LEGOS—The Art of the Brick

The Art of the Brick

Nathan Sawaya’s childhood dreams were like most kids: have fun. He drew cartoons, did magic tricks, wrote stories, and played with LEGO® bricks. That sounds pretty typical for all of us. Nathan grew up, went to New York University, and became a lawyer.

But those little LEGO bricks were never far away, and his creative mind kept churning up new ideas. Sometimes we just can’t ignore that small voice in our head and must follow it to find our true calling.


Nathan Sawaya followed his voice. He first came to national attention in 2004 when he won a nationwide search for a professional Lego Master Model Builder. He worked for the LEGO company for six months, then opened his own art studio in New York. He is officially recognized by The LEGO Group as a Lego Certified Professional.


Today Sawaya creates amazing sculptures from the 1.5 million colored bricks in his New York art studio. Sawaya’s art is currently touring North American museums in a show titled “The Art of the Brick.” See if the exhibit is coming near you.


Mulvane Art Museum recently hosted “The Art of the Brick” exhibit. The museum also offered children the tools to create their own LEGO brick art. Below are some of the creations from the day we visited.


The creation below might not be made by artists who are certified professionals, but they worked together and talked to each other about each new addition. For example, they explained where the car would be parked when the family was taking groceries into the house. The collaborators agreed on everything. That makes it a winner in teamwork creations. And I think that puts it in a gold medal category.





Second Pig’s House – Stickwork

On the way to the Mulvane Art Museum, I asked Anthony and Stuart about different fairy tales—who were the characters, what they did, how the story ended, and if there were special sayings they remember (like “The better to see you with, my dear”).

It was interesting to hear their version of the stories. We really fixated on the “Three Little Pigs” as I knew we were headed to see artwork made of sticks. I asked the boys about the pigs’ houses. Then I told them we would see something that looked like the second little pig’s house—houses made of sticks.



Patrick Dougherty from Chapel Hill, N.C. created a stickwork sculpture of saplings that (to me) resembles what the little pig’s dream house would be. It was built in November of 2009 and will be on display until November 2011.


Here’s how the Mulvane Art Museum described “Topiary with a Twist”:


Dougherty has made a name for himself worldwide with his towering outdoor sculptures fashioned from tree saplings. Since 1980, Dougherty has constructed more than 200 sculptures, making his mark in Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, England, France, Denmark, Austria, and all across the United States. Medium/Description: Elm and dogwood tree sapling sculpture, 17 feet high, 45 feet wide


He designs his arching, nest-like pieces to flow into their landscapes and surroundings—even using saplings from the very community where he builds the artwork.


The Mulvane Art Museum invited Dougherty to design and build an original, site-specific sculpture on the grounds of the museum. What resulted was a whimsical woven creation large enough for people to stroll through. The mighty masterpiece will last roughly two years before the saplings become brittle, at which time the materials will be returned to the earth.


You can watch the building process here:


Current and upcoming sculptures:



Making Model Airplanes

At the H.E.R.I. conference in Jacksonville, FL, the Jr. Civil Air Patrol was making these airplanes for the children. Of course, the children where shooting the planes everywhere and had a great time. I wanted to try making these planes because they are simple and soft, so they don’t hurt anyone.

You’ll find most of the materials at Lowe’s, Home Depot, or your local hardware store.

  1. Plumbing pipe insulation—1-2 inch diameter (This comes in 8 foot lengths, so you’ll be able to make 8-10 planes.)
  2. Flat washer—up to 1 inch diameter. You need one washer per plane.
  3. Large rubber band— about 10 inch in length (These are a special order product at Lowe’s. I found them at Michael’s as part of cardboard toy airplanes. You could also loop several rubber bands together to give the length you need.)
  4. Art Foam board—12″x18″ (One piece of  art foam board can make the wings and tail pieces for several airplanes. I used a glue stick and glued two pieces of foam board together, making it double thickness. I then let it dry under a stack of books. If you can find thicker foam board, use that.)
  5. Cable Tie – about 8 inches (Sometimes these are called Zip Ties.
  6. Pattern for wings and two tail pieces.) Download here.
  7. Glue gun and glue sticks
  8. Scissors

Zach and Molly helped make these airplanes. Of course, they didn’t use the glue gun. But, they did a super job of holding the pieces until the glue was cool. You can follow the process below.

Plane parts are ready to assemble.
Glue the first wing and hold it until the glue cools.
Second wing is glued in place.
Cut small slits in the foam to insert the large tail piece. Glue in place.
Glue the small tail piece on top of the foam.
Loop the rubber band through the washer and secure it.
Insert the washer inside the nose, letting the rubber band hang out. Loop the zip tie.
Cinch the zip tie as tightly as possible.
Cut the excess from the zip tie. You're ready to fly.

To fly the planes, hold the front edge of the rubber band with one hand. Pull the plane back. Let go!

NASA has the plans for a glider made from a styrofoam tray.

Where to Find Nature

Where to Find Nature

The Atlanta airport is more than a layover or travel destination. Like most people, I move from one gate to another with a stop for lunch at Moe’s (Gate C-15). But if you look down and around, you’ll see it’s a great place to find minerals and stone. The stone floors and walls are laid out in beautiful patterns.

See the men reflected in the floor.

Do you know what they do for a living?

The colors are different minerals that are molded

into one stone while hot and liquid.

Can you identify the minerals that create this stone?

Slate wall

Slate comes in different colors.

Slate has texture—ridges and bumps.

This is natural stone.

This is man-made stone.

These stones are man-made.

Is this stone natural or man-made?

Look at the natural stone above and how the

colors seem to be in swirls or waves.

Look at the colors on the man-made stone.

Are they in swirls or waves?

What do you see in this close-up that doesn’t

look natural?