Life & Arts – If you’re looking for something to do or a new hobby and you’re good with your hands, consider modeling. Not the fashion kind of thing, but making a model of a car, spaceship, airplane or even creating a scenic diorama right down to the smallest detail.
To get your creative juices going, check out the [email protected] on Friday and Saturday, April 29-30, at the Holiday Inn in Latham.
You’ll find hundreds of models, a model contest, vendors and modeling seminars all presented as part of the Northeast NY Chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society, USA, a group that has been around since 1972. It’s one of 220 active chapters organized by 13 geographically-determined regions in this country including Canada and the Philippines of the national society, which was founded in 1964. The local group is part of Region 1.
“It will be super happy to have the Noreast back,” said Matt McKeeby, an Averill Park High School English teacher whose models are more often history-based and frequently used for show-and-tell in the classroom.
In past years, other chapters from Region 1 have hosted the annual show, but the Northeast chapter was the first host of the first show.
Tim Burke, a longtime member of this chapter and the executive director of Albany’s Upper Hudson Library System, is excited about the show’s contest and making something as a special tribute to a veteran who died.
“We’ll do a tribute to him,” Burke said. “He loved M113 armored personnel carriers. It’s a kind of box whose chassis is used for other vehicles and was
a pre-Vietnam War vehicle. His stash had lots ot those, so we’ll build one for the show.”
Prefers military stuff
Like many other modelers, Burke said he did it as a kid with his father and brother and made mostly military stuff, especially World War II vehicles because his father was a veteran of that war and the Korean Conflict. Over the next many years, that interest waned until in 1991, when he was working at Siena College as a librarian, he had to coordinate a display of Pearl Harbor ships.
“I thought it cool to have three dimensional stuff,” he said.
A few years before, he’d met a modeler from the local chapter and bought his stuff and then “got the bug again.”
“I cleared a space in my basement and then joined the chapter in 1991,” Burke said.
Kits can be found in local hobby stores, online and at shows, so Burke zeroed in on aircraft from World War I and between the wars. All of it is made of plastic, so for a beginner, he had only to get good Xacto knives, plastic cement, masking tape, rubber bands, tweezers, paint brushes, hobby paint and lots of patience.
He discovered over time that he loved exploring the historical aspect of the models, being artistic and just putting the project together.
“It’s good to dabble,” he said laughing. “And I love the process.”
His collection is now “all over the house and in a display case in the dining room,” he said. “It gets to be a challenge where to put it.”
New to the hobby is Kyle Yanson, a firefighter with Ballston Spa’s Naval Station and a volunteer at Rotterdam’s Fire Department.
“I got interested in February 2021,” he said. “I’ve got three young kids and they’re always doing something. I’m always working — even during the pandemic, so I was looking on Google for hobbies for men and modeling kept coming up. So, because you can fix just so many things around the house, I went to a hobby store and picked up a kit. It was a tractor trailer truck. I bought the kit, sat at my table and enjoyed the build of creating something from nothing.”
Now, almost a year later, he’s built tanks, a plow truck, a VW beetle, an airplane, a 1914 Model T Ford, a firetruck, and now he’s working on an old Russian model firetruck that was used during the Chernobyl disaster.
He also loved that he could make an M4 Sherman tank to give to his grandmother, whose husband was a World War II army veteran, and a model of the USS Saratoga to give to his father.
He’s discovered that it’s important to know what the original object looked like to get the details on his model right, to have the right tools and tons of patience.
“That was the biggest challenge,” he said. “That and taking to let things develop with no rush. It’s become an opportunity for me to slow down and that’s great.”
Focus on people
McKeeby’s models are, however, totally different. They’re almost all dioramas of historical themes or individuals that he creates with a combination from various kit parts, putty, paper mache, paint, 3D printing or found objects such as a twig (makes a great tree trunk), cotton batting colored with mustard (for mustard gas clouds), LED lights, wire or anything else that will work.
“I like to create stories. People is what brings it to life,” he said.
It helps that for years he taught theater at Averill Park and loved scenic design and has always painted portraits or landscapes. While those are two dimensional, his models are three, which allows him to bring the scenes almost to a graphic life.
He laughs when he said that when he’s brought some displays to his classes, kids will tell him he finds really great stuff to buy.
“Kids don’t do much hands-on crafts these days, so they’re astounded by my stuff when I tell them I made it,” McKeeby said.
Like other modelers, he began as a kid around 8 or 9, he said, and then let it go until he was teaching a segment on the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” The focus is on a German storm trooper. He found a kit, made it up and his interest returned.
“I looked around to find a chapter and discovered these friendly, welcoming guys and joined,” McKeeby said.
For the show he’s “painting like a maniac, down to the wire, working like a demon.” He’s working on a 3.5 x 4 foot diorama of 30 figures with a medical theme to give as a tribute to his grandfather, who was a doctor during World War II.
“I love the opportunity to create my own world but also pay tribute to those people who had these experiences,” he said. “It’s meditative, but I must focus, breathe.”
As part of the show, some proceeds will go to Ukraine, because some of the top model companies are based there. What was once given years ago as a Christmas present is now of huge interest in Eastern Europe and Japan, he said.
WHEN: Friday, April 29 (noon – 7 p.m.) and Saturday, April 30 (9 a.m. -5 p.m.)
WHERE: Holiday Inn, Latham
HOW MUCH: $25 for convention/contest; $5/day ($10/day family) for convention