Presumably named after an extinct genus of octopus, the Keuppia by Builder BetaNotus is also inspired by an ancient expansion from 1994 of the Star Wars role-playing game. The Discril-class attack cruisers from Cracken’s Rebel Operatives may not be canon now but their general shaping was similar to the model that BetaNotus crafted in their honor. Like the once Imperial vessels which fell into the hands of brigands and thieves, this ship is “crewed by pirates seeking fame, fortune, and unsuspecting merchants,” as the builder puts it. Originally built for BrickFair Virginia 2021, there are a slew of techniques used in the shaping of this craft. BetaNotus covered almost ever crack and angle while also creating a frightfully armed front end. The grill slopes used at the front could be large vents or textured armor, either reads well, but the triple gun arms are real heavy hitters. I could see why pirates would like such an craft as it would be great for running down ships and disabling their shields while taking plenty of hits of its own.
Last year, after Brickfair Virginia 2017, over a few drinks Magnus Lauglo, Aleksander Stein and I had a discussion on what to bring for 2018. The three of us have been attending BrickFair for years and have often admired the large collaborative displays at the event, with builders creating something together. Because of this we figured it would be nice for us to collaborate too rather than bringing our own stand-alone models. We soon agreed to build scenes from the Vietnam War.
I suspect that most ideas that come out of conversations in bars lead nowhere and that is probably a good thing. However, earlier this year we found that we were still pretty excited about this idea and we found that more people wanted to get involved. Ultimately, eleven more builders contributed (in no particular order): Peter Dornbach, Stijn van der Laan, Matt Hacker, Dean Roberts, Eínon, Evan Melick, Casey Mungle, Corvin, Yasser Mohran, Bret Harris and Brian Carter. Corvin, Aleksander and I are the only builders who don’t live in the US or Canada to regularly attend the Virginia event, but our Vietnam group turned out to be a pretty international crowd. We had builders who live in six different countries: the US, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal, Norway and the Netherlands.
We picked Vietnam as the subject because we all watched classic Vietnam War movies when growing up, it is largely novel for most of us and it is far less common for military builds than models from, say, WW2. We considered building a single collaborative battle diorama, but chose to build separate scenes instead. It is hard to find a single battle that is actually interesting to build, as there is usually just a lot of terrain involved and multiple copies of trees, bunkers or vehicles. Separate scenes have the advantage of allowing different builders to give the subject their own twist. I was excited to see what the other guys came up with. The Vietnam War offers a lot of scope for building interesting military hardware, but we could also show some of the history, including the aftermath. Given the wide range of different models on display, we nailed it.
Most of my fellow Brothers are already getting geared-up for BrickCon in October, but at that time of year, sadly, I can get away from work only barely long enough to attend Steam in the UK; a trip to the US is not in the cards. However, in the last few weeks I was in the US for a holiday which included attending Brickfair Virginia. I haven’t yet been home long enough to find the time to go over all the pictures that I’ve taken, let alone to find the owners of the models in them on-line, but will hopefully get around to that in the next few weeks. For now I want to share some of my experiences and to give a shout-out to the military builders I have been hanging out with, specifically Aleksander Stein, Evan Melick, Matt Hacker and Corvin Stichert. This year they displayed a collaborative airfield layout full of excellent minifig scale (near-future) military aircraft, helicopters and ground support equipment.
The event consisted of three set-up days, which were for registered attendees only. There were a lot of organised activities, including games and talks about build techniques, as well as two talks by the guys from Beyond The Brick about their youtube podcasts. I was too busy chatting to other builders while all of this went on, but I did catch an excellent talk by Gary Brooks (whose Battle of Waterloo was featured here a few weeks ago) about building landscapes, that taught me a few new tricks. The set-up days were followed by two public days, during which we all got to display our models to an appreciative audience. I know some exhibitors dread these, and they can get very busy, but I enjoyed talking to the audience and demonstrating the folding wings and undercarriage of my Wildcat fighter.
The fun didn’t end at Brickfair. Since all of us share an interest in military history and technology, the next day we hit the road (and thanks to the satnav, DC rush hour traffic on the way back) to visit the USMC Museum in Quantico. This had a little LEGO twist: its shop features an impressive model of the USMC Memorial by Nathan Sawaya, which was the perfect backdrop for a group photograph.
I know that there must be a fair few people among you who have never actually been to any sort of LEGO convention or event. I was like you for a long time. Building with LEGO was something I did on my own. Later I started sharing models online, which added a welcome social component. However, as I found out when I joined Brickish in the UK and started attending events, nothing beats face-to-face meetings with fellow enthusiasts and being able to see their builds in real life. I’d like to thank Magnus Lauglo for inviting me to brickfair several years ago and for offering me a place to crash this year too. Congratulations to our very own Simon for winning four (!) Brickee awards, including best aircraft. Thanks guys, I had a ball.
Some of the great models that were on display at Brickfair Virginia have already been blogged here in the last few days. I haven’t posted much of anything recently myself, because I’ve been taking a vacation in the US and have been traveling around since before Brickfair. However, today I have a little time to share some of my favorites from the show. Since the models I took to the event were in the military theme, the military tables were more or less my home for the duration of the show and I’ll highlight some of the builds there for now.
