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Joe's Minis...Thoughts on the future.

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I thought I'd try and have a stab at doing a semi-blog about the future of this project I've been running since March 2010, and to attempt to get help and ideas about how to progress. I hope to give you an insight into my own mindset about JoeK Minis, and also where I am at the moment! Whether or not this will put you all into some sort of coma, I don't know but it might help establish why 2011 has been rather slow to properly kick off for me, and how I'm at least preparing to get a few figures out :)

2010 was enormously satisfying from a hobby point of view. Sure, I didn't really get much painting done, but as a fledgling producer of figures, I had a ball-park figure of getting six onto the market, and by god I just about scraped through! I look on all those figures with a real sense of pride - each of them are very different from one-another and from a personal point of view I think they've all been sculpted pretty darn well, and are at least figures which - whilst not certainly to everyone's tastes - have been made as well as they possibly could have with the money I had. The year also ended nicely with me being voted Best New Company of 2010 by the peeps at WAMP, which was very unexpected and very much appreciated. If I never do anything else, I've at least for that!

I managed to get a comic book 'hero' of mine to agree to let one of his creations be made into a figure, and get it sculpted by one of my fave sculptors (Allan C), and that was a really amazing feeling. One day I will get around to doing the HUGE dinosaur thing with its rider! Think of a 54mm size but in a 28mm scale! It'll just be so cool :)

However, as much as I've got an enormous buzz about making the figures, there's a simple truth to be found - I've made no money out of this venture. All the money from sales has gone back into the pot to produce more figures. This was always the idea really, but sales have been fairly slim, hence the delays in getting new figures out. The adage 'you get what you pay for' is definitely, definitely true, and I certainly don't regret paying what I have done for any of the figs, but there's a point when you have to slow down, regroup and work out how to carry on. Which is something I have every intention of doing!

Salute 2011 was great fun. Had loads of folk coming up and speaking to me about the things, which was lovely. Money? Well, I honestly didn't know what to expect, but I made my money back on the table, plus a bit more - the bit more means I can cast up the new figure, and - if he's a very good lad indeed - pay Squiggy the rest of his dosh on the figure he sold me! Only if he's very good though.

It would have been great to have made more, but the experience, and the insight I got into people's buying habits was much more interesting and valuable to me. Unsurprisingly, the remaining stock I had of the Elf Lord were the best sellers, but Servant Prime was by far the next most popular - which is fantastic news on a personal level, and also shows the diverse nature of what folk want. People do like figures which can be used in a variety of ways as much as those figures which can be used as 'champions' for whatever army etc they might do. I always have maintained that I was making figures for myself first and for other folk second. This is something which won't really change, but I think I also need to put other folks' likes into the equation a bit more. Otherwise, all I'm going to have to show for it is a whole bunch of unpainted resin. Which isn't such a bad thing, but I'd rather like to carry on making figures - it gives me no end of pleasure to see folk painting them up!

So, how to proceed? I've got some ideas which I'm thinking of. Nothing's been particularly worked out in fine detail yet, but I think that's part of the fun. Here's a few ideas which I've been working on:

