Taking Back Life – Part Four – From Whom?

The catch line about taking back life begs a question – where did it go and who has it now? I’ve only just started to find out that answer for myself.

It’s one that all the readers can ask themselves – because the answers that they find will all be as different as their own lives.

In my case a great deal of time went out to learning – all the years from 1953 to 1972 were spent in formal education. It was not unpleasant, and paid me handsomely by giving me a profession that I could trade upon. Subsequent years also educated me in a subsidiary art that I could turn to employment after the initial profession petered out. So I was set for earning power.

A great deal of time was spent in travel – this means re-location, socializing, and the discipline that comes from experiencing the solitude of the newcomer.

And a certain amount of time was spent in pure amusement – in my case I found most of it from the construction of scale models. All through my life I have had a chance to try my hand at a number of types of modelling. Most were successful – the only exception being model flying. But even here the act of constructing the failed airplanes was rewarding – training hand and eye to small tasks. Teaching visual proportion. And also teaching patience – very few models were ever dashed to the ground in the workshop. Most of them suffered that fate at the flying field.

So what am I now going to take back in my retirement? Why the pure amusement. I now collect scale models and make scenes and dioramas with them. I then use these in my studio for art and commercial illustration. I have discovered the joys of scratch-building as well as kit assembly. I look daily to solve new problems at the workbench – I haunt hobby shops and toy stores looking for parts. I have even started to exhibit some of the models at fairs and shows.

The real benefit this gives is internal – it brings me back to my roots – the little kid at the kitchen table making models – and stimulates my memory. I’m starting to get back some of the scenes and scents of my youth. Daily life took them away for 50 years and now daily routine can bring them back.

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The Little World – The Wonderful Can Of Beans

A bit of a digression in today’s LW…I attended my monthly collector’s meeting yesterday, and while I did not get a monthly newsletter, at least I got to see some rather wonderful tin toys.

They hold a monthly competition based upon a theme, and I guess this must have fitted the bill. The theme, by the way, was the letter M…perhaps these are M of metal.

In any case they are the cheeriest set of racers in the hall. You can make a fuss about scale modelling or not, but these toys would have been the delight of the young when they were new and have remained to delight to old now that the world has become more sophisticated.

I grew up in the 50’s and Japanese and Chinese tin toys were commonplace in the dime stores. They were somewhat despised by us kids as we got older for their simplicity and garish colours, but we didn’t know art when we saw it. Now they are regularly traded and reproduced as cultural objects and I can count several cars, locomotives, and robots in my collection. Nothing as good as these, though.

The forms were simple – I suspect the racers were formed in a press over a wooden master buck and in some cases the pressing wrinkles are still visible. The sheets of tinplate would have been lithographed before the forming process, of course and they are a tribute to their artists. I think they might have loved their design brief as well, because they have certainly not hesitated to use every colour in the poster paint box.

It does raise a question about whether they would have as much appeal if they were printed up as contemporary Jaguars, Ferraris, Astons, etc. The heading image seems to indicate that they might be just as good in a closer to real configuration.

And I should be fascinated to see modern Australian stock racing cars in their complex paint jobs done in tin style. I wonder if there is still the artistry and machinery available?

The Little World – Nowt Boot A Trick – Part One

I always remember a lifestyle exhibition I worked at in the 80’s for two things; Dire Straits’ song about money for nothing playing ALL WEEKEND in loop and one old Pom who circled around our camera stand. The stand had a television set playing the vision from a closed-circuit camera that the firm sold. It pointed out at the crowd and they could see themselves as they passed by.

The chap, from Yorkshire, kept bobbing his head in front of the camera and then in front of the screen, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever it was on the set…possibly wtiout realising that it was himself. Finally he gave up in disgust and turned to a companion and said ” Ee, it’s nowt boot a trick “. From that day forward it has become a catchphrase for all who worked there.

Same thing in the Little World. I am engaged in making a series of buildings that are going to be nowt boot a trick…albeit a clever one at that. I am about to do my first low-relief street scene.

Low-relief, bas-relief, flat face modelling – call it what you will – is a very good way of creating an image when you need two chief points; viewing from one angle only, and more scenery crammed into a small space. In my case it will be big cars – 1:18th scale models – with shop fronts behind them. The idea is not new – I’ve seen it done fabulously well by 1:24th plastic car modellers and OO railway builders.

My efforts are going to be regulated by the need to fit the display onto a standard trestle table as supplied at exhibition halls. My first expo this year showed me that there is only a limited amount of space available when there are a lot of exhibitors, and you must make the most of what you can get. Full buildings in 1:18th are generally too big to go on an 1800mm x 600mm trestle table and leave any parking space for the model cars. I hope that the strip concept will work better.

The other thing that it will do is allow me to transport the displays more effectively. My little car – a Suzuki Swift – has a limited capacity in the hatchback cargo area. I barely squeaked it in with the May display and I don’t think that some of the stuff I have made for my studio would actually fit in to travel across town. So I am going to make my street strips modular – 900mm x 600mm with removable structures – and take as many as i am allowed to display – at least I can get two on a table.

