2019’s Cromarty Film Festival had an extra addition to it when it showcased futuristic rocket launchers, hover tanks, flying machines and ‘bot flies’.
The models are made by former RAF recruit Mark Stevens who was also part of the team that built the props and special effects for one of the biggest ever stage productions of Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy.
But it’s not just artistry, craft and imagination that makes Mark’s models standout, it’s also the fact they’re built from junk.
Models made of Kinder Egg cases, old hoover parts, selfie sticks and a cricket box
Items used to build Mark’s models include:
• throwaway cutlery
• piano keys
• car windscreen wipers
• old ear defenders
• a lamp post cover
• a bollard
Mark sources the materials he needs to build his models from the local recycling centre, friends throwing out stuff, and even rubbish dumped in the country.
“I find things dumped in the countryside, put them in the back of the car, take them home and turn them into something new.
“There’s an environmental factor because I am helping people to look at plastic waste and try to understand how it can be turned into something else.”
Mark believes part of the problem with growing levels of rubbish is the rise of a throw-away-and-replace culture and people not wanting to repair things anymore.
“Things are not repairable these days and people don’t have the knowledge to take something apart and repair it which is what we used to do.”
Exhibitions in Covent Garden, Inverness and Cromarty from a prop designer who worked on Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Mark’s exhibited his model making skills at Covent Garden and Inverness, and he was hired in the eighties by ‘one man dynamo of British Theatre’ Ken Campbell as a props and special effects designer on the most audacious attempt at translating the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the stage.
Recently Mark exhibited at the Cromarty Film Festival. Co-founder of the festival Dave Newman said when he came across the models he was “gobsmacked”.
“I first saw the models when I visited Mark at his house, and I was totally gobsmacked by them. I did an exhibit with him in town about eighteen months ago and it was a great success so, due to popular demand, we wanted to do something similar again.
“His model making and the reasons he makes them are extraordinary.”
Experience in inventing future war
It takes Mark around a year to build each model. He started the first one in 1994 and he’s now on his twenty-fifth, which will be a ‘spider tank’ built using six selfie sticks found in a charity shop.
Mark says his background helps in making the models look so authentic having worked as a welder on the North Sea oil rigs.
“I was always surrounded by heavy machinery so I have a good grasp of how things work and what they should look like if they are going to work. That’s what enables me to turn a hoover into a hover tank.”
Parts begin talking to each other
Mark says the pieces need to work with each other for the models to take shape.
“I get a piece, look at its potential then if there is something around that might fit with it, I will sit there and play around and bits start talking to each other, then, suddenly, two bits come together. The journey begins with those two pieces fitting together.”
Throughout my time speaking with Mark he constantly reminds me he does have a girlfriend who puts up with his peculiar hobby which made him take apart his TV to find items inside he could use to construct things like the ‘Deep State Slaughter-bot Dispenser’. The TV still hasn’t been replaced eight years later.
Inspired by Star Wars
Like so many people of the seventies and eighties Mark was inspired to do something extraordinary after a trip to the cinema to watch Star Wars.
From then Mark wanted to build spaceship models but couldn’t find any kits that satisfied his expectations.
“I watched the film at the cinema, went home, wanted to make a spaceship but there were no kits at the time so I had to make whatever I could with whatever I found. So I found this old fridge and took it to pieces and started making spaceships out of the bits inside.”
Treasure and rubbish, rubbish and treasure
Mark has sold a few pieces but said he didn’t enjoy the process. It’s not the finished product but the journey of creation that he relishes most. Once Mark has finished one model he moves straight onto coming up with ideas for the next.
“It’s the creative process of trying to turn an everyday object into something extraordinary. I get a mischievous pleasure out of doing that.”
What’s that old saying? One man’s rubbish is another man’s….
Mark is based in Evanton on the Black Isle. If you want to arrange to view his models contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.