Over the past few months, I’ve attended several IPMS-US events, hosted by various local chapters of that organization. Richmond, VA, hosted a show in February. Raleigh, NC had a show in May. And the most recent show I attended was in Columbia, SC. All were excellent shows, each well organized. Having headed up a few IPMS shows myself, I can attest to the fact that the local clubs had to put in a lot of work.
Each show had its own special “flavor”, too. Richmond is always known for being a very large show, with enough vendors to rival the Nationals. Raleigh is a smaller show overall, in terms of venue size, but there’s always great work on display. Columbia hits somewhere between the two, with a larger venue, plenty of vendors, a wide variety of model genres represented, and a great tie-in with their local AMPS chapter.
I’ve enjoyed visiting each of them. Not only is it fun to see the vendors offerings, and the models displayed, it’s a great time of reconnecting with friends. Because the shows are all within reasonable driving distance of each other, a large number of the same folks turn up for each.
The conversations are fun… discussing everything from techniques and products to kits and aftermarket parts. Old friends are reunited, and in a few cases, sadly, we hear of the loss of a few more of our number. In an odd way, it is a sort of “family reunion”, a family drawn together by the love of the hobby.
It’s What I Do
Of course, after attending each show, I write about them. I’ve never approached it from a standpoint of thinking that what I have to say is terribly important. Writing is simply how I express myself. If I weren’t writing about my hobby, I’d be putting words down about something.
Sometimes in the course of putting thought to “paper”, so to speak, people stand up and cheer at what is said. Other times, they take scant notice, and move on by without response. In other cases, folks take the writer to task, perhaps disagreeing with some point or conclusion.
And if the writer is hitting on all cylinders, all three take place in one bit of prose.
When I set out on the road to the Columbia show, my vague goal with regards to writing about it was centered around comparing and contrasting the IPMS method of judging versus the AMPS process. Because it was a combined show, I thought it would be a good way to examine the topic, with both taking place side-by-side.
Of course, if you read the article that did follow, you recall that my focus changed. In fact, on the drive back, I was working to organize my thoughts along the originally intended purpose. Yet a few things from that days show kept bubbling up. The more I considered them, the more I realized they needed to be the thrust of the article.
Point Made, Point Taken
Whenever a writer publishes an opinion piece, there is the expectation that folks will respond in some fashion. I can’t say that most of it is “good” or “bad”, because inherent to opinion is the basic underlying notion that it is. It simply is…. it exists. I can say “Coke is the best”, and someone else can say “Pepsi is the best”, and no matter how much it is debated, polled and analyzed, in the end, the only answer is how it tastes to you. Facts may bear out that one sells better than the other, but if you like the one with lesser sales, it’s still the best, in your opinion.
So I knew that my opinion would be met with other opinion. The vast majority of it – whether it agreed with my assertions and conclusions or not – was offered respectfully and civilly. And for that I am grateful.
But one respondent left me with a thought that ultimately was the genesis of this article.
A Time To Ponder
The methods offered to respond to my articles are many. Comments can be left on the article itself. Others can be noted in various social media that I am on. A few folks took the opportunity to email me. One even called me. And as I said previously, most all were respectful, cordial, and thoughtful. I think that was what came through the most. Even if someone didn’t agree with my thoughts, their passion for the hobby came through. It wasn’t that we were opposed to each other – the goal was the same. Perhaps how to get there may have differed. But the fact that virtually all were pointed at the same target gave me great hope.
One thought offered rose above the others, and really challenged me.
If all you have are negatives and no ideas for solutions, then you aren’t helping any, and your insight is nothing more than hindsight.
Now, when I first read, it, I thought “but it wasn’t all negatives”. My pride reacted first. However, I’ve tried to learn to discipline my thought process to really read what people offer up, to make sure that my jerking knee does not miss something important.
I re-read that a few times, trying to draw out the intent – which wasn’t too difficult, as it was written in plain and straightforward words. As I often do mentally, I paraphrased it down to what I saw as the essential “nugget”.
