David Hourigan makes models, but that’s not all, he also preserves history whilst making people happy. But how does one go from a day job to making wonderfully detailed and character rich miniatures of some of the west’s iconic buildings? Turns out a cup of tea and a chat is the best way to find these things out!

    Let’s start with your background – how did you get to here?

    We moved to the inner-west in 2006 from Sydney, and it just resonated straight away, we never felt the urge to go back other than for family etc. I was a graphic designer for many years, my wife was ready for new work challenges, that suited me, so I now work from home and walk our daughter to school. My role at K-Mart involved art direction, working on catalogues and so on, I didn’t hate it but I thought “Why am I doing this when I could be using my skills to make something of significance?”

    How did you start doing models?

    I’ve always loved them. When I was a kid it was Spitfires, but I lost interest about the time I noticed girls! I loved it so much though I came back to it in my late 20s. I started with a science fiction piece I made from parts I had around the house. It won an award. It made me realise I could do this out of my own materials.

    How did you start doing buildings?

    The aeroplanes were fun but I just thought “These mean nothing to me”. I’ve always been aware of the buildings around me, especially old or decrepit places, the more falling down or peeling paint, the more they kind of spoke to me. I thought I’d see if the models interested people, and they struck a chord, people liked what I was doing. I had learned techniques for doing a diorama so I thought, “why not make things I love?”

    How do you choose your subjects?

    It’s just stuff I see in my travels, walking or traveling around the west. I’m starting to have people suggest things to me also which is great. Often the buildings are tucked away in side streets and you wouldn’t know they are there; they are some of the best discoveries.

    What does the process involve?

    I have to visit the site, take photos and measurements etc. I come back here and do a lot of sketches, work out the scale, then just start, but I focus on really capturing it as it is on the day. Once a place has been renovated, the graffiti removed or repairs made, it loses its significance a bit. I like places that still represent a part of our history as opposed to when they might become another bunch of soulless townhouses or some other development. We all know what will happen eventually, but this is making a record of what’s gone, it’s a form of preservation. I feel a sense that I’m running against time.

    Do you knock on the door or just go for it?

    Hmm, well one time I was measuring up a place not too far from here and a car came up and the window rolled down and a woman said “Excuse me what are you doing, I live there…” I tried to explain that I make models of buildings, that’s what I do, and I loved this place and wanted to work on a new model. I don’t think she believed me, neither did the kids in the back seat, they just gave me daggers!

    What materials do you use?

    Most are built with plastic card or blue foam. I build the base, add some details, then the piece comes to life with paint and the weathering effect – that’s where the magic is.

    How long does it take to make one?

    Depending on the size and complexity, about 3–4 weeks. The old Olympic Donut stand is one of my favourites, there’s so much detail because you can see inside; some can take a bit longer.

    Your daughter is seven years old – is she expecting some kind of mega Frozen castle for her eighth birthday?

    Ha ha, I try to involve her, it’s tricky, she likes it, likes watching but can’t quite get her head around how long it takes. The request for the world’s grandest doll house can’t be too far away though!

    Can people commission you to create a model?

    Oh yes, sure! I get requests for gifts or family homes or just buildings that meant something to people. Sometimes someone’s moving house and they want a memory to take with them of the place or maybe a warehouse or old boarded-up petrol station that’s nearby.

    What do you see in the future?

    I’m still focusing on the inner-west, but would love to do some CBD places as well, I’ve found some amazing locations there.

    What will be included in your upcoming exhibition?

    I’ll have about 10 pieces there, some of my more iconic ones. I’ll be present as well for the two weeks, and apart from the opening night, will be working on a new piece and chatting to whoever is interested!

    Come and see David at work from 13th–26th March at the Long Space Gallery, 419 Melbourne Rd Newport. If you’re super interested, you’ll be able to buy the featured pieces, or perhaps even commission the artist to create something unique for yourself, friends or family.

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