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This article was published 15/4/2019 (685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Darryl Audette started building models when he was 12 years old.
"I always built ships and planes and stuff like that and would throw them on the roof when I was done," he said.
He gained a greater appreciation for the craft during a job fair in junior high that featured model building as a career option.
Audette, who lives in St. James, spent 29 years working as a denturist and competing in modeling competitions before going back to school for an honours degree in set design. He left his practice behind and now builds sets for local theatre productions and has dioramas in museums and private collections across North America.
The line between his theatre and miniature work is hard to define. Rather than building a perfect scale replica of something, Audette tries to tell a story with all of his models.
"I love the mechanical part of a model, but to me it’s just become a backdrop — it has to have a human element to it," he said. "I love the storytelling aspect of it."
Audette is the contest director for ValourCon — an annual scale model contest taking place at the St. James Legion on April 26 and 27 — and the piece he’s working on for the event’s D-Day theme is a perfect example of his theatrical approach to model building.
The scene depicts dozens soldiers spilling out of landing crafts onto the beaches of Normandy in painstaking detail.
"If it’s a military diorama there’s got to be people in it — the story of the soldier or the veteran versus just a tank or something like that," Audette said. "I think that’s one of the modellers jobs and responsibilities… to bring history to life."
It takes him anywhere from a week to several months to complete a model and he uses images and written accounts for inspiration.
"(For) some of the D-Day stuff I’ve been doing I was reading diaries of veterans and you pick up things that you don’t really see in just pictures," Audette said.
His model work covers a wide variety of subject matter, from famous composers to domestic scenes to architecture.
ValourCon is free to attend and open to the public from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sat., April 27. Audette expects more than 300 people to attend this year and says his favourite part of any show is getting the public interested in the world of miniatures.
"There’s that innate fascination with them," he said. "I’ve found when modellers or miniaturists tell a story or do something different, that’s when the public is really wowed."
Audette spoke with The Metro at Hobby Sense in St. Vital, where he works part-time and has noticed a resurgence in tactile hobbies.
"I just think it’s important, whether it’s modelling or something else, to have people building stuff… as opposed to just texting all day," he said. "They are lost skills that a lot of people are trying to bring back."
Visit ipmswinnipeg.ca for more information about ValourCon.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.