dimanche, juillet 19, 2020

Posted by fig78 On dimanche, juillet 19, 2020

Hi Robert, many people who used to participate to miniatures events know you already but… Briefly, who are you Robert, and how do you take part in our hobby community?

I was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands in 1962, but have lived in Eindhoven for most of my life. I am married to Margot, who’s also active in our hobby for 6 years. Together we also lived a while in Hurghada, Egypt where we worked as Scuba Diving instructors. I am a purchaser in my professional life, and since 2017 I work for an online seller in pet food and supplies. Except for the period in Egypt, I have spent most of my professional career working as purchaser for various companies and in that capacity, I have travelled a lot in mainly in Asia, for many years.

As a kid, until I was 14 or so, I modelled airplanes, 1/72 scale from Airfix and Matchbox because I could afford them at the time. When I got older other interests and hobbies came, first football and when I was 18 I found myself playing music, bass guitar, in a band for a few years. 

Many years later, around 1996, I got back into the modelling hobby when I met Margot. She was helping her son with building a 1/12 motorcycle model and I was going through the Tamiya catalogue they had lying about and saw those awesome military dioramas by Verlinden and Japanese modellers inside. And I was hooked instantly. By that time, I could afford to buy 1/35th scale models, so that became my re-start into the hobby and I decided that making dioramas was the thing for me. However, after building military dioramas for 10+ years I also developed an interest for figure painting, probably due to my visits to Euromilitaire. So, every now and then I paint figures too. To me all kinds of miniatures are of interest, regardless of subject or era really.

I have to admit that I wasted too much time on reading too many articles, magazines and books about modelling instead of actually building something in the first year. And of course, I bought a million tools, paints and other stuff too without using much of them at first. 

Actually, nothing has really changed much, because whenever we get new members in our club, Scale Model Factory, I see them all fall into the same trap that I did.

Of course, Chestnut ink crew met you at the Scale model challenge a few years ago…. But then we never really asked you: How did this wonderful contest start? Could you tell us a bit more about its story?

Early 2007, I asked Roy Schurgers, a great diorama builder and now the man behind the DioDump company, if he wanted to start a club with me and so we did: Scale Model Factory. It must have been not much longer after that I suggested to him to do organize a show. 

Main reason for that was that both of us felt that our country could really do with a good show, as we shared the same opinion that shows in Belgium for example, were so much better, with a higher level of models on the contest tables, and especially with more and better trade than the shows in The Netherlands. The largest show at the time was the Dutch IPMS nationals, but IPMS was, and still mainly is, all about aircraft and little or nothing about AFV or figures. I forgot why exactly, but we decided to do our first show that same year, 2007.

Scale model challenge volunteers ! 

We also decided that our show should focus on military modelling and figure painters only, because all of the club members at the time were military AFV and diorama modellers, and because we thought it would be smart to stay out of the IPMS field of interest in a small country like ours. Having said that, we overlooked one thing: when searching for a date for the show we only considered the dates of two important Belgian shows that we always attended, and we decided for November, to make sure not to get in their way. We completely overlooked that the Dutch IPMS nationals would be less than a week later than our show. Anyway, the rest is history: the first show was pretty successful with lots of happy faces all around.

Not just an event, a great atmosphere 

It has always been our aim to bring a show that offers visitors everything they are looking for: a great, high level competition, lots of interesting trade stands, club stands, great atmosphere and a place to meet friends from all around the world. Until today there are many shows that have one or two of these aspects, but very few, if any, bring all aspects together like SMC does. I think that’s what makes it so special to many. Our pay off in the logo says: “making the difference”. I truly believe we do.

All along these more than 10 SMC editions, what has really changed for you?

The first 3 editions, 2007 to 2009 were held at a school, the Graphic Lyceum in Eindhoven, and the 2010 edition was actually also planned there. But after the school season started again that year, we found that a lot of what we planned in the months before was no longer possible there, so we switched venue only 6 weeks prior to the show and moved to our current location at the NH Eindhoven Conference Centre Koningshof. An obviously much more expensive location, but with many more opportunities for the future: more space, 500+ hotel rooms under the same roof as the expo halls, bars, restaurants and catering options and so on. We were a bit lucky they actually had the halls available at the planned weekend, of course. 

