Hi there! After five glorious years, I have decided to retire this blog.
Feel free to visit my Flickr or YouTube channels instead.
Or follow my latest blogging exploits over at the Brothers Brick.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Closing thoughts

It was 5 years ago this week that I started this blog with the specific goal of highlighting great "character based" LEGO builds and bringing attention to what at that time was a relatively unexplored and under-appreciated building theme.

In 2010, my partner in crime Tommy Williamson gave the theme the name "Bricks of Character", and we introduced it as a new display category at BrickCon. The public reacted really well to the display, and we've kept it up every year since, and even introduced it at a couple of other LEGO conventions.

Since then the theme has really grown in popularity, thanks to the efforts of many talented builders who are too numerous to mention, but who have been featured many times here, as well as on other staples of the LEGO blogosphere such as The Brothers Brick. In fact, no great character build escapes the attention of Andrew's small army of bloggers these days, which is exactly how I hoped it would be.

But at this juncture in my LEGO life, I no longer have the energy or bandwidth to maintain The Living Brick at the level it once was, or differentiate it sufficiently from all the other LEGO blogs out there. I am very proud of what I did with the blog, and very grateful to all the readers that shared my passion for character based LEGO building. I feel we accomplished our mission!

Going forward I will be discontinuing this blog, to focus on my own LEGO building ...oh, and a bunch of other super-secret creative endeavors (some LEGO themed, some not). So you have not heard the last of Ochre Jelly! You can still follow me on Flickr, YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter. (I will be rebranding the FaceBook page soon, but The Living Brick will live on in the form of my LEGO related YouTube videos)

For my parting words I'd like to start the discussion going on a topic that has been on my mind for a while: DIGITAL LEGO CREATIONS.

Apps for constructing 'virtual' LEGO creations have been around for years. Typically their purpose was to augment the building experience... They allowed builders to pre-plan or visualize large builds, create instructions for others to follow, and for a while the LEGO company even allowed builders to share digital models and order the parts necessary to build them online.

But when 3D rendering tools such as POV-Ray were eventually adapted to work with these apps, a shift began away from merely augmenting the building experience, to actually replacing it. Now you could design a LEGO model and create a highly convincing photograph of it, without ever snapping two bricks together. The physical and social experience of playing with LEGO is starting to be co-opted by the ubiquitous global community of screen-addicted digital tinkerers.

Fortunately these digital fakes have been fairly easy to tell from the real deal, at least for a LEGO fan such as myself. And I made a point never to feature such creations here. For me the LEGO hobby is all about the challenges of physically designing and sculpting something, hunting and gathering of necessary parts, interacting with other builders, and wowing the general public by showing them what is possible with those innocuous little bricks lying around their homes.

However, the forgeries are getting better. See Exhibit A (which btw is cheekily even being touted on CuuSoo to be turned into a real set, with little mention of its origins). It's now only a matter of time before one of these gets picked up by the 'thing of the day' sites and mistaken for the real deal; LEGO blogs at least tend to state when a build is digital, but the larger blogosphere is probably unaware of the existence of digital building.

At this point some of you are probably pointing at the screen and screaming "purist!" or "luddite!" and arguing that digital building is just another artistic medium that people are entitled to explore. But if you really genuinely wanna explore this new medium and are not using it as a short cut to real building, then prove it and make all the studs square or something. Or better still, just go lose yourself in Minecraft's creative mode. If the goal is to create a purely digital model, why use the LEGO parts palette and connections at all, after all? Why restrict yourself that way? Yeah, that's what I thought.

"Well someone could build a real model from my digital one" I hear you say. Really? How do you know its buildable? You don't. As far as I know these tools don't ensure a model is stable enough or has the proper centre of gravity to actually stand up or stay in one piece.

But at some point LEGO conventions will probably go virtual, and then it won't matter any more...



  1. Thanks for the ride! Your posts will be missed.

    Regarding your digital building observations I'm in the same camp as far as my personal building is concerned, but I don't hold it anything against those that do digital. I, much like yourself I assume, have a large collection to work with. There are many that don't, and the time/expense of amassing a decent working collection must be daunting to new builders, teens, or those with limited funds.

    As some of the newer members of our LUG have pointed out, even with the new bulk buying options, sure they can order 1000's of some parts, but it only leaves them with 1000's of those parts. It does not make for a well balanced and extensive collection (I know, I know, you don't need a huge collection to build amazing stuff. Your character builds are a prime example. But it certainly helps).

    All that being said, I agree it is nice to know whether something has been built 'for real' or not, otherwise I am left with the same questions about whether or not it could be. As impressive as some of these digital models are, they are lacking something in my eyes for not being 'real'.

  2. Hey mate, thanks for keeping the blog going as long as you did. One of my favourite regular reads and something which (in my opinion at least) did offer something different from the others out there.

    I'll miss your take on things, and models you featured which I would otherwise have missed, but I'm sure I'll catch you in the Flickrverse, and who knows, maybe in person at a convention some day?

    Rod (2MuchCaffeine)

  3. Hey Iain,

    First up, I want to wish you a fond farewell from the ranks of the LEGO bloggeratti. As you know, I'm a fan of niche blogs (okay, perhaps it is better to say I obsessively start niche blogs), and, as much as I love Andrew and his minions, I do like the different voice the Living Brick provided, and will miss it. That said, I also totally understand blog fatigue (notice how many posts I haven't made recently), and so, onward and upward to bigger an better things. I'm expecting an exponential growth in actual ABS output from you.

    On to your topic, which I think is actually related - how does the virtual LEGO world (which includes LDraw etc, blogging, and online communities) relate to the actual LEGO world (real bricks, and also interacting in person)? I pretty much have the same attitude as you regarding virtual MOCs - I always want to see people actually build them rather than just have the ldraw version. I occasionally blog a virtual MOC, but I try to say that person xyz 'designed' this rather than 'built' it. Perhaps that's being overly subtle. I have to say that Cuusoo is probably the best use for virtual models, since the whole idea is that you're proposing something that doesn't exist, which may well include existing parts in new colors (or new parts, though I know Cuusoo frowns on that).

    Anyway, thanks for the blog, Iain! Good luck with your next LEGO adventure.


  4. That's a rather sad bit of news Iain! The Living Brick was one of my daily reads, and one of the first blogs I found when I was a newbie in the community. But all things must come to an end I guess, and there's never been a better time than now, due to the massive amount of character builders we have in the community!

    I'm looking forward to what your other ventures may be!

  5. I've been a fan of your work ever since I first found it, yours was the first lego blog I ever followed, and it's what first got me into the flickr community. Your work and activity in the lego community have been admirable.

    Which is why I'm all the more disappointed that you felt the need to make the ending note on your /art blog/ trash talk towards an entire artistic medium. You shouldn't try to belittle others just because they choose to use a certain aesthetic.