An Interview with Matou, the cat from Maow Miniatures…
First of all… Who and/or what is Maow Miniatures?
Hello Beasts of War!
Maow Miniatures is a French non-profit association based in Bretagne, not too far from Merlin’s tomb… We have the best cider, the best crêpes, beautiful beaches… and girls!
Ahem… Be that as it may…
Yes… Let’s get back to Maow. Our association dates back to April 2008, and all the painters, sculptors, artists and game designers who ever worked for us are honor members… All our profits go to the buying of the masters, payment for our server, casting, concept art and game development.
My name is Mathieu “Matou” Papauré, and I am president of Maow… Well, it’s an administrative term that’s a little too pompous. I prefer to be called “Dad”. As a matter of fact, my daughter and Maow were born only a few months apart!
Cute! How was Maow born?
About four years ago, I had the opportunity (thanks to my friend Gaël Goumon) to buy the master of what was to become the very first Maow miniature, the valkyrie…
I thought it would be nice to cast it and see for myself how figures are made. I was also thinking about a boardgame, Krysalis.
The idea of a non-profit association came naturally, the main goals being to sell affordable miniatures, to support sculptors, and develop Krysalis.
In four years, we’ve edited 35 miniatures, and we’re still going strong! We’ve also cast sculpts from 18 different artists and made rules for three games, all of them freely downloadable on our website… and two of them have been translated in English.
Among companies that are all out there to make money, even the smaller ones, and in such an economy.
How is it you’re doing so well?
Well, we pay no salaries… We just pay for the casting, sculpting and other services. We only order the casts and sculpts when we have enough money to do so… So we do things at our own pace. If a miniature doesn’t sell, it’s not a big deal! It’ll just take a little more time to get the next one out.
We don’t have shareholders (yuck!) to cater to, no bank loans, no board of directors (ew!)… So we’re completely free… No god, no masters, free!
That’s certainly an original approach! What about your development process ?
Is making a Maow Miniature different from making a miniature in a big company?
Most of the time, it starts with an idea one of us has had under a hot shower. Then we ask an artist to draw up some concept art.
We’re used to working with Franck Barré (Trolkin, on the web) or Arnaud Bellier, but sometimes an artist offers to draw a concept for us. This was the case with the Hell Baby, drawn by Eric Scala, better known for his Sci-Fi and Fantasy novel covers.
Once we’ve got concept art, we propose it to a sculptor… If they don’t have time or if they’re not too inspired, we ask another one.
We also get crushes on miniatures that are already sculpted, and that we discover on the Internet (thanks, Facebook!) or during events. If this mini is still free of rights, we make an offer to the sculptor. He either asks for a fixed sum, or for royalties. At Maow, it’s 50% of all profits on the miniature (not total sales, just profits).
Sometimes, sculptors also give us sculpts spontaneously… By the way, let me thank David Ayral (Anakron), Cyril Abati, Guillaume Lemas (Guillaume L.), Pierre-François Jacquet (PF), Pierre Cailleau (VonHymak) and Romain Van Den Bogaert for their great work.
Do you have standards and specifications, or can anyone show you their work?
Specifications, shmecifications! This is much too “businesslike”… You know what I mean ?
First of all, we have to like the miniature, and it has to have a manageable pose for casting. We don’t do market studies to see if anything will “sell”, we feel our way through. Anyone can show us his work.
However, we have to have sufficient funds to pay him or her. Our budget is currently closed for 6 months (3 new sculpts have been ordered).
So… Metal or resin ?
Will you ever do 3D printing?
We almost only cast in resin. Only little ‘Tulu has had a try-out in metal. We still have a few copies if some collectors are interested… Why resin ? It’s more practical, more affordable (we don’t order large quantities) and it retains the details much better than metal… In fact, detail loss is almost nil with resin.
As for 3D printing… Well… As my grandmother used to say, “never say never”, but I want to say never anyway! We prefer to support sculptors who work with their hands rather than machines or computer artists… For me, 3D printing is drawing, not sculpting.
So… I think you can report that “Maow will never do 3D printing“.
Do you have a release schedule?
Not at all. The management of Maow is entirely unpaid work, so we all have a real job and a family life “on the side”… In fact, we work for Maow when we feel like it. There are week-ends when we feel like contacting sculptors, toying with our website or packing minis, and other week-ends when we feel like being left alone…
However, orders always come first, as fast as possible: That’s elementary respect.
The there are inevitable delays from the casters and sculptors… We don’t put too much pressure on them. It takes time to do things right.
You work with the greatest names in the industry, and less well known artists… All very talented.
How did you manage to get a hold of them all?
The magic of the Internet !
Nowadays, most sculptors have a website or a blog, and follow one or more forums… It’s really easy to contact them.
We also contact some of them during events, but since we don’t do that a lot, it’s mostly Internet.
