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Exclusive Interview with Sculpture Artist Colin Patten

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Ever wanted to own your own piece of Middle-earth? Well, artist, Colin Patten, has got you covered. His company, History Maker Ltd. consists of himself, his wife and five daughters and they are licensed to make models of some of our most cherished locations. They’re big fans of J. R. R. Tolkien and channel that love into creating beautiful works of art. “We live on the beautiful east coast of Ireland, just a few minutes walk from a lovely little rocky cove. We are of the same faith as the author and thank God for the many blessings He has given us in this life.”

Colin Patten Bag End Model

 
ME News: What can you tell us about your company? What has your past work been based on?

Colin: Our Company ‘History Maker Ltd’, came about during a chance visit to The Bishop’s Palace, in Waterford City. I had heard the city were developing an area called the Viking triangle, which was the site of the original Viking fortified town, established over 1000 years ago. So with that in mind I brought along a little Dark Age homestead diorama and left it with the receptionist before taking the tour of the palace. Half an hour later the director of museums rang me on my mobile phone and asked me to come up and see him when the tour ended. To cut a long story short he asked me if I would like to build five very large city models of Waterford from Hiberno Norse through to the Georgian period, to include prominent buildings including Cathedrals, ships, castles, people etc. It was from this opportunity that our family started the company.

Way before that I was involved in a few companies that I set up designing historical gaming miniatures from the Arthurian period, and covering the entire Dark Age, through to medieval eras . I must have sculpted well over 1000 figures including Vikings, Saxons. Irish, Picts, Scots, welsh etc, and also designed buildings and ships to accompany these ranges. So I suppose I became well versed with the cultures that influenced Tolkien’s Mythos.

ME News: How did you and your family become fans of Tolkien?

Colin: I became ‘possessed’, if that is the right term, by Tolkien’s writings when a teacher read The Hobbit for our class when I was about eight years old. I use the word possess because I think it accurately describes the power that Tolkien’s writings have on our beings. The words enter innocently enough, but it their refusal to die after they have entered that is the mystery. In fact, far from dying they grow in intensity until they become part of us…a part we don’t want to give up. If I can use this term, they become “The precious”. Another aspect is that we feel a special closeness, almost a kinship with other people who love the books, so much that it would be easy to imagine oneself spending the rest of our lives sitting in a beautiful place just talking Tolkien to one another.

My eldest daughter read The Lord of the Rings when she was ten, and I remember reading The Hobbit, to my other four daughters (I have a lot of empathy and sympathy with Elrond), and SPOILER (highlight below to read)
all of us, me included, were sobbing at Thorin’s death.

ME News: What first inspired you to create models of Middle-earth locations?

Colin: After the reception of the city models in Waterford, we explored the idea of developing the skills we learned and applying them in other directions. We really wanted to pursue the idea of a family business and wondered how we could go forward. We are a Catholic family and we go to mass early in the morning at a Dominican church in Waterford City. I remember before mass I started praying for inspiration and direction, the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the altar. I don’t know why I had never noticed it before, but suddenly it took shape in my mind. That shape was unmistakable.

Coincidentally, the priest at the same church recently arrived from Birmingham, from the very epicenter of where the young Tolkien spent his life. Not only was he a fervent follower of Tolkien but he also recounted how some visitors came to his parish to pay their respects at Gandalf’s tomb, which actually was the grave of the Priest mentor, and guardian of the Tolkien boys when their mother died.

Another central aspect in the growing desire to capture little moments from Middle-earth was the story that C. S. Lewis told in his book Surprised by Joy.

His brother Warnie had made a little garden on a biscuit tin when they were boys. He made it out of moss, grass, twigs and things. When he presented it to his brother Clive it produced such joy that it activated a spiritual awakening in him that lasted throughout his life. I think the term is “Sehnsucht”, an unbearable longing for a place we have never been, but a place that we catch glimpses of throughout our lives, often in the most unlikely places. And those places for me are ones that resemble The Shire.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty comes from, my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it meant nothing, all that longing? For indeed it now feels not like going, but going back.”

– C. S. Lewis

ME News: What have you created so far?

