Beyond the Brick would like your support on Kickstarter to fund a DVD compiling a series of interviews to take place at this year’s Brickworld in Chicago. You can pledge $20 for a DVD or give more for unique incentives such as a custom creation by Tyler (Legohaulic). Check out the details on Kickstarter.
Master Builders, Master Model Makers, or Master Model Designers are people who work for LEGO or LEGOLAND to design and maintain large-scale displays for the company or theme parks. We’ve taken you behind the scenes at LEGOLAND with the charming and telegenic Gary McIntire, but what’s it like to work as a Master Builder for LEGO’s North American headquarters in Enfield, Connecticut?
Career Thoughts has an interview with Steve Gerling, who brought a more-traditional artist’s eye to the Model Shop 17 years ago.
Kevin Spence: Did you find that a lot of [your sculpture background] translated?
Steve Gerling: Oh, it all translated. Absolutely. Despite the fact that I worked primarily in relief, the sculpture principles were all still there. They were trying to upgrade their models that had human and wildlife themes at that point. They were trying to get something more realistic…. It was a new sculptural medium. We had little pieces of clay that happened to be square.
Check out the full interview on careerthoughts.com.
Mike Doyle spent over 600 hours to create this majestic fantasy cityscape called Odan. The creation depicts the peaceful contact of extraterrestrials with a race of highly spiritual humans. The diorama measures 5′ high by 6′ wide, but more impressive is its consistent quality in every corner as is characteristic of Mike’s focus on detail. We interviewed Mike about his work, which you’ll find below.
The Brothers Brick: How did you determine the visual style of this creation, since it lies half-way between fantasy and science fiction?
Mike Doyle: The visual style evolved over time along with the theme. At first, the intent was to do a piece that was of a medieval society on a spiritually awake planet. It was to be sort of LotR with meditation and the spiritual arts. I was looking at castles for inspiration at that time. You can see the first part of development in the earlier Flickr shots of this.
After creating the Sanctuary Gate (Issis Elb’ien) at the top of the falls, I realized the style of this structure was more appropriate and interesting. It has a bit of an eastern feel or Angkor Wat look. This felt more spiritual to me. So, I went back in and pushed the detail further on the things that I had created and worked to bring in some Asian influences. I also began looking at Mesoamerican structures for inspiration which I later integrated in the piece. Additionally, the theme went from a medieval culture to a space faring one which changed the look a bit.
TBB: What drew you to this style?
MD: This piece corresponds to a new point in my life where spirituality is of high concern to me. I have begun meditating and am working on astral travel. As well have been researching many phenomena that have been reported in the ancient Vedic, Vedic Sanskrit, near death experiences and more. Funny enough, this led me to research ufos which goes hand in hand to all these concepts of spirituality. Inspiration for this came from Dr. Steven Greer, founder of the Disclosure movement and CE5 (close encounters of the fifth kind) protocols for vectoring ETs to his teams’ location. The ufo research transformed the piece from a medieval culture to a spiritually and technically advanced one but still remaining squarely in the spiritual realm. So, I began integrating landing pods (made from metallic Bionical shields. I loved the look of these as they appear like floating lily pads or something organic.
Because the city is an ancient one, I had wanted the main city structure to look somewhat cobbled together as if it had evolved over time. There is little symmetry to it beyond local additions. The style also progresses a bit from the more direct interpretation of castle look on the bottom, to more unusual as you go up.
TBB: How did you plan this massive build? How does the finished product compare to what you initially imagined?
MD: There was not much planning at all beyond looking at some castle artwork. I knew I wanted a castle on a hill and an older city that would work its way up the hills. The process is an organic and intuitive one. I build for a few hours and then stare at it for a while and begin to see what should come next. It is not a totally smooth process. There are areas in the landscape where I pulled up everything and started over. I really only knew I wanted it microscale and very large. I approach each session with prayer as well which seems to help put me in a positive state of flow. I try not to think too much when I build but rather let things happen. I think planning is more like hiking up a mountain. I know basically where I want to go and simply follow a path one step at a time. I don’t know ahead of time the particulars of the trail and try to keep focused on the moment. Generally, like hiking, the path is revealed to me at each twist and turn. Eventually, I find myself at the top of the mountain. Also, if I’m honest with myself, I really stink at planning. Inevitably the process is more a natural one for me to achieve.
As far as comparison to my original vision. It is bigger than what I had originally thought it would be – that is for sure. Also, I didn’t expect it to take a technological twist. Beyond that, I didn’t have a clear picture in the beginning so it’s about what I had hoped it would be.
