Board Member Profile: Joshua Munchow

Joshua's path to becoming a professional model maker was a long and winding road!

SUBMITTED BY SUE WELLMAN as told by Joshua Munchow, VP of Social Media 

Joshua’s first job was in San Francisco with the architectural model firm Gemmiti Model Art.  “Along with a few very talented model makers I worked on a variety of projects that literally utilized all my skills learned while at school,” he says. As his first foray into professional model making, it really pushed him to become better at project estimating and developing skills that weren’t his specialties.

Joshua graduated with a degree in Model Design from Bemidji State University but took a long road to get there. After high school he attended the University of Minnesota for two years where he learned very quickly that he had no idea what he really wanted to do with his life. He was enrolled in the business school for a degree in business administration and knew that he hated it after just one semester. After his second semester he became more interested in design and applied for a transfer to the design school. Due to a lackluster GPA he was denied and resorted to taking a load of art courses while filling out his general requirements.

“I spent a year taking everything I could
to learn as many skills as possible,
but I still felt like I lacked a direction.
I wanted to focus on technology but I also
wanted to make things, and without
much guidance up to that point
I had very little knowledge of my options.”
                                          -Joshua Munchow
 

After his second year he realized that he wasn’t going to get anywhere at that institution and transferred out to Century Technical College where he enrolled in the Design & Multimedia program. Joshua says, “I spent a year taking everything I could to learn as many skills as possible, but I still felt like I lacked a direction. I wanted to focus on technology but I also wanted to make things, and without much guidance up to that point I had very little knowledge of any options. One day when I went to class, the instructor announced that for 20 minutes at the end of class we would be listening to a presentation from a visiting instructor about a program at a little school in northern Minnesota called Bemidji State University.”

During those twenty minutes his entire life changed. Not only was he introduced to model making as a concept, but also as a career. Within twenty-four hours he had applied and been accepted as a transfer student for the following fall. 

Since the program was so specialized and certain courses were only offered every other year, it required four years of schooling no matter what. So going into what should have been his senior year in college he transferred to Bemidji State as an incoming freshman (technically) and started his road to becoming a model maker in a serious capacity.

According to Joshua, during his time at Bemidji State, a semester studying abroad in the UK, and at both of the firms he worked for after graduation, he has undertaken the entire gamut of model making. “I have done paper models and cardboard massing models, and created sculptures using multiple types of clay. I have created architectural models, engineering models, appearance models, functional prototypes, trade show displays, testing bucks, proof-of-concept models, mechanical study models, and even design study models.” 

He has created models or mockups for the aerospace, medical, consumer electronics, industrial, and automotive industries. He has created props for the movie "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" while he studied abroad, and props for his own enjoyment. Joshua says, "The skills I have learned have allowed me to build things that I want to, like furniture, tools, and accessories for everyday life. I have even created my own watch (working on number two) and have turned my skills into a variety of hobbies." 

According to Joshua, the most interesting thing he has built professionally is one of the airline seat mockups he has done while at Formation Design in Atlanta. Each one is different, but all of them have "at least a dozen really cool features. And since they are full size, semi-functional mockups that go to trade shows, the payoff when it is finished is that I actually get to sit in a very high-end business class seat, something I probably won’t ever pay to do. But much of what we do at Formation Design has a very long lead time, so projects often are kept secret for years before we can discuss them."

But models aren’t just limited to professional work; Joshua has made many things over the years and in school that really impacted him. To this day, one of his favorite models is the one he entered into the Art Hedlund Student Model Making Competition at the APMM conference in Boston in 2010. Joshua describes it this way, "It was a “tri-axial tourbillon engineering model that was based off a mechanism found in ultra-luxury watches. Since then I have had an extreme passion for all things mechanical and horological which has bloomed into my main hobby as an amateur watchmaker."

When asked what he liked most about being a model maker, he mentioned the usual reasons but also one not so commonly cited. "I also love casual work attire. I have fun dressing up, but knowing that if I don’t want to iron a shirt every morning or pick up a blazer from the dry cleaners every couple weeks I don’t have to. And if I’m being entirely honest, I truly love having access to an entire shop full of tools and equipment that I can use whenever I want so I can create whatever is in my head."

In response to the question “What do you find is the best thing about the APMM?” Joshua answers, “The best thing about being a member is the network of fantastic people that have a broad cache of knowledge and can provide detailed information to answer nearly any question one might have when making models or prototypes. So often people think that it is easy to find anything you need on the internet or in a YouTube video. Very often the information out there is either rudimentary or just plain wrong, which is usually due to the fact that the people that really know what they are talking about don’t share all the information that they use to make a living, and so the very specific info we as model makers need still comes from peers in the APMM and the industry at large.”

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Association of Professional Model Makers
Spring 2019 Newsletter