Tag Archives: Interview

The people behind the fascinating LEGO models we feature here are just as interesting! Read interviews with notable LEGO builders, LEGO book authors, LEGO set designers, and many others right here on The Brothers Brick.

Carter Baldwin: Just keep the furries out.-Boilerplate & Beyond Vol. 17

My next guest is from the post-LUGNET generation, a college-age wunderkind with a penchant for the machines of war. Carter Baldwin is an accomplished builder, collaborator and veteran of the American convention circuit who has inspired a legion of younger builders with his innovative designs. I sat down with Carter at Pat’s King of Steaks restaurant in Carter’s home town of Philadelphia at 3am PST. We talked about wine, women and song. We also talked about LEGO.

The Build

KG: I’ve read a few older builders grousing about how all the fancy new parts take all the skill and fun out of building. React to that attitude or to old cranky builders in general.

CB: I actually haven’t seen this attitude too much within the AFOL community, but I see it constantly whenever a build leaks out onto the wider internet. Invariably, there will be the ‘this is cheating, in my day we only had 2×4 bricks in three colors, and we liked it that way! there’s no creativity anymore!’  I hate that attitude. Tim Gould made an excellent graphic of all the one-use specialized parts that were available in 1980, but I can never track it down quickly enough to avoid remembering that arguing with internet strangers is a pyrrhic endeavor at best.


I’d agree that the ’90s saw a proliferation of useless parts that lead to the well documented juniorization of sets, but the past decade has been a bonanza of amazing new parts. In particular we’re seeing a lot more excellent small parts, which really boosts the fine grain detail that’s now possible. We’re seeing a lot less of the pixelation that used to define Lego builds. Fans of Lego who haven’t picked up a brick in a couple decades can’t deal with that, but I haven’t heard any actually active builders complaining.

KG: How important is it when designing a model that you employ a new technique? Does the want to use a specific technique ever drive a model? if so can you give an example.

CB: It’s become less important to me over time. When I first entered the internet community I tried to do that with every build, do something that hadn’t been tried before, or at least do it better than I’d seen it.

I think now I build shapes rather than techniques. I have enough of a library of tricks that I don’t have to worry too much about how to achieve a connection, but forcing all those connections to form the shape I want is the new challenge. My Golem Hardsuit would be a good example; I knew the shapes I wanted to achieve; the techniques I came up with to get there weren’t particularly exciting or novel.

And, in the end, I cribbed a ton of ideas from Chris and Rabadan.

KG: You recently took part in a popular and imitated Flickr Group called called World In Confict:2070. Describe this group to our readers and your experience as a participant of the group?

CB: World in Conflict started about two and a half years ago as a general repository for the various unconnected faction sorts of things that a bunch of us had floating around at the time – my own NATO faction, Craig’s South American Coalition, Forest’s amoral PMCs, Dane’s biomechanical atrocities, and others. We certainly didn’t start the trend of faction building – NickDean is probably the best known originator, but I’m pretty sure people have been building private armies for as long as Lego has had greyscale bricks.

Once we had all these factions under one roof, naturally the next step was to slug it out. We developed a complex ad hoc system that was part model UN, part wargaming, and part tabletop-style roleplaying and carved out a cyberpunk storyline that meshed with our collective vision for our imaginary universe. Since this was a long-term and long-distance group, we couldn’t simply play BrikWars in order to determine tactical prowess; instead, we built scenes to depict our movements on a more strategic scale.

Drawing the LinesAs much fun as we had with slaughtering the other sides cannon fodder and blowing up tanks/bunkers/cities, the really interesting thing that came out of the game was the storytelling. Due to the interest in the stories of the scenes we built, we created a public group for others to follow the WiC narrative, and I think it’s the persistent narrative of the game universe that inspired a number of similar groups.

World in Conflict is two years old now and starting to show signs of winding down – while the game has always had lulls in activity between spikes of conflict, this latest hiatus has been particularly stubborn and long-lasting. But fans who have been watching the storyline don’t need to worry; there are plans to end at least the current incarnation of WiC with a proper finish.

