A Visit to the Heart of Pegaso
by: Costas Rodopoulos
Where to start? How about the beginning? Although I have been writing articles for magazines many years, when it comes down to writing for your hobby, it is just not the same. After modelling for 25 years, 2 years ago I realised that the rest of my hobby life would be dedicated to modelling miniatures. And so, with every day that passes, I remain convinced that, although I may have made the change late in life I have made the correct decision. The world of historical miniatures is, quite simply, amazing. But, since you are reading this article, I suspect that you know that already. So, having said this, you might understand how difficult it is for me to put into mere words the wonderful experience I recently had: three days at the headquarters of figure legends Pegaso Models!
The adventure beginsIt all started with my decision to enter one of the greatest European miniature competitions: “Le Petit Soldat”, held annually in Saint Vincent, Italy. Since more than twelve members of the Athens Star Club had decided to enter, who was I to say no? When Luca Marchetti, founder of Pegaso Models, heard I was going to St. Vincent, he invited me to stay in Sienna for a few days and see what a great figure brand Pegaso is, from behind the scenes! Of course, there could not have been a bigger “yes!” than my reply!
“Le Petit Soldat” ended in a nicer way than I had expected; I won a bronze medal, with a 90mm Pegaso figure (Frederick of Swabia). What better way to begin my adventure into the world of Pegaso? After a long car drive, that seemed to fly by in the fantastic company of Pietro Balloni, Maurizio Bruno and Teresa, from Saint Vincent to Siena, we arrived in the outer suburbs of a city. This was to become to be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen in my life.
San AgostinoAfter a delicious breakfast with the Pegaso family, the next morning Pietro took me to the Pegaso art studio. Imagine my surprise when, seemingly lost deep within a forest outside Siena, we stopped outside a stonewall belonging to a mediaeval monastery, named San Agostino. The Italians call it “Eremo”, which it what I fill call it here forth.
As you can see from the pictures, the environment is awe-inspiring. With this unbelievable physical beauty and silence, it is just like living in another world. This minds image is forever deeply embedded within my memory. This was the sort of place where you could imagine spending the rest of your days.
The Art StudioThe Art Studio, a massive high-ceilinged room, is where great artists to create their masterpieces. It is in that room where I began to understand what it means to Pegaso to create miniatures for modellers. It is simply really: they do it because they love it, and have the satisfaction of knowing that modellers the world over love painting their creations.
As you can see from the photographs, the Art Studio is basically a very big modelling room, with the associated organized chaos that comes with being an artist. Huge collections of reference material, showcases full with medals and trophies from various competitions, figure masters, box arts, spare parts, anything even vaguely related to figures; these are things found around the studio. With many different workbenches situated around the room, one is always available if you would like to work in there. But, believe you me, when you enter that room and see Maurizio, Andrea or Pietro at work, all you hope for is for some of that raw talent to be telepathically transferred to you – like a “Vulcan mind-meld”.
The Pegaso style of WorkI had the pleasure of meeting two of the new artists assigned to working on Pegaso’s large-scale resin fantasy line. They were on their way to the heads (Luca, Andrea, and Pietro) to discuss their work. This sort of discussion can take place every time of day, whether it is 08.00 in the morning or 21.00 at night. Conversation between members of the Pegaso family centres largely on figures; these are incredibly passionate and intense people, with amazing senses of humour and creative processes.
I attended a new product analysis prior to production and market release. Very serious business was discussed including future plans and company strategies. Naturally there were also light-hearted funny situations and sarcastic repartee between all the guys. It is for this reason that, throughout this article, I do not refer to Pegaso as a company, but rather as a family – or familia, in Italian.
While this is undoubtedly one of the most professional companies in the figure industry, the family spirit dominates. From the morning coffee meetings in which daily planning takes place and problems discussed, until the dinner at night where all members tease each other and have great fun, only one thought comes to mind: family! I feel proud, and count myself lucky, to have been included to have been present, to have witnessed these events, and made to feel like a member of this familia.
Something I noticed during my brief stay is that while these guys are legends in the figure world (Pietro Balloni for example, only a few hours earlier in Saint Vincent, had won a “couple” of gold medals in the Master Painter division and the Best of Painter award, and competed with masters like Ruina, Gallardo and many others), they do not hold grudges at all. These are amongst the most humble and down-to-earth people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I cannot help but admire this quality – truth be told, I am even just a little bit jealous.
