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The Pollards

Eureka! I've got an idea!

Here I am in Orlando- I'm at the dining room table in Orange Lake. Dad, Mike and I just got back from golfing, and now that they're off watching ESPN, I'm here at the table planning my California trip. I had a feeling that when I get to Los Angeles and Hollywood that I'll want to see LEGOland.

Clicking a few links from their page, I started perusing the LEGO site. They have a program that I vaguely remembered looking into a few years back. It's called LEGO Mosaic, and it works by uploading an image to their Java tool, which converts the bitmap into pixelated "brick-by-brick" details. You then submit the form and they mail you the directions for your design, along with 2,000 bricks.

Now I wanted to be different from everyone in terms of a wedding gift. After all, the recipients of this like to be different. That's kind of their mantra. It occurred to me that LEGOs might be the way to go. It was still too early to decide what or how, but seeing Mosaic got my wheels turning.

I'm going solo.

With their purchase of patio furniture and a new grill, Jeff and Olivia have sealed in my interest to be completely different and find something for their wedding that they will:

A) like.
B) use in some way.
C) not freakin' buy before their wedding. ;)

The group was already planning on a big group gift, but is now looking for ideas because J&O already have everything they need to live/play. So, the LEGO idea that was once a 'wouldn't-it-be-cool' thing in my mind is now getting a lot more time up there in my noodle.

The master plan

So here's what I'm thinking. I'll find a picture of Jeff and Olivia together. This won't be easy, as most of the time, Jeff is making a goofy face or has his sunglasses on. Olivia is often either looking away or dodging the camera, or smiling happily with Jeff acting goofy. But I'm sure in more than 20,000 photos taken from my camera, ONE of them is SURE to have the two of them together somewhere.

Next, I'll bring that photo into Photoshop, crop it down and resize to about 200 pixels wide, then blow that image up. This way, I can make whatever size image I want, not just whatever the LEGO app can do. I can then use the pixels as guides for each LEGO stud. Brilliant! ;)

Preliminary Research

I want a cool wedding gift, and the tiny 48 x 48 portrait that LEGO offered isn't going to cut it. It's cool and all, but in order to get any details, I needed more pixels.

So then it was off to do some preliminary browsing. I browsed around, trying to get an estimate about how much I could expect to spend on this project. It seemed as though the rare bricks (dark grey in particular) were a great deal more costly than the others. ($90 alone- just for those dark gray bricks!)

"very light gray" was almost impossible to find in quantity, so I actually considered going to LEGO and buying three of their Mosiac kits just to get the dark gray bricks that come with them. That would have been a costly alternative, because I would have needed four or five kits just to satisfy my dark gray needs!!

Doing some Math...

This image is 108 pixels wide and 84 pixels high, which means that it'll take 9,856 bricks to fill in the mosaic. The frame will be 114 pieces, and will extend the image by 2 studs on every side, making the total dimensions 112 wide by 88 high. That means I can lay out the base plates (shown below) in a way that only needs 19 base plates of various sizes. My signature will need 45 transparent bricks, making the grand total 10,034 LEGOs.

Yep. That ought to do it.

Shopping: The Point of No Return.

This project entered the point of no return today as I started making purchases on bricks.

I went ahead and shopped around tonight. I did a LOT of price shopping, because buying in bulk gets very expensive.

I made a discovery late last night that while I was on the phone, I shouldn't have been ordering anything. See, every mosaic site out there talks about "bricks" when they discuss mosaic designs. LEGO bricks with a 1 x 1 size are normally the ones that look like the brick on the right.

So, when I came up with this idea, I was thinking bricks. I was thinking about how heavy this might be with little 1 x 1's up in the thousands, and actually did the math:

9,856 bricks in the image x .4 grams (weight of one 1 x 1 brick) = 8.02 pounds. -- and that's not counting the weight of the frame pieces or base plates. It was going to be bulky for sure.

Well, it hit me at about 2am that I didn't need to do 1 x 1 bricks.

  • The image would look identical with 1 x 1 plates
  • At 1/3rd the weight of a brick, the mosaic would be lighter and therefore more easily framed in glass.
  • Parts would ship with lower costs
  • While it may be more tedious to assemble, the lowered profile will look better instead of protruding from a wall.
  • While 1 x 1 bricks of unique gray shades are very rare (expensive) the plates are less rare and more reasonable.

A plate is shaped like the brick on the right. And, from the front view (which is the only view that matters), it's indistinguishable from the 1 x 1 bricks. So really, all I'm doing is saving weight, time (as keeping the bigger ones straight is more of a challenge) and most of all, cost. (Dark gray bricks alone were going to run me $84 before shipping.) Plates are slightly lower in cost and of course are lighter to ship too.