Read the full interview after the jump!

Leigh Holcombe: The masked avenger inside us all – Boilerplate & Beyond Vol. 16

My next guest destroys the long held belief in the community that a builder must always keep the proper signal to noise ratio. Although Leigh Holcombe has a stable of well built and some might say handsome models, he may be best known for his numerous postings in various LEGO related fora. Armed with a sharp wit and a willingness to use it, this keen observer of the community has made his own mark through the years. I caught up with Leigh, better known as worker201, on a barren stretch of flatland about halfway between Houston and Waco Texas. We talked about the ELF, the WTO and ELO. We also talked about LEGO.

The Build

J-Flo's Flower ShopKG: Your early builds were mostly in the sci-fi or military genres, but then you switched to chairs and a bit of town with J-Flo’s flower shop. Was there a reason behind the switch, and in a perfect world, what direction appeals to you the most? Do you think builders in general, get too locked into one genre?

LH: I think sci-fi is the geek default, because the designers in that field literally get paid to ignite the imaginations of their audience – being inspired by that genre is so easy. It’s a lot harder to get inspired while walking through IKEA, but I swear it does happen.

Chair Study #2I think this hobby is a textbook cross-section of different levels of obsession and focus – of course some builders get bogged down in a single genre, and some can’t sit still long enough to even have a genre. I’m somewhere in the middle – eventually, I’d like to build something castle or train, but I’ll probably make more spaceships too.

KG: Many young builders begin by recreating the work of builders who came before them. You, however, came in on the ground floor of the hobby or very near to it, so where did you look when you started building?

LH: When I was a kid, back in the late 70s, there was nobody else – just me, the bricks, and the back of the box. I think that’s how it was for most AFOLs. My dark age ended when the Star Wars sets first came out – I couldn’t believe how awesome that first Snowspeeder set was. Then I got on the internet and found Shaun Sullivan’s AT-ST , which was really inspirational to me. He posted instructions for it, and they helped me to remember all the techniques I had forgotten. Realizing that something so awesome was made with basic bricks attached with normal clicking techniques really flipped a switch for me.

KG: Whether it is a job, school, deployment, health issue or even a stay in prison, like many builders, you have been in a position where you want to build for an extended period of time but have not been able to. As the time goes by does it make you think about LEGO more or less? Does it change your mind-set on building, and when you do get a chance to build, does it change anything?

LH: Oh, it’s tough. Lego is a creative outlet and a stress reliever, and not having it is like trying to quit smoking. Plus, keeping up with Flickr and TBB every day puts inspirational stuff in front of me all the time, and I can’t do anything about it. I have so many hypothetical projects lined up, and I’m afraid I’ll never get around to them. The only time I really get to build is when I visit my nephew – and then, I’m mostly making stuff to impress him, like big guns and weird minifig combinations.Grasshopper Drone - 3

The Community

KG: You created a popular and polarizing fan-forum called Stajinaria when the equally popular and polarizing JLUG went down. Talk about those two forums, what they formed in a reaction to, why they ended and what they offered that was unique. Is AFOL 16+ the latest version of this tradition?

LH: I don’t know exactly what Janey and Ross were thinking when they started JLUG, but it pretty quickly became the home of community criticism. At that time, Lugnet and Classic Space Forums were dealing with censorship and leadership issues, and the people at JLUG seemed to enjoy calling out what they deemed hypocrisy and conservativism in those communities. After JLUG disappeared, a lot of its members decided that the group of people was more important than the site, so I took it upon myself to create a new home for “merry pranksters”. Someone accused JLUG once of being a ‘staging area’ where mischevious activists planned their shenanigans (not one of which was planned), which is where Stajinaria got its name.STAJINARIA

Many of the core group are still internet friends today, but the mass migration of the community to Flickr made the forum extraneous, so I shut it down earlier this year. Both sites were based on the sandbox rule – if you don’t like the rules in someone else’s sandbox, make your own sandbox. AFOL 16+ was a sandbox that didn’t allow young kids, who were becoming an increasing annoyance in the Flickr Lego group. I think it started out with a bunch of venom and righteousness, but now I think of it as just another group of people who are familiar enough with each other to kid around and be sarcastic. (I also run Lego 35+, a place where grownups can interact, but nobody ever goes there.)

