Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Authentic Cafe Corner

The next creation we want to spotlight is one that we built together: What we call the 'Authentic Cafe Corner'.

A few years ago LEGO released a set called the Cafe Corner. While the set is great (and chock full of good parts), it infuriated Alice (and to a lesser extent Roy) since it looked more like a New Orleans brothel than a cafe. As a result, we decided to build our own version of a Cafe Corner, based (loosely) on the Place du Molard in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first version, which won Best Town Layout at Northwest Brickcon 2007 in Seattle Washington, consisted of building facades on two sides of the street, with a mosiac in the background depicting the famous Jet D'Eau spraying up out of Lac Leman.
We tried to cram in as many details as possible. Particularly notable is the cobblestone street. A number of years back LEGO changed the formula for their grey bricks (both light and dark grey). Many fans were furious, since new bricks in these colors didn't match the older bricks in their collection, but we try to look at them as just two separate colors. In particular, mixing old and new dark grey tiles (or dark grey and dark 'bley', in aficionado terms) provides a particularly nice effect here.

In our second version, which was nominated for best building at Brickworld 2008 in Chicago (but which didn't win), we eliminated the mosaic background and replaced the facades with full buildings. This version consisted of a full block of buildings:
We were actually quite happy we didn't win this one, since we had originally planned on doing two blocks, but time caught up with us, and we didn't get the second set of buildings finished. (I was particularly happy with the brick effect I achieved on the black and white building, although Alice is right in pointing out that it doesn't really fit the neighborhood we are modeling this on. Thus, cool as it is, it might not survive into future versions). The next version will have three blocks of buildings plus a tram station at one end and some nice landscaping at the other.

Roy and Alice

Little Birdy with a Bite: The Grey Gosling

This is another spaceship I built, and it is Alice's favorite of the bunch. It inspiration lay in my obtaining a huge amount of the tiny arches in light grey (you will see lots of them on the back of the ship). Anyway, here are a few photos - nothing much to tell about this one other than I think it is pretty cool too!
Oh, one other comment - the cool background on the photo above was done by yours truly in photoshop - see, I'm a man of many talents!

Homba 7033: Immensely Swooshable!

Okay, back to posting about our favorite creations. Although I am probably most well-known within the LEGO community for my ambitious mosaics, I have also been building a lot of spaceships. I have been trying to develop a retro/art-deco style of spaceship, with lots of curves and 'modernistic' details. The Homba 7033 is, I think, the first successful ship I have constructed in this style (after a number of 'learning experiences'). Here it is (this photo taken by Derek):
I will give an imaginary prize to the first person who correctly identifies the source of the name 'Homba' in the comments.

Anyway, the Homba 7033 has retractable landing gear, hatches that open to expose engine components, and a cockpit that slides open. Here is a shot of the front of the ship, showing off all of the chrome cannons (six large on top, plus four smaller underneath) as well as the missile bay holding two large missiles.
This last shot, from behind, nicely shows off the racing stripes and other styling details:
This creation won a best spacefighter contest on, the European website for adult (and teen) fans of LEGO.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pissing People Off: My Online Rant on LEGO and Art

Well, as anyone who is reading is aware, Alice and I are still playing catch-up on this blog, trying to get all of our old stuff covered. Nevertheless, something quite cool occurred today, so I thought I would post about it.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have given three talks on LEGO as art, and also written a draft of an article, currently under review at Brickjournal, the magazine for adult LEGO enthusiasts. In addition to all of this, however, I was recently asked by the bloggers at The Brothers-Brick (by far the most popular, and most influential, blog covering the interests and activities of adult LEGO enthusiasts) to write a guest editorial on the topic.

The editorial is located here.

As of this posting, the editorial has only been up a little over an hour, and already it has garnered some strong opinions in the comments. The next few days should be fun!


Monday, August 4, 2008

Aayla Secura

The other notable creation that traveled to DC with us for Brickfest 2006 was Aayla Secura. As mentioned in an earlier post, this was the mosaic I created using my 'pointillist' style - basically, increasing the resolution dramatically by making each pixel consist of the side of a 1 x 1 technic brick with a 1 x 1 round plate (in a different color) attached. This is definitely still my favorite creation of all time. Without further ado, here she is:
Here is a close-up, to give a better idea of the technique:
Just in case you were not sure, Aayla Secura is a green-skinned Twi'Lek Jedi Knight who appears in the more recent Star Wars trilogy. I have had one person mistake this for the Girl with the Pearl Earring, but for the most part people seem to be able to recognize the character.
Well, as a final note I'll just point out that this won Best Mosaic at Brickfest 2006, which was pretty cool.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Toilets within Toilets within Toilets...