TBB: What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
MD: I think patience can be difficult. I had expected this only to take 3 or 4 months, but ended up being double that. Also, simply funding this is really tough. I never seem to have enough pieces or enough of the right ones. This and waiting for the orders to come in can be frustrating.
TBB: You did a Kickstarter for this creation once before, that didn’t succeed. What are you doing differently this time on your new Kickstarter project?
MD: Well, I think a few things. Firstly, I have a finished work this time around. This much better capture people’s imagination and interest, I think. In the first attempt, the piece was perhaps only 20% complete and much less impressive. This time around I’m also offering more interesting rewards. For instance, I have five buildings from the model that I have replicated for DIY kits. These kits range anywhere from 220 pieces to around 3000 pieces and include a small fine art print as well as a history of the building in context. Finally, I lowered the funding goal to a more achievable level.
TBB: What will you do with Odan now that it is finished?
MD: The piece itself is in the process of being disassembled for use in future mocs – again, it’s a money thing. As for the series, I changed the original theme from “Odan” based to “Contact” based. The Contact series is designed to promote the beauty of all intelligent life forms as extensions of our family – children under the same creative force. This broadens the whole experience to far more subject matter. I am thinking that my next work will be a representation of expanded consciousness – which will be more abstract in nature. Other pieces could range from tender ET moments – like mothers caring for their young – to contact events to other fictional pieces as Odan was. The story might include a beautiful old Dutch style image of spiritual fruits which some near death experiencers have seen in other worlds. Or perhaps future mocs will simply cover other exotic ET locals. I hope to be interviewing contactees to see what worlds they have seen in their expanded consciousness.
TBB: We noticed that your upcoming publication called Beautiful LEGO features Odan on its cover, can you tell us more about what’s in the book?
MD: The book is a celebration of all the beautiful work I see on the web. It includes work form about 80 designers and has around 380 different pictures of mocs. The book has been treated like a fine art book – which I think is new to LEGO themed books. Pages will have usually 1 or 2 images with a good deal of white space and a simple credit on the bottom. The idea is to elevate building to more of an art level. While many of these mocsmight be familiar to the readers, I have retouched most the pieces – color balanceing and adding complementary backgrounds to freshen the pieces up. To me, many of the mocs seem new simply because the presentation is so much better.
Josh Hanlon of Beyond The Brick has been posting video interviews with well-known fan builders. If you’re not aware of his Youtube channel, here is a list of video interviews posted so far. Josh also covers Lego news, events, and reviews.
- Tyler Clites (Legohaulic)
- Sam Wormuth (-infomaniac-)
- Chris McVeigh (powerpig)
- Blake Baer (Blake’s Baericks)
- Dave Xandegar (briXwerX)
- Evan Bordessa (Lego Junkie.)
Logo by Si-MOCs
Last October at BrickCon 2012, Seattle-area builder Alice Finch unveiled what just might be the largest LEGO structure built by a single person, a near-complete minifig-scale rendition of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books and the corresponding movies.
Alice’s Hogwarts took home both “People’s Choice” and “Best in Show” – a rare combination that demonstrates not only how massive Hogwarts is (“People’s Choice,” voted on by visitors during the public exhibition, invariably goes to the single biggest LEGO model in the exhibition hall) but also just how well-built and detailed it is (“Best in Show” is voted by all convention attendees).
There’s a reason it’s been nearly five months between BrickCon in October and the online unveiling of Alice’s LEGO Hogwarts today — assembling such a huge LEGO structure in the family living room and taking decent pictures of it is virtually impossible. But with help from Carlyle Livingston II (whose collaborative LEGO Batcave build with Wayne Hussey we featured here last fall), Alice’s Hogwarts is ready for its moment in the spotlight.
I sat down with Alice before a recent SEALUG meeting.
LEGO Hogwarts Basics
The Brothers Brick: How long did it take you to build your LEGO Hogwarts?
Alice Finch: I spent 12 months building over an 18-month time span (I was out of the country or working on other projects for the other 6).
TBB: Do you have any idea how many bricks you used?
AF: 400,000 bricks give or take a few. When dealing with this large of a structure, it is very difficult to know how many bricks there are. Some experienced builders have said more, some less, so this is about the middle of the guesses. I do know there are about 10,000 bricks just in the big central staircase to give you a sense of scale. It is built in the shape of an L, where each side is about 13 feet (nearly 4 meters) long.
