Trish Carden: New Miniatures, The Tabletop Industry, And Her Career As A Warhammer Sculptor
Veteran miniatures sculptor Trish Carden is responsible for many of the Warhammer miniatures we love, and now offers her own range of fantastic fantasy figures.
Trish Carden’s work has been a major part of my young adult life. Many of the miniatures that she sculpted for Warhammer Fantasy Battles were among the armies that I would field against my friends when we were teenagers, waging war on my kitchen table. Miniatures such as the Warhammer Treeman, Treebeard from the Lord of the Rings (now Middle-earth) Strategy Battle game, and the various dragons she sculpted still grace my wargaming table today. So, in following in the trend of interviewing my favorite game designers and artists from my youth, I thought it would be cool to reach out to Trish Carden and see what she is into these days.
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Tell me a little bit about yourself, how did you get into this sort of work?
I got into sculpting miniatures in a somewhat roundabout fashion! I was doing a Degree in Jewelry and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art in the late 70s. Through a friend I met there, I got to know Aly Morrison and became fascinated by the historical figures he was sculpting for various companies. The detail he was able to put on something so small was quite amazing to me and not a million miles away from the scale I was working in making jewelry from precious metals and exotic woods.
A few years later Aly and I were planning on getting married and buying a flat and he accepted a job with GW. I had been playing around with putty whilst running my own jewelry business and Aly showed Bryan Ansell a weird little Beastman figure I’d made. I was offered some work and it all started from there!
I have been a Warhammer player and collector since the late 90s. I hadn’t realized just how many of your miniatures I own, many of which are among my favorites. Which of your sculpts hold a special place in your heart?
It’s always difficult to choose a favorite sculpt, I would say nearly impossible! I’ll always have a soft spot for my first range of Beastmen as they really started off my career as a miniatures designer. I do have a huge love of Dragons though, and the latest Forest Wyrm that I’ve done for my own range is definitely in my top three. I’ve always wanted to make a Dragon that looks like the forest come to life and I finally had the chance with him. Of older sculpts I would pick the Troggoth Hag that I made for Forgeworld, the Fenrisian Wolf plastic kit, and the old Slaan range. Of course, ask me again tomorrow and it could all be different!
Classic Warhammer Treeman from my collection. Sculpted by Trish.
What has been your least favorite sculpt that you’ve done, and why?
I haven’t got a least favorite sculpt. What I do have is some figures that for various reasons were frustrating to make. Perhaps the initial idea just wouldn’t gel and the sculpt just felt off. Or there wasn’t enough time to make exactly the figure I envisaged. Sometimes things wouldn’t work out technically, especially with plastic kits and it was a long slog to get the sculpting finished. Although it’s a wonderful thing to do, sculpting can also be frustrating, boring, annoying, and soul-destroying just like any other job.
How much creative freedom did you have in your work with Games-Workshop?
Creative freedom with GW changed over the years. In the early days, there was a lot more as we were inventing things as we went along. We would bounce ideas off each other and have a lot of fun bringing those ideas to life. As time went on things became more structured and the look of ranges became more established. There was still some freedom to invent and innovate within those structures but there were more “rules” about how things had to look.
Did you play Warhammer?
I’ve only ever played a couple of games of Warhammer. I was always more into the art side of things than actually playing. We had to have a basic grasp of how the game worked obviously to make the figures fit effectively within it but there was never any pressure to play. I always preferred board games like Talisman.
An Orc Boss riding a Wyvern (also sculpted by Trish) doing battle with Chaos Dwarfs.
In my opinion, your work with the Wood Elves range and dragon sculpts is among the best in the Warhammer range. What inspired you to sculpt this amazing new piece, Quercus the Forest Wyrm?
Quercus was a figure I’d long wanted to make. I’m somewhat obsessed with forests and the mythology surrounding them and spend a lot of time reading folklore and sketching out things that inspire me. I want to make a range of forest dwellers that fit the ideas I have in my head, creatures made of the living forest, part of the ecosystem. Quercus is one of these. I’d finished my big Treeman and Quercus naturally followed on from there. He is the forest animated, taking the shape of a guardian Wyrm and there will be more beasts like him to come!
Are there any dream projects you would love to work on?
I’m working on my dream project now with my own range, HarrowHyrst. It’s been bubbling away in my mind for a long time and now I have a chance to bring it to life with my range of sculpts and also the artwork I’ve been doing. There’s nothing better than being able to bring your own world to life!
Trish's new Quercus the Forest Wyrm miniature sets the standard for woodland monsters, and is now available at https://footsoreminiatures.co.uk/
You’re known for your amazing sculpts, but your painting skill is also quite spectacular. Do you paint miniatures for enjoyment, or is it just a part of the work you do? What sorts of miniatures do you enjoy painting?
I’ve rather neglected painting miniatures, having only painted a few during my time with GW. I decided to paint all my HarrowHyrst miniatures, partly for use on the website but also for fun and I’ve realized how much I love doing it! It’s very relaxing and enjoyable to be using colors after spending most of my time working with grey putty! There’s so much to learn and there are some incredibly talented people out there to be inspired by. It’s also really valuable to me as a sculptor as by painting the minis I can see how my sculpting affects how well the figure will paint up. Have I put enough detail in the right places, does the figure read well as a whole? It’s also a good excuse to spend way too much money on lovely new paint colors!
