Figure Model Hobby

I thought dinosaurs were cool as a kid. Decades later, when the first Jurassic Park movie was released, I got a hankerin’ for a three-dimensional dinosaur of my own.  It was the early days of the internet and I started poking around and discovered the fantastic world of dinosaur scale model kits, and I dove head long into a new hobby. It didn’t cross my mind for a very long time  what an oddball I was at the time.  (If you’re not sure what kind of oddball I mean, that would be a female in an otherwise male dominated hobby.)  After I’d meticulously completed a few kits, I advertised my buildup services and stayed very busy for a year. The most amazing thing is what I discovered five years after I quit  doing buildup for other figure model collectors.

In 2005 my husband attended  a huge multimedia convention in Atlanta, GA called Dragon Con. While my husband was touring the art show at the convention, which included an exhibit of scale models, he stopped to talk to another attendee. They were talking about the models and at some point my husband mentioned my name and the other man recognized my name.  He was from another place in the US but was a part of the model kit community. Somehow I had managed to make a name for myself. I found the scale model/figure model hobby world to be very welcoming and supportive.

In the past year I’ve been pursuing a growing interest in a category of scale models that I don’t see addressed in the usual modelers’ forums. I thought this seemed kind of odd. But as I have become more involved and expanded my networking, it has become clearer why the subgroup seems absent from the broader world of scale figure models.  The scale modeling subgroup I’m talking about is resin scale model horses. Professional horse sculptors appear to be just as amazing as anyone we are used to seeing who sculpt monsters and people, dinosaurs, etc. But the bulk of the market for horse kits seems to be an outgrowth of collectors of Breyer horses, Peter Stone horses, Schleich and Safari small toy horses. Why are resin horse models absent from the larger, established world of the model kit hobby?

It seems scale horse model collectors are an outgrowth of collecting very fancy horse toys and horse dolls.  Plenty of them prep, prime and paint their resins. But many seek the models already completed by someone else. Some collectors who might want to try their hand at painting their horse model, shop around to find someone else to prep and prime the model, basically bringing it up to the condition of a stripped down Breyer plastic horses.   And there is a very active world of people customizing their Breyers.  That’s what they call it.  Customizing. (The old term used to be “remaking” the Breyer. It can be similar to kit bashing.  I revisit this in a bit.) Customizing a Breyer can involve extensive and beautiful work.  This process may involve smoothing the plastic seams, refining the ears, nose, muzzle, hooves, tail and mane with x-acto blades and very fine files and Dremel attachments.  Sometimes these features are completely re-sculpted or covered or replaced with a sculpted prosthetic piece. A favorite medium for applying color is artist pastels.  It is a time-consuming, labor-intensive method for building up layers of color, but the end results can be rich and luminous.

And then there is what appears to be the rough equivalent of bashing a kit.  A plastic Breyer horse might be cut into pieces and repositioned and sculpted over.  The results can be astoundingly realistic and almost unrecognizable as a Breyer.   I wonder why these ambitious people don’t want to just sculpt their own entire horse.  They almost do anyway.

It appears most horse model collectors are female.  It appears that most of today’s adult model horse collectors were, like me, toy horse collectors as children.  By far the scale model horse market demographic is overwhelmingly female, both children and adults.

Most of the sculptors appear to possess the same extraordinary talent and creativity as any artist we have seen in the scale figure modeling world.

Anyway, why is the horse model collector community absent from the figure model collector community?

The only overarching difference is one faction is dominated by females and the other by males. The scenario reminds me of convergent evolution (“the process in which organisms that are not closely related independently evolve similar features” []).

Did you ever get to watch the old 1930’s “Little Rascals” when you got home after school?  I’m reminded of the Little Rascals “He Man Woman Haters Club”


This  harkens back to the early years  in our lives when the opposite sex was inherently repulsive. In girls’ collective view all boys were gross and dirty.  In boys’ collective view all girls were bossy and mean. (I dunno. Send in your suggestions for ‘collective views’.)

As a middle-aged female, I stepped into the mostly male model kit hobby without a bump. As an older middle aged female (and former child model horse collector!) I stepped into the present day horse model hobby without the foggiest notion of what to expect  and discovered a rather different version of the figure model hobby that has managed to isolate itself.  It’s strange because they use some of the same materials we do. We have to shop in the same places don’t we? Maybe not. (You can always charge a bit more if you add bows and glitter.)

There is a very talented horse model artist who thought it was in my best interest to explain to me the extraordinary intrinsic  value of “resin” (versus those ol’ plastic Breyers) and how important it was for the artist to find exactly the right picture of exactly the right horse that exists in reality – and she had been searching for it “for years”.  She let me know in so many words she could not just paint this “resin” something pretty, she needed to back it up with the pictures of a breed because the model is a “high dollar dude” that a customer will likely purchase and place in model horse shows…….So, bear in mind she dropped her request on social media for these pic’s. She wanted a picture of a very, very, heavy bodied draft horse that is also an appaloosa.  Hmm.  Many people had posted pictures in an effort to help her out (including me), and she had poo-pooed all of them.  I was beginning to think this woman was wanting a picture of something that either 1) does not exist in nature; or, 2) no one has taken a picture of yet and posted it online.  So I took her to task.  I asked her what specific breed she was trying to find and then I got the lesson on the value of resin.

I decided to read up on the model. The sculptor stated in a blog post the model is not intended to represent any particular equine breed.  I posted this information to the painter artist and that it seemed it was just a matter of time until someone takes a picture of the horse she wants to paint. I also added a few sentences describing how well acquainted I am with resin; how resin is essentially the standard for models in the much larger world of figure model hobby, and I have been doing this for around 17 years. (I do not know how old the artist is but judging by her picture I’d say that amounts to about half her life.)

And whatever happened to being an artist?  Like, taking a reference photo of a horse body type you are looking for, and a separate photo of a draft appaloosa, and then using your artistic abilities to put those characteristics together on the model?  (Blasphemy!)

Gag.  Give me a break.

Figure Modelers: Warm, welcoming, friendly. “Come on in.” More guys involved than girls.

Horse Model Collectors: Nice people. Speak their own language (more about that some other time). Participate in a subgroup of the figure model hobby completely isolated from the rest of the hobby. Virtually all female.  I don’t know of one male horse model collector although I’m sure they are out there.

The two worlds have not merged because they have not had to.   It’s like women’s and men’s shoes.

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