TBB: That’s a lot of bricks. How much did it cost, and where did you get all that LEGO?
AF: I do not know how much it costs and I don’t really want to know, although lots of other people do. I have ordered most of the tan by the box, and many other parts by the hundreds or thousands from all over the world. For example, most of the sand green roof slopes came from Germany.
Planning and Research
TBB: What I love about your Hogwarts is that it’s not just big, it’s full of wonderful detail, both outside and inside. What are some of your favorite details, and how did you approach the inevitable research?
AF: I did quite a bit of research in the books and movies looking for the smallest of details, things like the old fashioned slide projector in Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class, the location of the potions class, and the wood paneling in the charms classroom.
Much of the time, the book and movie don’t align, so I had to choose what worked best. For example, in the book, the Gryffindor common room is over by the hospital wing as a corner tower, but the tower with the four corner turrets from the movies was visually more important than relative location, so I put it in its own tower like the set.
TBB: What sort of research did you do beyond the books and movies themselves?
AF: I also went to the Harry Potter studio tour in London to see the sets in person. This was tremendously helpful because some sets are only shown from certain angles and seeing them in person meant I could fill in the gaps and take hundreds of photos from all angles. They even had a room full of the architectural drawings! The last room had the model they built for all the wide shots for everything but the last films. It was quite a sight as it was enormous and meant I could get my own photos of panoramas and small architectural details.
Building LEGO Hogwarts
TBB: You have two young sons, and I’m sure LEGO has been in your house for many years. How did you get into building yourself?
AF: I started building about 5 years ago when I was spending a lot of time with my older son in our Lego room. He was doing the building; I was doing the sorting and putting away. After a while, I realized that I really wanted to build too. I haven’t built since I was a kid and once I started building again, it occurred to me that building with my son had important implications. We were spending time together doing something creative, learning techniques and sharing ideas in a very productive way, and, although I didn’t really think about it at the time, I was showing him that moms can be pretty darn good at putting bricks together too.
TBB: What inspired you to tackle such a monumental project?
AF: After a year or so of getting back in the building groove, I started collecting the Harry Potter sets, but I soon realized I was not satisfied with them. I understand why Lego makes sets that are only finished on one side and accessible on the back, but I’ve been to many of the places in Oxford where they filmed and I knew what they really looked like and I wanted to build my own version that was architecturally accurate with 4 walls and a roof, minifigs scale, and also playable for big and little hands. I started with the Great Hall, partly because I’ve eaten in the Dining Hall of Christ Church College that inspired the movie set, and partly because it would establish the scale for the rest of the castle. It had to have 4 tables where students could sit, and it had to have plenty of exterior and interior architectural details.
When the Great Hall and the rocks that went under it were finished, I kept looking at it thinking, wow, this is huge! How am I going to build the rest of this since it already takes up my entire Lego table? I tried to figure out how to make it smaller, but since it worked just the way I wanted it to, I just let it be. After the Great Hall, I built the big round tower, and then the building with the challenges for the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Quidditch Courtyard, Hospital Wing and bridge over to the Clock Tower and Courtyard. That is all I managed to finish in time for BrickCon 2011, but I learned an awful lot about substructures, building rocks, and just how much time and material it takes to build a large-scale project.
TBB: The first stages of Hogwarts you shared at BrickCon 2011 were certainly impressive. But you kept right on going!
AF: I continued on by finishing the sides of the courtyard with the Chamber of Secrets and the archway. Even though I took a few months off here and there for various reasons, I was pretty much always thinking of how to solve a tricky building situations, like how to get the beams in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom just right (lots of brown legs) or how to build the Cornish pixies (I looked through all the parts made in blue, ordered the ones that I thought might be useful, and puzzled it out.)
In May I realized that I had so much yet to complete on my ever growing list of scenes that I wanted to build that I had to kick it into turbo build mode or else I would never finish in time for BrickCon 2012. So, from May until October, I stayed up until 1 or so in the morning building lighting into the floor of the Room of Requirement, a forest for the thestrals, library shelves, and a tower of pink cups in Divination,.
When I could, I’d build during the day with my two boys in the Lego room, doing things like building the layer upon layer of the now even bigger central tower that would accommodate moving staircases and portraits in the walls. I was pretty tired of course after months of staying up late, but I think adrenaline kept me going. I just had to finish and so I kept working until I did.
