Spring and fall. Life and death – and the cycle of rebirth. Always and forever Mother Nature will maintain a balance. This subtle yet beautiful LEGO tensegrity sculpture by TBB alum Nannan Zhang is a metaphor for that truth. Most of the sculptures we see have a single 2-chain/string feature. This one employs another chain to give it two distinct sides, like a scale. While it’s done very well here, you can also imagine a plethora of other possibilities for the technique. It’s probably unintentional, but knowing this accentuates the metaphor even more. Give that one a good think!
These builds were a huge hit this past year amongst builders. Take a moment to look back on all of the tensegrity creations we’ve featured, include one that is 3-tiered! Also, while you’re at it, you can check out Nannan’s other models.
It’s not usually our thing to feature LEGO works in progress. But when ZiO Chao posted a sprig of plum blossom, we featured it. Who could blame us, really? The subject was expertly crafted and photographed with utmost care. The sprig alone was rather breathtaking, actually. So you can imagine our thrill to learn the sprig was a mere teaser for this entire Bonsai plum tree. The builder tells us that the plum blossom is one of the most beloved flowers in China and has been frequently depicted in Chinese art and poetry for centuries. They can bloom in the winter and have therefore come to symbolize perseverance and hope, as well as beauty and purity. In my opinion, the official Botanical Collection has been the best new idea LEGO has come up with in a while. They have been the inspiration for so many beautiful creations such as this.
From the Andean condor to the black-necked swan, Luis Peña García has shared his appreciation of South American birds and wildlife by recreating them in LEGO. This time, Luis builds the Cahuil gull, also known as the brown-hooded gull. The red minifig flippers make excellent webbed feet for navigating the marshes and freshwater lakes. The 1×1 printed round eye tile is the perfect representation of the Cahuil gull’s white feathers around its eye. Simplistic and full of great part usages, this lil’ guy is the perfect desk buddy or shelf display.
Gather up your parts and begin building! Click here to for the instructions on how to make your own Cahuil Gull
LEGO has a bit of an unwarranted reputation among the general public as a medium that doesn’t lend itself easily to organic shapes. Hobbyist LEGO builders have been disabusing others of this misperception for many years by sharing LEGO builds inspired by the natural world. LEGO’s in-house designers are certainly capable of creating official LEGO sets full of flora and fauna, as LEGO designer Nicolas Vás proves with the new 10281 Bonsai Tree from the new Botanical Collection. The set includes 878 pieces and will be available on January 1st, 2021 (US $49.99 | CAN $TBD | UK £44.99).
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
Read our hands-on review of LEGO 10281 Bonsai Tree
Life in the current moment is what it is. With the holiday season and ongoing pandemic in full effect; I think it’s safe to say we are in stressful times, but a little Zen can certainly go a long way. Builder Stefan Kofler does us all a favor with this gorgeous and amazingly peaceful floating island LEGO model, complete with a lush cherry-blossom type of tree and little Asian-styled dream cottage. Just by looking at this build, I feel utterly at peace.
The color-scheme of this model does a lot of visual heavy-lifting. The light green plants, lavender flower petal and stem pieces, light grey round plates and tiles serving as a stony walkway, as well as the white and light blue elements used for the house; perfectly contrast against the darker colored elements comprising the base of the island as well as the trunk of the tree and foundation of the building. The light blue cylinders, cones, and 1×1 studs used in the roof for the cottage mixed with the same elements in white or light grey create a marbled appearance when looking at the build from afar.
Every component of this build seems to have been meticulously put together as the tree, house, and island itself clearly are comprised of many small elements combined. Honestly, I could look at this model all day while picturing myself floating on a little peaceful island containing much natural splendor.
I generally don’t broadcast my vacation whereabouts to potentially millions of readers but since I’m back I can say I’ve just spent a week in a tiny home similar to this one. With nothing but my own amusing self to keep me company, I have a new appreciation for living minimally. Daniel Barwegen may know what I mean as evidenced by this LEGO shack. Multidirectional bricks, plates, and slopes make for some neat textures here. I really enjoy the barren trees here and the all-around rustic feel. In my tiny rental, I fancied myself as a rugged old hermit (gray beard and all) just like the minifigure here. He’s doing it right with solar panels. And just when I started to smell like a guy who lived in a shack in the woods, it was time to come back to civilization, car payments, Zoom-room meetings, mortgage, and all that. But would I do it again? Totally! In a heartbeat.
If you ever find yourself wandering through the lush tropical forests of Lanyu Island, off the coast of Taiwan, you may come face to face with a Lanyu Horned Owl. But don’t be frightened! The Lanyu Horned Owl’s piercing yellow eyes and pointed ear tufts are just for show and it’s probably only looking for a nice midnight rodent snack. Our nocturnal friend comes in peace, as we find it calmly perched as Ian Hou’s latest LEGO bird creation. Ian uses a combination of curved sloped bricks for the owl’s wings and staggered wedge plates to render the plumage on its face and backside. Dark tan shell pieces form most of the owl’s chest feathers. The result is a wonderfully realistic build, shaped in all the right ways.
