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Friday, April 27, 2012

Identify Yourself!

One of the points that I make in our first book, Fundamentals of Model Boat Building, is to sign your work. Do it somewhere.

This arose out of frustration that most of the models that we have received for restoration have no indication of who made them. When I discuss this with other model makers their reaction is usually: "Why, nobody cares about me" or, "It's just a model."

I beg to differ on both counts. Model making is art. Sure there is technology of sorts in it, but it was made by someone and the work involved is no less deserving of recognition than other art. Perhaps I can add a caveat. When I am not so happy at the outcome of a piece, I might only initial it, but it still has my I.D. on it. I have also been known to use initials on very small pieces.

The fact of the matter is that there is a fair probability that a model that you made might outlive you. It might end up in the hands of someone that bought it from someone that received it from you. If it was worth making, there is probably something special about it. Even if it's just "going to the kids" an identifying mark will give it some provenance.

Again, when it comes to doing restorations, we have seen some truly outstanding models, aside from the dirt and damage we are supposed to be fixing. Many model makers know of August Crabtree and what an outstanding model maker he was. You may have some awareness of some of the contemporary model makers in the world these days, because of the power of the internet. However, have you ever gone into museums, such as the model collection at The Annapolis Naval Academy, the collection at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia, Mystic Seaport or any of the other collections around the world and wondered who made those models? In such collections, there are many whose builders are known, but they also have many whose builders are, and probably will be, for all of time, "anonymous".

Every time I restore a model, I learn things. I like to know who my teachers are. I like to take time to give a bit of respect to the person or persons that made the thing I am holding. When I do a restoration, I am not the model builder and my belief is that it is not my job to do anything that the original model builder would not have. It is my job to try to see the model from that person's perspective and, to the best of my ability, return that model to the condition that they made it to in the first place. In this way, it is necessary to identify with that model builder and it's easier when you have some sense of who they are.

There are as many ways to sign a model as there are to make them. It can be obvious, or it can be something hidden for a future restorer to find. I like to sign mine on the bottom near the keel, where it can only be seen when someone looks for it. Our recent IWC New York half hull has our signatures on the rightmost corner of the backing board in very small letters, but also hidden inside where it will only be found if someone takes the model apart.

There are times when we encounter a model of something unusual, that might even be contemporary. It might be something that we would like to find out more about, especially if the builder is likely to be alive and consultable.

Let me add another thought... If we extended this idea beyond models and art and everyone signed the things that they make, the quality of the things around us and hence, the quality of our lives...

...well...   I'll let you take if from there.

Anyway, If you are taking the time and effort to make a model, whether it is from a kit, or scratch-built, do yourself and those who may come across your work, a favor. Sign it!

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