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Brickworld 2018: A Con Odyssey

Good morning.  Brickworld is excited to open a new realm on our website today…  Guest bloggers.  If you are interested in writing a guest blog for our site, please contact us.  Obviously, it has to have something to do with Brickworld.  Play well!  And, enjoy our first guest blog from Ted Andes.


Brickworld 2018:  A Con Odyssey

By Ted Andes

2001 Space MonolithIn the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a large black slab of extraterrestrial technology is discovered by our presumed hominid ancestors, causing a considerable shift in their evolution and marking the dawn of humanity.  Thousands of years later at Brickworld 2017, another significant discovery was made; a number of “White Brick” monoliths had been placed around the display hall, sometime during the dawn of Sunday morning.  Sure enough, they appeared yet again at Brickworld 2018.  Perhaps they are the harbinger of another shift in evolution?… an evolution in both the LEGO convention experience and in the community of builders at large? 



 The “White Brick”

“I think that white brick is really the heart of what we all want the community to be and represent, rather than the manufactured recognition that pretty much all awards have disappointingly come to be.” – Matt Rowntree

The White Brick

The White Brick – Ted Andes.

 The “White Bricks” are the same size and shape as the existing red, brick-built trophies given to the winners of each Brickworld awards category.  As with the monoliths in “2001: A Space Odyssey” these “White Bricks” also contain many mysteries.  One of which is that these bricks are actually hollow boxes that contain a surprise MOC inside, personalized to the receiver (which I didn’t realize at first).  So where did they come from? Why did they start showing up? 

Since the “White Bricks” closely resemble the Brickworld trophies, one might first believe that their purpose is to recognize noteworthy displays that were passed over for an awards nomination.  If you haven’t attended Brickworld Chicago, the award nominations are given out in predetermined categories; Best Vehicle, Best Spacecraft, Best Mech, Best Building, etc.  People certainly build their MOC’s to purposefully fit them into these categories, while others consider the categories after the fact (and some even make them fit on a lark… “cough, cough…”).   Each year, many epic builds fall through the cracks when it comes to receiving a nomination. Perhaps they don’t fit well into any category, or they just get lost in the sheer number of awesome displayers that year.  I’m sure there are other considerations too, but I would only be speculating since I am not involved in the awards nomination process in any way.

The “White Brick” started appearing in 2017 on such un-nominated builds. I remember that Andrew Mollmann and Cecilie Fritzvold were two recipients of the “White Bricks”.  Andrew had built a most excellent “Grand Budapest” façade that year.  I’m not sure which of Cecilie’s builds that her white brick was placed in front of (perhaps for her “Goomba”?), but she did have a banner building year in 2017.  She had received a Brickworld award nomination for best vignette, and was also part of yet another “Best Group Layout” win for the Eurobricks collective (they won this year too! – 3 years in a row!).  Cecilie even defeated Chris Maddison in the “Iron Builder” competition earlier that year, which was no small feat.


Cecilie Fritzvold’s “Goomba”


So what’s in the box?

This year, however, the “White Bricks” weren’t only placed in front of un-nominated builds. Learning who else received them has led to an important discovery regarding their true intent; The “White Bricks” recognize those people who make the Brickworld experience special in some way, not only through creating displays but also through meaningful engagement within the community. 

One such “White Brick” was given to a renowned Brickworld vendor, Victor at eclipseGrafx.  At first he had thought a customer accidentally left it behind at their booth.  When he opened the box, however, he discovered his eclipseGrafx logo placed inside. Victor has always been a great supporter of the building community.  He definitely stepped up in a major way during the speederbike contest that I hosted this year on flickr, creating custom printed tiles that we distributed to worthy participants. Victor receiving a “White Brick” was great recognition for all that they do, and well deserved.  I know receiving it meant a great deal to them.

Our friend Simon Liu received a “White Brick”, although technically it wasn’t actually white.  It had been built using trans-clear bricks, and integrated into the middle of it was the red “Heart of Brickworld”.  There is no doubt that this brick belongs on his shelf.  From my very first Brickworld, and probably from his first, he has set a positive paradigm for others attendees to follow; inclusiveness, generosity, kindness, always build something new and fun, etc..  I was happy that I could extend some of that hospitality back to him prior to Brickworld this year.  Simon was so taken in by the charms of Louisville, KY (where I live) during his 2017 “Pub Scouting” trip that he made a return trip.  We got the chance to hang out the weekend before Brickworld, along with Alec, Caleb, and Evan who joined him on his “Brickworld or Bust 2018” tour.  I guided them to rockin’ local distilleries, hot-chicken joints, brick stores, escape rooms, and a meet up with other local builders like John Klapheke too. Good times.

The Heart of Brickworld

Matt Rowntree received a “White Brick” too, but the MOC contained inside was SO personalized that its meaning would be lost on the casual reader (and due to its NSFW design, likely misinterpreted). Fortunately, the anonymous distributor of the “White Brick” made sure that the appropriate meaning was relayed to Matt; it was a deep appreciation of how he continues to be a voice in the building community that “keeps it real”, and the MOC was very symbolic of the way in which he does that. 