To give you an idea; the 2010 show was held in the three centre halls. For those of you who know the show: the hall where now the contest is located, then the centre hall where Chestnut Ink have their stand, and finally the hall where last year all the clubs were located. The 2010 contest was placed in the lobby where we have now placed our contest registration desks. So, everything, including the catering area, was all in those halls which is roughly 35% in floor surface of what the show was in 2019. 

But the biggest and most important step we made was, to move from a one day show to a two-day event in 2015, although 2015 can be considered a transition year. In order to attract more visitors, traders and clubs from abroad I always knew we had to move to a two-day event. What we did in 2015 was organize a special workshop event on Saturday in the Brabant hall (nowadays the SMC restaurant) while our team was building up the actual show that was still held only on Sunday. We had over 200 attendees for those workshops that were hosted by artists from Pegaso Models, Fer Miniatures, M. Kontraros Collectibles and of course for the scale modelling side we invited some really great names too, such as Jean Bernard André, Jay Laverty and José Luis Lopez Ruiz. 

The year after, in 2016, we had our first genuine two day show and maintained the workshops program, which is still a pretty successful formula. 

Jean Bernard Andre workshop 

We always had special guests doing demos or presentations during the show, but we also noticed through the years that attendance at the demos was declining and that most people have a hard time sitting down and watching such a demo. So, we decided to maintain the workshop program for dedicated visitors and we stimulated exhibiting companies to have ongoing demonstrations at their stands. It’s simple really: it attracts people to their stands, shows their products “in action” and people have the choice of watching the full demo or move along at their own liking and are much more at ease to ask questions. 

Speed painting party ! 

And maybe the most important change for me is that I have learned to keep things simple. I know this must sound strange, and “simple” is relative of course, but in the early days I tried to squeeze too much into the event, as I always wanted people to go home afterwards with the feeling they missed something making them come back for more the next year. I still want them to have that feeling, but there was a tendency of over-organizing the whole thing and now we make sure that the basics are firmly organized and the rest is sorted out by itself. For example: Roman Lappat once organized a basketball game in the Sports Centre of the venue, or like you guys from Chestnut Ink are organizing the speed painting contest at SMC. Just fun side events that contribute to the atmosphere of the show and that make a big difference.

Basketball session organized by Roman Lappat 

In July 2020, the world model expo was supposed to be held in place of the SMC in Eindhoven. That must have been a really big challenge for you guys… How did you plan organizing such huge event?

Besides of having the advantage of doing the event in the summer rather than in fall, there is more to it than meets the eye, and honestly, also more than we thought initially. 
Because none of us, me included, has ever attended another World Model Expo, we are approaching it in the same way as we do with SMC. After all, SMC is not a small show either. 
Previous Expos were organized by people that were, like us, also organizing an annual or bi-annual event, but these events were a lot smaller than SMC is, and that makes a huge difference. Our basic set up for SMC has become pretty familiar to all involved in the organization, so that’s a good start. Of course, we expect more attendees for the Expo than at SMC, so you have to think bigger and in larger numbers, and the show will run for three full days as it will start on Friday morning already. 
The extra day does not only mean shifting all preparation and build up one day, but you need a larger staff too. 
Shows like SMC are operationally run by volunteers who don’t mind spending a day or two days for the greater good, but finding staff for three days starts to become a bit trickier. So that’s why we have asked for external volunteers for various jobs on the website, and have also hired professional staff, for security duties for example.

And, as I mentioned before, we try to keep it relatively simple. The main focus is on the quality of the show itself: contest, trade, expo area and all the other ingredients we are familiar with at SMC. Side events are there, as required, but we are not a travel agency or a travel coach company, we do not own the hotel, and honestly many things that were necessary in the past for previous Expos are no longer necessary, or have become less important over time.

