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.

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.

Comunidade 0937 interviews Mark Stafford, LEGO Designer

A couple years ago, we ran a series of three interviews with LEGO Designer Mark Stafford, covering his journey from LEGO fan to set designer, as well as what it’s like to work as a designer and the distinction between being a fan and being a designer.

The online community has been a bit overdue for an update, so I was very pleased to receive a link to this interview by the Portuguese-language Comunidade 0937. They’ve asked a lot of great questions, and Mark has included several prototype design photos in his answers.

Most of the “spacers” of 0937 are advocates of a more peaceful approach to the theme than space-based conflict…. We also think there is a market for products placed in a more exploratory theme. Is there any chance of the LEGO one day to embark on a theme such as this?

First I want to point out that LEGO space has rarely been peaceful, talking to the original designers of the classic space sets during its concept phase they envisioned it as a competitive ‘space race’ between astronauts in white and cosmonauts in red. Those probes and radar dishes looked a bit like weapons because they knew exactly how most kids would play with them!

That said, I understand your point, and of course LEGO City has just released a space port line with vehicles inspired by today’s peaceful space explorers and their space agencies.

Read the full interview with Mark Stafford on Comunidade 0937 website.

Pillaging the mind of a builder: Gerard Joosten

Gerard Joosten (aka Elephant Knight) just posted his latest in a line of large, detailed sailing ships. Christened The Lynx, it is a beautiful example of a minifig scale Clipper Schooner.

Gerard agreed to sit down with me and answer some questions about the ship and how he builds.

TBB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Gerard. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. How long have you been into Lego and what themes do you build in?

GJ: I have been into Lego since just before my fourth birthday, when I got 1464 Pirate Lookout. I have never been into a dark age, and my older brother said I’m the biggest AFOL in my family of 7 kids. I mostly build in Pirates and Space, with Castle a bit behind those. Though I dabble in almost anything, except for Steampunk.

TBB: You have two older brothers who are adult Lego fans. Do you feel that their influence and your early exposure to the online Lego fan community has had an impact on your builds?

GJ: They certainly had an influence. Dan built a ship in 2008, a bit before the pirates line came out, that really opened up my love for Pirates. Dan has also pushed me into doing more realistic stuff.

TBB: So why no Steampunk?

GJ: I am just not a fan of steampunk. I think the idea of spaceships and mechs powered by steam to be silly.

TBB: Fair enough. You said you’ve been into Lego since you were four. So how many years have you been into Lego now?

GJ: 15 years and it doesn’t look like I am going to slow down at all.

TBB: So is Pirate your favourite theme?

GJ: Pirates and Space are always competing for first, but I think Pirates has a bit of an edge, simply because I build better sailing ships then spaceships.

TBB: You are becoming well-known for your large, detailed ships. How is this one different from your previous builds?

GJ: Well, this is my second time using reference material, and my first time basing it on a real ship. Also, this is the first time I have built a ship in minifig scale, and used proper cloth (As opposed to paper) for the sails.

TBB: Did using reference material make this build more difficult?

GJ: Somewhat. Using reference material meant I couldn’t be as loose as I normally would be. The hull especially took a lot longer since I had to match it up with something.

TBB: Is this your biggest ship so far?

GJ: It isn’t my longest, but I think it might be the tallest. The HMS Brunswick was 124 studs long, but a bit heftier. But the Lynx is wider and that has to count for something. I would have to say this isn’t quite my biggest, but it is close.

TBB: What was the most difficult part of this build?

GJ: I dunno. I think making the sails, since my scissors sucked. Can’t really say if any part of the actual build was harder then the rest.

TBB: What part of this ship turned out exactly how you envisioned it?

GJ: The angle of the masts. I got the idea how to do it, and it worked perfectly.

TBB: They do look really good. One thing that stands out on your ships is the custom sails and rigging. What do you use to make them? How much string went into the rigging on the Lynx?

GJ: In this case, I used cloth that I bought at Walmart. I usually use paper, but since the sails on this were larger then your regular sheet of paper, and since I wanted to raise the bar for myself a bit higher, I went with cloth. As for how much string, I don’t know at this point. By the time I dismantle this, I’ll know.

TBB: Are you going to start using cloth on all of your future ships?

GJ: I already converted one of my old ships to cloth sails, so I think it looks like it could happen, though paper is cheaper, and I am a bit of a mizer.

TBB: Where do you get inspiration for your ships?

GJ: Generally I just feel like building a ship, and I build one. In the Lynx’s case, Caylin challenged me to build a minifig scale tall ship, so that’s what I did.

TBB: As far as I can tell, your rigging is very accurate. How important is historical accuracy to you?

GJ: It is important whenever I feel like being historically accurate, which is happening more and more often these days. And since this ship was based on an actual ship, it was pretty obvious that I would have to make the rigging accurate.

TBB: Is there anything you want to mention that I haven’t asked about?

