November 30, 2001


An interesting sidenote came out of last weeks question, where I asked, "If you could produce one kit, what would it be and who would you like sculpting it?"

I received an e-mail informing me that the question would do nothing more than widen the rift between those sculptors trying to make a name for themselves and those already well known, many of whom are no longer in the Garage Kit hobby!

That in his experience in the GK hobby, there was a growing inequity between how Sculptors are treated and how Kit Producers were.

We also talked about their 'behind the scenes' presence, where I've noticed more than once, that very few modelers out there even know these guys by name! They can name many Garage Kit companies, but when it comes to who actually sculpted the kit, many don't have a clue.

It was an interesting discussion and I thought, 'What are the concerns and frustrations Sculptors experience that the average modeler isn't aware of?'

So I went through my address book and found forty-eight names of people who sculpt, & a few more who are closely affiliated with sculptors, and asked for their opinions!

Here's what some of them had to say...

Scott 'CaptCBoard' Alexander -

As a manufacturer, I make sure I give credit where credit is due, whether it is a patternmaker or a sculptor. From my perspective, using good people over and over again helps bring the client closer, from a branding standpoint, because he comes to know all the names associated with a project. Its like knowing who did the cinematography, visual effects or music in a film-- you know going in whether or not you are in for a treat!

Mike James from Azimuth Design.

We do nothing but girl kits.

I sympathize that it is often true that fans don't know who the creators are by name. It's the same in comic books. Many companies don't give creator credit for the reason that it makes them seem as a "company" appear less relevant or important.

I am probably an exception to your poll of "company recognition" vs. "artist recognition". That's because my kit "company" is basically synonymous with myself as a "sculptor". My company was formed solely to market the kits I sculpt.

One thing I noticed early on though, was that people had difficulty pronouncing the word "Azimuth". Grass roots nomenclature for Azimuth Design kits seemed to become "Mike James" kits. I got so many emails referring to them as such that I decided not to fight it, and switched the heading of our company webpages from "Azimuth Design" to "James Girls".

Jeff Biernacki -

Well I have only done a couple little kits as I have just started in this hobby, (but loved it for YEARS, only who could afford them at age 15!)

I cast them myself with my own molds. I take the pictures, pack the boxes, etc... so I am 100% involved and I only get out of it what I put in. Time spent complaining and disagreements with someone else only cuts into your own time and efforts.

Do all sculptors want to be rock stars with teen girls wanting to sleep with you? "Like, oh my Gawd, you made the Conan kit!!!! EEEEE!!!!" It's not gonna happen!

My satisfaction comes when someone sends a pic of my kit they built and painted.

Al Rebioro from Python Kits -

Not many people can name an Aurora sculptor much less a "Garage" kit sculptor.

If we as sculptors needed the lime light to boost our egos, it is easy enough to get your name and photo in any of the magazines to serve that purpose. What I use as a barometer is not how many autographs I sign but how many kits I have sold. This is where an artist lives.

Artists as a whole are insecure and if a kit does not sell it is a huge ego crusher, just as when a kit is accepted it is an enormous high. If they know my name, GREAT if not, who cares.

Being in this hobby for more than 11 years I have acquired some fans that are cool and some that have to know you and tell their friends that they are your closest buddies. In a way its like being a comic book artist. Every one has fans. I like the ones who buy my kits. Fame in the garage kit business gets you exactly ZERO.

Need the $$$$ not an ego massage.

Dan Perez - Dan Perez Studios -

The end consumer, your average garage kit buyer, is interested in the kit first and foremost, and where to get it. When I worked as a professional freelance writer, it was the same. They were interested in reading a good story or magazine article, but often couldn't name the author. This was the reality. I'd meet people and mention a story I had written and they'd say (in surprise) "Hey, I read that story." They never paid much attention to the name attached to it. This is human nature, and something sculptors must learn to accept. The reason kit producers are more well known is that they are the source of the kits; the buyer has to know who they are so he or she can order the kit. Plus certain companies create more distinctive lines, such as Janus, and these make the producer better known.