I am currently working on a miniatures range for a game I am designing, and opted to go with traditional sculpts instead of 3D-modeled miniatures. Do you think traditional sculpting has a place in the future of miniatures design and production?
Thankfully I don’t think traditional sculpting will ever go away! There are amazing digital sculpts available now but personally, I will always prefer working with clay. I love the tactile quality of it, the fact that it’s not perfect and you can see the marks the sculptor has made applying the clay. It’s definitely a much longer process and I know a lot of designers work digitally in order to be able to keep their output high as people constantly want more and more releases. Digital definitely has its advantages there. I’m lucky enough to be able to work traditionally now though. I have no deadlines to meet and I’m making the work I want to make. For me, that means using clay and being thoroughly absorbed with the medium and its quirks. Hopefully, there will always be people around who appreciate handmade sculpts and want to buy them, but it’s in my blood and I won’t be stopping!
Trish's new Hydra and Fantasy Football Minotaur models are amazingly detailed.
Do you like the direction that miniature design is heading these days?
I find that some of the newer miniature design trends are too fiddly, with poses that are a bit too over the top. Some miniatures are top-heavy with eccentric poses that rest on the tippy toes of the figure or feature fiddly bits that can easily snap off. How do you feel about this design trend?
I think there are enough different styles of miniatures these days to keep most people happy. There are trends of course…minis get bigger, and more complicated with more extreme poses and that’s not to everyone’s taste. Things constantly evolve though, and styles change. In the end, it’s what sells that companies are interested in and if their customers like what they make then they’ll continue to produce similar things. As I well know, you can never please everyone, this is a hobby that people get very emotionally invested in. You tend to hear more criticism than praise sometimes and usually from a pretty verbal minority! I always just say chill and enjoy your gaming! The people that sculpt your miniatures care a huge amount about what they do, they’re passionate about the sculpts they produce. Surely that’s something to appreciate and encourage….
That's a good response. As a consumer, I often forget what it is like to be a creator. I did some graphic design work for Mantic Games a few years ago, and being on that end of things, you become vulnerable to the public's comments on your work.
You’re known for your work in the fantasy genre. Have you worked in other genres, and are there any genres you’d be interested in creating sculpts for?
My great love is fantasy and that will be what I concentrate on. I’ve made quite a few things for 40k over the years and enjoyed them but I would always pick fantasy as a preference. I’ll also be concentrating on the more traditional type of fantasy….elves, goblins, trolls, etc,….. things from folklore. To me, it’s embedded more in the psyche and part of our heritage. It feels more possible in a way.
Who are some artists and sculptors that you admire? What is it about their work that you enjoy?
As far as sculptors go I’m a big fan of Mark Newman, Boris Woloszyn, Forest Rogers, the Shiflett brothers, Simon Lee, and way too many others to mention. All my fellow designers at GW and Forgeworld were also huge inspirations. All these people have different strengths and styles but all are masters at what they do and totally committed to their work.
There are also so many artists that I love but I suppose if I have to pick a few then there would be Paul Bonner, Iris Compiet, Allen Williams, Johan Egerkrans, John Blanche, Adrian Smith, and many, many more. I love the storytelling in their paintings and their absolute mastery of the materials they use.
Classic Warhammer model of a High Elf riding a Dragon. Trish has always had an eye for making dragons look so realistic.
What is your opinion on the tabletop gaming industry today?
I think we’re mostly in a great place in the TTG industry. There’s so much to choose from now and so many genres, truly something for everyone! It’s become so much more mainstream, people everywhere recognize the name Warhammer now whereas before it was a very niche market that relatively few people knew about. It’s a fantastic time to be a gamer in many ways, it’s more inclusive and it’s easy to find like-minded people. I hope it continues to be that way and becomes a hobby that everyone can enjoy without the gatekeeping and online toxicity that can also sadly be prevalent. It should be something for everyone to enjoy, to work within, and to be part of in a safe and inclusive environment.
What advice would you give budding miniature sculptors?
If you want to be a miniature sculptor then the most important thing is practice! Study sculptors, whose work you admire, what is it that makes their sculpts so good? Study anatomy, both human and animal. It’s a fundamental need to be able to make an accurate anatomical sculpt before you can start to twist it around to make fantastical creatures. Don’t be afraid to fail, every sculptor has a huge pile of unfinished work that just wasn’t good enough. Watch tutorials, ask questions, and above all keep sculpting!
Are there any tabletop games that you are playing lately?
I’m not involved in any gaming at the moment. Sculpting, painting, drawing, and life stuff take up all my time!
Thank you Trish for sharing with us.
Check out Trish Carden's amazing HarrowHyrst range, and connect with her on social media:https://footsoreminiatures.co.uk/collections/harrowhyrst
Trish Carden Miniatures and Design
monstergirl_trish Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/monstergirl_trish/
Trish Carden Twitter: https://twitter.com/trishcarden
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Note: The views contained within this article represents the author's views alone, and may or may not represent other's views within Toy and Tee. We're all different here, and celebrate diversity of perspectives.
- Jay C. Shepherd
- Content Creator
- Jay is a graphic designer, board game enthusiast, and professional wrestling fan who loves all things 80's, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and of course, video games. He is one of the rare few that believes that one can be a Trekkie and Star Wars fan at the same time.