“If you have no ideas for solutions, your insight is nothing more than hindsight.“
Some Ideas For Solutions
I won’t for a minute claim that any of these ideas or notions are original. Even if I have no recollection of hearing or seeing them elsewhere, I am quite familiar with the concept of “concurrent ideas”. With enough people looking at the same issue, at least two are bound to draw the same conclusion. A few of these were sent in to me, or are things I have discussed with fellow modelers. So these are offered up with no claim other than I physically typed them in. (Unless they really, really take off… then send checks to… I’m kidding! I’m kidding… 😀 )
In no particular order…
- Make and take – This is a great way to get any young people, or people new to the hobby, to be involved. Show attendees can let their kids spend a few minutes building a simple model, getting the feel for how fun it really is. I’ve seen this at several shows done with success, but I’ve also seen a few miss the mark. Key to making this work seems to be simple kits that only take a few minutes to build, such as Hobbyboss’ Easy Build kits. They can literally be assembled in 5 minutes. I’m sure there are other examples, too, that have been used well. Even pre-painted kits can be used. The key is introducing the hobby to the new modeler.
- Public classes on building and painting models – While this is not necessarily a show event (though it could be), presenting scale modeling classes in an ongoing basis can also help get the word out. Many county extension offices would love to have folks volunteer for simple demonstrations and classes. Libraries may have community space to host such an event. It doesn’t even need to be terribly formal. A club could donate kits and supplies to the cause, and charge a small fee to help grow the effort. As an example from another hobby, my wife paid $10 recently to go to a class on canning food. She came home armed with the knowledge of what to do – and a can of tasty goodies for us to enjoy.
- Demonstrations at shows – This is of course part and parcel of many shows, but I think it could be better utilized from what I’ve observed. While many experienced modelers claim to have knowledge of this or that technique, the reality I’ve seen is that quite often they don’t. And to avoid seeming as a “newb”, they simply claim to know. In other cases, people come right out and say “how do you do that?” Both instances can be served by a good demo, showing the finer points of the technique or product. And these types of demonstrations give a show or class attendee something very valuable to take away – knowledge of the hobby.
- Early entry cut off – This one is clearly show related. One of the biggest complaints I have heard for years is how long many shows can run, and this is often because judging is held off until noon. Moving the clock back, perhaps an hour, maybe more, would buy time for the judging process, allowing the awards and closing to be done earlier… getting people on the road sooner.
- Tables dedicated to answering questions about getting in the hobby – Often what a younger or less experienced modeler needs is simply some one-on-one time with a more experienced modeler. A “Q&A” table could be equipped to show a variety of products, methods, techniques, and so forth, and even give brief demonstrations right there. Print and online resources could be listed, and modelers would take away something new to try on their next build.
- Limiting entries – While the idea of a show is to get models on the table, I’m quite familiar with the fact that sometimes modelers will grab everything on their shelves (figuratively speaking of course) to bring to a show. If awards are your focus, why not increase your chances? However, the benefit of a modeling group is not so much award but reward – the reward is in the work. Encouraging new builds can possibly be a key. So limiting entries – either by setting a cap on the number, or charging more for additional entries over a certain amount, may help in the long run to encourage new builds.
- Reducing categories – I have some experience with this one. I’d been tasked with heading up my local club’s show one year. Based on a regional decision made prior to my tenure, our club volunteered to host a very different kind of show. Categories were reduced drastically, real prizes were offered to winners (each category 1st place received a custom engraved Badger airbrush!), and display only was encouraged. We received some great feedback – but also some (at times) vicious pushback. (I actually received threatening phone calls at my home. :/ ) But despite all that… the show finished early, people who had never participated did so because of the display only, and judging was simplified. While there are many interpretations of this one, I believe it holds merit.
- Reaching out to other modeling organizations – The South Carolina show demonstrated how two different organizations can come together, and it seemed to work well. In general, I think care has to be taken, in terms of long term hobby growth overall, to not allow things to become a “show within a show”, but rather emphasize the strength and unique aspects of both – and encourage “cross pollination”. This can especially pay off if it is done on a long term, ongoing basis, through regular combined meetings, special inter-club events, and other activities that foster a strengthening of ties.
- Open meeting invitations to the public – Most club meetings are held a a familiar venue to members. And while the meeting is open to all, it is not always friendly to all. By that, I don’t mean people are nice (or not). Rather, I am referring to purposefully organizing a meeting to attract non-members, or even non-modelers. Being prepared to give presentations on the value of the hobby, the processes of the hobby, and how the local club can be a resource can be a way of growing the club.
