Games Industry Consultant Chaz Elliott has enjoyed a long and varied career in the wargames, RPG and hobby games industry. A graduate of the Lincoln College of Art and Design, he began his career as a Senior Graphic Designer at Games Workshop, where he worked from 1985 – 1987. Chaz then moved on to become a sculptor/ partner at Nenthorn Studios (whose prestigious clientele included Madame Tussauds, the Jorvik Viking Museum and Rock Circus). Roles in other companies followed, including Fantasy Forge Miniatures, Wizards of the West Coast, Score Entertainment, RC2 – South – Press Pass and Upper Deck Entertainment BV, in addition to a range of freelance positions. Further to this, Chaz, Tim Prow and Drew Williams launched Diehard Miniatures in 2014, a company whose aim is to “give you high quality sculpts for both sci-fi and fantasy ranges with more than a nod to the past.”
The Original Bad ‘Un! A Talk With Chaz Elliott… Part 1.
Born in Bristol, England, Chaz was “the child of a career Royal Airforce conscript turned squadron leader,” A series of overseas relocations began when he was just eight months old, with a “baking hot deployment” in Libya’s El Adem and Tobruk. Further homes followed in Northern Ireland, Norway and Holland. Then, with Chaz’s college years approaching, the Elliott family found themselves back in England, this time in Lincoln. And so began Chaz’s “descent into metal madness,” a problem known only too well to many a model enthusiast! I asked Chaz to recall some of his earliest fantasy and science fiction memories and who some of his early influences were.
Chaz Elliott: I think my first exposure was my father reading his first edition paperback of ‘The Hobbit’ to me at bedtime, it opened up a whole new world outside of ‘Bill & Ben’ and ‘Andy Pandy’. The exposure to Marvel comics, when stationed around the world and with access to the US PX (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), opened up another pantheon of fun. As with most children of the time, I ate my way through Alan Garner’s classics, Susan Cooper’s Light vs the Dark books, Marion Zimmer Bradley, all the Dragon books – living in London in 1977 meant that weekends would include a visit to Dark and Golden Eyed – then later, Forbidden Planet. All the US paperbacks in the second-hand section were read and traded in; Robert E. Howard to Michael Moorcock – and an endless list of fiction. I read a book a day most days – a speed reader and light sleeper.
A Christmas present from his parents in 1973, Chaz’s first ever set of models was a box of 1:32 scale Airfix Desert Rats. It wasn’t long after receiving this festive gift that Chaz stepped from military models to fantasy as he purchased some Ral Partha Orcs, his “lead obsession” beginning in earnest.
Chaz Elliott: First models – Xmas 1973 – Airfix – Desert Rats. But my first exposure to metal minis was from a store in Oxford, we were at a Cub Scout camp nearby. Ral Partha Collector Series Orcs, have them to this day. From there it all went downhill or uphill when you consider my lead horde. The lead obsession grew apace with the gaming obsession – Games Workshop and the appearance of Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons meant that every Saturday we’d also head up Daling Road and check out what the latest was. Wizards Tower from Avalon Hill took over for a while, and then every spare penny went into games. So, more of a RPG gamer that was later “turned” by Rick (Priestley) and John (Stallard) by “allowing me” to play the Polish during their Napoleonic games.
For a time, Chaz moved into a house shared by Games Workshop employees Rick Priestley, John Stallard and Anthony Epstein. This was a group of young men, all of whom were practical jokers, at times an anarchic sense of humour, which bring BBC TV’s ‘The Young Ones’ to mind. Chaz offered an insight into the madcap shenanigans of the household.
