It’s a special month for us here at MiniHoarder, as we’re celebrating our first anniversary. A special event deserves a special Artist Spotlight, and we’ve certainly brought that to you today with the crew at Aether Studios. Aether Studios has an extensive history, has published hundreds of products, several Kickstarters, and creates incredible terrain pieces (often the form of Dragonbite tiles) and miniatures. Their work spans several genres, including fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk. It was a joy getting to chat with the Will, Carl, Colin, and Nasos, and learn more about the individuals that make up the unit.
Will and the Aether Studio team have been exceedingly generous to MiniHoarder and our readers this month. They’ve decided to give out their spotlight miniature away for free, and exclusively on MiniHoarder. I’d like to attribute it to my sparkling personality, but really they’re just a great group of folks. We’re truly honored and humbled that they would offer this through our site. For a limited time, you can get the werewolf mini, officially named Sullivan Howle, here, completely free of charge. In addition, you can get 15% off their entire store (except for the bundles and late pledges/all ins) with the coupon code MHNEWSL921.
For every Artist Spotlight, we have one of the artist’s miniatures professionally painted by our friend Chris at The Spotted Painter. Will chose their new werewolf model (a MiniHoarder exclusive!!!), and Chris turned out an impressive version of this frightening beastie. Above are the final images. You can find more work by Aether Studios on their store here.
MH: It’s been a tradition for us to start with the name of the artist, and we are not ones to break with tradition. How did you come up with the name Aether Studios?
Will: Colin Christenson, who co-founded the studio with me several decades ago in 2018, came up with the name. We were tossing around ideas when he suggested Aether Studios. We all instantly knew that it was the right one. Nebulous, but mystifying. Hard to describe or define, yet powerful. The discussion immediately ended and we went back to work.
MH: You happen to be the first traditional “team” that we’ve interviewed so far. Can you tell us a bit about how you all came together to start this adventure?
Will: Often It is hard to condense a question like “how you all came together” into a short answer or even a medium answer and have it be fully correct. However, in the case of Aether Studios it is quite easy to answer with the name of one person: Tom Tullis. Tom created the Dragonbite clip system and Dragonlock terrain. Originally Colin Christenson and I (Will Walker) were a part of a small group working on user requests from the old FDG Forums. The forum was a relic of the days when Fat Dragon Games was focused on Papercraft rather than 3d printing. Requests would come in for remixes of existing tiles, The Ruined Floor from Set 3 mixed with a Cracked Wall from Set 4 and a tentacle from Set 9, or some other mix and match remix work. Tom was very gracious in allowing us to chop up and rework things as requests came in. He also personally encouraged me to find quality people to work with. These were just the two most influential acts of kindness that helped form Aether Studios, but there were dozens of other smaller acts on his part that helped move us on our path.
Eventually we started working on original designs: Egyptian, sci-fi, and steampunk themed terrain. We added more team members and we found that we were able to work together very well. Our team has continued to grow over time and we agreed on a few core tenants, long term projects and goals, and set ourselves to see their completion.
MH: You and your team have been making some incredible looking terrain pieces and miniatures for quite awhile now. One of the most impressive things to me is the breadth of themes that you cover. How do you and the team come up with these different sets?
Will: We explore almost every idea we are given by our team of patrons, backers, fans, and supporters. Their ideas and inspirations allow us to deliver mountains of content for their games. We must because they are the most amazing and encouraging cohort of supporters that anyone could ever hope share a fellowship with. There has never been a limit to the imagination of D&D players and our art is without boundaries. The horizon has no end and the mountain no peak.
Carl: Be a player. Where would you like to play? Which setting can be made and can look amazing? What situations can the DM (Dungeon Master) toss at the poor unfortunate souls? What can work in tile system? What can work on scatter? Will I play on that terrain? Simply put: Brainstorm as a DM or player.
MH: What are some things you wish you had known when you first started sculpting? Is there anything you would pass on to individuals who are interested in sculpting, but might not know where to start?
Nasos: I wish I knew that I should be treating sculpting like drawing on paper from the beginning – ie, turn a hand around and focus each time on that side as if it was 2d, that way you achieve very good silhouette of something as well as detail. Also, I wish I knew there is no right or wrong way, there is my way, so not to try to copy another’s techniques. From Colin: I think setting your scale to inches if you are doing tiles and such would have been helpful when i started. Also write down your steps for sculpting something so if you want to come back later and make more you can remember how you made it.
Carl: Always start in low polycount, and build up from there. In lower polycount you can lay down the forms and bigger details much more easily. Big details, medium details, high details. Remember the order, or you’ll gonna have more trouble later. Start with DynaMesh, go as far as you can with the polycount you have. When you’re happy and on the detailing phase, ZRemesh, project details, divide. Never give up and always (!) ask for feedback. From more experienced artist, ask for real feedback. That is the only way to improve. If you don’t ask for feedback, you’re not going to improve, just doing the same shit over and over again.
MH: Let’s talk setup for just a second. What applications and hardware do you use personally for sculpting?
MH: Has the popularity of resin printers changed how you and your team approached your designs? With higher resolution and bigger build plates, it seems like FDM might not be the only option for terrain anymore.
Will: Yes, it has. We’ve begun to explore new resin friendly options for terrain tiles, and we’ve added additional monthly production capacity for resin related requests by our patrons. However, we still expect FDM to be the go-to choice for several more years. If resin does become the primary option, we’re prepared for it.
MH: Your team has covered so much terrain (see what I did there?) already with your massive sets and multitude of genres. Where can we expect to see you delve next?
Will: Atlantis Undersea Terrain is going to be one of our big pushes for 2022 with sunken ships and hidden temples. We’re also going to be launching a campaign for Roqom the Dragon Hellplane, a very evil mix of undead, lava, and dragon temple ruins. We’re also thinking about doing a few dozen other projects, but those are two that I am most excited about for 2022. For the next few months we have a pretty full schedule mapped out. October will feature a lot of Halloween themed terrain plus our Clip-On Nano Dungeons. November the Artists pick whichever set they want; the one they feel deserves an additional release this year. December is always space ships/sci-fi related. This year we are going to be finishing a Scout type Bird of Prey with playable interior and other projects cut short due to illness. We’re very excited for the rest of the year!
The Grande Finale
We’d like to thank you for joining us on another wonderful ride with our friends at Aether Studios. If you have any questions you’d like to toss their way, feel free to let them know in the comments below! If they’re better questions than what I’ve here, send us a message and lets get you involved in the next round!
As always, we’d also like to give a huge thanks to Chris Spotts for doing such a fantastic job on painting the intimidating Werewolf. Chris is the painter behind The Spotted Painter, runs a YouTube channel, and can be found via his FaceBook page.
If you’re an artist and would like to be featured in our Artist Spotlight, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.