Miniature Military Figures by Joe Seibold

This is a temporary display of 26 recently acquired custom miniature figures of Civil War soldiers created by Joe Seibold. The display will be up through the end of 2016. You will find it in our Exploring the World Gallery.

Military Miniatures

The discovery of an army of small soldiers in the tomb of Egyptian Prince Emsah, a warrior king of the 12th Dynasty (about 2000 BC), denotes the long legacy of miniature military figures in human culture. By the fifteenth century, it was common practice to give European princes miniature soldiers as playthings so they might engage in tabletop battles as part of informal education. Because these soldiers were finely crafted of silver, they remained the privilege of royalty and the wealthy until the mid-eighteenth century, when, thanks to the development of tin alloys, military miniatures were mass-produced for the first time. These lead soldiers, generally 54mm in size, were prized toys for young boys. As these boys grew to men, nostalgia coupled with an interest in military history led to the hobby of collecting or creating miniature military figures for display. Enthusiasts engage in painstaking research on military regalia and battles to accurately paint sculpted military figures.

Meet Joe Seibold

Joe Seibold studied Automotive Design with a focus on three dimensional styling and clay modeling at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, CA in the late 1950s. Following his studies, he worked as a clay modeler for Ford Motor Company but eventually moved into the position of Modeling Supervisor of mid-sized cars at the company. He had the good fortune to work on many advanced designs at Ford Motor Company including the first Ford Mustang, the Continental Mark II, the 1961 Lincoln Continental and the 1971 Mustang among others. His last assignment as modeling supervisor was the 1996 Taurus and Sable. He retired in 1996 after 40 years with the company.

In his free time Joe was actively involved with youth sports and dabbled in a variety of hobbies from flying powered model air planes, restyling military rifles to civilian configuration, stamp collecting, wood working, photography and painting and sculpting miniature military figurines. His work with military miniatures was a favorite hobby in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. Joe no longer sculpts in miniature.

Joe Seibold’s Creative Process

Beginning with a lead antimony figure, Joe Seibold would first assess the posture of the sculpted soldier and modified the stance and position of the figure by cutting it apart and repositioning the limbs into a pose that he felt suitable for the character. The pieces were then glued back together and filled in with plumber’s putty as needed, including sculpting details such as folds in fabric. Joe liked to work with plumber’s putty because he could sculpt fine detail on his figures uniforms such as fringe and braid with the material. Once the figures were stable, Joe painted them with enamel paints. Enamel paints were Joe’s pigment of choice though they are difficult to shade. With patience and practice, Joe developed his skill with the paints. He continued to use enamel even when oil paint became more popular with most miniature military figure hobbyists.

Embossed flag designs required several steps to complete. First Joe took a thin sheet of steel to an embossing company along with a drawing of the design he wanted to put on the flag. The embossing company created a double-sided die for him. Once he had the die he sandwiched a lead sheet in the die and used pressure to emboss the lead sheet. The final step was to paint the design.

After completing the figures, Joe designed and scratch-built a landscape setting for each piece using a variety of materials.