This weekend I attended what was, by my reckoning, probably my 6th or 7th Scale Model Challenge. In the last few years it has become the unmissable show in the modelling calendar for me and I would never willingly miss another.
The dust is slowly settling, and social media is full, as it is every year, with so many posts about the fun we had and the friends we met and made. Every year the show seems to grow and new people discover it, and honestly, seeing people discover it for the first time is one of my favourite things, because they all love it. All of them.
The show is, without a doubt, the most welcoming and positive model show I have been to. (with perhaps the equally welcoming and friendly Shizuoka Hobby Show, where I exhibited twice, thanks to the good offices of Mr. Norio TAKEMURA.) There is no snobbery at the show, no negativity, it is a pure celebration of the full range of modelling from fantasy miniatures to scratch built AFVs and Aircraft and everything in between. Of course, all shows pretty much welcome all genres, but arriving at SMC is like getting a massive, warm and comforting hug. Its not just your models that are made to feel special at SMC, is YOU too. Because of that, SMC has easily the most diverse attendance, in terms of age, gender, sex, race, nationality, everything.
This is not a show dominated by pale, stale, males like me, and I LOVE it for that.
But There Are Models?? RIGHT?
Dude, chill, there are models. Oh My Goodness there are models. 2300 models in competition plus 46 Club stands with another, maybe, 1000 models to look at.
Neeeeeeeooooowwwww! The Aircraft
I’ll say this upfront, this is not a show dominated by aircraft models, like your average IPMS show. There were about 100 in competition, although all were stunning, including this gold medal winner, and Best of Show (Ordnance) contender by Damian Piekarczyk.
This also demonstrates how you don’t need to heavily weather your model to place at a European show. This was a stunning example of technical model making and a tour de force of scratch detailing and precision modelling.
Also in Aircraft, Sébastien Tartar scored a gold with this beautiful display of 1/72 aircraft
I was especially happy for my good friend Will Pattison for his gold for his “Armastang”
So while there were not as many aircraft at SMC as you would find at the USA IPMS Nats or Scale Modelworld, the standard is uniformly excellent and very varied in style and subject. Of course there are also a lot of wonderful models not in competition, so at the show I would say there were 200-300 aircraft models
Armour is always very well represented at SMC, and honestly, I think the best armour modellers in the world attend this show, but at the same time beginners and intermediate modellers are welcome. This year, I judged the beginners category and we sought to encourage the best in what we saw and to reward people for their work. This is a positive show, not an elitist one.
Some things I loved this year in AFVs an Dioramas:
Seeing Spud‘s Sherman in person was a treat:
As was seeing Sam Dwyer’s Panther
I also really enjoyed Dan Sankey‘s ‘Pigeon Break’!
International Modellers were in huge evidence at this year’s show, another thing the show seems to have over others with more people in attendance from places as far away as New Zealand, China, South America, North America (more on that later) and Japan. Including Yamashiro Masaya with his “Mined Scape”, which I loved.
I don’t know how many AFVs were entered, but I know it was a LOT, and the standard was stellar. In addition there was plenty to see, again on the club tables, including superb displays by the Four Corners Model Club, and Scale Model Brigade, amongst others.
Ok so there are not many ships at the show. I can tell you as a ship modeller myself, that there are not many of us, but you will get a better showing at other shows like Mosonshow and Scale Modelworld for ships. That’s just a fact. I hope it improves in coming years, but honestly the numbers seem to oscillate.
I did hugely enjoy these models though:
Christian Bruer’s HMS Belfast (Silver, Ships, Masters).
(I could not get a good photo at the show, so here is one from Christian’s Page)
Also I loved Guido Hopp’s incredible HMS York:
both of these models got Silver in Ships/ Masters. but for some small flaws, they could both have been Gold, but Gold in masters is HARD to get. These are not participation trophies. Christian and Guido had to make superb models to get Silver
Also, I loved Therese Emilie Tilrem’s 1/700 HMS Dido cruiser. This was just beautiful. This is a Flyhawk kit, and they are superb, but it takes a skilled modeller with a very deft hand to get this much out of them. This won Silver in Ships/ Standard
Again, ships are also well represented on the club stands. I had the incredible honour to be able to literally handle Marijn van Gils stunning Trafalgar diorama pieces in progress
Its Not All WAR WAR WAR
Civilian vehicles, dioramas and figures play a big part in the show at Scale Model Challenge.
In fact, Per Olav Lund won Best in Show (Ordnance) [There are separate Best of Shows for ordnance, fantasy figures, and historical figures.] with his “Men and Wales” (previously featured on this blog)
As you can see, Tracy, Will and I liked it so much, we also gave it the Sprue Cutters Union Best Storytelling in Miniature Award
There was also a wonderfully rendered and detailed Apollo 11 capsule by Gert Mertens, who won Silver in Aircraft masters (photo by Erich Reist)
There were also cars and motorbikes and anything you could want to look at.
