Mecha Modeling Workshop

Otakon 2002 was my first anime convention, and as a modeller and Gundam fan I was especially interested in the events related to my interests: the showing of Char's Counterattack on 35mm, the modeling contest, and the modeling panel. However, the modeling panel at Otakon 2002 wasn't quite to my liking: its main focus was on resin figure kits, first of all, and in general I didn't feel it really addressed my interests in modeling. Bandai sells most of the kits I buy, but they've done no better: their promotion in Otakon 2002 was a speed-building contest, and didn't even touch on all the work that comes after a kit is snapped together. (But, at least it did get people's hands on Gundam kits.) As Otakon 2004 drew closer, I felt that I wanted there to be something better, a way for the established community of modelers to connect with the people just starting out, and share their experience. I tossed around different ideas for what sort of event it might be - and with a lot of help and feedback from other modelers online the plan for the workshop came together. At first I felt like I would be the one to get the ball rolling, and then "someone" would do all the work. But once I thought about that, I realized it wasn't equitable, so I organized and bankrolled the event myself.

The idea for the workshop was to get a large chunk of time: around 4-6 hours, and walk the participants through the process of snipping, trimming, building, puttying, and sanding the parts. For an anime convention, this presented a lot of issues: would conventions allow this kind of activity at all? What if someone cut themselves, or spilled paint on the floor? Would people actually be interested in spending 4-6 hours of their time (and $15) at the convention to do this stuff?

I think it's been a great success, and one of the most ambitious and rewarding things I've done. I'm very happy with how all the workshops have turned out, and a lot of that success is due to the help I received from others in the planning and execution of the workshop.

The last workshop I held was at Anime Boston 2006. After that, money issues prevented me from attending Nekocon that year (let alone doing the workshop there), Doug was unavailable to help out at Anime Boston 2007, and I was unable to find people to help run the workshop at Tekkoshocon 2007. I expect I will host the workshop again in the future, but I doubt I'll ever pursue it as actively as I did before. From the program's start in 2004 until the financial crunch that prevented me from going to Nekocon in 2006, I was always interested in finding new cons at which I could host the workshop. At this point, I would like to host the workshop again but I'm no longer interested in actively finding new places to host it, or increasing the number of cons I go to in a year. There may not be any workshops in 2007 at all - but I hope to host the workshop at Anime Boston and Tekkoshocon in 2008. Otakon hasn't had me back since 2004 - initially I was angry with them about that but now I think that's just the nature of large cons - they're less accessible. Small cons are generally happy to give someone a hefty timeslot if they're going to bust their ass to do something good with it - big cons are more picky, and have a lot more candidates competing for timeslots. Big cons are more impersonal as a result of their size - the result can be great but sometimes you just can't beat a nice small con when it comes to having a good time.

Additionally, Gamera has demonstrated that a panel format can be very effective for teaching this materal, as well. Gamera hosted his model-building panel at Anime Expo 2006 and Tekkoshocon 2007 - while people at the panel don't build anything, the upshot is that Gamera's panel is not limited to techniques that can be done in that setting - in particular, he taught both gunpla and resin kits. Response to the program has been very positive, and seeing what he could accomplish with the panel has challenged my ideas about how I run the workshop. The effectiveness of his presentation, the ability to satisfy the needs of both the gunpla crowd and the people interested in resin figures, and the efficiency of the program, in terms of time and money, the people it draws in, and what people take away from it - it's a nice accomplishment. In terms of what people learn, the one sticking point for me is that Gamera teaches techniques he uses in his own work - painting techniques that require an airbrush, etc. On one hand, this is good because it teaches people exactly the techniques that modelers actually use in practice. On the other hand, some techniques may be of limited use to people who are interested in starting the hobby, but aren't ready to commit to hundreds of dollars in equipment for it. I will consider Gamera's example, however, when I plan my future workshops.



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