The first of our Brickfest 2006 creations worth noting is the Cosmic Loo. The Cosmic Loo is a moonbase module that serves as the public restrooms for the minifig inhabitants of the moonbase.

Moonbases are space station type structures that are built to a certain standard - the 'moonbase standard', appropriately enough. The idea is that any LEGO enthusiast can build a moonbase module, and then (if you follow the standard correctly), they can all be hooked up to make a massive moonbase. The details of the moonbase standard can be found on
Anyway, the idea for the Cosmic Loo came from thinking about science fiction movies too much. It dawned on me that so many of the characters in Sci Fi films are human beings, and thus have the same biological needs as we do - they have to relieve themselves somewhere! I started wondering about what the toilets in the Millenium Falcon looked like, and at the same time I was trying to decide on what sort of moonbase to build for Brickworld. Like a bolt of lightning, the foundation of the Cosmic Loo was born.
The actual moonbase, from the outside, looks like a toilet (one of those modern ones without a huge tank in the back):
The 'seat' can be lifted, however, revealing the interior of the moonbase. In essence, it is a public restroom where minifigs can go to deal with whatever urges might need dealing with. There are three sections, a male restroom, a female restroom, and a droid restroom (where one imagines droids spewing dirty oil and the like). As with almost all public restrooms, there is a line for the women's room!
Here is a close up shot of the interior, showing two fearless space adventurers using the urinals, and some appropriate graffiti on the wall (a greedo minifig is actually in the stall just off the photo, clutching a bottle and lying on the floor in a puddle of transparent green Greedo vomit!)
This is still one of our funniest creations, and one of the most fun to build. It was also the first build that I was seriously involved with in more than an advisory capacity. I am kind of sad that we took it apart, but the moonbase standard seems to be falling out of style. Maybe we will rebuild it someday anyway.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Brickfest 2006

Our next big LEGO event was Brickfest 2006, which was held in the Sheraton Premier conference hotel in Tyson's Corner, Virginia (a suburb of Washington D.C.).

I gave my second talk on "Lego as Art" at this event (the first one was at Brickfest 2005, which I forgot to mention in earlier posts), concentrating on what sorts of characteristics make a LEGO creation an artwork.

In addition, I was asked by the organizer, Joe Meno (who is also publisher of Brickjournal Magazine) to do a mosaic recreating the Fairfax County, Virginia logo. The mosaic was presented to an official from the county who had been extremely helpful in assisting in the organization of the event. The actual logo appears at the top left corner of the Fairfax County website here. Unfortunately, the best photo I could find of the mosaic is this (I didn't get a chance to take photos myself - again, it was a project that was still being built in the wee hours of the morning before we left for the con!):

Yep, that blurry guy on the far right is me. I got paid in trade for this creation - Brickfest covered the cost of our hotel room, which was just about right in terms of covering the cost of the bricks used in the mosaic.

Alice and I took a bunch of creations to this show (we were lucky in that we hitched a ride with Jim Foulds in his parent's van, and as a result didn't have to worry about fitting our creations into suitcases and having them fall apart as a result of airport luggage handlers). The two main creations of note, however, were the Aayla Secura mosaic, and the Cosmic Loo moonbase. The next two posts will detail each of these creations.



Since it was mentioned in the last post, I should probably say a bit more about DelVaLUG.

DelVaLUG is the Delaware Valley LEGO Users Group - a club for adult LEGO enthusiasts living in the Delaware Valley (basically, the area including and surrounding the Philadelphia metropolitan area and the Delaware river, containing a chunk of southeastern Pennsylvania, a chunk of southern New Jersey, and bits of Maryland and Delaware).

DelVaLUG was founded by Jim Foulds (who later went on to work as the Director of Community Relations for LEGO Universe - a massive multiplayer online game set in a LEGO world. Technically Jim works for NetDevil - a company that is partnering with LEGO for the project, but that doesn't make the job any less cool! He is the first of a number of my friends who have moved from fandom to careers with LEGO).

Other members include myself and Alice, Tim Caffrey, Cale Leiphart, Arthur Stromberg, Jeff Stabile, Phillip Thorne, and Amy Poole (Note that Alice and I still consider ourselves members-in-absentia, and wear our DelVaLUG badges proudly at LEGO events).

