7/27/10

Inside the Customizer's Studio: JasBrick, Part 2

Welcome back to our interview series with LEGO minifig customizer JasBrick. If you've followed Jas on Flickr you will know that he's recently struggled with finding inspiration lately when it comes to the 'fig. I'm certain we all know when we have reached that plateau in our own endeavors, and how it's difficult to generate momentum once again. It's here where we continue our discussions today...

Recently you've claimed to have difficulty being inspired to create new minifigure designs. What have you found to be your richest source of inspiration?

"During my early days on Flickr I was in the grip of 'Brikvia'itus' where I developed a theme surrounding the original Shocktrooper that generated all sorts of ideas. Each idea developed my repertoire of techniques and expanded my confidence... do I look back on some of those early figs and think I could have done better? Yes, but they were great fun at the time.

The main source of inspiration initially was my war gaming past and interpreting the fluff and visual imagery of games like Warhammer 40k and Warmachine into the minifig universe. I am not a big gamer but the almost cinematic quality and rich concept designs of computer games are also a huge influence on what I do.

However, I do not operate in isolation and the biggest influence of all is the activity of others within communities like Flickr and forums like those associated with 3rd party accessory providers such as BrickArms and BrickForge. The ideas that get generated in these places definitely rub off and I love to see the ingenuity and concepts that arise, which in some cases I can take and modify to incorporate in my own work. Two of my constant sources of inspiration are the work of Will Chapman (BrickArms) and Hazel (Hazel Fantasy), both of whom have created some fantastic pieces that can be used in combination with LEGO. New items from these guys give me new avenues to pursue that generally lead to something."

What's your view of the role of custom houses in the broader LEGO universe? How will custom houses need to evolve to stay relevant and fresh in the future?

"Custom houses are generally driven by the demands of the community, BrickArms is a classic example where the development process relies heavily on the feedback from fans. Will Chapman found a niche that needed to be filled by producing semi-realistic (I mean that in a good way as his accessories are perfectly in tune with the style of Lego and not overly detailed/ realistic) weapons for minifigs. Hazel has similarly addressed the issue of what a minifig can wear to differentiate it from just plain 2D-decals. LEGO themselves seem to have twigged to the strength of this area of the market and the new Collectible figs are including some very nice pieces that previously could only be obtained via custom houses (e.g. Berets, Greek Helmets).

I personally believe that there will be no shortage of source material for custom houses to use as the basis of new pieces, with new films, computer games and trends popping up every day. I have no fear that the current custom houses have a lack of exposure to these sources, and it would seem that more and more people are trying their hand at the custom business.

My only cautionary note is that the creative elements of the current custom houses do not become so wrapped up in business of running a business that they lose touch with the communities that support them and the fun of what they do."

Given your background with war gaming and role playing, do you see real opportunities with custom minifigs in this area? It seems that there are already groups like BrikWars out there. What has been your involvement with these types of communities, if any?

"I regularly check out BrikWars, as a war gaming enthusiast and a LEGO freak this pushes all my buttons. I love the rules for this and it makes for a very entertaining (and lighthearted) few hours of Lego madness. On top of all that the visuals from Mike Rayhawk are absolutely mind blowing so it is a great source of inspiration as well.

Aside from BrikWars there is not much out there, and to be honest BrikWars is all we really need. I have heard rumours of something more involved with regards to wargaming and LEGO, however I have been sworn to secrecy and can say no more."

Recently you painted a series of customized wrestlers after your son saw the film Nacho Libre. Do your kids sometimes play a role in your work? What do they think of your hobby?

"My kids play the biggest part in my hobby... everything has to pass the scrutiny of these avid Lego experts, and if it does not appeal to them then I have done something wrong. They love the fact that I share their hobby with them and that if they see something cool on television, in a movie or in a book that I can create a minifig version for them. My eldest boy was very pleased when I created a minifig version of Ben 10 to go with his Humungousaur. The good thing about kids is that they question everything, for example "Why doesn't LEGO do a Ben 10 fig dad?" For an AFOL it is important to have a link to some rich seams of inspiration that would normally pass an adult by."

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to be sharing all of these brilliant ideas. We continue the discussion tomorrow where we talked to Jas about his blog "Mad Figs" and outreach in general.

(Pictures via Privateer Press, Hazel's Flickr stream, BrikWars, and LEGO.com)