10K Club Interview: Harry Finkel, creator of Mountain Windmill & The Ocean House
In this week's edition, we meet Harry Finkel (aka Hanwasyellowfirst), who is the creator behind not just 1 but 2 projects that reached 10,000 supporters in this review period. Specifically, Harry is the creator of both the Mountain Windmill & The Ocean House.
Please do help us congratulate Harry in the comments down below!
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
- What do you do for a living?
I work as a video games designer.
- What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy playing the guitar, building LEGO, and designing and playing video games.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
I have a Flickr, Instagram and Facebook account. Feel free to follow me or say Hi!
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
I have a couple of other submissions on LEGO IDEAS. The Seven Dwarfs House and The Breath of the Wild Stables, both of which managed to achieve 10,000 supporters which was a great feeling! I am pleased with how the Mountain Windmill turned out. As it was an original idea and design, there were many more decisions to make, so the creative process was different from my previous submissions and there were extra challenges to overcome. I really enjoyed working through the problems and I think the final result makes for a really nice set and probably my favourite to date. I have various other mocs and builds that can be seen on any of the social pages mentioned above.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I remember LEGO as amongst my earliest interests. I have an older brother which meant I was fortunate to get an early introduction to LEGO.
One of my clearest childhood memories is spotting The Speeder Bikes set (7128) on a display stand in a supermarket in 1999. When I arrived home, I ran upstairs with the set hidden behind my back. My brother was in the exact building position I had left him in. I exclaimed: “What are the two greatest things of all time!?” Without hesitation, he answered: “Star Wars and LEGO!”
There was no going back from that point, and not much has changed in the last 20 years! As a kid I made custom scenes and ships from my favourite movies and games, and as an adult, I shifted to mostly buying and building sets.
Over the last couple of years or so, however, I have really got back into building my own sets, and my LEGO fandom has never been stronger!
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
LEGO was always my favourite toy growing up and the relationship has remained pretty solid through the years. I still want LEGO for Christmas and birthdays! It's always been popular in my family too, my brother and I still send each other cool builds we see and discuss upcoming and dream sets. My fiancee is also a not-so-secret fan. I sympathise, she knows that she has to temper my enthusiasm or it would quickly spiral out of control, but she too is a keen builder. She has quite the growing Harry Potter collection.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
I think as a whole the first wave of LEGO Lord of the Rings was really awesome, and it was limited enough that I did actually manage to acquire all of it! That said I would welcome its return.
Currently, I’m loving the Ninjago line. It’s really creative and the sets are crammed with tonnes of great building techniques and piece usage. It feels like the least restrained LEGO theme whilst still feeling like official LEGO.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
I ended up settling on the UCS Millenium Falcon in the last interview. But I should reiterate I think this question is just too difficult to answer with conviction! There are many sets that have temporarily held that title for me. I just hope that there will be future contenders for the accolade! Ninjago City and Docks perhaps.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
Anything from the ‘SNOT’ family or - Studs Not On Top. They really do allow for a wide variety of problem-solving and cool designs! Yum yum.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
Last time I listed Hans Burkhard Schlomer for his outstanding work on the UCS Millenium Falcon and the design team for the first wave of Lord of The Rings, and these guys are still right up there for me of course! Plus the Ninjago team, they are killing it.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
The Brothers Brick post some really outstanding and intriguing builds, I love heading to their site to see the amazing things people can come up with. I was also lucky enough to get The Mountain Windmill featured by them! Other than that I use Bricklink and Brickset to cover my remaining LEGO needs.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
The Mountain Windmill:
I really wanted a nice LEGO windmill. I had been mulling over a windmill for a while and found it surprising that there aren't many official LEGO windmills out there. So I decided to start doodling.
I wanted to create my own unique take on a windmill with a design that was original and gave me an opportunity to try to develop my own style. I had a solid vibe of light fantasy and ramshackled in mind. I wanted it to look a bit disarranged, like perhaps it had not all been built at the same time in history, and I knew I wanted the build to feel organic. I was in the early stages of the project when I started thinking about the windmill as part of a story, and not just a stand alone piece. At the time I was expecting my first child, so I started writing the story for him. At this point the vision started to get clearer.
The Ocean House:
After I had finished the Mountain Windmill, I continued on with the story I was writing. I was sketching out an idea for the house of the main character. After a while, I started putting the set together. Soon I had the building bug and had to try and finish the set.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
For both projects, I started by sketching out ideas. I never tend to start building unless I have a pretty clear image of the set - that's not to say that the build ends up looking that way, but I find it a helpful way to start.
