This week we were able to track down Fedde Barendrecht to his Australian hideaway in Brisbane. Fedde, who goes by the handle Karf Oohlu, works from home, uploads another crazy LEGO creation almost daily and dreams of world domination. Somehow lots of monkeys and frogs are involved. Let’s dive into his mind but keep your wits about you. Once he has us in his tentacled embrace he may not let go again.
The Brothers Brick: Hey Fedde! What can you tell us about yourself? How did you get into LEGO and what keeps you there?
Fedde: Hi, I’m an old fart, my name is Fedde Barendrecht, Dutch born, Australian raised, and now living in Brisbane Australia. I blame a certain AFOL, Aaron Andrews (aka Darkspawn)—it’s all his fault. The first time I’d visited his place, I saw all the castle MOCs he was working on. (These days, family life—kids—is burning up most of his spare time, and cost him his Lego room.) It got me interested, so I first got into Bionicle, thinking they seemed restrictive and so would feed the interest but not get out of hand. A few System sets eventually got bought, some more—things got out of hand.
What keeps me building? Apart from justifying the costs of all the Lego I’ve bought? I guess you could say I’ve always had artistic interests and really enjoy fiddling with things, scratch building and such, especially anything that allows free expression. Lego fits that bill very well, with the added bonus of not being permanent. You can always pull it apart, and mistakes are just a change of a few bricks, not an ending. I was going to also say it’s relaxing, but perhaps therapeutic might be a better word. And as I go to pick up another dropped piece, not find it, but instead find something else I didn’t even know was missing?….okay, frustrating is also another good word. But bottom line, it’s just too much fun not to play around with them.
TBB: Who or what is “Karf Oohlu”?
Fedde: In the beginning, there was the Word—no, wait. In the beginning when I’d first joined the Flickr community, I’d gone by the online name of Cthulhu. (I had considered Nyarlathotep, that’s a cool name too.) I love the old horror writers, especially William Hope Hodgson and H. P. Lovecraft. Those two guys know their way around proper horror. Anyway, I guess I roleplayed it a bit too much, and started getting some awkward reactions. Fun, but it got tedious after awhile. Karf Oohlu is just a work around; it’s still basically Cthulhu, but doesn’t look obvious unless read out aloud. Mind you it does feel a bit strange (though not bad) at times when people refer to me as Karf!
TBB: Can you describe for us the evolution you have gone through as a builder?
Fedde: As said, I’m a touchy feely guy. I like things you can get your hands on, and I’d lost my house with its big workshed. It was a place where I did lots of scale model building, sculpting and painting—I really used to enjoy it. But to no longer have the space to do that sort of stuff anymore, it was boring. Then I discovered Lego. (Again, thanks Darkspawn.) At first it was just the Bionicle and nothing more, then I started to add to the collection slowly—but no minifigs. I didn’t see the point. I thought they were just for the play side of things (now I’ve got too bloody many of them). As the collection started to grow, I needed to do more than just build with them as that kind of felt like I was just having a second childhood and that I needed help!
About this time I’d discovered that people were uploading photos of their builds onto the ‘net. There was my avenue for justifying what I was doing—well, at least give it a bit more gravitas. I was building and posting a MOC a week and was quite impressed with that, especially when I started getting picked up and blogged by you guys. That really gave me quite a boost, and made me feel even more comfortable with what I was doing. Since then I’ve been blogged in quite a few different places, not all Lego based, and done some work for TLG, so it’s certainly been interesting.
As the years passed (10 yrs in the Lego building business now, since I was a late bloomer) I got more and more comfortable with it. I had to, I guess, as while those years were passing the brick collection was growing, so space in my room was decreasing. Then one day I was offered the opportunity to work from home. As my ‘workroom’ is also my ‘Lego room’, I’m suddenly in all-day contact with my bricks and the birth of daily uploads began. It still amazes me how I’ve managed to keep coming up with fresh stuff all the time. The versatility of the bricks and being a bit crazy helps.
I’m looking forward to where my Lego evolves to next. May it never stagnate and fizzle.
TBB: I hope it never fizzles and I’m glad we helped give you a boost! You have a very individual style of building. How do you go about creating your unique creations? How does your process begin? Do you start with a plan or is it more of freestyle kind of thing?
Fedde: Generally it’s a freestyle thing…sometimes. I actually do start with a plan…just that more times than not, the plan goes sideways and some totally different thing walks off the assembly line (confuses the heck out of my construction team). So I figure, why waste time planning? It just gets in the way of building.
I’m ALWAYS fiddling with the bricks, so interesting scraps are always filling up my desk. It’s a little Chaos factory. Just the way I like it.
And I rarely work on just one MOC at a time. There’s usually a couple of main ones and at least six—or sixteen—other smaller ‘growths’ about the place. That’s on top of the tablescraps that are generating all the while.
TBB: Many of your builds involve using pieces in unusual ways. Which comes first, the concept or the pieces?
Fedde The piece, always (nearly always) the piece.
