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Model-makers bring fantasy, science to life
By Xu Wei

Even though entertainment options are abundant these days, some young people in Shanghai prefer to spend their spare time staying at home and making models of vehicles and figurines from popular fantasy cartoons, comics and video games.

Some have the knife scars to prove it.

But while model-making takes time and energy, they say it’s a lot of fun.

Through January 17, you’ll likely find them at a large model exhibition at the Shanghai Mass Art Center. All the models, in various sizes, are created by local model-making clubs as well as people from all walks of life.

Among them, the 20 or so members of Pitch Studio are all fans of paleobiology. They include those with day jobs as illustrator, physician, IT worker and geologist. They share their knowledge and skills with others in the group.

Since the studio was started in 2010, the members have created 16 skeleton models of dinosaurs and other vertebrates. At the exhibition, they are presenting three works: models of the bird-like bambiraptor dinosaur, the alligator-like marine reptile mosasaur and smilodon, a saber-toothed cat.

According to Leon Zhang, a 33-year-old business consultant and director of operations of the studio, it usually takes a five-person team two months to make a model of a dinosaur skeleton.

The process includes hand-drawn illustrations, regression analysis to create 3D images of ancient vertebrates and skeleton model building. Many of their models are used by domestic and foreign museums and publishing houses in science that promote and do exhibits in paleontology.

Zhang says the most difficult part is model-building because making skeleton models of vertebrates is still a new field in China and there are not many related academic materials in Chinese.

“We have to check a lot of statistics through foreign websites and academic periodicals,” he says. “Though it is hard and time-consuming, we feel fulfilled and happy to make new friends and expand our knowledge of paleobiology.”

Zhang also anticipates that building models of original concept and design will become more popular among the young generation.

Han Lili, a female cartoonist and sculptor in her 30s, presents a series based on her cartoon, “Ala Rabbit.” All the rabbit models are made of recycled materials such as waste paper, cloth and plastic bottles.

Since 2007, Han has published several comic books of “Ala Rabbit.” In the comics, the cute and innocent rabbit promotes environmental protection concepts, such as using a handkerchief instead of paper napkins and avoiding disposable dishware. The rabbit has also become a popular cartoon image among Internet users.

Han says a female model creator and sculptor sometimes faces challenges given that some pieces they do are large and require a lot of physical strength.

“But we also have our advantages and unique perspectives,” she adds. “Female model makers are more careful and patient with the details.”

Wu Linzhao, a 65-year-old retiree, took up the hobby of model-making when he was a primary school student. Over the years, he has finished a grand fleet of 25 model ships.

The ships, made on a scale of 1:350, belong to different periods of human civilization. They not only reflect people’s adventures and exploration of the sea, but also the rapid development of science and technology in the past 500 years.

Among them are the Niña, one of the three ships Christopher Columbus led out of the Spanish port of Palos to discover America in 1492; the Victoria, one of the ships of Ferdinand Magellan, the first man to sail around the world; ironclad warships; submarines; carrier vessels and stealth warships.

The exhibition also features a lot of prototype models from famous cartoon productions and video games.

Li Yunfeng, 29, is an enthusiast of the “Transformers” films. He brings to the exhibition a couple of DIY Transformers models.

According to the organizers, the exhibition will also include discussions on the latest techniques and trends in making models and prototypes. They hope the annual event will grow as a platform for the exchange of ideas among talented model-makers in China.

Date: Through January 17, 9am-5pm

Venue: Shanghai Mass Art Center, 125 Guyi Rd

Tel: 5424-4152

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