Wednesday, 5 July 2017

An Interview With Australia's LEGO Brickman, Ryan McNaught...

It's everyone's favourite plaything - LEGO has been equally loved by kids and adults for generations and the fun never fades. For a very select few, the joy of brick-building in childhood can eventuate into an exclusive dream job in adulthood. Ryan McNaught is Australia's very own 'Brickman.' He wears the coveted title of being one of only fourteen LEGO Certified Professionals in the world. Further, Ryan has the prestigious claim of being the only LEGO Certified Professional in the Southern Hemisphere.

While Ryan's stellar brick-building career is is 'right up there' as far as the most exciting jobs go in the eyes of many, he remains a down-to-earth and highly approachable person who comes across as perfectly suited to his LEGO-fuelled lifestyle.

We've been fortunate enough to meet Ryan McNaught on a number of occasions at a couple of his Melbourne events and exhibitions and our own kids think he's fantastic! Ryan is always inspiring and encouraging where his young fans are concerned, and he readily and keenly fields questions and offers insights into his exciting role as a professional LEGO builder.

Knowing how interesting a chat with Ryan can be, we couldn't resist the opportunity to question Ryan about his fascinating LEGO lifestyle here on Six Little Hearts. If you have a LEGO fan, (or know one or ten), be sure to share Ryan's interview that follows, with them!

Ryan, you were once in the corporate world. Can you tell us a little about your professional background and how and when you came to realise your true calling in life was to build with LEGO for a living?

I was working in IT and while it paid okay, it rarely allowed me to be creative, which is something I really craved. It was having my twin boys that really allowed me to rediscover my love of the LEGO brick. But ultimately it was when LEGO released their Mindstorms Robotics system, which let me bring my programming skills into the world of LEGO. I wrote a custom program where LEGO visitors  could control my LEGO Qantas jet by an iPad control panel and after touring it to a LEGO fan show in the US, I was approached by a LEGO company representative who suggested I apply to be a LEGO Certified Professional and the rest is history.

Were you especially skilled with LEGO as a child?! Come to think of it, were there any particular skills you excelled in during your formative years that hinted at the successful and enviable career you now enjoy?

I did win a Myer Junior LEGO building competition when I was a kid, so perhaps that got me off to a good start! But during school I always loved engineering so that helped me to do well at maths, which is very important when you're building big models from LEGO bricks like we do!

What does a 'typical' Ryan McNaught day as a Certified LEGO Builder look like? Do you have a typical day?!

They constantly vary! Often I'll start my day with some emails and phone calls or interviews if we have an exhibition running, but I'll always try to get in at least a few hours building every day. Some days I can get to build with LEGO bricks all day which is amazing! It all depends how much LEGO work we have on.

You have two sons. How has your career with LEGO influenced your kids? Are they keen to follow in your footsteps? Do they think you are the coolest dad ever?!

I've been dragged to show and tell quite a lot! My two love LEGO but like anything it's still my job and I try not to take work home with me, so all the LEGO at home belongs to the boys. I think one day they will realise what I do for a job and how cool it is.

What was your most memorable LEGO build thus far and why?

Probably my LEGO brick Colosseum. It was one of my biggest projects at the time and I had to work out how to build an enormous oval to replicate the ancient arena using tonnes of LEGO hinges and angled bricks, as well as build it in two halves, one as it appeared in ancient Rome, and one as it appears now!

What was your most difficult LEGO build to date? Why?

My Sydney Opera House! Getting those curved sails right using rectangular LEGO bricks was very tough! But then building in an interior and the complex compound curved windows, just made it even harder!

How many LEGO builders assist you with your builds? Do you all have distinct and defined roles to build any particular model, or do you all just sit about piecing stuff together haphazardly?!

I have a regular team of 5 people who work with me in the workshop, although we don't always build at the same time. I have someone in charge of maintaining our LEGO part inventory for example, who also builds when we have big jobs on. Essentially we usually work on a one-person, one-model basis, but sometimes when models get really big or complicated we split a job between 2-3 people. Each model always has one lead person to design and guide the build, whether they build it alone or not.

Is there a lot of trial and error with large scale LEGO building, or are you so freakishly talented that it all comes together as you like it? Does it get very stressful building with LEGO?!

It depends on the type of model we're building. Sometimes we build it on the computer first so when we build with real bricks we have a rough plan to follow, but otherwise we just build and design as we go. There is always some trial and error on big builds though and if something is particularly tricky we try to prototype it first to get it right before we commit to building it into the finished model.

The question on everyone's lips - How can I become a large-scale LEGO building professional like you? (One for the kids!)

Well - the first thing is to focus on maths and art at school, because both of those things are really important when it comes to being a professional LEGO builder! But the real key is to just build - keep on practising your building techniques and try out new ways to connect pieces together. Join a local LEGO fan group (called a LUG). Get inspiration from other builders by looking online, (Flickr has a big LEGO builder community) and start uploading your creations.

The Brickman Experience is currently in full-swing on the Gold Coast for the school holiday period. Six Little Hearts has a family pass valued at $85 to attend this fantastic interactive exhibition available for one lucky reader who resides in Queensland.
To enter, (be quick, it ends today at 3pm), head to the Six Little Hearts Facebook page and enter via the giveaway post.

Are you a LEGO fan? Have you visited one of  Ryan's 'The Brickman' exhibitions before?


  1. What amazing creations! He's so talented!

    Di from Max The Unicorn

  2. I've been to two Brickman exhibits now and they are so cool. Ryan is extremely clever in what he creates.

  3. I loved using programmable LEGO in high school. It was so much fun.

  4. I didn't have lego when I was a kid, but my son was a huge fan. I actually enjoyed helping him build. My girls never seemed interested in it though. Ryan's creations are amazing, I don't know if I'd have the patience for that, imagine if it fell to bits half way through! I wonder if they glue some bits together.

  5. How awesome is this!! Imagine getting to be so creative and do something you love doing so much for a job.... lucky guy. Good on him for changing up his life, he deserves his fun!


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