QUEENS RESIDENT VICTOR TY has been at his Lego hobby since he was a young boy living in the Philippines. He’s lived in Africa, Asia, and traveled around the world before moving to New York City. After more than 20 years in the fashion industry, Victor enrolled in nursing school and now works as a radiation oncology nurse at a major New York City hospital. He is the father of two boys — one of whom has Autism Spectrum Disorder — and says he has been “an advocate for special education, especially for children and adults with autism.”
Victor’s creations are inspired both by his line of work and his other interests, including tennis. Like many AFOLs, he doesn’t have a favorite theme — “I love Lego, plain and simple” — and he delights in making creations from the selection of elements available on the Pick-A-Brick wall. He shares his love of the brick by bringing MOCs to his neighborhood Lego Store and now his two kids — as well as his brother and nephews — are Legomaniacs as well. Now, meet Victor — our Builder Of The Month! (Interview by Sid Dinsay)
SD: How did you get into Lego, and how long have you been building?
VT: I have loved LEGO since I was introduced to it at age 10, and have been building since whenever I got a hold of a set. Building close to 40 years. My sons Ben (9) and Nick (14) are avid LEGO builders, as are my brother and his two sons.
THIS MONTH, WE MEET CODY WELLS, one of the newest I LUG NY members, but who is certainly not new to LEGO. This 34-year-old Queens resident and dad has been collecting and building with the fabled toy brick since he was four years old, and his MOCs run the gamut from Ghostbusters to the WWE to – author’s personal bias here – Star Trek. Throw in some mosaics and historical scenes and you’ve got a true Lego fan in Cody, whose personal website, c3Brix.com, showcases works for our ILUGNY Builder Of The Month. (Interview by Sid Dinsay)
SD: What does the “C3” in C3Brix stand for?
CW: I have two younger brothers named Charley and Casey, and my kids’ names are Colton and Cydney – so It just made sense to include the three “C’s” in my love for Lego.
SD: Judging by what you build — TMNT scenes and vehicles, WWE championship belts, and Starfleet ships, to name a few — it seems safe to say you have diverse interests. How do you decide which project to tackle?
CW: My motto when it comes to Lego in life is “rebuild your childhood.” I am actually not a big fan of Lego sets anymore – anyone can buy a set! I make my own sets. If I see something I think is cool, I automatically start designing it in my head in Lego. What I decide to build comes from many different avenues, just like it did when I was a kid. I loved Star Wars but Lego only had Space sets, so I would make what I wanted with the pieces that I had at the time.
The term “dark ages” is less likely to be associated with a hobby and more with the historical era before Enlightenment. But for Adult Fans of LEGO, or AFOLs, “dark ages” have come to refer to the period of time between when they first picked up their hobby — usually in childhood or adolescence — and the moment they, as fully-grown adults, rediscovered their love of the LEGO brick.
For Brian Wygand of Massapequa Park, Long Island, the dark ages took place sometime between the release of “the classic Town sets from my 80’s childhood” and a chance visit to the LEGO Imagnation Center at Florida’s Downtown Disney.
“My wife and were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary and happened to arrive at a 10-plus-foot-tall tyrannosaurus rex built completely out of LEGO,” recalls Brian, a founding member of I LUG NY, the New York City metro area band of AFOLs. “I was blown away by this and the other models there.”
While he didn’t buy any sets that day, Brian immediately set about recapturing his LEGO hobby — and coming out of those dark ages. “I called my mother to see if she still had my childhood sets, and to my dismay found out she had given away most of it” to a relative. “Fortunately, she had saved the instructions — with what little LEGO she held on to — and several hundred dollars later, I had reacquired the parts that I needed from BrickLink to build all of the sets that I had the instructions for.”
Fellow ILUGNY’er Sid Dinsay had a few questions for our Builder Of The Month.
SD: Did you, or do you, have any other hobbies?
BW: I have always enjoyed drawing, painting and LEGO was my favorite childhood toy and as an adult I just see LEGO as another creative outlet. It is like drawing but with bricks.
