A Foot in the Door... 

Encouraging new model makers

submitted by Will strange, education VP

As an associate at Flic Models in London, I once answered the door to a young South African guy. Though trained as an architect, he was fed up with working as a labourer on London building sites and was going 'door to door' with his portfolio of drawings and model making. He literally had site boots on, a level in one hand and a portfolio in the other! I gave him a week-long trial as we were crazy busy at the time, and found one of the best model makers I've ever worked with…

As a Senior Lecturer at BA (Hons) Modelmaking at Arts University Bournemouth, UK (www.aub.ac.uk/bamo), I’m confident that our graduates are well prepared for a career as a professional model maker. I’m often reminded though, that there are a great many of us who have not had formal training in model making. There are plenty of successful model makers out there who don’t have a higher level qualification in the subject that they practice. My friend from South Africa is one of them.

Here are some thoughts, from my perspective as an educator and Education VP for the APMM, about how we establish ourselves as model makers, and how us APMM members can easily encourage the development of new starters and help others to find our rewarding profession and make it their own, too. With experience, age, and the illusion of wisdom that they bring, it can be difficult to imagine how hard it can be to make those first few contacts that grow into the network of friends and colleagues that support our careers. 

One of the biggest benefits of being a student of model making is the 'ready made' network that the school and/or program provides. Certainly, we work hard to make sure that when one of our students says they are studying with us, that reputation means something positive.

Expectations of a student/intern are lower, which can be a great relief to those who are anxious about working professionally for the first time. I encourage our final year students to consider how they would handle having a first year student help out on their final projects. How much responsibility would they hand over? Would they be expecting really high level work right away?

The confidence that comes from spending time, as a student, to get to know professionals paid off for, AUB graduate, Tom Hughes…
"I met my boss at New Blades (http://modelshop.co.uk/Static/New-Blades), the model maker’s graduate show in London. I was asked to an interview at Pinewood Studios and ended up starting there before we’d had our graduation ceremony."

Though his academic qualification probably meant little on the sound stage at Pinewood Studios, it was the three years of study that built the body of work that impressed his first employer. (https://aub.ac.uk/courses/ba/ba-modelmaking/graduates/thomas-hughes)

Once that first impression is made, others often come to the aid of new-starters. I remember someone who showed me the ropes… One of my first jobs was as trainee model maker at Unit 22 Models in London. A good friend of mine and I started there at the same time. I remember a guy, Paul, who made a point of passing on his experience to us whenever he could. Though sometimes he could be a bit patronising, his help was invaluable for all those "they don’t teach you that in college" moments. He freely admitted that he got a kick out of helping us along too. My friend Adam stayed on at Unit 22 after I left. He "liked it so much, he bought the company"! He is still the owner now. Proof, I say, that Paul did a great job all those years ago.

When recruiting new students for our programme, we face one big problem. Very few potential applicants have actually heard of model making as a good career option. It simply doesn’t occur to them to look for a degree course like ours. So how do people end up making their living as a professional model makers? The skill-set of the model maker overlaps with many other professions. There are a lot of potential model makers out there who think that they are destined to be industrial designers, furniture makers, or jewelry makers.

Michael Scribner, of Garmin, says: "My degree and training were in metal-smithing and jewelry design. Caught my break because one of the senior industrial designers at Garmin had been through my program himself, and when Garmin was looking to expand their model making team, he knew it was likely that someone in that program would have the hand skills and eye for detail. Frankly, I didn't even really know what a professional model maker was at that point in time. If I had known it was an option back when I was in school, I'd have probably been pursuing it more directly than I did. Having awareness of the existence of an organization like the APMM would have definitely helped with that, I think."

This is a familiar story, and one that highlights how many potentially great model makers may not even know about our profession. The APMM can help to make talent easier to find, increase the value of our profession, and highlight a rewarding career that many may not find alone.

The APMM was recently contacted by the Boy Scouts of America organisation; They were looking for a "subject matter expert" to review their 'Model Design and Building' badge requirements. It was a surprise to us that there is a badge for model making, and more of a surprise that they make a point to reach out to experts in the different badge activities to ensure that they are up to date and, here’s the encouraging thing, relevant to professional practice. What a great introduction to a possible career in model making!

The newly-created APMM Forums (https://www.modelmakers.org/forum-list) provide a great opportunity for connections and networking between those well established in the model making world, and those who want to find out more. If you haven’t found this resource yet, have a look. If you are new to this industry, reach out and ask questions, the networks you will find are friendly and valuable.

If you are an established model maker, workshop manager, or just working with those who have much less experience, share some knowledge, and pass on some wise words; you’ll be encouraging a new generation of model makers into our community…

~ Will
[email protected]

Will is the APMM’s Education VP. If you're having trouble sleeping, find out more about him at https://www.modelmakers.org/meet-your-board Look out for more news about how the APMM is working with the Boy Scouts of America in a future newsletter.


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