So, I immediately cancelled a few of my orders for 1 x 1 bricks. Feeling sheepish that I hadn't planned enough in that respect, I ordered the plates I needed from other stores and finally called it a night. Fortunately, no one gave me bad feedback for cancelling.

Paid and Accounted For!

I went and paid for the invoices this afternoon, from my shopping adventures last night. Only 3 out of 8 vendors I ordered from hadn't sent an invoice almost immediately. (I'll give them until monday before I start making phone calls.) Time is of the essence here.

I was pretty psyched that all of the vendors used PayPal. God bless America. :)

So now, I get to sit back and wait. This is going to be the hardest part. Waiting. In the next week or so, I will be receiving 12,447 parts for this project, so while I wait, I need to figure out logistics and setup a portable workstation for the project. --After all, on any given Friday, Jeff and Olivia might be over here, so this needs to be a "portable" project.

I guess in the meantime I should look into the framing options. I want to do something really slick with the frame, something very contemporary- glass or brushed nickel, or both perhaps... it'll need something to give it an even more modern look - 'cause that's the only way I forsee this ever making it onto their walls. :)

Getting Warmed Up!

Sweet! I got the last of the invoices today. Everything's now paid for, and according to the status, 5 of the 7 orders have shipped already.

I put out the sign to leave packages at my door while I'm at work tomorrow. This is so exciting! This time tomorrow, I'll be knee-deep in bricks!

Oh. My. Gosh.

LEGO mosaic Brickworkz Brian Korte

On my drive home last night, I was thinking, "I wonder if this project is going to be big enough." Visions of a rectangle the size of an 11x14 sheet of paper were in my head (probably because it's the size of my paper mockup) and I wondered if this present would not be as impressive as I wanted it to be.

Well, that all changed when I got home yesterday. A few packages had arrived with some LEGO parts. I opened and inventoried them, promising myself not to play until my Accounting exam was complete.

When I finally laid the plates out for length and width, I got a feel for how big this was going to be, and about lost my mind. I had no reason to panic. This project was going to be PLENTY big. Wow. When completed, this mosiac will be 35½" x 27¾", which actually extends longer than my puzzle table! The math I had prepared finally made sense. I was wondering how 10,015 LEGOS were going to fit on this base!

note to self: this may restrict how I decide to frame w/ glass, because I don't want this thing to take up an entire wall, for goodness' sake!

Parts are in! I wasted no time...

LEGO parts are in

Not two minutes after I saw the boxes at my door, I was ripping them open and inventorying the parts. 13,000 LEGOs in front of me was an awesome spectacle to behold. I laid out the baseplates and dumped bag after bag of plates out on top. Here's a photo of what I'll be working with. Once everything was sorted out, I didn't waste any time. I immediately framed out the design, then got to work.

It didn't take long to do all this. I spent from 7pm until about 1:30am, and when I was done, I had almost completed an entire 48 x 48 square. (that's 2,304 LEGOs) This. was. so. much. fun. I couldn't stop!

I had phone calls to make, so I threw on the headset and worked as I talked. Slapping the parts into place reminded me of cross-stitching... everything's relative to everything else, and mapping out LEGOs on a grid, is almost exaclty like mapping out colors of thread. --even when a mistake was made, I just whipped out my official LEGO brick removal tool and got right back to work.

I was having a blast. Time just FLEW as I laid out these things, creating a tiled mosaic. I went to bed feeling happy that I had made so much progress in just one night.

Weekend Update!

LEGO mosaic artwork art

On Friday, I had about 30 minutes to work on the project before I had to go out to poker night. Once I returned (around 12:30am) I got working and didn't stop unitl about 4:30am. Mom and Dad came over the next day, and I didn't start on this again until 9pm on Saturday. Chris and Paul came over to watch Jedi while I worked on this through most of Saturday and Sunday nights.

I am eager to finish the area with Jeff's head because the gray might be too dark. I won't know until it's done, and want ample time to reorder parts if I need to. I am hoping there's a cream color somewhere...I am considering ditching the very light gray (since it's not very light at all!!!)

Obsess Much?

Okay. I think I've been around way too many LEGOs. Get this:

I had a dream last night that my two front teeth were actually 2 x 2 LEGO bricks. One was white and the other was blue. There was something wrong with my teeth... They were hinging open as if they had cracked, and looking into the mirror, I wasn't happy with how they looked. So, I went to the dentist to get them fixed. I went through a normal cleaning, but the dentist recommended that I pull my two front teeth. He reached for my yellow pair of needlenose pliers...