 “The Race at Shadowlands”:

 “…This is cool. The concept has come a long way from the butcher paper 2 years ago.” – Christopher Hoffmann

I myself was honored to receive a “White Brick” placed in front of “The Race at Shadowlands” collaboration. We didn’t receive any official award nominations, but the Best Group Layout category is always a tough competition and a tough nut to crack. My goal for the display was simply to put on “one great show”, and achieve my vision of creating a speeder race layout that actually moves. The “White Brick” was great recognition for all our efforts, creativity, and innovation in that endeavor…  However, I later learned that the “White Brick” was actually recognition for much MORE than that.  Inside of the brick-box contained a cool little Portal MOC.  I hadn’t thought that deeply about why that was the MOC inside, but Matt told me it was a metaphor to how I opened up a “portal” for so many others to join in on the fun.  It is true that I could have just done a solo layout, but for me it is so much more enjoyable at a convention to “open it up”, to be inclusive, and share in the building experience.


Portal MOC inside of white brick

I do strive to recruit at least one new person to collaborate with at Brickworld each year, and leverage their unique artistic vision and talents. It is putting into practice a question that Keith Goldman used to always close his blog interviews with; “If time, money and proximity were not an issue, name 2 builders that you’d like to collaborate with on a project?”  For my first Brickworld in 2016, I successfully inspired Christopher Hoffmann to join me in creating an impromptu “Tech-West Speederbike Rally” layout.  In 2017, it was Jen Spencer that I had convinced to come to her first Brickworld.  She provided an outstanding backdrop hive-town for the “Great Steambug Migration” collaboration. 

This year I tapped into the skills of some Brickworld veterans that I had always wanted to collaborate with. It all started with a conversation that I had with Dan Church after BW 2017, as we share a similar sci-fi aesthetic style.  Once we honed in on the idea of a speeder race set on a black, alien surface we just had to get Barbara Hoel involved with her alien botany. She had actually always considered her plant sculptures as “space” creations, so it was serendipity. I was absolutely overjoyed to see that she had received a nod for Brickworld Master Builder this year, and that we were able to give her another platform to showcase her awesome aesthetic and skills. 

The collaboration was rounded out by a whole host of other “Orphans & Outliers” who I always enjoy socializing and building with, or I had always wanted to. Everyone’s efforts and support really turned this display into a crowd favorite. Special thanks also goes out to Dennis, who rode “shotgun” for me during the drive up from  the Louisville area, and was my right hand man during the entire set up (even during those times when I didn’t know which end was up).  He also pulled together this awesome highlight video of the collaboration.

Video by Dennis Price

Those thoughtful touches like the Portal MOC are what make the “White Bricks” all the more meaningful and impressive.  You have to look beyond the surface and see the deeper symbolism inside of them.  I admit that I was originally a cynic when they first showed up last year, and I judged these blocks by their cover.  I was blind, but now I see.

The Secret Admirer(s)

As far as I know, the mysterious distributor(s?) of the “White Bricks” has yet to be identified or step forward. Noticing how personalized the MOC’s inside of them were to the receiver, you begin to wonder if the distributor is someone that all of the recipients know… Or perhaps there is a “White Brick Illuminati” watching over us?  I’d prefer that the anonymous distributor(s) remain anonymous, so these are questions best left unanswered.  The mystery is what makes them even more special. 

To date, I don’t think the interior MOC’s have ever been repeated.  It makes you wonder how many of them were premeditated (like Victor’s and Simon’s), and how many were prebuilt and looking for a worthy recipient. For example, was I always destined to receive the Portal MOC, or was it pre-built and looking for a worthy recipient?… Or even more impressive, did the distributor come up with the interior MOC ideas while at Brickworld and build them on-site? 

Looking back at the “White Brick” MOC that Cecilie received in 2017, perhaps that random “ant” that was inside wasn’t so random either.  It could have been recognition of her quiet outward demeanor, yet you couldn’t help but notice all of the amazing things she ended up dutifully building, carrying a building load 100 times more than expected.

There are certainly others who have taken up the recognition cause.  I’ve heard that there were some snails, shrubbery, and baby-speeder MOC’s left as tokens of recognition this year.  For those that have received a small MOC that the prior year’s Brickworld Master Builder placed out, I hope their ubiquitous distribution hasn’t lessened their impact as a sign of personal appreciation (as was always their intent).  It’s easy to take that meaning for granted, and view them as a breadcrumb trail  that the “Master Builder Wuz Here!”  Rather than being a trail to follow, trophies like these and the “White Brick” should encourage us to keep following our own visions and forging our own paths.

This is a lesson that I am definitely taking to heart.  All the time I spent on getting the speeder-coaster running (and keeping it running) was worth the effort, but I definitely had less time to appreciate everyone else’s creativity.  It felt like I didn’t get to socialize with everyone nearly as much as I had wanted to as a result.  “Sorry” to all of you that I didn’t get to meet this year or talk with more

 I hope that non-official, personalized trophies like this continue to proliferate in the community.  Rather than falling into the self-centered trap of an awards competition, we all need to show better appreciation of each other’s creativity and contributions. It really is true that it is better to give than to receive. 

Until next time!

Ted Andes  –