My older son likes setting up scenes so he posed many of the hundreds of students and professors all over the castle. My younger son helped by testing the sturdiness of the buildings, the usability of the classrooms, and he contributed several charmingly wobbly shrubs down by Hagrid’s hut.
My husband helped where he could with things like the conical roofs (which were drat tricky to build), the harp in the room with Fluffy, giving a second opinion here and there, but mostly he helped by reading to me while I worked. That and never flinching at the enormous number of bricks that kept arriving by the box and oozing into all the rooms of the house.
The Future of LEGO Hogwarts
TBB: Your Hogwarts won both “People’s Choice” and “Best in Show” at BrickCon last October. Now that all these gorgeous photos are online, I suspect it’s also about to go viral. Did you have any idea it would become so popular?
AF: After building on it for this long, and being tired on top of it, I didn’t really have any idea of how it would be received by my peers. I had invested a tremendous amount of effort (and money) into it because I loved building my own bit of reality for the world of Harry Potter and because I wanted my kids to be able to play in all the spaces where the story takes place, but I didn’t really think about how others would view it. Enormous perhaps, but beyond that, I just didn’t know.
TBB: What do you have planned next for all the bricks tied up in Hogwarts?
AF: I don’t plan on taking it apart anytime soon. My older son has read the books and has enjoyed playing various adventures all over the castle. Even though my younger son hasn’t read the books, he has seen snippets of the movies and a lot of the books and pictures that I used as reference and so he has gleaned enough to happily play along. When he is old enough to read the books, then the sections of the castle will come out from under their dust clothes and courtyards and forest from their boxes to be played with anew.
This week’s builder is a MOCpages luminary who has racked up countless hits, comments and fans since his online debut in 2007. Known as much for his inventive and humorous Sci-Fi storylines as his clever building, Rob Ludgonious has a unique style that continues to evolve. I sat down with Emperor Ludgonious of the Ludgonian Industrial Union (LIU) in a washing-machine sized conveyance inside the Gateway Arch in his hometown of St. Louis Missouri. We talked about Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom”, Stratocasters vs. Telecasters and the enduring legacy of Elton Mayo. We also talked about LEGO.
KG: Talk about your theme the LIU, its beginnings and what is it about the theme that gives you seemingly endless inspiration to build?
RL Believe it or not, the LIU is a variation of a theme I created as a child. My three siblings and I had a large LEGO town in which each of us controlled one family. For some reason that I still don’t understand today, economics and money played a huge role in our town. Even our families were named by their economic rank. Being the oldest and having the most bricks, my family was known as the ‘First Richest’. My next oldest sibling, controlled the ‘Second Richest’ and so on. My family, the “First Richest’, owned a company called LLL that had a monopoly over transportation, fuel, communications, and other vital services. At one point, we started forcing each other to pay for various town services in LEGO (usually in LEGO coins). Being the richest and most powerful family, I never had problems obtaining the few resources my other siblings controlled. Eventually their businesses folded, and the LLL assumed ownership of the entire town.
I went through a semi-Dark Age during college, mostly because I was away from my collection. I never really lost interest in the bricks, so I began searching for LEGO online. It was then that I stumbled upon MOCpages. I became particularly interested in some of the totalitarian space themes, including the Iron Reich. When I eventually returned to LEGO, my first instinct was to modify my childhood economic theme (LLL) into my own space theme, the Ludgonian Industrial Union (LIU). The greatest thing about the LIU is its scope. Being an entity that controls an entire galaxy and billions of planets, there is really no limit my inspirations. Some citizens live on ultra-high tech worlds with all the amenities, while citizens on an adjacent agricultural world may be living in medieval squalor. This broad range allows me to take inspiration from nearly anything imaginable.
KG: A casual comparison of your first offerings in 2007 and new work reveals a distinct progression in not only building prowess but also presentation skill. Was it just a natural 5 year evolution, or did you make distinct efforts to improve in some areas?
RL I made a distinct effort to improve. When I first returned to building, I got overly excited about posting things and telling a story. I often rushed to throw together a MOC just so I could post it. On MOCpages, this was sufficient enough to elicit several comments of praise, and there was really no motivation to improve. I was reaping rewards for some pretty sub-par builds (I cringe when I revisit some of my older stuff). After a while, the euphoric feelings I got from the comments started to wear off, and I started to see my builds for what they really were, crap. At that point, I made an effort to improve both my building and presentation skills. I befriended some of the more advanced builders on MOCpages and joined Flickr so that my builds would be truly scrutinized, and I could get some honest feedback. I slowed down and started focusing on quality instead of quantity.
