After he finishes clocking his mandatory hours as a software programmer in a Delhi-based IT giant, Atamjeet Singh Bawa comes back to his house, locks his room and gets set to unlock his passion – building warheads and space shuttles. Hold on, his armoury also consists of aircrafts, copters, bikes and ships.
Before you assume him to be an ‘evil scientist’ (though genius will be more apt), let us tell you that Atamjeet’s intentions are purely honourable. His godown, rather his bedroom, is filled with scale models made out of – you will never guess – paper! Just glue and paper.
Perhaps this is what happens when pure engineering, ingenuity, passion and love for design converge. It is an amalgamation of the highest order that is beautiful to look at and makes you revere the maker. When you look at it, you go from disbelief to amazement and finally fall in love with the creation.
Back in 2004, when Atamjeet was a fresher at college pursuing a B.Tech in Textile Chemistry, an idea struck him. He wanted to utilize his geometry skills (from his school days) and his engineering drawing skills (from engineering course, which he used to teach others as well) to create an airplane using paper.
“After a month of hard work, eight layers of aluminum paint and an 'engineered accident' my first paper model was ready. From that day onwards, I never looked back and created more than 27 models of various highly detailed machines and still counting!” recounts Atamjeet.
What is scale paper modeling?
“It is not Origami, neither is it papier mâché. It is cutting and joining parts of paper using glue,” remarks Atamjeet. Looking at the intricate detailing, I am sure he is oversimplifying.
Typically, it takes Atamjeet anywhere between 70-400 hours to build these models. “The bike took me four to five months to build and I was spending two to three hours on it daily. The RPG model, on the other hand, took me just two weeks, five hours a day.” The precision of his work justifies the time spent.
Early days of the hobby
When Atamjeet sent the pictures of his model to his friends, family and relatives, he received rave reviews and appreciation from everyone. Word even reached out to people in the US who gave him a few suggestions to make it better. But his parents soon started worrying.
“In the beginning they were not sure what I was doing and why I was spending so much time sitting in my room tirelessly creating models. But later when I started getting recognition on my very first online page, where I was ranked as the ninth most famous artist of the year 2005 from more than 40k artists, they realized that I knew what I was doing and the world was supporting my hard work.”Now his friends and family are his biggest supporters and often claim how proud they are seeing him famous on the Web.
Turning a passion into business
Atamjeet garners attention and acclaims wherever he presents his models be it an auto-expo or an exhibition. He wants to convert this attention into a viable business for himself.
“Given the time and hard work this entails, and the kind of unique skill set that I possess, I want to build a luxury segment around my products,” he says. He intends to build customized products for his potential clients as novelty items and product showcases.
“If someone wants me to create their bike's scaled down replica using paper, what I can offer them is a model of the bike with them sitting on it, just using paper.” Customization seems like a viable approach. He has other ideas too. “Let’s say Toyota is launching a new car. I can create the replica of that car for Toyota to showcase in the launch event with a unique message for its customers. The USP being hand crafted, highly customized, light weight etc,” he adds.
Musings of a solopreneur
But similar to many other solopreneurs, who want to pursue their passion, Atamjeet has a few obstacles in his way.
“I have a full-time job and I don’t get enough time to build models. And unless I’ve people willing to buy from me, I cannot leave my job to take this up full-time.”
Another operational inefficiency is in transporting the models which are extremely delicate and fragile. They have to be carried in a glass casing to avoid damage.
“People love my products as soon as they see it. But when they touch and hold it and feel the lightness, it creates a lasting impression. Hence, it follows that I’ve to have people see my products in-person for them to want to buy it,” he explains.
Atamjeet has been a national-level table tennis player and is always up for a game. He is also learning to play the guitar. But his ambition was always to be a pilot. “I am a born airplane enthusiast and even today I never miss observing a passing aircraft. I stop at the NH8 perpendicular to the IGI airport runway, whenever I get a chance, and satisfy my appetite by saying 'bye-bye airplane' to the one that is about to land or take off.”
“I still dream of being a pilot and having my very own runway in my backyard just like John Travolta,” he exclaims. One day at a time, Atamjeet. One day at a time.
Do you love the works of Atamjeet Singh Bawa? Go to his page on facebook and show him some love.
Update (June 05, 2015): Watch Atamjeet's talk at TEDxGITAMUniversity on "Paper Modeling - From Passion to Perfection"
Do comment with your feedback and suggestions on how Atamjeet can monetize his passion.