Back in April 1999, it would have been hard to imagine what LEGO Star Wars sets might look like in twenty years, but it would have been even harder to predict how the LEGO fan community would evolve over the next two decades. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the LEGO Star Wars theme, I also wanted to take a moment to reflect on how LEGO Star Wars has affected my life, along with the lives of countless other LEGO fans all over the world.
The LEGO fan community is mourning the loss of kindhearted and prolific builder, Arthur Gugick of Ohio. On March 30th Arthur and his significant other, Barbara Becker, were tragically killed in a car accident. If you ever attended North American fan events like BrickWorld Chicago or BrickFair VA, you may have run into Arthur before. At these events, you could catch a glimpse of his elaborate architectural builds and mosaics. Arthur was featured in the Winter 2008 issue of BrickJournal magazine, and he was even contracted to recreate his model of the Taj Mahal for the Australian independent film, Taj (2011).
In addition to being an avid LEGO enthusiast, Arthur taught math at Beachwood High School. He was passionate about his job and had a knack for harnessing his creativity to make math fun for his students. In an interview with ABC News 5 Cleveland, Ed Bernetich (who had been responsible for hiring Arthur) commented:
I was very sad because he is one of a kind. He’s a total unique individual. There are many great math minds, but sometimes they don’t relate to other people very well. And here we had a guy with a mathematician’s brain who also was extremely skilled at reaching kids.
Arthur’s death has been a difficult time for Beachwood School District staff and students, whose lives he has touched over the years.
Ever the mathematician, Arthur approached his LEGO models from a mathematical angle. Some of his structures utilized calculus, and he even wrote his own software for building domes like the one on his Taj Mahal. According to Arthur, “I look at my buildings as more an exercise in mathematics than necessarily an art form, which might be a little different of a take than other people do, or maybe it’s the same… For me it’s a puzzle” (BrickJournal – Winter 2008).
Change is inevitable within any community, and the online LEGO fan community has certainly weathered its share of major disruptions over the past 20 years.
Ever since the future of LEGO photo sharing website Brickshelf.com became unclear in July 2007, the majority of the LEGO building community has made its home on Flickr. But with Yahoo! failing to keep up with the times, the venerable web company has begun shedding its online properties, leading to the acquisition of Flickr by SmugMug earlier this year. Unlike the hysteria back in 2007, the reaction to the SmugMug acquisition among LEGO builders has been fairly muted, and generally positive given the sense that Yahoo! had effectively abandoned Flickr several years ago. This changed recently when SmugMug announced changes it would be making to Flickr’s Pro and free accounts at the beginning of 2019.
It’s not often we re-visit a LEGO model, especially after only a few days. But when we shared an atmospheric post-apocalyptic scene from Adam Sochorec earlier this week we didn’t realise there was more to come. It turns out Adam’s build was only part of a larger collaborative build with Jan T. I love the way the rough terrain has crept over to cover the road, and how the two builds have been united with lovely rock work and landscaping. Jan’s harbour with its little fish market and decrepit building really adds to the whole scene. Clearly, even after the apocalypse, life goes on despite the struggles.
Collaborative builds are not unusual but what makes this one special is the story behind it. As Jan puts it…
“We started planning it about two months ago. Adam is from Czech Republic, so he had to convince his parents to let him go to Poland. Luckily, he made it and his 5.5 hours of travel were worth it. He stayed in my house for 4 days. We traded some parts and minifigs and spent two days and one night building the collab. We shared the bricks, Polish food, and a bottle of Becherovka with each other.”
Two builders are clearly better than one and the resulting collaborative build is a great scene. What a perfect reminder of how LEGO can be a source of fun, learning, community and life-long friendship.
Something probably not well known to people outside the AFOL community, is the extent LEGO fans regularly go in using their unique obsession to benefit the less fortunate. Whether it’s by selling off their one-of-a-kind creations, auctioning memorabilia at conventions, or staging 24-hour live broadcasts, AFOLs pull all kinds of ingenious stunts on behalf of their favorite charities.
Case in point: Builder Paul Vermeesch created this gorgeous 2′ x 2′ microscale model of a building on the Mooseheart campus for Moose International, to be raffled off at their annual convention.
But rather than simply building the model at home and sending it to them, Paul actually designed it digitally then brought a sack of 5000 bricks to the conference and spent 2 days building it on-site, with the help of some attendant kids. (Hmmm, building with kids – now that’s dedication!)
Nick V. (Brickthing) builds at 9 o’clock, if you judge by the stately grandfather clock in the corner of this room of inspiration. Meant to represent all the different places Nick draws inspiration, the room is packed full of references to online communities and fellow fans who focus Nick’s creativity. Look closely, and you’ll notice that even the landscape outside the window is brick-built – something on which it would be incredibly easy to take a shortcut.
The last stage of the sci-fi theme month trifecta is upon us. And NnoVVember is the original theme month. Started in 2008 by the late great Nate “nnenn” Nielson as a personal challenge to post a Vic Viper starfighter from the Gradius video game series for each day of the month. The challenge has continued each year since, and evolved into a yearly tribute to Nate since he passed away tragically in April of 2010.