KG: You are one of the rare builders that values the story as much as the build itself. Describe your process: does the building or part restrictions limit what you write? Is the story complete before you build? And has there ever been an idea you couldn’t bring to life?
RL: I always start with a basic idea and maybe a few plot points. Every build is a little different in this regard, sometimes I have more of structured plot, other times, I just have a really vague idea. The story really starts to take shape after a I build a few scenes. These first scenes set the tone for the whole story. I find it’s easier to develop settings, characters and a plot after looking at the beginning builds. Sometimes, the story develops and some of the initial scenes don’t seem to fit anymore. I have a folder with a growing number of scrapped scenes.
Part restrictions don’t usually restrict what I write. If a part is that important to the story, I’ll usually buy it. In the past, I’ve changed or altered a story when a build didn’t turn out the way I envisioned. Sometimes my ideas are too grandoise.
There have been ideas that I could not bring to life in the scale that I initially envisioned, but I’m still able to bring a them to life in some form or another. Size and space seem to be my biggest restrictions, but I also find it harder to photograph large MOC’s. These factors often limit the scale in which I can bring an idea to life.
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.
This week’s builder is one of those rare people in the hobby that seems to be universally loved. As hard as I tried and no matter how much money I spread around I could not dig up any dirt on Simon Liu, so either he’s some kind of “made” Canadian mobster or he really is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. Renowned for his neverending wealth of ideas, giant bag of techniques and immaculate photography, Simon has made quite a mark for himself in North America and beyond. I caught up with Simon in the cafeteria of the Adelaide Street Court House in his home town of Toronto, where I was dealing with charges of “stalking” Geddy Lee. As if you can stalk your own father. We talked about cloud particle collision hypothesis, The Oilers Vs. The Flames and the future of erotic animatronics. We also talked about LEGO.
KG: Talk about your Iron Builder throwdown, according to an interview you did with Joshua and Matthew on Beyond the Brick . Did Guy Himber really ply you with alcohol until you agreed to compete? Talk about the experience and the popular contest in general.
SL: Haha. It was true, it was at Brickworld 2012, there was alcohol and an unwillingness on my part to initially do it. The spectre of public humiliation at the hands of one of the mighty Iron Builders was weighing heavily on me. But several libations later and an impassioned “Guts and Glory” speech convinced me otherwise (though my memory is a bit hazy for some reason).
I think what makes this an extremely popular competition to watch (now with it’s own flickr group!) is twofold: 1) It’s fun to watch – it’s a builder showdown, add in serious bragging rights and trash talk for amusement 2) the builds that come out of it are nothing short of inspired. By virtue of making the builders go at it for an entire month with the same stupid peice means you will get a lot of really clever piece usages (and yes, I’m so sick of my stupid piece).
As for actually competeing in it, it was unlike anything I have ever done, I was up against Kahan (Tadashistate) who I believe is the longest sitting Iron Builder at the time (ever?). In anticipation for my bout (and trust me, it felt like a fight!) I sorted as much LEGO as I could so that I could build with utter efficiency. The entire month was almost like working two jobs, after getting home from my fake job, I would sit down and force myself to build. Oh and Guy was right, some of my best builds I have ever done was in that very tiring month of September (see above, and some more hidden below).
KG Translucent parts sometimes get a bad rap for being of limited use but you’ve employed them to great effect. What attracts you to said parts and do you approach their use in a different way?
SL: I think a lot of people’s perceptions around translucent parts is dictated by the theme(s) they build in. For me, it’s Sci-Fi, which is the natural pairing for translucent pieces. If you were a town builder I could see how useless a large trans green dome would be.
But even Sci-Fi and Spacers don’t always use a lot of trans pieces – outside of obvious canopy and engines uses. With the exception of the surreal builds by Cole Blaq, I actually can’t think of many that has a really deep build portfolio with trans piece usage. I find it’s really about your own personal build style/aesthetic. I’ve always loved that Bladerunner-cyberpunk feel for cities, and I’ve (subconsciously) applied that trans glowing aesthetic to ships and other builds – almost at pointless nauseum.
It also helps that I know that there are certain tricks you can play with blacklighting and translucent pieces (thanks to Brandon (Catsy) and his pioneering work), which adds that extra bang for your buck.
So I plan some builds entirely around the use of blacklighting, such as my Ace Chemical Plant (below) where I wanted that glow from the toxic vats. Others builds the trans pieces were added as an afterthought, such as my Micro Troop ship (above) where I had completely built the ship before retrofitting it to ride that glittering C-Beam.