GJ: Whenever I build a sailing ship, I like to compare it to my first sailing ship I got, 6250 Cross Bone Clipper. In this case, there isn’t even a comparison.

TBB: I have to agree! Thanks for taking the time with us.

GJ: No problem!

Life-sized Halo Master Chief costume made out of Lego

Ben Caulkins (Benny Brickster) built a life-sized costume of the Master Chief from Halo over the past six months. Those who have followed his Flickr postings have seen the suit develop from the helmet down. Now that this epic project is finished, Ben shares his thoughts on the process and techniques behind the build.

Master Chief MJOLNIR Mark VI Armor

Some of you may have noticed by now that over the past six months, I have constructed a full size Lego costume of the Master Chief from the Halo series. It was by no means easy, and I had to put a lot of time and effort into completing it. It required more thought and patience than any of my previous LEGO projects, not that I have done that many anyway.

Master Chief MJOLNIR Mark VI Armor But I didn’t decide overnight to build a Master Chief costume out of LEGO bricks. The very base of the idea was probably inspired by Simon MacDonald’s (SIMAFOL) Boba Fett costume. Then it was after I saw some really amazing LEGO creations at my first LEGO convention, Brickworld, that I really seriously started thinking about it. At first it was just a fantasy, which is reasonable enough, I mean, come on, a full-blown LEGO Master Chief costume? It is pretty ridiculous. But when I started to take it seriously, I finally realized that it was possible, and I committed myself to it.

I put a surprising amount of thought into which part I would construct first, and I finally settled on the helmet because I thought that if I could do a convincing MOC of the Master Chief’s helmet, and be able to wear it, I could do the rest of the suit.

Master Chief Helmet The helmet took more planning than any other element. I started in late October and spent many hours getting the necessary resources and devising what size to make the helmet in order for it to be proportionate with the rest of my body. I think that if I hadn’t done so it wouldn’t have looked nearly as good as it does. But after much planning, I finally started building. I’m generally a pretty slow builder, and I went through a lot of experimenting with parts while building it, particularly for the vents on the “cheeks”. I had decided to use a non-LEGO piece for the visor long before I started building, and I had already purchased a sweet looking motorcycle helmet visor with a nice gold sheen to it, and with a few modifications, it fit like a glove.

So, I had at last finished the first part of my suit, and it managed to garner a lot of attention. I had never really been blogged about before so I was overwhelmed. It was one of the most memorable moments in my LEGO building “career”, and I jumped for joy when I saw I was on the Wall Street Journal’s blog, and then GIZMODO, and a host of other websites including the good old Brother’s Brick.

Master Chief Torso Armor After the initial reaction died down and all the bloggers finally stopped, I got to work on the most time-consuming part of the project: the torso armor. It was one the most challenging in that it had to be able to take a lot of punishment and look good at the same time. I tried strengthening it where I could, but it still wasn’t enough. After many catastrophic accidents, in which many naughty words were uttered, I decided that I had to use glue. Yes, it was a lazy thing to do, but I just thought “screw it all” and went ahead with it. But it worked, so I don’t see a problem!

Master Chief Upper Arm Armor I then managed to squeeze the belt in before Christmas break, but I still had a problem: how was I going to achieve the concave shape of the thighs and forearms? It was one day on the bus back from school when I had nothing to do that a solution came to me, and boy was I pleased when it did. It was actually really simple: construct two rings, but make them different sizes, and then construct supports between them that I could put different aesthetics onto. This would achieve the proper concave shape, as it causes the shape to narrow. But before actually building the thighs, I built the arms first and applied my newly devised technique on them.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the upper arms, as they appear a little small when compared to the Chief’s. But I couldn’t make them any bigger, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to flex my arm (plus I couldn’t bear the extra weight). And besides, it still looks good as it is.

Master Chief Forearm ArmorThe forearms actually came out surprisingly well, though they were prone to coming undone. The reason why was that I had made them a little too small, and so whenever I flexed they would come undone. To solve this particular problem, I attached three rings of Velcro to the inside of one section that could wrap around my arm, keeping the section in place. But, it also would squeeze my arm together, so it wouldn’t bulge as much when I flex, and the other section now stays snuggly attached.

Afterwards I bought a pair of nice Master Chief looking gloves, glued some plates to them, and then built the thighs. The thighs ate up more tiles (smooth plates) than I can count!

Master Chief Leg Armor At this point the suit was getting pretty close to completion, although there were unexpected delays (Spring break, a small LEGO convention, me getting sick). But in between I managed to get some work in. I always knew that the legs would be difficult on account of their odd shape (take a look at them and you’ll see what I mean). The Master Chief’s leg armor bulges in the back in order to shape itself around the calves, and this was something I had feared doing since starting the project. An idea that I had thought of but didn’t believe would work was to first build a frame for the legs that would follow that actual shape of the Chief’s. Although it appeared crude, I had no other good ideas. So I went about building this frame, and realized that it could work. Yes, it took me several variations, but that was what I ultimately settled on.

