Building with Lego the epitome of geek chic – The Province Newspaper – March 15, 2013

A few of our members were asked by The Province Newspaper’s Gordon McIntyre to do an interview for an article about adult LEGO builders.  It will appear in this weekend’s copy. The article is reproduced below from the following Province Newspaper link

Note: There is an error in that Series 10 of the LEGO Collectible Minifigs will NOT be all  gold coloured, but I’m guessing you already knew that.

Building with Lego the epitome of geek chic

March 15, 2013

Building with Lego the epitome of geek chic

If you’re an adult and you were caught playing with the old wooden blocks you had as a kid, eyebrows would rise.

But there’s something geek chic, if outside the mainstream, about playing with Lego as a grown-up.

Especially when you see what some adult fans of Lego (yes, they call themselves AFOLs) create with those little plastic bricks.

“It’s got a geek or nerd factor and it’s not seen as cool, but everyone who comes to see some of the stuff we build says, ‘Wow!’” said Pierre Chum, a member of the Vancouver Lego Club.

“We know it’s not conventional for adults to play with Lego.

“We like to say we build with Lego, but we ­really are playing with it.”

Some AFOLs have upwards of a couple million pieces of bricks and accessories. Consider that they’ll shell out $49.99 plus tax for a box of Laval’s Royal Fighter, just to get the set of rubber treads off the armoured attack vehicle inside the box, and you can see how some spend $500 to $1,000 a month on Lego.

That kind of change isn’t kidstuff, even if the hobby is.

Yes, they’re adults who play with toys, geeks and proud of it.

Actor Simon Pegg — Scotty in the two latest Star Trek movies and co-writer of Shaun of the Dead — wrote a book called Nerd Do Well and is someone geeks look up to.

You’ll find a quote of Pegg’s on the Vancouver Lego Club’s website, encouraging folks to not just embrace, but pretty much flaunt their geekiness.

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection,” Pegg said. “It means ­never having to play it cool about how much you like something.

“Being a geek is extremely liberating.”

Not in the original newspaper article, but added here for context and completeness.

For Chum, that’s AFOLs in a nutshell.

“It sums up nicely what we feel about this,” Chum said. “The thing is, we embrace it.

“It’s our creative outlet.”

Maybe no one is more creative than Paul Hetherington, who picked up a Best in Show award last weekend in Portland, Ore.

The Pacific Northwest seems to have a large share of North America’s AFOLs and that’s not surprising because computer scientists, gamers, engineers and architects are drawn to Lego.

So Seattle and Portland have two of the biggest Lego conventions around.

Portland’s is called Bricks Cascade and more than 5,000 people over two days paid to look at the MOCs (My Own Creation) inside.

Hetherington won with a marvellous tribute to Lady Gaga and the stage castle from her Born This Way tour.

“I was blown away when I saw her show and wondered what it would look like in Lego,” said the North Vancouverite.

Hetherington’s Lego Gaga scale model took him two months to build, has eight different lighting styles and includes 700 Minifigures filling the Lady’s “monster pit” in front of the stage.

The castle opens, dancers dance on its three storeys and, well, with the light show and music, it’s darn impressive.

You can buy the Lego sets. The Hobbit set looks pretty cool, for instance.

But AFOLs get off on making their own creations, not from sets but from various bits and pieces lying around in their stockpiles.

That’s how the February display at the Lego store at Oakridge Mall was made: a cool Lonely Mountain, jewel-encrusted Smaug coming out the open doors, Bilbo holding the Arkenstone, Thorin Oakenshield brandishing Orcrist — all quite incredible to think it sprang from an AFOL’s imagination and not a custom set.

“They’re not interested in sets, but they are interested in pieces and parts from the sets,” said Geoffrey Osbourne, supervisor at the Lego store.

“For instance, this new set — Laval’s Royal Fighter — it comes with these really cool tank treads.

“We get a lot of guys come in and buy it just for that piece, for $50. But you get all those other pieces you can use down the line, too.”

Prior to the Smaug exhibit, there was a fascinating Vancouver Lego Club MOC of the planet Earth on display at the store. December’s VLC display was a Christmas scene, this month’s is moon-based.

The store has about 20 customers milling around on a Friday at noon, but Osbourne says that’s nothing.

“This is incredibly slow for us,” he said. “You should see it on the weekends, a lineup out the door basically.”

Once a month, the store has free minibuilds for kids that start at 5 o’clock. The lineup starts before 2 p.m., he said.

A big fad is the Minifigures, now on Series 9.

They come in foil baggies so you don’t know the identity prior to buying — except, experienced hands can tell by feel which of 16 Minifigures it is.

“We had a little contest here among the employees,” Osbourne said, “to find all 16 the quickest.

“The winner did it in two minutes and 30 seconds. The prize was they got the whole series.”

The next series, the 10th, will all be gold-coloured. A limited production of 5,000 worldwide will make sure they’ll soar in value.

Which brings us back to cost.

“I try not to think about how much I’ve spent,” said the 42-year-old Hetherington, who works with disabled adults, helping them with community access and life skills. “I’ve got two million pieces, probably.”

His spare bedroom is his workroom, his finished creations he keeps in storage.

Yes, he’s single, but says his Lego filing system is so well-organized it wouldn’t scare off most members of the opposite sex.

“It’s cliché, but it’s a new toy every day,” he said. “You can build anything with it — there’s pretty much nothing you can’t do.

“I’m building all the time. There are still discoveries to be made, new ways to connect the pieces in ways you wouldn’t think possible.”

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