There is a percentage of buyers who are more discriminating, and actually seek out a certain sculptor's work. I don't know what percentage of the buying public these buyers constitute, but it's probably fewer than half.

What can a sculptor do to become more well known? First and foremost, produce great sculpts that distinctly set you apart from the rank and file. That's a given. Second, insist on being credited both on packaging and on print/online advertising materials as well. Most kit producers are good guys; they will work with you on these issues.

Jim Phillips from Independence Productions -

As far as recognition goes it seems to me to depend on how long someone has been in the hobby. If you're Shawn Nagle then you have put in your time and a lot of time at that, plus great work and the recognition falls into place.

Also, and I hope that this doesn't come off as sounding arrogant or cruel...but some of the work by fly-by-nighters shows, and the recognition of their efforts may not be what they want it to be. Also, unless there's a real standout kit, the plethora of stuff available today and the number of sculptors working today might stifle the ability of someone to remember a sculptor's name.

It was just a few short years ago that there were only a handful of folks actively sculpting. As for myself, I haven't really encountered an unrecognition problem, but that seems linked to the amount of my work that has been shown in magazines...however I know that there will be folks that will never know my name in this hobby (I'm no Takeya). However, if a sculptor's piece is highly recognisable, then isn't that some sort of identification? (I used my sculpt of Ceasar for Model Prisoners as a calling-card for quite a little bit ).

Oh well, there's my two cents...hopes this helps a little.

Jarrod Shiflett -

The situation with name credit is what people let it be. There are those who don't want name credit, so they can slop things together and not be blamed for their lack of care, and there are those who won't work without it.

I think most freelancers are in the middle. We get it where we can, when we can. Brandon and I will make a fuss about it because we generally have a bad attitude , but us sculptors are prone to accepting jobs out of desire to just work, and do what we love , and name credit is sometimes swept by the wayside.

It can be a battle on every piece, with every new company. Some companies are great about it, some refuse it all together.

Sculptors unite!

I sincerely appreciate your desire to bring the issue to light, best wishes and good luck!

John Guenther -

Yes it is hard to get your name out there in the kit business. I haven't worked with alot of different company's (producers) really. Just Fatman and Black Star Models. Dave of Black Star is really great at making sure I get sculptor credits. They are on the box art, his website, and any ads he puts in the magazines.

A sculptor MUST make this part of the agreement when any producer produces his sculpture. Plus if any sculpture I do comes with a base, I will put my name on the back in an out of the way place. But some producers don't like that. Dave has no problems with it though. A sculptor really has to take it upon themselves to promote their name. If you don't make it part of the agreement with the producer to get credits, then there's a chance you won't see your name in ads or on box art.

But, I think the biggest frustration for sculptors is the money. It's not the greatest at all. You really have to love sculpting kits to keep doing it. You can spend a couple of months working on a piece, than sell it for not much. There are some who get paid well, but, only a few. That is why you see sculptors run to the toy company's or whoever is willing to make it worth while.

The biggest draw back to that is. you would be making ALOT more money, but, you wouldn't be sculpting the stuff you love as much. But it all works out in the end if you have a genuine love for the creativity of the sculpting field.

I love it, I just wish I could make a real living at it. So I will just keep plugging away at it. Once it's in your blood, it's always a part of you and you can't help yourself. You have to sculpt. Hope this helps! Thanks!

Larry Burbridge of Kitbuilders Magazine -

Well, as a kit producer I will say I always promoted my sculptors. Including Sam Greenwell, Shawn Nagle, Wayne Hansen, Jim Maddox, Rick Force , Barsom and Joe Simon. That should be part of the deal with the sculptor.

Unfortunately, most sculptors are flakes. They are their own worst enemy and hurt themselves by being slow, overcharging or not completing a project. There are definitely two sides to this story.

