Welcome to my heart of darkness. The unreflecting audacity which has carried me thousands of miles from home to an unknown land and into an alien culture. During the past twelve months I have cajoled beaurocrats, planned buildings, trained workers, designed equipment, imported materials and even taken a customs exam. My objective is to make beautiful objects which high labour costs in other countries make unthinkable. I want people who have miniatures painted by my company to treasure them.
I have been a Wargamer and military modeller since 1987. If you haven't met me, you may have seen me in the pages of "Wargames Illustrated" or other journals. Having visited the Wargames holiday center (Scarborough, UK), taken part in Kathies Comics "Mega Games", and participated in numerous big games across the UK, I was inspired to game with really big armies. Like many of you, my purchase of lead has been far in advance of having time to paint it myself. I already owned the lead, but how to get it painted? Many Wargamers and miniatures collectors have considered using a professional to paint their miniatures. People can often earn more money from their work, on a per hour basis, than it would "cost them" to paint their own figures.
But there are many problem with getting miniatures painted in western countries. Prices for reasonably painted miniatures are astonishingly high. A second consideration, which is often overlooked, is time. When I left the UK I was still waiting for some miniatures to be painted by a friend (who will remain Steve). I had given them to him two years previously! I was paying him four times more than my painting service charges for the same work.
My company, Modartis Limited, is located in the Bay of Bengal at the port city of Chittagong. I chose this historic location for its proximity to a port and air port, and also because of the craftmanship of the local people. Both the Chakma tribes people and the Bengali people have strong traditions as Artisans. Foreign investors are welcomed in this area because we bring much needed employment. Foreign investors improve wages and offer better conditions to local people when they come into the market. Local people are enthusiastic and very hard working. This creates a "win win" situation with satisfied workers producing excellent products. Next time you are browsing for clothing in your local store look out for "Made in Bangladesh" labels. People here are quietly producing the highest quality products in the world.
When I set up this business I wanted to offer the advantages of price and speed which people have come to associate with asian painting services. But I also wanted to address some of their concerns. People are understandably nervous about entrusting their miniatures to an unknown operation which may disappear overnight (along with their miniatures and money). Many asian painting services are not incorporated and some don't even give out telephone or fax numbers. My company is incorporated, registered with the municipal corporation, and located in the Chittagong Export Processing Zone. You can contact me by email, telephone or fax. Some companies will ask you to lie about value of miniatures on Customs declarations. This has resulted in seizure of goods by Customs. And what happens with an insurance claim when your miniatures are declared with a "nominal" value? There is no need to make false declarations with my miniature painting service.
Another common complaint about overseas painting services is that they tend to be careless in assembling miniatures. What use is a great paint jobs if the miniatures are badly glued and fall apart during transport? With no appreciation of the troops or the period how can someone tell a mould line from a uniform detail? One of the biggest customers of a Sri Lankan painting service recently defected to me because that enterprise couldn't understand Napoleonic company and regiment distinctions no matter how many times they were explained to them. The offer to re-paint miniatures if you are not satisfied gives peace of mind up until the second time you return miniatures to correct a mistake.
I am a Wargamer, a military modeller, and an enthusiastic amateur historian, with an interest in pretty much every period. I have frequently visited Wargames shows. My friends and I frequently (almost always!) won best display game for games which we put on in the UK, and I've contributed a brush to painting miniatures for these games. I produced the finest painted miniatures while I lived in the UK and shall continue to do so now that I live in Bay of Bengal.
Neil, Managing Director of Modartis Limited