With DelVaLUG, Alice and I participated in a number of LEGO exhibits and events, including a display at the 2005 NBC10 Consumer Expo, the previously discussed mountain at the ILTCO @ NMRA 2005 train show, sci-fi themed displays at PhilCon (the Philadelphia science fiction convention) in 2005 and 2006, and WizardWorld Philadelphia in 2007.

Being involved in DelVaLUG was great, both because I got to meet a bunch of really talented and really cool builders in my area and because I got some practical experience in planning and carrying out large scale displays (the WizardWorld process was especially helpful in this regard, since only a tiny handfull of us were available at the time to commit to the project and as a result Phillip and I were sort of 'thrown into the water, either to sink or swim'. Fortunately, we swam - the event was a great success, and that project will get its own post eventually!)

As a final note: Here is the plan for a mosaic of the DelVaLUG logo that I planned and promised to build for DelVaLUG before my departure from Philly, but never got around to completing. Someday, though, I promise!

DelVaLUG was a great experience. Eventually, Alice and I had to move to Minneapolis, where we founded a new group - TwinLUG. But I still miss sitting out on Jim's porch, or my porch, planning crazy LEGO displays with the DelVaLUG guys and gals.


PS: DelVaLUG's seldom updated website is located here. If you want to get in touch with them, you are probably better off signing up for the Yahoo Group, however.

Trains, Trains, and a Couple o' Mosaics!

The next big event Alice and I attended was Brickfest 2005, but we were still 'newbies' to the scene, so there isn't too much to tell about that (and, to be honest, the one creation I took was mediocre enough that I am not gonna post about it here, when I have done so much stuff since then!). So after that we did a big train show at the ILTCO (International LEGO Train Club Organization) diplay at the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) show in July of 2005. Fortunately for us, the show that year was in Philly, and the convention center was only about eight blocks from where we lived, since the projects I planned for it were still being built at 2AM the night before the show!

Anyway, the members of DelVaLUG (Delaware Valley LEGO Users Group) got together a few months beforehand to plan what we would do for the show. Only one of us (Tim Caffrey) was really a big 'train-head', so we decided to concentrate on aspects of building that suited us best. The plan was to build a large LEGO mountain with two train tracks - one at the outer edge, at 'table' level, and another further in, halfway up the mountain.

More interesting (for me, at least) was that the mountain had a 'valley' cut into it on either side, and I constructed two large mosaics depicting more mountains in the distance. I had begun my ongoing experiments with different mosaic techniques at this point, and one of the members of DelVaLUG (Jim Foulds) suggested that I put my money where my mouth was, and build some stunning mosaics that could be the highlight of our layout.

The first of the two mosaics was done with plates stacked up. This creates more resolution that a standard 'studs-out' mosaic, such as the two discussed in earlier posts, but the technique has been done dozens of times before, so it wasn't too earth-shattering technique-wise. Nevertheless, I think it turned out looking pretty good. Here is a shot of the mountain, showing the side with this mosaic (also, that is Alice and myself in the right corner - not the most flattering photo either of us has ever taken):

(Photo taken by Cale Leiphart)

Here is another shot of the first mosaic, a bit closer up, and showing more detail:

(Photo taken by Phillip Thorne)

The second mosaic, however, was the real showpiece, I think. This one was really 'experimental', in a sense. The inspiration for the mosaic was 'pointillist' artworks, where a realistic picture is formed from combining many dots of various colors, which blend into a seamless whole from a distance. For the LEGO-rati: The mosaic consists of stacks of 1 x 1 technic bricks, with half-pins in each whole, and then 1 x 1 round plates attached to the pins. Thus each 'pixel' consists of a small circle of one color with a slightly larger rectangle of another color behind it. As a result, from a distance, the colors blend and a much higher effective resolution is achieved:

(Photo taken by Cale Leiphart)

Another shot. I am not sure whose back this is in the photo, although obviously it is one of the few members of DelVaLUG:

(Photo taken by Philip Thorne)

Both of the mosaics turned out well, I think, but the pointillist one was especially important since it served as a sort of 'proof-of-concept' for the technique in general. One of my next projects was to do a smaller mosaic - a portrait - using this same technique.