Wayne THE DANE Hansen -

I'm probably one of the better known sculptors, given my time in the hobby. When I deal with GK kit companies, I know that the bottom line for me is money and steady work load, since this is my day job. My reputation comes next. The work has to be fine enough to speak for itself. A consistent quality in my sculpts has to always be pushing the quality envelope beyond my past sculpts. I'm not in competition with other sculptors; just myself and whatever weak points my sculpts might have. This is what builds my reputation! The work!

2. As for how I've been treated in the hobby:
Every slice of life has good folks and also its share of folks who delight in putting others down. This hobby is no different! This hobby demands exquisite sculpting above all! Everytime a sculpt of mine is sold as a kit, if I screwed up somewhere on that sculpt, which I have done through my years of growth as a sculptor, I'm gonna get bashed by my fellow GK guys and gals!

I've had to combat this by assuming a leathery hide and a sharp ear for "Constructive Criticism", which I learn from. The hobby is small and full of fussy folks, which is fine. I've spent years getting consistently bashed by nay-sayers in this hobby. I combat them by being nice to all! KILL THEM WITH KINDNESS! I try not to pay any attention to "Destructive Criticism", which at its core is meaningless harm with no future in my mind. Now that I am finally getting good enough to impress hobbists, the nay-sayers have gotten quiet. Acclaim comes from the good sculpts.

If you want something done right; you must do it yourself! I have promoted myself and my name by writing articles over past years to stay in the limelight. The limelight can have its highs and lows too!

As for my client GK companies helping me and my publicity, I demand that my name as sculptor be put on each kit sculpt. I go so far as to design instruction sheets and boxart for these companies, if possible This insures that my name is known as the sculptor, boxart and instruction sheet creator!

Works pretty well. On the internet I always promote my clients' DANE kits with e-mail promotion to other GK groups online, creating online galleries and e-mailing sculpt pictures to any and all comers! When I set up at shows, I will have some built-ups of my sculpts for other companies ON DISPLAY to help educate GK shoppers who did the work of creating these sculpts! The kit companies generally really appreciate this free publicity and happiness results all around!

You know the song, which describes a reality in this hobby! I try not to deal with companies that refuse to help promote my name with the sculpted kits I do for them. Sometimes you get some companies that have no care about putting my name on the kit. Do not even furnish complimentary castings of my creations for my portfolio!

If good will does not prevail, I'll severe working ties with them for future work. It's a trial and error process that has taken me years of good and bad experiences! Anyone, even good people, will screw you if the money isn't there!

Apart from GK companies helping their sculptors by putting the "clay pusher's" name on the kit, that is secondary to getting paid! The supreme lack of respect that can occur all to frequently is to not get paid for the work done! I know many sculptors who innocently did a hand shake deal for no commission money down, a low sculpting fee, a promise of a percentage of profits or a few castings when the kit is out .

Sculptors beware! Know who you're dealing with BEFORE you transact business with a potential client, company or private person!

Firm policies guide my sculpting business:
A. 50% downpayment BEFORE starting the work. Sometimes I'll negotiate to lower more frequent installment payments, but never start a sculpt before receiving some money. This sets the mood of the transaction. With money given on a commission, the client has made an investment to the sculpture! No money, no work!

B. Remaining unpaid balance BEFORE I relinquish possession of any sculpture to a client! I will show pictures to the client through the entire sculpting process for their approval in any phase of the sculpt's growth, asking for the client's input at every stage! Just before I bake a polymer clay sculpt, the final pictures are communicated to the client for final approval. We work out detailing and casting parts breakdown at this time. After the sculpt is hardened, I want no more changes and everything agreed upon before this point.

I always give the client the right to have me make reasonable changes to a sculpt after they have received the work, if these changes are legitimately within the commission's parameters!

Often the sculpt is broken in shipment. I, of course take care of any repairs. I find shipping sculpts fast is best for a minimum of handling! Fed Ex or UPS overnight is best. I often use priority mail USPS, but always insure the package for the price of the commission if possible.