I think it's safe to say I've been consumed by this project.

The pre-Presentation jitters

Sooo much accomplished yesterday. This project is kicking ass!!

I keep worrying about how this project will be received by Jeff and Olivia. I think... I hope... that it has just a little bit of everything they're looking for. It's got a hint of pixelation, which is good for the geek in them. It's got LEGOs, so it's got a fun kind of feel to it. It's artsy, which I think they'd only like/appreciate if it's unique or different in some way, which this one definitely is. And when it gets mounted onto a base and hung, it'll look modern/contemporary, which is the look they like. Still, this is unlike anything I've ever done, and unlike anything I've ever seen, so I have no clue how they will react. Visions of that lady on Trading Spaces who hated her new room made of feathers dance in my head...

With each brick that goes into this, I'm wondering how I will present it. Can't do a surprise thing... Do I give them a card first? Do I keep it shrouded and then reveal it? Should I even be there when they see it for the first time? Do I talk about where I think it'll look the best in their house, or just shut up and let them take it all in?

...I guess this means I have finally crossed the threshold between being excited and becoming personally attached to this project. Now I have so much time, money, and effort tied into this project that I really want it to succeed. My worst fear would be that it sits up in an attic somewhere, collecting dust. this something they'd want?

I think the self-doubt is good enough evidence that this is becoming personal. And you know? That's a good thing too. I want this to be a personal gift. It's definintely from the heart. I just think it makes me that much more vulnerable if they decide it's not for them.

Running the numbers

LEGO art

So many things had to be figured out to get this to work out right. I don't even know how many sheets I've scribbled on to measure lengths, widths, bricks, pixels, numbers of bricks to order, calculations on how much the product would weigh, what kind of dimensions the frame would need...

It'll be a small miracle if I can pull this off, but the numbers say I can.

The completion of a dream.

Brian Korte

I snapped the last brick into place around 1:45 tonight. It was a great feeling. I'm not thrilled that Jeff's face seems so much darker than Olivia's. It makes Olivia look too white and Jeff too dark. Still, from a distance, there's no shred of doubt that it is a picture of Jeff and Olivia together. It'll grow on me, as I hope it will with them. I'm starting to really love this thing.

When I finished the job, I signed my work. (I took this shot at an angle under bright light. My signature isn't visible from a frontal perspective, but shadows bring it out from any angle... it's slick and subtle.

Planning the Installation

Today, I went price shopping for glass, Lexan, base boards, Plexi and bolts, drawer pulls, threaded bolts and epoxy. I finally decided how to mount this thing to make it look contemporary, and as it turns out, it'll be done in the style of the furniture in my own living room. This will match their decor too, which is contemporary and very modern looking.

The mosaic's outer dimensions are 35¼ by 27½. I am going to mount the mosaic onto a baseboard. I want to use something light in color, so despite the cost, I'm going to go for either maple or light oak, which is perfectly stable, light-weight, light in color and very attracive. It should match everything in their house.

Now, with the mosaic on the base, I want a plate of glass extending beyond the piece by several inches. There should be bolts that are metallic, capped with something attractive (I'm thinking about a drawer pull...something in brushed nickel to match the modern style.)

I can create the illusion of width by extending the sides longer than the height. This'll also provide a really contemporary look because it'll look like glass, but be light enough to hang.

I went to Lowe's in Short pump, Home Depot, and Lowe's down my way. I think I have an idea of what I want. Now it's time to run the numbers and just go do it.

Congratulations, Jeff and Olivia Pollard!

Wedding present art creative

The rest of the wedding party presented their big present at the rehearsal dinner, a digital camcorder for the new couple to use for their honeymoon and whatever else they wanted.

I mentioned to them later that night that I wasn't part of the camera present, because I had something else in mind. I told them to expect something shortly after their honeymoon.

I think Jeff's still expecting an iPod. heh.

Congratulations to the new couple!!

Mount up!!

master artist

I went out tonight to get the parts. Tired of not getting anything accomplished and being so close to the finish line, I visited Lowe's here by my house, and figured out on the spot what kind of bolts/caps/washers/spacers to get.

I made it all up in my head, standing in front of the cabinets there at Lowe's. It took a while to noodle things through, but I came home pretty happy.

The bolt combo will separate the glass from the mosaic by about 1½". This is going to be great!

Oh, and I should mention here that while I want glass on top, I don't want it to overhang the base -- at least not while mounting or removing from a wall. Getting to the base around a big plate of glass will be next to impossible...