Word cannot describe the euphoria one feels when witnesses these masters at work. I can now say I have seen: Maurizio Bruno work clothing details on one of his Napoleonic masterpieces; Andrea Jula sculpting hands on a beautiful lady bust; and some of Pietro Balloni’s masterful paintwork of a forthcoming 75mm release (it was a Germanic Warrior). The family atmosphere in the Art Studio is overwhelming; as work progresses everyone asks opinions on pieces of the rest. Working toward the predetermined release dates, several pieces are normally worked on, in a step-by-step manner, simultaneously.
Pegaso has some of the best associates in the figure trade. This is a list of those that sculpt and paint for Pegaso on a more or less regular basis:
Victor Konnov, Maurizio Bruno, Gianni La Rocca, Tony Williams, Kwang Yeol Lee, Luca Piergentili, Benoit Cauchies, Christos Apostolopoulos, Martin Canale, Diego Ruina, Luca Calò.
Diego Ruina, Emiliano Iacobacci, Davide Decina, Danilo Cartacci, Luca Baldino, Luca Cardoselli, Andrea Tessarini, Massimo Pasquali, Gianfranco Speranza, Massimo Moro, Daniel Milosevich, Gianni Coniglio, Fransisco Galliardo, Mariano Numitone, Jesus Gamarra, Maurizio Berselli.
Not forgetting Andrea Jula and Pietro Balloni as sculptor and painter respectively and given the names above, it is easy to see how this brand has managed to stay at the top for so many years.
As Luca explains, Pegaso likes and tries to keep the artists that work with them inside the family. That means closer than professional bonds, a positive work environment, and also to keep them satisfied ensures that they work exclusively for Pegaso. The results of this management style are self-evident.
Chatting to Luca Marchetti. (This interview is not done in a Question and Answer format but more in a narrative)
Pegaso began back in 1991as a small project by Luca Marchetti and Stefano Borin .Two years later, in 1993, Pegaso made its first corporate appearance at an Expo in Kulmbach.1994 saw Stefano Borin choosing to follow another path, while Luca chose to ride out the Pegaso project.
In 1996 Andrea Jula began his involvement in Pegaso, with a merger between Pegaso and Ares, a figure company almost 20 years older than Pegaso – and owned by Andrea’s father! Andrea’s father, still one of the world’s best white metal casters, is to a large degree responsible for Pegaso’s extremely high quality casts.
In approximately 2000 Pietro Balloni, made his appearance on the team, as Luca Marchetti’s painting and sculpting apprentice. Little did they realise then that this was a rising star.
And so, from that day that Pietro joined, the company structure has remained the same, producing the masterpieces we all like to see, buy and paint.
The founding father - Luca’s storyLuca Marchetti started his affair with miniatures at the age of 21.Luca’s first encounter with 54mm figures was at 23 and, way back in 1989, at the Kuneo Competition (his first entry into a competition) he cleaned house - by winning every possible medal there was! He was also the first Italian figurist to ever win a “Best of Show” award in an international competition. By the age of 25 he had already established a name within the miniatures community by painting pieces for collectors. One should also bear in mind that at the time Luca started, enamel was the medium to use, with few acrylics. In Tuscany they used even used Casein paint (derived from milk, Casein paint is a fast-drying, water-soluble medium used by artists).
It was only at the age of 30 that Luca started sculpting figures. This was not made easy, since his only choice of sculpting medium was Tamiya’s cream putty, which required long drying times under heat. After this torturous initiation, Gray Milliput putty was a relief. Later came White Milliput, A+B, and finally Magic Sculpt.
Since those early days of experimentation, Luca Marchetti has sculpted over 60 commercial figures and many others for collectors. Some of his Pegaso pieces, particularly those in 90mm, are already modern day classics. While Luca is inspired by many periods and subjects, unfortunately many would probably not be not commercially viable – for example the many colourful and different uniforms of 16th Century.
When the need for an Art Director, as well the need to establish an internet presence, arose in 2002, Luca made the very difficult decision to retreat from directing working in the Art Studio, and undertake these, mostly computer based, tasks.
Over the years, Luca has tried many ideas for his figures, and taken many risks. Some of them have paid dividends; some have not.
Making a living aside, Luca creates figures because he loves it. It is his passion.
A Crazy Artist - Andrea’s Story With a father that owned Ares and was a world-renowned metal caster, Andrea Jula grew up surrounded by figures. Andrea has what one would call a physical artistic talent. He has a unique approach to what he does, and he usually is very unpredictable. Andrea is what we call “A Crazy Artist” in Greece, as he has an impressive imagination and the ability to bring anything he likes to life.
Andrea has done regular painting, illustrations for a cartoon company, and has even worked with Disney. But in approximately 1996 he joined Pegaso and formed the dynamic duo with Luca.
