LEGO memes are in abundance, but not many of them surface more often that the idea that stepping on a LEGO brick is painful. One of the best-known iterations of this meme is a comic that’s been making the rounds on the internet for years featuring a brick-general giving training to other brick-soldiers gathered around a plan of attack diagramming the human foot.
If you’re a fan of LEGO, chances are good that you’ve seen it at some point in time and probably even had it shared with you more than once. But did you ever stop to think, who created this? Well, perhaps I’m more inquisitive than most, but that’s what piqued my interest. So let me share with you the journey of discovery that I took…
The online LEGO community is an all-around friendly place and quite open to newcomers, with very few exceptions. What few realize is that this comes at a high price; the comments exchanged by builders are friendly and positive — and often that means only positive. And here lies a potential pitfall, because honest critiques and (seeming) negativity tend to be avoided for fear of creating awkward situations. Additionally, not all builders want to receive constructive feedback. The end result is that most creations gather a plethora of dry comments that do not really help the builders improve much. I have been passively raising awareness to this problem for years now, but never have I gone to such lengths as Aaron van Cleave, who has made a series of bad creations as a social experiment.
While in Billund earlier this month, we had an opportunity to chat with LEGO designer Carl Merriam. Carl is still an active AFOL within the LEGO community, although he is now a professional LEGO set designer. Most recently, Carl Merriam co-designed 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V and has been working on LEGO Boost that has just been released for pre-order.
We sat down with Carl at LEGO headquarters to chat about how he became a LEGO designer, along with some of the LEGO projects he’s worked on since joining the company.
Read the full review with LEGO set designer Carl Merriam
Our continuing adventures led us to track down and interrogate Amado Canlas Pinlac (aka AC Pin). Amado was born in Angeles City in the Philippines, and works in the Information Technology field with previous employment with overseas airlines. He has called East Brunswick, New Jersey home for the last fifteen years, where he lives with his wife Marleth and their three sons, Milton, Marlowe and Myreon. Amado credits the support of his wife for being where he is today!
TBB: Can you tell us how you got into LEGO?
AC: First and foremost I’ve been a Star Wars fan/geek way before LEGO introduced the SW line, as I collected the Star Wars action figures, vehicles, and sets. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise for those who’ve known me over the years that I love to build Star Wars dioramas. In fact I’ve done Action Figure dioramas and was affiliated with various SW fan sites which featured them before I even started with LEGO. One of the problems/drawbacks that I’ve had to contend with the Action Figure dioramas was there was very little or none of the re-usability factor. Around that time, when I was growing disinterested with Action Figures, LEGO started producing the first SW sets.
This week we headed up to our great neighbor to the north to track down Tim Schwalfenberg. Tim lives in Canada, is 21 years old and is currently studying Materials Engineering at his local university. He also likes to publicly smash his LEGO builds too, but more about that later.
TBB: Hi Tim! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with the Brick?
Tim: Sure! I have found LEGO to be a great creative outlet when I need a break from all my calculus or physics courses. While I’ve been building almost as long as I can remember, it wasn’t until my first year of university that I started to look at LEGO with the intention of making anything beyond the rainbow-warrior spaceships of my earlier years. Through a combination of some inspiring creations I stumbled upon through MOCpages and finding myself with too much free time on my hands, I decided that to try out this LEGO thing more seriously. Thousands of pieces and hundreds of creations later the LEGO hobby has become an incredibly important part of my life. The itch to build has become a constant companion that is easily rewarded by long hours tinkering away on a table-scrap covered table.
This week our travels take us to South Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. There we tracked down František Hajdekr, a builder known for his small builds of big vehicles and equipment of all kinds. František lives in the town of Bavorov, with his wife and three sons. He is 39 years old, teaches high school and runs his own Youtube channel, which is loaded with lots of “how-to” LEGO videos. Let’s explore his mind a bit, shall we?
TBB: Hello, František! How you got into LEGO and what was your first set?
František: My first set was the classic Town 6621 Fire Truck from 1984. And for a long time it was the only set that I had. Lego was not so available in my country, so I built mainly with different building blocks – Seva or metallic Merkur (Czech made).
This week we got to sit down with British builder Jeremy Williams (aka “Bricking It”). He lives in Leicester with his wife and two young sons (ages 5 and 6). He travels frequently, consulting for accounting firms and training their accountants. However, I was able to catch him between road trips and pick his brain. Come explore the mind of a builder with me!
TBB: Hey Jeremy, can you tell us how you got into LEGO?
Jeremy: Sure – I got into LEGO as a kid, and Classic Space was my era. I spent every evening building and playing with spaceships! I also got slightly into Technic, but never Castle or City. I then abandoned LEGO as a teenager and only picked it up again six years ago after my first son was born. I figured I had an excuse again!
