So, what’s the attraction to all these variously sized and shaped bits of colorful plastic? That’s just it. They ARE variously sized, shaped and come in a wide array of colors. As I mentioned in the last post, my first introduction to Lego bricks was not that inspiring… but over the years, Lego has invented thousands of new pieces in new sizes, shapes, colors and ways that the pieces can fit together. These are not your neighbors first Lego blocks!
With Paul’s burgeoning interest in Lego, Andrea began to search for opportunities for him to see more of what others had done/were doing with it. This led us to a local Lego event, “LegoPalooza,” as well as to the now famous “Brickfair, VA.” The first year she and the children attended Brickfair they went as “observers” to see what it was all about (I was in Texas preparing my mother for her move to North Carolina). When they returned home, it was with a tremendous enthusiasm for the event—as if they had been to a family reunion where long-lost, or unknown relatives had been discovered for the first time. And truly, that is much the way that the Brick conferences feel. Though we are not connected by geneology, we are connected by a strongly held and widely shared common interest. We began planning a return for our first Brickfair in which we would register MOCs (My Own Creations) to share with the other participants.
The organizers of Brickfair select a special theme for each year’s conference. For that new year, 2009, the overarching theme was to be “Food and Drink.” Andrea and the kids hatched a plan to build an Asian Bistro and outfit it with all that they could imagine would be included in their dream restaurant.
Come the middle of July, they began to build it, and it grew to include a sushi bar, a teppanyaki grill, a bar, a kitchen, an office, and a back room where patrons could gamble under the watchful eye of armed guards.
Having been busy with something else while the building of the Asian Bistro was in progress [namely, the Orange County Artists Guild’s Open Studio Tour mailer/catalog!!!], I decided at the last minute to build some life-sized “replica sushi” pieces such as the wax models that are often displayed in the windows of authentic Asian restaurants. They came together quite easily, and it was great fun to see what variety of nigiri and rolls I could invent. The most inspiring aspect was using the very otherworldly, organic-looking “Bionicle” series parts for the meaty bits of the sushi models.
The day for departure came and we loaded up the car. Since this was my first Brickfair, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I discovered is an ongoing, interesting community of AFOL [Adult Fans of Lego] builders. Some, as in all organized groups of hobbyists, take themselves far too seriously in my opinion. [Now, I could probably be accused of the same!] Most, however, were very congenial and willing to “talk Lego” all day and into the evening if engaged to do so.
Building techniques were shared in small group seminars:
A lot of different building contests were on the schedule. Below, a “Combo Build” is in progress—participants are given two Lego sets and the task is to combine them into one MOC, using every single piece provided. They are then judged for originality and the number of pieces used.
Photography is highly encouraged at these events. Not only so other Lego enthusiasts can use your work as inspiration, but so they can take with them hints about the ways you’ve built something.
The only “rule” for the creative aspects of making of MOCs is “no limitation in size or theme.” However, there are a few rules for the mechanical aspects: 1) Your MOCs need to be original creations and not copied from Lego’s or some other MOC-ist’s kits, and 2) It’s a generally accepted rule that MOCs should have “unadulterated Lego”—none that has been cut, drilled, glued, torched, melded, welded, etc. and finally, 3) You may never, EVER use other toy systems in your creations! If your MOCs are found to contain any pieces from the likes of MegaBloks, Kinex, Erector sets, or any other, they are disqualified from the exhibition. At a few Brickfairs they had a “Moc Jail,” where the organizers and judges would take the offenders to display them as “criminal” examples for all.
Though the exhibition hall is open from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. for the registered participants, building with Lego continued in our hotel room at all times in between!
At each Brickfair, MOCs are judged and voted upon for a series of awards, called the “Brickee Awards.” Brickees are awarded for a number of categories: Best “City,” Best “Castle,” Best “Military Vehicles or Scene,” Best “Train,” Best “Sculpture,” Best “mosaic,” Best “Special Category,” etc.
It turned out that our Asian Bistro and the Lego Sushi were nominated as two of three finalists for a coveted “Brickee” award in the special “Food and Drink” category of the exhibition, and the Lego Sushi platter won the Special Category “Brickee” that year.
It was BIG fun to be there. And, once you’ve won a Brickee, you just can’t rest on your Lego laurels. Stay tuned for Part 3!