Annie

LEGO for me is the ideal artistic medium. As an artist and creator my mind is always dreaming up new concepts and ideas. I frequently overflow with ideas that I want to express. LEGO gives me the ability to break down my ideas into individual bricks and build my thoughts up piece by piece in the most joyful way possible.
Annie

How has building with LEGO bricks shaped you as a person
LEGO not only shaped me as a person, it also saved my life.

I didn’t truly discover LEGO until I was 16 years old. I was sitting in my hospital bed recovering from yet another idiopathic tonic clonic seizure, and doctors suggested some gentle play to help me relearn fine motor skills. Until this point I felt completely helpless. I was experiencing seizures every other day and my mind, body and spirit were suffering beyond comprehension. Honestly I had almost given up, but those joyful LEGO Bricks (Harry Potter no less) sparked something in me that I hadn’t felt since I was a little girl.

LEGO gave me hope and meaning when everything else in my life had been ripped away. The uncertainty of my condition meant I could not complete highschool, or be left alone (ever). At 16/17 that’s a pretty hard concept to understand! But I had control of my LEGO building, and then my LEGO city, and my Harry Potter LEGO universe. I would be transported away from my illness into a world of colour, joy, simplicity and fun.

As I grew and healed LEGO stayed with me. My love of LEGO led me to my first real job at the LEGO Education Centre in Melbourne, Australia. I have such fond memories of working with LEGO Education and teaching hundreds of students robotics, math, science and English with my favourite toy/tool. I learned to manage my condition and while developing my independence I was able to take on roles within my LEGO community. I became heavily involved in my Recognised LEGO User Group (MUGs) and today, I am part of an amazing team that host Australia’s Premier LEGO Fan Convention, Brickvention! LEGO has given me some truly amazing experiences. In 2020 I was fortunate to be selected for LEGO Masters Australia! Having the opportunity to represent LEGO on an international stage has given me a great sense of connection with LEGO and my wider community.

15 years ago I started my LEGO life and I am grateful every day for that LEGO experience when I was in hospital. Without that day, I may not have ever clicked myself back together.

Can you give an example of support or inspiration you’ve experienced in your creative career?
The biggest support I received in my young creative career was the freedom to create. I had been wrapped in cotton wool during the peak of my condition and that protection was stifling (whilst necessary for my safety and wellbeing). As I gained confidence with my diagnosis, my family, educators, friends, medical team and community gave me room to breathe and offered me time to work through my creative goals without standing over me.

As an adult I also experienced magical teamwork with my LEGO partner Runa on LEGO Masters Australia. Runa and I are very different women with a passion (and health journey) that aligns us. Working alongside Runa on the LEGO Masters stage was a constant stream of inspiration. We bounced off each other in our idea development, we openly communicated about our concepts, we were constructive with our responses and our mutual desire to create with LEGO was both supportive and inspirational to me. Runa is also a neurodiverse woman and her ability to overcome personal and external bias to be on television with me was a huge inspiration.

Annie

What biases have you experienced in your creative career and how have you overcome them?
In my creative career I have experienced a whole range of bias due to my gender, neurodiversity, age, mental health and my epilepsy diagnosis.

I have learned to overcome biases through perseverance and acceptance. Developing creativity through some of my lowest life experiences has taught me a lot about self love and self respect over absolutely anything that could get in the way of my passions. I create for me! And if you’d like to be a part of my art, you are totally welcome. I also have learned to accept that I can’t possibly please everyone and that is okay. Whilst it is difficult not to take opinions of others personally, they really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The opinions that matter are the opinions you choose to give value to.

What advice would you give to this generation of girls about how to achieve their goals?
Girls, women, allies, young people everywhere! Firstly, my hope for you is that you remain true to your individual self. Your goals and dreams will be different to those around you and that is special.

Here are some of the important mantras that I try to live by for my goals and dreams.

Have a plan. A plan is a flexible tool that you can use to get to your end game. You can adjust and update it, add in new goals or ideas, change things entirely or even scrap it and start again. By centralising your ideas and goals in a plan you have a great starting point.

Be practical as well as creative. In this age of technology and connection it is important that we follow our creative passions but also back them up with practical skills and knowledge. We cannot create if we don’t nourish ourselves. Aim for your goals and dreams and make sure you can live safely.

Prioritise your health. Your health is your life. Treat your health with great respect and understand your strengths and weaknesses so you can live healthily for as long as possible. As a woman who has overcome some crazy challenging health circumstances I know that when I am not looking after myself, I can’t achieve my goals or care for the people that need me.

Switch off sometimes. Aiming for goals and dreams can be exhausting. Give your emotional, physical and mental self a break when you need it and enjoy experiences for fun, relaxation and positive health.

It’s ok to ask for help. If you’re struggling, if you’re in need, if you have a great idea and you’re missing just one piece of the puzzle, if help will optimise a process and bring success and joy to others too, Ask! Communication is one of the most powerful tools in the universe.

And ultimately, give it a go. If we don’t try, how do we know what we can achieve?

Annie is an ambassador of MUGs – Melbourne LEGO User Group