Congratulations to Maren Wilker (farmfarm) and her LEGO Bookends, thanks to which she has earned her place in 10k Club. By combining two of her favorite activities - reading and building, she created this functional, decorative set with special, hidden features. How about a little curiosity? Find out for yourself in today's interview.
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
Franklin, TN - USA
- How old are you?
- What do you do for a living?
I manage a team of business analysts and work as a product owner for a health insurance company.
- What hobbies do you have?
Well, I have to start with LEGO as that is easily my favorite hobby😊 Otherwise I enjoy reading, gardening, a little bit of woodworking now and then, and I have recently learned how to make soap.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
I do not, although I do post my creations on Imgur and Reddit on occasion.
- 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?
The first thing that comes to mind is this big castle I built several years ago “for my kids.” It was the second time I had tried to build a castle and the first time I had built something modular. I absolutely loved creating the interior. Several sections of it are removable so you can actually play with it. Eventually, I took it apart so that I could use the pieces for creations although I think the time has come for me to build a castle again. I also built a Medieval tavern that I still have displayed in my house. It was the first thing I built that I really, really loved. It doesn’t have an interior; however, I hope to add one someday.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
Believe it or not, I didn’t become interested in LEGO until right after I turned 30 – and right after I met my wife. I never had LEGO sets as a child, although I was interested in building things like (real) treehouses and wooden “cars” that my friends and I would race downhill. After I met my wife and we moved in together she wanted to get a couple of POC LEGO sets (as she was a big fan of the movie series). As soon as I helped put those together, I was absolutely SOLD.
- 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.
It is a huge part of my life. As soon as I really discovered it, I went all in. I found Bricklink right away and started designing my own creations. I get so much enjoyment from coming up with my own designs and having LEGO as a creative outlet. After buying a little bit here and there for the various things I wanted to build over the years I have amassed a huge collection of bricks 😊. Everyone in my life knows what a huge LEGO fan I am, my friends, co-workers, and family regularly send me links to amazing builds, LEGO events, even LEGO memes they find online. My home office is completely decorated with LEGO – I have an architecture wall, a large minifig display case, framed LEGO patents hanging up, a bookshelf with several sets displayed, and a large shelf that covers most of the length of a wall that displays the creator expert modular buildings.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
The creator expert modular buildings are probably my favorite. I just absolutely LOVE all the detail that goes into the interiors. The buildings always have such amazingly creative roof lines. Putting those sets together has really helped me expand on my own skillset and learn new techniques. Again, the roofs always blow me away as I have such a hard time designing those on my own. I am also a big fan of the medieval theme. Most of my early MOCs were medieval based in some way. Another one (I obviously can’t choose just one) is the collectible minifigure series. I am a collector at heart so those really appeal to me.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set ever? Why?
It is so hard to pick just one – my top two are Ideas sets; Ship in a Bottle and Pirate Bay. I also love The Diner, there were some fantastic details in that set.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
To build with - I probably get the most use out of the brick with a stud on one side. To display – I have to choose the LEGO bagpipes. They are adorable!
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
My biggest inspiration is a guy who builds under the name “Derfel Cardarn”. I used to marvel over the FLICKR pics of his designs. They were incredible and I still look them up every once in a while for inspiration.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I love the Brothers Brick and r/Lego on Reddit.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I think my interest in this model came from the perspective of discovering LEGO as an adult. As much as I love LEGO sets, it can be hard to find ways to incorporate them into your home décor in a “natural” way. I wanted to build something that could actually be used in everyday life and look at home whether it was in a kid’s room or an adult’s living room. Originally, I just planned to build regular bookends, but once I finished the first book I realized I wanted to make them more interesting. That led to the secret hiding spot. I have always loved the concept of “security by obscurity” and all the cool stuff you can buy at spy stores – things that look like food or cleaning supplies but are actually secret hiding spots. The bookends were going to need to be hollowed out some to save on the number of bricks so I thought I could put that extra space to good use and add some design potential. I know my own design isn’t as complex as what a professional designer might come up with so I am really excited to see what they do with this if it is chosen to become a 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?
The original version was built over the course of two weeks, although a lot of that time was spent waiting on the parts to arrive from various Bricklink stores. I came up with the idea and did some prototyping with the bricks I already had over the course of one weekend. Then I had to do some math and shopping to come up with all the pieces I needed. I built the first version the following weekend. When it came time to do the second version, I followed that same pattern. Once I decided I wanted to add additional hiding spots I had to do some research. I watched a lot of YouTube videos on puzzle boxes and safes and did several small prototypes to come up with a design my brick inventory could support.
- What special challenges or frustrations did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
I had a tough time finding tiles to use for book titles/decorating the spines. Also, building it in real life meant I had to make some compromises along the way. I did not always have the right-sized parts I needed in the colour I needed them. Some of the build is a bit “sloppier” than I would like but I had to work with what I had.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
I would tell myself to get ready for a long ride, to be patient, and to not obsess over it every day. I would also tell myself to not give up.
- 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?
I finished it pretty quickly, but the first version stayed up for a year and a half before finally expiring. I had the second version ready to go through, and I had it posted the day the original expired. I went all-in on promoting it the first time, specifically on Facebook and Imgur. The second time around I did both again, but this time things moved MUCH faster.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It was amazing. Honestly, I had dreamed about that moment since the first time I had ever posted something on Ideas. For some reason, I always assumed I would be at work when it happened. I pictured myself being stuck in a meeting and missing the actual moment. It turns out that it happened over a weekend. Which meant I got to sit there and refresh the screen and watch the comments and basically see it happen in real-time. I ran around the house yelling when I finally crossed the threshold. It was an amazing feeling!
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
Honestly not sure – I think less than 2,000. With a more purposeful design, I am sure it could be brought down to much less than that.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
I love the SNOT technique; I think it makes builds look clean and nice.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
I tried creating custom stickers in the first version. I really wanted to do some pun-ny book titles. I designed them in photoshop and even matched the CMYK color codes for the official LEGO tiles they would go on. I took them to a local print shop (My titles were War and Pieces and To Build a Mockingbird). They ended up looking terrible once I put them on the bookends, so I decided to stick with officially printed tiles. You can see the stickers in the update section on the original expired version.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas Product Idea?
Design something that you personally would want to buy and something that will appeal to a wide range of people.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I took them places in real life and had a QR code printed that people could scan to get to the support page. I also told every single person I met about them (pretty obnoxious, I know).
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
I generally love the non-third party IP sets – Pirate Bay and The Ship in a Bottle are my favorites.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
Ever since I discovered this site existed, I have dreamed of becoming a product designer. It has become really, really important to me. LEGO is such an enduring and inspiring brand; I just want to be a part of it somehow.
- 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 am sure I will, I just don’t know what it will be yet! Hopefully, inspiration hits soon.
- 10k club
- 10k club interview