Read the full interview after the jump!

Gilcélio Chagas: If you die it’s my turn. – Boilerplate & Beyond Vol. 15

After a brief hiatus the Boilerplate & Beyond interview series returns with another baker’s dozen of builders from around the planet. This time around we’re starting in Brazil with Gilcélio Chagas who brings a much needed breath of fresh air to the hobby with his diverse mix of building skill, sense of adventure, Latin good looks and as this interview will illustrate, a way with the ladies. I recently sat down with Gilcélio, rocketing across the Third Bridge towards his home town of Vila Velhas. We talked about the Treaty of Tordesillas, Pele Vs. Messi and how Vila Velhas earned its nickname “the land of green shins”. We also talked about LEGO.

The Build

Rescue vehicle Pisten bully.(snowcat)KG: A perusal of your photo-stream on Flickr makes it clear that you love building large-scale cars. How do you approach building vehicles and which vehicle has been the most challenging to build?

GC: I don’t have a rule to make my builds, I always start with the difficult part of the car, that way I expend less time if I can’t make it. Of course it’s more common for me to start from the front, that in most cases has more details and requires more attention.

The most challenging vehicle for me comes from a movie called Gran Torino, directed by Clint Eastwood, the car gives the movie its name, and every time that I see the film I get crazy to make it in LEGO, the curves gives a difficult special touch in this adventure.

KG: When working on a difficult model, how much advice from other builders to you typically ask for, or do you prefer to go it alone? When you give building advice, do you consider the builder’s feelings or try to be as honest as possible?

GC: Sometimes it is important to ask for a second opinion, who is riding puts a bit of feeling in the assembly and it ends up getting in the end result, the second opinion can be used exactly for this, take away the sentimentalism part and assess impartially.

I think I asked for advice twice, the first was the Dodge Charger that I asked the opinion of Lino who gave important tips for the project and the second time was my most important project in the island desalination that I counted on help from Nannan who was a very important aid.

LEGO 1968 Dodge Charger

Thanks Lino and Nannan.

Giving this kind of advice is very complicated without knowing the inventory of the builder. Imagine that you request to modify some point of the project without knowing if they have the required piece or not. When I’m gonna give a tip I try to be honest, of course every project must have the characteristics of the builder.

KG: You have drawn inspiration from the ultimate video game system, the Atari 2600. Is it just nostalgia that drives you to build in 8-bit style or is there something more? Also, what games would you like to tackle in the future?

GC: When I started with Atari 2600 project, I had in my mind the idea to immortalize in Lego pieces the Atari games that a lot of people have never heard before, and I couldn’t let this important part of my childhood die in this way.


What made the Atari so good was the fact that if you wanted to play with someone you had to go into the house of a friend. There was nothing online, it was all in someone’s home and that made the game even cooler this interaction and simplicity of the games. “If you die it’s my turn.”

And that’s the reason that I’ve made my projects so simple, without many resources because Atari was like that, simple and captivating.

The Community

KG: Describe LUG Brasil. How did you come into contact with the LUG and what happens at a typical meeting? Both the United States and Brazil are among the most racially diverse countries on the planet, but unfortunately most American LUGs do not reflect this diversity. Can the same be said for Brazil?

GC: The LUG Brasil is an excellent place for Lego lovers like us, we have great builds there, challenges, meets, tips, and things related with this hobby that we have in common. My contact is basically by the internet and face to face meeting when it’s possible.

We have a good diversity of the Brazilian population, here you can find all kind of races, sex, religions etc. But the LEGO in Brasil is very expensive, sometimes the price is so high as to be 4 times greater in other countries, which makes LEGO access more difficult to the people with less purchasing power.

Read the full interview after the jump!