I did know several sculptors long before the creation of Maow Miniatures. About a decade ago, there was an internet community gathering miniature painters and sculptors from all over the world, most of them french-speaking… It was called “Creafig’s”. I was on the news team, we presented the new minis from all brands. We organized sculpting challenges that allowed fledgeling artists to communicate with confirmed and sometimes professional sculptors… People bonded. I was a novice back then, and I still am!
Some of your most beautiful miniatures are out of stock.
Why are some of them limited editions?
Ah, the elephant in the room, limited editions… The PC answer would be “to limit profits“.
Seriously, though… At Maow, we wish to touch all buyers: painters, gamers, but also collectors. Some people ONLY buy limited edition miniatures, sometimes two or three of each!
The main reason is, however, that a limited edition guarantees that a miniature will sell a bit faster, so that we get our investment back quicker, then we can order another sculpt.
Monstropots, little beasties, Sophie Bigoud… Your range is on the funny side.
Is it on purpose that you do quirky minis that don’t fit with many other ranges or games?
Indeed, humor is important in everything we make, and we completely endorse the fact that we have a quirky, messy range… We have no art director (he he…)
Are they condemned to stay on shelves ? That’s not quite true… You can play with your Monstrodice and Monstropots. Two of our three games have been translated in english so far.
As a matter of fact, the second Monstropot Total War Tournament will take place on the 12th and 13th of May 2012 at the “Salon Normand de la Figurine”. It’s near Dieppe, only a few hours from the UK by boat or plane… Do come !
Interesting ! And what’s in the works?
As of now, two new minis are being published on our website… a new version of “Double Face” in a more modern style (the old one was more Fantasy), sculpted by the excellent Yannick Hennebo.
The painter, David Petit, used only three colors to paint it!
That’s what Maow is all about: We’re don’t do commercial color schemes, the painter has to enjoy himself.
The second mini is… Well, how shall I put it…
It was sculpted by Romain Van Den Bogaert, another very talented sculptor, who does spelunking in the Paris catacombs for fun… The mini was painted by Fix, a really great painter who has been with us since the very beginning.
One of the perks of your original approach, to the consumer, is the lower prices… Will they stay low forever ?
We do try to keep low prices (this is one of the main goals of our association). The prices of some miniatures, like Sophie Bigoude or the new Double Face, have increased slightly (about 0,5 euros per figure). This isn’t for profit, but to pay for a more expensive original sculpt (for Double Face) and casting (for Sophie, for whom the casting was more complex). You know, I’m one of those old guys who have known the Citadel blisters with 3 miniatures sold for £1, or £1.50… About 22 or 23 years ago. Nowadays, seeing 35mm miniatures sold £12 each… Damn!
The context isn’t the same… But even so!
What about postage and packaging?
The French postal service has increased its fees twice since the creation of Maow Miniatures, but we haven’t increased our fees. We probably will have to do it next time, otherwise we’ll lose money. As for international postal fares, we haven’t put up a unified fare for all countries… We deal with it on an individual basis. The buyer pays exactly what the postal service charge us.
We’ve signed a distribution agreement with CoolMiniOrNot for Monstrodice, but not for our other miniatures. This concerns only the United States. CMON is in charge of casting Monstrodice by their own casters, and sells them in the CMON shop, as well as for the American stores who want them.
Where else can we get your miniatures ? Are you available in stores, or will you ever be?
Well… Our non-profit approach has its limits. Selling low-priced miniatures means making very little profit to speak of, and brick and mortar stores usually ask for a big discount… We just can’t give to them. Only a few shops stock our miniatures, more because they were impressed by our work, than to make much money.
And what about this Krysalis game you mentioned?
As I mentioned, Krysalis is one of the reasons why Maow exists. Unfortunately, we lack time to develop it the way we want to. You may have noticed that Krysalis is gone from our website. Rather than postpone indefinitely or abandon it, we passed on the project to GTFK, another association… this is how they see the game:
In this game, there’s a team of 12 scientists, military and civilians, that emerge from a sealed facility in Nevada after a mysterious catastrophe has wiped out the rest of the human race… We want an order-based post-apocalyptic game set almost nowadays, humans against monsters, with special rules for each side, to offer something different and fun.
The rules include the possibility to react on your opponent’s turn, and the missions will be as detailed as possible, that will really put the narrative forward, like episodes of a TV show… While leaving the players free to design their own scenarios and arrange the 7×7 boards as they see fit.
We want to make 12 humans (for now), 3 special monsters, and more generic monsters to replace the cardboard silhouettes that will be included in the game box… All 31 or 32mm scale. We have resin casts of the first waves!
These miniatures should be released with more regularity, but it’ll depend on when the game is published. Just like Maow, Krysalis depends a lot on volunteer work and helping hands.
Thank you for your answers, Matou, on behalf of BoW!
Thanks for reading this, and long live Beasts of War!