Ultimately I think the trans piece usage really depends on what people have in their collection, and a lot of these pieces aren’t overly common or comes in ones or twos in a set. Which results in most people having limited options unless you’re specifically buying them.
KG: You recently participated in a completion at the Toronto LEGO Discovery center with the title of Master Builder on the line. Describe the experience, and what is it like to build under pressure with an audience?
SL: It was a two day building affair, with 200 applicants building and progressing through four elimination rounds (all contestants, top 50, top 25, and top 12) with the job of the Master Builder at stake. The first round was crazy, so many builders trying to stand out and you really only had 20 minutes! Thankfully the subsequent rounds they gave us a bit more time (30, 45 and an hour). .
I’ve done some pressure builds before, from Iron Builder to “Oh we need to finish this by WHEN?” and the even more dreaded: “What do you mean it disintegrated in my suitcase?”… but this was something else, typically you’re used to YOUR bricks, nicely (or usually not so nicely) sorted and a vast array of specialty pieces. At the competition we were given unlimited amounts of roughly 10 unique basic bricks.
So in addition to unfamiliar bricks, limited time, you have a large audience watching your every move (and judges!). Some of the builders used the audience to their advantage, spending possibly more time than they should interacting with them, getting advice or taking build requests. There were other contestants that focused too much and built really spectacular builds but didn’t really interact with the kids.
But in the end it’s about the combination of the two, as the LEGO Discovery centers are an interactive park for kids, it makes sense that you need someone that can build and entertain kids. And I really think they choose the right person (go Greame!). It was also a pleasant surprise to meet many really gifted builders who just came out of the woodworks and have no realization that there is an actual AFOL community out there.
And I’m also happy to brag that three of our ToroLUG members made it to the final 12!
This week’s builder is a hot mess from Ankara Turkey whose clean builds and steady leadership has helped define the burgeoning LEGO fan scene in his venerable country. Cagri Yuz isn’t content being married to one theme, preferring to jump around from trains to sci-fi to micro builds of Turkey’s many world heritage sites. I caught up with Cagri at the Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia. We talked about the timeless mystery of baby shampoo, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk vs George Washington and muscat grapes. We also talked about LEGO.
CY: I was suffering from a builder’s block and I did the only logical thing I could do. I came up with a surreal creation which nobody could object. People ask puzzled questions about the nature of this MOC and they’re all worried that they have failed to understand the logic behind it. It’s funny to watch how insecure the humankind is when we face a slightly confusing problem. It was just a pile of bricks really, nothing else. Joking aside, it’s not an entirely meaningless creation. I wanted to point out the hatred against women among men and hence the title “Misogyny”. I may have done this somewhat brutally but it is what it is. I had a similar creation titled Reconstruction and I may build more in the future, why not? But don’t ask the secret behind Reconstruction, there isn’t any. I simply enjoyed the colors, simplicity and arrangement of parts.
CY: I didn’t really know there was an upcoming TMNT theme. Ever since I saw the claws in 6866 Wolverine’s Chopper Showdown, I wanted to build myself a Shredder figure. Then came the rest of the characters. I’m quite happy how they turned out in the end. I especially like my April O’neil figure. She was my first crush as a kid and apparently I’m still sort of attached to her, even in the form of a plastic toy. I think this last one sounded a little bit weird? Anyways, I’m not particularly interested in the new TMNT line. 2012 series is quite different than the 1987 one which I’m familiar with. I didn’t enjoy the overall design of models and characters. That’s not a bad thing though, I get to keep my brick-money for other themes.
KG: That isn’t weird at all, I had a similar thing for Princess Ariel from Thundarr. You know, “Ariel, Ookla, Ride!” and whatnot. Moving on.
KG: Like many in our hobby, you suffer from a rare syndrome that causes you to consume LEGO in large quantities. Talk about this problem, and do you have any other issues with the brick you’d like to come clean about?
CY: Hello, my name is Cagri and I’m a LEGO addict. I was first introduced to this menace by my parents when I was a kid and I can’t quit. It has taken all my mind and all my money. Every single coin I can spare in my piggy bank goes to this plastic addiction. I have an unstoppable impulse to build every single thing I see in the world. I loose touch with reality once I start observing things in the streets so that I can build them later on. It’s hazardous for me wander around on my own. I have been subject to many traffic accidents trying to catch a glimpse of things around me. I need continuous assistance to survive in everyday life. I admit, my LEGO problem is injurious… But seriously, LEGO gives us the power to create anything. Everyone wants to shape the world as they wish, that’s just not practical. With LEGO parts, we can actually make our dreams come true without too much hassle. I love to hold that power in my hands. I may be unable to change things in real life but once my shift is over and I go home, I can do whatever I like all night long. I keep building until I get sore eyes. I am the master of darkness!