- Adding non-traditional categories – If I took one thing away from the Richmond show, it was what might happen if non-traditional categories are added. While the focus there was on Gundam, there are others that can be added to attract wider participation. If “twin engined WWII Axis aircraft 1/72 scale and smaller” warrant a category with 2 entries, why not “Maschinen Krieger” or “Star Wars 1/72 scale and smaller” also? If growth and perpetuation of the hobby is the goal, welcoming everyone is critical.
- Clear judging standards – One of the things that frustrated me the most when I was in the position of head judge was getting people to adhere to judging standards. No matter how clear the rules were, and no matter how clearly they were described, there seemed to be a notion inherent in the process that certain aspects not covered in the rules (subjective things) were given priority over the rules (objective in nature) simply because the individual felt it should be that way. I think this can be addressed through very clear communication at a judging call. However, I think a longer term solution is ongoing training for judges at the local or regional level. It could even be so formalized as to have a “certified” status of some sort.
- 123 versus GSB – Through working as part of several shows, and attending others, I have come to firmly believe that one of the biggest issues is an insistence on the 1-2-3 format of award, rather than G-S-B (Gold/Silver/Bronze). Typical, 123 views each model in competition with the others. While this may give a great feeling to the winner, I am thoroughly convinced it does not help promote interest in or growth of the hobby. The actuality is that it becomes a breeding ground for hyper-competition that not only is an ill of the contest itself, but has become the very DNA of the IPMS organization. The GSB process, on the other hand, evaluates each model on its own merit, and quite often gives the modeler detailed feedback. Of course, implementing this is easier said than done. I understand that. Yet for the long term health of “social modeling”, I believe it to be critical.
Here are a few ideas that I’ll admit are a bit out there. Some are small, some grand. But they are offered as food for thought.
- A willingness to fire judges – This one is a tag-on to the “Clear judging standards” above. I once had a fellow volunteer to judge, and he made it clear that certain guidelines that we asked to be followed would be completely ignored on his part. I made a few attempts to explain why we felt the guideline was needed, but he wouldn’t budge. Despite the fact that he was a very experienced modeler, I “fired” him. The judging went smoothly from there.
- One Model Per Show – This would be a sort of “put your money where your mouth is” kind of thing. I think it would be critical to match this with real prizes. The idea is to encourage really, really good work. Not just a high volume of good work scattered about on many tables to increase chances, but rather something special in each entry. I also think this would pair well with a strong “display only” category.
- Display only shows – In the show I’d mentioned above under “Reducing Categories”, one major piece of feedback stuck with me. People really liked the display only tables. Modelers who had never been to a show told me they showed up for that specific reason. Having a show like this – perhaps in an “odd/even” year approach with contests, could really showcase the fun of the hobby. The focus would be on display, demos, buying, selling, and even tables placed around the venue for talking. All contest pressure would be off.
- Group Competition – I’ve always wondered why this has not been done in the shows I’ve attended. My local club tried this one year, inviting the other local clubs to produce a group effort, whether it be a giant diorama, or a themed collection, or whatever. The attendees would pick the winner, and the wining club would host the trophy until the next annual event. In my own club, it created a lot of fun, an air of excitement really. We got together several times to work on the group effort, and the commonality of purpose really drew us together. Yet the idea was generally met with the sound of crickets. But I still believe that finding ways to foster intra-club competition will, in the long run, make both the local and regional/national organization stronger.
Finally, my last offering is clearly aimed beyond the local level. There needs to be a continued firm commitment, at the regional and national levels, to focus, on hobby growth, interaction with industry, teaching both existing and new modelers, and outreach to bring people in to the hobby. While I know that all in leadership are committed to those ideas, organizing in ways to “rework” the DNA of the IPMS organization to be task focused on these notions will, I believe, result in long term growth of not only the organization, but of the hobby.
People are building models. Preferences are shifting, but the generations coming along behind us “old guys” are still building things made of plastic. They may often be different things, but the love of the creative process is there.
There is a treasure trove of institutional knowledge waiting to be passed along. Moving forward starts with ideas on how to do so.
Respectfully offered, of course. 🙂