Take it away, Ollie...
Nathan Sawaya was a New York lawyer and he gave it all up to play with Lego... whoops, I mean, be a Lego artist!! I met him ahead of his latest exhibition.
Ollie: This is my latest Lego model (reveals a Lego Technics skidoo)
Nathan: Nice job that's fantastic, good work! So how long did it take you to make this?
Ollie: I think about three hours
Nathan: Wow three hours!
Ollie: Wait, I think about an hour and a half before bed and an hour and a quarter in the morning.
Ollie: What was the most exciting/memorable Lego model from your childhood?
Nathan: I built a lifesize dog out of Lego, it took me several days – not several hours, you are much faster than I am! It was one of those that really opened my eyes up to what can happen with Lego bricks.
Ollie: My favourite Lego pieces are the jets on the bottom of planes. What’s yours?
Nathan: In my art I use a lot of rectangular pieces – that's what I focus on and I have for the most part in my studio. Do you know the 1x2 plate that has one stud in the middle - it's called a “jumper”, well that's what I call it! It gives you a lot of opportunity to do detail, you can off-set things, too. And you can make things twist on it.
Ollie: And what was your favourite piece when you were a child?
Nathan: I built a lot of buildings in my childhood, so I was very happy when windows and doors came out.
Ollie: I sort my bricks by colour. Do you sort your bricks - and do you do it by colour or by size?
Nathan: I do both! When I was your age I went for colour too, but now I have to go for colour, shape and size, and they are all in clear plastic bins. I have all of them laid out on shelves so when you walk down the aisles in my studio you walk down rows of colour. It's kind of like walking through a rainbow!
Ollie: Have you ever had a model collapse? Nightmare.
Nathan: [Laughs]. There have been a few accidents from time to time, but Lego is pretty strong and snaps together very well and because I glue the sculptures brick by brick they stay together really well, almost forever.
Ollie: Did you keep all your models for very long before breaking them up?
Nathan: I would usually build what was on the front of the box and then break them up quite quickly, so no not for very long.
Ollie: Did you see the Lego movie? Wasn't it awesome!
Nathan: I thought it was a lot of fun. It was amazing that in the whole movie they never said the word Lego once.
Ollie: How much have you spent on Lego?
Nathan: I don't know exactly! [Laughs.] I do know that it is over six figures a year. It's my biggest expense by far and I have over four million Lego bricks in my two studios in New York and Los Angeles. It's a lot of bricks!
Ollie: Is the T-Rex the biggest model?
Nathan: I suppose yes it's probably the largest sculpture I ever made – it took me an entire summer to build and took over 80,000 bricks.
Ollie: When or why did you have the idea of being a Lego artist?
Nathan: That's a good question! I had been an artist with other types of media – I made art out of clay, wire, I even made art out of candy. Where I used small pieces of candy to create a larger sculpture. Which is kind of like Lego – using small pieces to make larger forms. And one day I had the idea of using this toy from my childhood to make art. Could I create a large-scale sculpture using Lego? So I just went for it and started experimenting and here we are today!
Thank you so much for coming in Ollie, this has been a great interview, the best interview of the day!
The Art of the Brick artofthebrick.co.uk is at Old Truman Brewery, London E1 from 26 September to 4 January