In our first addition of Crafter’s Spotlight, I’m pleased to introduce Mr. Jamie “Morgan19″ Spencer. Jamie is a LEGO enthusiast who has recently gained some fame on popular blogs such as BoingBoing, The Brothers Brick, and Brass Goggles for his “Dardenbahst” and “Kreigerhund” creations. These LEGO masterpieces are not only technically impressive from a design and construction standpoint, they also manage to perfectly encapsulate all that we fans of steampunk hold near and dear. From their metallic tanks to their custom painted minifigs, these are true works of art.
After a few emails with him, it became clear that he came from a similar background as myself. He grew up with LEGO much like myself and was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged his creativity and tolerated the distinct sound of little hands rummaging through LEGO bins of that perfect part. His favorite LEGO themes were the Space and Castles lines which surely comes as no surprise after looking at all of his work on Brickshelf (also check out his MOCpages.com profile). Also, like many of us who group up with LEGO, he went through a bit of a “Dark Age”, which can simply be defined as a period of time in which you no longer have an active interest in LEGO.
Thank god he snapped out of that one! Now, combined with his skills as a graphic designer he is well-rounded creative who is able to bring his work to life in 2D as well as 3D. Before we dive into the interview, be sure to click the images below and view the full size schematics for his latest steampunk masterpieces.
You obviously have a lot of interest and talent for LEGO design, however most of your previous work seems to be of the futuristic variety–what inspired you to do steampunk-style creations?
The endless variations of futuristic worlds that the genre presents has always fascinated me so most creations Iâ€™ve built definitely skew towards science-fiction. I chose to dive into a new theme because of Kaminoanâ€™s steampunk contest over at FineClonier.com. It was just one of those moments where I sat back and thought â€œWell hey, I should give that a shot,â€ and went from there.
How many hours would you say you invested into the Dardenbahst and Kriegerhund models including design time?
Because the Dardenbahst was my first venture into steampunkery, I needed to put in a chunk of research time upfront before I felt comfortable with the genre. While doing online research over the span of a couple weeks, the information I found on steam locomotives and other turn-of-the-century mechanics was especially instrumental in creating a real-world functionality for these two models to be grounded in.
That was followed by another two weeksâ€™ worth of actual building during the evenings and weekends. I completed the Dardenbahst in a week and a half; the Kriegerhund was finished in a single weekend because a lot of its aesthetic and construction choices were carried over from the first model.
Tell us a bit about your design and planning process. Are you more of a “make it up as you go” type of LEGO designer or do you plan things out with software such as the LEGO Digital Designer?
Being a classically trained artist, I make sure to sketch out any ideas as I think of them and am always on the lookout for creative inspiration from the real world. Beyond that, itâ€™s definitely a make-it-up-as-I-go process, complete with experimenting, re-builds, and the always pleasurable â€œcompletely starting over from scratchâ€.
For example, I knew the general idea of the Dardenbahst before I started (a steampunk walker with arms and legs), but tinkered with at least four or five types of leg constructions over the course of several days before Iâ€™d even thought about what the main body would look like. Once I had the legs down, I moved on to the rest of the model and started the tinkering process over again, going through several versions before finding a body that both worked structurally and felt like a good design.
Where do you get most of your parts from? I notice a lot of them appear to be Technic parts, which make sense since they are perfect for steampunk, but I’m not sure what sets the helmet with goggles or the minifig outfits are from.
For better or worse (depending on who you ask), The LEGO Group has moved towards more of a Technic-centric construction approach in its base System models over the past decade. While that can mean fewer classic bricks in each set, it also opens up a ton of construction possibilities.
I donâ€™t necessarily limit my collection to any one of LEGOâ€™s lines so I happily pull accessories and parts from wherever will work. In this case many of the Technic pieces originated from the Star Wars and Exo-Force lines, while the source of minifig parts ranges anywhere from Indiana Jones to Castle. One of the greatest aspects of LEGO is that itâ€™s all interchangeable!
Every LEGO project I’ve ever worked on as a kid had at least one problem with it that drove me absolutely bonkers trying to figure out, whether it be figuring out how to make mecha legs move better or how to make space for a minifig. What challenges did you face in creating these?
The overall stability of both MOCs was definitely a challenge. The Dardenbahst in particular was tricky as its legs are basically constructed from several extremely spindly bits, so I had to make sure they reinforced each other and could support the weight of the much bulkier body while at the same time still looking like functional sections of a machine.
What would your advice be for fans of steampunk and LEGO alike looking to creative similar works of art?
Research! Whether youâ€™re browsing other membersâ€™ models on Brickshelf or perusing Google Images for inspiration, the best way to learn about something is to immerse yourself in it, soak it up, really get to know it, and then let your creativity loose.
And there you have it folks–a fantastic interview with a true master of his craft. Stay tuned for more exciting steampunk news and a chance to win your own Kreigerhund!