Originally published on https://johnwombat.wordpress.com/ in 2020.
Trish Carden (Morrison) has been sculpting fantasy and wargaming miniatures for more than three decades. Included within her bulging and highly impressive CV, Trish has produced hundreds of wonderful sculpts for Games Workshop and Marauder Miniatures. Since going freelance in 2018, she has also produced a range of fascinating and exciting sculpts for Lucid Eye and Footsore Miniatures and Games.
As Trish is one of my all-time favourite miniature sculptors, I was thrilled when she agreed to speak to me about her work and career. In addition to wishing to thank Trish for kindly offering me her time for this blog, I would also like to thank Trish for all of the wonderful and inspirational sculpts that she has produced over the years, thank you, Trish!
Trish Carden Miniatures And Designs… Part 1.
I often find that starting at the beginning of a story is always a good idea, and so I began by asking Trish to describe how her sculpting journey began.
Trish: I was always drawing and playing with Plasticine as a kid. I ended up at Edinburgh College of Art where I did a degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing. My jewellery designs became increasingly sculptural and I began to carve wood and ivory and use Milliput to sculpt pieces that I would cast in silver. It was at this point that I met Aly (Morrison) and was fascinated by the little figures he was sculpting for various historical wargame companies.
Following her initial meeting with Aly, who was already producing fantasy and wargaming sculpts, the two found themselves drawn to one another and soon set about finding themselves a joint studio to work from. Trish had caught the miniature sculpting bug!
Trish: We began to rent a studio together in the historic Grassmarket area of Edinburgh, a building that was hundreds of years old and came with its own resident ghost! I began working as a jewellery designer and Aly continued making miniatures. This was really my introduction to miniature sculpting…watching Aly research a figure, build the armature and sculpt it.
A couple of years later Aly was offered a job with Games Workshop and decided to take it as we were wanting to buy a flat and get married. I have always loved Cryptozoology, fantasy and monsters and it was exciting to realise that you could have a career sculpting just that sort of thing. I was intrigued by the miniatures that were being made by the Perry twins for Citadel and by the first miniatures that Aly was given to make. I decided to try sculpting one myself and made a two-headed Beastman. Aly showed it to (Games Workshop’s) Bryan Ansell on one of his trips down to Nottingham and he offered me some work, my first range of Beastmen! So that’s how it all began!
Personally, I find the wide variety of Trish’s Beastmen sculpts both fascinating and inspiring. While many ‘modern-day Beastmen’ designs typically hold to bovine/ goat-like anatomy, Trish’s 1980’s Beastmen ideas included ‘Camel Man’, ‘Turtle Man’ and ‘Carrion Man’, among others.
Trish: The Beastmen were a fantastic first range to do. Nowadays, Beastmen are often portrayed as mostly goat-like but back then the it was a much wider subject. It was fun thinking of all the different permutations of human and animal and trying to make creatures that were bizarre, disturbing but also sometimes humorous. There was no limit put on the look, whatever warped creatures were imagined could be made! They were all sculpted using Greenstuff on a wire armature, with thick wire or Milliput used for weapons. Seeing them painted up and being played with was a great feeling, knowing that people liked what I’d made and wanted to use them in their games. It really encouraged me to sculpt more and better!
Following her successful range of Beastmen for Games Workshop, Trish went on to produce sculpts of Villagers, Pegasi, Unicorns, Dragons and Elves, among many other wonderful miniatures, for the growing company. Elves, and High Elves in particular, would go on to become some of Trish’s most prolific work…
Trish Carden Miniatures And Designs… Part 2.
Trish: My main foray into Elves was with Marauder Miniatures. I helped develop and sculpt High, Sea, Wood and some Dark Elves for our ranges. It was an interesting exercise in making the figures slightly different from other manufacturers but also similar enough that people could mix them into their armies without them looking out of place. Of these, I particularly enjoyed the Wood Elves which had a bit of a Native American feel to them, due in part to my love of a good Western movie… I always took the side of the Indians!
For me though, the real joy came in sculpting the various beasts that went alongside the Elven infantry figures, particularly the Dragons. I’ve loved wildlife and cryptozoology for as long as I can remember. As a kid I spent many weekends at Edinburgh Zoo where they ran a club for young animal lovers. We were lucky enough to be able to spend time with the keepers and get up close to many species, highlights for me were hand feeding a cheetah that had been hand reared, also handling many different snakes and reptiles. My interest grew and I became friendly with a conservator at Edinburgh museum and was allowed to borrow taxidermied animals and reptiles to take home and draw. I travelled on the bus and there were always strange looks from people as I wrangled a badger or fox or some other more exotic creature into a seat!
