lundi 12 janvier 2015

Adler miniatures - the english way

Hi there !!

I used to post interviews of differents actors of the miniatures world on my forum Addict Figurines.
It's been a long time since I didn't do it so I wanted to add a new one to my collection by starting with a brand I really love and that you can see quite often on thses pages.

Here's my online meeting with its creator, sculptor, molder, etc...
I just hope you'll enjoy this discussion as much as I did and will go and take a look (and maybe more !!) to theses little pieces of art.

Can you introduce yourself and your company
I'm Leon Locke the owner and designer of Adler Miniatures

You’re designing 6mm (or 1/285th) miniatures. Why did you choose this little scale?
Well started a long time ago. Back in the 80's the only range of Napoleonic in the micro scale were the Heroics & Ross figures. Lovely little things but though other members of the club I gamed with could paint them really well my style of painting just didn't work with them.
I always wanted to do Napoleonic s in a 'proper' mass. Odd 12 figure battalions and a couple of Regiments of cavalry just don't look like a Napoleonic battle to me and in the larger scales ( 28mm) the figures and the table/terrain just look out of proportion to my eyes.
So I decided to make something that I found easier to paint and of course by the mid 80's the microscale used in the USA became 1/285 rather than 1/300th. Doesn't sound a big difference but it allows a designer to make things a little 'chunkier' and therefore a bit easier to paint going from 6.1 to 6.45 mm. Also when H&R made their figures they were a continuation of the WW2 ranges and as the WW2 vehicles were quite small the figures matched them. Not being tied to a comparison to vehicles I could make the figures more expansive.
When I in turn did a range of WW2 figure I had to reverse the process and make them much skinnier to fit in with the new larger 1/285 scale vehicles!

How did you learn sculpting ?
Like many of my generation I grew up making models, mostly Airfix in those days, so the modelling skills started with that. I made my first figures for using with Traveller the sci fi RPG, first in 25mm and then 15mm.
Then a few years later I joined Mikes Models as a caster, later Manager and met the great Aly Morrison who taught me a lot and by this time Chub Pearson of Denizen had begun designing too so I had another source of advice and demonstrations of skill to observe.
Started doing various ranges for Mikes Models and when the company was sold set up on my own creating Adler Miniatures.
At the time there was already an Eagle Miniatures around so went for the German version of the name.

What lead you to become a miniature manufacturer ? Is this some kind of childhood dream or is this more basic?
Its entirely practical. Trying to earn a living as a free lance designer is incredibly difficult. Many if not most designers are part time, its not their main source of income. Becoming a manufacturer enables the designs to produce an income and to have quality control and consistency over the design style.
If I could I would do nothing but design, running the company takes me away from the design bench far too often.

A lot of people do imagine « toy soldiers »companies as big international machines. What’s the reality?
Most designer led outfits like mine are probably earning around the minimum wage rates! There has certainly been a shift in the industry. There are now a few large companies and lots of smaller ones, these often run as part time ventures. The influence of GW is notable as there is now two generations of Gamers that think that the GW business model is 'normal'.

As a link to the former question, I imagine you’re doing everything your self so you must have learned several different jobs?
In English the phrase is 'jack of all trades and master of none' lol Yes lots of things, I hate paperwork, not that keen on casting either lol The hardest thing is the IT side of things, hate it!

Let’s talk about your creating process. Can you explain to us what’s happening after the greatest idea hits your brain and before the release of this miniature?
What are you using for sculpting (tools and putty),the time it takes you, do you sculpt a full range in a row or just individually?

For Historical ranges in general and Napoleonic s in particular the list of sculpts that needs doing writes itself really and poses are pretty much set by the period. One of the reason I've moved into 10mm ancients is that there is greater variations in dress and pose.
Its the usual process of research, finding good pictures preferably ( black and white more use than colour surprisingly). The its a matter of choosing the correct armature ( a cast metal framework in human or animal shape) fitting the right head and then building it up in layers using milliput. Always my preferred medium for most stages. Use a few other compounds for various textures and effects. Tools are simple, needles ( very fine beading types are great) cocktail sticks ( can be shaped) and loads of files, drills and pin vices to hold the figure while sculpting and the main tool a brush. Go through LOADS as they can loose their point very fast on some things.
Usually work on 8 or so figures at the same time, by the time fig one is cured under a heat lamp I've had time to work on another 7 or so. Sort of a conveyor belt really.

When talking about the way you create your minis, you're talking about frame, heads and guns. Does that mean you have pre-casted parts of the miniature ?
Oh yes its very time saving to have common items like weapons, headgear etc cast. You need the consistency above all else.

What's the most difficult for you to sculpt ?
Horses and females and anything that's very symmetrical. Horse are a nightmare, the antomony is tricky and then there's the question of stature Recently done horses for the 10mm ranges and tried to make them the 'proper' size rather than the oft seen 15 hand Arab thoroughbred racehorse. Gallic /Roman horses were more large ponies really.