To Go Beyond the Brick

A new episode of Joshua Hanlon and Matthew Kay’s Beyond the Brick podcast was just released, featuring an interview with yours truly. I openly acknowledge that this is a shameless self-plug, but I’m not recommending their show simply because I was on it, but rather because they do terrific work. They’ve featured tons of awesome people in the LEGO community, many of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog, such as castlers extraordinaire Sean and Steph Mayo, LEGO Community representative Kevin Hinkle, steampunk demigod Guy Himber, and cheese-slope master Katie Walker. So go check out their podcast, and hear what some fellow Adult Fans of LEGO have to say in their own words.

Mission to Mars: An Interview with MSL Curiosity Rover builder Stephen Pakbaz

UPDATE (June 14, 2013): Stephen’s LEGO Curiosity Rover will be the next LEGO CUUSOO set!


The Brothers Brick has featured the Mars Rover Curiosity CUUSOO project before as one of the more original and stand out projects on LEGO CUUSOO right now. But here is a surprising factoid, the creator of this model, Stephen Pakbaz, aka Perijove, was an actual engineer for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and worked on designing the very same Mars Rover in real life! The Brothers Brick decided to interview Stephen.

MSL Rover 06

TBB: Tell us about your background?

Perijove: I received my Bachelors Degree at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana, majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Aerospace and a minor in Electrical Engineering, and then a Masters Degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego in California.

TBB: What was your position at Jet Propulsion Laboratory?

Perijove: My position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a Mechanical Engineer in the Structures and Configurations Group. I also sometimes took on the responsibilities of a Cognizant Engineer.

TBB: Can you tell us about your work on the Curiosity Rover?

PA070020Perijove: The Curiosity rover was the first spacecraft I ever worked on after I finished with school in 2007. Even back then, the rover development was well underway, but there was still a lot of design, assembly, and testing left to do. I took part in all of these activities. I designed parts like brackets and covers and was responsible for their development all the way through delivering them to the technicians that would put them on the rover. Other tasks included writing procedures, assembling, and testing things like telecommunications systems and antennas. Types of testing included vibration, shock, and thermal-vacuum to simulate the different environments that would be experienced by the rover. One particularly fun test was bolting an engineering model of Curiosity to a 50 foot diameter centrifuge and spinning it up to over 20 g’s in order to simulate the forces the rover would experience during entry into the Martian atmosphere.

TBB: How long have you been a Lego enthusiast?

Perijove: I have been a LEGO enthusiast since at least elementary school. My own collection, at the time, was mostly pieces like simple bricks and wheels, but I would often play with friends and their collections too.

TBB: What experience did you have with Lego as a kid?

Perijove: My collection began to include more complex pieces just before middle school. I mostly built minifigure-sized robots and spaceships. Play scenarios often including using all my pieces to build a massive spaceship to move my entire minifigure population to another habitable planet before their current one was destroyed by a huge asteroid or a rogue robot. (Wow, that just brought on some powerful nostalgia!)

TBB: Did LEGO play a role in your chosen career path?

odysseygraphPerijove: LEGO absolutely had an impact on my career path. In high school, I spent much of my free time designing things like manned missions to the moons of Jupiter in graph paper notebooks. I often drew the designs with LEGO pieces so I could eventually create real models. This was also a great way to learn everything I could about space travel from interesting destinations and past missions to new forms of propulsion and radiation protection. LEGO has also been a great tool for quickly making quick prototypes of various mechanisms and other ideas to see how they worked.

TBB: What were your favorite sets/ themes as a child?

newnomadPerijove: Most of the space themes, of course, were my favorite, like M-Tron, Ice-Planet 2002, Exploriens, Roboforce, etc. Technic and Trains were great too, but those kinds of sets were often too expensive for me. I would have to say one of my favorite sets was 6338 Shuttle Launch Pad.

TBB: Did you ever experience a dark age?

Perijove: I never experienced a total dark age, but more like a dim age, while I was at school in Indiana. I couldn’t bring my entire collection with me form California, but I did manage to keep a few choice models and pieces with me. During this time, I also satisfied my LEGO habit as a volunteer and mentor for kids in the First LEGO League, a popular nationwide LEGO robotics competition. I had a lot of fun teaching kids about the mechanical possibilities of LEGO and seeing their robots compete and cooperate with eachother.

