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10K Club Interview: Santa's Cottage by Norton 74

Keeping up this week's theme of re-visiting old friends, today we are celebrating Andrea Lattanzio, a.k.a. Norton 74! Some of you may know him as the creator of A-Frame Cabin (release date TBC), but he is back with a festive creation this time: Santa's Cottage. Leave a comment to say congratulations!


 

ABOUT YOURSELF

  1. Who are you?
    My name is Andrea Lattanzio, aka Norton 74 in the AFOL community. 


     
  2. Where are you from?
    Milano, Italy.
     
  3. How old are you?
    I’m 47. I was born on the 4th of May 1974. Yes, Star Wars Day! "May the fourth be with you".
     
  4. What do you study or do for a living?
    I’m a Corporate Fundraiser Manager for an important Italian Non-Profit Organisation. I have the pleasure and the honour to collaborate with The LEGO Group and the LEGO Foundation due to my job as they are actively supporting NPOs that help people in need, even in my country. 
     
  5. What hobbies do you have?
    I'm a so-called car guy. I especially like classic cars and motorbikes, but with a full-time job and a family to take care of, I have little free time and I'm mostly into LEGO bricks. I also really like graphic design and drawing but unfortunately I have no talent for these two disciplines, I try to express my creativity mainly using our beloved small coloured bricks. 
     
  6. Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
    Yes of course! In the last ten years, I have built many MOCs and my works are very well known and appreciated worldwide. My social pages have helped me in this: InstagramFacebookFlickr and my website.
     
  7. Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud of it and do you have a photo of it?
    In my previous interview, published in November 2021, I said that the creations I was most proud of were certainly all the rural houses that I have built since 2018. And they still are among my favourite creations but today, however, I can pick one without a doubt that makes me particularly proud, it’s the A-Frame Cabin which as many of you already know has been chosen to become one of the next LEGO IDEAS sets
     
  8. How and when did your interest in LEGO products come about?
    I started playing with LEGO bricks when I was four or five years old, playing with my older brother's Technic and Classic Space sets - we're talking about the second half of the 70s. From that moment on, my parents started giving me my very own sets: I perfectly remember my 6th birthday party when my parents gave me the Yellow Castle, I still have the picture of that day. Really good memories. I can truly say I've been playing with LEGO bricks all my life. 


     
  9. What is the LEGO hobby to you? What does it mean to you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
    To me, LEGO building is a medium to express my creativity and ideas. It's like playing music or painting a picture; building can sometimes be considered as a form of art. Over the past decade, the LEGO hobby has meant a lot to me and it’s definitively part of my life now. I mostly build MOCs and collect parts. 

    The most important goals I achieved in my building career were displaying my creations at the LEGO House Masterpiece Gallery (2018/2019) and being named LEGO Builder of the Year by The Brothers Brick (2019). Really good memories. But the biggest goal I have achieved is to become a LEGO fan designer thanks to my A-Frame Cabin which will soon become an actual official LEGO set. It is something incredible!  

    Thanks to the AFOL community I had the chance to get in touch with a lot of awesome people from all over the world, and some of them I can now call friends. That’s great! 
     
  10. 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 Classic Castle theme has a special place in my heart (take a look at question No. 8). Back in the 80s, I was also fond of the 12V train theme. I had the chance to get a bunch of them and they are still in my collection. Model Team series and then Creator Expert line-up has influenced and inspired me, especially a few years ago when I built my garages that boosted my reputation in the LEGO community all over the world.
     
  11. What is your favourite official LEGO set ever? Why?
    The set I'm most fond of is definitely the Yellow Castle (set No. 375). As I said before, I have many good memories of that set. But in a few months, my favourite set will certainly be a set from the LEGO IDEAS series!
     
  12. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?

    From the beginning, I have always liked smooth surfaces - which is why I have a predilection for tiles. I think tiles allow you to build creations that don't look like they are made of LEGO bricks; it's almost magic. 

    I also really like old parts that are forgotten by most AFOLs and try to use them for my MOCs. I am referring, for example, to the pieces of the Fabuland, Scala or Belville series. The salmon-coloured flowerpot you can see on the right side of the terrace in Santa's Cottage is a piece from Scala and Belville series, and it looks great to me! 

  13. Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
    There are so many skilled builders out there that it's hard to pick one. I spend a lot of time browsing Flickr and always find a lot of inspiration. As for the official designers, I have to say they are off the charts. I’ve recently built the Ford Mustang set and the Harley Davidson Fat Boy set and I was amazed at how well designed and built they were. Really “hats off” to official LEGO designers. Plus, in the last few months, I've had the chance to collaborate with some LEGO designers to develop the A-Frame Cabin. It has been great and inspiring to work with them!
     
  14. Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by? 
    I regularly visit the main LEGO-related blogs. They are so interesting, it's great to see new MOCs and official set reviews. I also like to discover new techniques or new pieces that are launched on the market by The LEGO Group and spotted immediately by some specialised blogs. 

    I am also very fond of LEGO-themed blogs because in the last ten years they have featured my works. From time to time I really enjoy rereading articles about my MOCs and stepping back into the past. Following this link, you can see all the blog articles of my creations from the beginning and discover the blogs yourselves.