This week’s builder is a crony of mine going back to 2007 where I met him in a smoke-filled hotel room in Seattle, on the first night of BrickCon. I can’t quite recall everything that happened that night, or the rest of the weekend, but we ended up with matching tattoos and invitations from Seattle’s court system to come back in a few weeks for another visit. You probably know Andrew Lee from his kick-ass models posted on Flickr and his many appearances on TBB, either as a solo act or with his band RoninLUG. Part of what drew me to Andrew online and was later reinforced in person was his irreverence and cutting sense of humor. If you’re throwing an AFOL party, you need Andrew Lee on the list. I sat down with Andrew for some carne asada at his beachfront apartment in Los Angeles, California. We talked about Burning Chrome, Oakenfold vs. Tiesto and CR-Z meets. We also talked about LEGO.
The Brothers Brick is a blog by and for adult fans of LEGO. Occasionally, the people we interview talk about adult beverages and use adult language. This is one such case.-ed.
KG: Many builders have OCD when it comes to their collections. Do you have any of these traits, and what traits have you seen in others?
AL: I personally believe OCD like many mental illnesses is present in all people but in varying degrees. AFOLs just tend to have it manifest in a much more visible fashion. I definitely suffer from a mild to severe case of OCD – depending on how you look at it. My collection for the most part is fully sorted by part and/or color. For me it’s an efficiency thing. Builds go quicker starting from a sorted collection and I’m able to store more bricks if they’re sorted. I tend to recycle my builds quickly and keeping everything in order helps that process as well.
I’ve seen the whole spectrum of OCD in other builders. I know people who keep their new and old grays separate (a mild case) and I know people who have museum like displays of every part ever made (an extreme case).
KG: How did you build your collection? Did you have a strategy in mind and do you ever feel like you have too much LEGO? Have you ever had any weird interactions with people in the LEGO section of your local store?
AL: I, like many others, have built my collection in an organic fashion. Sets from my childhood are mixed in with pick-a-brick purchases, cracklink orders, retail deals, LUGbulk scores, comfort purchases, and secret supplier hook-ups. From a macro perspective there’s very little strategy for growth. I tend to buy parts for whatever current project I’ve got going on or am wooed by the latest additions to the parts palette. You can never have too much Lego if it’s properly managed. The tell-tale sign of having too much Lego is if it’s easier to buy a new set for a part you already own. I’m looking at you DanR.
KG: Do you ever build in an altered state? We both enjoy a good bowl of soup from time to time, do you think it enhances the building experience, and if so, how?
Caffeine, alcohol, and loud music are all frequent contributors to my building process. I really don’t think you can quantify the risks or rewards of building in different mind states except through personal experience.
That being said I notice that I am more creative and free with the bricks when I’m chilled out.
As for soup I’d recommend going with the chicken tortilla with a healthy dose of fresh cilantro to get that mojo brewing.
KG: You are a founding member of RoninLUG. How did this LUG come to exist, describe its membership, and how does it differ from traditional LUGs. What happened with the famous “stickering incident” in SF?
AL: RoninLUG came to exist because of a common love of mecha, samurai, and cold beer. The core founding members are myself, Paul Meissner, and Fradel Gonzales who years ago started kicking it at each other’s pads and messing around with each other’s bricks. One fateful night fueled by cheap beer and cheap Exo-Force sets we formalized RoninLUG as the name of our informal brotherhood. Paul and Fradel even lived in the same place for a period of time which became the default headquarters — imagine the Ninja Turtles’ sewer lair with slightly less pizza and a ton of Lego.
We differ from traditional LUGs in that we just do our own thing. There are no official meetings, no formal organization, and definitely no rules. Our membership has grown rapidly and organically since those early days but everyone involved gets the common vibe. It’s a special thing to be a Ronin.
Ah the “stickering incident of 2010” — well, let’s just say some of our younger members got a little overzealous with expanding our epic cyber city layout. It didn’t help that they stickered some crotchety train dude’s MOC with a Shepard Fairey sticker who then proceeded to throw a huge tantrum. To be honest I wasn’t even really involved in the incident itself or the resolution — I think I was out in the parking lot with a bunch of hooligans at the time.
