Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Last week I was contacted by Andrea from Cobramode asking if I'd be interested in a little collaboration idea. Being the sucker for collaborations that I am, I said OF COURSE! (details in upcoming YouTube video). I used that opportunity to pick Andrea and her husband Erin's brains about their model designing business. They are pretty fresh on the Patreon scene, opening in March, but they already have nearly 180 patrons! When I checked out their sculpts, I fell in love with their characters! Their sculpts have such a fluid feeling of motion and their style is heavily influenced by asian culture. I especially loved the Salamander characters, feeling they had such a unique blend of whimsical cuteness as well as artistic lethality.
If you have a resin 3D printer, Cobramode's pre-supported models are definitely one of the easiest to use and look fantastic when they come out! If you're not a patron, or you just want to snag one mini in particular, they have a MyMiniFactory. If you don't have a printer, they also provide resources to get the minis printed and sent your way!
So, without further ado, the interview with Cobramode is below!
1. How long have you been involved in the hobby in general?
"I haven’t been involved that long with miniatures, but I’ve been playing D&D on and off for almost 20 years now! My husband Erin, who is the 3d modeler, started out by sculpting physical minis in the early 2000’s, and then moved to doing 3D art for video games. I do the 2D art/concepting and write the lore".
2. How long have you been actively promoting your content on social media?
"We just started our Patreon in March! So not too long now".
3. What initially drew you to the miniature model hobby realm?
"Erin initially began sculpting physical minis because he really admired Rackham so much. He was blown away by the amazing character designs, and the intense details. I started into miniatures because of D&D. One of the DMs I played with used miniatures and a grid map, and I started to really appreciate the artistry that went into the minis".
4. What tabletop game would you say is your favorite? What particular faction within that game is your favorite and why?
"My experience is pretty much limited to D&D, haha. I’m not sure if I have a favorite race or faction within D&D; I’ve always been more partial to the monsters! There is just so much variety and so many cool details and designs for the monsters vs. the playable races. I guess that’s why we ended up making so many anthropomorphic characters for our world".
5. What is more enjoyable for you personally: sculpting, painting or playing a game?
"At this point, I definitely enjoy drawing concepts more than painting/playing. I haven’t been playing D&D for awhile. I got kind of burnt out on it after playing a year and a half long campaign. The DM, one of my friends, is a performance artist who is best described as Chaotic Good. The campaign really reflected that. It was crazy fun, but we never completed even a single goal in a year and a half of play! At some points there were 15 players rotating in and out, all with conflicting goals. I’m sure you can just imagine the chaos that created".
6. If money or time weren’t a consideration, what single purchase/upgrade/expansion would you make to further your hobby enjoyment?
"Definitely would upgrade our 3D printer for bigger and better minis. We tried to get in on the Elegoo Saturn pre-orders, but Erin and I were too slow!"
7. Where do you get the inspiration for your sculpting theme or style?
"We really draw a lot of inspiration from Rackham, both the drawings and the minis. I keep the Confrontation books at hand and look through them constantly. Edouard Guiton is just an amazing concept artist. I have so many inspirations though, it’s hard to list them all. We’re really drawing from all kinds of media. Japanese anime/manga, French animations, video games, fantasy novels and movies, weird foreign comics, and other concept artists on sites like ArtStation. There is so much out there! We also recently tried playing Microscope to build the lore around one of our factions, and we came up with some great Pulp details about the society and their history. We use all that back story material to inform the designs of our sculpts and give them more life."
8. What tips or advice would you give someone just starting out as a model designer/sculptor?
"I would say, be yourself as an artist and don’t try to follow trends. The 3D mini space just keeps getting bigger and bigger as home 3D printing grows. So many new Patreons have appeared, even just in the last 3 months. To really differentiate yourself, you have to show your unique viewpoint and style as an artist and invite people into your own world. Nobody needs the 10 millionth version of a dwarf that is almost indistinguishable from all the other dwarves!"
9. What was the moment you realized model creation was something you wanted to pursue as more than a hobby?
"For Erin, it was after he got his first 3D resin printer. It was a revelation that now anyone could print amazing, high quality minis at home for very little cost. He had already experienced working on physical miniatures, and also 3D modeling for video games, so it was a natural path for him to go down. For me, I didn’t really have a choice! Shortly after COVID hit, I lost my full time job. I had been working a little bit on the business before that, but afterwards decided that I might as well do it full time!"
10. What was the most difficult obstacle you had to overcome on your path to becoming a more serious concept artist/sculptor?
Andrea: "I’m still overcoming difficult obstacles! Haha. I think the hardest part for me is to just get started. It’s scary to put your work out there when there are so many good artists, and I’m very out of practice. I sometimes convince myself not to start working on things. Of course there is also the fact that there is a lot of other stuff to do (marketing, graphics work, printing and photographing our minis, etc), but there is also definitely a fear of starting. What if my ideas and drawings suck? What if nobody likes them? What if I spend days making concepts that nobody will ever want? None of those fears will come true if I never start, but then none of my hopes will ever come true either. So it’s really about convincing myself to just begin."
Erin: "For me, I really had to get over the feeling that nothing was ever finished. I’m the kind of person who just wants to keep working on something forever, keep diving down and massaging the details. I could probably work on one model continually for my whole life, and feel pretty fulfilled! At some point though, I just have to say that something is done. Otherwise I’ll never release anything! I pretty much never think that what I’ve released is finished when I release it, but when I look back I’m usually surprised at how well it turned out."
11. What was the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a model designer?
"Talking to the community, talking to other designers, and seeing what everyone does with the minis! This hobby has really great, supportive people in it, and we’re always delighted by the conversations we have. It’s so fun to see people bringing their creativity and imaginations, whether it’s through painting, DMing adventures, or even trying their own sculpting."
12. If you could do anything to expand your company footprint, what would it be?
"We’ve been thinking seriously about making D&D 5E Adventure Kits for our little universe, which would include written guides, lore, stat blocks, item cards, and of course the minis you would need to run a short quest. We’ve been partnering with Ben Green to do our stat blocks, and he is an amazing DM who picks up on the smallest details of our minis and brings them to life through game mechanics. It’s pure artistry. Further down the line, we would absolutely love to create our own game system, either skirmish or cooperative. We don’t have any concrete ideas there yet, but it’s definitely on our minds."
13. What product line do you endorse and what about their products do you feel sets them above their competitors?
"We are total EPAX fans. I constantly rave about my X1-DJ, and my experience with it has been so wonderful. I really think their build quality is the best for the price range, and is so well conceived and designed. Their customer service is also amazing; how many places can you actually talk to a human to troubleshoot your issues? The only problem with EPAX is that everything they have sells out immediately!"
14. If you could earn a sponsorship or endorsement from your dream company, who would it be and why?
"Definitely EPAX is at the top of that list, for the reasons I put above. But I would also love an Elegoo sponsorship or endorsement. We use their resin a lot, and always get great results. Also the Saturn looks amazing!"
And there it is! Thank you so much for reading! Honestly, I've noticed a huge bump of interest in this series and it means a lot! Please go check out Cobramode on Instagram and Patreon and MyMiniFactory!
Andrea and Erin, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and I hope to be able to unveil our collaboration project soon! You guys are doing amazing work and I can't wait to see where you go from here!