Lyndhurst It was the next week that the suit’s first trial came: the “LEGO fun at Lyndhurst” festival, a small local event organized by Arthur Gugick, which I have been attending for quite some time. I originally planned to just display the suit and not wear it. Not only did I wear it, I walked around the entire event. This proved that I could move in it without too much damage occurring (one lost piece and one part that came undone). Also, it stood up pretty well against LEGO’s main adversary, the hands of small and curious children. Also, the helmet went through quite an ordeal, having to be placed on the heads of around 100 children.

Master Chief MJOLNIR Mark VI Armor Now, there was only one thing left to do: the feet, the least interesting part to look at. But I still wanted them to be of the same quality as the rest of the suit, so I went about making the toe look nice and curved by using segmented plates. But you can’t expect me to not loosen up a little bit. If you look closely you can see bits of red and yellow showing through the gaps between plates. Also, for the rest of the foot, I seriously lowered my quality standards, but you can’t really tell because, like I said, who looks at the feet?

I have to say finishing it was sort of anti-climactic, especially considering I had built the coolest part of the suit first, and was finishing with the feet. I’m actually a bit relieved it’s done because I was getting pretty tired of it, and I’m not sure how much longer I could have gone on. But I am glad I did, because now I can say that I’m the only person to (successfully) build a Master Chief costume out of LEGO. :)

For more pictures, visit Ben’s Flickr gallery.

Interview with Mike Doyle

Marcos Bessa interviewed Mike Doyle, the builder who recently created the abandoned Victorian house. Ever since seeing Mike’s masterpiece I’ve wanted to interview him to learn how a new member of the AFOL community can create such stunning works. The interview by Marcos answers my question and provides further insight into Mike’s design process and more. I highly recommend this great read.

Q&A with Bricklink sellers

If you’ve been a LEGO builder or collector long enough, chances are you’ve bought from Bricklink or at least heard of the website that’s been referred to as the eBay of LEGO. You may have also wondered what it’s like to be one of Bricklink’s many big-time sellers. In this article we invited four of the biggest sellers in the US to answer questions about their selling experiences. We’ll kick off this Q&A with a self-introduction by each seller on the panel.

Plastic Bricks Direct (BL PBD): Plastic Bricks Direct is a privately held company with one mission, to bring LEGO brick products direct to your door. We pride ourselves on friendly customer service, and having one of the largest selections of parts to choose from.

Missing Brick (BL MB): My store on Bricklink started in March of 2001 initially to sell used surplus pieces I had no use for. A few years later, I also started selling new pieces from sets I bought for my own use, and again later I started also selling sets. About 2 years ago, I almost completely did away with selling used pieces, the only used pieces I am selling nowadays are either rather rare pieces, or minifigure/minifigure-related, as well as some old used complete sets.

Toy Brick Brigade (BL TBB): We are a family-run business, our inventory and the main part of the operation is in North Texas. Payments are processed in Idaho, so it can be confusing for customers sometimes, but it works well for us. We are grateful to be able to make a living from home, working for ourselves, and doing something we enjoy.

Brick-A-Thon (BL BAT): Brick-A-Thon, Inc., is a Florida based business comprised of Tracy & Chris Dale who are both AFOL’s. Tracy loves Fabuland, Star Wars and Technic sets, primarily, while Chris really likes the Exo-Force line, Sponge Bob and minifigs (and loves the new Collectible Series). They also collect shot glasses, baseball cards, baseball memorabilia, are avid Tampa Bay Rays fans, and Chris was born and raised a Cheesehead (Packers fan). They are hoping to attend at least one LEGO Event this year, but haven’t determined which, yet.

How did you decide to become a Bricklink seller?

BL PBD: I originally came to Bricklink as a buyer to complete some old sets. I was extremely frustrated to have to buy a minimum of $5, $10, or $20 worth of parts when I only needed one 5 cent part, even though I was willing to pay shipping/handling to get it. I knew I was not the only one who was willing to spend a few bucks on shipping to get a 5 cent part. I opened our store with that basic premise of letting people purchase what/how much they want, and the rest is, well, you know.

BL MB: I started out as a LEGO train collector. I was buying lots of unsorted parts on eBay to complete my childhood models. Once I stumbled on Bricklink, I mainly used Bricklink for my purchases, and after a few months, I signed up to sell the pieces I did no longer need or want. I started building MOCs, and needed more bricks, so I bought more, and had more leftovers, and my store grew.

BL TBB: Lego is fun, and seemed to sell pretty quickly. It seemed like a great business to get into, so we gave it a shot.

BL BAT: I came out of the “Dark Ages” at the age of 33 and discovered BrickLink. I started buying and then realized I could sell off the parts I didn’t need on BrickLink to help fund my hobby – that’s how it all began, and it snowballed from there. Chris joined the store officially in 2007.

