I was reminded recently that I’ve been a member of IPMS (UK) for nearly 30 years. It came as a shock to think that I had been part of the Society for that long because it doesn’t seem like it at all. Yet, so much has changed in that time, in my own life, in the Society and in the wider hobby not to mention the world as a whole.
Back then, the Internet was a new and curious technology that few people understood the potential of. Mobile phones were the size of house bricks (almost literally) and their battery packs even bigger. I well remember attending a seminar at college, promoting the newly developed digital camera technology – at the time it was little more than a converted Nikon F4 that offered tiny (by today’s standards) images. Me and my fellow photography students looked at each other and thought ‘it’ll never catch on’…
I joined IPMS (UK) about a year after I started work. I can’t remember the precise motivation but I was clearly in the mood to get involved in the hobby in a more active way because I also joined MAFVA at much the same time. Since then I’ve been a sometime member of both AMPS and IPMS USA as well, but perhaps because I haven’t always felt I had the spare cash for too many subscriptions, I’ve had times when I’ve dropped out of both. However, IPMS (UK) and MAFVA have remained my constant affiliations throughout.
I think one of the reasons I joined IPMS is because there was a local Branch and I wanted to meet fellow modellers who were local. We did at one time try to start a MAFVA branch because there were several members close enough to make a viable group, but it never came to anything.
The core of the local IPMS Branch has remained the same throughout much of the past 30 years, but others have joined or left at various points and some have passed away. In last three or four years we’ve seen a whole crop of new modellers joining us, after a period of nearly 10 years when we struggled to attract even one or two new faces. We’re not the most organised of groups and we don’t take ourselves too seriously, which is large part why I still enjoy being part of the Branch. We are there to enjoy modelling, to talk about enjoying modelling and to encourage others to do the same.
The greatest long term benefit for me has been the knowledge and the skills that I’ve picked up from my friends in the Branch. Some of that has been through formal talks and demonstrations at meetings but much of it has been through casual conversations that usually start with something like ‘How did you do that?’ The thing about skills is that they have no respect for boundaries. As an armour modeller, you can learn as much from a ship modeller as you can from a figure painter, or a car modeller. We all have our preferences, but the skills are easily transferred from one discipline to another. As an aside, the best reference source on weathering I have ever come across, indeed it has become my weathering ‘bible’, is a book by a railway modeller called Martyn Welch. ‘The Art of Weathering’ provides a wealth of ideas and techniques, developed by someone who has incredible observational skills. It’s about reproducing realistic wear and tear rather than artistic interpretations.
When I look back at what I was producing 30 years ago and compare it with what I can achieve now, I’m astounded by how much my skills and indeed my preferences have changed. Equally, I can point to a watershed in my development. About 20 years ago I plateaued out. I can look at models from that period and they stand comfortably alongside much newer projects. Indeed, in some respects my abilities have diminished as eyesight and dexterity start to deteriorate. My love of the hobby remains undiminished and my excitement at starting a new project is just as intense.
IPMS (UK) is a framework in which my hobby exists. It’s an environment that works for me, but it won’t be for everyone. It puts my friendships into context. It defines my activities to some degree and it’s opened up opportunities I might never have been given, had I not been part of a larger organisation. It’s about buying into a network. It doesn’t matter whether your network is a local one, perhaps the members of a club or a group of friends, or whether it is a larger one that spreads across the country, or even the world. The more you get involved in that network, the more it gives back to you. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t quantify everything that I gain from being a member of IPMS (UK), but I do know that it’s a vital part of my hobby and without it I wouldn’t have achieved what I have in those past 30 years.
First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine