Welcome to the third in TLCB’s Pro Series;
How to Become a Lego Professional
In this series we’re interviewing builders who have taken their hobby to the next level, and who are now earning an income from their Lego building, either via a full time career, or via side projects such a commissioned creations or book publication. If you’re interested in a career working with Lego, these builders can help you, because they’ve made it happen…
Pro No.3 | Nick Barrett
Welcome to the third interview in our Become a Lego Professional series, and a builder who has been interviewed here before. So what is Nick Barrett doing here twice? Last time we interviewed Nick he was one of the most respected vehicle builders on the internet. He still is of course, and such talent didn’t go unnoticed.
Nick is now employed by the Certified LEGO Professional building company Bright Bricks and earning a living through his building. Over to Nick to tell all…
There are probably as many ways of becoming a professional Lego builder as there are Lego builders. However, most seem to have been active in the fan community in some respect first. Having this online resource of other builders’ work to inform and inspire is the great asset that’s pushed up quality across the board, right up to Lego themselves. When I first emerged from a long dark age a few years ago, and tinkered with my ‘80s Technic sets unaware of the existence of so many like-minded fellow builders, my models were… workmanlike, unrefined but pleasing to me.
Finding MOCpages by accident opened a whole world of excellence that, far from intimidating or discouraging me, I found inspiring. Nearly everyone built better stuff than me (and they still take better photos!), and a few even dropped by my posts to say something encouraging. It’s this mutual support that exists in the community that can really make one want to build better. So long as you don’t get caught up in the headless-chicken pursuit of adoration and build with your own goals in mind, you’ll have fun and create models that not only please others but, more importantly, yourself. Looking around at the work of other builders can be truly inspiring, whether they’re Firas or the kid next door. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
Being primarily a vehicle builder, I was keen to expand my horizons and try other model types. It’s Lego. Build what you want with it. Anything at all. As much as I like vehicles, I find that I like the medium in which I create them more. There are various competitions around to enter that can stretch your abilities in ways you may never have expected, but when you are given a seemingly impossible task, and a week later you complete it, the sense of achievement is palpable.
If you can build a good looking house, or a diorama, or a statue, anything, you begin to realize there is nothing that cannot be made in Lego, such is the versatility of these wondrous little plastic bricks.
Now we come to the most important training you can have if you want someone to pay you for building Lego (In my experience anyway. Other results may vary). Should you study graphic design? Art? Perhaps one of the physical sciences would be useful…
Nah. Enter the MOCOlympics. Seriously. Or try any of the competitions that pique your interest on Eurobricks, MOCpages or Flickr. What you’ll have to do in the MOCOlympics is this: produce, quickly, a quality model in an unfamiliar theme in order to advance to the next round. I firmly believe that anyone who’s progressed to the sharp end of this competition, against some of the ‘net’s most accomplished builders, has acquired the skills to do my job.
At Bright Bricks, what usually needs to be done is a cost-effective model that meets a certain pre-defined specification within an acceptable time frame. A brilliant model that’s taken too long, or a shoddy one that hasn’t, are not good enough. A model that’s profitable, and enhances the company’s reputation, has hit the sweet spot. You’ll have hit the same sweet spot if you get past any of a dozen notable builders in an MO semi-final.
Building to a different set of rules has certainly been interesting. I’ll give you an example. Like most car builders, at home I think of a car to build, find some suitable wheels and scale it from there. At work, if a car is what’s wanted, it’ll have to be a particular size – you’ll have to find a way to make the wheels fit your model. On my London Bus model for Bricks In Motion, the scale of 1:20 meant everything was either too big or too small. The solution was to insert some 6×6 dishes into a small Technic truck tyre to stretch it a bit and voila! It’s the right size. Doing the large spoked wheels for the train models was interesting as well. You never stop learning.
It’s still possible to put your own stamp on a professional model. You never want to desert whatever may have become your style, or way of doing certain things. Even though it’s not necessary, I often insert a Technic function or two into models built purely for display. The boss knows I simply can’t help myself…
Lego building is often a solitary pursuit, and I do enjoy being in the workshop with other builders, all of us working on our widely differing projects and feeding off each other. I might have thought the background music and general noise might be off-putting, but it turns out the opposite is true! It helps that Lego builders seem to be very nice people.
It can be a risk to do the thing you love professionally. I wouldn’t want to experience any kind of Lego-related ‘burn-out’, that meant my interest waned in my own creations or those of others. The thing that’s most pleased me about the whole experience is that, after a day’s work building Lego, I like nothing more than relaxing at home… building Lego!
We’d like to say a big thank you to Nick for joining us here at The Lego Car Blog for a second time. You can see more of his work, both professional and amateur, on both Flickr and MOCpages, including his MOCOlympics-winning builds. You can also read more about Nick’s story in our first interview with him for the Master MOCers series here.
Nick is employed by the Certified LEGO Professional building company Bright Bricks, whose current project is one that will interest all readers of TLCB – click here to see more.
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Dear Nick, I’m an AFOL from germany an love your Motorized Mechanical LEGO Solar System that you had at the great western Brick show 2019. I saw a Video of it on youtube recently.
You dont happen to sell the instructions for your model? As I geography teacher I would love to rebuilt that for school.
Thanks for your message
Nick is a super helpful and most excellent individual, and we’re sure he’d like to help you if he can. Your best bet is to reach out to him via the links in this post (Flickr, which allows direct messaging is probably best, as MOCpages is now defunct).
If you get stuck let us know and we can probably pass on your message directly, but we’d need your contact details to do so (you can use the ‘Contact Us’ form to send these securely).
Best of luck!