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Model makers craft three dimensional scale models that are used in a variety of situations. They use information and preliminary designs or blueprints to bring an idea into reality. Often model makers create 3D models for architects, based on the architect's initial design or blueprint. The model can help the architect evolve his project and see what needs improving. Model makers can also work on film sets as part of the special effects team.
Essentially, model makers are the people who take an idea and make it into a three dimensional piece, in order to bring the design or concept to life. They are a vital part of the artistic and design process for many different fields.
Model makers have a number of responsibilities in a variety of industries. When working with an architect, the model maker will be given the blueprints, or sketches, for the building that the architect is creating. This could be a sketch for a school, a hospital, or a home. After receiving the sketch, the model maker and architect discuss the design and decide whether or not a simple or complex model is going to be created. With a simple model, they may just create a scale model, which outlines the basic three-dimensional structure of the building. If the architect decides that more detail is needed, the model maker may create a more complex model in which he includes aspects such as scaled down furniture, trees and people.
Once a model is decided upon, they will examine the architect's designs carefully and come up with a plan for their model. They then carefully craft the model using a variety of materials and tools. Once the model is finished, the architect can get a three dimensional idea of his blueprints. This helps the architect to get a clear vision for the rest of his designs in the architectural process.
Model makers also work in the film and television industry as part of the special effects team. In this sphere they can be called on to create a variety of models. For example, the film director may want to use a miniature model for some scenes rather than having to film on location. After a discussion with the film's director to decide exactly what is needed from the model, a model maker will then create the piece and it will be used during filming.
Model makers will often work with others in the preliminary stages of their job. This may be at an architect's office, a client's office, or in the special effects department of a film studio. Once they have the design for what they are going to create, they can then return to their own shop or studio, or if they are working on a film set, they may return to work in the special effects department. Once they are in their shop or studio, they work alone to craft their three-dimensional piece. They will work in a shop environment with many craft tools and will often work for long hours.
Those who are considering a career in the model making industry must be artistic, be able to communicate effectively with others, and be able take an idea from a simple sketch to a full-blown three-dimensional piece. They must also have an eye for detail, the ability to understand scale, have patience, and be able to focus for long periods of time. They must also have knowledge and skill with sculpting, drawing and computers, and know how to use a variety of tools, machinery and materials including glue guns, resin and plastics.
Although there are no strict educational requirements needed for this career, having practical work experience or training can help individuals find employment in the model making industry. Employers prefer that model makers have design and model making skills and experience over a degree. Finding an internship or apprenticeship is one of the best ways of gaining experience in the field.
Although not required, getting a degree or taking classes in fine arts, design, sculpting, drawing, painting, ceramics, metal work, woodwork, model making, computer aided design and studio arts can be very helpful.
Occasionally I like to take time out to acknowledge the work that model makers do, both here at KiwiMill and elsewhere. I spend most days in a support role at the model shop and I tend to take for granted what takes place every day. Then I talk to someone outside of the profession and realize it’s a pretty unique job.
Model makers blend a unique combination of art and science into their work of replicating, creating mockups, volume studies, and scale reproductions of anything from a building to an automobile. Just about any product you use, whether it is an athletic shoe or a cell phone, was very likely represented by a scale model sometime during its development life cycle.
Models are generally favored over drawings, blueprints or sketches because they put the proposed buildings in proportion to the surroundings.
Alfred North Whitehead said, "Ideas won't keep... something must be done about them." That is why we need model builders to continue the thinking process until the idea becomes a physical reality.