I mean, putting up a website, for example is quite a job. Having a website in 6 or 8 languages is a bit of an obsolete idea. We set the website up in English only, and anyone with a computer can have it translated, if they want, with one click. Maybe not perfect, but good enough to get the message across.

We made an exception for the contest rules and classes. Those were translated from English into German, French, Spanish and Italian and we added Dutch of course. 
Reason for doing this for the contest particularly, is to make sure that everybody understands that the way the contest at the World Model Expo is configured differently than at SMC or most other European shows, and why it is like that. 

For the World Model Expo, we also had to change the floorplan of the show considerably, compared to SMC. The contest area will double in size, and the restaurant/catering area needs to be significantly increased, using the outside area too. The commercial areas will be similar in total size than at SMC. We always have a large number of vendors at SMC already, and having more would not necessarily improve the quality. 

It all comes down to making sure that larger numbers of people can still move around and have a drink, lunch or snack comfortably and can do their shopping and watching the exhibited pieces.

Contest area 

One important goal we have, is to make the World Model Expo attractive for everybody. Every now and then I hear prejudiced and ill-informed opinions about World Model Expos, and I really feel it as a mission to transform that mind set. 
Where possible we keep costs low and transparent, although we realize that terms like “affordable” and “low” are arbitrary and much depending from person to person. 

We keep the admission fee separate from the contest fee, and, for example, decided not to include a “free” figure for contest participants in that fee. After all, you pay for such a gift yourself, in the end. We prefer that people can spent that money at the vendors stands, and on something they really want.

We also know that many scale modellers see it as a figure show, probably because the event is mostly praised by figure painters. I do not share that opinion. The 2014 Expo in Stresa, Italy for example, had a huge presence of scale models in the contest.

In any case, we said from the beginning that we want to make this a World Model Expo where scale modellers also feel at home. 

Always hundreds of wonderful projects 

Covid 19 has changed every aspect of our lives, including our favourite events and miniatures contests. A few month ago, you told everyone WME2020 will not happen at all in 2020. Can you please explain how this decision was taken and what the consequences were for the organizers?

Just for the record: we made our decision and announcement actually before our government put a ban on events.
The reason for making that decision was that it became very evident that this was not going to be a short-term pandemic, as many, including us, still thought it would be in February or even early March. Frankly speaking, I lost sleep thinking of an event with so many people in one place in the middle of a pandemic. Nobody wants to become a news item for being a source of many infected people, and that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

In hindsight, deciding to postpone the event to 2021 was a good decision, also because shortly afterwards our government announced our lockdown, and all events were to be cancelled. Remarkably for me, I have come to peace with the fact and actually got more time to paint figures or work on some unfinished modelling projects. And I believe that the rest of our team feels the same way.

However, there is something that I would like to address. Lately I sense a sort of competition going on of which show is going to be the first one to start again after this Covid-19 horror is behind us. At this point in time (early July 2020), I really think this is not such a positive development. I watch this with interest, but also anxiously and with caution, simply because it isn’t over yet. By far it isn’t. Here in the Netherlands it seems to be pretty much under control at the moment and things are getting back to “sort-of-normal” slowly, but surely, but an event such as ours is still not possible or allowed. I really hope that the first show to open again will be a huge success, but I fear it is way too early yet, and it will be too early as long there is no vaccine or medicine. For a show it is nice to be ambitious, but I think safety and acting responsible is more important than ambition.

In 2020, WME2020 was supposed to replace SMC edition, finally world expo will be postponed to 2021, therefore there won’t be any SMC before 2022! How do you feel about that? What are the consequences for the organizers?

Because I was afraid that SMC would disappear into oblivion in case of a three-year gap (2019-2022), I discussed the options for an SMC 2021 after the World Model Expo with the rest of the organizers. The majority was all for it really, which was a very important thing for me. Without the others it would simply not be possible to do.
And there are many good reasons to do an SMC in 2021. But when you start to think about it, there are also at least as many reasons not to do it.
For me personally, it is a two-sided story, I worked very hard for 12 years to get SMC to where it is today (and so have the others in our team) : one of the leading events in our hobby. So, having to let it go for almost three years is hard to chew.
Then again, the success of an SMC largely depends on the attendance by a global audience. The number of Dutch visitors is actually less than the number of foreign attendees. I seriously doubt that the same group of people is able and willing to come to a similar event, in the same location, in less than 4 months twice. Pursuing an SMC in 2021 may cause a totally different feel and atmosphere, which is not something I’d like to be honest.