SD: What are your favorite LEGO sets of all time?
BW: For nostalgia purposes I’d say the classic Town sets from my 80’s childhood that had the yellow diagonal LEGOLAND stripe on the boxes and instructions. Presently, I love the Modular series but my guilty pleasures were the Tiny Turbos Racers sets LEGO produced up until acquiring the Cars license from Disney.
SD: What was your first set ever? And what’s your favorite set?
BW: I don’t remember my first set ever. But the first sets I did own were prominently displayed on my dresser once they were all built. One day, my brotherly and I got into a spat and he knocked them all on to the floor. (Oddly enough, I think that episode of sibling rivalry led to my desire to build a town out of LEGO, which other than the friends I have met through this hobby and through ILUGNY is my favorite aspect of being in a LUG. Creating our town displays for shows is quite a feat but also something that brings this childhood dream to life.)
My favorite set of all time has to be the Green Grocer. I know the Cafe Corner came first and was fun to build, but it doesn’t have an interior: I felt somewhat cheated by this. The Green Grocer has not only a beautifully detailed exterior and balcony but it also has a fire escape ladder and a completely furnished interior. The first floor especially is filled with awesome details — such as the mouse eating cheese under the stairs.
SD: Do you have a favorite MOC?
BW: I built an HSBC Bank back in October of 2009. I see this branch twice a day on my daily commute, and this MOC marked the first time I was inspired to construct a “real-world” building. I knew I was becoming a seriously dedicated AFOL when I began to see things in the real world and thought, “I should build this out of LEGO.” This was accompanied by self-doubting questions such as “Can I do it?”, “Do I have enough bricks to pull this off?” “How do I make the HSBC logo out of LEGO?” et cetera. I know this MOC hasn’t received much attention from the online community but it was my first foray into replicating real buildings out of LEGO.
SD: What do you look to to inspire your builds? Do you have any favorite AFOLs?
BW: I get inspiration from several outlets. I’ve recreated three real world buildings out of LEGO. I often am inspired by LEGO sets and use the instructions to base MOCs off of. My LEGO Butcher Shop and Bikes-N-Boards are built using the Pet Shop directions for inspiration. I am a proud child of the 1980’s so I have built many 8-bit video game sprites. I also enjoy building in the style of the Tiny Turbos as this line combines my love of LEGO with another favorite childhood toy, the Hot Wheels car.
I have favorite AFOLs whose work I enjoy looking at, or from whom I’ve learned a lot about architectural detailing, SNOT building and presentation: Chris McVeigh, Mark Stafford, Jameson Gagnepain, Mike Psiaki, Arthur Gugick, David Pagano, Sean Kenney, Bruce Lowell and Tyler Clites, to name a few. It is amazing what LEGO fans have done with LEGO. Many of the members of our LUG are awesome builders and speaking with them, seeing their works, and listening to them explain how a detail was achieved has helped open my eyes to more that can be accomplished with LEGO.
SD: Do you have a favorite LEGO part(s)? And what element do you think is absolutely essential for building, besides bricks and plates?
BW: I guess my favorite part would have to be the so-called cheese slope. This comes from my love of Tiny Turbos as cheese slopes are prominently featured in nearly all of these small cars.
But I have also learned from building with LUG members that any part can be essential at any given time. While helping Mike Bader build the mountain pass part of the Lord of the Rings display for New York Comic Con 2012 I was shocked to see that the mountains were supported by Technic beams attached to Technic bricks. I would have never thought of this and now look at these and all parts differently.
SD: How much time do you devote to building each week?
BW: I’d say I get down to my basement — I call it my LEGO Lair — to build a few times a month but don’t have a set amount of time for building each week.
SD: Any advice for a wannabe AFOL?
BW: You are either an AFOL or you are not. Once you do become an AFOL, you can learn many building techniques from LEGO sets, from online groups on flickr, and by building MOCs.
