted by beaters.

All in all, I think that I shall be very happy with the WAMCC.

PS: My vote for the best in show was the Muppet Movie display. That man has style!