What’s on your workbench ?
At the moment some Spanish, Dutch Belgians, Vistula Legion, Austrian equipment/ horse artillery and a whole bunch of French remakes/remoulds. For the 6mm WW2 working on US in greatcoat, Ruskies in greatcoat and Soviet 'scouts' oh and the Jeeps are finally getting somewhere, my favourite being the French/Belgian NWE SAS version. Trying to make a driver with a Gauloise!
Also working on a range of 20mm Tank crews and possibly a range of infantry as well.
That's what I can remember at the mo.

I talked with a 1/72 miniatures company who told me sculpting modern guns in such a scale was impossible because too small.
You’re sculpting minis that are 3 times smaller but your level of details is impressive.

Well I think they probably meant that making a figure isn't just a matter of producing a replica scale human. Figures themselves are caricatures, cartoons ( in the Da Vinci sense not Simpsons!)as in a portrait parts are exaggerated to show the characteristics of what your trying to represent. The weapons need to be a little larger to look correct on the figures that have exaggerated hands and heads. And of course if things like gun barrels were scale size they would be so thin as to snap all the time. Its a constant juggling act with realism vs practicality.

Did you ever try sculpting bigger miniatures ?
Oh yes lots of different scale everything from 75mm to 2mm, Love doing the 10mm and the 20mm is great fun at the moment. Did a whole batch of Sci fi in 15mm during the summer.

Which manufacturer’s production particularly inspires you ?
Oh lots and I will get in trouble for forgetting some of them.
Love Mike Broadbent's work, Tony Barton, Tom Mier, Gripping Beast and the Perry's work is stunning. Van Dyke miniatures make some lovely Romans in 12mm ( I think) and their Belgian WW1 stuff is great. Chub Pearsons 25mm still some of the best figures around and the 90mm are seriously brilliant. GHQ armour still impresses me everytime I take a look at my WW2 Ruskies and German stuff sitting on the shelves. Just started doing some 20mm armour recently and the Plastic Soldier company stuff is very neat. Rather impressed by Magister Militums 3mm Romans recently.....going to have to have a go at making some lol
Rod Langtons ships..............oh the list goes on..........

Do you think there’s some more to do in the miniatures world ?
Always something new on the horizon. I'm waiting for the little nano robot armies to arrive. Imagine a 'real life' robotic Mongol army sweeping across the table!

Your miniatures are made for war gaming Are you also a wargamer ?
Well used to be in just about all scales and periods, figures and boardgames, still love my Tercios.
Don't get the time these days to do much beyond a game or two of Catan

UK is a great place of war gaming activity and miniatures manufacturers. Do you know where this come from ?
The tradition of toy soldiers goes way back ( as it does in Germany) and model making/railway modelling. Reckon it has a lot to do with climate, we Brits spend a lot of time indoors keeping out of the rain! Probably the combination of being ahead of the game in the industrial revolution and having a 'glorious ' empire lol

A lot of us discovered miniatures and war games when kids in a store or a magazine. But nowadays kids do practice war games in front of their screen…
What could bring kids back to lead soldiers ?

Not sure about that. I think in the end people like real 'things' actual objects rather than merely digital data. The whole process of the research, painting, basing and modelling as well as the actual visual look of wargaming still has an appeal. More up to the clubs than anyone else, they are the guardians of the hobby and the recruiters of new blood.

The world is facing an economic crisis. Does it have an impact on your activity ?
One of the dimensions of the hobby today is the rise of 'cheap' plastics which convinces many that large 28mm armies are possible cost wise so one of the major reasons people might go down scale to 10 or 6mm is weakened.
And I think its also probably true that its slightly more 'gaming' rather than simulation these days so again the need for correctly balanced armies in proper formations and mass is somewhat less.
I hasten to add this is all 'gut feeling' rather than evidence based!
There is certainly a squeeze on.
Problem is these days is that the market is becoming increasingly fractured, a multitude of scales, the rise of 'cheap' plastics, mean that its hard for any one maker to get sufficient sales of anything to get critical mass sales wise.
I think the cake is more or less the same size as before its just getting divided up into smaller slices.
One of the symptoms is the rise of the 'hobby manufacturer' where someone dabbles but its not their main means of income which further fractures the market and makes it difficult for those who need the business to pay the mortgage. Cant blame em for that at all I certainly wouldn't go professional in today's market, way too risky.