I’ll buy a set (within a reasonable budget) just for one piece I spot on the box rather than Bricklink it, because I’ll be too eager to try it out than to wait.
I guess it’s a niche I tried to carve for myself, because when I first went online, I saw so many awesome builders: castle builders, military ones, classic space, cars, planes and more. They were all so cool, I thought there was no way I could compete against them, nor did I want to. Their domains are theirs: Lego lords in their own rights. Besides, Lego is infinite in its options, and looking for the unusual, the different, really suits me anyway.
TBB: Well, I think you have become a LEGO Lord in your own right and your niche suits you well. Are there any of your builds that stand out as favorites or that turned out particularly well?
Fedde: I’m not much shy of 5000 uploads, so that’s a difficult question.
Guess I’d have to put the Tonka Heavy Assault Truck on the top of the list. [Pictured above.] It’s still my biggest build, and I love how all the details worked out on it, considering it had no plan. It was just working by eye and experimenting with various ideas as it grew.
My monkey and frog builds always put a smile on my face, and reign high on my favourite list. And as I’m sure you’d expect, I’m also very fond of my more Cthulhu Mythos-themed ‘dark’ builds.
TBB: I love the frogs and monkeys myself. How about the reverse? Any of your builds that just didn’t work quite right or that you can’t stand?
Fedde: Again, number of uploads and my reasonably poor memory of the failed ones makes that a difficult one to answer. To be honest, I don’t think I’d actually upload something I couldn’t stand. The poor thing would have suffered blunt force trauma long before it had to worry about being exposed to the public.
Though quite a few apparently don’t work so well or as intended. “Some” of my builds do tend to be in the ‘WTF’ and ‘Hmm’ categories, I guess. And there’s the old eye-of-the-beholder thing—what I see as obvious, others don’t. But generally I’m happy with what I post; I’m here to amuse and entertain.
TBB: Your builds definitely entertain and some make me go ‘Hmmm’! What are your thoughts about the fan community? How did you discover it and how important is it in regards to your hobby? How you attended a convention or belonged to a club or LUG?
Fedde: I think they’re a great bunch, generally friendly and easy going. Can’t say I’ve ever had any problems, nor heard of any that weren’t just minor nuisances—I’d trust my kids with them (NOTE – I don’t actually have any kids).
Once I got involved with the bricks, I really enjoyed it, but at first I didn’t know many other people into it (only one). Then my mate said he uploaded photos of his builds onto the net, and he was using Brickshelf and Mocpages. I gave it a go, and didn’t like Brickshelf at all. It was a silent, eerie place. Sure you get people visiting, but they were like ghosts: you only knew they’d been because a visit counter registered them. Whereas Mocpages was better in that it was vocal, and people commented and such. But I found at that time the majority seemed to be kids, so I left there too. It was about this time I saw a comment regarding Flickr, and checked it out. There I found a comfortable home at last; a place where I can not only display my MOCs, but can express my humour and other side interests. Bottom line, it’s a place where I find other people my own age who are just as infused with the brick fever as I am. That helps a lot with motivating me to keep on going.
As far as conventions are concerned, no, I have yet to actually get to one. Until recently, I didn’t even think they happened in my little backwoods town. It seems they do—I just never seem to be in the right place at the right time. One day!
And clubs or LUGs, no not really, apart from a small Brisbane LUG with just 9 members. And I can’t recall the last time we met together—it was a brief-lived thing, I guess. These days I’m pretty happy with a quiet life. I did far too much partying and socializing in my earlier days to believe I’ve survived this long. So yeah, quiet and cozy is what I look for in a good time now.
TBB: Describe your LEGO lair for our readers. Is it complete or are there bigger and better changes you plan to make to it?
Fedde: Oh it’s complete—as complete as current circumstances allows, as I now share a house instead of owning one. It’s a bedroom, not too big, with a queen sized bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers, display cabinet, shelves, a TV, my computer, the work computer, my desk and chair….and boxes and drawers of LEGO. My bed is the photo studio and temporary work/MOCing table (a shelf from one of the cabinets!) and additional storage. All of which transfers to the desk and chair when I need to sleep.
There’s very little actual walking space. All this combines to drive my builds to be smaller and more frequent. Space for keeping finished things or works-in-progress is difficult. And despite saying that, I’m starting up another ‘Tonka’ class AFV. I’m probably going to regret it, especially as I’m sure it’ll involve some Bricklink orders, which adds more plastic to the space issue. And they’ll want money from me for these things as well, which is annoying.
TBB: Money is so problematic. Is there anything I missed? What question were you hoping I wouldn’t ask?
Fedde: Lots, but that’s okay, because most of it is boring. But I am glad you didn’t ask about the mewling sound coming from the ceiling or that twitching hand in the corner. Be a bit awkward to explain those.
TBB: I was hoping to get out of here without acknowledging that I noticed them! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. What’s next on the agenda for ‘Karf Oohlu’?
Fedde: And thank you for asking. What’s next, Pinky? Try and take over the world, of course. I mean, I need the building space. There’s never enough building space, dammit.
Check out our previous coverage of Fedde and his work here!