Hobby and model kits are one of the primary artistic and creative outlets for fans of Science Fiction and Anime. No one else symbolizes the art and design of building hobby and model kits better than Michael Fichtenmayer, who is well known for his works. Michael recently talked about model kit building and his model kit production company, Industria Mechanika:
What sparked your interest in building and customizing model kits?
I was collecting toys and realized that most of the designs I wanted (Gundam, Macross, and Evangelion) were better as model kits. I’d built a couple in 1994, but hadn’t touched them again until 2001. I immediately fell in love with the hobby and found the artistic spark I thought was destroyed by years of corporate web/intranet designs.
What inspired you to start Industria Mechanika?
I figured that since I did okay marketing my Fish Sub and even turning a small profit, I could help others do the same. I remember how daunting it was finding a decent caster, etc… at first I planned to just do hand-sculpted models, but soon 3D modelers started emailing me and I found it better to utilize 3D for figures as one sculpt = an infinite # of scales without having to sculpt new figures.
Is combining business and your favorite hobby all you thought it would be?
It’s a lot more work, but unlike every other job I’ve had, I can spend 10+ hours a day on the business and it doesn’t *feel* like work. I work at this daily and never tire of it or wake up dreading a day at work. I feel like I finally found what I was meant to do and love it.
What has surprised you most, thus far, when working on Industria Mechanika?
The overwhelming response by the modeling and 3D communities. I can’t tell you how many emails I get a week from modelers and artists wanting to collaborate. And the customers are very loyal, love our work and more often than not come back release after release. To keep customers coming back like that, it means to me that we’re doing something right.
How do you decide if a project for Industria Mechanika is worth taking on?
It’s VERY difficult as I see a lot of potential projects. I look for that “wow, I want to paint/sculpt that” feeling. That initial gut reaction to a design is my primary factor. I started out as a customer in the hobby and as a modeler, I build everything we produce. That’s great because it’s an excuse to step away and build something cool, but also it lets me make sure that the products can indeed be great models when done. If I come away annoyed, I think my customers will too, so I strive to make sure that when I’m modeling a first edition kit, (or a pre-production casting sample) that the next edition is even better. As a modeler I can pick out the flaws and I’m VERY anal retentive about them.
What future do you see for Industria Mechanika?
The future… who knows?! I have long-term goals such as large-production-run plastic kits and maybe a full time employee or two other than just me. People don’t realize that iMech is pretty much just me managing 100+ artists and vendors, sculpting products, modeling everything, doing all the graphic design (instructions, box art), packing, and shipping. It’s a LOT of work for one guy, but I love it! But I have no idea where things will go. I’m constantly trying to make the kits more interesting with photoetch parts and now I’ve found a great laser-cutting vendor which means easier-to-build kits with pre-cut window plastic, wooden decks, and more! But overall for the future, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing… only better!