How has building with LEGO bricks shaped you as a person
Although we had LEGO in our house growing up, it all belonged to my brother, but I loved playing with it. I spent a lot of time creating small LEGO cities for my diecast cars and I think that is part of what got me interested in Geography which was the focus of my two degrees. During my undergraduate degree I picked up some LEGO to help manage the stress of school and found myself again building small cities at the scale of most diecast vehicles. After university, I put all my focus on my career and didn’t touch LEGO again for over ten years. During that time I found myself struggling more and more with my mental health. A few years after I met my partner, she surprised me with tickets to the BrickCan Adult LEGO Fan Convention. I had no idea there was an adult LEGO fan community and I was excited to bring LEGO back into my life. LEGO has become extremely important in managing my mental health and is the primary tool in my mindfulness practice.
Can you give an example of support or inspiration you’ve experienced in your creative career?
I jumped into the LEGO hobby feet first when my partner surprised me with tickets to the BrickCan Adult LEGO Fan Convention in Vancouver in 2016. I didn’t know there was an AFOL community (I didn’t even know what an AFOL was!) but I knew I wanted to experience BrickCan to the fullest, so my goal was to build a few of my own creations (MOCs) to display at the Public Exhibition. I didn’t have much LEGO but managed to bring three MOCs – a 1948 Ford Woody (Model Team), Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre (minifigure scale), and a couple of Micropolis modules. It is always intimidating joining a new group or sport and stepping into the LEGO community was no different. As I nervously approached the microscale section to add my Micropolis modules to the layout I was greeted with enthusiasm by Adam Dodge. Adam is a fantastic ambassador for the LEGO community and made my first experience a positive one. He expressed interest in my MOCs, answered my questions, and helped build my confidence as a builder. As my first contact with an AFOL, Adam made a huge impact on me and how I viewed my new adventure into the world of LEGO. Although I arrived at BrickCan as a brand new builder unsure of how I would fit in, the support from Adam, the BrickCan crew, and the other AFOL attendees really made me feel like this was a community that I wanted to be a part of, and before the weekend was over my partner and I met another AFOL from our community and together we formed our own LUG, MILUG (Mid Island LEGO Users Group). To top off this amazing experience, I also left BrickCan with the award for Best Classic in the Model Team category for my 1948 Ford Woody.
After my experience at BrickCan I knew I had found a community where I belonged, and I was excited to attend other adult fan conventions. Later that same year I attended BrickCon in Seattle and again experienced incredible support from other AFOLs, and especially from Lino Martins. Although close in proximity, walking into BrickCan and walking into BrickCon are two very different experiences. While BrickCan has an intimate family feel, BrickCon has a broader community feel, and my nerves reflected this difference. When I approached the Model Team section, Lino, the coordinator, was beyond excited to have a new AFOL contributing a MOC, especially a female builder! Lino was incredibly welcoming and similar to Adam, helped give me confidence as a builder. I grew up loving diecast cars and I always wanted to create large scale LEGO vehicles but it is a theme with very few female builders. The encouragement I received from Lino, and receiving third place in the Model Team category (at such a big convention no less!), really helped me realize that there is a space for me as a female builder in the Model Team category.
What biases have you experienced in your creative career and how have you overcome them?
I have only been an AFOL for just about 6 years and although my personal experiences have all been quite positive, the broader community is still heavily biased towards LEGO being a male hobby. This is very evident on social media where misogynistic memes and comments about women and LEGO are a very common occurrence. This type of environment is not supportive of female builders and reinforces the idea that LEGO is for men. I have heard from a lot of women who either feel uncomfortable joining online LEGO communities or physical LEGO User Groups (LUGs), or those who have joined but left those communities because the misogyny is rampant. My LUG, MILUG, is fairly unique in that two of the three founding members are women (my partner and I). Although our female members make up the minority in our club, it has always been important to us that our club be a space where anyone feels welcome. We are always looking at how we can evolve to create a space welcoming to folks from a variety of backgrounds and we discuss diversity and inclusion regularly. I am also part of the Brick Alliance, an intersectional LEGO community focussed on inclusion, education, and activism, in the LEGO ecosystem, and my goal is to help build a positive, supportive and inclusive AFOL community where everyone feels welcome.
What advice would you give to this generation of girls about how to achieve their goals?
I think one of the hardest things about being a young person is knowing what your dreams are. We often know what our parents’ dreams are for us, but we don’t often know what our own dreams are, so my advice would be to close your eyes and think about what brings you the most joy. The thing that brings you the most joy doesn’t have to bring you the most success or the most money, it just needs to bring you happiness. There are many ways to define success and once we open ourselves up to the possibilities, you will see that there are also many paths to success. I spent much of my life reaching towards an end point of what I thought was the pinnacle of success, but the stress broke me to a point where I had to take a few years off work to put the pieces of my life back together. I realized that the purpose, at least for me, isn’t to get to some end point or target, but to enjoy the journey along the way because the target will shift and sometimes change completely. The journey is also more fulfilling when you surround yourself with people who lift you up and cheer you on. Find those people and cheer them on too. As you extend one hand up towards your mentor, be sure to extend your other hand to someone who you can mentor. We all have something to offer at all stages of our journey, so be brave and recognize your value. When you are afraid, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and take another step forward.
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An empowering partnershipRead about the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) set by UN Women to guide us on our journey of equality and inclusivity.