I can't recall exactly how long they took to build, approximately a month each. There were a few break periods, where I would just spend a lot of time thinking about what I had so far, and what wasn't working for me.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
With the Mountain Windmill, I did scratch my head when trying to figure out how I wanted the mechanical elements to work. Having the fans rotate is essential for a windmill, but I also wanted to be able to spin the direction of the fans, which presented a bit of a problem. I couldn't have the entire tower spin so I had to compact the fan-turning mechanism into the very top of the tower. This way I could have the top section built on a turntable so you could rotate whilst spinning the fans around.
Occasionally, I would hit a wall where I became uncertain on the direction I was heading with the build, and persevering was a challenge for sure. As I didn’t have reference material to lean on, I couldn’t easily get a sense of what the finished set would look like. I had a couple of breakthrough moments, and thankfully I got there in the end.
For the Ocean House, I really wanted to try and create a unique vibe to the house but for it to also remain in keeping with the Windmill. I wanted them to make sense when you saw them together, to be part of the same world. This was a really fun challenge from an artistic and thematic point of view. I had to answer more questions about the world I was imagining.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
To remain patient and trust that the answers will come if you don't rush to try and answer all of them. Give the design time to rest and yourself time to reflect!
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
The builds both took around a month to complete. I didn't really promote the builds, but it took around 4 months for each build to hit the magic 10K!
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It felt really awesome! I was very excited to hit 10K with an original idea. I had no idea how either project would be received, so hitting 10K for both was incredible! I certainly didn’t imagine the Ocean House would make it into the same review as the Mountain Windmill.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
The Mountain Windmill is 2031 and The Ocean House is about 1800.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
I was happy with how the roof turned out on the Ocean House. I find roofs to be one of the big challenges in building so I was happy to feel I had overcome it. I was also really happy with the carpet in the Ocean House. I put down the 1 x 2 grills as placeholder frills, and then I realised I was super happy with it! It took 30seconds to build and might be my favourite feature!
I like the way the mill tower turned out on the Mountain Windmill. It's always a challenge to build curved facades in LEGO and it fits together very satisfactorily. It was great fun to build in physical.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I used stud.io to put the final designs together.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I only used pre-existing pieces and prints.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
You have to find an idea you are really passionate about. The build and the submission are time consuming and hard work, but this is much easier to tackle if you really believe in your idea.
I always find it really helpful to sketch out ideas first. This way I can throw out an idea or at least identify problems early from trying to draw how it would function.
Don’t be afraid to reassess your design if you’re getting stuck!
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I haven’t really done much promotion this time around. It’s much more difficult thinking of ways to promote a set when there isn’t a known fanbase. With something like Zelda there were so many fan sites for gamers, Nintendo etc. that I could try and reach out to, likewise with the Disney project. With the new projects I am limited to LEGO fans… and maybe Windmill enthusiasts!
In a way though it is a relief. It has been nice this time to sit back and just let the project go and hope for the best.
I was however, lucky enough to get the Mountain Windmill build featured on The Brothers Brick, Bricks in Bits, and Blocks. It also got Staff Pick on the LEGO Ideas site which really helped. The Ocean House was featured in a live stream interview with Beyond The Brick, which was great fun! I also continue to use Instagram to share my LEGO bits and bobs, so feel free to follow me and say hi! My username is hanwasyellowfirst.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
I was a real fan of the Tintin: Explorers on the Moon set by Han Sbricksteen, I want to see that in a store one day. My fiancee also treated me to the Old Fishing Store (21310) for Christmas one year, and that is a lovely set!
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
It is fantastic LEGO provides an official platform for fans to share their work and be in with a shot of the prize of a lifetime. I have known about LEGO IDEAS since the Cuusoo days but I only uploaded my first build last year, if you have an idea upload it! It’s a supportive community and now there is so much great software that you needn’t have your ideas restricted by your physical collection.
Have a set of criteria in mind for what you think constitutes a strong LEGO set, and challenge your idea against those criteria. Does it offer playability? Does it display nicely? Is there something in there with wide-reaching appeal? Does it strongly represent the core of your idea? Does it fit LEGO? I find this approach helps me choose my ideas and shape design decisions whilst building.
Also, the work doesn't stop at submission. Try to send out your build to groups that your set is aimed at. If people like it then you've verified your design and you're on your way! Have fun!
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
I have one other set in the Mountain Windmill story range. Then, who knows!
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- harry finkel
- ocean house
- mountain windmill