Our guide to model making
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to model making

First published date January 30 2014 Amended date January 30 2014

Are you riveted by the creations of master model maker Nick Park and his fabulous Wallace and Gromit characters? Or perhaps your creative mindset thinks more clearly in a three-dimensional manner rather than a flatter, 2D way? If so, taking a model making course might just be the springboard you require to add another dimension (get it?) to your repertoire of design skills.


What is a model maker?

Well, model making isn't just about dreaming up comic characters for TV and film...but it could be if that's where your inner career path is pulling you. In basic terms, today's 21st century model makers design and make three-dimensional (3D) scale models for a wide variety of industries. Model makers are involved in many different areas of the job market from architectural model making (scale models of a new housing development for instance), creating prototype models of new products before they go on general sale (remember that challenge on The Apprentice?), making fabulous dolls houses (aren't little buildings fascinating and beautiful?) and special effects for TV and theatre.

These are specialist roles which demand different techniques, from freehand drawing to computer-aided design (CAD), wood machining to metal working and sculpting in clay, depending on the field of employment. It might be that you are already working in a particular field before you follow the route of model maker, but, above all else you will need a great imagination, a passion for art, design and technology and the ability to work accurately with close attention to detail. For more information take a look at our handy career guide on model making.


Where to start?

For established architects and interior designers, enrolling on the right sort of model making course will certainly improve your CV and boost your potential job opportunities by communicating 3D ideas, clearly and visually, to your client. A beginners’, part time course will help you to understand how to scale down, read technical drawings and find solutions to some of the challenges that you might come across in architectural model making. Discover a wealth of tips and techniques on skilful scalpel use, choosing materials, accurate measuring and cutting, gluing, sculpting, vacuum forming and spray painting. Your challenge might be to build a simple, professionally-finished 1:100 scale model from a pile of MDF and plastic which you can take home at the end. Leave the course with a range of fine technical skills that are easily transferable to other disciplines. Whether helping to resolve design problems or presenting new ideas, a well-presented, accurate model can make all the difference in persuading a client to move forward with your proposal.

There are also model making courses aimed at animators who want to make miniature sets for animation projects, plus workshops combining modern-day sculpting with model making techniques. Here, you will be introduced to working with clay and perhaps recycled and reused materials, learn about different fixing methods, and really express your creativity in 3D.

There might not be as many model making courses as some of the other artistic genres but do remember, this is a specialised area.


Super model makers

AARDMAN ANIMATIONS: Perhaps the most well-known and well-loved model making studio in the UK, founded in the 1970s by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. The studio created the simple animated Plasticine character, Morph, who appeared with Tony Hart. In 1985, Nick Park joined the company and went on to create Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and the award-winning, short film, 'Creature Comforts'.

SPITTING IMAGE: Who could forget this award-winning, satirical puppet show that ran on ITV during the 1980s and 90s? Its brilliant puppet caricatures of celebrities and politicians remain sharp in the nation's memory even today, and, included, amongst others, British Prime Minister of the time Margaret Thatcher and her fellow Tory politicians. American president Ronald Reagan and the British Royal Family made regular appearances too.

THE WOMBLES: Children's TV in the 1970s was made all the more memorable thanks to The Wombles animated series, adapted from Elisabeth Beresford's children's books. These furry, eco-friendly creatures lived in burrows on Wimbledon Common and collected and recycled rubbish. The likes of Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory, Orinoco and Madame Cholet are due to be rekindled in a new Wombles series in 2015.


By Lara Sargent

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