Tap into talent with toys constructed from a creative sense.
Turn to E06-07 to learn more about model crafting and Gunpla.
Unlike ordinary Gundam fans,
Ambrose Cheng is devoted to crafting models and treating toys with
respect, and he has proven that building models is an art in its own
right, writes Andrew Ho.
Ambrose Cheng, also known as YAYA
by many model fans, is an expert in crafting plastic models, especially
Gundam toys. He has won numerous prizes both in local and international
Some might think that Gundam
builders are geeks, spending ten hours a day watching Japanese
animation. But these people might think again when they see Ambrose,
who has demonstrated his ability to create new things with unmatched
In his latest work of art, Ambrose
has managed to merge a notorious monster from the game World of
Warcraft with the world model mech world of Gunpla. He used several
boxes of Gundam and merged them together to produce a fantastic hybrid
Ambrose isn’t a geek who makes
models all day when he is not staring at screens. Before the interview
began, he went to the bookshop nearby and bought the bestselling Angel & Demons. Perhaps a great pool of knowledge is what a creative mind needs.
Ambrose is undoubtedly a creative
and innovative mind. But he wasn’t particularly lucky in his school
days as the art subject he took never treated him well. “I remember
when I was in Form Three,” Ambrose said with a bitter smile, “I wasn’t
allowed to pick art as my core subject in the HKCEE.” When asked why,
his face changed from a bitter smile to an angry frown, “simply because
the principal didn’t want me to. I still remember he said ‘you’d better
study first before you play with your art.’ I felt very down at that
time because I have always enjoyed designing and crafting.”
One could take this as evidence of a creatively stifled local education system; one that passes off creative talent as play. He raised an interesting point, “You know, it has to do with the mentality of people. Rarely do you see a rich artist.”
His friend Crabchiu, another
expert in model crafting, joined the conversation: “It is bad that art,
especially model crafting, is usually undervalued. I had to quote my
friend who is a professor at the Baptist University. He said no parents
encourage their children to play with Gundam because model crafting
doesn’t have a certificate.”
This immediately tangible reward
exceeds anything else. But what is truly invaluable is the process of
crafting a sculpture or a plastic toy. “You learn
a lot in the process and that’s what is important.”
Gunpla is a word used to describe
Gundam crafting. Ambrose, as the winner of the Japanese hobby model
competition, has a lot to share. “I believe I won the competition by my
ideas, not by skills.” Ambrose said condescendingly, “let me be frank,
many of the competitors have outstanding skills and I don’t think I am
particularly bright at this. In fact I am not a professional Gunplaer,
I work as a game designer.”
He revealed that his job might
have helped him design and create wild ideas. “Those tough guys (the
adjudicators) have probably seen hundreds of outstanding and extremely
detailed models, and that’s why I don’t think skill matters much at
that level,” he explained. “Instead, what they are looking for is the
motive behind the artwork. I have blended a famous creature from a
famous game into the world of Gundam and this has never been done
Being creative means being able to
think outside the box, and thinking wildly. Crabchiu added, “We have a
model fellow, she has won many prizes of its kind and has been
producing outstanding and seriously innovative Gundam.” Ambrose nodded
vigorously and said, “her work is simply wonderful. Last year during
the Olympic Games, she crafted five Gundam models using five elements.
She displayed the five Chinese elements with Gundam to mimic the five
Olympic mascots. It was stunning.”
Patience, an artistic sense and an
eye for detail are essential in building Gundam or any models. In
military modelling, the history of a certain tank, aircraft or
battleship is important. The position of a logo, an icon or even oil
stains is what the professionals look at. And in advanced Gunpla where
modellers have acquired the skill to alter the structure of an original
Gundam, an extreme mindset is a must.
Ambrose pointed to his winning
work and said, “you see, here is the oil pump and I have deliberately
added some dust. I have changed the structures and added many new parts
in these models.”
Crabchiu pointed out that there is
a boring side to building and crafting Gundam: “You can say it’s boring
to build a good Gundam model because every piece has to be polished and
painted with extreme care. It requires a lot of patience and focus.
Good training I would say.”
“Model crafting is no different to
playing a piano or painting,” Ambrose concluded, “the skills and the
mentality are the same, it just hasn’t been re-organised yet and it
lacks a certificate.”
The right attitude
The right attitude is a humble and
open one. Both masters said there are many people out there who consult
them on their opinions in crafting Gundam but most of the time, they
end up in argument. “Sometimes when you try to guide someone and give
some suggestions, some people sternly argue back act very defensive,”
Ambrose said. “An open mind to criticism and a willingness to learn are
very important and I believe this applies to everything else in life
Amateur modellers may want to follow these steps to build Gundam models:
1. Follow the instructions and assemble the plastic pieces.
2. Try to polish the extra bits from plastic mouldings.
3. Fill up some black lines with a Gundam marker.
Advanced players may want to do the following:
4. Fill up visible gaps with modelling glue.
5. Polish all the ends and uneven surfaces with modelling paper.
6. Spray a surface polisher on every piece.
Paint and finish (this requires a lot of skill)