Colin: I fueled myself up on 12 hours a day of the BBC adaptation of LOTR, the unabridged Rob Inglis LOTR tapes and the Howard shore LOTR CD’s and got to work. Listening to the things you love, while making things you love to make, and making them for the people (my family) you love is an unbelievable combination… I was on occasion near to ecstasy.

We wanted to start in the beautiful Shire, and only move on when we had exhausted nearly all the possibilities that can be found there. So far we have completed:

Bag End, Gaffer Gamgee’s, Fatty Bolger’s, Daddy Twofoot’s, Will Whitfoot’s, Hugo Bracegirdle’s, Milo Burrows’, Sackville-Bagginses, Crickhollow, the Hobbiton post office, The Ivy bush, The Golden Perch, Rolling Log, The Green Dragon, Bucklebury Ferry and the Hobbiton Mill.

Creating Bag End Model

ME News: Any specific location you’re most looking forward to creating?

Colin: I am really looking forward to doing Tom Bombadil’s house. Tom is one of the most remarkable literary character creations; he is unfathomable! Also I remember Old Tom saying to the Hobbits before bed time “Fear no nightly noises.” I found that statement a very comforting thought and have often repeated it to myself.

ME News: Do you and your family have a favorite location from the LotR and/or Hobbit trilogies? Is there anything you would have liked to seen done differently?

Colin: It has to be the Shire. The things we love are the things worth fighting for. Maybe we only really get to appreciate them when they are under threat or nearly gone, things of great value, maybe of the highest value. Simplicity, community, the land, friendships, and family. I think the Shire encapsulates those things.

To be honest I felt the new Hobbit movie was maybe directed to a different audience than the LOTR trilogy. Or possibly the director who did a lot of work on the film before Peter Jackson dived in left his stamp? It seemed to contain many contrived scenes that were aimed at producing effect for effects sake, along with a juvenility and humour that I found mildly irritating. It is difficult to explain really, but it just didn’t seem have the soul that the LOTR trilogy of movies had, for me anyway. Still, it might change.

ME News: What are your miniature models made of?

Colin: The master sculpts are made from a great product called Magic Sculp, which is a two part epoxy putty that sets stone hard in a few hours after mixing . That means you can engrave on it, sand it or drill it. There’s also another epoxy putty known in the trade as “green stuff”. When mixed it has the consistency of chewing gum, which is great for fine details. The Shire range are designed in 10 mm scale or simply put 10 mm = 6 ft approximately. However with bigger subjects, the scale will have to drop, really whatever scale works best to bring out the best.

Colin Patten Bag End Close upME News: What is the process of creating a full model? The one of Bag End for example.

Colin: After the master sculpt is completed I make a silicone rubber mould of it. After that you simply fill it with whatever composition you wish. I had tried polyurethane resin, but the fumes might have a life limiting impact, so now I am using a safer more natural (although heavier) composition.

When the casting has cured (dried), we attach it to a mahogany base which sets the model off a bit like a frame would a picture. Then the painting begins. We don’t hire anyone or outsource the work, so it is a family production from start to finish. Even my little Ruth, who’s eight, gets involved. Albeit only undercoating at the moment…or for a treat, planting the odd homemade flower into one of Bilbo’s flower pots with tweezers.

We never paint in single colours, or just ink washes. Most surfaces have a bare minimum of three shades, inking and a final dry brush. After this we electrostatically coat the grassy areas. Not just in green, but in blends that work. We then add a second layer of a slightly different shade of grass to vary the height. Next any bushes, hedges or underbrush are added. Lastly we add the little flowers you can see. After that we check and recheck adding or taking away any clumsy or misplaced scenery and touching up the paint work where necessary.

ME News: Will your products be available to purchase in the future?

Colin: Our new website should be up before Christmas, and the main Shire subjects should also be available to purchase. However if the gremlins continue to delay this, just email us via our History Maker site, historymaker.ie.

If you want any model that we have mentioned already just ask, and we will get back to you with a method of ordering.

We genuinely want to invite contributions on new model subjects, no matter how obscure for inclusion in this range. Also for feedback on what you think of our interpretations. So please let us know what you think!

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2 Comments

  1. OMG, these are so AMAZING. I want them ALL. Well done Colin and Fam!!!

  2. I would love to see them do Rivendell! That would be amazing!