Is it your full-time job? Do you hire others to help you?

BL PBD: Yes, I spend about 60-70 hours a week staying on top of it, and it is also a full time job for a handful of other people. After a year of begging, I was able to convince my wife to leave her full time professional job with a nation-wide employer to join me as our COO. We have two other full time employees and a handful of part-time staff. By the end of 2011 our goal is to have 10 full time staff running various functions throughout our organization.

BL MB: No, this is purely a hobby for me. I have a great regular job. I spend nearly all money I make from selling LEGO on Bricklink (unlike most other big Bricklink sellers, I only sell on Bricklink, nowhere else) to buy more bricks, I primarily sell to make money to buy the bricks I need for my models. I work alone, but have friends that do some sorting now and then.

BL TBB: Yes, it is our full time job. We have had hired help in the past, but not right now.

BL BAT: Yes, this is a full time job for both Chris and me, and we have employed “Contract Workers” (friends) to assist at times with sorting and odd jobs, but we don’t have anyone full or part time that we keep on staff.

Where do you get your inventory?

BL PBD: LEGO, and a handful of other distributors. You’d think one could go straight to LEGO and be constantly supplied, and I guess if it were that easy then there would be much more competition.

BL MB: The bulk of my inventory comes from buying sets on sale at local stores, such as Target, Meijer, Toys’R’us, and Walmart, or when LEGO Shop at Home has good deals, I buy there too. In addition, since last year we have a LEGO store in Columbus, and I often buy inventory from sets on sale or Pick-a-Brick items.

BL TBB: Wherever we can. People email us wanting to sell their collection, or we find them on eBay.

BL BAT: We buy primarily from retail stores, LEGO Shop at Home, the LEGO Store in Downtown Disney, eBay, BrickLink and individuals looking to sell their collections.

Where is everything stored and how are things organized?

BL PBD: We currently have a completely stuffed 2,500 square foot warehouse, by the end of January we will have double that space! Sealed sets are stored in isles of Gorilla racks, and all of the parts are stored inside plastic bags or drawer liners, and then stored inside drawers. It’s like a hardware store stocked with LEGO.

BL MB: I have all items for sale stored in my basement. I have parts in zip-loc bags, stored in stackable drawers. Sets I have on storage racks. Nothing is labeled, so I rely on memory, and somewhat of a system, to find the parts. I keep related parts together, so all tiles are closer to other tiles, all bricks close to other bricks.

BL TBB: We have a 1,200 sq ft shop building next to the house. We have our own inventory system, and custom shelves to store everything.

BL BAT: We have product in our house in 3 rooms at one end which are the Office, Pulling Room and Sorting Room. We also have a storage unit on our property to hold sets and overflow product. Most everything we need for orders is in one room (in bins/bags) with some items (sets, mostly) in the office. There’s also product being sorted in the “Sorting Room”, of course. We’re thinking as we keep growing we’ll need to get another storage unit since we can’t easily expand the house.

What’s the most time-consuming aspect of selling?

BL PBD: Picking and packing. Sure, you could just throw all of the pieces in a bag or two and call it good ala LEGO Online PAB, however we take a more meticulous approach. Parts are organized and packaged neatly so that when you receive your order you can go right to building, not more sorting.

BL MB: Most time consuming is picking the orders. Especially those high lot counts with large variety, I have to go all over the basement to pick 1 here, 1 there. Because the large variety of buyers and orders, and the occasional inability to swiftly locate a part, I spend 80% of my time on 20% of the orders, and often within an order, I’ll spend 80% of my time on 20% of the order. Parting out sets for sale takes time too, so I only do that when I have at least 10 of the same set.

BL TBB: Most time consuming? Probably either the sorting process, or pulling orders that have many many lots.

BL BAT: Parting out sets, sorting product and counting/preparing it for sale – and then listing it all; that and the bookkeeping.

What do you think makes your store successful?

BL PBD: Friendly customer service, expeditious processing on every order, no limit purchasing, and having a large inventory with very competitive prices.

BL MB: Reliability, and a serious attitude. I ship orders quick, because that is how I would want my own order shipped. I pack my order well, because that how I would want my own order packed. I hardly ever have a backlog, I ship 99% of all orders out within 24 hours of payment. If you look at my customer base, I have a low percentage of first time buyers, but have a very high percentage of seasoned AFOLs. I am not always the cheapest, but consider myself one of the fastest and most reliable sellers, and that gets me much repeat business (that and that all repeat customers always get a coupon for use with their next order).

BL TBB: We try to have a great selection, a big variety and quantity of parts. We also try to be as quick as we can.

BL BAT: Two words: Customer Service – That’s what makes any business a success, is good, solid customer service. If you don’t make sure you have happy customers, you won’t have any coming back. We back that up with continually adding new and different items which is essential to draw people in.

Do you build with the bricks you have?

BL PBD: Not with anything that is kept at the warehouse as that is property of the business. I have a room at home that is used for play. If I want parts to use I have to buy them!

