Travis M. of Melbourne prefers to go by the name Space Commander Travis. Space Commander Travis spent the first part of his life in country Victoria but moved to Melbourne in 2003. He has been a member of the Melbourne LEGO User Group (MUGs) since around 2002 and is the current LUG Ambassador for the group. Unlike a lot of AFOLs, Travis did not really have a true Dark Age. His mother started purchasing LEGO for him in 1976 before he was even born and, consequently, he’s been a fan of it all of his life. He does admit that he did have a “can’t really afford this” age but he still tried to buy LEGO whenever he could.
Despite being a lifelong LEGO fan, Travis doesn’t really have a well-organized storage system. In his own words, he describes it as “chaotic”. Ideally, he says, it should be in tubs by type of brick (2x brick, 1x brick, plate etc) with ziplock bags for specific parts (1×1, 2×1, 3×1, 2×4 etc) but, as you can see from the pictures, Travis’ setup is not perfect. A lot of that comes from being an avid builder so his parts are all over the place as he designs and develops his latest creation.
Travis loves having LEGO as his creative outlet. He likes that it appeals to those who like “art” as well as anyone who had LEGO as children. They can appreciate the effort involved in the creation of the design. However, it is somewhat frustrating when people ask if the model he has spent months working on is “just a set”. On a side note, Travis hates sorting bricks and would love someone to sort all of his for him.
Tony B. of Queensland is a long term resident of that state and only became interested in LEGO around 4 years ago. He doesn’t really remember having many LEGO bricks as a child as they moved around a lot. It was his grandchildren, and their love of LEGO, that sparked his interest in the hobby. He says he was looking for a hobby at the time and he definitely found one he really liked. To date, he has mainly built in the medieval, fantasy, Arabian and ninja themes.
For his LEGO storage, Tony divides first in to the main colours and then into the type of part such as plates or bricks. He also separates the specialist pieces like LURPs and BURPs as he has large number of these. His preference is for clear tubs so he can easily see what is inside each one.
His favourite thing about being a LEGO fan is spending hours and hours just tinkering and building, and then rebuilding until he is happy with his creation. His least favourite part is not having enough space to sort, store and work with his LEGO bricks. He hopes one day to have a dedicated LEGO room.
Photos courtesy of Tony B.
The Bionicle range in 2003 was the impetus for Tim B. of Adelaide to revisit the hobby of LEGO building. He then ventured into the Creator theme with the 4954 Town House and the Ferrari racers series. From there it spread far and wide until he decided, while boxed sets are good, building MOCs and mosaics are much more fun.
Tim describes his LEGO storage system as being very “loose”. In his words, “it’s either there or over there or maybe in that box”. Most of what he calls “standard parts”, such as plate and brick, are sorted via colour and size into Fischer brand boxes. Once the quantities exceed these containers, he moves onto 5 litre storage tubs and then 60 litre tubs for things like 2×4 bricks. Smaller parts, of varying descriptions, sometimes become sorted into small non-colour specific trays, but usually they are tossed into the “to be sorted” pile, almost never to see the light of day again. He says that while this can be infuriating at times when he is hunting for that one specific piece, it does create a fun treasure hunt scenario where he find pieces that bring back memories of when he was looking for it 6 months earlier.
Tim’s favourite part of being an AFOL is being able to share his creations and passions for the culture that surrounds LEGO with others who are yet to experience it. Whether that person is 9 or 99, being able to show them that LEGO is so much more than a box tucked away on a shelf gathering dust is really important to him. There is nothing sadder, for Tim, than seeing a set unopened, gathering dust, just because it might increase in value and be worth more than the original purchase price. LEGO sets should be built! Buy, Build and Enjoy! To counter this, Tim’s other great frustration is not having enough parts to build the epic creations he has in his head. He always has to scale something back from where he wants it to be in order to keep it within his LEGO resources and budget.
Photos courtesy of Tim B.
Lee B. of Perth received his first LEGO set in the late 1970s when he was around eight years old. He was an avid collector of Classic Space (or Space as it was then) until the age of fourteen when he entered his Dark Ages. An act of generosity made him give away his entire collection to a single mother colleague when he was in his early twenties. He’s pretty sure he felt noble at the time but the thought of rebuilding his collection via Bricklink brings tears to his eyes.
Although now a re sident of Perth, Western Australia, Lee was originally born in Nottingham, UK and emigrated with his family when he was five years old. Despite some early career temptations to move to Melbourne, he is firmly established in Perth with his kids and grandchildren. It was watching his children, four years ago, build a maze for a remote control T-Rex out of Duplo that finally delivered Lee out of his Dark Ages and on the path to becoming an AFOL.