There’s a lot of miniatures manufacturers and the internet allows people to discover some more everyday. How difficult is it to survive in such a worldwide market ?
In the past some people chose the smaller scales because they realised its potential to recreate the battles of the Napoleonic period in a much better way with a much more realistic scale perspective and mass. Napoleonics is as much about the depth of formations as frontage. For some they chose the smaller scale for other reasons, cost of the figures, speed of painting and size of playing area.
Many gamers are convinced these days that 28mm is THE scale. One of the things I hear so often is “I couldnt paint something that small” ( more to do with the quality of design than size in my experience) which is of course a bit daft, just because the figures are small doesnt make them harder to paint you just use a different technique. There is a definate blindness towards the smaller scales these days partially because of 28mm being the entry scale for many and possibly a lack of imagination as to the possibilities of the smaller scales. Obviously a gross generalisation of course!

Your website show a real lot of references. Do you know how much different miniatures you offer for people to buy ?
I never think about it...........would drive me mad if I did! Its thousands!

Your most important ranges are Napoleonicsnapoleonics and ACW,certainly the most played periods in war games Do you still have projects for these ranges ?
I shall be designing and redesigning Napoleonics till the day I die I suspect. Yes lots more Napoleonics to do and more SYW, ACW and WW2 I hope.

What would be the range you'd love to release ? I mean ideally, free from any constraint.
Ah well the one advantage of being a one man outfit is that I don't have management to answer too!
My personal indulgence range will be the Byzantine, Normans and Lombard s for the C10th campaigns of the Hautvilles in Southern Italy and Sicily. Fantastic period. Amazing characters.
Went to Apulia couple of years back wonderful bit of country.
It will be an economic disaster but oh so much fun!

One thing I find a bit disturbing on your website is that we can't see a picture of every miniature we can buy. Is it something that will be “fixed” ?
Well that's always a problem with ranges as big as we have and being the size they are they are very tricky to take pictures of. Personally I prefer unit pics rather than pics of a specific figure. We have in the past assumed that if we list say a Chasseur a cheval in surtout and 1804 shako people will have the knowledge ( or the references) to know what we mean. So specific pictures of individual codes were not important, unit pictures being better at getting the look across.
Perhaps that's not quite the way it is now. I've noticed that people do seem somewhat less knowledgable, people seem to dabble more in Napoleonic s rather than it being their dedicated main/only interest.
So its something we will look at but the prospect of having to paint hundreds of codes and then take pictures is daunting and not sure how much real use it will be as the detail is very tricky to pick out in this scale from pictures. We shall probably try a new format with the 1808 French remakes we are doing right now and see what the feedback is.
One of the downsides of being a designer lead outfit is that time spent on other things is design time lost and I know which Id rather be doing!
Yes I know these days its all about 'marketing' but quite frankly I just cant bring myself to take all that side of things seriously. Old fashioned enough to think that just making the best figures I can and providing a good customer service should be enough and I am getting towards retirement age anyhow.............. lol I have had customers say that they wont order my figures because the website doesn't have a shopping cart system.........well if being overcharged for p&p on a trolleys system is more important than the quality of the figures then the customer and I are not going to get along lol
Working on a new website for pre packed units which will have a trolley system on it but its slow going.

How it is to see YOUR miniatures played and painted by others ?
I always take it as the greatest compliment to see my stuff painted and used. Takes time and effort to do that, buying them is one thing but someone going to all that effort is the greatest compliment a designer gets.

With all these different scales and style of sculpting, it's pretty hard for any gamer to find miniatures from different brand that could fit together...
Yes been a problem right from the early days ( on one side Minifigs on the other Hincliffe etc) and now with 28mm and 18mm on the scene its even worse. (Heard it often said 28mm are 'better' than 25mms, ditto 18mm over 15's so they should be given a designer has 15% or so more room for detail) I think very often its a matter of one maker trying to create a new market rather than the new scale having any advantage over what's out there. If you persuade all those with say 25mm armies to replace them with 28mm ones...........
Personally I think 28mm are just too big and clumsy looking. Note it particularly with 28mm WW2, just don't understand it from a gaming point of view, increase the unit footprint? Weird! When there is already a huge mass of 20mm stuff out there just doesn't make sense to me.
Always thought 20mm the perfect scale for most periods up the rise of massed armies.

Do you sometimes come to miniatures events in France where we could hope to meet you ?
Been to Crisis for the last 6 years or so and done the Convention Day event in Lille and last year Petite Guerre in Paris. Always like shows abroad as the clubs make us especially welcome as we have travelled a good distance to be there. Not exactly great money earners ( being in a niche market always makes smaller shows tricky financially) but gives the wife the opportunity to shop..........and does she like to shop and we both love being in France, the patisserie, the coffee ….....did I mention the patisserie?

I'm trying this one : when will we see a French version of the website ?
Very Happy
Would be very nice to have proper language sections in the website but as I do all the website design myself I don't have the coding or language skills to do it properly. Which is sad as I'm regularly put to shame by my European customers perfect English. If I try to speak French people start grimacing and moving

Many thanks to Leon for sharing a little of his time answering my questions.

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