LEGO Celebrates Ninety Years of Mind-Blowing Creativity

It started with one brick. A wooden toy brick.

The owner, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, had opened an unnamed business in 1932. He didn’t have a name for the store at the time.

He knew one thing: The store would specialize in toys.

Ninety years later, LEGO has become a staple of every childhood. Most boys and girls have played with the colored building blocks at some point in their lives. They remember LEGO with fondness, happiness, and joy.

People from all walks of life share their stories of how LEGO impacted them.

The LEGO Artist

LEGO – “it’s almost universal. It’s generational – in that the bricks from 20 years ago, 30 years ago, still snap together,” said Nathan Sawaya, 49, a LEGO artist.

“It spans generations. I can play Lego with my kids,” he said.

And everyone of all ages, races, and sexuality enjoy building with the toys.

Sawaya is an international LEGO artist.

Growing up in rural Oregon, a city outside of Eugene, Sawaya didn’t have much to do. His closest neighbor was one mile away. He occupied his time with LEGOs.

By age 10, he had built a 36-square-foot LEGO City. The city had all the necessities a child his age could imagine: a gas station, hotel, hospital, and police station.

Then, when he got tired of the city, he tore it down and built his “own, life-size dog.”

He said he knew, with the LEGO, the toys “could be whatever I could imagine it to be. When I wanted to be a rock star, I could build myself a guitar.”

But, he didn’t grow up wanting a LEGO career. He was a lawyer for years. He moved from Oregon to the Big Apple to attend New York University for undergraduate and law school. Afterward, he got a job in the corporate war.

“It was interesting at the time… but it didn’t make me happy,” Sawaya said of his legal days. When he returned home, he needed to relax. Some paint. Others sculpt. Sawaya started experimenting with LEGO as a medium.

People saw his work. That’s when the commissions started rolling in.

Sawaya started his website in 2002. Fans requested LEGO art of themselves, their families, and their pets. He took on commissions along with making art for himself.

He started showcasing his art, and eventually, his work morphed into  The Art of the Brick, a global touring exhibition. Presently, Saraya admirers can see the exhibit in San Francisco and Chicago.

The former lawyer became “a full-time artist that plays with toys,” he said.

“It’s an interesting relationship – to work with one art medium that is produced by one company,” Sawaya noted.

LEGO took notice of Sawaya’s creations. Company officials reached out with a licensing agreement for the brick designer. Sawaya travels to the LEGO headquarters in Billund, Denmark annually. He meets officials, talks about his business and theirs, and makes sure he can purchase the colored blocks he needs. He has access to buy hundreds of thousands of LEGO a month for his work.

Besides building LEGO art, Sawaya is a consultant for the well-known LEGO Masters tv show. He’s also certified in LEGO, which is a challenging process. He had to pass several puzzle tests, such as building a sphere in 30 minutes.

When looking up close at the pieces, onlookers can see the angles. But when observers back away from the work, the angles blend into curves.

“That is the magic,” Sawaya said. “That is the key.”

Sawaya hopes his fans get pleasure from his exhibit as they do from playing with the LEGO pieces.

One LEGO Plus Two LEGO Equals Fun

Georgina Durrant spends her days using LEGO to bring numbers alive to her students. The author of 100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play, Durrant is a tutor and the director of the tutoring service, Cheshire SEN Tutor Ltd.

The British teacher wrote in an E-mail, “I found that a lot of the topics I was covering in my tuition lessons was very ‘dry,’ such as fractions and multiplications. Many areas of (arithmetic) that the children were finding difficult was a result of them not being able to visualize and understand it,” Durrant said. “They needed to hold it in their hands to fully get to grips with it, and I discovered that LEGO could be that tool to bring math to life!”

She began using the toys in her lessons. “When doing addition, I use LEGO bricks as physical counters for the children to add together,” she explained. “This can be great, as they (the children) often love LEGO anyway, so it feels more like play.”

Durrant continued, “I also use different-sized bricks for them to add the dimples on the top together. So maybe a four-brick plus a two-brick – what does it equal? They can even try and find a six-brick to put as the answer.”