This gave me the opportunity to study animal anatomy up close and I spent a lot of time drawing which gave me a solid base when I started sculpting. Visualising an Elven dragon meant I was taking elements of what I had learned and exaggerating the anatomy so that the resulting sculpt would look fantastical but also believable. If there were certain motifs running through the army I could use these in parts of the armour of riding beasts. Wood Elves and High Elves would use Hawks, Eagles and Unicorns and Dark Elves had their lizard like Cold Ones. There was lots of scope to add many varied beasts to the ranges and I loved every minute of making them!
Trish is one of my all-time favourite sculptors. From her range of fantastically unique early Chaos Beastmen, Lizard Men and Gnomes, through to her classic Elven creatures and dragons, then her Chaos Spawn and Fiends, Minotaurs and Centaurs, her models are truly inspiring. Preparing my armies for battle, I am far from alone in having spent many hours painting Trish’s wonderful creations, her sculpts have taken part in fantastical battles the word over! I was interested to find out more about Trish’s methods of sculpting and also how long it takes her to complete her models.
Trish: Something the size of a unicorn would usually take me a couple of days depending on the amount of detail. A dragon varies a lot. There’s a lot of textures to sculpt especially if it has a lot of scales and the wings take a while too. A very small one would maybe a week, but something the size of Skalok can take a long time. I worked on that one for three days a week over the course of a year!
I begin my sculpts with concept drawings and any research I need to do. That can include looking at rules for what has been written for the figure I’m planning or jotting down ideas for bits of detail and looking at weapons and appropriate anatomy, etc. After that I draw out how the armature will look with approximate measurements. I use different thicknesses of copper or steel wire to build the armature and then pose it. Wings are cut out and shaped from aluminium mesh or thin brass sheet. In the past when I sculpted with Green Stuff, I would begin with the legs and work upwards. When the putty dried the next layer could be added on top, perhaps clothes, armour or weapons. Sometimes a part of the sculpt would look wrong and would have to be carved back and resculpted.
Nowadays, I use Polymer clay, which I much prefer. The putty can be applied to the whole armature and continually adjusted until everything looks right as it will not set hard until it is baked. It’s much easier to get the anatomy and movement right as you can move back and forth between different parts of the figure, continually adjusting and refining. On bigger figures I will often bake them more than once, smearing a thin layer of Vaseline on the baked putty which helps the unbaked putty to stick. This is useful if I want to sculpt some hard edged armour or something similar over a torso… It gives a firm base to work on and stops the clay underneath from distorting. Once the sculpt has had its final bake I carefully cut it up for moulding using very thin scalpels and saws that I make from razor blades!
Excerpt from Trish’s Facebook page… “This figure began as the mount for an Imperial Hero riding a Pegasus, released by Marauder Miniatures. A few years later it became the mount for a High Elf Pegasus rider, released by Citadel. It wasn’t unusual for miniatures to be used more than once, usually with a small conversion or some extra detail added. In this case a different set of wings were made for the Elf release, folded rather than outstretched. I designed it to look like it was about to leap into the air, ready to soar above the battlefield. As it was going to be a metal figure it was important to make its build sturdy and strong in this pose so that the back legs could take the weight of the figure without bending. Less Arab stallion and more warhorse! Flaring the wings backwards slightly helped to counterbalance the weight of the rider who was positioned in front of the wings. It was always a bit of a compromise between pose and strength/ balance with a metal kit like this. I took the risk to make the pose more dynamic and hoped that the legs would be thick enough to hold the weight. It was made out of Green Stuff over a wire armature. For the wings I cut out the basic shape out of thin brass sheet first and shaped it with pliers. The feathers were then sculpted on one side at a time, beginning with the larger primaries and working upwards, overlapping each row. Once one side was dry, the other side was sculpted and then the fittings were done. A long process but worth it for the effect.”