Many times the client will make additions to the commission during the work phase or after they receive the sculpture that were not mentioned when the price was set. I have to carefully determine if these additions should require an additional fee to that fee first agreed upon.

It pays to be outspoken and honest with clients in this and all other points! Being nice and being quiet dealing with a client is a deadly game that often ends in bad resentments on both sides! Always be outspoken and honest, but never disrespectful to a client. After all, they are paying you for your services.

I try not only being respectful, but build a friendship of trust for repeat commissions, if the client has passed the good working relationship test! If not, chalk it up to experience, but never spread bad words about anyone to anyone else! This is bad business and should be avoided at all costs! It may come back to bite you sometime in the future!

The hobby grows with being nice! That's my policy, along with outspoken honesty! Now that I've been really lengthily outspoken and honest, I'll end this e-mail, so you can hear what other sculptors have to say!

(That's what I love about you, Dude!! A man of few words!!! Bwhahahaha!!!)

Shawn Nagle -

If I had to say that! I think that a picture is dumb founding in the sense that people are more out to remember that. They see your work more than the name. And I know this is true because people will ask a question that is in the ad.

If you mean that a Kit Co. gets more exposure, it's because they pay for the ad. If you want more, do stuff on your own!

Bob Wallets -

(on commissioning a sculpt)...

I will tell you this that I've learned a lot since I started a few years ago. Being a novice I didn't really know how much work it is to sculpt. I know now that the sculptor has to be in the right frame of mind and do the research on his subject which has been selected by the one who commissioned him or her.

Now, what I have done is changed my mind after the deal has already been closed, but the piece hasn't been started. I didn't think it was a big deal but I've been wrong.

I guess what I'm saying is a deal is a deal and unless something mega happened it stays the same. Since there's no Regulatory Commission our word is all we have to go on.

Count Fritz from Vampir Unlimited -

I am producer and have a few minor pieces of my own in production. I am very keen on making the sculptor's name known. As a collector, I usually know that info over the manufacturer in most cases, and have to track down the producer. I am often surprised that someone will buy a piece from me at a show which they see at my site and still ask me if I sculpted it, or someone else.

I presume everything Diceman produces is an Ed Bowkley sculpture, though I see no mention of that on his boxes or the pieces themselves. Some kit manufacturers are closely tied to one sculptor, and when another artist becomes involved it can confuse some people. Janus has always prominently advertised sculptors. It helps sell a kit as much as their reputation as a producer. Cellar Cast, Artomic, Gothic Haus; all are just one sculptor. William Paquet's oldest pieces that have changed hands a few times and are owned by certain producers are just not advertised as such. Why not?

There are too many sculptors who do not look into the benefits of getting their name advertised with a kit producer. It should be a stipulation when a piece is commissioned that the sculptor's name will be made evident in all ads, inserts, and on the box art. AS WELL as on the cast piece. I put out the sculptor's name, on box art and inserts. They also sign the piece. Some pieces I have obtained did not come with boxes or instructions. I have no clue who sculpted or made the piece. What if I'd like to hire the sculptor, or collect other pieces he or she made?

Then again, I have had a few customers who entered contests approached by people asking "Where did you get the Dracula's Daughter Bust! I have seen it in magazines. Who sells it?" Well, if you saw it in a magazine, all the info was there. So my guess is people just don't pay attention the way they should.

(Fritz: Ed "Shemp" White does the majority of sculpts for Dice.  :)

Joy Kenyon from 'Strange Babies' -

I write the kit reviews for Kitbuilders mag. The problem is, most manufacturers are in it for the bucks, and self-promotion. They figure once they pay for their product, the artists are just commodity... part of the production process.

More of us old-timers know how important it is to promote and nurture and support the artists because we're all in this together. When folks remember that, we all make out.

