Sunday, September 20, 2020

Inspiration: Mark Bilas

I’ve known many excellent modelers in my 35 years in the hobby and seen the work of hundreds online and in print, but there are a handful that have truly inspired me, whose techniques, craftsmanship, or approach to the hobby shaped the modeler I am today. This is the next in a series of articles to acknowledge their contributions to my participation in this wonderful hobby.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the loss of my friend Joe Caputo, who was a source of inspiration to me for a very long time. Last week I learned of the loss of another friend, Mark Bilas, who was the proprietor of Wolfpak Decals. Ironically, I’d just received what would be my last order from him two days before I learned of his passing.

Although I didn't know Mark as long as I'd known Joe, he inspired me in a different way. With Joe is was his joy for the hobby; with Mark it was his stewardship of his business and the decals he produced.

I can’t remember exactly when I met him, but I found email to Mark as early as 2008, probably soon after he started Wolfpak. What I appreciated most about him was his willingness to ask his customers for ideas. When I realized he was open to suggestions, I quickly started sending him photos and subjects for his consideration.

He was always excited when I found an interesting subject, especially when I could offer walkarounds that would make for more accurate markings. I think the photos I sent him resulted in at least a dozen subjects over the years. We were emailing just two weeks ago. He was considering the theme for his 2020 special sheet, and I’d set aside a small number of slides that I'd intended to scan and send to him. 

I valued the confidence he placed in my opinions, as well as my discretion, when he’d give me a preview of an upcoming sheet. Mark found a niche in the hobby – multi-subject decals – when many manufacturers insist they don’t sell.

Mark ultimately released 145 sheets under the Wolfpak label. Collectively they contain markings for nearly 870 subjects. Fans of contemporary, 1/72 aircraft are blessed to have had such a variety of decals available to them, and I doubt we’ll see anyone else fill the niche that Wolfpak owned. When I need inspiration, I look at my stash of Wolfpak decals and quickly find something that ignites my interest and enthusiasm for my next model. And the one after that. And so on.

Thank you, Mark. You will be missed. 

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