Most of the creations I make with LEGO are based upon commissions – different companies or private individuals reaching out to me for a specific need – but sometimes, I build things for myself, like a life-sized bar made out of DUPLO.
The idea occurred to me while I was planning my trip to Brickworld Chicago, and I was trying to think of something to build that would make a really big splash. I wanted a high impact model because, having never been to any of the larger, more established LEGO Conventions, I wanted to get my name out there with a model that would get people talking. I figured that, at a convention filled with LEGO models, a large, over-sized model built out of DUPLO would stand out, and be a springboard to conversations with different adult fans of LEGO from around the world. But what would bridge that gap? What kind of model would draw people in to a point where everybody would know my name?
On TV, it always seemed that a bartender really got to know the people around him/her, whether it was Sam Malone in Cheers or Moe from the SImpsons – so it seemed a really good opportunity to create a model that would be large, interactive, and engaging. But would it be a good fit with the crowds at Brickworld? I applied my traditional methodology I would use in any commissioned project, and began researching my clients needs to better understanding their objectives.
From what I discovered, Brickworld was a convention that was primarily designed for the exhibitors, and these exhibitors liked opportunities for socializing – and as the socializing would go late into the evening hours of the convention, the idea of the bar really began to make more and more sense.
And so the decision was made to build the bar. Now for the tricky part – how to build it?
Being familiar with the size of my DUPLO collection, I knew that I would have enough to build a life-sized model of a bar – but designing it to be strong and sturdy enough for human use was the tricky part. One of my constraints was that, as the convention was in Chicago, I had to make sure that I had the capacity in my van to transport the pieces required. I researched what the standard dimensions were for varying bar sizes, and determined what the optimal measurements would be when constructed out of DUPLO, and the total number of pieces I would require.
I made some test models to determine how to design a stool strong and sturdy enough to support the weight of a grown adult, but also lightweight and simple enough to not require the use of too many elements. After a bit of trial and error, the final model was developed, and photos of it were snapped so as to provide a reference for recreation upon arrival in Chicago.
I arrived at the convention on Wednesday night, and set up began on Thursday. To maximize the surprise, I waited until around 10pm to begin construction of the bar, as there were still other events running at this time. With the help of more than a half dozen builders following my template and design, the bar was constructed in a relatively swift two and a half hour building session. There were adjustments that needed to be made on the fly, and some enhancements suggested by several other builders that really helped the construction along – I really enjoy collaborating with others on projects, and integrating feedback and being a reflective builder is an important aspect of my building style.
The bar was an instant success, as people flocked from around the convention to sit, test out the stability of the model, and to socialize. I got to meet many wonderful people I would not have had the chance to were it not for the bar, and I know that statement was also true for many others who had not met before but were brought together at the bar. I have already received requests to not only ensure the return of the bar for next year, but also to bring the bar to other conventions across the continent, and to spread the spirit of fun and togetherness that come with it.
It never ceases to amaze me what power and wonder LEGO has to unite people, and I am always grateful that I get to have so much fun doing what I do. It’s important to take the time out to do passion projects, and I feel that this one is a project that I will remember for a lifetime.
Below is a video interview I did with Beyond the Brick, a leading YouTube channel on all things LEGO.