Oh, this is all subject to change :p

Financially, it's just not viable to regularly pay for the absolute best in the business. Put it this way, the most expensive one to get sculpted has been the poorest seller. No fault of the sculptor, more an unrealistic idea of how good the figure actually was on my part. Doesn't mean I don't love the figure - I really, really do - but the sums have been worked out, and I'm in the minority!
So, whilst we can't regularly get those figures, what I certainly can think of doing is have one or two really well developed figures made. And by well developed I mean getting really decent concept artists on the case, along with top sculptors and see what happens. Oh, and keep me out of the equation :p Apart from the basis of the idea, I want to sit back and keep an eye on it, rather than dictate all the way through. However, this isn't going to work by itself. So, the idea would be that there would be much more in the way of showing all you lot (on various forums) the ideas, and form some sort of general consensus about the development of the figure. I want to get as much feedback as possible from the folk I admire and respect. There's a at least a couple here which that relates to :p . So, I'll be routinely dishing out questions and random ideas which you can big up or shoot down. I'm hoping that at the end of all this I get a figure I really like, but more importantly a figure that a whole lot of you might be willing to fork out the money for too. It's a bloody expensive hobby, and resin's not cheap. There's simply no way I can remain so selfish in what I want to release, and actually survive!
Finding and 'fostering' (don't like that word, but it's probably apt) new talent. The idea would be to find folk how are either starting sculpting, or haven't had a big break and see if they can make something good enough to sell. It's not a case of working for free (although, I'm more than happy for that to be the case ;) ) though. They'd be paid for their work - an initial payment, plus funds after the figure gets its casting costs back. I'd like to think it helps everyone - but obviously it helps me keep a semi-regular schedule too. If the figure fails? Well, if it does then so be it. I'd like to think that it's worth a go - there are loads of folk out there who sculpt to a really decent level, and I'd also like to think there's enough folk who'd buy some of their figures were they to be made.
The new talent thing doesn't just mean sculpting. It also means concept designs too. I've been very lucky - the concept artists I've worked with have asked for not much more than a copy of the figure and credits. That's lovely, and I'll take as much free stuff as possible, but if they're good and a figure sells directly on the back of their designs, there's absolutely no way I'd not be giving them payment.
Final idea for now (I can hear some sort of collective sigh of relief...). After all the above process - getting feedback from everyone, getting concepts artists and sculptors on board etc, there is a way of funding the project via sites like Kickstarter (or Ulule over here). I've got absolutely no idea of how good these things work - it's still a new thing to me, and I'm busy reading up about it. What I like about the idea is a relatively low-risk way of folk to basically 'pre-order' something, but with the added bonus of if the project doesn't get the money, then no-one pays out. It means a great thing for me because whilst the initial money sorts out the initial funding of a figure - from concept to casting - the only things I then have to think about would be further casting costs for future buyers. Yes, it means I don't make money at the start, but it means I can still do what I really seem to enjoy doing - making figures!

So, that's what's going on at the moment. I don't know whether it's annoying for you to have to wait for a new release from me, but it's a bloody bugger for me and it's something which I hope will change. However, at the end of the day it'll be up to you to determine how it all pans out really. There'll come a point when it all becomes too much and I just stop, or it all goes wonderfully well and I carry on! All I'll say is that at the very least, I've got one figure coming out soon :) . It's been posted on various forums a while back, but here she is again:

So that's good! Anyway, I hope this can be a fairly fluid place to voice opinions and have a general discussion about what might work as figures and other stuff. Love you all!!!

Cheers, Joe
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  1. Sparks's Avatar
    Really great read, been enjoying watching the company develop and how you're always talking through the process. Looking forward to future projects, and if we can help in any way (promoting on other forums,etc) then just give us a shout!
  2. vegel's Avatar
    :) i like that mini
    it might look silly but if you put in the link to your online store wherever u can it might boost sales :) someone told me the big push in mini sales is in war gaming, personally i think the personality of the maker has something to do with it too. ;) The guy of secret weapon and the guy of max sam (smog series) is very active on their fb page
  3. megazord_man's Avatar
    Hi JoeK,

    Interesting read, well done for taking the time to put your thought down and asking for feedback. It's also good to see that you're keeping an eye to your customer as well as yourself. I guess you could easily say that from seeds mighty trees grow, look to where to want to go.

    Great to see your comments on the new talent, I mentioned to you at Salute about Jasons F's sculpting, I'm sure he'd be happy to hear from you.
  4. Dr. Willett's Workshop's Avatar
    Very interesting read. I'm glad you did well at Salute, I got the Servant Prime from you on the day and I love it, really superb. The Baroneff looks great.
  5. seasonman's Avatar
    Nicely said . All very interesting in how you see the comunity and your choosen profession developing . Thank you
  6. waghorn41's Avatar
    Well it's all been said by others but a big WELL DONE for getting this far and having a sound plan to continue. The Baroness looks to be an interesting mini.