Penny Travers, From ships and planes to military dioramas and robots, scale models can be made of just about anything, ABC News, 5 January 2024
When Mario Marangoni first visited the Australian War Memorial as an eight-year-old he was left in awe of the detailed dioramas on display.
“As a young child, seeing the large-scale dioramas sort of put that bee in my bonnet,” he said.
He became hooked on scale models and as soon as he had his first job, he started making his own military dioramas.
“It’s recreating – to the best of your ability – a historical moment,” he said.
“You can use reference photos. You can actually try and recreate a photo from a history book.
“In the case of a diorama, you can make it look like that scene.”
Decades later, Mario’s passion for scale models is as strong as ever, fuelled by his 13-year-old son Oliver’s interest in the hobby.
Like his father, Oliver enjoys creating historical vignettes and busts representing battles from the two world wars.
“The one I’m working on now is a World War II German and a World War II US soldier from the Battle of the Bulge,” he said.
The teenager has a strong interest in modern history and researches the military conflicts behind his models to ensure realistic representations.
“I enjoy scale modelling because you can build or paint just about anything,” Oliver said.
“And usually there’s not a specific scheme you have to do, you don’t have to do this exact thing, you can usually just go freehand at it.”
But it’s the time spent side-by-side with his dad in their Canberra garage that Oliver enjoys the most.
“I enjoy it because I get to hang with my dad,” he said.
“I have a couple of friends who do it, so they come over to my house and we do ‘build days’.”
And Mario couldn’t be prouder.
“Ollie has this innate talent as a 13-year-old; his capability of detail and ideas is just amazing in that he’ll provide me with concepts and ideas on things that I hadn’t even thought about,” he said.
‘A little Zen’
Both Mario and Oliver say it’s the “quietness” the hobby brings that they relish the most.
“It’s about that release. Your focus is on the modelling and you’re able to shut everything else out,” Mario said.
A sentiment shared by fellow modeller Marrisa Christina.
“It’s a different sort of concentration, especially after a long day at work,” she said.
“You get to unwind. It’s really good because it grounds you and in the end you produce a really, really good result.”
Growing up in Indonesia, Marrisa started scale modelling when her father gifted her a ship kit for her seventh birthday.
“My dad does wood working, metal working, and he also makes planes and ships, and so he gave one to me and thought, ‘maybe you’ll enjoy my hobby too’ — and I really enjoyed it,” she recalled.
Marrisa’s been making models ever since, moving from ships to commercial airliners and then to mecha (robots), and has refined her craft to the point that she takes commissions.
“In a way it’s kind of like a little Zen where you make your own stuff,” she said.
“There’s no deadlines, there’s no managers and you’re in charge of your own workflow. I feel like that’s the best thing about scale models.”
Scale modelling growing in popularity
From boats and planes to military dioramas and robots, scale models can be made of just about anything.
And there’s different ways of going about it too — from store-bought kits to scratch builds.
Depending on the size of the model or diorama it can take weeks – or even months — to sand, assemble, glue and paint a miniature.
“Scale modelling is for everyone. It’s for kids right through to retirees,” ACT Scale Modellers’ Society president Peter Davis said.
“The hobby is quite strong in Australia. There’s definitely plenty of things and subjects out there for people to find.”
The ACT Scale Modeller’s Society has been running for 51 years and is seeing a growing interest in the hobby, with its recent competition exhibition, ScaleACT, attracting a record number of entries.
Peter himself entered a 1/72 scale model of the USS Virginia SSN-774 submarine in the show.
Scale modelling also runs in Peter’s family: his father got him into the hobby when he was just five years old.
Thirty years on, Peter now travels overseas for international scale model competitions.
“[Scale modelling] offers a physical sort of a break from the day-to-day sort of activities and gives my mind a rest,” he said.
“It allows me to sort of switch off and rest a bit without too much screen time — I don’t really enjoy watching TV so it gives me something different to do.”