Highly anticipated by the Warhammer community, the mid-1990’s saw Games Workshop release a new range of Wood Elves and Dark Elves. While Aly Morrison and Gary Morley were largely response for the infantry models, Trish brought to life the monsters of Athel Loren with her Great Eagles, Warhawks, Treemen, Elven Steeds and Forest Dragon… Meanwhile, in the bleak lands of Naggaroth, the Wood Elves’ evil cousins the Dark Elves saw their ranks bolstered with Swordsmen, Witch Elves and Black Guard (designed by Aly Morrison and Colin Dixon), along with Knights upon vicious lizard-like Cold Ones (designed by Trish). Bringing forth his dark legions was Beastlord Rakarth atop his fearsome Black Dragon (designed by Aly Morrison and Trish Morrison, respectively).
Released in 2018, Trish’s final (extra) large release for Games Workshop (via Forge World) was Skalok… A model that will be covered in more detail later…
Trish Carden Miniatures And Designs… Part 3.
Trish: The Lizardmen were the 2nd range I sculpted for GW. I remember them and the Troglodytes getting some concepts that had been done, either by Tony Ackland or John Blanche… my memory fails me there! They were a good second range for me as I’d already tried a few ‘lizardy’ ideas out in the Beastman range. This was a more structured range though, with a unified look to all the troops. I had to learn more about how an army would be put together, what the troop types would be, what weapons they would be armed with, etc. Never having played any wargames before, there was a lot to learn but it added a new dimension to how I thought about the sculpts. The pose was important to enable them to rank up, also essential was consistency in their look and size. I was also learning about moulding and how to make a figure that would cast well. I enjoyed the whole process and they were a fun range to make. Funnily enough one of my favourite things about them was the tortoise shield!
The fifth edition of Warhammer was released in 1996. As well as the game seeing a revised and updated set of rules, two of the Old World’s previously forgotten forces were resurrected in earnest, Bretonnia and Lizardmen. A keen dinosaur enthusiast, Trish was in her element working on a number of reptilian beasts.
Trish: Later in the 1990’s I ventured into Lizardmen territory again, sculpting some creatures for the range. A lot of these took inspiration from prehistoric creatures, I have quite a large library of dinosaur books and I’m always happy to have an excuse to lose myself in them for a day or two! I also use reference from reptiles in general, the way they move and the pattern and texture of their scales. I think you can see in every sculpt the elements of the real world creature that have been used and adapted to make it fit a fantasy army. I really enjoyed doing the larger creatures in the later ranges. There was more scope for adding details in the skin and faces that would really make the figures come to life.
Even smaller than Dwarfs or Halflings, for a time in the 1980’s the race of Gnomes featured in Games Workshop’s Warhammer world. Closely related to Dwarfs, players could field units of these grumpy nocturnal chaps in their battles. Over time though the race was written out, consigned to Warhammer history, they, unlike the Bretonnians and Lizardmen would not return. As with many of Games Workshop’s models during this period (mid-1980’s), the C11 range of Gnomes were full of character and wonderfully detailed. The person responsible for sculpting these cantankerous little cave dwellers was Trish.
Trish: The Gnomes were a small range, they never became as popular as their larger cousins The Dwarfs. Nonetheless they were fun little characters to make. They were the smallest sculpts I had made up to that point so it was a challenge to get plenty detail into such a tiny area! Even though they were tiny they still took me a day or two to sculpt each one. Sometime bigger models are actually easier and quicker and they’re certainly a lot less strain on the eyes! The Gnomes were much more varied in style than Dwarfs or Halflings. Their armour and weapons were more of a hodgepodge of styles, as if they’d picked up different bits and pieces to repurpose. Weapons varied from a dagger being used as a sword to a human sized hammer as a club. To me they had a bit more of an armed Villager look about them rather than a cohesive unit of fighters. They were each very distinct little personalities and had an old world fairy-tale feel to them… very enjoyable to make!
Fiends, Minotaurs, Daemon Prices and more, Trish’s Chaos sculpts of the mid-1990’s are some of my very favourites of all her work and I was keen to ask her a little about these models.
Trish: Chaos was a very popular range for Citadel and I was happy to be able to make lots of creatures for various ranges. As the different Chaos powers devolved there was lots of opportunity for making new and exciting things. A bit of a step up for me was when Alan Merrett asked me to re-do the four Greater Daemon figures. They were all iconic characters by then and I was quite nervous about making a good job of them and doing them justice. They turned out pretty well though and it was a point where I definitely felt I’d levelled up in my abilities.