Well this year is no different and we want to see everyone’s contribution to the monthly build challenge. However, after some discussion in the Vic Viper flickr group, we want to make sure that everyone brings their A-game. The whole premise of these theme months is to challenge people to build things that they otherwise may not have. But it appears that they are starting to become just an excuse to try and get your build on the final poster/map. Now don’t get me wrong, seeing people building, no matter the quality is great. But it does appear to be a trend in seeing submissions, that quite often by the builders own admission, are sub-par. People are rushing to either get as many builds as possible submitted, or scrambling at the last minute to get something added.
I saw this a lot during the Ma.Ktoberfest challenge, where people continuously posted builds and admitted that they didn’t really think they fit the theme and typically that they didn’t even fully understand what the theme was. I felt rather elitist when having to edit these submissions out, but at the end of the day, the information is out there. I know myself and the other organizers get a lot of satisfaction out of hosting these sorts of events, introducing people to a new theme and challenging them in their building. But if they are choosing to not look into the plethora of background information provided and/or interact within the group to learn from the active members, then that is no fault of my own. Rest assured that there is never a shortage of high quality builds, but I see this as somewhat of a slippery slope and I certainly don’t want the trend to continue and in turn discourage others from participating in the future.
So with all that being said, for this year’s NnoVVember let’s honour Nate’s memory the best way we can, let’s see Quality over Quantity Nate always gave us top quality builds, so we should do the same for him.
With over one hundred entries and over 11,700 studs worth of LEGO spaceships built, I think it is a safe bet that SHIPtember was a huge success. Checkout all the winners in this thread. And vote for your People’s Choice winners in this thread
Also be sure to to check out the massive full size poster at 10px=1 stud. Big props to Josh Derksen for making the rockin’ poster. And of course humungous internet high fives to brainchild Simon Liu for hosting probably the most epic monthly build challenge in flickr history.
As some of you may be aware, a group of fans dubbed the month of September “SHIPtember” and challenged builders around the world to create SHIPs (Seriously Huge Investment in Parts, aka a spaceship over 100 studs in length). We’ve been highlighting a few of the best SHIPs as they’ve come out, and we’ll continue to do so as we see ones that catch our fancy. Some builders, however, decided that mere photographs couldn’t suffice to show the awesomeness of their SHIPs, and just had to swoosh them around. Swooshing is the science of picking up your creation and zooming it around making engine noises. It’s a highly technical and very serious business, and serves the purpose of demonstrating how sturdy your construction is. Laser sound effects are optional. SHIPs, due to their size, require extraordinary engineering to be lifted in such a manner. Check out these great demonstrations by Jacob Unterreiner (4estFeller) and our very own Tromas. You can also browse through the 95 SHIPs built by fans in the last month–a ridiculous number of top-notch models.
Well if SHIPtember has taught me anything, it’s that it will be one tough act to follow. Gargantuan spaceships of all shapes, sizes and colours have been created throughout the month. So what better way to segue in to Ma.Ktober than a Maschinen Krieger themed SHIP.
Now, I use the term ‘SHIP’ loosely here, because let’s be honest, it is basically a giant space barbell. But it did drain me of most of my 2×2 white tiles, curved slopes in both dark grey and white and did reach the 100 stud minimum length requirement. Also it swooshes like a dream, so I’ll give it a pass just this once.
But really I am not here to talk about my SHIP, I am here to tell you all to set aside your technic beams and large plates, pick up your curvy bits & bobs and get ready to make sweet sweet Maschinen Kriegery goodness. And not wanting to break with tradition my friend Victor Vercesi designed an absolutely amazing piece of work based on some of my Ma.K models. Again the design is available on Victor’s Society 6 Shop or his Redbubble Shop to buy on T-Shirts, Art Prints, phone cases, stickers etc.
So if you aren’t played out from all the SHIPing, pop on over to the Ma.Ktoberfest 2013 Bierzelt and join in on the fun.
Following the acquisition earlier this year of Bricklink.com by gaming mogul Jung-Ju Kim, Bricklink has begun to make changes to their site in anticipation of a complete site overhaul. One of their first steps has been to roll out a new ToS. Bricklink appears to also be claiming the exclusive rights to the common naming system for LEGO pieces, through threatening legal action to competitors. This is intended to protect Bricklink’s market dominance from newcomers like Brick Owl. It is natural that Bricklink takes reasonable steps to protect its interests, but they may have stepped too far with this claim. Our friend Tim Johnson over at The New Elementary has an excellent write-up covering the issue.
The Starfighter Telephone Game was started over two years ago and now for the first time a round has been completed. The game works just like the grade-school game from which it got it’s name. Someone starts off by building a starfighter and ships it to the next player, they keep it and build a new fighter inspired by the previous. Game carries on until the first player receives the final fighter.
With three rounds underway and dozens of builders spread across the globe, I think it is safe to say that the game is a success (even with a few delays and hiccups along the way).
Mark Stafford just posted the pictures of the final version of the starfighter for his team (which I was lucky enough to be a part of). All I have to say is that Mike Yoder is a lucky boy to end up with this thing.
Mark also did up a quick video showing the progression of the design from start to finish.
Mike just did up this edit of the linear progression of each version. It is very cool just how much it changes from step to step.