Such Fine Figures of Men (and Women, and Orks, and Fairies, and Spacewarriors and ……)
Of course, SMC is widely known for attracting figure modellers. I spoke to famous figure artists at the show, and loved admiring their work. Figures, sometimes more than armour or aircraft, are so hard to appreciate in photos, no matter how good the photos. Seeing them in person is just another level.
But I also spoke to a lot of beginners new to the hobby and the show: hell I’M a beginner figure modeller and I entered the beginner’s historical and fantasy category, and was lucky enough to get a gold. Getting a gold means you have to move to the next level and I was thrilled to know that I am good enough now for the standard category, but honestly, if I wasn’t I would still be thrilled to show my work with so many amazing modellers. and there are a LOT of amazing figures at this show.
A lot of these beginners and people new to the hobby were kids and under 25s. They were incredibly eager and excited to devour everything at the show, and they were fearless in asking questions and approaching people. And the conversations I saw showed people were excited to meet these young people and talk to them about the hobby.
This show doesn’t enable gatekeeping, it encourages us all to burn the gates down and dance on the ashes.
Lets look at some of the incredible work in the figure categories, starting with best of show for fantasy, by Patrick Masson (Sculpt) and Eric Swinson (painting).
This photo is by Martin Visscher
You can see why it won. The sculpting is simply incredible, by any measure, and as if that isn’t enough, the painting is outstanding, as befits an BoS.
Best of show in historical was “Ignacio Wills. Alpens- 1873” by Juan C Avila Ribadas. This was unusual, because to my memory, in past years the BoS has usually gone to a group compostion (but I could be wrong). Anyway, it is a very simple figure and I think that makes the miniature all the more impressive to be so arresting and well conceived and finished. It truly is sublime. (Photo by J C Avila Ribadas)
But SMC is accused by some (who have never attended the show, of course) of being elitist. Let’s bury that stinking zombie. As I said, there were a lot of beginners and young people at the show, and they were not only allowed to be there, they were enthusiastically welcomed. The Sprue Cutters Union ran two discussion panels and both were attended by a mix of young and old, and old masters and neophytes, and their questions were embraced by the panel and without the usual “‘pay your dues, you must learn to do the hobby how we did it in the 60s and 70s”* dogma that haunts scale modelling. This is a show for, and attended by, people who embrace change*, while some others make a virtue of resisting it.
Lets have a look at some of the awesome work from painters at the show.
We are… North American Chums
I said I would come back to Americans, so I am. This year also saw the first visit to SMC for the Plastic Posse Podcast, and it was awesome to meet TJ, JB, Jensen and Jackson. I was very glad to see they enjoyed the show. Its always a worry after hyping something that it can’t possibly live up to it, and although I know they didn’t come because of anything I said, I know it was part of a general hype that SMC gets in the model world (unless you live in an IPMS bubble, apparently none of them had even heard of the show in its 14 years…)
Jensen’s comment on his own page said it all:
“Once you attend Scale Model Challenge you learn what the standard is!”
And he was right. This is the greatest model show in the world. It doesn’t have the biggest competition, that title went to World Model Expo, and IPMS USA Nats is still bigger at a record of 3300, but at 2300, its in the top three.
It doesn’t have the most vendors, that goes to SMW, but only by 16 this year (SMW 166, SMC 150). But it has the best variety of vendors I have ever seen at a show and 99% of them are small hobby business you will not usually see at shows, selling unique and interesting stuff you didn’t know you wanted till you found them.
But it does have the best atmosphere, it is so much more welcoming, vibrant, diverse, and dammit HAPPY than any other show I have been to. If I had to use one word to describe SMC it would be “exuberant” (full of energy, excitement, and cheerfulness, characterized by a vigorously imaginative artistic style: Oxford English Dictionary). Other shows are great, but no other show feels like this.
While SMC does not exceed all other shows in every measure, it exceeds all others in some. It is the best all round package and the only show I would never, ever miss. As I get older and poorer (thanks Brexit and the Economy) I necessarily have to limit my travel. But this is nailed on. And this is repeated by everyone I ask, and I asked a lot of people this weekend. For many people this is the only unmissable show in the calendar and only people I ask who have never tried it disagree, once you have been to SMC, you never miss it again.
That’s how it sets the standard: in sheer, unalloyed, profound modelling joy.
My deepest and sincerest gratitude to the team at SMC, What you do is incredible, and unbelievably, every year it gets better…
PS Erich Reist did a stunning set of images of people enjoying the competition that really captures the atmosphere of the show and the people. Check it out here: