This week’s builder should be well known to constant readers of TBB for his outstanding genre-spanning models. Whether you know him as Alex Jones or Orion Pax, you are probably familiar with his many eye-catching builds often based on popular media. From Transformers to The Munsters to Breaking Bad, the one constant is quality. I met up with Alex in Berlin, the the most “bombed” city in Europe, where he took me on an early morning tour of the city’s important pieces by Alias, Bimer and El Bocho. We talked about 99 Luftballons, Frederick 1 Barbosa vs. Frederick 1 of Prussia and which of our nations is ultimately responsible for David Hasselhoff
KG: Talk about your experience as a contributor to the book Constructed Styles, from first contact to print. There is a great shot of you posing with Kjeld and Jørgen, how was this connected to the book, and did you guys talk about bombing? It is difficult to imagine those two suits being down with that type of artistic expression, even if it is in LEGO.
AJ: My experience with LEGO regarding the book, my work with the company (projects/concepts) has left me with different feelings. For sure the whole thing was a big hit in the beginning. In 2009 when i started with LEGO as a concept designer for concept lab, was about the same time that Cole Blaq and I met for the first time. We spent hours on thinking what we could build that is new and never seen before. Since we both have a graffiti background the decission to try and build a graffiti with LEGO came very soon. After my collegue Henk Holsheimer who is also the main author of the book came across these styles he saw something new in it and wanted to push it a bit further. The first exhibition was the Constructed Styles event in Munich 2009. The book is all about that exhibition and the artists that were part of it. The picture with the two “suits” was taken in Nürnberg at Toyfair 2010. It was my 30th birthday and LEGO has a “LEGO people only” aftershow party where they usually present the new product lines. On that event we had the chance to present the models we built for the exhibition to the guys from TLG. Also you can see in the book that I gave two different LEGO graffitis to Kjield and Jörn. It seems they still have them in their office, I have been told… When LEGO started to approach the big market with the LEGO art thing, they opened up a gallery in Berlin where I was first invited to present my stuff. But when the opening event was taking place I was no longer invited. A berlin company worked together with TLG for the LEGO art box and thought my stuff was to much street art related and wouldn´t sell anyway. That was about the time my contract with LEGO ended after two years as a freelancer with them and i decided it was time to move on.
KG: You did an interview with Matt Tracker, a fan site dedicated to the MASK line of toys from the 80’s, you talked about a huge Transformers diorama that fell through. Sometimes the projects that never were are as interesting as the ones we see. Talk about the diorama, the vision the challenges and what keeps it on the back-burner.
AJ: Moving on sometimes doesn´t mean to change the buisness. There are more companies to work with then just the one. The back-burner sometimes can be that you are not allowed to post or talk about stuff on the internet because you work for these companies. And if you know their licenses, then you might know why I do not post anymore TRANSFORMERS stuff. Yeah I know, itmakes me sad too, but that doesn´t mean I stop building on anything. It is all a big evolving process.
KG: Discuss the process of commissioned work, the upside and the challenges. Also, how did you come to work with Kamp One and what was the process like building one of the greatest kicks from the 80’s the Reebok Pump.
AJ: Commissioned work is only good if the commisioner knows about LEGO and how expensive it can get sometimes. I wouldn´t step down my design standards a bit just to sell more models.I barely sold any stuff so far because of various reasons. For sure i sell my concepts to brick companies, but the stuff I do for SNEAKERFREAKER for example is simply commercially related though. The commission for the Reebok PUMP by Kamp One processed so far as he liked my work a lot when he saw it on the SNEAKERNESS event in Vienna where he is a local rap artist and also sneakerfan. When i got in contact with him he asked me if it would be possible to build the PUMP. From there on it was pretty straight forward, also because I built a few sneakers before already, like the Nike Mag. So to bring this question to an end, commisioned work yes but please do not ask for instructions anymore. It is not going to happen. No I do not sell my stuff to LEGO over CUUSOO. If you wanna rebuild a model I did badly, ask me, I might help. Or build it yourself. Then ask me when you can´t get it done. Designing on a high level costs time, material, nerves, time, money and for sure a lotta time, so if I get questions where somebody wants to buy a BREAKING BAD RV for his brother’s birthday and I ask for a proper offer. Never offer me 40$ again and think I would reply to your email. Thats it about serious brick buisness!
KG: Help me to understand the average German LEGO nerd. I’m still having a tough time getting over the German contingent I met at a convention that refused to engage in drinking songs in a hotel bar full of LEGO nerds. Also, explain why Germany now owns LUGNET and why they haven’t done anything particularly German with it?
AJ: I would say the average LEGO nerd has a tuff time these days buying all these sets out there to collect. The average German LEGO nerd even more, because he also needs to build all the sets once and buy another copy for the shelf in the kitchen. Maybe a third because he needs a spare. Then he likes train layouts a lot. And LEGO cars built out of the box on a fresh Baseplate, Road 32 x 32 6-Stud T Intersection with White Dashed Lines and Crosswalk Pattern and a lot of trains running around it. Also fresh built out of the box. They Might have color variousity sometimes. Also the cars. I have no idea why Germans now own LUGNET but that might have to do something with the things mentioned above. Collecting LEGO. Lucky me I´m not a LEGO fan, just somebody who needs bricks to build models ;)
KG: Talk about your project PAXNIK, a collaboration with Mexican graffiti artist Panik One and about the intersection between the LEGO hobby and street art. What do the two communities share in common?.
AJ: PAXNIK, man that was fun…but nope not Mexican. He´s german too. We spend three years during our education at school together. He also has a street art background and the project with him was amazing. The concept is a brick built model and the same motive as an illustration next to it. The illustration on the Van was first then the model came after. On the Bot it was the other way around. And the crocoshoe, we both saw the it for first time, when we presented it at the event. We talked about the motives, colors and how to do the concept a lot, but worked both at home on it without using anything other than the internet to show our progress. I´m not sure if these two communities generally share anything in common, it just depends where in your LEGO Hobby world you find any crossovers. It is a generall thing to use LEGO and build something out of your universe. The things that surround you and impress you: movies, vehicles, buildings, everyday objects and things that shapes you. So it is quite obvious that I build Graffiti and Lowriders, because I´m a fan of Rap and Streetart.
KG: Not a Mexican you say? well that explains a great deal about our encounter that rainy night in Lisbon… You’ve participated in a large variety of great events. Which ones stand out to you and can you share a humorous or strange anecdote?
AJ: One event that stood out for me most was the STROKE II event in Munich, simply because the crowd there was amazing and i got to meet the ARVO Bros. Not only that, but we drank beer and went to the aftershow drum´n´bass party togehter and had a lotta fun that night as you can see.
KG: Do you consider building with LEGO to be an art form, and if so, what direction do you see your building going in the next decade?
AJ: Considering my whole lifestyle and the path I´ve been following the last couple of years, I would find nothing or nobody that knows me who would not say that i´m an artist. But if LEGO building in general is art depends for sure on the building itself. And then what other people say about it is important too, because we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These are some of the things to come in 2013:
- 5 SNEAKERNESS events with new models
- New features like PAXNIK
- KICKZ ON FILM/Back to the Future is still running.
- maybe SPLASH 2013
KG: You were one of the first builders I noticed to put your logo on your posted models. What went into the decision and what do you think of the growing trend?
AJ: I think it is a good thing to make your work stand out from others. To have a good logo and a name as a designer also totally makes sense if you want to let the people recognize your work. To me it seems to be kind of an old graffiti habbit too.
KG: Talk about your job with LEGO and the company’s relation with fans in general. What do they do well, and what could they improve on?
AJ: So i think this question is already answered enough in the text above, but to say at least something here it would be that as a freelancer who worked for LEGO it was a good experience I wouldn´t want to miss, but I think that TLG relies to much on the fact they are dealing with fans and some of the fans would do anything to work for them. For example CUUSOO to me is something where they use a big potential of fandesigns to save some money on concepts. I´m looking forward to see what they are doing with Back to the Future. The BTTF gallery on my website and on my flickr BTTF set got some good stats these days ;)
5 Boilerplate Questions:
KG: If you had to select just one of your models for enshrinement in the great FOL Time-Capsule, which would it be?
AJ: My 1:15 Delorean, because in the future they would have a Delegolyser, which you can use to transform Lego objects into real. Then I would also have my own time machine to come back and rule the world or something.
KG: If The LEGO Group invited you to design an official set, what would it be?
AJ: Do you mean after they loose the Star Wars license, because Disney hates them for various reasons? Well if the do Olson Gang they can give me a call ;) No to be serious, I would love to do Back to the Future for them. I was happy to see them finally coming up with TURTLES. That reminds me that I need to get the sets somewhere. They are not out in Germany yet. So yeah, I don´t know if the future allows another collaboration, but if i could choose it would be some license I guess. More awesome would be to design a whole line of sets with a nice new theme.
KG: Taking time, money and proximity out of the equation, name 2 builders that you’d like to collaborate with on a project?
AJ: Since derjoe, who is the contributor of the BIG UNOFFICAL LEGO BUILDER´S BOOK, is a friend of mine we wanted to do a project. Unfortunatly time was always the factor that wouldn´t allow it.So he would be the first. And another great German builder who i would name second and who became a good friend to me is Kevin J.Walter. And if you all send me enough money I might be able to buy enough LEGO for this crazy unspeakable project i can not even speak about.
KG: Name a famous person living or dead who would have made great LEGO-nerd.
AJ: There is no famous person i can think of that would be hilarious enough to be a great LEGO-nerd, but i really wonder if Michael Jackson is or was. They must have thousands and thousands of old mint stock LEGO sets and other awesome toys hidden somewhere in Neverland. So there we go. Who´s bad?
KG: Who controls the action?
AJ: An action control defines the following:
· in manual processing, the actions that can be performed at each processing status. These actions are then displayed in the action box in the warranty claim as available for being performed.
· in automatic warranty claim processing, the action that is processed automatically at each processing status (indicator: Automatic)
Only one action per action control and processing status can be defined as an action for automatic processing.
If there is more than one elementary action that should be performed automatically at a specific processing status, you first have to group these elementary actions together into an interlinking action, then enter this interlinking action in the matrix and define it as automatic.