2015 – The Year That Was

Hi folks. This is one of those rare moments where I’ve had time to sit and write a post on SilentMode.tv, but I’m going to take the time to talk about my 2015 in LEGO. I’m overdue for December’s Underrated CUUSOO for LEGO Ideas, but I’m going to get to it before the year is out.

My involvement with DK Books


Some of you might not be aware that I’d had a small part to play with the LEGO® Awesome Ideas book by DK, that launched earlier this year. (If you don’t believe me, I’m listed as one of the builders!) Although none of my models had made it to the front or back covers – my next milestone! – I had the great fortune to be part of the launch event at Foyles, back in August.

If you get hold of a copy of the book, you might spot a model of a yellow SUV in the Metropolis section. That was one of my contributions, which was donated to a charity auction at BRICK 2015.

This year I’d been enlisted to help out with another DK book, which I can’t tell you about right now, that will be released next year. That particular book was much more of a challenge to build for, both creatively and in terms of time management, but I’m hoping the outcome will be worth it.

My first (and second) time in Billund

I’d also had the opportunity to visit Denmark on two occasions this year.

The first was a visit to the Ideas House in Billund, which involved a briefing on LEGO’s building guidelines and standards, for the benefit of the DK book I worked on this year. I’d also gotten a good look at the new LEGO House being constructed, starting with what looked like the basement.

It was then that I took the opportunity to photograph the famous house that started it all…

The House.

The second visit was a LEGO factory tour, and a couple of visits to Legoland, tagging along with other members of the Brickish Association. Although I was able to join in with the copious amounts of spending on exclusive LEGO items, that time around wasn’t as enjoyable.

Having missed out on the Insider Tour for two years in a row (because the application process for next year literally came and went without my knowledge), I never thought I’d ever get to visit Billund.

Lack of activity on SilentMode.tv

I’ve had to make a real effort to even include Underrated CUUSOO for LEGO Ideas posts, mostly due to time constraints and life in general, but otherwise SilentMode.tv has been on life support over the last one and a half years… To the AFOL community it seems to have become either become a bad joke or a taboo subject. That’s the price I’ve paid for the direction I’ve taken, I guess.

There hasn’t really been a focus since I’d  retired from doing reviews. I had hoped to continue with the Friends story arc – I even have the sets from the last two waves still in their boxes – but I just haven’t had the time or space to do any photography. In addition, having been exposed to the higher-ups in LEGO, I’m a lot more nervous about continuing.

Considering the heat I drew with the Research Institute review (I’m not linking it this time!), I have to be more careful about what I put out, if for no other reason than I’m gaining more exposure.

Swapfig 1.0 – the dreaded “S” word

Swapfig protest at BRICK 2015

A lot of the stress, heartache, pain, depression and misery experienced this year can be directly attributed to the relaunch of Swapfig, which finally happened in July. The whole process of rebuilding the site took one and a half years, working around eight hours a day on average, on top of my day job.

Despite the time and energy put into Swapfig, the relaunch was incredibly messy – but it didn’t stop the resulting complaints, and in some cases cheap shots, personal attacks and even orders, mainly from people who didn’t contribute or do anything to help (as they do). I’ve also had difficulty with producing some of the crowdfunding campaign rewards, which is something to rectify once and for all early next year.

The only reason I can think of as to why I haven’t shut down the site entirely, is in light of one of the early comments left on Reddit. Swapfig is approaching its third birthday, and there hasn’t been a competitor or an alternative that hadn’t already existed: that should give you an idea of how “simple” building Swapfig has been, and how amazing that this uppity [black man] pulled it off.

With that said, Swapfig has been a failure, especially in terms of my reputation. Maybe my expectations had been set too high, but the site has greatly suffered because of the relaunch. It certainly has meant that I’d never be able to crowdfund ever again.


While Swapfig had cost me my credibility, there was one success story to enjoy in 2015.

BRICK 2015

I’d started out with six of these, which you may have seen at the back of my table at this year’s Great Western Brick Show.

My original plans for a BRICK 2015 display had fallen through, so in a race to fill the allocated space I had the idea to expand the range of these deceptively simple models. You would have seen a total of 59 Mascoteers (including the three identical High School Dropout girls) on my table at BRICK 2015, and there will be more in the future.

At the time I really enjoyed designing and making them, in the process reigniting my interest in LEGO: believe it or not, I was on the verge of pulling out of BRICK 2015 altogether, and maybe going back into a “dark age”, had it not been for these.

Even better was that the kids (and some of the adults) enjoyed them, particularly those of the more recognisable characters, with some even asking if they were for sale. I’m considering putting kits together to sell online, (which would no doubt attract [more] hate), but a dedicated mini-site is definitely on the cards. Watch this space.


How was 2015 for you? Whether yours was equally good or bad, here’s to a more productive and exciting 2016. If the last year has shown anything, it’s that we never can tell what’s going to happen.