At a time when chaos seems to be the order of the day, builder Jaap Bijl reminds us that we can still find moments of serenity if we only look for them. At first glance I thought this was a real photo but upon closer inspection it proves to be an incredible work of LEGO art. Just looking at it gives me a sense of peace and calm. The first thing I noticed was the lovely sideways built water in sand green and olive green. The lily pads and plants with a few yellow flowers peeking out and an adorable yellow duck are a perfect accent. The surrounding landscaping is a nice mix of textures and colors that bring focus to the central cherry blossom tree. To provide detail on the bridge, the builder has utilized Technic bushings and axle connectors that appear to be strung like beads onto a flexible tube. The small temple is full of detail and has a roof that utilizes a similar construction method to the bridge. I love the cleverly built Buddha statue with his large belly created by a simple 2×2 round tile. Add in a few animals and a solitary minifigure to complete the picture and you have a model that transports you to an entirely different world where quiet contemplation reigns.
Contests bring out a different side in builders. I cut my teeth in the LEGO world making fantasy-based castles and the like over in the Guilds of Historica on Eurobricks, but for contests I have been building out of my comfort zone. First there was some Star Wars builds last May, then more recently a Neo-Classic spaceship, a pirate ship, a butterfly, and a bird. They’re quite different from what I got used to building, and they required different approaches. Most recently, I (Benjamin Stenlund) built an American Mustang, and no, I’m not talking about the muscle car, but about the horse that roams some parts of the Western USA. Though maybe I’ll build some cars soon, too, just for kicks.
Building him (and he is a male, if you look closely, a stud stallion) required patience in shaping like grey castle walls don’t. A plate or two of difference in the legs, the angle of the head, the girth of the chest, all these things required fine tuning and frequent adjustments. I built the head first, because if you start with the body, scaling the head to it becomes a nightmare (or is it a night stallion?), but even so I had to redesign the body multiple times. And pulling apart reddish brown pieces is a harrowing experience, never knowing when one could snap. And then supporting the weight of the whole horse with the tail required some Technic structure; I admit I fudged it a bit, and things did not quite line up, but it’s a custom creation and not an official set, so who cares? It was built for the studless category of the Style it Up contest (hence I made a stud) but I threw in some gratuitous minifigure-leg cacti to enter it into the Iron Forge, too. Now hopefully I can go back to building castles for a while…
In the northern United States, at least, one of the first signs of spring is when the robins return. It is a day much beloved, a turning point when the cold and snow is gone and flowers are about to bloom. Of course, in many places the robins never actually leave, and snow never really comes, so it is less exciting, but I know as a kid growing up in Minnesota I loved to see that first robin. So, since it is spring where I live, and needing an idea for a contest entry, I (Benjamin Stenlund) built a robin coming back to the newly-hatched chicks in her nest. I am quite pleased with how it turned out, with the adult bird poised in mid-air with her flight feathers extended, feet ready to grasp the edge of the nest; and I think the nest itself turned out well, too.
The adult robin was fun to make, even if it is awful fiddling with those wings; they stay together just fine unless you jostle them, but moving the model from my building table to my photography station required some rebuilding. A round plate with bar built into her tail fits into a dinosaur neck twig to hold her in the air, just off the nest. The hardest part was the face and trying different solutions for the beak; I wanted to be able to put a worm in her mouth, but it would not look right with the parts I had, so I left it out and just used the spike. Lots of flex tubing went into the nest, but it was worth it for the un-LEGOy, organic shape of it. And when I ran out of flex tube, I used oars and blunderbusses and a variety of spikes and whips. To maximize the spring feeling, I added some flowers; perhaps cherry blossoms, maybe apple, or whatever pink flower you like to see on trees! I know it makes me want to get out of the basement where I build and go take a walk, at least.
Like bird builds? Here’s a sparrow and an owl for your viewing pleasure.
Sometimes good things or even better things can come from tragedy. Kevin Peeters tells us about a LEGO project that took three months to complete. Immediately after photographing it, the creation was dropped onto the floor and shattered completely. This unfortunate story resonates with a lot of us as dropping an intricate creation occasionally is as inevitable as the tides. But Kevin didn’t give up and rebuilt the idea to be even better than the first. The end result is this stunning Olivia’s Getaway 2.0. I don’t know who Olivia is or what she’s getting away from but I admire the intricate work put into this rustic cabin. I can get lost in the details along the roof and landscaping and the pumpkins and daffodils are a nice touch. If you wanted masonry bricks in olive green, they only come in two sets. While I wouldn’t wish accidentally destroying a creation on any LEGO builder, I’d say we’re all fortunate that the accident occurred.
The art of bonsai, or tray planting, much like LEGO building can be a very meditative process. Hours and hours can go into the finished product, and meticulous study and practice can lead to a true masterpiece of patience and careful work.
In this wonderfully detailed tree by Know Your Pieces that combines both, there are some small details worth pointing out. I love the use of tiny cherries as small berries under some of the leaves. The twisted brown whip wrapped around the middle is also a nice choice. And the bowl and stand work very well together to provide the perfect display. Altogether, it’s just how a beautiful bonsai should be.