No Events (For Me) in 2017.

Hello folks. This post serves as my announcement that the rumours are indeed true…

This year’s Great Western Brick Show was my last event of 2016, and for the foreseeable future. I won’t be exhibiting at or attending any events at all, at least until 2018.

What happened?

Since the weekend of the Great Western Brick Show, I’d been recovering from a severe bout of depression. As most of you [should] know, I’ve put a lot of time and energy into rebuilding Swapfig. I haven’t done as much with LEGO as I used to since Swapfig was launched, and it became evident when I was invited to contribute to 365 Things to Do with LEGO Bricks (available right now).

While working on the book, I made the poor decision to give Swapfig priority over everything, with the aim to stop all the complaining people were doing about “the site not working”. Everything else suffered, including my building skills and my relationship with DK, and in the end the complaining only got worse.

The tipping point.

As far as my decision goes: while I’d toyed with the idea since going to the Paredes de Coura Fan Weekend, it was cemented as a result of exhibiting at the Great Western Brick Show.

On the surface it was the same old thing: crowds of people forming everywhere except for in front of my table. People would take a quick look at my display, maybe point out a couple of things, then quickly move on.

Great Western Brick Show 2016 display.

Surrounded by BBMs (Big Beautiful Models), it just looks like a bunch of small figures taking up space. And therein lies part of the problem.

Most people have probably completely ignored:

  • the display shelves, which I designed and were laser cut from transparent acrylic sheets;
  • there are 128 individual Mascoteers, growing from around 50-something last year;
  • the minisite I busted my ABS building, which was intended to have more information about the project;
  • the iPad display I’d rented for the event, displaying the minisite;
  • the rendered graphics, both on the minisite and on the printed display cards.

In addition to the display, I’d also attempted to sell a custom set (shown below).

Brick Separator [G]

Long story short: a lot of time, money and energy spent on my display was for nothing. Proof that hard work doesn’t always get results.

The realisation.

The Mascoteers is actually my most personal LEGO project yet. There’s the aspect of including my own characters, but anyone who has asked about the project would also know that the selection of characters is a key aspect. I didn’t just pick things at random; I was essentially building a dream team.

My models have always been more about the story behind them than pure aesthetics. I learned the hard way that it’s completely at odds with these events: the general public wants to see BBMs, they want to see their favourite characters, and to hell with backstories and concepts. There’s nothing wrong with that – they like what they like.

It dawned on me while at the Great Western Brick Show, that I was clearly in front of the wrong audience. This was an audience who would constantly say out loud “IS DIS MINECRAFT?”, and allegedly had no idea that my custom set was of a Brick Separator. Those are not my people; you can have those.

I think my models would be far better suited to an art-style event, where people would [hopefully] be much more interested in the backstories and concepts. For that to happen I’d have to be a household name, which is about as likely as getting two LEGO Ideas projects past the review stage.

Not playing the race card…

I didn’t realise it until this month, but I’m probably the world’s most prominent melanated AFOL. (Not the only one, as a Beyond The Brick DVD revealed a couple of years ago.) It’s not something I draw attention to or focus on, because I don’t think it should be relevant – just as whether AFOLs are male or female (or one of the 986 other “genders”) shouldn’t matter.

There are some people in the LEGO community who either pretend I don’t exist, or have made a point of trying to publicly shame or ridicule me. Similarly I’ve seen adults diverting their kids away from my display, and loud proclamations of “what’s this meant to be?” and “I don’t get it” right in front of me, numerous times.

I can only hope that these are more to do with my past conduct, or with me being a rubbish builder, than race.

What now?

Before going home after the Great Western Brick Show, I realised I had a decision to make: either continue to “master the small space”, or attempt to please the crowds with BBMs. (There was also the option to give up LEGO entirely, but that was a bit much.)

Whichever option I chose, I knew I had to go back to when building models was fun. The Mascoteers, and even doing Friends set reviews, was fun. I’ve generally had the most problems when building competitively, or for business.

I also have to get better at building, by learning different techniques and experimenting with larger builds. There were more people exhibiting at events this year than usual, and without improving it’s only a matter of time before I get drowned out.

So, I made the [not-so-]hard decision to not attend or display at any more events, at least until I’ve reestablished myself as a builder. If I’m going to do these things, it’s going to be on merit – not as a token.

Thank you for listening.