TBB: Did having first hand experience on the real Curiosity help with the design of the Lego version?

Perijove: I learn best by seeing and touching, which perhaps explains my affinity for mechanical engineering and LEGO. The rocker-bogie suspension system on the rover was just so cool, that I needed to make a LEGO version that I could play with. Being so close to the real rover all the time, designing a few small parts for it, and working with larger assemblies certainly helped me to understand its features, what they did, and how they worked. I’m hoping the LEGO Curiosity rover does the same for others.

TBB: Did you follow the progress of the rover’s trip to Mars?

Perijove: I kept up on every piece of information about the rover that was available to me. This was the first project where I was finally able to put my years of engineering education to use, so I really wanted it to be successful. I saw the landing live and ate plenty of peanuts beforehand for good luck, a tradition at JPL before critical mission events.

MSL Descent Stage 02

TBB: How did you feel about the landing?

Perijove: The landing itself was a conflicting conflagration of emotion. In my mind, I was confident of the success of the landing. My heart and other organs were filled with excitement, fear, nervousness, anticipation and, of course, curiosity. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep afterwards and spent that time calming down, talking to family and friends, and watching all the events that happened shortly afterwards.

TBB: Any thoughts about the historical significance of this achievement?

Perijove: The landing itself was quite historic. The ability to land such a large payload so precisely will be extremely important to future efforts. Though it’s still too early to be sure of the historical significance of the scientific returns of the mission, I’m sure it will be something wonderful. As for the significance of my own involvement, I think it’s kind of cool to think that long after the Great Pyramids on Earth have perished over time, it is possible that the rover I worked on will still be preserved on Mars (unless, of course, it becomes a victim of space looters).

Video tour of the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum

Josh from A Look at Lego takes us on a visit with Dan Brown of the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum in Bellaire, Ohio. You may have heard of this unofficial Lego museum in LEGO: A Love Story and wondered what the place actually looks like. This video shows a glimpse of the largest private Lego collection in the world.

Mihai’s Inferno: The 9 circles of Hell made in Lego

Mihai Mihu completed a series of creations depicting the 9 circles of Hell. While staying true to the theme of poetic justice served to the sinners, Mihai portrays the punishments through his own interpretations. The recurring architectural elements and portrayal of the sinners tie the scenes together in a way that’s easy for the viewer to transition through. In this short interview, the builder talks about his project and the individual circles of Hell.


TBB: Tell us about your 9 circles of Hell project.

Mihai Mihu: It all started last year with a contest on MOCpages (The 2011 MOC Olympics) where I was challenged to build a MOC in just two colors. I decided to approach an architecture theme for the entry as it was in my comfort zone. While building and the things progressed, the lack of colors made the MOC look lifeless. It was then when I had the idea to transform it into an underworld scene and I named it Limbo.

After the many positive comments that I received, I thought and then decided that it would be great to continue this MOC as an artistic series and I saw a great opportunity to display my skills and my love for design and architecture.

The whole project took me 7 months to complete, with about 2 to 3 weeks for the development of the ideas, design and building of each circle.

TBB: What is your approach to depicting each circle?

MM: The concept of the 9 circles is the work of maybe the first true master of fiction Dante Alighieri. It’s such an interesting idea, and I’ve been meaning to make a re-imagining of the hell depicted by him.

I didn’t read the Divine Comedy, only the small descriptions of the circles I found on Wikipedia and on other websites. I didn’t want to be much influenced by the original descriptions because I wanted to give a whole new fresh approach for each circle. I thought more about the significance of titles and from then on it was only my imagination.

TBB: Tell us about each of the creations.


A place of monotony, here the souls are punished to wander in restless existence while they moan helplessly in echoes between the ruins of a temple.


Surrounded by erotic representations, those overcome by lust are forced to watch and experience disgusting things, ultimately being condemned to drown in the menstrual river.


