A GRAPHIC designer in Monmouth has given the town’s Savoy Theatre a miniature creation of the building to mark one year of closure during the coronavirus pandemic.

James Howells, a 37-year-old graphic designer who specialises in working with performers in the UK and US, says he has also been hit hard by lockdown, and wanted to give something back to the theatre he has enjoyed visiting since he was a child.

The miniature Savoy, which took Mr Howells two months to create, isn’t the only creation he’s made in lockdown.

“During lockdown last year I was fortunate enough to still have some work, but I also had a lot of time on my hands,” he said.

“I am based in Monmouth and have been interested in art since school. I find miniature models fascinating and since I was a child I’ve wanted to learn how to build them.

“While I had the time on my hands in lockdown I decided it was time to look into scale model making more.

“Creating the models was an escape from lockdown. Work slowed down as performers I worked for were hit so hard and had little or no shows to promote.”

Mr Howells is self-taught, learning by watching model makers on YouTube and following professionals on social media, and he has since started creating his own models to celebrate iconic local buildings.

“I decided to make a scale model of the Riverside Hotel in Monmouth as something to keep me busy during the first lockdown last spring,” he said. “It was the first time I had tried to build one, and it took me about three months.

“After that I built some models based on TV and movies, including the Friends coffee shop and Lost TV set.


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“I enjoyed the process so much that I added a section on my design portfolio website and created a Facebook and Instagram page.

“I’ve found the miniature model maker community – also known as diorama makers – very supportive. There are hundreds all over the world.”

The Savoy creation, which Mr Howells gave to the theatre in Monmouth town centre this week, is mainly made up of wood and clay.

“For most of my model creations I use anything I can get my hands on – such as sheets of wood, plastic packaging, metal wire, and modelling clay. I also use basic tools like sandpaper, chisels, a paint brush and tweezers.

“On this occasion I collected photos of the Savoy from the internet as my starting point and the model itself is mainly a combination of wood and clay. It was also the first time I had incorporated led lights into a model.

“It can be very time consuming, and you do need a lot of patience."

On how his idea for the Savoy model came about, he explained: “It came to me after hearing how the last year had affected the theatre industry. I have no connection to theatre itself other than going as a child when it first opened as a cinema, but I wanted to show support for those who work there.

“I’m sure everyone in Monmouth wants to see the Savoy up and running again.”

On Wednesday staff at the Savoy said: “What an amazing surprise in the post today. On the first anniversary of our closure we got this utterly brilliant model of the Savoy facade made during lockdown by James Howells. What a superb piece of craftsmanship and a wonderful memento of the theatre. The lights work too!”

You can visit Mr Howells' website at http://www.magicdesignhub.com. If any businesses are looking for a freelance graphic designer, you can email Mr Howells at magichowells@googlemail.com.