All in all, I would say that the ILTCO show was one of the most enjoyable LEGO events I have attended, and also one of the most important for me as a LEGO hobbyist. It was the first such event I attended where I felt like I knew 'what was going on', so to speak, and the first where I had developed enough as a builder not to feel out of place. In addition, of course, I got to meet a lot of people (some of which have since become close friends).


PS: As a bit of trivia, it is also the last big event that Alice did not build something for, (and might actually mark her transition from supportive fan to builder) so she will be participating in posting a good bit more from here on out!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wedding Bells (#1)

The next big project I embarked on was another mosaic - this time as a wedding present for my in-laws (Alice's other sister, Sarah, and her new hubby Philip). Technique-wise there is nothing innovative here - it's the basic 1x1 stud brick per pixel construction. Here is a photo of the happy couple with me in front of the mosaic (that's me in the middle, in the oh-so-cool Star Wars tie):


In order to get this mosaic to look good at this size (20 x 30 inches), I did incorporate a number of less common colors, including sand blue, sand green, dark purple, medium orange, and pink (I don't like to think about what I spent on Bricklink orders for pink brick during this period!)

Here is my most hard-earned piece of LEGO mosaic building wisdom: If you aren't going to use pink, and it is a mosaic of a human face or faces, then don't bother to use tan either. If you use tan alone, then whatever program you are using for your initial guide to building the mosaic will likely just make the entire face tan, which won't look too good (notice that my earlier mosaic of my nephew contains no pink, but it contains no tan either, for exactly this reason!) Adding pink, however (and medium orange as well as standard orange if possible) allows for a range of shades to be worked into the fleshy parts of the portrait, and then the tan becomes one element amongst many in the overall effect.

Here is the couple, recreating the pose in the mosaic:


I think I captured them pretty well.


PS: Laura, Alice's other sister, got married recently and is having a post-matrimony celebration in the fall. She has informed me that SHE wants a wedding mosaic too. Lord knows what I'm gonna do for that one!

Not Quite Coach, but Nice!

My next creation was due to a challenge of sorts. As I was working on the mosaic of my nephew Trust, my sister-in-law Laura, who also lived in Philly (where we lived at the time) asked me to do something for her. Since she was graduating from college that June, I agreed, and asked her what she wanted me to make for her out of LEGO bricks. Strangely enough (or not so strangely - she was a fashion design major!) she decided that a purse was the natural next project for me to embark on. So I built a purse out of LEGO and finished it just in time for her graduation celebration dinner (barely under the wire, I was not sure the glue had dried when I wrapped it up, and was immensely worried that Laura would open up the package and have a pile of bricks with tissue paper stuck to all the seams. Fortunately, it turned out okay) Here is a closeup of her unwrapping the purse:


This is the second, and to date last, LEGO creation that I glued. From a practical perspective, I had no choice on this one, but fortunately the purse, consisting, in essence, of a big brick made of smaller bricks, didn't suffer from warping the way the earlier mosaic did.

Laura has assured me that she has actually taken the purse out with her on a couple of special occasions (and of course been VERY careful with it!). It seems pretty sturdy, from what she has said (although it does weigh a ton, as you can imagine). The only non-LEGO elements involved (other than the glue) is the strap, which is a colored rope I found at a fabric store (probably meant for curtains or something) that just happened to be in exactly the right colors.

Here is a shot of Laura holding the purse. Note how I worked her initials into the design, as well as her favorite colors:


The purse 'works': If you look closely, the small 'plate' on the top is the clasp. Once that is removed, the purse opens and has two compartments inside, large enough for some cash, ID, and a (small) cell phone.

Here is a little diagram to show how it opens (imagine viewing the purse from the side):


Although this was built quite early in my return to LEGO, it remains one of my favorite creations. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to photograph it properly before giving it to Laura, and she now lives in Ireland, so it's unlikely I will get another chance soon. Hopefully, these photos and the accompanying description will give you at least a little bit of an idea regarding the coolest purse on the planet.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Roy's First Serious Creation!

My first serious LEGO creation was a mosaic of our nephew, E. Trust Decatur, which was created for Trust's first birthday. The mosaic was constructed in the Spring of 2005:

Although the main technique - one 1 x 1 brick per pixel, for a 96 x 96 pixel photo, is pretty standard, I did incorporate one innovation: Two layers of plates under the bricks in order to provide 'relief' to the portrait. You can see the layers of plates here:

And here is a close-up of one of the eyes in the finished product, which shows how the relief worked:

As already mentioned, I started this mosaic early in 2005, and it was completed by Trust's birthday (in May). I began this project thinking that it would be a one-time thing - that I would do a single LEGO mosaic, and then move on to something else. Instead, by the time I finished this, I had amassed tens of thousands of bricks, entered online LEGO building contests, and had already booked tickets to BrickFest in the following Autumn!

