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10K Club Interview: Meet Damien & Aiden MacRae of Surf Rescue

Author's note:

This week we're presenting a special edition of the 10K Club Interview to highlight and celebrate the achievements of Damien MacRae a.k.a LegoSurfRescue, one of the co-creators of the Surf Rescue project, whose collaborative project with his son, Aiden, achieved 10,000 supporters in the middle of April 2017. 

Some of you may be wondering why we're publishing Damien and Aiden's 10K Club Interview months ahead of schedule - and there's good reason. Although we've known for a while that Damien was ill with an aggressive form of skin cancer, which inspired their project, we were recently informed of the sad news that doctors diagnosed Damien's illness as incurable; giving him only 6-10 weeks to live. Damien hasn't given up hope, however and fights for a miracle.  

10K Club members often speak of their excitement in reading the 10K Club Interviews and of the words of encouragement and support that wash ashore from fellow LEGO Ideas members. We didn't want Damien to miss out on this opportunity to share and celebrate this moment with his family, friends, colleagues and even supportive strangers, who've all rallied behind Damien and Aiden's project over the last few months. This level of support, comradery and celebration of creativity truly defines the LEGO community that we know and love.

We hope that everyone will take a moment in joining us to congratulate Damien and Aiden for their achievement on becoming a part of the exclusive LEGO Ideas 10K Club! Congrats on behalf of the LEGO Group!


It's time to learn more about Damien and Aiden's LEGO story and their journey to this milestone!



About Yourself

  1. Where are you from?
    Aiden & Damien: We’re both from Sydney, Australia.


  1. How old are you?
    Aiden: 7 (6 when we started building the set).

    Damien: 42 (41 when we started).


^ Damien and Aiden flash big smiles as they show-off their Surf Rescue project


  1. What do you study or do for a living?
    Aiden: I’m at primary school in Year 2.

    Damien: I’m an intellectual property lawyer but am currently on leave for health reasons.


  1. What hobbies do you have?
    Aiden: Writing books. Making crafts and other arts. Collecting and trading Pokémon cards. Collecting stuffed toys such as Cheepee the Chicken. Playing chess and tennis. Cooking :)

    Damien: I collect movie flyers, interesting trivia, and I run trivia nights. I also love photography, graphic design, and ideas in general (inspired by the AWARD School course I competed for and completed in Sydney in 2012).


  1. How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
    Aiden: My mum says I was playing with Duplo at 14 months, making towers and trains.

    Damien: When I was 5 years-old my twin brother Drew and I started playing with the Lego city and space sets and I got really obsessed with the Lego train set we received for Christmas, when we were a bit older. I didn’t touch a Lego piece again until my son was born and we started giving it to him for his birthdays and Christmas. My obsession re-started then. 


  1. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    Aiden: LEGO® NINJAGO® 70594 The Lighthouse Siege because of the light.

    Damien: I love Angus MacLane’s WALL-E because it looks and feels like it is a real WALL-E (plus Aiden and I are big fans of the movie). Alatariel’s Research Institute was also a big inspiration for me – it’s an awesome idea and the execution is fantastic. I’m also a big fan of the Lego advent calendars such as Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar because the designs are always so clever with a minimum of instruction and I love how excited Aiden gets about them in the leadup to Christmas each year.


  1. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    Aiden: The LEGO Round Plates 1 x 1 because they’re nice-looking and can be used to represent anything – from water, treasure, lava, and so forth. And I like the LEGO Shell Without Rounded Inside Edge (30218) aka “clammy”, because he can drive the jetski.

    Damien: The LEGO White Slope Curved 4 x 1 because when I saw it I knew immediately it would be a way of taking a new approach to waves in the Lego universe, one that reflected the beaches and waves Aiden and I are exposed to in Australia. Plus I love the LEGO Transparent Light Blue Flame with Base Rim no Pins because in the same set it can be a shower stream, jellyfish tentacle, or even a splash at the back of the water vehicles. 


^ Damien and Aiden appear on the Australian breakfast television show "Weekend Sunrise" together with their Surf Resue project


  1. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    Damien: JakeSadovich77’s Ship In A Bottle is an amazing idea and his execution is perfect. Then there is DeTomaso whose Bird project is exquisite!


  1. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
    Damien: The Brothers Brick, MinifigsMe, Bricklink, Brickowl.


About Your Project

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    Aiden: We had been to the beach in Hawaii/Maui and in Nelson Bay near my Grandad’s. I love making sandcastles and kicking the waves.

    Damien: I had always dreamed of having a fully-featured beach set when I was young to add to my LEGO City sets, so when Aiden suggested it, I wondered whether LEGO had released one in the years since my childhood. Turns out they hadn’t, so I thought it was a great opportunity for Aiden and I to explore. I also have stage 4 melanoma and have become passionate about educating people about the dangers of the sun and the importance of wearing sun protection such as sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, long-sleeves. It only occurred to me later that we could combine the ideas in the same set.


  1. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    Damien: We really wanted to make the set in real life and not in one of the cool digital design programs. That meant us trawling through the thousands of LEGO pieces we have in order to find each individual piece. And then there pieces like the waves that we didn’t have and so we got online and found them in far-off locales like Belgium and the USA.

    In terms of difficulty, it took us a few weeks to create a rockpool that reflected what we see at our local beaches..


  1. How long did it take to complete the model?
    Damien: After Aiden came up with the idea, I let the idea sit there in our minds. In other words I procrastinated until Aiden really pushed me to help him make it. When we finally started working on it it took about 3 months to complete!


  1. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    Aiden: Very, very exciting.

    Damien: Extraordinary. I was on top of the world. And even more excited by watching Aiden getting excited as it reached closer to the target. I’ll never be prouder than watching him glow and grow confidence and joy as our support rose. We launched in October 2016. It took us about 5 and a half months to reach the 3K mark. And then all of a sudden we got a surge of interest and the final 7K took us a week(!!)


^ The MacRae's celebrated the 10K news with a few flowers and some bubbles!


  1. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    Aiden & Damien: Approx. 250.

About LEGO Ideas

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    Damien: I’m no expert, but I would suggest thinking carefully about playability, flexibility, the cost, and who your audience/market is. Shelf pieces are awesome and very popular but if you can turn it into a set that not only looks good on a shelf, but is playable and can be reconfigured by kids (like the WALL-E set), you’re probably on to a winner.

    Also, think about:
    – the possible stories that you can weave into your product description;
    – branding (stick a simple but professional-looking logo on each image using an app like Sketch);
    – the best name for your set (keep it simple and descriptive);
    – taking the best photos you can of the set. I taught myself how to create a light box in order to take clear product shots on a white background and I think it was well worth the time and energy.


  1. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
    Aiden: Currently, Pusheen the Cat by kevinszeto and Skull Island by Grant_Davis_.

    Damien: Apart from the other models I’ve mentioned above, I love the Pop-Up Book idea by JKBrickworks and Grant_Davis_, and I have a soft spot for all of Lightningtiger’s projects, seeing as they quite accurately reflect my life in Australia.


  1. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    Damien: I love that its focus is purely on ideas. Execution of those ideas is important but really only in terms of promotion. But I think the fact that anyone can come up with an idea and gather support to make it into a real set, is just gold. It’s crowdsourcing done well.

    In terms of tips: take your time to get the concept/idea right in the first place before rocketing ahead to building. If you get the idea right (like “pop-up book”, “sunscreen-wearing heroes patrolling a beach”, “ship in a bottle”) the execution will just follow.
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