BL MB: Absolutely. I sell mainly so I can buy bricks to build with. As a builder, I like to build large structures, like skyscrapers, and I have build several in which I used over 30,000 pieces. I recently finished my largest MOC ever. Once I have that completely finished, and populated, it will be over 1 million bricks (actually mainly plates and tiles)

BL TBB: Not with our actual inventory, but yes, we do build occasionally, either with the kids or on our own.

BL BAT: Yes! I try not to take too much from store stock, but sometimes I see something and my brain gets going and I decide that not only do I need what we have in stock but I also have to go and buy a ton more on BrickLink. I have at least 4 projects in the process of being built right now. Chris has a passion for making up new minifigs with the parts we have and displaying them in the office.

What is something that you think most people don’t know about being a big-time Bricklink seller?

BL PBD: The amount of time that needs to be devoted to run a successful operation. Contrary to popular opinion it is NOT a get rich quick scheme.

BL MB: Particularly for me, for all my LEGO related activities, I would say I am an AFOL first, and Bricklink seller a distant second. Most probably see me as a seller that does this to make money, but if you see what I build, you know my true passion is being an AFOL.

BL BAT: That we really don’t make very much money. A lot of people think that we’re making hand over fist but we’re just scraping by, and we do it because we love the product. People don’t realize just how much work it takes to make a store like this function on a daily basis. I know I didn’t have a clue when I started and if we weren’t passionate about this then Brick-A-Thon wouldn’t still be in existence.

It’s not like I applied for the job just for giggles – an interview with Jordan Schwartz

It goes without saying that Jordan Schwartz is a very talented builder for his age; even so, it may surprise you that he already landed an internship as a LEGO designer in Billund. Fresh out of high school, Jordan is heading to Denmark, early in 2011, to begin his work helping the company design new products. Below is an interview on how he got there and where he’s headed. You can learn more about Jordan on his website.

Nannan Zhang: What’s the process that led you to work for LEGO?

Jordan Schwartz: I compiled a portfolio and had it in the mail post-haste after being reminded by some friends at BrickWorld that TLG was looking to hire product designers. Shortly after that, I received an e-mail inviting me to the interview/workshop in Billund at the end of August. Naturally, I accepted. I went to the workshop/interview and went home. In the meantime, I had to start school (my first semester of college in Boston, MA) – and then, about a week into it, I received another e-mail and was offered a one-year internship as a starting point. I called the folks at LEGO to get the wheels in motion, took a leave of absence from school and now I am slated to begin said internship at the beginning of January 2011.

NZ: Can you tell us about your first visit to Billund for the workshop and interview?

JS: This wasn’t just my first trip to Billund, it was my first time in Europe, period. I have spoken with LEGO employees who worked there before, and almost all of them have told me that it’s a pretty… “boring” place, so I had my expectations and conceptions of it before going.

Anyway, the few of us from the U.S. who were there, were flown in a little earlier than the others so that we could adjust to the time difference, and we had a great time meeting and greeting people who were flying in from all over Europe (some of them prominent AFOLs, no less!). I tell you, that workshop was one crazy think-tank of artists and designers. It was a little intimidating since I was the youngest person there (fresh out of high school) and everyone else was already out of college; despite the competitive nature of the event, everyone was incredibly warm and friendly. Simply hanging out and chatting with the other attendees, hearing where they’re from, learning of their design experience, and flipping through their portfolios was absolutely fascinating and gave me insight into what TLG is looking for in a product designer. Obviously I cannot divulge too many details about the workshop itself, though as you can imagine, it was intensive. Oh, and we got a tour of the Idea House and tickets to LEGOLAND, so that was pretty cool too!

NZ: What will you be doing for your internship?

JS: I have been told what line(s) I’ll be designing for, but I’m going to have to bite my tongue on this one (at this point, I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say. Sorry!). But yes, I will be doing design work for the internship.

NZ: What are your thoughts on turning your hobby into a job?

JS: This is an interesting question, especially because this topic gets tossed around different forums all the time and everyone seems to have a different take on it. Some people would never want to turn their hobby into their job; some people would do it in a heartbeat. I happen to fall in this second group. Yes, LEGO is a hobby of mine, but why is it a hobby of mine? I can confidently say I still love LEGO because it takes me back – it is nostalgic; every time I build something with LEGO elements, I think about the good old times when I’d “play” with LEGO, and not “design” with it. Literally, some of my best memories have to do with LEGO; at the risk of sounding pretentious or cliché, these memories are very important to me, as I am a nostalgic kind of guy. This doesn’t go just for LEGO, but anything from my childhood (like now defunct Walt Disney World attractions, or those awesome Nickelodeon cartoons that I’ll never see again). And it is for this reason why I want to work for the company – I want to help create the products that children will enjoy now, and might have an affinity for, years down the road. I am moving from designing for myself and/or for the viewing pleasure of my fellow AFOLs, to designing for kids. And that’s an honor that has certainly validated my own affinity for LEGO and the work I’ve put into my creations over the years! Furthermore, being a product designer for LEGO is a dream job of mine (I’ve got a couple others, too, but this tops the list) – it’s not like I’ve been building for a few years in the online community and then just applied for the job just for giggles. I’ve always wanted to do this work – in fact, my mother dug up some old papers from grade school, and when prompted to write “What (I) want to be when I grow up” I always answered “I want to work for The LEGO Company.”