So, my solution to this problem is to create the base with four bolts protruding. The glass plate will then slide over the bolts, and caps will screw on. It can then be set up, taken down, stored, moved... all with the glass plate separate.

Bring on the Base!

creative art richmond virginia

I started Sunday morning by measuring the base. I measured twice--and good thing too, because I caught an error... that would have been a $17 mistake. Anyhow, I got the wood cut to size, and set that aside.

Once that was done, I got the Plexi measured and started to cut. Word to the wise- never cut Plexi with a jigsaw, unless it's completely secured and there are supports on both sides of the thing. I should have known better- you're supposed to score it lightly, then snap it off. I only remembered this when an inch-long crack shot through the Plexi. Crap. There goes an inch. :(

Anyhow, once that was done, I couldn't rest easy. Holes still had to be drilled. I took some scrap and tried my luck at it. Since I was on a roll, I decided to just get going with the drilling, so I went for the Plexi first.

Right away, I took the drill to the wood and made four quick holes. With holes made, it was time to mask the base and seal it (so humidity and such wouldn't warp the board in time). I masked it because I don't want to use adhesive against a painted surface- otherwise I would have sprayed the whole thing. I wanted something really light in color so I went with a simple acrylic that Dad lent me.

Just to test things, I popped a bolt through, slid on a spacer, and took a picture. With the LEGO plates mounted on the board, you won't see the lighter color of wood. It'll hang along with the Plexi with a really nice spacer distance. I'm pretty happy!

Now to find some glue...

Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffin' glue!!

I found an adhesive that I think will work for this. I walked through Lowe's again yesterday to find some sort of adhesive that'll hold the LEGO baseplates to the wood base securely and permanently. I picked an expoxy that gives me 5 minutes to set things before it starts really working. That'll give me some "wiggle room" to adjust things.

First plan of attack is to measure, measure, measure. I will only get one shot at this. I think I'll trace the borders of each plate so when it's glue time, I can seal it up in there. There won't be any room for error in terms of making it line up straight flush with the border, so I need to do this right.

Here goes!!

To paint or not to paint....

lego art creative wedding gift

Paul saw my progress thus far on the site here and suggested that the wood color doesn't really match the image too well, since it's all in a grayscale. He recommended using silver. I gave this a lot of thought, and am still thinking about it.

It's thought-provoking. I may pick up some silver paint tonight and try it on a sample piece of wood to see for myself. It'll really piss me off that I paid extra for a high-quality grain type of wood just to paint over it though. Could have gotten plywood if that was the case.


Project has been Epoxy'cuted.

Brian Korte

With the epoxy now set, I was able this morning to stand the image up on an end for the first time ever. It was such a great feeling to finally get this mosaic vertical. To me, this meant that I was done. The project has finally been completed.

The only thing left to do is decide how to present it. I'll noodle that one through today sometime at the office. I think I'll be out on the West End anyhow, so I can finish up early to figure something out.

What a relief. I don't even think I'm nervous anymore. I'm just so happy to have this part done. Can't wait for the reveal.

Manic panic

I scrambled after work to clean up my apartment. Bolts, washers, my drill, T-squares, saws, knives, pencils, epoxy containters, brushes, newspaper, masking tape, razors, extra LEGOs, and all sorts of other stuff had to be put away. I needed to clean up my place as fast as possible.

What I decided to do was set up the final piece. I didn't have anywhere to hang it in my place, so I set up an ironing board with a sheet (it's all about the presentation, baby!) and cut all lights but the one above the mosaic.

This is what you saw if you came into my apartment last night. I was at dinner with Jeff and Olivia, and afterwards, gave them a card. Reactions to the picture were mixed, but I am hoping in time that they both enjoy the photo as much as I've come to love it. It's a great shot of the happy couple.

When they came into the apartment, they saw the same image that the card had, but slightly different. As they got closer, they saw that it was made of LEGO bricks... My tensions relaxed when I started explaining everything that went into the project.

I then told them about this site, where they could read about everything I had done, and what I was thinking when I worked on it.

This has truly been a gift of the heart, and I am so happy to have been able to show two of my best friends what their friendship means to me.

Congrats, Jeff and Olivia. Love you both.

It's up and it's good!

lego mosaic brickworkz lego art brian korte

A shot of me posing with the LEGO mosaic for Jeff and Olivia.

A LEGO mosaic from Brickworkz makes a lasting and memorable gift for you and your loved ones. Contact a Brick Artist for a free estimate today!

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