But it’s not just math. Durrant uses LEGO for English, too, specifically spelling. Durrant explained that “writing the letter sounds on a paper and sticking them to bricks when they have to connect the bricks together to make a word. For example, three bricks with a c-a-t.” The tutor said YouTube viewers could see an example on her YouTube channel.

And Durrant has seen a difference in her students. “I find a lot of the time it’s easier to remember lessons if you’ve enjoyed them too,” she wrote.

The children also become animated when they see the toys. The “children always get excited when the LEGO box comes out during lessons. Lego epitomizes fun…so it’s like a signal to them that they are going to enjoy this,” she wrote.

Even if the child had not played with LEGO before the lesson, they soon became fans of the toys.

LEGO With Spidey

One fan turned his love into a new persona.

Bryan Carpenter combined his love for LEGO with his passion for cosplay.

He started an Instagram and Twitter page, “Building with Spidey.” His profile is a picture of him, dressed in a Spiderman costume, and he posts updates of his LEGO® sets. The subtitle to his Twitter page welcomes viewers to his page, reading, “Watch your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man assemble LEGO for your viewing pleasure.”

He’s even had LEGO’s Instagram and Twitter pages respond to him a few times.

The Indiana man (38) started collecting the sets when he was young. He loved toys that promoted ingenuity, and LEGO fit into that category. But he fell out of playing with them when he was 10.

Six years ago, the Marvel fan was strolling through Target when he came upon a set depicting the Avengers airport battle scene. “I had just seen the movie,” Carpenter said. “I had to buy it.”

With that purchase, the bug reinfected Carpenter again. He began collecting. Now, he has about 220 sets.

When talking to Carpenter, he was in the middle of moving and carefully packaging the fragile sets, breaking different sets into large pieces, so he would have an easier time moving them. The collection wraps around his basement, covering almost all the walls. It would be the fourth time he’s moved since he started collecting.

He believes there will be enough room at his new place for his pieces, even as he continues to expand his collection.

Carpenter acknowledges his hobby can be costly. Spiderman’s The Daily Bugle cost him $300. The newspaper model, which consists of 3400 pieces and stands 3 feet tall, is Carpenter’s favorite.

And – maybe – after years, the price of his sets will triple or quadruple in value, and he can have a retirement plan.

Until then, he’ll keep “Building with Spidey.”

Building Blocks of Innovation

Malvika Sheth, 23, knows LEGO harnesses creativity.

She used LEGO to encourage children that anything is possible.

In high school, Sheth was a girl scout. Wanting to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, Sheth needed to create something sustainable – a project – for the community.

Sheth had watched her younger brother’s passion for LEGO as he created different models. “He had always been a creative person,” she said. “LEGO really helped him see a vision and create it.” Sheth credited her brother’s successful photojournalism career to his LEGO skills.

So Sheth said she “grew up literally surrounded by LEGOs all the time.” She thought – why not use LEGOs to motivate toddlers to use their imaginations? She also thought of the perfect place: the local library.

With the help of Head of Children Services Janine Jacobs, Sheth created “Library Lego Day.”

It took a while to collect all the LEGOs. School officials gave her permission to put up fliers for LEGO donation drives. People, who had used LEGOs, contacted Sheth and either dropped off their extra bricks or had Sheth come and pick them up. One of her classmates had half of his garage – eight huge tubs – filled with LEGOs.

Before Sheth left for Babson College in Boston, she supervised the “Lego Days,” held on the third Saturday of each month. She enjoyed watching the children play, having fun, and building original pieces from ideas they envisioned.

“I just wanted to encourage creativity in kids,” Sheth said.

The LEGOs did just that – which was the goal of the original toy maker, Kristiansen.

More From Wealth of Geeks

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Rasha is a die-hard bookaholic, but when she’s not reading, she watches TV shows with her husband. He’s in charge of the remote because he certainly doesn’t trust her with one. If he did, they would be watching “Law and Order” reruns all day. She is a former reporter who now works in the social work industry, connecting people with essential resources and agencies. Other than that, Rasha is currently using her superpower, writing, to deliver the news.

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