Of the figures from that period, one of my favourites to make were the Minotaurs. They were fairly big figures for the time and gave me the opportunity to improve my humanoid anatomy. Bodybuilding magazines were often to be found on my workbench in those days!
The great thing about so much of Chaos is the chance to create hybrid creatures with anatomy that is recognisable but also exaggerated and twisted. From the mainly human looking Ogres to the completely chaotic and bizarre look of something like the Spawn, I had a blast working from concepts and my own ideas to make so many different looking beasts. The studio was buzzing with ideas at the time and I still think it was one of the most creatively exciting times for miniatures. I took a lot of inspiration from Natural History books and cheese induced nightmares and all the ideas that were flying around the studio from the other designers. It was good working with so many talented people, it meant there was never a shortage of suggestions and feedback and it kept you constantly motivated.
Leaving on a high, Trish’s final model for Forgeworld/ Games Workshop before setting off on her freelance sculpting career in 2018 was the immense Vorgaroth The Scarred & Skalok The Skull Host Of Khorne.
This amazing model is available via Forgeworld HERE.
- “Legends tell of the trail of slaughter left behind by Vorgaroth the Scarred and Skalok, the Skull Host of Khorne, their path of destruction having run for millennia, their victims beyond count. Although one would not hesitate to kill the other if given the chance, together they have razed civilisations to the ground. Whenever the mortal armies of Khorne falter, it is Vorgaroth and Skalok that the Blood God sends to turn the tide of battle in his favour.” Forgeworld
Trish: The last figure that I made for Forgeworld before I left was also Chaos… I sculpted both Skalok the Dragon and Vorgaroth his rider. Skalok is without a doubt the biggest figure I’ve ever sculpted. It began with concept sketches and physical mock ups to decide on the pose and the general look. I was very lucky in that I was given pretty much free rein to do whatever I wanted… within reason of course! He was sculpted in Sculpey firm grey polymer clay. The whole body was made in one part, sat on a turntable so that I could work all the way around it. I wanted to do lots of detail on the skin so I made a number of stamps that I could use for texturing. In my head I was thinking dinosaur meets Kaiju meets Komodo dragon as a starting point.
After I’d done the body and the stone support it was baked and cut up then the armour was applied, again in Sculpey with bits of chain and resin cast skulls. The wings were probably the most difficult bit to sculpt and fit as they were so big and difficult to hold. After the dragon was armoured I concepted the throne for the rider which I wanted to grow organically out of the beast’s body with hundreds of skulls adorning it as befits Chaos! The last thing to be made was Vorgaroth. Altogether it took around a year to finish, although I was only working three days a week. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, it’s one of the few figures I’ve made that I don’t want to change anything on!
Trish Carden Miniatures And Designs… Part 4.
Following many years working for Games Workshop, producing hundreds of wonderful sculpts, Trish recently set up as a freelance sculptor. Very quickly, Trish found her services in demand as model companies including Lucid Eye and Footsore Miniatures and Games sought out her expertise.
Trish: Being freelance after so many years working for the same company was an exciting prospect. So many old colleagues have their own small miniatures companies now and I was lucky enough to be approached by lots of them! I’d already decided to limit the amount of work I took on as I was enjoying having time for other things that interest me, like watercolour painting.
Steve Saleh from Lucid Eye got in touch about doing some figures for their Toon Realms range, it was something I knew I’d enjoy doing. The range was full of character and my first sculpt for them was Pitch the Dragon. I loved having the chance to make a cartoonish dragon and that led to me making lots other figures for the range. It was a totally different style for me, which was really refreshing to do. Steve and Joe pretty much let me have free reign on how the figures should look.
I also got back in touch with Mark Farr from Footsore Miniatures and Games. He and I had known each other from the Marauder Miniatures years when he was working with us as our sales guy for quite a while. He and Andy Hobday were planning the Mythic supplement for their Mortal Gods game and wanted me to make some of the creatures for it. I didn’t need to think twice about this. I’d always loved the wonderful beasts that Ray Harryhausen did and so making some Greek monsters that could be inspired by his work was so much fun.
Because I didn’t have to adhere to any existing IP it meant I could just go where my imagination took me. The Hydra was the first figure I sculpted, and I must admit to some unladylike language when Mark said he’d like it to have nine heads! It was a challenge to get it all to fit but it’s turned out to be my favourite figure of them all. It was great to work with Mark again and I think we ended up with a good range of monsters. The Kickstarter (HERE) campaigns certainly went well and I’m looking forward to seeing how people paint up the various creatures. They’ll be sold in the main range after the Kickstarter is fulfilled, so hopefully we’ll see lots in people’s fantasy armies!