And an AFOL without a LUG is missing out on what a LUG has to offer. Mainly friendship, building techniques, how to find the best deal on LEGO (Trust me — this is important. –ed.), sharing a hobby with others and collaborating on a layout for the public. In short, join a LUG and if there isn’t one near you start one. In the words of the great Yoda, “Do, there is no try.”
THEMES HAVE BEEN the lifeblood of the LEGO Company since the late 1970’s, when it first introduced both its Castle and Classic Space sets. And it wasn’t long before the themes themselves had sub-themes, with the Space line branching off into Spyrius, Blacktron, Mission To Mars and, of late, Galaxy Squad sets. While some sub-themes have become legendary in their own right–the black-and-yellow scheme of the Blacktron 1 sets and the blue and trans-red for the first Space Police line are particularly memorable–many other sub-themes have long passed into history, almost forgotten except by the most die-hard of fans.
And that’s where I LUG NY member Blake Foster comes in. Influenced heavily by the early 90’s M:Tron line, he’s created some out-of-this-world, megascale MOCs (Ed. note — “MOC” is an acronym for “My Own Creation” and is a widely-accepted term among builders), from leviathan-like starships to planetary bases. And he takes particular pride in taking the M:Tron line’s main color–red–to extremes. We asked this Brooklyn resident to share some of his passion–and a builder’s trick or two–for our inaugural BUILDER OF THE MONTH column.
I LUG NY: Why M:Tron? What spurs your love of this particular sub-theme?
Blake: It’s part nostalgia and part novelty. M:Tron was one of my favorite themes as a child, and yet it gets far too little attention from the AFOL community. There are many talented AFOLs building Blacktron and classic-space, to the point that it’s hard to make anything that stands out from the crowd. An epic M:Tron MOC feels more unique and more memorable to me.
I LUG NY: What’s the one M:Tron piece that stands out from the rest?
Blake: Magnets were M:Tron’s signature part. Some of their vehicles carried little magnet boxes, some had magnetic cranes, and one even used magnets to carry two small buggies.
I LUG NY: “Space” builders don’t generally use much red. Does that make it easier or harder for you to find pieces, or even to build some of your MOCs?
Blake: Building in red can be an advantage, because every Lego part is first prototyped in red. Even parts never to appear in red in an official set are available, although sometimes for a price. For the most part, though, I don’t use that many specialized “space” parts. I build a lot of greebles, but almost any part that is small and complicated will do the job. Creative use of the existing parts is more important than the palette of parts available.
I LUG NY: What’s the largest thing you ever built?
Blake: My largest completed creation is the Manticore, a 180-stud long spaceship centered around a superweapon called the Destructo Beam. It took 10 1/2 months to build and contains an estimated 15,000 pieces.
I LUG NY: What was your first LEGO set?
I think it was a toy from a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I was three years old at the time, and I don’t remember the experience. However, I’ve been told that once I started building, I never stopped.
I LUG NY: I’m told you have a legendary amount of tan LEGO bricks.
Blake: My love of tan stems from the boxes and instructions of the 80’s and 90’s, which always featured tan moonscapes behind the brave Lego astronauts. I try to uphold that tradition when I build scenery. Over the past six months, I’ve accumulated enough tan to fill a dresser, and I will use much of it to build the terrain around a large-scale M:Tron project.
I LUG NY: What’s your favorite building technique? Do you have a favorite piece/pieces?
I LUG NY: I hold many techniques close to my heart, so many that it would be hard to single one out. I do love hiding studs, though, so naturally many of my favorite techniques fall under the umbrella of SNOT (Studs Not On Top). My favorite part is probably the headlight brick. I can use hundreds, or even thousands of them in a large model.
I LUG NY: Do you have any advice for someone just starting out their LEGO hobby?
Blake: First, think critically about both your own models and models built by others. Great MOCs still have flaws, and mediocre MOCs have their merits. The more you understand what makes a great model great, the better your own models will become. Second, slow down. Sure, you can slap that spaceship together in an evening, but patience will always yield better results. Take a moment to think about each new detail. How does it relate to other details? How does it affect the overall composition of the model? Attention to detail is time-consuming, but the effort always shows in the end.