On the other hand: SMC is different from a World Model Expo. In the way the competition is set up, but also at the World Model Expo there is no room for club stands, at least not in the way clubs a represented at SMC. EXPO stands for: EXPOSITION. And I don’t want clubs to think that we are forgetting them for three years, because we really don’t. They largely contribute to the show’s atmosphere and success.

Clubs had a very good space at SMC

However, I think that the chance of having an SMC in 2021 is less than 5% at this moment. It is more likely that we will re-define the set-up of the World Model Expo next year and give it more of an SMC twist than we wanted to do initially. We still need to discuss this internally, but I believe that it is the best option.
I always say these are two separate events, but I hear from people from all over the globe that they see our World Model Expo as an SMC+ anyway. Maybe I should embrace that thought and see it as a benefit and put it to good use.

What you also need to realize is that every other show that previously hosted the World Model Expo experienced a serious decline in attendance the first regular show they did after their World Model Expo, and had to work long and hard to get back to their pre-Expo level in later years. I’m not so much worried about a long-term effect. Maybe even the first SMC after the World Model Expo will not see that decline in numbers that others have experienced. With SMC we come from a totally different position in the first place, but like I said before: three years is a long time. The good thing of this long “sabbatical” is that it gives us the time to evaluate the show so far, and how we can develop it further to keep it a top-notch show.

SMC crew giving medals to participants.

I think it is important to keep developing a show and to come with new ideas every time, to keep the interest going. Repeating the same trick year after year is not only boring to organize, but also for
visitors. Not that you need to make a 180 degree turn every show, but the world around us changes, the hobby changes, so you have to keep up with those changes.

In fact, is the WME host supposed to organize everything by themselves? Does anyone help you?

Yes, you have to organize things on your own, but I actually got a lot of good and useful information and advice from previous World Model Expo organizers. In that respect I would like to mention the people from Art Girona (Gerona 2008), Michel Zeller from Montreux (2011), Gaetano from Stresa (2014), Jim DeRogatis from the 2017 Chicago World Expo, and of course Bill Horan and Fabio Nunnari of the World Model Soldier Federation, the umbrella association of the World Model Expo.
The World Model Soldier Federation as such does not contribute financially, but Bill and Fabio are putting together an auction of figures that are made and kindly donated by renowned artists. The revenues of that auction will go to us, and provide a substantial and much needed financial support for the event.
On the website wme2020.com (we kept the URL intact) you can find the figures that are ready.

There are also many others than stand up and offer a helping hand, mostly at the event itself. As I mentioned before, there are many jobs to fill; during the three days of the show itself, but also before,
during build up, and afterwards, during breaking down.

There is plenty of room to make a World Model Expo your own thing and believe me when I say that we have every intention to use that space.
The one aspect of the event that has limitations when it comes to your own interpretation is the contest.
The spirit and intention of the contest have to remain intact as it was initiated by Sheperd Paine. There is some room to manoeuvre and to implement own ideas, but people should realize that there are significant differences between the World Model Expo contest (or judged exhibition as they officially refer to it) and the SMC contest.

In 2021, we will finally see all our friends again, around gaming/competition tables. The next contests will reach an incredible high level for sure. What do you expect as far as the 2021 season is concerned?

First of all, I truly hope that the Covid-19 virus will be under control one way or the other and that travelling abroad, especially by plane, will be back to normal. The sooner the better.
And indeed, we all had time to make more models and paint more figures between two shows than ever before, so I expect full contest tables everywhere.
I doubt that from January 1, 2021 we can go back to normal, as if nothing has happened. I am not a virologist, so I have no idea what to expect. I keep my fingers crossed that there will be a vaccine or cure early next year. But I also keep in mind that these things might also take years.
Meanwhile we can only hope for the best, and make sure to have a plan B.