This weeks builder gives the people what they want, epic scale buildings with meticulous detail and a side order of architectural history. Detroit’s own Jim Garrett has an ego inversely proportional to the size of his skyscrapers and a quiet approach that deserves your worthy attention. I met Jim next to the Spirit of Detroit statue outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit Michigan. We talked about The pitfalls of urban exploration, The Temptations Vs. The Four Tops and Disco Demolition night at Tiger Stadium. We also talked about LEGO.
KG: Talk about the challenges and epicness that is your Penobscot Building, the one you couldn’t assemble all at once inside your domicile. Is that the limit of manageable size, or do you plan to push it further?
JG: While the Penobscot is my tallest model, it is not the largest. The Penobscot Building model’s main difficulty was figuring out how to pack all of those setbacks on the upper floors and still stick with the near-minifig scale of the model. Detail was not too much of a problem since architect Wirt C. Rowland was expressing a certain modernist simplicity. The model is designed in 12 sections which, when I transport it to a train show, almost entirely fill a Jeep Cherokee including its front passenger seat. It weighs about 165 pounds and provides a small workout to set up especially since it is now usually displayed as part of my model of the entire Penobscot Block. The block has four other buildings ranging from 1 to 6 feet high that bring the total weight to about 400 pounds and requires a full size Ford Econoline van to transport. Since many people outside of Detroit are probably not familiar with the Penobscot Building, I will simply mention that this 47 story structure was the 5th tallest office building in the world in 1928 and its design may have partially influenced the shape of the Empire State Building which was built in 1931. Google it if you have to.
If I was younger, I would probably move on to a 17 foot high model of the Chrysler Building (it would have looked good in Detroit) in the same scale. As it is I will have to be content with the my upcoming model of the Guardian Building (“only” 8 feet high).
KG: Talk about your love of Detroit’s architecture that goes beyond the brick. What brought you out of your dark-age, and did you already have a list of buildings in mind before you started accumulating bricks?
JG: My interest in architecture ironically had little to do with the ending of my LEGO dark-age. What got me back into LEGO was Peter Jackson’s LOTR and in particular Alan Lee’s design of Orthanc. After seeing “The Two Towers”, I dragged out what was left of the LEGO bricks from my childhood and tried to build a LEGO model of Orthanc. While I thought I had a large LEGO collection as a kid, it really wasn’t when you try to build a 4.5 foot high tower completely in black. I found myself purchasing new LEGO for the first time in many years. I recently replaced this, my first AFOL creation, with a more accurate 8 foot high version.
After the original Orthanc model was completed, only then did I turn my thoughts to what to do next. That is when my love for architecture kicked in and I soon decided to build Detroit. I was not able to travel much when I was younger and so the only large city that I was really familiar with was Detroit. There is something about those old Art Deco towers reaching skyward that captured my imagination. New York has all that and to a much greater degree of course but it is not “my” city.
KG: What are the biggest challenges to building on a scale that is usually reserved for theme parks. Do you employ any glue or non-LEGO support elements?
JG: Money and organization. My construction techniques are usually pretty straightforward; I use SNOT and other methods but only when traditional brick construction will not suffice. None of my buildings use glue or non-LEGO parts; paired technic beams with 2×8 or 2×16 plates above and below make pretty strong structural elements. One lesson I learned early was not to employ used LEGO bricks, since they create a “weakest link in the chain”; my first version of the Fisher Building collapsed in ruin when I tried to move it because of a few 30 year old bricks.
David Alexander Smith recently interviewed former LEGO designer Bjarne Tveskov, responsible for creating many of the iconic LEGO Space sets from the “Classic” era of the 80’s and 90’s, including favorite themes like Blacktron.
DS: Was the reverse engineering required to build the alternative builds considered a play element (I loved making these models just from the pictures).
BT: To some degree, yes. Mainly it was and is a question of ressources; it’s takes a lot of time and effort to create building instructions, so for LEGO play themes there were generally only one main model. But especially with the smaller sets the customers had a decent chance of reverse egnineering the B-models. I recall doing the B-models for the Blacktron Alienator, a set with a really nice assortment of elements. I still quite like this set and the alternative models are rather different from the main model. (Also like how the box design guys made the footprints on the space surface at the image on the back of the box, even though the model isn’t actually able to lift it’s feet from the ground!)
Read the full interview over on MOCPages.com.