Photos: A man makes miniature models of Vancouver city icons

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He does a whole lot of little things.

Before the pandemic, Michael Soganic decided he needed an indoor hobby.

At the time, he was working in healthcare software and started on a common path; he made models of planes, tanks. These were the usual builds you find in the hobby section and they eventually got repetitive.

Somewhere along the way, he became more and more interested in localizing his work. Having grown up on Vancouver Island and moving to Vancouver, he knows the local sights well, saying he was “obsessed” with the “big city” growing up.

“I liked the idea of ​​doing things around me,” he says. Vancouver is great. “I’m doing this little by little.”

With COVID-19 offering everyone a chance to stay indoors, his miniatures have really started to take shape with big plans, including a city block that has become something of a centerpiece for Soganic.

Welcome to the Vancouver Block

“I try to cram as many Vancouver references into one foot-by-one space,” he says.

The block is not representative of any block in Vancouver; it’s an amalgamation of how Soganic sees the city. And instead of huge glass and concrete skyscrapers downtown, he went with the neighborhoods people live in. That means the Little Mountain Gallery (now closed), the Vernon Drive grocery store, and a Vancouver Special — “they’ve got an ugly beauty to them” — all sit one block above a SkyTrain station.

“There is the Paris Café,” he adds. “And then there’s the hobby store side in Kerrisdale, that’s where I buy most of my hobby supplies; I spend half my paycheck there, so I thought it deserved an honor on the chart.”

The block goes beyond a few recognizable storefronts, with posters, advertisements and vehicles from across the city. Advertising is a particular passion for Soganic, which drew inspiration from a famous source of inspiration.

“A lot of commercials are taken directly from photos of Fred Herzog,” he says. “I think Herzog captured the ’60s era in Vancouver perfectly and I wanted to replicate that.”

In addition to the huge, extremely detailed urban block, Soganic made other smaller pieces. He just finished a tiny Earnest ice cream truck, he has some local city vehicles, and there’s a SeaBus being shot down by a Kraken. There’s also a huge piece depicting the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, with a train, water bomber and helicopter in a scene familiar to visitors to Duncan’s Forest Discovery Centre.

Make the minis

While making custom miniatures, the process varies from item to item, and Soganic has learned a lot along the way, he says.

“It’s kinda all over the map as far as what I’ve built,” he says of how he’s done things.

In some cases, it’s basically pre-made and it just does a little customization. The SeaBus sunk by a creature of the deep can be purchased at the TransLink store. Soganic pruned a squid toy and set the whole thing in resin. For the Vancouver Fire Truck, it was all about creating high quality decals (a recently acquired skill that Soganic is happy with) and proper application.

These are the easiest.

For things like window displays, Soganic does everything to order. This ranges from 3D printing parts (a skill he’s working on at the moment) to collecting random materials all over town (there’s a store in Mount Pleasant he likes to rummage through).

“I have a library of random materials that I choose from a recycled art supply store on Main Street,” he says. “They have bins of junk that people have given to them and it’s a really cool store to pick up stuff.”

The block contains examples of all sorts of methods, he notes, which is why it has become its centerpiece. With over 100 Vancouver references and details added in all sorts of different ways, the piece is constantly evolving. These details include references to locally based brands like Greenpeace, Arctyrx and Ad Busters; movies like Dead Pool; and local media like Z95.3 and Stop Podcasting Yourself. There are even defunct names, like BC Tel and A&B Sound.

“I have a degree in marketing which I haven’t used much, but I’m a bit fascinated with branding and ads,” Soganic says.

In search of future models

While miniature wonders are Soganic’s passion, each one takes a while to come together, sometimes a full year. He needs to learn new skills, wait for something to dry up, or just cope with life (he just finished another program).

However, he hopes to turn his growing skills into something that can pay the bills, or at least cover his own costs.

Encouragingly, he was recently able to show his work during a class at the Museum of Anthropology.

“It was the first time anyone outside of the other modeling nerds noticed my stuff, so it was really fun,” he says.

Now he plans to take the next step with commercial model builds.

“Hopefully I’ll put together a business portfolio and start showcasing it,” he says, noting that he’s about to take that turn.

In the near future, he plans to set up “test simulation commissions”.

You can see his work on Instagram.

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