Building Paper Bird Models
By Jay Van Tussenbrook
Building models can be a fun and rewarding pastime. Few hobbies offer the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that a well-built model can. Dedication, patience, attention to detail, and hard work can transform a variety of materials and parts into a finished craft that not only resembles a real-world object or animal, but also represents yourself, much as would a piece of art. When you compare art to model making there are similarities and differences. Similarly they both take the same creative skills and discipline, however there are several key differences. One difference is that making art can be very expensive. Paint, canvas, sculpting supplies, and tools can sometimes be cost-prohibitive, especially for those just starting. Model kits on the other hand can be quite affordable depending on the size, scale and materials. Models come in many shapes sizes and materials, most common are plastic and resin molded to the shape of the desired object, however other materials can also be used, from balsa wood to card stock or paper. Model building has always been popular in tough economic times. It offers an affordable way to pass the time while exercising mental discipline and creative skills. It also offers a rewarding end product that one can display for their own or others enjoyment. If you are on a budget paper or card stock models are the way to go. Not only are kits affordable, but also the tools and materials needed are fairly common and inexpensive. All that's really needed is to decide on a subject. When most people think of models they think of plastic cars, boats or planes, the kits commonly found in major retail stores, but models come in a great variety of shapes and sizes. One need not confine themselves to models of man-made objects either. Many kits exist that reproduce people and animals as well as creatures from movies and imagination. Building models offers more than an exercise in patience and dexterity. It is an opportunity, an opportunity to learn more about your subject. Whether a car, a train, or an animal most who build models already have a keen interest in their subject. Building a model of that subject one becomes more intimate with its every curve and contour. It offers a chance to get up close and personal with things one might not otherwise be able to see. Models of animals in particular are like no others in this way. Animals, especially wild animals, can prove to be quite difficult subjects to get close to. Birds in particular are almost impossible to approach, let alone observe in a way a model would allow. Birders spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars on lenses, optics and travel to get closer to their favorite subjects. Building a model is not only less expensive, but gives you a means to interact with the bird in a way most will never be able to do with the real thing. It offers a more visceral experience than a two-dimensional photograph, and is more interactive than a visit to the zoo. The details of a good quality bird model reflect its subject and bring it's builder a keener appreciation for their attributes. Affordable quality bird models can be difficult to find. The Birdmobile paper bird models, available exclusively in the United States through the Northwest Nature Shop (www.northwestnatureshop.com) are both inexpensive and detailed. The Birdmobile company was originally created by Malcolm Topp in 1973. He designed and patented all the models they offer. The models are beautifully painted and extremely realistic when assembled. Though they are manufactured in Great Britain many of birds they represent are found all across the globe. Not only that, but these models are NOT scale models, they are life-sized and therefore offer the kind of experience a real bird enthusiast will appreciate. They represent a variety of species with the larger and more complex models being more challenging to make. Several things can be appealing about these models. Being made of paper they are inexpensive, and lightweight and require no special tools or supplies to construct. All you really need to build them is a pair of scissors and some glue. They can also be a great way to encourage interest in nature, or as part of an educational exercise. Teachers can create a lesson around the bird, its evolution, migratory patterns and their importance in the ecosystem, then follow up with a hands-on activity of model building to help students solidify their understanding. Not only that, but they end up with a physical reminder of what they learned at the end. For young students especially the process of building the model offers lessons beyond those planned by a teacher. Kids will learn how to follow instructions, have patience and concentration, as well as to use fine motor skills. All of these factor into the final product as well, rewarding those skills with a finished model that represents the effort put into it. Building these models offers a distinct challenge to ones skills, but the creativity doesn't end there. The displaying of a well built model or group of models can be a challenge unto itself. All the Birdmobile paper bird models are made to be displayed with string and hung from the ceiling as if to capture the bird in flight, and honestly there isn't much that is a more spectacular sight than a full-sized Osprey clutching a freshly caught brown trout soaring through your room. You don't have to stop there though. Imagine a flock of swallows dipping and diving across your ceiling, or a family of spotted woodpeckers nesting in an old log in one corner. A kit is a great place to start, but there's no reason to confine yourself only to what the kit offers. Your creative ambition and interest can carry you beyond the borders of a kit to create truly remarkable scenes and setups. Advanced modelers often modify or adapt kits to create unique displays or dioramas both beautiful to behold and satisfying to build. If you are looking for an affordable, creative way to educate, encourage, or inspire interest in nature there are few things that can offer as many benefits as a paper bird model. They require an impressive array of mental and physical skills to complete, but the challenge is rewarded upon completion with satisfaction, pride and a sense of accomplishment. Let us not forget though that as a “hobby” building models should also be fun. So try out some of these model kits and see for yourself how much fun they can be.