Everyone loves LEGO, right?!
All over the world people of every age are creating amazing bespoke LEGO models covering all themes, from mosaics to recreations of movie scenes to fantasy-inspired landscapes to steampunk spaceships to full-sized cars to Rubik's cube solvers! Just have a search and you’ll be amazed.
We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.George Bernard Shaw
My work is rooted in realistic LEGO recreations of existing (or sometimes planned) buildings, structures, vehicles and other objects. I aim to make my creations as accurate as possible, in terms of key features of the subject matter, proportions and colours. My work is done if a photograph of one of my builds tricks people into thinking it’s the real thing!
But why LEGO? I spent 15 years as a freelance architectural photographer. I’m deeply passionate about the built environment. Moving from photographing it to representing it in LEGO felt incredibly natural to me, if entirely unpredictable when I first rediscovered LEGO in 2012.
More than that, as many people appreciate, there is a nostalgia aspect to building with LEGO. It rekindles the optimism of youth, perhaps. Anything is possible. Certainly for me it serves a need – that of disconnecting from the world for a while. I become absorbed when building in a way I never otherwise do. Its Mindful. It’s therapeutic. It requires a mix of creativity, problem-solving, planning and patience that suits.
I love what I do, and I hope that is evident from the builds I’ve created.
I still pinch myself when I say that I make LEGO models for a living! How did you end up doing that, people ask? Good question!
Sitting on my bedroom floor, back in Nuneaton in the 1980’s a young Steve is building yet another spaceship, the kind that many who grew up with LEGO in that decade would be familiar with, the kind that Benny from the LEGO Movie would be super-excited to build. Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship! My parents would be woken every weekend morning by the swooshing sound of me searching for the piece I needed. Neither them, nor I, would have believed that 30 years later it would be a job.
But I didn’t keep playing with LEGO. I “grew out of it”, maybe aged 13 or 14, I can’t really recall. Many who have rediscovered LEGO later in life refer to such years – somewhat dramatically – as the Dark Ages!
My parents kept my LEGO, a decision that made all the difference. It ended up with me in Newcastle in 2000 when my parents moved house. I’d moved north to take a job as an economic consultant, and on the floor of a Quayside flat I built a… Spaceship! It then got packed away and stored under my bed. My great passion then, borne of exposure to the great architecture of Newcastle and Gateshead, was photography.
Eight years later it came out again. I’d just become a dad, and with that upheaval I had a yearning to build again. Another Spaceship! It was a monstrous creation – I tried to use every piece of LEGO I had. It filled a large portion of our spare room. But the end creation wasn’t the point – building was an end in itself. It was very Mindful, before I was aware of what that meant.
It got packed away again. We moved to North Shields, near the coast. I was, by then, a full-time freelance architectural photographer. That was my dream job – that was the get-out-of-the-rat-race-and-follow-the-dream move. We had our second daughter, and I was taken with the urge again. “I want to build another massive spaceship,” I said to my wife. She rolled her eyes, and said, “why don’t you build something sensible, like our house.”
If I can trace my current job to one moment, that was it, that sentence.
It was late 2012, and for a couple of months I designed our house using the Lego Digital Designer software. I went crazy for the detail. I measured our rooms to get the scale right. I spent hours and hours on it. I didn’t think I could build it, because I hadn’t discovered how to buy LEGO cost-effectively. When I found out about Bricklink I decided to build it, and by mid-2013 we had a scale-model of our house.
Again, though, the LEGO went away. It had triggered something, but it lay dormant for a while. 2014 was, perhaps, even more of a turning point for me. It was a tough year. I suffered a bout of depression that came seemingly out of the blue. I questioned my whole life, and felt like nothing would ever be the same again.
It would be rather simplistic, and grandiose, to say that LEGO saved me. In reality, many things helped, but LEGO was very much part of the mix. I tentatively took up another build, of the BALTIC Gallery for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. I lost myself in it. Building with LEGO was, and remains, one of the few activities that I truly do purely for the enjoyment of doing it. It is the only time I don’t check my phone every few minutes. (And we all need more of that in our lives, right?!)
From there the history of Brick This truly began. The BALTIC appeared in the gallery itself and at an exhibition at Woodhorn Colliery in 2015. I started a website. I saw it as a natural extension of my photography. My interest in photography had always been niche – the subject matter of architecture, rather than cameras and photography in general. In fact, I often said that if I ever expanded what I did, it wouldn’t be some other genre of photography (weddings, events), but another way of being involved with architecture and places. My photography clients were architects and developers. Many had a great interest in my rather quirky side-line. The odd LEGO project would fit in ideally with my photography career, I figured.
That it would take over entirely, I never would have guessed!
Maggie’s Centre was my first commission, in 2015, followed by Tynemouth Outdoor Pool. Both massive learning curves. Then the Centre for Life in Newcastle booked me in 2016 for an exhibition in early 2017. North East LEGO Landmarks ran for 3 months, and by then I’d completed commissions for Newcastle United Football Club, Team Valley Trading Estate and the Centre for Life themselves. Add in a couple more ‘hobby builds’ of the Civic Centre and the Angel of the North, and I had a decent collection of Northern landmarks!
I had made the switch. Whilst I will always maintain a love of photography, and retain a small group of regular clients, I now consider myself a full time LEGO artist.