NZ: What are you looking forward to the most in Billund?

JS: Taxes! No, ok, not taxes. As far as TLG goes, learning how to design a good set, learning what sells, et cetera, et cetera. These guys are the best, you know! As far as living in Billund goes, being on my own for the first time. Ever since I started looking into schools, I’ve been getting really anxious and restless so I’m lucky that this opportunity has come so that I can kick myself out of the nest! (Oh, Southern New England for 18 years and an extra 4 for school, that’s refreshing). Though when I would talk about moving far, far away for school, I don’t think my family completely believed me…but I guess I’ve put my money where my mouth is!

NZ: Will there be a change in your involvement in the fan communities?

JS: Well, I hardly ever say anything anywhere online anyway…so no. And if I can somehow get to conventions, I will. Those are always a blast. My MOC output is going to virtually stop for a little while, that I can promise. If I have the opportunity to build a MOC, I will and I will post it, but I’d imagine those chances are slim. I hear some designers can’t stand building more than they have to at work, and others can’t get enough, so I’m curious to see where I’ll stand on that issue (I honestly have no clue whether or not I’ll be ‘all LEGO-ed out’ on account of work…time will tell).

NZ: Will you still contribute to BrickJournal?

JS: I have already spoken to Joe Meno, and I plan on staying as a contributor. Given my answer to the previous question, my articles will probably focus more on technique rather than an individual MOC (my article for the next issue already moves to this format anyway, with a small variety of MOCs to illustrate what I describe). BrickJournal has been a fantastic place for me to talk about some of the creations I’ve built, and I am so grateful to Joe for the opportunity to contribute. So I will try my best to offer something for future issues. After all, BrickJournal combines my two passions – LEGO and writing!

NZ: What are your future plans regarding LEGO?

JS: Only time can answer this question. If the folks at TLG are happy with my performance and decide to offer me full employment, I’ll probably take it. If not, then I would have worked for a year and had an utterly fantastic experience in the highly competitive world of design. It’s a win-win. As far as my education goes, my going to college is a matter of “when” and not “if”. As soon as I can go, I plan on going, but it will be delayed at least a year (which is funny, because I was the studious valedictorian nerd at school…people from my high school, who have found out I’ve left school, have been pretty surprised). I want to eventually major in either architecture or industrial design (most likely the former). I used to daydream about where the future might lead me, and becoming a product designer for TLG has always been #1 on my list. So I’m pretty darn happy (and lucky) this dream has come true for me so soon.

Build-em-up-tear-em-down, an interview with Alex Eylar

When it comes to Lego and photo lighting, no one has a better reputation than Alex Eylar. Having emerged from his Dark Ages in 2007, Alex has made an impression on the community through his diverse and often pop culture-referencing creations that are photographed with realistic and atmospheric lighting. It is my pleasure to interview the man behind the camera about his take on our favorite hobby.

Nannan Zhang: Talk about what you like to build.

Alex Eylar: I tend to just build whatever I feel like, whatever inspiration hits, without really sticking to one theme or another. I admire the people who can stay in one theme and just put out hit after hit, but I’ve got a total LEGO-ADD that keeps me bouncing from theme to theme. I even had to title that one folder “The Unclassifiable” because the things just didn’t fit into one theme or another.

NZ: So it’s really just the spur of the moment?

AE: Oh, absolutely. I keep a Word Document on my desktop that has all sorts of random ideas in the shortest of shorthand. I get an idea, I jot it down, I build it or try to build it and fail miserably.

NZ: It’s interesting that you keep an actual list of ideas, how long is it?

AE: Generally about four or five projects long, but that includes things I’ve been thinking about for years and will probably never get to finish. Purgatory from Dante’s Inferno is a great example.

NZ: That list is actually much shorter than I expected, I know someone who has over 120 ideas on his list.

AE: Mind if I ask who?

NZ: I heard this from “Big Daddy” Nelson a few years ago. You’re on a building streak lately and cranking out some great models, what’s the occasion or inspiration?

AE: The occasion is free time thanks to summer and zero social life, and the inspirations are movies and internet. Big movie geek, so I’m always seeing things I want to build, and spend as much time online as I do and you’re bound to see things that pique your interest.

NZ: I’m guessing you liked Inception?

AE: Oh my yes. Best movie of the year so far, in my opinion.

NZ: And you built some MOCs based on that?