More news as the idea develops.

The Little World – Applying For A Fun Licence

” This is a free country, isn’t it? ”

Fine words, and perfectly appropriate at the polling booth or in the public bar, but hesitate before uttering them in your local hobby shop. Because the answer may turn out to be ” No “.

I’m driven to this conclusion by looking at the goods on offer in the shop. Fine models, glorious kits, magnificent engines, and more trouble than you can pack into a Gladstone bag. In many cases you may be free to purchase the fun, but you will be forbidden to have it…or at least you will need to go a’begging to someone for permission to play somewhere.

If that sounds over the top, consider that here in Perth – the most isolated capital city in the world with hundreds or thousands of kilometres between us and other cities – we need to go to one special secluded spot on the outskirts of town to fly a toy airplane. We need to go 20 kilometres to sail a toy boat, and we can go to Bunbury or buggery if we want to run a toy car.

Noise, pollution, disturbance, wildlife, public nuisance,etc. etc. Councils jealously guard their parks and schools jealously guard their ovals, and woe betide the trespasser. The drone flyers have it even worse as they are the bete noir of everybody. Doesn’t stop the hobby shops from trying to sell lots of different drones, but when it comes to clubs flying them…?

So far the toy train people can escape most of the contumely and control as their layouts are inside, and on their own property. If they take them outside they can be harassed for creating an attractive nuisance or for spoiling the council’s view of what the garden should look like.

The toy soldier, car, and doll collectors also escape most of this problem…but this is probably only because the police and council haven’t figured out an angle that can either fee or fine the collector. Have no fear…they are probably working on it. They already have a stranglehold on the militaria collectors who just want to trade old muskets.

I am not going to worry too much. I’m sure I contravene a number of regulations by collecting toy cars and taking pictures of them and a zealous enemy could put in so many council complaints as to make the hobby miserable, but collecting enemies could also be a lot of fun.

Particularly if you pin them to a board or press them between the pages of a thick book.

The Little World – The New Shop

I visited the new hobby shop this week – it has moved a couple of miles closer to my house. Probably to be closer to my bank account…

The new premises are larger and more imposing than the last ones, and the highway that they sit beside is one of the busiest in the metro area. I was a little disconcerted to find that you can only approach the car park from one direction on that highway, and that getting there will require some degree of planning, but the work will be worth it – they have a very complete line of goods that the builder needs.

And they are well-placed to serve a section of our city that has no other outlet. All the other shops are way away out in other quarters of the town – a cut lunch and water bag trip in some cases. This one is 4 miles from my door and I love it.

I took them a bottle of port wine to celebrate the opening. I daresay by the end of the first rainy Saturday, if the customers had been cranky and the computers stopped working, they cracked the bottle and drowned their sorrows.

Only one awkward thing for the workers – the cabinets full of goodies have a key lock at the bottom of the glass. Every time you ask to get an accessory out of them the staff member serving you has to get down on the floor to open it. This will tell on their clothing, backs, and knees. It was the same for the Camera Electronic store for the first 6 years of my job there – we fought with the keylocks every day. Once the new cabinets with invisible electronic locks were installed, the task was much lighter.

Too often the design of retail premises is not thought through – the goods are either left unprotected or locked up so tightly that the natural flow of sales is checked. It really is a geometric and operational jigsaw puzzle. As one of the salespeople I found that there were some items that were impossible to display and sell at the same time, and some concepts – like on-counter impulse bins – were so penny-catching as to degrade the whole sales floor. The one thing that I was able to do in my time that smartened up the mess was to institute a system of standardised signage for different divisions. We used Gill Sans for the typeface and A4 for the standardised size. It all worked well.

 

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 – Modelling Yourself A Story

The featured image is where I lived in 1959. This house still stands and is seemingly occupied by people no different from who we were. Google Earth has revealed their choice in cars and vinyl siding, and the prodigious growth of the tree out front of the place in the intervening years. The rest of the landscape – mostly volcanic rock – is unchanged. Apart from Mt St. Helens, not a lot can change in the rocks around there.

In making the model I have surprised myself. I was able to locate models of the cars that my Grandfather, Father, and Uncle owned at the time. I was able to fill the garage with the tea chests and Bekins barrels that were the common receptacles of our nomadic life. All that is needed now is a red Raleigh bicycle to complete the picture.

It has been the work of a month, and encourages me to think that I can tackle much more complex structures…if only I can think of them. As we lived many places there are lots of possibilities – but in the future I am going to be guided by the principle of modelling my own experiences rather than those of others. This is not to decry other people’s work or interests, but to tell my story rather than repeat that of others. We get enough second-hand and third-hand political, religious, and moral instruction as it is.

Or rather, we are enriched by other’s visions in art, and can be enriched by the same in modelling…but we are far better showing our own art rather than repeating that of others.

I am encouraged to think that I do not need to restrict myself to just the cars of the 50’s and 60’s…I’ve been driving since then and I’ve gotten to see some pretty exotic vehicles. It is as valid for me to stage modern car shows as it is to make models of old houses – I am still telling my own tale.