Jasbrick was one of the first people I met in the Adult Lego custom minifig community, he’s a great guy and always very helpful, constantly suggesting new ideas and offering invaluable advice and feedback, so as testament to Jasbrick, I’ve interviewed him:
1. Jasbrick, you were one of the first people I met when i got into minifig customization, care to tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got into minifig customization.
Jas is short for Jason and I am a 35 year old AFOL based in the UK. I balance my minifig customization with a pretty stressful job as the Director of an international consultancy firm and being the father of two great little boys that share my love of our little plastic friends. I also have the benefit of an extremely tolerant wife that whilst she does not share my obsession does manage to hide her embarrassment well
My dark ages stretch over 20 years and are mainly due to the pursuit of a career that left little time for anything else. However with the birth of my kids I had the opportunity and excuse to start hanging out in toy shops again and my addiction resurfaced. Since that point I have scoured shops, internet sites (ebay and Bricklink predominantly) and boot sales (my favourite place for finding the best pieces). Initially my collection was focused on sets and I would be loathe to deviate from the instructions, however things have changed somewhat in recent times.
In truth I have only been customising figs for weeks, with my first somewhat minor customisation being the cutting of one piece on an otherwise pure fig. Even though this was a minor modification the impact on the characterisation of the fig was so dramatic that I was inspired to do more. It was at this time that I spotted Hazel’s (In my view one of [if not the] most talented customisers out there) Gears of War figs and from that point on I was hooked on customisation.
2.You’ve got a real talent and have created some really unique pieces, can you tell us a bit more about what inspires you and where you get your ideas from?
Thank you, I am glad that you like them. My inspiration comes from a number of sources, including other customisers (Hazel, Kaminoan etc.), film and computer game imagery as well as a whole host of things. However for me one of the biggest source of ideas is from part experimentation. Basically a normal builder looks at every TLC part and sees new possibilities for building an MOC, as a customiser I get this experience but also so much more due to my willingness to cross the line into the heretical realm of cutting, painting and gluing pieces.
One big area for me is the fact that I look at almost everything (TLC, clone brands, other toys, and just about anything) with a view to the potential for inclusion in a fig design. One of my designs that seems to have been quite popular, the Brikviet Shocktrooper, evolved from an experiment in trying to find an alternative use for axe heads. Once those pieces were in place then everything else just developed naturally from there.
3. As someone new to the scene it can be very intimidating, in your experience what advice would you give to a beginner first starting out in Lego minifig customization?
As I have owned up to above, my experience is based over a very short period, however I hope that I can offer some reasonable advice. I would suggest the following as my top tips for a customiser:
Don’t reinvent the wheel Lego is such a flexible and amazing tool and allows you to create so much before you ever dream of picking up a knife of a paintbrush. When you come up with an idea or a concept look for a way to achieve this my traditional means first. Once you have exhausted that avenue then it is time to start looking with the eye of a customiser.
Perfect your technique One of the biggest reasons for customisation being seen as heresy is the sheer number of figs that are seen that look really bad. I am not saying that you should hide your creations until you are a master, but I do think that there are some very basic mistakes that can be made which with a bit of practice can be avoided. One area that really exemplifies this is painting, if done well it can completely make a fig, however if not it can ruin it. For my part a lot of my customisation skills come from my early dark age years involved in tabletop wargaming and modelling ala Games Workshop. One advantage is that I know how to use the tools of our trade because of this background. I think this site is going to be a source of technique tuition so I am happy to contribute what I can as well.
Look for inspiration The best things to create are things that you love, e.g. from your favourite film or computer game and the internet offers huge potential for image resources. I use Google Image search as a means of obtaining all the examples I need. Also places like Flickr and more specific sites like Brickarms and Eurobricks community forums have a wealth of great examples to learn from.