The guys I hung out with the most, Matt Hacker, Evan Melick (Legosim), Corvin Stichert and Aleksander Stein, built a collection of military vehicles, mostly based on existing vehicles, with a few fictional near-future vehicles thrown in for good measure. The quantity was impressive, but it was the quality that impressed me the most. Almost all of the vehicles have working features, such as opening doors and hatches or suspension. Even though they were built by four different people, they all seemed to fit very well together.
As good as these were, the award for best military vehicle went to the M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter built by Christopher Jenkins (Jenkballs), which is well deserved as far as I am concerned. I saw this model a few months ago and liked it then, although the photo wasn’t all that great. Seeing the vehicle with my own two eyes makes all the difference, however.
The M1070 is the standard heavy hauler for the US military and is used to transport M1 Abrams tanks, for instance. It is not the most common choice of subject, but I like trucks and have long been thinking about building one myself. This model is superbly done, with every detail painstakingly built out of tan elements.
Also on display was a collection of models from the Battle of Gettysburg. This famous Civil War battle took place 150 years ago this year. The ‘Defense of Little Round Top’ diorama, by Gary Brooks (Gary the Procrastinator), won the award in the ‘Best Historic’ category.
Little Round Top is a rocky hill South of Gettysburg. A counterattack by the defending 20th Maine Regiment against Confederate troops was a pivotal moment in the battle. There is nothing I don’t like about this diorama. It’s the sort of model where you keep noticing new things as you turn around it. The landscaping is fantastic. The hill looks muddy and slippery somehow and that is no small feat.
These were just some of the highlights at the show for me. I spent a lot of time meeting other builders and looking at their models. I still have dozens of photographs to go through and will highlight some of the other models that I saw in the next few weeks.
A few weeks ago, Brother Andrew took us on a trip through Cyberpocalypse as it was presented at BrickWorld Chi-Town. A few weeks later the diorama was presented in its entirety for BrickFair Virginia, and it is my distinct honor to bring you extended coverage of what is without a doubt my favorite sci-fi diorama to date. Carter Baldwin and BroLUG manage to accomplish what is perhaps the most difficult aspect of collaboration; the seamless merging of diverse builders into a cohesive scene. When looking at convention-driven collaborative projects in person or online it is typically very easy to tell where one builder’s work stops and another begins, but such is not the case with Cyberpocalypse.
The influences for the project should be obvious to any fan of the genre; William Gibson, Blade Runner and Akira to name just a few, but I was surprised to learn that BroLUG also cites Kowloon Walled City as a major inspiration. Who knew the Bro’s were so literate and talented at beer pong too? Instead of me rambling on about the wonders of collaboration, I will provide excerpts from the Cyberpocalypse exit interviews conducted earlier this week.
Carter Baldwin is the somewhat reluctant Captain of BroLUG, a non-geographical club which seems to be equal parts RoninLUG, KeithLUG and a high-school Lacrosse Team. Carter (he’s the one in the photo with the nerdy Firefly shirt) was still loopy from the weekend’s shenanigans but with a little coaxing he was able to focus long enough to share his thoughts on the whole cat-wrangling endeavor.
“Throughout this project there were three things I found indispensable; concept art, caffeine, and noise rock…This display was definitely the most ambitious Lego project I’ve ever undertaken. Considering how poorly it could have gone, I’m beyond pleased at how well it all turned out. As much as I like to think that I run the show the real stars are all the contributors. I want to give particular props to Nate Brill and his builds inspired all of us to push our boundaries.”
There are about a thousand builders registered, including a fair few people whose models you’ll have seen featured on this blog. Nannan had a great time there back in 2011 and BrickFair Va 2011 was the first US LEGO convention I attended. I had a blast. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it last year (or to any of the other US LEGO conventions so far), but I am back in Virginia for this year’s event. Dan will also be there. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the models and to meeting their builders.
The convention takes place at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly Va (near Washington DC) and is open to the public on Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 4th of August from 11am to 4pm. Online ticket sales end today. You can buy tickets at the venue, however, for the same price, but will probably have to wait in line for a while. If you are in the area, it will be a fantastic day out.
BrickFair 2011 took place near Washington, DC this weekend. I wanted to hit up one more con before med school starts next week, so I decided to attend my first Lego convention in the Northeast and see some new people and MOCs that couldn’t make it to the other two large Lego conventions in the US: Brickworld and Brickcon.
The first thing that struck me was the enormous exhibit hall, which was about the size (and appearance) of an empty Walmart store. The next thing that struck me was the diversity of creations, including whole areas for less-commonly exhibited themes such as steampunk, post-apocalypse, even NASA. Lastly, I was amazed by the sheer number of people who showed up during the weekend public hours (above video), which turned out to be about 17,000.
Among the MOCs displayed, some of my favorites were Arthur Gugick‘s transforming mosaic, Black Baer‘s tornado vignette, the entire aquapocalypse display, and a cute Bionicle poster (not a MOC, I know). The list goes on, so I took a walkthrough video of the exhibit hall and highlighted more interesting creations along the way. Speaking of which, I’m glad people have found this video helpful. I plan on doing guided tours of the Lego conventions that I attend in the future.
