Building with character: a conversation with NPU wizard Djokson [Interview]

LEGO elements are a fascinating creative medium where the palette of possibility is constantly evolving, but the pieces of yesteryear never go away. Duplo bricks from 45 years ago can still connect with forgotten Znaps or the latest Dreamzzz. Serbian builder Djokson is an undisputed master of bridging obscure LEGO B-Sides with new shapes and colors. Over 10 years, he has created and shared nearly 400 LEGO models, each remarkable in form, personality, and originality. Djokson has been on a hot streak this year with multiple new models a week that showcases his growth as an artist. This seems like the perfect time to sit down with Djokson and learn a bit more about the mind behind this incredible run of LEGO marvels.

Mount


TBB: Maybe we could start with your relationship with LEGO. When did you first start building? Were there particular themes that you were most interested in building with?

Djokson: My first real set as a kid was Tahu from the initial 2001 wave of Bionicle, I only had a literal handful of regular bricks as far as LEGO went before that. I was instantly hooked.

A lot of those weird turn-of-the-millium themes have a special place in my heart just because of how strange they and the colors and parts they introduced were. Special shoutouts go to Xalax, Znap, and Clikits.

Lego used to be a lot harder to come by here (in Serbia) and the sets were sold at a significant markup for a long time, which is why I didn’t end up having that many sets growing up. I’d be lucky to get my hands on a Bionicle set or two a year. The majority of my collection consisted of cheaper knockoff sets. It’s a huge contrast to how things are today, there are lots more options to source sets and they’re a lot more accessible too.

Sir Albrecht III of Groenhem

TBB: Did you go through a “dark age” and return to LEGO or have you been building continuously?

Djokson: There were a few years where I’d lost my interest in the new Bionicle figures and LEGO as a whole but I came back to it around 2012 with the introduction of the new character and creature building system in Hero Factory. It caught my attention for being what I felt was a fresh take on the action figure-type set formula at the time.

TBB: You’ve been steadily sharing your models online going back to 2013. What motivated you to start sharing and to keep it up over the years?

Djokson: I was always fascinated by the original creations I’d seen online, on sites like Brickshelf, and wanted to share the stuff I made myself as well I was also hoping that I could maybe connect with the people whose work I admired. I ended up meeting a lot more of them than I ever thought I would.

Starbit

TBB: What I find remarkable and inspiring about your work is that, with very few exceptions, all of your builds are characters. Sometimes human, sometimes robot, creature, or animal, but always dynamic and full of personality. What drew you to this style of
building?

Djokson: Bionicle being my real introduction to Lego is a big part of it. I also have an interest in character, graphic, and toy design as well as animation, despite having no formal training in any of the fields. Lego just ended up being the somewhat questionable choice of medium that I used to explore those interests.

Mr. Schnoz' Sunday Drive

TBB: Over the past 11 years you’ve shared hundreds of original characters. What do you
do with your models once you’ve shared them?

Djokson: I like to keep as many completed things as I can together but I’ll often take them apart if I need a specific part.

TBB: Do you ever build other formats that aren’t part of your publicly shared collection, like
castle, space, or modulars?

Djokson: Not really. Lately, I’ve been inspired by architecture a lot so you might see more of that sort of thing in my stuff.

squiglift certified

TBB: When designing a new character, where do you start? With a seed part, a color, a personality…?

Djokson: It depends on the build itself, but usually I’ll start with a vague idea I want to capture which gets more solidified as the build itself progresses. I also like to let the parts themselves help dictate the shape of the finished product rather than trying to force the elements into a specific shape if that makes any sense.

I used to sketch down ideas more often when I was starting, these days I like to go into it with a fuzzier idea of the finished thing so I just go straight to the parts. I like to keep multiple projects going at a time, which often leads to unfinished works getting combined or even splitting into multiple WIPs themselves. I find this way of building helps keep me inspired.

King Fuzzwuzzle III

TBB: How long does it take to build a typical character?

Djokson: It’s hard to gauge because I like to work on multiple things simultaneously, but I’d say usually around 2-3 hours of actual building per character for the sort of “Bionicle-sized” builds.

TBB: Your characters often celebrate unusual parts from across so many themes, from constraction and System to DUPLO and Scala. How do you acquire parts of your collection? Are you comfortable sharing any details about how large your collection is today?

Djokson: It’s probably bigger than it should be. I like to check local auction sites for mixed lots of used parts, that’s where the most interesting stuff usually comes from.

Assault Symbiont Cirrus

TBB: Is there a parts usage that you’re especially proud of?

Djokson: I don’t usually go out of my way to use a weird part. I’ve just amassed a collection of them over the years and if their shape and color work out for what I’m trying to convey, they’ll get used. If I had to single out a specific parts usage I’m happy with, it’d be the Dimensions bases in my Symbiont Biotech series.

TBB: Do you have any favorites from your extensive gallery of characters? Maybe you select a
few favorites and tell us why they stick out?

Djokson: I’ll be honest, I don’t like picking favorites because I always feel a huge recency bias towards my newer stuff. I’ll admit I’m especially happy with Ogre, Prognosticator and Navisprite for how they incorporate non-LEGO elements.

prognosticator

TBB: It seems like you’ve entered a real golden age lately where you’ve been producing new
models rapidly with incredible quality and variety. How do you feel you’ve grown as an
artist? How do you feel about where you are?

Djokson: Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. I’ve just had a lot of ideas I wanted to explore and share.

I don’t know if I would consider myself an artist. I just want to make more of the things I want to see, and all I can hope for is that other people will find some enjoyment out of me sharing them.

TBB: For a long time, many AFOLs who grew up with System bricks were quite dismissive of LEGO’s constraction lines like Bionicle and Hero Factory. Now it seems that builders like yourself have helped to break down the barriers between them. Do you still feel a divide between traditionalists and builders who embrace the less brick-oriented LEGO lines?

Djokson:  I’m just glad more people have realized creating divides based on the types of parts used in their toys is silly.

startle display

TBB:  Many of your earliest works lean heavily on Bionicle parts. Do you miss that line or hold out hope for its return?

Djokson: I have a fondness for Bionicle but I’d rather Lego come up with new original ideas.

TBB: Do you have a favorite recent LEGO theme or set?

Djokson: The insect collection was great.

TBB: Do you belong to any LUG (LEGO user group) or participate in any other local LEGO community activities?

Djokson: I’m currently part of BIONILUG and Kolege LUG. Kolege is having a little event on the 22nd and 23rd of June in Belgrade and some of my own stuff will likely be there. Stop by if you’re around!

And keep an eye out for the annual Bio-Cup, great stuff always comes out of it.

TBB: We can’t wait!

The Chulkaa Spinebeast

Thank you so much to Djokson for taking the time to speak with us. The models featured in this interview are taken from throughout Djokson’s prolific run and have not been covered on the site before, but there are plenty more models to explore in our Djokson archive and on his well-curated albums.

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