Ask questions With forums and tools like Flickr you have a great opportunity to ask existing customisers how they do what they do. I love it when somebody asks me how I did something or what part I used etc. as it is a great compliment that they like it enough to want to know how to do it themselves.
Find a forum Starting out is daunting and the barrier to posting that first project is a big oneâ€¦ will they like it?… will I be crucified as a newbie?… is it worth posting? All these questions and more run through your head and in some cases put you off and the community as a whole may miss out on something really unique. My advice is to find the right place and post away. In my case I have a great fondness for the Brickarms Community as they are where I spent a lot of time posting my figs, especially as my figs use these custom accessories extensively. However other places that are generally receptive and supportive would be Eurobricks and Fineclonier. Another place that could be good is MOCpages, however I myself have had bad experiences here with rating attacks from purists that just do not like what we do.Â I am staying clear until the rating system is completely visible and ratings are accompanied by comments. Flickr is also an excellent medium for your images however I would look to forums as well as I will explain below. [custom minifig:"we'll be starting our own minifig forum soon!"]
Take criticism well Criticism comes from two main sources, those that want to help you improve and those that would not like it even if it was perfect. Learn to differentiate the two, learn from the former and ignore the latter you cannot please everyone. I cannot emphasise enough how useful comments can be and if you want to improve really listen to what they have to say. Nobody is perfect and with thousands of people looking at and reviewing your work it is a great way of honing your creations and skills.
Draw your own line We each have our own views as to how much is too much when it comes to customisation. Make sure you know how far you are prepared to go. For me, my goal is to ensure that it is still clearly identifiable as a minifig and that TLC should represent the greatest percentage of the figs components. The dangerous line is where the fig starts to look more like an action figure than a piece of lego.
There is probably a lot more I could say but I have probably already rambled on too much anyway.
4.I’ve seen loads of your work, is there one piece in particular that shines out as your favorite?
Now that is tough. It is a bit like saying which is your favourite child, if you were to put a gun to my head I would have to say that it is Vlad the Brikviet Shocktrooper with Minigun thingy with the first Brikviet Shocktrooper as a very close, if not inseparably close second. These guys really have pride of place in my collection now as they are actually very simple to make but I feel have quite a distinct feel. Another factor is that the reason that people have responded to these is due to my modification and not due to the fact that I am using non-standard parts as in the case of some of my other Brikviet figs.
5.Lego minifig customization is still a little ‘underground’ particularly in the UK, what kind of reaction do you get when you tell people about your hobby?
Sounds great to be underground However I think that this is not just an issue in the UK as there is a very large purist movement that generate a variety of reactions ranging from ignoring customisation as though it is something that will go away if they donate acknowledge it to outright hostility from those that really get very worked up about someone doing nasty things to their beloved figs. Even in the short time I have been around in this area I have had the whole gamut of this which include very personal attacks from a 12 year old Texan to very reasoned and eloquent explanations of why it is not something they like. I have the utmost respect for the latter and gratitude for the laugh provided by the former.
For my own sanity I put customisation into the category of the new and developing, and with sites like those mentioned previously and this one I feel it will not be long before it pops out to above the surface! Saying that however I am absolutely convinced that we need to raise our game and come up with some pretty special customisations to win over those that can be converted, therefore we really do need more new blood and to establish the customiser community.
6.Are that any particular minifig customizers or pieces that you particularly admire?
I think I have mentioned some of the names above, however I will mention Hazel and Kaminoan again as I think they are leading the way. As for pieces, I have got to acknowledge Brickarms as Will Chapman is producing some accessories that create a whole world of opportunities for customisers. Brickarms seem to be a source of new people entering this area as they see how good non-TLC products can be. One source that I have admired and not yet had the opportunity to use myself are the products available through Brickforge, they look great and could really add to my options but with no UK supplier I have yet to purchase anything. [custom minifig:"maybe we can be their UK supplier eh?"]
Here are some of the fantastic custom minifigs by Jasbrick and here’s his flickr