Andrea has sculpted some of Pegaso’s most successful figures, and continues to astound us every time he brings a new figure to life. All you need to do is recall the 75mm Renaissance Knight, the 90mm Templar and the recent 90mm Renaissance Knight. He has also done some breathtaking fantasy pieces.
Having seen Andrea working firsthand, sculpting a bust, I must say, it is an absolute pleasure to watch this man perform his magic. It is truly inspiring stuff! I honestly believe Andrea is one of the greatest sculptors of our day!
A star is born - Pietro’s Story Pietro Balloni is without a doubt a rising star in the painting world of miniatures.
While he had completed his studies in 1992, in 1990 Pietro was already making fantasy figure armies. However, after seeing Pegaso and Post Militaire miniatures, he immediately switched to the historical figures. By persevering at painting and stripping figures many times until he got the right result, Pietro eventually won Luca’s approval and, thus, joined Luca as an apprentice - while in his 20’s.
In 1997 he participated in the Milan Competition, sweeping away the competition by taking all the Gold medals, and selling his figures to collectors. The rest is a history that we all know very well.
Although Pietro has tried acrylics painting, he employs a technique named “oils over acrylics” and, by attaining the most amazing results, has really made this technique his own. I had the fortune of receiving few lessons from him and seeing him do what seems to be the impossible for the rest of us, is a piece of cake to him.
Today Pietro is regarded as one of the miniatures world’s best painters, but it is oft forgotten that he is also a very valuable member of the Pegaso staff.
Of scales and subjectsFrom early days Pegaso, by working in 75mm and 90mm, have not confined themselves to 54mm.
Initially 75mm was not as successful as expected and so, for a few years, the company backed off. However, in 2004, they returned with a range of Romans, which widely very well received by the modelling fraternity. Since then Pegaso has invested greatly in this range, and it has been improving by leaps and bounds. The very simple logic is that a 75mm figure, apart from being a lot cheaper, is easier to handle than a 90mm figure. And, that since it is bigger than a 54mm offering, there is room for more detail and thus is more challenging in terms of painting, with a very small price difference over the same in 54mm.
So now, Pegaso has many different subjects, covering many different historical periods in 75mm, with a new 75mm figure almost every month. By the way, in expressing my desire to see a mounted 75mm figure, I was happily informed that this would probably happen in 2006! Remember, you heard it here first!
Another popular request is to see the fantastic 200mm resin fantasy figures in a smaller scale. This is mostly due to price and the painting ability of modellers. I am glad to say that this is something that is in Pegaso’s pipeline. The problem is having the suitable sculptor to tend to this task. To briefly expand on this, often people ask “Why can’t Andrea Jula just do them?” Well, with so many projects in progress all the time and all the Pegaso members having so many things to do and while meeting tight deadlines, starting a new line is not always the easiest thing to do.
That said, with Pegaso employing new talented sculptors every now and then, I am confident that we will be soon be seeing a nice 54mm or 75mm fantasy range of figures!
On the choice of subjects: for every new release, there is a mixture of staff and artist’s inspiration, modellers’ desires, market statistics and many more factors that all play small but decisive roles in this. For example, I asked why Maurizio Bruno’s Napoleonic masterpieces usually have such static poses. The response was because market research has indicated that these figures are preferred in these poses that really display the beautiful uniforms to their fullest, and not in action pose.
There are always many ideas, some of them crazy, but it’s not always to make them real. One of those crazy ideas that Pegaso has tried lately, and is proving very successful, is the manufacture of base accessories and scenery. These fantastic and accurate solutions have been well received by modellers, which indicate that these solutions have been expected, and there is for more variety. And that is exactly what Pegaso are planning: to keep releasing nice sceneries on regular bases, with different dimensions and themes.
From organized chaos to clinical cleanliness As mentioned above, Pegaso’s Art Studio (Eremo) is situated in a monastery deep within a beautiful forest. In stark contrast, the stock is kept in an industrial warehouse, known as “The Magazino”, a short distance away. The two places are totally opposite, as they should be.
The Art Studio is a place of organized chaos and mess, with countless workbenches, where every artist can find a space to work and create the Pegaso masterpieces. Sometimes you will hear them “debate” at high volume, but such is the Italian (and perhaps Mediterranean) way of work. All the required materials are there, as is reference material, and, of course, the limitless inspiration and talent. What more would you need?
On the opposing side of the coin, “The Magazino” is a place of order, peace and quiet. Everything is surgically clean and tidy. All the stock items are in their places, and spare parts are in small numbered drawers and zipper bags.