I’m glad I made the decision to come to BrickFair, and I hope to do so next year as well (and perhaps have the rest of Awesometown). You can see my photos at BrickFair on Flickr or more on the BrickFair Flickr group.
Here is a video I took of BrickFair 2011. I’m not the best tour guide, but hopefully this will give you a sense of what the convention looks like if you couldn’t make it.
My buddy Nick Kappatos and I once again teamed up to build for BrickFair. We can’t seem to tear ourselves away from crashed alien space ships as a subject, though I think we managed to change things up enough.
This year, we’re bringing the viewer to a bizarre sector of the sea. A shaman stands atop of the island, invoking the mysteries of the sea. Sea monsters emerge, as a UFO crashes into the ocean. Meanwhile, other inhabitants of the island battle to contain a monster escaping from a cage at the base of the mountain.
This year, Nick and I wanted to do something different, so we went to the sea. We also incorporated lights into this display, official LEGO lights which flash behind the eyes of the skull. We’re hoping to open up this sea-based concept as a community build at BrickFair next year, so stay tuned for an announcement with a standard.
BrickFair 2010 took place last weekend, and I’ve now finally had a little bit of time to recover. Like any LEGO convention, it was a blast! There were a lot of fun times to be had hanging out with other LEGO builders. There were also some great sessions, including a presentation by LEGO designer Jamie Berard (which culminated with the unveiling of the Tower Bridge set).
People have also had some time to put their photos online. This works out well, as my wife had both of our cameras in the Galapagos, while I was at BrickFair. You’ll all have to wait for more photos of the latest award-winning display from my compatriot Nick and I of 3LUG. In the meantime, I’d like to highlight some of my favorites from the con.
The above is part of a diorama depicting the battle of Fort McHenry, the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner. This diorama incorporated some great detail techniques, including smoke from the cannons, and wall-shrapnel. The builder chose to depict the ship in cross-section, which was a fascinating bit of extra detail. The most amazing thing about this creation, though, was that, according to the MOC card, it was built by a thirteen year old!
I also quite enjoyed the display above, by Jordan Schwartz. There’s some lovely detail work in the railing, and the columns are nice as well.
The official press release:
10214 – Tower Bridge
Ages 16+. 4,287 pieces.
Price: US=239.99, UK=204.99, DE=219.99, CA=314.99
Build London’s famous Tower Bridge!
Stretching over the River Thames since 1894, the famous Tower Bridge of London, England is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Now you can add this timeless classic to your LEGO world buildings collection! Designed with advanced building techniques and rare colors and elements, the Tower Bridge is complete with its iconic paired towers and a drawbridge that really opens. Fun to build and display, it locks together solidly but can be taken apart in sections for easy transport. Includes 4 miniature vehicles; a black London taxi, a traditional red double-decker bus, a yellow truck and a green automobile. Completed model measures 40″ (102 cm) long, 17″ (45 cm) high and 10″ (26 cm) wide.
- Includes 4 miniature vehicles: a black London taxi, a yellow truck, green automobile and even a traditional red double-decker bus!
- Features the iconic paired towers and a drawbridge that really opens and closes!
- Includes unique printed shield!
- Features hundreds of 1×1 slopes in tan!
- Many useful arches, angular bricks in tan!
- Includes 4 blue base plates and over 80 windows!
- Tower Bridge is ideal for building and display – it can be taken apart in sections for easy transport!
- Add this amazing landmark to your LEGO world buildings collection!
- Completed model measures an impressive 40″ (102 cm) long, 17″ (45 cm) high and 10″ (26 cm) wide.
Also check out this video for behind-the-scenes goodies:
To commemorate the passing in April of Nate “nnenn” Nielson, each of the three LEGO conventions over the summer and fall are hosting Vic Viper fly-ins. Keith Goldman gives us a glimpse into the Chicago fly-in earlier this month.
Two weeks ago in Chicago, I had the pleasure of organizing the first Vic Viper fly-in, in honor of our departed friend and fellow builder Nate “nnenn” Nielson.
72 Vipers from 66 builders joined the missing-man formation from a total of 7 countries: Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, U.K. and the USA. We kept the center of the layout open in the tradition of missing man formations, with nnenn’s rubber-band holder avatar as a placeholder. The public was drawn in by the amazing Vipers, and more often than not stayed for the story behind it.
Thanks again to all the participants that made the formation an outstanding tribute to Nate. Special thanks to Ley Ward for his time and patience, and skill with the dozen or so Vipers that arrived with “some assembly required”. For a detailed list of participants, please follow the link to my Flickr-posting and check the notes.
The formation was a moving experience for many of the builders involved, and we’d all like to express our condolences again to the Nielson family. Nnenn was missed in Chicago and will clearly be missed around the planet.
Both of the upcoming LEGO conventions, BrickFair in August and BrickCon in October, will also be hosting missing man formations to honor Nate. If you would like to participate in either of these formations, you can contact Dan Rubin (for BrickFair) and Andrew Becraft (for BrickCon).