Is SMC a figure show with scale modelling or a scale modelling show with figures?

I think that SMC is a show that celebrates all sides of the hobby. Some are more present than others, but we are open to all things in miniature, really.

The first show, in 2007, was actually called Military Scale Model Challenge. As for the figures side of the show, the majority of the competition entries in the figure classes were 1/35th scale military stand-alone figures and some busts. How things have changed!
Later we dropped the word military from the show’s name, as most attending clubs had mixed interests and we did not want to exclude anyone from any aspect of the show, although I have to say that we still have a hard time getting substantially more aircraft modellers attending the event or entering the contest.

Over the years the number of figures entered in the contest grew steadily but it really exploded after 2015, when we moved from a 1-day show to a 2-day show. Margot played an important role in that, as she has promoted our show heavily during her trips to shows in France, Italy and Spain, and even in Russia. The transition to a 2-day show has also convinced many figure manufacturers from those
countries to attend SMC, so things have spiralled only upwards from there.

We sometimes receive comments from armour modellers saying that our show is dominated by figures.
I dare to disagree with that. Of course, in the contest the number of entered figures is larger than the number of entries of AFV’s, but you have consider that most figure painters finish more pieces in a year than a scale modeller ever would in the same time. But if we look at the statistics we see that there are less figure painters entering the contest than scale modellers for example.

Still a lot of scale model of all kind !

Also, the number of scale models in the contest is still growing year by year. Slowly, but steadily growing. There has never been a year with less scale models in the contest than the year before.
For figures the numbers fluctuate a bit. Without joking: if we have 1850 or 2000 pieces total in the contest in, the difference of 150 pieces is easily explained by the fact that 15 or 20 figure painters more or less have showed up that year, or maybe even one club from Italy did not come. Italian clubs tend to bring pieces from their members even if they are not personally attending the event.

We are also slowly seeing more plastic kit manufacturers attending SMC: Mirror Models, MiniArt, Meng and AFV Model are present for example, and the interest from other main stream brands is there too, and there will be even more at the World Model Expo, but the figure world is already well represented by almost all the big names like Pegaso, Big Child Creatives, Fer Miniatures, but also the smaller companies like Bouts de Brousse, Robot Rocket, and start-ups like Massive Miniatures are present as well.

If you go through the annual list of vendors that are present, there really is a good balance.
We have so many (smaller) manufacturer of resin kits, aftermarket stuff, accessories, tools and everything else you want, need or are interested in. I truly believe that no the show has such a good variety of trade stands.

How do you see the future for SMC?

Over the past few years I heard from quite a few people that they thought that the World Model Expo would be the end station, the icing on the cake, our “pièce de résistance” and that it would be the final chapter of SMC. Well let me tell you, it isn’t and it that was never the plan from the beginning.

The aim of SMC has always been to bring the global miniature world together in our modest city of Eindhoven and to make it “the place to be” for all scale modellers and figure painters.

We also wanted to make a difference with existing shows in our hobby. Even though we use the same ingredients that every other successful show uses: trade, clubs and a contest. However, with a little more thought and TLC you can lift an event like this to the next level, and I am proud to say that we have managed to do just that. We have created an event that many fellow hobbyists eagerly look out for every year and that is something I am very proud of.

Is it all perfect? No, but we keep learning and listen to ideas, comments and criticisms that we get and if we think it could work for the benefit of the show and for the people attending it, we try to implement them.

And most important: we never lay back and repeat the same thing year after year. That kind of laziness has killed too many top shows in the past and I do not intend to make the same mistakes. Maybe different mistakes though, who will say 😊

Cheese and wine at the SMC :)
We have come a long way with SMC and stopping now would be silly. There is still room for improvement. Besides, as long as my and Margot’s health allows it, and very important: as long as the team backs us up, we see no reason to call it quits.


Chestnut Ink team : Thank you Robert for this very nice discussion, Hope to see you soon !

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