The bench where orders are individually prepared is full of small and bigger papers, with all orders, and all the necessary equipment for the responsible person to complete his task. The same applies to the packing bench, which is clean and tidy, ready to receive the boxes and parts to be packed, when every new release comes out.
In this way customer service remains as much a priority as it did for their very first sale. As does customer support; if you spare parts Pegaso will send you in a couple of days, without any charge
Pricing Something that has remained a goal for Pegaso from the beginning is to satisfy the modeller first and foremost. The “motto” is “Top quality but not top prices”. For this reason Pegaso, has always based their strategy on their own plans and releases, and not on the strategies of other competitors. This is one of the reasons we have seen many Pegaso releases copied, in one way or another, over the years, but not Pegaso copying another company’s releases.
Pegaso has always made figures using innovative thinking, maintaining (and constantly improving) a high quality and also try to control the price factor by trying to minimise possible prices increases.
However, Pegaso is not alone in the world, which means that there are other factors that play a crucial role in product pricing. To illustrate, when the distribution agents, the intermediary between figure manufacturers and retailers, decide to increase their mark-up, this can implicitly affect the manufacturer and the retailer and result in lower sales, since ultimately the modeller picks up the final price.
Therefore, in lieu of the above example, Pegaso has often elected not to raise the price in order to save the modeller some money. The result, however, is a partial loss of revenue. Naturally, this is a serious issue for any company, especially one that releases several new products every month and has to maintain a healthy stock level.
One possible solution to this problem is direct sales to modellers. This ensures they buy the correct product, have the best customer care and service, and of course this could lead to a price decrease – provided it is supported on a large scale.
In order to assist the hobby stores purchase stock at a reasonable cost price and keep sales prices at the suggested retail price, while still maintaining decent profit levels, Pegaso has settle up the “Figure Net” Online Shop. There hobby stores, and in future individual customers, can buy figures of Pegaso, Romeo, and Elite (and later more companies) at the normal prices - and receive the best service for their orders.
A big loss of revenue comes from pirated copies of figures (cast mostly in resin), which are predominantly sold, via online auctions. Sadly little appears to have been done to prevent these illegal actions. While manufacturers like Pegaso attempt to put a stop to this, they have not had much success – largely due to pirates concealing their IP addresses and anonymous URLs.
Sadly, at the end of the day it is the modeller that loses. Pirated figures are a plague of horribly cast copies, which will not help the modeller to paint better. Furthermore, with the higher post rates, they end up paying almost the price they would have for an original sculpture.
Ed: What can you as a modeller do? Join us in saying “NO” to piracy!
The future of Figure CompaniesWhen Pegaso began there were less than a 100 figure brands throughout the world. Fifteen years later, there are more than 300 figure manufactures and that number is increasing.
Many of these are cottage industries or garage projects which manufacture miniatures that are not of high standards in sculpting or casting. Very generally speaking, this leads to a poor impression of figure companies in general.
There appears to be a preconception that financial problems within figure industry have been brought about by a reduction in the number of figure modellers. That, however, is not correct. As Luca (and I) believe, there are many new figure modellers entering the craft daily. There are also many older modellers (myself included) that “retire” from armour, aircraft or other form of static modelling and turn to figure modelling.
And so, if the miniatures industry is to survive, it requires the support of the modellers themselves. By avoiding pirate products, choosing first-class subjects and high-quality figures, not only do you receive good value for your money but you also help the good companies survive.
Nowadays it seems really easy to set up a miniature company. The real challenge lies in making it an industry leader and keeping it going in the face of hard competition.
Journey’s EndTo be honest, it has been a dream come true to have visited Pegaso. How often have we heard the names Pegaso, Luca Marchetti, Andrea Jula and Pietro Balloni mentioned and thought this company, these people are not of our world?
Yet meeting them, I came to realise that these are just normal, down-to-earth figure modellers. These guys are so human and yet so passionate about what they do, so professional, so eager to satisfy the needs of others - mere words alone cannot express. With a team like this, nay, with a family like this, a family that sees the modeller not as just another customer, but as a friend, it is not difficult to see how Pegaso has become the leading miniatures company it is today.
In closing, my greatest wish for the Pegaso familia is that they never change. May they forever remain this way, making our small-scale dreams come true.
Ed: Turn to page 9 for more pictures of Costas' magical journey.
From the greatest depths of my heart, I would like to thank Luca Marchetti, Pietro Balloni, Andrea Jula, Maurizio Bruno, Loren, Teresa and the rest of Pegaso family for their fantastic hospitality and heartfelt friendship. May we meet again soon.
Ed: The full gallery of Costas' trip, including stunning pictures of St. Vincent and Siena can be found HERE