    I love spotting bricks on Bricklink and I spend hours and hours there. 


     

ABOUT YOUR PROJECT

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    At the beginning of 2021, I built and showed to the community the Blue Cottage, a blue-coloured rural house surrounded by the woods. The small and cosy cottage joined my ever-growing series of rural houses, including Walden, Joe's Cottage, A-frame Cabin, and Stilt Houses. The entire diorama featured many details and unique architectural solutions such as, for example, the long asymmetrical roof sloping heavily on the left, round doors and windows, reminiscent of Hobbit Houses, and a dry-stone wall at the base of the building.  

    Considering the great feedback from the AFOL community, I built the winter version of the Cottage, changing colours and setting. The cottage is now bright red and covered in a thick blanket of snow. And it’s the residence of Mr Santa Claus - Santa's Cottage indeed! 

  2. How long was the process of making the project, 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?

    Although the project was ready, as it was a “simple” recolouring of the Blue Cottage, it took me at least two weeks to build it. In fact, no piece of its predecessor was used, it was all built from scratch: the white base, the pines, the house and the roof. And let's not forget the off-road vehicle. 

    I also used my past experiences in building snowy houses for creating the winter edition of the Blue Cottage and this made everything a bit easier and faster. Photography also played a very important role in giving a touching atmosphere to the whole diorama. 

  3. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    The most difficult part was probably creating the right proportions of the cottage, especially regarding the dimensions and the slope of the roof - the main feature of the model. I tried different sizes and then I found the right and balanced one. I also spent a lot of time searching for new details and part-usage for the diorama, such as the pavement consisting of some grey slopes between which I have inserted white tiles to simulate the porphyry effect. I also tried to encapsulate a wintery atmosphere in Santa's Cottage using various claws, horns and teeth to recreate fresh snow and icicles. 


     
  4. If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell them? What do you know now that you wish you knew then? 
    A few months before submitting this project, my A-Frame Cabin achieved 10,000 votes in 42 days on the LEGO IDEAS platform. This experience helped me a lot in planning the promotion of Santa's Cottage. In a way, I already knew what to do and how to do it. 

    Ironically, I made the same mistakes as the first time and I am referring above all to the interior of the cottage. In fact, like the A-Frame, I had to build the interior on the way, and it was stressful. But I did it and the interior looked great! 

  5. 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? 
    As I said before, I built the model in a couple of weeks, and I mean only building by night and during the weekends. Not so many days just because I had built the Blue Cottage a few months before, and I had only to rebuild it in a different colour, in a different setting. 

    For the promotion of the project, I worked hard all the time needed to reach the coveted 10,000 supporters. I have to admit that being a "Staff Pick" for a week over the Christmas holidays helped me get a lot of supporters. Anyway, it was easier to build it than to promote it.  

  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take? 
    It was both magical and liberating at the same time. It was fun to promote the project, but also tiring. In the end, I was happy to have finished the promotion. It all started on December 1st and ended on February 1st: 63 days. 
     
  7. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
    I think the most interesting part is the shape of the house. I mean the asymmetrical roof that slopes heavily on the left, with a woodpile supporting the overhang under the eave. A round door and windows, reminiscent of Hobbit houses, are also a unique feature of this diorama. I must mention the whole Christmas vibe of the model which makes it so special!

    And finally, as in all my works, the dozens of details scattered here and there. 

  8. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
    I didn’t build it digitally. 


     
  9. If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them? 
    I didn’t use custom stickers or prints, I used only genuine LEGO pieces. 


     

ABOUT LEGO IDEAS

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    "Pop-culture" and IP / movie-based creation have more chances of reaching 10,000 votes, I suppose. Fandoms can help a lot in that case. But also submitting something unique that has not yet been produced by The LEGO Group can be a good idea. For example, my A-Frame Cabin will become an official LEGO IDEAS set because there was no such thing around, I mean the A-shaped house was not in the LEGO assortment yet. 

    In general, I recommend creating what you really like by following your passions. 

  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea? 
    I mainly used my Instagram, Facebook, and Flickr pages in addition to direct messages to friends and family. Also being a member of the LEGO Ideas 10K club helped me gather support quickly. I also spent a lot of time for the 1000 supporters update on the platform. For each update, I tried to propose something new and engaging, it wasn't easy but it helped to keep the project “alive”. 
     
  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
    Honestly, all LEGO Ideas sets look great to me and it's hard to pick just one. If I have to choose one, then I pick the Tree House and the Old Fishing Store and I'm sure my A-Frame Cabin will complete perfectly this line-up of weird houses. 
     
  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    I love that it's a worldwide platform with submissions from all over the world, which may be officially approved by The LEGO Group. Plus, of course, the possibility of making a dream come true is what happened to me with my A-Frame Cabin.

    Regarding tips, look at answer No. 1 of this section and answer No. 4 of the “About your project” section. 
     
  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be? 
    At the moment I don't.  

  • 10k club interview
  • 10k club
  • product idea
  • santas cottage
  • andrea lattanzio
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