This week we talk with Aran Jitsukawa-Hudson (AKA Cole Blaq) about his art, philosophy and his life. Aran was born in Great Britain and grew up in Germany. He lives in Düsseldorf with his wife and three kids, is a cancer survivor, and attended university as an Art History student. We interviewed him 6 years ago here on The Brothers Brick, but there’s a lot to catch up on since then. He is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish an art book based on his Enter the Brick series. Let’s go explore the mind of a builder.
TBB: First of all, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? What got you into LEGO and what kept you there?
Aran: My real name is Aran Jitsukawa-Hudson, as some might know. My alter ego as an artist is Cole Blaq, which is a reference to a comic character and an adaption to Hip Hop language.
I am British by origin but mainly grew up in Germany. With my wonderful wife being Japanese, we’re a rich blend of cultures! Now I live in Dusseldorf, Germany, which is located at the river Rhine, north of Cologne.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Johan Alexanderson (LegoJalex) to discuss his building style and approach to the hobby. A part-time web developer, as well as a free-lance illustrator and comic book artist, Johan is 35 years old and lives in Sweden. Come with us as we explore the mind of a builder!
TBB: So how did you get into LEGO building?
LegoJalex: I started building about 5 years ago, after a “dark age” of about 15 years. I had a stressful time then and I really needed something to relax with, so naturally I started to build again. Building with LEGO has so many great memories for me and I really like the creativity involved. I think there are similarities with my interest in drawing and illustrating, where in both you have to think in a creative and artistic way.
This week we were able to talk with Anu Pehrson about her beautiful architectural builds, as well as many other aspects of the hobby. Anu lives in Seattle with her husband David and volunteers a lot of time to help make many different behind-the-scenes aspects of BrickCon run smoothly. She is a very easy person to talk to. If you ever get the chance, spend some time with her. You will be well-rewarded. Until then, however, this interview will have to do! Let’s dive in and explore the mind of a builder.
TBB: Can you give our readers some background on yourself? What is it about LEGO that draws you to it?
Anu: I’m from India. Growing up, there wasn’t much Lego to play with. Someone had gifted my brother a Lego systems set that I commandeered. Every time I sat down with the set, I tried to build something different. That’s how the story of building my own creations started. Then came my dark ages and in 2001 I moved to Seattle where I found Lego in abundance and rekindled my love for building. I built by myself for a few years and then accidently found the local LUG, BrickCon and the online Lego community. I see Lego as more of a medium of Art, rather than a child’s toy. Something that can be used to express one’s feelings, maybe like paint for a painter… As I build more, I use its limitations of being a finite piece of plastic to push its own limits and try to give models an organic and natural feel. Some of the newer parts definitely help in this process.
This week we were fortunate enough to track down Guy Himber. Guy has worked extensively in the film industry with credits for special effects, creature mechanics, makeup and more. He is a prolific Steampunk builder and has authored a book on the subject entitled LEGO Steampunk. He runs the Iron Builder LEGO competition and has founded his own company, CrazyBricks, which manufacturers quirky, short-run, custom pieces compatible with LEGO. Let’s dive in and raid his brain!
TBB: What can you tell our readers about how you got into building with LEGO?
Guy: Like most folks I grew up playing with LEGO as a kid. Countless were the hours I spent building and rebuilding and sorting and blowing up my favorite plastic bricks. The dark ages kicked in around middle school and I didn’t do much with the bricks until I started using them to do some mechanical prototyping for animatronics in the Film Industry (mainly Technic bricks from my old collection). When my son was old enough I got him his first LEGO set and he took to the bricks like his old man and the two us started building more and more sets and then creating massive environments and Jurassic Parks. The fateful AFOL day arrived via a special trip to BrickCon in Seattle many years ago. That was the Con that got me bit by the LEGO bug again and started me building at a serious level.
Today we are fortunate enough to get the chance to explore the mind of Master Mech builder, Mark Neumann! Mark lives with his family in western Washington State and has been a prominent member of the Adult LEGO Fan community for many years. While being know primarily for his awesome Mechs, Mark has also planned and organized many collaborative builds as well as the first BrickCon. In addition to his other efforts, He also recently finished a massive Classic Space SHIP known by her call sign “LL-2016”. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
TBB: Hi Mark, glad to talk to you today! To kick things off, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Mark: Well, ok. Hiya. I have been an adult fan of LEGO since around the year 1999. That would have been when I was walking through a Fred Meyer with my (at the time) girlfriend and spotted something cool in the toy section. Star Wars LEGO. I could get a X-Wing, with Luke Skywalker! Yeah, I racked up some debt on the credit card that day.