Raymond Harryhausen was an artist, designer, writer and film producer famed for his skills in stop-motion model animation; ‘Dynamation’. His films include ‘The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad’, ‘Jason And The Argonauts’, ‘First Men In The Moon’, ‘Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger’ and ‘One Million Years BC’. Noted as an influence to a range of fantasy and science-fiction film producers, his fans include Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Tim Burton and Nick Park. George Lucas once said, “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars”.
Trish: Ray Harryhausen was an early influence for me. I loved all the ‘Sinbad’ films and would be hard pressed to decide on a favourite! The creatures in them entranced me, I’d never seen anything like them before and was instantly hooked. I think Kali must rank as one of my favourites, I loved the sinuous way she moved. The cyclops also made a big impression… literally! ‘Jason And The Argonauts’ was another favourite as it had the amazing Hydra in it. When I began sculpting monsters all these creatures were a huge inspiration for me.
As a miniatures sculptor with more than thirty years experience, I wondered if Trish had any advice for anyone looking to enter into a career in sculpting toy soldiers, or simply wished to improve their sculpting and modelling skills.
Trish: Sculpting miniatures is a really satisfying way to earn a living but its not the easiest if you’re freelance! There are lots of people out there sculpting and you have to try and make yourself stand out from the crowd. The best advice I can give is just to keep practicing until you feel you’re at a level with some of the work you see getting sold. Nowadays, of course, its much easier to start sculpting digitally and this does have its advantages. You can build up a library of basic figures to use as a starting point which saves a considerable amount of time. The ability to delete as you go along is good too, it frees you up to try new things, knowing its easy to get rid of them if they don’t work out right… not so easy with putty!
If you prefer traditional sculpting though, I would recommend starting by using Polymer clays. These allow you to work as long as you need to on a sculpt, building up the whole shape to ensure your proportions and movement are right. You can be changing and refining as you go along before you bake the finished piece. It can be frustrating when you start out to have to keep cutting off bits of cured putty that don’t look right. It can also help to start by doing conversions, it’s not quite so intimidating. Head swaps are great for practising faces and adding different weapons, bits of armour or cloaks, etc all help to increase your skill level. You would have to use epoxy putty for these if you were converting a plastic figure though…. baking the end result would not have a good outcome!
You can also pick an existing figure and try to copy it exactly. This gives lots of insights into what makes a successful sculpt. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on tools. For useful tips that go into detail on the tools I use and how to make some, I’ve got a few posts up on my Facebook page (HERE). There’s lots of resources on the internet for studying anatomy and analysing existing figures can be useful… why do they work well, is it the pose, the detail, etc. Once you feel that you’ve got a reasonable level of skill then emailing a small portfolio of clear photos of your work to various companies is a good way to get noticed. Networking at shows is good too. Then being reliable and professional with everyone you work with will hopefully ensure the commissions keep coming your way.
Being one of my all-time favourite sculptors, the final question I asked Trish was about what we can expect to see from her next…
Trish: As far as upcoming projects go, I’m continuing to do some sculpting for Footsore but you’ll have to wait to see what that is! No spoilers! I may also make a few figures for a range of my own at some point in the future as I have plenty of ideas that I’d like to explore. I’m very interested, some would say obsessed, by cryptozoology and mythology so that’s got plenty of scope for interesting sculpts. I also love the fact that the “Oldhammer” style is so popular and it would be fun to revisit that.
One thing I’m really enjoying right now is getting into painting more. I’m doing a lot of watercolours and loving the effects I can get with the paint. I love trees and spend as much time as I can wandering round woodland taking photos and have found so many wonderful characters in the tree bark and branches. I’m finding a world emerging that I want to explore more and more. I’ve just set up a shop on Facebook and will be putting a few originals up for sale on there shortly. I’ve also got six limited edition prints ready to go as soon as the printer I’m using is able to open up his workshop again. I’m really pleased with how they look.
- Trish’s artwork can be purchased directly from her Facebook shop HERE.
Follow Trish Carden Miniatures And Designs on Facebook HERE.
Follow Trish on Instagram HERE.
Official website for Lucid Eye Publications HERE.
Official website for Footsore Miniatures and Games HERE.
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