It could have been an abundance of time on his hands or extra creativity bubbling out of his brain. It could also have been a compulsive drive to separate the blue Lego bricks from the white, green, red and other colored Lego bricks, each in its own drawer. Wherever he may have started, Nathan Sawaya transitioned to making his living as a Lego artist after a career spent exchanging briefs – okay, they were legal briefs. Additionally, his work is headed for museums from Alberta to Peoria and back.
It is at the very least an odd thought that folks can make a living playing with Legos. But several people are doing so. Sure, toy companies usually have people working in the play world but for Nathan Sawaya and others who work with the little plastic bricks, there are commissions to be had. Everyone from Donald Trump to Pete Wentz has hired him to replicate one structure or the other in Legos.
All of which goes to show there is always a market for creative, fun stuff with an element of surprise. For most people Legos are those annoying little things that you step on during house cleaning. And isn’t this mostly a painful experience? Not to mention the chore of getting them back in the box once they’re scattered about.
But artists aren’t like most people. They look beyond the brick or whatever medium and imagine something other than trying to get the Legos back into the storage bin. Nathan Sawaya was a lawyer whose relaxation routine included sculpting projects from clay and candy. Who would have thought candy? No word on whether he created Downward Dog sculptures in his spare time.
One day he created an eight foot tall pencil. No one expects an eight foot tall pencil – made with Lego bricks. So the gawking began. It was what Seth Godin might call a Purple Cow. Maybe every business should get an eight foot tall Lego pencil in these economic times. From that pencil came commissions for a variety of Lego sculpture, and pretty soon Sawaya had quit his day job to play with Legos. And, we don’t know if it’s compulsion but he has 1.5 million Lego bricks organized according to shape and color. Here’s an example of his work.