This build was educational for me, and not only for demonstrating how addictive LEGO as a hobby can be. Since this was a gift for family members who are not LEGO enthusiasts, I glued it. This caused serious complications, including exacerbating the warping that mosaics of this size tend to suffer from, even when they are not glued. As a result, the final product has proven difficult to frame or hang in an aesthetically pleasing manner, although we are hoping to solve that problem eventually.


Friday, July 11, 2008


Oops, a horrible oversight!

With all that talk in the previous post about engraved bricks, there is no excuse for not putting in a plug for the Brick Engraver himself (and friend of ours): Tommy Armstrong. His website is located at:

(That's He does great work - check it out!

Roy and Alice

In The Beginning...

This is the first post on our new blog. Basically, we have started this blog in order to share our LEGO creations with family and friends, as well as to showcase the creations of these same friends and family.

To start out, we should probably present our credentials, so that you have at least some reason to think we know what we are talking about. Of course, your first question should be: What form do credentials take, for Adult Fans of LEGO (or AFOLS)? The answer is easy, and obvious, once you see it: The various activities that an adult fan of LEGO takes part in are commemorated on engraved LEGO bricks (usually 1 x 8 stud bricks). Here is a photo of (many of) our engraved bricks, followed by a key to understanding what each brick represents:


(1) A Virginia Tech (that's Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University to you!) brick that a select few of us (i.e. Roy, who went to school there) obtained after the tragic student shootings in April 2007.
(2) Roy's name badge (He has about seven or eight different versions of this).
(3) Roy's online alias, "Imhotepidus" (and yes, that IS a rare pearl grey brick!). 
(4) Alice's name badge (She has lots of these, too).
(5) One of our DelVaLUG badges (DelVaLUG is the Delaware Valley LEGO User's Group, the adult LEGO group that we were active in while living in Philly, and of which we are still members-in-absentia).
(6) - (7) One of our very cool TwinLUG badges (TwinLUG is the Minneapolis & St. Paul (Twin Cities) LEGO User's Group, the 'LUG' we founded, along with Steve DeCraemer.
(8) One of our Brickfest 2005 badges. (BrickFest is a D.C. area LEGO convention).
(9) Roy's presenter badge from BrickFest 2005 ( He spoke on "LEGO as Art").
(10) One of our BrickFest 2006 badges.
(11) - (12) Roy's best mosaic award from BrickFest 2006, which he won for his Aayla Secura mosaic (about which more will be posted later!)
(13) Our ILTCO @ NMRA 2006 badge (NMRA is the National Model Railroad Association, and ILTCO is the International LEGO Train Club Organization, which displays a huge LEGO train display at each year's NMRA show).
(14) One of our Brickworld 2007 badges (Brickworld is a Chicago area LEGO convention - 2007 was its founding year).
(15) One of our BrickCon 2007 (more fully, North West BrickCon 2007) badges (BrickCon is a Seattle area LEGO convention).
(16) Our best area layout award from BrickCon 2007, for our "Authentic Cafe Corner" town scene (about which more will be posted later!)
(17) One of our Brickworld 2008 badges.
(18) Alice's 'FFOL' badge (Alice participated in a special rountable on FFOLs, or Female Fans of LEGO, at Brickworld 2008).
(19) Roy's coordinator badge from Brickworld 2008 (He ran the Dirty Brickster and Dirty Buildster contests).
(20) Roy's presenter badge from Brickworld 2008 (He presented on "LEGO as Art Redux: Aesthetic Aspects of the Brick").
(21) Roy's LEGO Ambassador badge from Brickworld 2008 (LEGO Ambassadors are a select group chosen by The LEGO Group to act as liasons between LEGO and the adult community. Being selected is quite an honor, and future posts will definitely contain more info!).
(22) - (23) Roy's best artwork award from Brickworld 2008, for his "MOC The Line: The Man in Black (and Bley, and White)" mosaic of Johnny Cash (about which more will be posted later!)

Anyway, that seems like more than enough for introduction. We will post more soon.

Roy and Alice.