(This article is credited to Jason Weiser. Jason is a long-time wargamer with published works in the Journal of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers; Miniature Wargames Magazine; and Wargames, Strategy, and Soldier.)
Author’s Note: Mr. Hingley is a very private person and has asked us not to include a personal bio with this interview as is customary. However, with his permission, I will give you all a short history of Ehliem Miniatures. He’s been the victim of a few online scams, and thus, is reluctant to give personal information out.
All pictures are from the Ehliem Miniatures website and have been used with gracious permission.
Ehliem Miniatures was founded in 2005 and is based in the United Kingdom. The company was founded and is run by Matt Hingley. Ehliem has gone on to set a standard for excellence in the 20mm wargaming miniatures market, having a fruitful partnership with Ambush Alley Games. Matt has expanded the business to sell a range of 3-D printed terrain and vehicles, and I can personally attest to the quality of his miniature ranges. He has always been a solid, kind professional and is “one of the good guys in the hobby.” You can order these wonderful figures for yourself at: https://www.elhiem.co.uk/
Without further ado, here’s the interview.
Jason Weiser: So, how did you get started sculpting historical miniatures? Was there an “aha” moment, or did you fall into it?
Matt: I started out as a historical gamer and painter. As a painter, I got to know quite a few guys involved in the design business and asked them to produce a few figures that I wanted that would not really sell. They told me no, so that was that. I managed to get the contact details of a couple of sculptors and convinced them to make my figures. Over time, they were too busy to make anymore so I decided to teach myself how to sculpt, mold, and cast. My first efforts were pretty poor but not without hope so I carried on and read up on techniques and tools. Over time I improved. So, not so much an ‘AHA’ moment, more a long slow learning curve.
JW: How did Ehliem Figures come to be?
Matt: When I started out, I only had a handful of miniatures. No one had the time to manufacture them for me, so I ended up using commercial casting companies. The costs soon increased, and I started selling to recover the costs. Also, you had to buy hundreds of the same miniature at a time using casting companies so it seemed sensible.
JW: What are your future plans for the historical lines?
Matt: Expand the WW2 lines, the modern lines, the Sci-Fi and the Pulp ranges. There is a whole lot of historical conflicts out there to keep me busy for a long time.
JW: What’s your favorite historical sculpt of your line?
Matt: That is a difficult one to answer. I try to make every figure interesting and fun to paint as that’s what I enjoy painting. It’s also why I struggle to make seated figures and vehicle crews, to me they are dull to look at and make, so they tend to get made last. My favorite sculpt at the moment is one of the Fantasy figures I just made, the evil Wizard figure. Historical miniature is probably one of the new SAS in NVG, [See picture below] I took a lot of time getting the details right on those.
JW: Is there a period of history you want to sculpt, but haven’t?
Matt: [The] Wild West. I fancy making a spaghetti Western range, a few Civil war guys, and maybe a few Native Americans. I grew up watching westerns so have a soft spot for them…
JW: Can you tell our readers what goes into figure design and sculpting?
Matt: Planning and lots of research. I spend as much time researching the equipment and the way weapons were carried as I do anything else. I sometimes sketch out ideas, most of the time the basics are the same for all figures though (so many rifles, so many NCOs, so many support [weapons] etc.) I tend to use a system of dollies in poses and build upon them using previously made parts such as heads, weapons, webbing equipment, etc. It has changed a lot over the past 12 months though due to new design and tech.
JW: Has 3D Printing changed this any? And, do you think it will change the hobby as a whole?
Matt: Yes, I have invested in computer design software for hard and soft design work. I have invested in very high-quality printers and it has opened up a new world of possibilities to me. I can now design and 3D sculpt all my weapons and even vehicles which I was never the best at making in plastic but seem pretty decent at in CAD. I also use my knowledge of the scale I manufacture and make designs workable (something that is just not possible if you just shrink a model to scale).
It has already changed the hobby. Lots of design work is available free for you to print at home. People are designing their own models, Companies like my own are using it to create even more detailed models. I myself have recently switched over to pure digital sculpting. I use the same methods as I did when sculpting (often using the same models in the original CAD files for weapons etc). I see it as HD sculpting in comparison to my old handmade sculpts.
I can also see it potentially hurting the hobby long term as people will be able to produce their own models at home and no longer must buy from people like me. Files will be pirated and sold on eBay, pirates will print out files and cast them and sell them on as their own work (this already happens to my old figures on eBay). It won’t kill the hobby industry, but I feel it will add challenges going forward. I like a challenge though and I think it will encourage us all to try harder.
JW: What are your favorite historical periods and why?
Matt: WW2, Romans, Vietnam, Cold War and the 2001+ modern conflicts. I grew up watching films and TV about them. The modern conflict was an important part of all of our lives, and it is fascinating to see the development of gear and weapons. And Romans are just cool.
JW: How did you settle on 20mm when so many manufacturers are producing 15mm or 28mm these days?
Matt: I grew up with 20mm plastics and metals. I think it’s the perfect scale for skirmish and mass combat. It can be painted as good as a 28mm figure or as fast as a 15mm. I honestly think as a model scale 20mm or 1/72 is the better option for storage and gaming. There are thousands of models available as well as all the model railway terrain. You will never get a full range of oddball stuff in 28mm as it’s just too expensive to produce and smaller scale work has never interested me as I’m a painter at heart and while you can paint small tiny scale stuff up to fantastic quality, I have to always ask ‘what’s the point?’ no one can see it once it’s on the table. That is my personal opinion of course, I am sure there are lots of guys out there who disagree, and good for them.
JW: What other hobbies do you pursue to unwind?
Matt: I [play] computer game[s], I [also play] airsoft, [and] I go for lots of walks.
JW: What do you see for the future of historical miniature wargaming?
Matt: I think it will carry on as it is. Scales come and go, types of games become fashionable. All that is constant is players like to get new collections and play new games. It keeps things fresh yet still very stable. Young players tend to start with sci-fi and fantasy, they grow older, go to college, get jobs and stop gaming for a few years and then tend to come back later to historical gaming, their children start off in the same way and it continues. In the late 90s, a lot of guys I know were worried that the gamers were drying up. Well, 25 years on I see more than ever. The internet has helped bring people together and gamers can collect figures and models even with no locals to game with.
JW: You’re well known for your commissions and requests, is this something you just kind of decided on, or was this something you saw lacking in the marketplace?
Matt: Well, it’s sort of why I started making figures so I like to listen to what people want made. Sometimes I say no, most of the time I just have too much on. I also have to balance if people really want what they ask for or just would like to see it made (big difference). So, I run the commissions and the vote/fund as my way of crowdfunding. I also like a structure to work too, people give me lists of what’s needed and I’ll just work to it rather than sit there and think up a new range. I suggested the idea years ago to another company and have just carried the idea on.
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