Lee’s storage philosophy centres on whatever cheap tubs will fit the parts he is trying to store, as well as divided trays and small tool trays from the local hardware store. In Lee’s own words, “it’s rather unwieldy and dispa rate”. He believes this is possibly a physical manifestation of his building method – “a bit of a part-rummaging frenzy.” His preference is to store by part rather than colour and he has a giant tub for all of the weird and/or enormous parts that won’t fit in tiny tubs.
As an author, Lee believes his regular creative outlet is intensely textual and, as he can’t paint, building with LEGO bricks gives him the opportunity to be visually creative and this is one of his favourite things about being a LEGO fan. Another of his favourite things is being able to build his own creations and he’s still, after all these years, obsessed with space fighters and swooshable ships. Coming into the hobby and discovering Vic Vipers, Starfighters and GARCs is like being a kid in a candy shop.
The isolation of being an AFOL in Perth (the most isolated capital city in the world) is Lee’s least favourite thing about being an AFOL. Lee says “there are lots of us in Perth but I’ve found opportunities to be in a face-to-face LUG and to get into displaying have been severely limited, and it seems like the social aspects of the hobby are highly rewarding for really organized LUGs like MUGs”. He believes it’s changing slowly thanks mostly to the Perth LEGO User Group (the Facebook LUG) who have semi-regular meetings. Lee recently had the opportunity to exhibit for the first time at the Bricktober display in Perth and he’s now really excited about displaying at Brickvention in Melbourne in January – a chance to meet other AFOLs and to share his MOCs which he rarely shares, as his photographic skills are not good enough to upload his work to Flickr or MOC Pages.
Photos courtesy of Lee B.
Canberra is home to Australia’s LEGO house – a home where LEGO bricks have become a decorating tool and the only limitation is the imagination of the homeowner.
Charlie and his family moved from the countryside to their current home in Canberra around 2 and half years ago. Lack of space to store their large LEGO collection was the initial impetus behind decorating their home with plastic bricks. No real planning goes into developing or creating each section though, as Charlie usually sees something that can be “wrapped” in LEGO bricks and starts building. He finds the building helps with stress relief and believes it to be therapeutic and almost meditative. In Charlie’s words, the process helps “reset” his brain. He admits he can be a little obsessed at times and may avoid other work until it’s finished. There have been times when it hasn’t worked as he thought it might so he’s pulled it down and tried something else until he gets it right.
The brick letterbox, garden walls and paving featuring LEGO brick inserts are perhaps Charlie’s favourite part of his garden and house. To create the “brick inserts” he held special LEGO parties where friends and kids were each given a box of bricks and asked to make their own creation. They know who built each one and each “brick” reflects the personality of the builder.
The LEGO house has many visitors throughout the year – from a few dozen a day to small tour buses and groups of local school children. On occasion, people will donate LEGO to the family so they can continue adding to the local landmark. Charlie’s wife would like the decorating to end but there are plans for a house extension that will feature at least one LEGO wall. In reality, it may never be finished.
Long term Canberra residents, Matt and Tam, and their two children, are active members of the LEGO fan community in Canberra. Matt spends a lot of time running the trains at LEGO fan events and Tam can usually be found next to an award winning MOC.
Matt’s love of LEGO was firmly established as a child. From the age of 4 to 14, he was a regular builder. Tam, on the other hand, only had one incomplete LEGO set so was not really a fan of LEGO. She did, however, have a passionate interest in arts and craft and, to her, LEGO bricks are just another medium. Together, Matt and Tam joined the AFOL community when their children expressed an interest in LEGO around 4 to 5 years ago.
Most of their LEGO elements are stored in clear portable storage boxes with removable dividers. They sort by colour first, then shape or function. This means they might have 8 “white” trays with one tray holding tiles of various sizes, another with hinges, and others with bricks, plates, slopes and ’round shapes’ etc. The trays used to be stored in a hall cupboard, but have now overflowed into their ‘spare room’ (it was formerly a guest room but they have recently conceded that it’s really their LEGO room). The majority of their MOCs are stored in a purpose-built cupboard in their garage along with a few unopened LEGO sets.
Tam’s favourite thing about being a LEGO fan is the creative process of turning an idea into an object, knowing that she is limited by the available shapes and colours produced by LEGO. She tends to build brightly coloured fairytale-themed MOCs that, on the the surface, appeal to a younger audience but also appeal to an older audience due to the advanced building techniques. Tam is currently experimenting with novel parts use as was seen in her recent MOC of the “The Butterfly Ball” at the Canberra Brick Expo. She also enjoys participating in LEGO fan shows and believes they are great opportunities to meet interesting people and learn techniques from other exhibitors. Like a lot of other AFOLs, Tam enjoys seeing the reactions of the non-AFOLs and answering their questions about how a particular technique was achieved. Her least favourite thing about being an AFOL is having to build to a deadline to have a MOC finished in time for a LEGO fan event.