AE: I had to. Any movie with visuals as good as that has to be built. A tilted, spinning hallway; come on.

NZ: How long did it take you?

AE: Maybe three hours from start of the build to the last shot taken.

NZ: What about photography, was that a huge process?

AE: It can be; it depends on the project. If it’s something small like that, and only requires one shot, it won’t take that long, but if it’s enormous – “Containment” enormous – it’ll take its sweet time.

More of our interview with Alex after the jump: Continue reading

Deborah Higdon: Who’s Freddie Mercury? – Boilerplate & Beyond Vol. 14 [Interview]

At first glance, it appears that Keith Goldman has been joined by Edward Estlin Cummings for the 14th installment in our series of interviews. If all-caps is yelling, Deborah Higdon whispers her answers to Keith’s questions. Thankfully, Deborah’s answers are worth the extra effort to hear. Without further commentary on capitalization from me, take it away, Keith!

LEGO house interiorThey say that our hobby is dominated by mannkinder, and the closest we come to the feminine touch are our beloved bevy of gay men and the unfortunate epidemic of man-boobs. Our community meetings and events are virtual sausage festivals, with only the occasional long-suffering wife or girlfriend to break up the monotony. Even my own beloved interview series has been as they say in the armed forces “a mile of %&#@”, and with that in mind I sought out not only a great builder…but a real live woman. Many of you are familiar with Deborah Higdon for her outstanding architectural models, minifig scale furniture, and hatred for capital letters.

I sat down with Deborah at the Palladium where the Ottowa Senators were tied going into overtime in round one of the NHL playoffs. We talked about how the O-Train got its name, high-sticking and how to assemble a Frojista from Ikea without an allen wrench.

The Build

Keith Goldman: In your Flickr profile you mention that you’re a frustrated architect at heart, a condition that is not unique in our hobby, how does that influence your subject matter or building in general?

Deborah Higdon: oooh, we’re starting off with a serious question. ;-) considering i mostly choose to moc buildings, i’d say the influence is pretty strong. strangely, i admire historic architecture most, probably equally for the craftsmanship that went into the details as well as the design of the building itself. i say strangely because i don’t tend to build historic styles. when admiring architecture, i prefer historic. when designing a complete house, i prefer modern, and not just because i find lego lends itself more “easily” to modern styles, it’s not about “easy”. modern building allows more leeway for an active imagination. on rare occasions, i think it’s fortunate i didn’t become an architect – i don’t think i could put up with the physical limitations of engineering (what do you mean i can’t have a waterfall flowing between the 2nd and 3rd floor, falling out of the wall to the sea below?) i’m not sure that i’d have been all that good at satisfying the client 100%. compromising something based on æsthetics would be very difficult for me. the influence also comes from the design blogs i’m addicted to. i’m trying to quit, looking for a blogs anonymous group, know any? the first step is admitting the problem.

KG: You’ve built extensively in both minifig and microscale. What do you like and dislike about each scale and would you ever consider mixing the two?

LEGO microscale auditorium

DH: i don’t think there’s anything i dislike about any scale. i might dislike the infamous proportions of the minifig, (i tell myself, it’s just a toy) but as all my afol friends know, i’m not fond of the minifig itself in my mocs, (blasphemous talk, i know. i know how tbb originated, sorry andrew!) so no problems for me. but all the houses and furnishings that i build are built with the minifig in mind. microscale building is my spouse’s favourite – it costs less, takes up less space to store and less time to build – he wins in all ways. as for what i do like about these scales, i like replicating. i think of the miniatures i used to collect. i looked for high quality representations of handicraft (shaker furniture, farm tools) but i never wanted a doll house for them, and certainly never the dolls to go with them. i see the houses that i build more as architectural models that happen to be in minifig scale. i’ve seen others mix the scales with great execution, but i’m not tempted yet.

KG: On both Flickr and Facebook you quote Einstein on curiosity:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. curiosity has its own reason for existing. one cannot help but be in awe when (one) contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. it is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. never lose a holy curiosity.

What role does curiosity play in your building and what do you think about most often when you build? World conquest? Work? Freddie Mercury? The mysteries of the universe?”

DH: curiosity is huge for me, bane of my mother and father’s existence i was. i’m always looking at buildings, doors, windows, stairs, furniture and design elements and asking how can i make that in lego, what pieces can i use? can i make it on a smaller scale? can i make it look realistic. how can i make it stronger, can i get it to a fest? can i think of a new use for this piece? needless to say, i talk to myself a lot. thinking you ask? i think about dessert, martinis, new shoes, what makes people tick, what makes people not tick, what makes clocks tick. oh, sorry, i digress. you mean when i’m building. hmm, i think about chocolate, dark chocolate, which leads to dark chocolate bricks, and then leads to me lamenting that lego doesn’t make cream bricks, then the lack of earth colours in the palette comes to mind then i forget what i was going to build.

