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  • Writer's pictureJ.V. Becker

The Possibilities and Necessity of an Advanced Line of Kits


What if there was a more design-oriented line of leather models... what if they were more suited to coffee-table centerpieces versus desktop miniature figures? Would they still be Skelosaurz... or would they be named something more to-the-point; reminiscent of the type of mature, nature store treasures one might have found in the days when stores like Natural Wonders and The Nature Store existed?

These were some of my favorite places to visit in the mall during my childhood, although with the decline of the 90s era shopping centers, their diminished existence is leading someone like myself to instead seek out these types of products and shops online or in the few & far-between museum or science center gift shops.

There's this sort of knowing that I'm not alone; that there's still a group of people out there that feels the same way and are missing those types of places. I'd been struggling with my own direction for some time now and perhaps what I'm getting at is I'd hope even with the lack of these stores in the physical brick & mortar form, to still somehow be able to be small part of the spirit of them and offer something appealing to all ages, as well as carrying on the theme of appreciation for our natural world. Skelosaurz belong in science and nature stores; that's what I'd designed them for. I would say art and leather stores as well, but the love of nature comes first for me and they are a bit out there and more suited to the latter. However, lately my concern is that my creation is coming across as suited to only children, and getting lost in the expanse of the internet when compared with less-expensive children's kits made with cheaper materials. So I find myself at a crossroads if I want to succeed as an artist and continue being able to create as a profession.

Skelosaurz are certainly designed as a high quality art-toy and model, but I don't want the name to alienate an older audience if it in fact may happen to, nor do I wish them to be seen as only a higher-priced novelty for a younger crowd. There could be other factors... lack of advertising and outreach, but in a time where cheaper and faster is the norm, artists have a difficult time keeping up and it becomes harder to explain to the public that cost reflects quality. Paleo Leather is the only source which makes leather fossil kits after I'd begun designing them in 2011. Since, I'd been advised by several well-meaning friends to consider outsourcing them in order to lower costs. Maybe people just don't want to pay that much for what they see as a child's toy, especially when there are so many other cheaper kit options out there.

One feels pushed up against a wall; when made-in-China kits are rampant and made cheaply in mass-production, it can feel hopeless to compete with the price point of a balsa wood kit versus the cost these leather models need in order to be produced with the quality I would expect them to retain. At times it's honestly been considered in moments of sadness and defeat; to let go of my work that I've put everything into and see what happens at the hands of strangers, but in my heart it always returns to telling myself- despite suggestions, I will not downgrade my art. I cannot run the risk of skimping on quality because someone out there will be disappointed with the results if I were to lose control of how well my designs are manufactured, and with that would go my reputation as an artist and a designer. This is too valuable to risk for all that I've put into my work over the years. It would break my heart.

The end-result then leads me back again where I began; facing the first barrier that's arisen since Skelosaurz launched. How can I show my works are designed for everyone and worth the cost they are to design and produce? They are fully made in America and I'm truly proud of that, with the leather coming from one of our country's most reputable and oldest tanneries. I love Skelosaurz, but maybe there needs to be an extension apart from them. A somewhat, advanced version... If I can build a grouping of new models that would be seen as the high-quality art kits that they have been created to be and given a more mature name, maybe the perspective would shift- if that is indeed something stopping them from doing as well as I had hoped.

Every sculpture and kit has always been made right in my own small studio; from start to finish: From the roll of leather, to the masked pieces cut and the packing made, to all the small parts sorted and the instructions printed. Ultimately, my hope is that reintroducing models with a new, more detailed and complex format will appeal to young adults and older adults, as well as the types of children who take on the more advanced structure-building kits and find their worth for what it is... Something that you can build, display and be proud of for a very long time. A work of art designed from nature that's from me to everyone who shares this feeling. It's worth a shot.

Paleo Leather: Fossils of Our Natural World / the raptor prototype

fossil kit dinosaur paleo leather raptor skull vegetable tanned leather j.v. becker skelosaurz dino diy artist sculpture sculpting wetforming paleoart art

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