Let us introduce you to Ryan McNaught, aka “The Brickman” and the man who admits that he never grew up! Well actually that’s not quite true, as he’s married with twin sons, but for decades, like many of us, he’s been playing with those little plastic bricks known as LEGO bricks.
Unlike the rest of us though, Ryan’s somewhat special in the LEGO universe as he’s a LEGO Certified Professional, one of only 13 in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.
Making interactive models and build experiences is his speciality, building things that people can not only be inspired by but interact with. Which is why we’re so pleased to be working with Ryan to celebrate 50 years of the LEGO brick in Australia, and you’ll be seeing plenty of his work in the coming months as part of the Festival of Play. You never know, you might even get the chance to have some of your suggestions immortalised by Ryan as part of the festival.
In the meantime, we gave Ryan a 10-minute break from building to find out more about how he landed what many people have called ‘the dream job’ and to hear more about plans for the year.
Q. Do you remember LEGO bricks being one of your favourite toys when growing up?
A. Absolutely! I would sit there and read the catalogue back to front thousands of times dreaming of all the super cool sets that were in there and wishing I could have them.
Q. In 2010 at one of the world’s largest LEGO convention, Brickworld in Chicago, you exhibited a giant Qantas A380 model. Was this the model that you think helped most in becoming a LEGO Certified Professional?
A. Yes it certainly was. I had put in a lot of LEGO Mindstorms technology into the model, even hooking up a touch screen computer to make things happen on the plane. Using LEGO bricks in a new and interesting way certainly helped me to become a LEGO Certified Professional.
Q. Is this still one of your favourite models?
A. It sure is. Sadly, however, it was broken by the baggage handlers when it came back from America. Perhaps one day I will rebuild it.
Q. How many bricks did you use to make your biggest ever model?
A. The largest model I have ever made was my LEGO Love Boat model, which is just over 250,000 LEGO bricks! At 4m long, it’s a monster.
Q. You build a lot of models, big and small. You must have a lot of LEGO bricks stored away at home! Do you have your own LEGO office to build in?
A. I certainly do. My LEGO studio is a converted free standing brick garage, I call it my “Garage Mahal” and currently it has just on 5 million bricks in it.
Q. You’re asked to build items for a variety of different companies and events now. What are most of your models used for?
A. It’s a really interesting part of my job in that it’s rare that two jobs are the same. I think my favourite ones are where I get to build onsite with people and get them to help me. Most of my models end up in boardrooms, in-store displays and big public events. I have even had some models end up in museums.
Q. What motivates you when locked away for so many hours building some of the bigger models?
A. That’s a great question. Quite often people don’t realise the amount of hours needed to build some models. One of my latest models, my 6m tall Saturn V rocket, took about 6 weeks to build - it’s a long time to be stashed away building. Quite often when I am building a big model, I will leave my favourite bits until last, that way it keeps me going to get to them.
Q. Is it kids or adults that are usually most impressed when they see your builds?
A. That’s a tough one. I would say 50-50, as we adults were kids once too and we all love to see something super cool made from LEGO bricks.
Q. Have you had the chance to travel much in the role with the LEGO Group?
A. Yes I do travel a lot for LEGO. There are events all over Australia and the world which I attend. Each year we head to LEGO HQ for training and to catch up with the other LEGO Certified Professionals.
Q. What’s the most impressive model you’ve seen someone else build?
A. Hmmm, there are so many. I think my favourite is the giant LEGO dragon which is at the LEGO store in Florida - it’s 3 stories tall!
Q. Do your sons think they have the coolest dad in the world?
A. My two boys have taken me to Kinder for show and tell already. I think they were proud to show me off.
Q. What advice would you give to any children who aspire to becoming a Certified Professional themselves?
A. Study hard. Particularly mathematics. Each day I use a lot of varied and different mathematic calculations, so it certainly helps to be good at maths.
Q. Do you have a favourite LEGO theme or item of all time?
A. When I was a child growing up I loved Trains and Classic space, but right now I think It has to be LEGO CITY – there is a new police station with a bear in it! How cool is that?
Q. Do you have any favourite LEGO building moments or anecdotes from the past 50 years?
A. Whilst not a particular moment, I love the reaction people have when they see my models. Quite often standing back and seeing children - and their parents - jaws hit the floor, or watching the obvious pleasure people take from my creations, is very gratifying. The other is getting kids to explain what it is that they have built and listening to their crazy imaginations - like the one child who had built a “space monster submarine with inbuilt airport and rockets which fire banana trees.”
Q. 2012 is a big year for LEGO Australia. Are you looking forward to being part of the celebrations?
A. I feel very lucky to be a part of the celebrations. The LEGO brick has meant a lot to so many people over the last 50 years here in Australia so I am very proud to be involved. I can’t wait for people to see all the very cool models and events which are planned; it is going to be so much fun.
Q. What are some of the items that you’ve built for Festival Of Play already that you can tell us about?
A. Most of them will be revealed soon so I can’t give away too many secrets, but I really did enjoy making the models for the short film about the Festival of Play, how often do you get to make a working LEGO Cuckoo Clock!