LEGO bedi certainly don’t think of world conquest, i’m canadian, we don’t have that gene in our makeup. i never think about work, never, not while in the building zone. who’s freddy mercury? never mind, i can google him. sometimes the mysteries of the universe cross my mind.

More of Keith’s interview with Deborah after the jump: Continue reading

Dave Shaddix: I say it’s time to gas the nest – Boilerplate & Beyond Vol. 13 [Interview]

For our 13th installment, we join Keith Goldman as he interviews Dave Shaddix, usually one of the first to comment on these very interviews. As with Soren, Dave uses a few words that our more sensitive readers may find offensive. Once again, you’ve been warned. Take it away, Keith!

LEGO Papa Roach in concertUnlike previous entries, this week’s builder isn’t a crusty 10-year veteran of the hobby, media magnate, self-stylized reverend or even Australian.

Instead I bring you an everyman from Anytown, U.S.A, who might be known better for his quick wit and devil-may-care attitude than for his growing library of great models. Dave Shaddix isn’t exactly a noob, but he also hasn’t been around long enough to be as jaded and rigid in his way of thinking than many of us gray-beards.

I sat down with Dave 2 miles from the US/Mexico border in Dave’s home state of Arizona. We talked about the Gadsden Purchase, Sabbath with Ozzie vs. Sabbath with Dio and what really happens to all those tourists who go missing every year in the Grand Canyon. We also talked about LEGO.

The Build

Keith Goldman: Like many builders out there, you’ve got a long term project going on. How long has your Papa Roach stage been in production and what are the challenges of a long term build from a relative newcomer’s perspective? Is your cousin and Papa Roach front-man Jacoby Shaddix involved in the process?

Dave Shaddix: I’ll first define ‘relative newcomer’ so that we’re all on the same page as far as timelines are concerned. I started building again about nine years ago with my oldest son; yeah it’s the DUPLO brick that brought me out of my dark age. As he grew, I started buying and building more age appropriate sets with him which eventually led me to the internet where I quietly trolled sites like Brickshelf and MOCpages from around 2006 to 2008 when I started posting on MOCpages. Arizona’s first LEGO retail store opened in the summer of 2008 and our LUG formed up immediately after. In short, 2008 is the year I became an actively-engaged AFOL who was fully out of the closet. Now that we have my own private definition of ‘newcomer’ out of the way, let’s move onto the question.

I started planning the Papa Roach project in October of 2009. It was pretty vague at the time and I was heavily leaning towards minfigure scale. I realized that the project needed to be all about the motion and mood of a live concert early on and I decided on a scale that is about 2x miniland. I began putting bricks together around October when I started building the band members.

The more I worked on the project, the more I learned and the more I had to build. Project creep started taking its money-draining grip on me and before I knew it I was looking at a structure that is more than 150 studs in width and almost 70 bricks tall and making whirlwind trips to Los Angeles to talk to the band and get detailed photos of them, their equipment, and the crowd. Given the scale of this project, you can guess that money plays a huge role and has slowed me down considerably. I guess the biggest obstacle that I will need to overcome is how to decide when enough is enough.

Dave and Jacoby ShaddixAs far as the guys being involved in the project, they’re busy men and I try to leave them alone to do their jobs. That being said, Jacoby, Jerry, Tobin and Tony are some of the coolest guys you’ll meet and have answered every call and question I have asked. Whether you like their music or not, they are a kick-ass band and incredibly down to earth. I am lucky to have what little of an inside track as I do. I was given full access to the stage during sound checks to photograph the equipment; I mean I actually got to sit at the drums. When they were touring with Motley Crue, I was actually given a ‘Crue Skag’ for my birthday. Skags aside they are pretty excited about the project and want to see it finished as much as I do.

KG: I think it is fair to say that everywhere except LEGOLand (who just refuses to get on board) the all powerful minifig, and minifig-scale rules both the product line and the hobby in general. As the outspoken leader of the anti-minifig movement, would you care to outline your patently ridiculous stance?

DS: Anti-minifig, Keith? How could you do this to me? Twist my words… I thought we were friends! Saying I am anti-minifig is like saying that someone who is pro-life is anti-choice. I love those little dudes as much as the next guy! And I really like seeing the new diversity LEGO seems to be finding with its torso types and new flesh colors. I’ve done more than my fair share of vignettes like my armed robbery and ‘LifePod 23” and minifig only posts, ‘Blackstronauts’, “Boy Band” and even a concept for your ‘Fear the Black Planet’ contest. There is really a lot more fun to be had with the minifigure, and I am not going to count myself out of that action.

My gripe with the community is how much they seem to embrace minifig scale and none other. And even then, I think they have the scale all wrong. LEGO is a great medium and it often seems a shame to me that the majority of builders out there limit themselves to the worship of a little plastic doll. I would love to see more miniland scale MOCs and more sculpture produced on a regular basis.

More of Keith’s interview with Dave after the jump: Continue reading