The world of LEGO has exploded over the past few years as kids (and adults) rediscover the art of assembling bricks to create a multitude of things including miniatures, mechanical devices, mosaic, and sculptures that spark the imagination.
These little colored bricks have been around for generations, and it’s no surprise that parents are getting their kids into the fun. I still find myself in awe during my monthly visits to the LEGO store, surrounded by bricks and boxes that can be used to build a seemingly endless amount of things.
So, what about those of us that have built a few sets and have a bin filled with colored bricks? How can you take your experience to the next level, and really put your imagination to work?
Who Are the Lego Pros?
To answer these questions, I decided to reach out to LEGO and to Dan from City Blocks, presently the World’s only public LEGO commercial art studio. He is one of only a handful of LEGO Certified Professionals, a group of LEGO master builders that have been recognized by LEGO for innovation and artistic accomplishment.
On the LEGO side, we were able to get in touch with LEGO’s own Jim Foulds. He is one of the most well-known members of the LEGO team, having worked with the community for a number of years. He offered to lend some of his favorite tips for anyone interested in taking their LEGO experience to the next level.
Use Multiple Containers During Builds
Try using containers such as box list and Tupperware to hold the LEGO bricks after taking them out of the bags they come in. This will keep them organized during the process while avoiding the likelihood of a brick becoming lost or falling off the table.
Build on a Smooth, Flat Surface
Building a model on rough terrain (such as carpet) can make it difficult to gain the leverage you need to properly attach the pieces. In addition, you should be able to see the model as it comes together better, making it easier to detect when a brick has been placed incorrectly. Part of the fun of building with LEGO is being able to see your project as it comes to life, and what better way to do that than on a flat, smooth surface with plenty of light?
Sort Your Bricks
Keeping your collection sorted as it grows is a great way to hit the ground running when it comes time to start building. Jim recommends, “There is no perfect system that fits everyone so you have to discover what works for you.” You can sort by size, general shape, color, or a combination.
Add LEGO to Your Reading List
We’ve all got a few websites that we check with some regularity. Dan suggests adding a LEGO site such as Brothers-Brick which features interesting and unique builds regularly. These sites may inspire a fun build, or point you in the right direction with your own creations.
Use a Brick Separator
No one likes having to pry LEGO bricks apart when they’re really stuck together. There is a tool for this in the Brick Separator. This little tool may not look like much, but it can save you from having to use your teeth to pry these plastic pieces apart. Jim advised, “Always have a brick separator near by when building, it’ll save your teeth.”
Save the Instructions
Saving your building instructions can save you a lot of hassle later on. While you might believe that Death Star will remain in perfect condition for all time, you never know when a cat (or a kid) will decide to play the part of Luke Skywalker. Jim suggests, “Referencing how the set designers build will help you become a better builder as your knowledge of the building system grows.”
Document Your Builds in Photos
Taking photos of your creations is a great way to immortalize them well past the initial build. Jim adds, “This will ease the stress as you find the need to take apart older creations to use the in newer creations.”
Don’t Worry About Social Stigmas
Dan may be a professional LEGO builder, but he’s also an adult. Being an adult fan of lego comes with a social stigma that can be difficult for many people to overcome. In a sense, that impression that LEGO is just for kids creates a social wall of glass. “A good sledgehammer for that social wall of glass is to bring a very cool piece of art to the table.” He continued, “It can be something you build or even something you find while trolling around the Internet.” Sometimes, people need to see just how much is possible with these “toys” before they can really appreciate what you can do with them.
Don’t Be Discouraged By the Size of Your Collection
Everyone has to start somewhere, and there have been more than a few breathtaking pieces done with a relatively small number of bricks. Work with the tools you have, and do so knowing that your collection will only grow over time.
Keep Your Eyes Open for Good Deals
Watch for deals on Craigslist or eBay, and pounce on them when you can. I (Matt Ryan) have actually built a sizable collection of over a dozen Bionacles with an investment totaling about $20 thanks to secondhand purchases. You can currently save 10% on anything from Bull Market Toys by using promo code “CHRIS10P”.
Make a Family Night Out of It
Dan suggests, “If you have kids, LEGO is an excellent bridge.” You can propose a LEGO night rather than playing the same board games or simply sitting in front of the TV. Pick up an interesting set or turn creating something new into a group activity. LEGO is a great way to trigger different parts of your mind and inspire creative thought. Doing this as a group can work wonders to break the ice and spark conversation.
Try Something New
Dan describes LEGO building as falling into four basic categories.
- This includes cars, castles, houses, and anything else that includes minifigs.
- This includes things that move and operate such as cranes and robotics.
- 2D artwork made using bricks as virtual colored pixels.
- This includes 3D sculptures such as bowling pins, statues, heads, and other objects.
If you typically take part in one type of build, try something else. You might find that creating something like a mosaic rather than a sculpture is both challenging and fun. After all, isn’t the primary reason to take up LEGO to have fun?
Attend Conferences and Group Events
LEGO is more than just a brand, it’s a community. The LEGO community has exploded over the past few years, and there are a number of conventions out there that feature some of the most complex and impressive builds to have ever been assembled out of colored bricks. BrickCon is in its 10th year, and features a large assortment of these creations ranging from small to gigantic.
You can also find a group of local builders to meet up with to build or swap stories. Bottom line: LEGO is a great tool to bring people together around a central activity that you don’t have to be especially athletic or wealthy to take part in. Just about anyone can enjoy and appreciate LEGO for what it is… good clean fun.
What about you? What are your favorite LEGO tips?
Photos by: Chris Pirillo