Chaz Elliott: When they left, as it was a rental, they left the freezer compartment full, took the contents out in the back garden and they just “melted.” Then there was the kipper stuffed into the gap between the kitchen cabinets and the roof… right bunch of practical jokers – hilarious – still it was revenge for me puking over all three of them in a row – another story…
Written by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren, with illustrations by Don Lowry, Chainmail is a set of rules for medieval miniatures first released in 1971. Containing rules for mass combat, sieges and even weather conditions, while focussing on the medieval era, Chainmail also includes a fantasy section which covers the likes of Hobbits, Dwarfs, Goblins and Trolls. Following the success of Chainmail, Gary Gygax co-founded TSR (Tactical Studies Rules), and then created Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. Released in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons was ‘upgraded’ in 1977 in the form of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
From 1985 – 1987 Chaz worked for Games Workshop. His primary function at the company was as a graphic designer, focussing his energies on the overall layout, look and feel of the graphics, as well as logo design and diagram and map design. He also sculpted a few miniatures for the Nottingham based company too. Initially, he produced some treasure chests and tiles, then worked on a number of graveyard pieces, before moving on to the Chaos Battering Ram and Chaos Snake Men.
Advertised as “An Elliott Abomination”, the Chaos Battering Ram is Chaz’s version of Grond, the mighty battering ram fielded by Sauron’s troops during the Battle of Pelennor Fields in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (a model sculpted decades before the movie release), fused with Games Workshops’ developing Chaos Gods. This multi-piece lead model was a labour of love, taking Chaz more the one hundred and thirty hours to complete.
Meanwhile, evil and barbarous, the Chaos Snake Men were Chaz’s take on a splintered off section of Slaan, a result of a breeding mutation. Though the idea of Chaos Snake Men was not expanded beyond the five models he designed for Games Workshop, Chaz had visions of Chaos Snake Men atop Elemental Worms and Snake Men sub-factions.
Since sculpting his first models for Games Workshop back in the mid-1980’s, Chaz is wonderful figure designer who has produced hundreds of fantasy and science fictions models over the years, from Elves to Dwarfs, Goblins to the Undead. In addition to this, he’s worked on a multitude of other design projects, even a range of cufflinks for Harrods. I was interested to know the tools and materials Chaz uses to sculpt his models.
Chaz Elliott: Material range has increased as the industry approach to reproduction changed, but the same basic principles are still prevalent. Polymer clay, Beesputty, traditional sculpting putties, icing sugar (finely ground – awesome stuff – and it IS OK to lick your tools afterwards). All sorts of materials have crossed my desk, just keep adding bits or taking bits away until the piece looks ‘right’. Materials are generally dictated by the manufacturers production processes.
In addition to his models with Games Workshop/ Citadel Miniatures, Chaz has sculpted miniatures for a long list of other model manufactures, including Heartbreaker Miniatures, Alternative Armies, Reaper Miniatures, Wizard of the West Coast, Rackham, Fantasy Forge, Mithril Miniatures, Tabletop Games, Clarecraft (Discworld), Alchemy, Target Games, Privateer Press and Diehard Miniatures.
Chaz Elliott: The Teddy Bear cufflinks for Harrods, now that was my fave. That, or the Death ring for Mr Pratchett. Oh, and can’t forget the Doc Martins wearing penguin in a tie – happy days. Harrods exclusively stocked a range of Teddy Bear silver cufflinks, 10 in total; the golfer, the groom, the best man, the racing driver (complete with WWII flying helmet and goggles)… It was a project run in conjunction with a well connected jeweller who moved in such circles. Ended up with a commission to produce a miniature version of some of the medieval animals that appeared on the woodwork about the store. Pratchett was a dream project, working with the Clarecraft team and Bernard the Artificer, a great privilege. I even created the business plan on an old Amiga, while living on the Spey Valley whiskey trail in Scotland.
Following his time with Games Workshop, along with two other partners, Chaz set up Nenthorn Studios. The company quickly picked up a number of high profile customers, such as Madame Tussauds, the Jorvik Viking Museum, Rock Circus and Scotia Creations. Nenthorn’s range of Scottish tourism miniatures included 40mm Scottish military regiments, Scottish Dwarfs, and the world’s smallest teddy bear visible to the naked eye!
To be continued… Part 2 HERE.
Follow Chaz Elliott on Facebook HERE.
Official Diehard Miniatures website HERE.
Official Diehard Miniatures Facebook page HERE.
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