Submitted By: George Caswell
So this was quite a while ago obviously, but back when I was doing this I didn’t take a lot of time to post photos and such…
From 2004 to… 2007, I think? I ran an event called the “Mecha Modeling Workshop” at various anime conventions on the U.S. East coast. These photos were from the first event, held on Sunday morning at Anime Boston back in 2004.
The idea for the event came from some modeling-related events I attended at Otakon 2002: there was a panel on model-making, which mostly covered resin figure kits (it was well done but I didn’t like it at the time, in part because there were no mecha involved) – and back then Bandai’s exhibition booth featured Gundam kits, and they encouraged passers-by to see how fast they could put a kit together. (At the time I didn’t like that, either. It was just snap-fitting the kits, no paint or glue… But I guess it got people to experience Gundam kits who otherwise wouldn’t have…)
Following that experience I hit upon the idea that “someone” should host the kind of model-building event that I would be interested in. Gradually, I realized that these “someones” don’t appear out of thin air, and that if I wanted the thing to happen, I would have to make it happen. It also occurred to me that any event like this would have to focus on teaching beginners to build models: the audience would be too limited if the material were only useful to experienced modelers. I collaborated with Doug DeRienze, a friend of mine and fellow Gundam modeler, to develop the first version of the workshop for Anime Boston. Each participant got a model kit, a couple brushes, and some hobby paints – and had to pay a workshop fee to cover the cost of these materials. Hobby Link Japan graciously donated model kits to the cause, which allowed us to offer the workshop at a lower price to those who came.
The first event was definitely pretty crude: we asked for (and got!) a six hour block of time (on Saturday night, even!), which is what we thought would be necessary in order to teach assembly and seam work and basic hand-painting <strong>and</strong> have time for people to actually try it out for themselves. We had no projector or other visual aids. The whole thing was kind of mad, really. We were in some isolated corner of the hotel in which the con was being held, doing our thing, and meanwhile the convention at large was doing its more conventional Saturday-night activities like the cosplay show, dances or whatever… I think we started to lose focus around hour five, as we were starting to get hungry and spent a fair bit of time arranging a pizza delivery before getting back to the modeling. We only had like a dozen people, but they were great and we had a blast.
All in all it was a great time. Over time the program became more refined: I came to understand that in the context of an anime convention, the presentation really had to be shorter. I tried to think about how I could introduce people to the various techniques without necessarily having them sit down and actually do that one particular thing for an hour. Even toward the end I favored having at least four hours for the workshop, though I think in a couple cases I did the workshop in shorter time blocks… Once in a while I even heard from somebody who got started in modeling through the workshop, which was very rewarding.
In the end, I had to give it up due to the cost and the stress associated with hosting a big event like this at a con. Apart from the 4 or so hours of actually running a workshop, there’s all the prep time, getting all the stuff together and even simple things like just getting the stuff to the room in the con center, making sure everything’s in order – little things that add up to make it a lot of work, and prevent me from enjoying the con in other ways. The workshop was fun, but it was a very demanding, “high octane” sort of fun.