As the kit-reviewer, I see my share of independent and large company kits- all of them I think! This one artist, Richard Leach, kept standing out. His work is different, imaginative, not based on anything from movies or tv, just his vivid imagination. As a builder and painter, i was inspired by the kits of his to use my imagination. Didn't have to nail a likeness, just let the kits happen! So I contacted this artist. We now help each other. We are mutual-muses. He has more time to complete and develop ideas into sculpts, and I take care of the production-end. We both make out, and so does whoever buys "our" kts. I quote 'our' because, they really are Richard's sculpt, not mine.

Kitbuilders, Martin Cage's Budgiekits, George's GEOmetric Design all give credit where credit is due... to the artists. Some folks have come to me on eBay or at shows and advised they like to collect certain artists' work. It's to the production company's advantage, and should be to their principle, to mention artists.

On the downside, lots of artists have gotten, through promotion of their name, too big for their, or any body else's, britches. Their heads got swollen, charges for sculpts too high, and it hurt them, the distributors and producers, and the hobby as a whole. One of the reasons many companies may be hesitant to mention new, upcoming folks- afraid their prices will go up or they'll lose the artist(s) to another, larger company.

So, the artcile i write is called 'in my opinion' for a reason!

Chris Borowiec -

Personally, as a model kit buyer, I look for particular sculptors. William Paquet, John Wright, Jeff Yaeger, (just to name a few) have developed a name for themselves based on their quality of work.

As a (new) sculptor, my greatest hope is to achieve what I sought: quality goods associated with a talented and dependable sculptor.

The companies that sell their goods (aside from those owned by the sculptor, re: Vision Models) are completely unimportant to me. While I know Janus is a good source for quality kits, I'm more intrigued by who sculpted them.

As an "unknown" sculptor, I *expect* slow sales until I have proven myself, and have developed a quality line of goods. 2002 should be a very exciting year :)

Joe Hope -

I have to say that I have only dealt with a handful of producers, and most are fine. Martin Cage of Budgiekit's was extremely fair. I did the box art for many of his kits as a favour, and when I did the first of my own sculptures, he insisted on me putting my name on the box for all to see!

Bad companies? Frank Fatman. Sorry to bad mouth anyone you may know personally, but he tried his best to take me for a ride, he took my first sculpt and took advantage of the fact that I was new....8 months before he paid me.

But I digress....
There are very few 'household' names when it comes to sculptors in the hobby. Does any kitbuilder really care that much about who created the item? Do scale train hobbyists want to know who built the prototype of a miniature diesel , or do they see 'Hornby' on the box and know it's a quality product?

Figure kit company comparison is Janus. All quality kits, using, it would seem, just a handful of top sculptors. I know all of their names cos I am a sculptor too, but does the buyer care? We all know Rick Baker as the top make-up guy in the movie industry, but the majority of the public at large enjoyed the Grinch, marvelled at the make-up, but did they stay to watch the credits for Rick's name?

In a nutshell, it would be nice to think that the kitbuyer was dying to know who we are, but maybe they know that companies such as Janus always produce quality and that is where the interest ends.

Rob Liptak --

I am producing my own at the moment because I do want some of the recognition. I have gotten into the GK business a bit late for my age, though I have been carving wood for over 20 years. I guess my biggest fear was the reproduction business usurping my product when I gave/sold it away to a producer. So I am trying to maintain a loose control--not anal like some, but control just the same.

When I was at one of the garage kit shows this past year, I was approached by two different people who were trying to sell me completed pieces so I could produce kits of them. I felt uncomfortable since one was a mismash of other kits combined to make a "new" model kit. The talent was there but I thought, "gee, what artist kits did he "borrow" these from?" Then, is this going to happen to my kits once they get on the market? If it happens, it happens, but that momentary thought was a bit unnerving.

I have been approached to quote on making a kit for someone else. I am a bit hesitant at the moment because I am busy and that work takes away from my own limited time. The other concern is just the problem: whose name is on the box art. I feel name recognition is critical at this juncture and selling a product without the name means my art work gets "diluted" and I feel I end up "losing."

