Meet the Brickman
On the plane going over to Tasmania, the Jetstar magazine had a feature about Ryan McNaught – The Brickman, whose work we had admired during our bimble around the Museum of Sydney. They had a room dedicated to the Lego Icons of the city and had several of Ryan’s models making up the exhibition. Today whilst rummaging about in the pamphlets and whatnot we brought home, I found the article.
Ryan McNaught’s Lego workshop somewhere “out near Melbourne airport” is often in lockdown; its latest models kept under wraps until they are built and delivered to toy stores.
“During silly season not even my children are allowed out here in our workshop when we are building the Christmas display models for stores,” says Australia’s only certified LEGO professional.
“But it’s even worse in the lead-up to the Australian Toy Association fair in March, when the toy companies all get together to show off their stuff,” he says.
Given that Ryan, known professionally as The Brickman, probably has every kid’s dream job, what do his twin seven-year-old boys think of a dad who gets to play with the world’s best-loved toy? “One of my sons is impressed and will play for hours. The other one’s not so interested,” he admits.
This self-confessed “big kid” was once the IT manager of a media company who simply enjoyed “messing around” with LEGO robotics as a hobby. He happened to meet a traveling company scout and they worked on a few projects together until Ryan became one of just twelve certified LEGO professionals in the world, and the only one in the southern hemisphere. The latest recruit, Andy Hung in Hong Kong, brings it to thirteen.
“There’s no LEGO university and no such thing as a LEGO apprenticeship either,” says Ryan. “For me it all fell into place.” But he does have a team that works in his factory with him. “I have two full-timers and two casuals I can call on when we get big projects. They are sworn to secrecy, too.”
During the last year or so, Ryan has worked on some extraordinary projects. His Sydney Harbour Icons exhibition, on show in the Museum of Sydney until July, features a seven-metre-long Harbour Bridge, made with 130,000 bricks, and a cross-section of the Opera House. Seen here with Ryan on a picture taken from the magazine article.
There’s also the famous grinning entrance to Luna Park and the amusement park’s popular ferris wheel, a flotilla of harbour watercraft and more than 1,000 mini figurines climbing the bridge and enjoying the sights.
Curious visitors can be taken behind the scenes to explore the techniques and tricks used by the masters and can put their skills to the test using the 500,000 loose LEGO and DUPLO bricks available at the exhibition.
Meanwhile, Ryan’s first solo exhibition Towers of Tomorrow, which features 19 international landmark skyscrapers, continues to travel across the country. Towers of Tomorrow was built to showcase Sydney’s Barangaroo waterfront development and features three-metre-high models with Melbourne’s Eureka Skydeck, Perth’s Central Park Tower, Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers, Taiwan’s Taipei 101 and Japan’s Tokyo Skytree.
The exhibition, comprised of more than one million pieces of LEGO, took Ryan and his team 2,300 hours to complete. “We built the models to scale using all the original calculations from the real skyscrapers,” says Ryan.
This LEGO craftsman has built and designed larger-than-life Disney princesses, intricate pirate ships, a ten-metre Christmas tree and a life-sized Santa Sleigh, but one of his favourite projects was the world’s largest LEGO flower. The intricate golden-hued bloom took 100,000 bricks and 400 hours to complete and was built for the Begonia Festival in Ballarat, Victoria.
“The real challenge with that project was that it had to be designed to be outdoors. There are steel structures inside it, but the high grade plastic means it will last for years,” says Ryan.
LEGO Fast Facts:
The first LEGO brick was made in a carpenter’s workshop in Denmark in 1932.
The toy was named after the Danish words ‘leg godt’ meaning ‘play well’.
DUPLO bricks can connect with regular LEGO bricks.
Instagram has become a hub for LEGO fans. Check out @theshortnews or @harleyquin for daily posts using LEGO figures.
ALL IN ALL FASCINATING
NICE KNOWING RYAN NEED NEVER GROW UP