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‘ORKTOBER’ – Design & Hobbies

27 Oct 2023

We’ve written in previous blog posts about how we believe in individual interests within a creative team, as it’s what gives us each our own unique inspiration and perspective for original, creative and effective work.

As it’s spooky season, we’re talking to our founder, James Cann to find out about ‘ORKtober’, side projects and how he expresses his creative side outside the studio.

First thing’s first, what’s your hobby?

JC: Tabletop games! I’m a fan of gaming in general, but it’s Tabletop games that I can get really nerdy about.

What are Tabletop games, and what’s the draw?

JC: So think big square tables with scenery, miniature models, lots of dice and a BIG book of rules. I love the strategy, and even social side to gaming as there’s a huge community there, but just as much of a fan of painting and kit bashing models together.

How did you get into it?

JC: I was into Warhammer in school, so found some old models kicking about a few years ago, around the same time I discovered there was a local scene and gaming club.

I gravitated towards the Warhammer 40K ‘ORK’ army and started getting more and more creative about adapting and adding to the air-fix style kits you can get. Lockdown saw a mass resurgence in the game given it’s a pretty time consuming hobby, but it gave me the chance to get a bit more ambitious and learn the software to design my own models for 3D printing.

Tell us about Bulwark Gaming…

JC: Bulwark Gaming/ Bulwark Jim is my Patreon alias for my gaming models. I was putting so much time into creating unique models, I started a Patreon to share my STL files with other fans & 3D print enthusiasts. This way, I’m challenged every month to create a new model that fits into the game, and also plays to the strengths of 3D printing – particularly the depth you can achieve that you don’t get from the model kits. I have a bit of fun with it – asking the community what they want to see, and taking the models to the extremes in terms of creativity, attention to detail and desirable characteristics that make them fun to assemble, paint and level up a tournament. 

What is it about Orks/Orcs?

JC: They’re a fun army, they’ve got this rough but playful cockney persona, after Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but unlike Tolkien’s Orcs, their kit’s more mad max style scrap, heavy metal and diesel punk – much more of a challenge when it comes to replicating a whole load of textures, levels and a-symmetry! Whether it’s an Ork figure, vehicle, weaponry or scenery – there’s always something really unusual you can bring into it. As a design studio, a lot of our work is very sleek and polished, so it’s actually refreshing to find the same intricate skill and detail in Neanderthal postures and jenky engineering. Part of the Ork world is the language – which is a lot of fun to get into when writing back stories and descriptions for models…so there’s a creative writing element that is so loose and full of character that makes it easy and fun to come up with stories.

Bulwark 'Monster trukk' Model, July 2023

So what happens in the Ork word this month?

JC: Myself and other Ork fans bring our motley crews to life for a halloween special – ORKtober. Last year, my inspiration was glam-rock Ork halloween costumes. It’s fun to pick from a bit of what’s going on at the time too, so as the 80’s and, in particular, Eddie from Stranger Things was big then, I gave him his own Ork cameo.

This year, I’ve created a whole smorgasbord of Ork wasteland ‘accessories’ and figures, and collaborated with some of the other makers and designers around the world to put together some ultimate ORK kits. It’s a chance to go a bit more off the wall novelty, celebrate, and bring gaming folks together.

Bulwark 'ROCKAZ' Models Orktober 2022

What’s your advice to on making space for hobbies and interests?

JC: If you genuinely enjoy something, it’s easy to make time for. Some folks like to create just for themselves, as a relief from pressures of timelines and briefs. I personally like a side hustle – I like to be able to share my interest with the world. The Patreon format especially is an encouragement and motivation for me to keep making, and improving. It’s noticeable even a couple of years on how much I’ve been able to hone my craft, and I thrive having a few different projects going on at once. Never be afraid of getting sidetracked. You often have to compromise on hobbies when work/life gets busy, but if you do struggle to get started, or re-start a side project – just begin again REALLY small. Some tricky tasks can easily put you off, so you can always just go back to basics – something you know you enjoy, then come back to the challenging bit later once you’re in the swing of things again.

What are the high’s and lows of Bulwark?

JC: Some ideas come thick and fast with a lot of excitement and pace, others don’t seem to ever quite be finished. I think this almost shines through in the work produced. I feel you can almost pick out where one model is a little more forced, and others that have a contagious energy. 

Getting involved in the community is a big plus. There’s always a lively chat and sharing ideas over Discord from gamers across the world, but even on a local scale, a couple of evenings a week spent gaming and chatting is my kind of relaxation. 

Technical issues are probably my biggest headache – the flies are huge, so crashes and losing work are common. It’s really exciting to print the models, to see how they come out, but this is also not without glitches and hiccups  – so I’ve also had some evenings and weekends clearing up puddles of resin.

How has this interest affected your design work?

JC: One bonus, from any hobby, is you’re engaging with a new corner of the universe you can pull inspiration from. Something as simple as a detail of texture or storytelling can come to mind when you’re in work mode. The practical skills – like learning a craft, software or technique are often directly transferrable, and even the more obscure nuggets of wisdom can even bring a new perspective or understanding to a brief. Unlike client work, side hustles and hobbies are self-initiated, which can be an important thing to re-engage with if you lose touch of the innate joy of creating for the sake of creating. You’re not restricted, or bound by the limits of a brief, so you can go in any direction. For me, learning tabletop games also led me into a bit of crafts, illustration, creative writing, 3D sculpting, 3D printing and even building my own purpose made computer to handle to epic file sizes – all relatable to work in the design studio – which is why it’s always good to follow hobbies down their various rabbit-holes.

Thanks to James for sharing & for his insight into hobbies, and for letting us delve into his world of tabletop gaming and miniature models to inspire anyone to pursue all the weird and wonderful things that keep our creative brains nourished.

If you’re interested in seeing more of what James has created as Bulwark, check out his own dedicated site for Gaming fans:


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