For Matt, his favourite thing about being a LEGO fan is being able to create an object to which he and others can relate from just a random assortment of LEGO shapes. Like Tam, Matt also dislikes having to build under pressure in order to meet a deadline.
Despite emerging from her LEGO Dark Ages in 2008, it took Sarah S. of Canberra until 2012 before she started to build her own creations. Since then she has won a number of awards for her Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings creations.
Sarah’s LEGO bricks are neatly stored in well organised and labelled plastic drawers and storage boxes. The parts are sorted by type, then colour and are stored inside ziplock bags. Her instructions are stored in a filing cabinet. She has quite a few of her favourite sets on display and keeping them dust free is quite a task.
The endless creativity that comes from building with LEGO Bricks is one of Sarah’s favourite things about being an AFOL. She is always impressed by the range of projects that can be made using the humble LEGO brick. Conversely, Sarah believes there is always a risk that your creativity may exceed your budget and LEGO-induced poverty can be a real risk for some AFOLs.
Stephen C. is Canberra born and bred and loved LEGO as a child. In his words, he had “loads of it”. He dearly wishes he could have held onto it all but his parents believed LEGO was a child’s toy and they encouraged him to pass on his childhood things to other members of the family. After all this time, he still remembers being upset that he had to hand over all of his beloved LEGO to his younger cousins. Stephen was particularly devastated by the loss of his original yellow castle set (#375) as it was his absolute favourite. In fact, some years later in the 1990s, it was this very set that lead Stephen on the path to becoming an AFOL. Back when eBay was just starting up, a friend told him how you could buy just about anything on the site. He was rather delighted to find his long lost childhood toy. One complete 375 castle later and he began his journey as an AFOL. He hasn’t looked back since.
Due to a recent house move, a great deal of Stephen’s LEGO is still in moving boxes – stacked up waiting to be unpacked. When he does have access to his LEGO collection, he uses lots of clear plastic containers so he can see inside. Like so many AFOLs, he has tried to become organised many times. He has tried the “by colour” method only to realise that you need to go by part as well. Despite all of his efforts, there are many tubs of LEGO labelled “to be sorted”. He believes he will get there in the end but, at the moment, it is mostly in themes such as “Harry Potter”, “Star Wars” and too many tubs of “Bionicles”.
Stephen really enjoys the LEGO fan shows. It’s one of his favourite things to see the countless FOLs (of all ages) arrive and stand slack-jawed in awe at the creations and displays. The least favourite thing for Stephen is that you can never have enough LEGO. He says that no matter now hard you try to buy less, to be careful or selective on the collecting, there is always something new that you absolutely must have!
Long term Canberra resident, David B., has early memories of trying to build Thunderbirds’ spaceships with his brother when he was in pre-school. He fondly remembers receiving a LEGO truck when he was around 5 and building it, pulling it apart and rebuilding it until he could build it without the instructions. His attempts to rebuild other toys weren’t quite as successful.
In terms of sorting, David prefers to first sort by colour and then by type. He currently doesn’t have access to the bulk of his collection but says it is perfectly organised in plastic drawers. His current working collection is stored rather haphazardly in plastic containers. Once he has built a MOC, he usually boxes it up straight away for storage and future transport. His new or better MOCs are stored in plastic containers. Others are stored in cardboard boxes.
David’s favourite thing about being an AFOL is designing a MOC and then seeing his design come to life when he finally puts the bricks together and builds his creation. At the moment, he believes there is no downside to being an AFOL.
Steve A. of Canberra started his AFOL journey in 2002. Originally from Melbourne and part of the Melbourne LEGO User Group (MUGs), he moved to Canberra in 2005 and has become an active member of the Canberra LEGO User Group (CLUG).
In terms of storage, Steve describes his methodology as “organised chaos”. He uses shelving, drawers and filing cabinets in his garage for a large portion of his collection. Used parts are sorted by type and are stored in about 30 plastic crates. Unsorted parts are stored in plastic containers and his Bricklink shop parts are in old LEGO plastic tubs.
Steve is really impressed by the variety and quality of LEGO parts and sets these days. As a big fan of the early history of LEGO and he finds it incredible that 1950s LEGO bricks are still compatible with today’s bricks. He also really enjoys the fantastic LEGO fan shows conducted by AFOLs especially the enjoyment it brings everyone from volunteers and organisers to members of the public. As an AFOL, Steve greatly appreciates the support LEGO provides to the LUGs and LEGO fan events.
The quality of LEGO packaging is a concern of Steve’s and he believes they can go some way yet to make improvements in this area. His other least favourite thing about being an AFOL is all of the people on the various forums that have nothing better to do than make complaints.