I think it takes a certain mindset to do stuff for other people. I met a guy who was perfectly content to do stuff for the McDonalds market. Yes, it paid well and he can "say" that he sculpted the little toys, but there is no name on it to really back him up. It isn't his anymore, anyways. The company can bend an arm and squash the face and make a "new" product and the artist no longer means anything. He/she has been paid. It is work for hire and you as the artist have nothing to do but dig their ditch.

I remember way back when a friend's father had "invented" a headlight that would NOT burn out in an auto. It would increase the production cost by less than a penny per light. The company--and I can't remember if it was Westinghouse or GE-- filed for the patent then shelved the patent and warned the employee not to waste his time doing these things. The father was "miffed," but continued working and producing until he retired. This is sort of how I view doing some of the production art work for the GK industry. I guess I have too much pride in what I do at the moment. Maybe I am not "starving" too much to change, but at the moment, no one is offering that big piece of pie for my work, so I want to keep the finger in the clay and on my own name.

Well, that is the comments from someone relatively new to this business and it may be a bit naive, but I hope I can keep up with the idealism of "owning" my own name and not seeing work being exploited as part of a company that isn't my own. Thanks for the opportunity to "think" about this subject.

Trevor Dixon-Cave and Neil Sims - N&T Productions -

Below are a few words from NEIL SIMS (my partner in N+T PRODUCTIONS). Neil does all of our sculpting.

"N+ T Productions has not been in the G.K. scene for very long, in fact it is only 18 months since Trev and I set up the company. So far we have had a tremendous response from all of the modelers who have purchased or seen our kits and painted figures. Over the past few months Trev has been building up contacts for us in the U.S.A. which we are hoping will improve our profile over there in the "home" of the Garage Kits.

All of our work is sculpted by myself so there are no other people who can pass any comment to you regarding this subject. As a sculptor it is important for me to enjoy my work (which I always do)! Whenever we receive e mails complimenting us on our work, then this is all that I need.

I think raising awareness comes down to the individual sculptor (male or female). If they can continue to produce first rate work in a very critical market, then little by little their reputation will grow. If it was a "toss up" between having my photo in a magazine or my work, then there would be no contest - the work would always come first. (He's an ugly Bastard anyway ...Trev).

However I do believe that if you do sculpting or production work for a large company, or under license, then it is important to have your name mentioned on the artwork and boxes etc. We are at present working (under license) for a German company (Startoys) sculpting and producing model kits of figures from the soon to be released 'Lord of the Rings' movie. Both mine and the companies name will be mentioned! This we hope will lead to more work and "fame" for us."

Well, there you have it folks! Some pretty good feedback from a talented group of individuals!

Some great behind-the-scenes, one-on-one discussions took place all week. One aspect I thought for sure would come out more when I asked for their view of the hobby, was the trials and tribulations many have gone through once they shipped their sculpt to the producers!

Although many modelers have yelled and screamed when a producer have stiffed them on a kit, it's hard to recall any stories from the sculptor's corner! Nor for that matter, from Producers who have commissioned a kit and for whatever reason it never came to be (must be fair to both sides here!!)  :)

Was happily surprised with the overall upbeat attitude expressed above, and came away thinking these guys & gals are a pretty impressive breed unto themselves!!

I'd like to thank those above, as well as those not quoted, for taking the time to write their thoughts down! I really appreciated it and hope you enjoyed this week's column!

Last week's column, kindly donated by Calliban, continued on all this week over at the Clubhouse BB! Up to three pages so far... way to go, Calli!!!  :)

Frazetta's TESTAMENT For all you Frank Frazetta fanboys, the third book in the Cathy & Arnie Fenner series is now out!!

Testament celebrates the life and work of this very special artist. Featuring all the major oil paintings not included in Icon or Legacy, this gorgeous full-color volume also includes previously unpublished paintings and drawings, along with his autobiography and essays and testimonials which explore the artist's influence on the American art scene.

Got my copy from the Science Fiction Book Club for only $19.99!! Member #011155! Snatch a copy up!!

Til next week...

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