Midlothian Lego artist on Nasa approval and living a childhood dream
‘I have been told I have the best job in the world by a Nasa astronaut, which is kind of freaky, because I was pretty sure he did.”
“It was in Paisley, they did a space camp and we had a model of the International Space Station there. I remember him walking over to us and picking it up. He said ‘I recognise this bit, I flew it into space’.
“I’ve been doing this professionally now for about seven years. I did about 20 years of IT, but in 2012 I got my first deal to write Lego books and I was doing a project for Lego themselves and the Danish tourist board ahead of the London Olympics.
“There was a decision to be made at that point, ‘do I stick with IT or jump ship to go and build Lego for a living?’ I’m sure I made the right choice.
“I always had Lego as a kid. I’ve asked my parents what my first set was and they have no idea, I don’t remember either. What I do remember is sitting every January with the printed Lego catalogue and circling all of the sets that I wanted Santa to bring me at the end of the year.
“Lego did an airport monorail set, which adult fans will tell you was the one to have, I was very lucky to own that one even though it was very expensive.
“There are no limits to what you can build apart from time and the bricks you have, but even then, you can do things to invoke whatever it is you want to build.
“But there is a system, there’s a way that the bricks all fit together. You can’t start sawing bits in half just to make them fit or paint them to make them the right colour.
“I was obsessed up until I was about 15, but teenage boys grow up a little bit and get interested in other things. Then I got a ‘joke’ present from my ex a few years later. She bought me a Statue of Liberty set, but that all kicked it off again. I began looking at the sets I couldn’t afford when I was little and started buying them all.
“Designing my own stuff came later, maybe around 2004, but I didn’t get my first commission for a few years.
“There was a BBC Four production called ‘New Town’ in 2008, it was sort of Twin Peaks meets CSI, but completely produced in Edinburgh and had a Lego castle at the centre of its plot.
“Eight years later, DFDS, the ferry company, were celebrating their 150th anniversary, so they decided they wanted to build something big and memorable. With the help of their employees, we built the largest supported Lego ship in the world, which was 1.05 million bricks.
“It weighs about two and a half tonnes and it is one of two Guiness World Records we are proud to be the recipients of.
“We assembled it in this warehouse in Whitburn that we had to rent for that specific purpose, purely because it was so enormous. It has been on tour now for about three years.
“Our other world record is for the largest Lego mosaic in the world, it was around 10 metres by 14.
“It was just me on my own five years ago, now we have five staff. It has not been as I expected from the business side. The idea you have in your head that it is just going to be building Lego all day, but it has been a lot of packaged exhibitions, models and shows that we can take around different places.
“We’ve done a Lego set of Edinburgh Castle, which you can actually buy there now, Hill House in Glasgow are doing one as well. When we are building something, particularly if it is an iconic piece, we do usually do the most recognisable part and build out from there.
“There is a bucket list of things in my head that want to build. I’ve really wanted to have a go at the Falkirk Wheel for a long time, I have spoken to them about it and they would love me to do it, but the moving parts are the really hard part.
“I never thought when I was a kid that building Lego for a living could be a real job, the careers adviser at school never said it was an option. They were wrong.”