The circle itself is a living abomination, a hellish digestive system revealing horrific faces with mouths ready to devour the gluttons over and over for eternity.


This pompous place is reserved for the punishment of the greedy ones. The hands of the damned are popping out of the walls and are trying to grab the riches around them or to drag the new arrivals in and feed on their lust for wealth.


In this depressing place the souls are trapped in the swamp, they can’t move and they cannot manifest their frustration which is making them even more angry. Here I wanted to approach a theme more about feelings and emotions. The weeping statue represents those who turned their sadness into anger.


The giant demon watches closely over his fire pit, dwarfing the damned that are dragging the new arrivals in the boiling lava. Those who committed the greatest sins against God are getting a special treatment inside the temple where they are doomed to burn for eternity in the scorching flames.


A place of intense torture where the horrific screams of the damned are eternally accompanied by the hellish beats of drums. There are lots of elements here to convey violence like the suicide statues on top of the ruined citadel, the hanged souls or the river of blood.


In Fraud the Demons enjoy altering the shape of souls, this is how they feed. In this process, the soul manifests its true fraudulent nature and reveals the cheats and tricks that it has committed in life. This is also the place of the cries and lament of a chained Titan who betrayed Zeus.


Lucifer lies here chained by the Angelic Seal which keeps him captive in the frozen environment. All the souls who are cast in Treachery are first processed by the flying demons at the temple where the Judas coins are.

TBB: Which build is your favorite and which circle would you least want to be in?

MM: My favorite build is Greed, because it has a really special feel to it. I like its majestic look and the powerful emotional contrast it expresses. It’s beautiful but sinister at the same time.

Gluttony is the circle I would least want to be in. It’s always freaked me out, it’s disgusting, chaotic and vital, definitely not a place to get stuck.

A Look at Lego podcast interviews Bruce Lowell and Legohaulic

A Look at Lego podcast recently posted interviews with two builders we feature quite often on the blog: Bruce Lowell and Legohaulic. This is a great opportunity for you to get to know both builders and their backgrounds beyond pictures of their works. Click on the banner below to access the podcasts.

LAML Radio interviews Andy Hung and Schneider Cheung

Whether you are familiar with Lego podcasts, they provide unique knowledge about the hobby. LAML Radio and A Look At Lego Podcast are two sources I’m aware of that regularly post new episodes and interviews.

I want to highlight the most recent show from LAML Radio containing interviews with Andy Hung and Schneider Cheung, two of the most well known AFOLs in Hong Kong whose works are also familiar to many of our readers. Even though our interactions with the active and talented Hong Kong AFOL community are limited by the language barrier, we seldom cease to appreciate their works in the instances they were featured on the blog.

Click on the image below to download the episode of the podcast.

MAKE interviews BrickForge’s Kyle “Armothe” Peterson

Surrender the BootyOne of the things I love about BrickForge is that they seem to be just ahead of what LEGO ends up producing — from cows, pigs, and crowbars a few years ago to 1×1 round tiles and park ranger hats in the upcoming 2012 LEGO City sets. Does The LEGO Group have a spy in BrickForge world headquarters?!

Anyway, I always like to learn more about the LEGO vendors and custom accessory makes who populate the brick “ecosystem,” so it was great to run across an interview with Kyle Peterson on one of my favorite non-LEGO blogs, MAKE.

I hear some 3rd party manufacturers of Lego accessories recycle old bricks in their ABS, grinding them up and adding them to the molten plastic. Can you talk a little about this?

Obviously the ABS has to come from somewhere. BrickForge deals with very large production runs – thus we use specifically dyed ABS pellets during the self-contained, automated injection process. Other vendors may use a smaller, lightweight injection press for smaller production runs. This requires a manual feed of plastic into the hopper. Either the artisan has to purchase pre-mixed pellets (that match the LEGO color palette) or simply grind up and smelt existing LEGO brick. The first option is expensive, the second option is time consuming (not to mention having to deal with toxic fumes).

Read the complete interview on the MAKE Blog.