The Little World – Just Popping Down To The ( Aardman ) Shops…

It’s hard to convey the sense of wonder that a Little World enthusiast gets when they first see a master model. The museum-quality ships at Greenwich, the scratchbuilt aircraft at Duxford, the railway models in the Science Museum or York…they all have an authority and an educational value that can go far beyond even the full-size original objects on display. The great thing about these artifacts is that, unlike the famous works of art in galleries, the popular knowledge of them is limited – you do not have to breast rooms full of tourists to see the tiny little painting – you don’t have to queue for hours to file past some renaissance daub because it is the ‘ famed ‘ daub.

And yet…there can be the same artistry exhibited by modern model makers, and the impact of it can be far greater for the familiarity of it. The fact that it is in 3 dimensions just adds to the charm. Witness the corner greengrocer’s shop set from ” The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit ”

The set is about a metre and a half long on each side – roughly 1/6 to 1/8 size. Correct internal lighting – the Fujifilm X-T10 was set on the 3200 ISO and the white balance was left on auto to sort itself out. What you see is what you saw in the film, albeit in motion and for a brief periods of time. The detail that you can see bears witness to the integrity and sense of dedication for the modellers. It was impossible to look at any corner of the set – even the doorstep with the milk bottle in front of the hairdresser’s shop – without getting the feeling that you were looking at a full-size scene.

The two display cases – tools and kitchen items – are actually mouth-watering to a miniatures worker. But they, and the detail pictures, can induce a terrible feeling of inadequacy in we amateurs – particularly if we are working in smaller scales with bigger fingers – fingers that are frequently covered in glue and/or stuck to the parts that we are actually working on.

Still…If the Aardman people would like a tasty little earner, they might consider compiling  How-To-Do-It videos and discs or making a book about their techniques. I would be first in line at the bookstore for them.

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Yo Ho Ho In The Little World

It’s a little hard to ignore a pirate ship when it literally towers over you. That’s the main working model ship for the Aardman pirate movie seen at the recent exhibition. No half-made device – not a rough adaptation of a Revell kit. That is solid shipbuilding…I think when it has done with the world travels of the art galleries that it should have a place in Greenwich Maritime Museum in London. It might be a parody, but it is more authentic than most display vessels.

The exhibition was glorious in that it led the viewer through the entire working procedure that Aardman use for ideas – from rough pencil sketchs through story boards to rather large scene drawings made with as much care as any artist’s finished canvas. Then on to the benches and the model makers. Surprisingly, some characters and concepts carry through perfectly from the initial pencil sketches – and some are trimmed ruthlessly…but not until they have been worked up a long way. I can only imagine that their creators fight each other in staff meetings to have their creations live and breathe.

The main actors in any of these productions need to be made and remade to change position thousands of times – changed and distorted would be more accurate. The armature upon which clay, plastic, and fabric is posed seems to be modifications of standard devices available in the industry with flexible but lockable joints places pretty much where real creatures also bend. ” Standard ” hardly applies to the were-rabbit, but nothing fazes Aardman. I should think they are the darlings and saviours of small engineering supply houses in their town.

The Little World – Hindsight Is Perfect

They say hindsight is 20/20 vision. They never say where the eyes that do it are meant to be placed…

For the Little World worker it hardly matters, as they generally do not bother looking closely at their own work. At other people’s, yes. That needs critical laser vision and acid comparison. But a model that we have made five years ago never really gets the going over that one might expect – even after all the effort we put into it.

However, the exception can occur. Five years ago I made a model of a Hollywood – style set and produced a little book of it for the actors and actresses who posed for me. The model went under a heavy drape and was duly forgotten…forgotten until I met a lady from the miniaturist’s society at a model train exhibition*. On a whim I asked whether her society would be interested in having it on display at their fair in August.

She leapt at the chance, and so did her club secretary. I’ve been in touch with them, arranged to deliver it for their day, and they’ll display it prominently. And that has triggered off an entirely new phase for the model.

It was a project that could be photographed for still pictures as if it was a motion picture set. Now it is being completed as a film set in the process of filming…I’m adding the equipment and structures that the film makers…the legendary Goldfisch brothers…are using. Camera, lights, dressing room ( well it’s actually a sheet–iron toilet in use as a dressing room ), makeup benches, sound desk, recorder, boom microphone…etc.

Even the wooden structure of the set is being enhanced with scale 2 x 4 framing. Signs are sprouting everywhere.

In short, the model has come alive again. And this time I know what each part should be doing, so the components can be placed and fastened rather than being swept away into a cardboard box and eventually lost.

I cannot afford to have custom-made figurines for the set, though they are done by artists in the US, but I have a sort of sneaky plan to populate the model nevertheless. I hope the miniaturist ladies have a sense of humour. After all it is a fancy house…

The Tyranny Of ( No ) Distance

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Overseas readers must forgive the title – it is a play on a standard phrase used by Australians to complain about living in Australia. We are mostly far away from where it’s all happening , and when we get closer to it, it moves away. In reality this is a blessing – most of what is happening is troublesome. But on to more important matters: scale models.

Our recent scale model exhibition was in the Cannington show hall and was well attended. Well, I attended,…and had a very good time. I spent money and met new people and looked at some wonderful models. But I was troubled with the way that the work of the modellers was set out – I don’t think that the standard way of exhibiting them does them justice.

Let me also add that I think this can be the case for some of the other miniature hobbies, though not to the same extent. Let me explain.

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Scale models come in all sorts of scales – anywhere from 1:400 to 1:4. They are dictated by moulding machine sizes and markets as much as they are by artistry. Enthusiasts for any particular sort of model from any particular period are very lucky if the manufacturers of the kits have agreed upon a common scale – 1:72 or 1:35 say. The chance to work for years in one scale and add models from different nations must be a wonderful thing – particularly wonderful if the models are of contemporary devices. A person can then develop an accurate overview of the subject.

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But at a general exhibition there will be models that people are proud of in many different sizes, and of as many different subjects as can be found on the hobby store shelf. They are well-made and painted beautifully, and then necessarily placed side by side and front to back on the display tables. I love ’em individually, but hate ’em en masse. The effect is a jumble that detracts from the individual work.

 

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Yet…what is to be done if there are so many to display and so many categories to see? Frankly, I’m stumped, but I would welcome a more ordered approach. The Super Model Car Sunday ranks the models in two or three tiers on long trestles with a white paper backing. I dislike the paper as a confusion for automatic light metering systems in flash cameras, but once you do the adjustments it provides a constant canvas to show the artistry. Note, here again there is too much crowding, but no-one should be denied…

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The doll house ladies put their dioramas on trestles with a cloth cover, but each house is a separate entity and they rarely clash.

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I think that the competition models got a better stage – but of course there were fewer of them. It was nice to be able to stalk around and see the exhibits from several sides.

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I am almost tempted to suggest a combined exhibition of large scale model trains and plastic models where the exhibits are hauled around the hall on a giant railway like a modellers sushi train. New ones come out all the time and old ones are parked in back of a partition. Stranger things have happened.

Note: as a photographer, the best idea I have ever had for display of 120+ images was a laptop and a digital projector on a loop timer. it presented my work and advertisements spectacularly for several hours at a dance show. It’s rare that you can get the facilities to do it, but it might also be a way to present the modeller’s work to a wider audience.