Bad Squiddo Shares the Inside Story on Making Miniatures

25 March 2024
Bad Squiddo, created by Annie Norman, began in the niche industry of providing miniatures for wargames, and made a name for themselves by offering realistic femme miniatures… and guinea pigs. Formerly the Dice Bag Lady, she's now an industry leader for accurate miniatures, our interview delves into how they come to life.

Interview by Charlie Pettit

Wargames don’t seem to get their artistic due. Not only are they creating phenomenal terrain and scenery (often from random bits picked up around the home) but they’re also offering us miniatures – tiny sculptures, the good ones highly accurate, using a number of different mediums. We caught up with Norman about both Bad Squiddo, and the process of creating tiny sculptures for the market.

Bad Squiddo History

“I set up Bad Squiddo Games in 2015 to create more options for people who wanted femme miniatures.” She confirms of its origins. “We’ve grown considerably over the last nine years and expanded into scenics, animals and… turkey men?!”

I’d recommend not searching for that latter one if you’re eating your lunch, it’s really something.

“Like many of us, my entry to the wargaming hobby was as a kid, via the world of Warhammer. I’ve always been fascinated with tiny worlds and fantastical stories, so this was a defining discovery. Mind blown! As I got older, I started to enjoy the gaming side even more, and became a regular at Warhammer Fantasy Battle tournaments.”

Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo

“Only when I started to get interested in historical gaming (in my early twenties) did I notice how few femme minis were out there and how the choice was very…limited. By this point, I had built up a sizeable following online through my tournament exploits as well as my previous company (The Dice Bag Lady), and I realised I could put my money where my mouth was and create more of what I wanted to exist instead of just being grumpy that it didn’t.”

“From early on, it was clear that people were digging my design of badass lady miniatures, which was certainly reassuring! The number of people from all demographics saying things like “Yes! We have wanted this for so long!” spurned me to transform it from a little experiment to a life’s passion.”

“Of course, at one point, I realised, “Hey, I can get ANYTHING made”, and I blooming love guinea pigs, so of course, the range then had those, and I was once again pleasantly surprised how many others had also yearned for tiny guinea pigs. That was when I determined that making my own path was the best way to go and that I shouldn’t fall into doing what everyone else was doing.”

Related article: Historical and fantasy wargaming, what separates the two? Nothing...

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How Miniatures Get Made

“First up, I have the idea. I want to say it’s always a carefully crafted idea, but sometimes it really does come to me while I’m on the bus. I’ll use an example of designing a historical figure as it has the most steps…

I collect books about anything to do with women in history and have amassed an impressive megalibrary. So, quite often, anything I need is already accessible; if it isn’t, I’ll track down more books and cross-reference them with information online.

Once I’ve absorbed enough information and loaded up on coffee, I sketch out a rough design. It becomes annotated for the specific details, such as what clasp that bag would have and what sort of texture the fabric is.; as many photos and other sketches accompany this as required. Over the years, the sculptors and I have developed our own shorthand and language, so it probably looks like absolute nonsense to a third party.

Many, many photographs exist of us posing with brooms and bin lids, to get the pose just right, and sometimes even my housemate gets roped in... No, you can’t see them!

Most of our figures are traditionally sculpted. That means sculpted at scale with an epoxy putty and often just a pokey bit taped to a stick, or if we’re getting real fancy – then some dentist’s tools! Sometimes, people ask to see the “real size” sculpts as if we shrink them down, and it’s nice to see their reaction when I say, “That’s it; they were really made that small.”

Drawing by Annie Norman, Sculpt by Alan Marsh, painting by John Morris.

"It’s an interesting position to be in: coming from an art background to being more of an art director than “the artist”, but I think that experience has been super useful in working with the team across all the different design hurdles and decisions. It’s very important to me that the artists are credited as the minis would not exist without them, so every miniature has the sculptor and painter’s name printed on the front of the packaging.

The moulding and casting stage is very traditional. Our manufacturers are in Birmingham (shout out CMA CSL). This art form remains pretty much unchanged, and the short version is that the mini gets squished in what looks like a big cheese wheel of silicone or rubber! Death by cheese! After it’s set, molten metal is poured into the cavities, spun really fast under lots of pressure, and hooray, we have clones! Ok, casts, but saying clones is more fun.

After quality-checking and cleaning up, they’re shipped to us in Nottingham to be packaged into the final product. This is where my mum Lil’s redemption arc comes in; after the great Vampire Counts Sacrifice of 2008 (to a charity shop!), she now does pretty much all of this stage.

We use a variety of mega-skilled painters to bring the minis to life, either with a dangerous “go on, go wild” or a very specific set of instructions. These are photographed and added to the packaging design to make sure you can see how lovely they are.

They’re then shipped either direct from our website, taken to conventions (Salute and UKGE this year) or off to our various retailers and distributors so that more folk can find them in the wild.

Something I am very proud of is how much human care and attention is involved every step of the journey.”

Sculpted by Alan Marsh and Shane Hoyle, shown painted by John Morris, Here be Goblins, Andrew Taylor, Paul Cubbin

Related Article: How Mantic Games make their miniatures

Are Miniatures Art?

“The artwork these sculptors and painters produce can be out of this world, and I regularly parrot Indiana Jones with “This belongs in a museum!” As part of a relatively niche hobby, I believe the figures can sometimes be overlooked and considered more utilitarian “gaming components”, perhaps like a very fancy meeple.

Last year, we were part of an exhibition at the 20-21 Visual Arts Gallery (and accompanying documentary) called Art In Miniature. This was the first major exhibition showcasing specifically wargaming miniatures as art pieces and launched some brilliant talking points. Seeing them in a different context - a glass case in an art gallery - gave a fresh perspective. As wargaming becomes more mainstream, I am hoping for more of this sort of thing. Anything that gets these fabulous creations seen by a larger audience is an absolute win in my book.”

Sculpted by Alan Marsh, painted by Here be Goblins, backdrop by Jon Hodgson, terrain by The Last Valley, minis Bad Squiddo

Related Article: Paint your board game minis – here's why

What's next for Bad Squiddo?

“I always like to think I’m hilarious and say [our future is] world domination, but I’ll perhaps be serious for once and say – to put the “games” into Bad Squiddo Games. Serious Games. Very Serious. You’ll see, soon enough. Then World Domination.”



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