Tips&Bricks is a friend of FireStarToys.com. Additionally, I follow them on Instagram. Several times each week they post tips on how to improve your building techniques. Recently, I became aware that Tips&Bricks also offers several handbooks which collect their tips in one place, ready to download. Most recently they are working on a handbook specifically on plants and trees that will be available soon.
Therefore, I contacted the founder of Tips&Bricks and asked for an interview. He graciously agreed:
Phil RedBeard: Hello there. Who is Tips & Bricks?
T&B: My name is Alex Johnson and I’m 18 years old. I live in the UK and I run Tips&Bricks as well as being a Product Design student.
Phil RedBeard: Awesome. How did your love of LEGO begin?
Alex: I was very lucky to have a big box of random parts that my sister and I would create multi-coloured houses out of for our minifigures. I remember my parents bringing me my first LEGO Star Wars set: 9490 Droid Escape. From there, I grew my LEGO Star Wars collection.
Phil RedBeard: How did Tips&Bricks evolve?
Alex: I was exposed to the MOC community for the first time on FaceBook. I saw the amazing builds that people were created and wanted to build just as well as them. I decided to start Tips&Bricks as a way to improve my own building skill, learn key techniques and create a community for custom building.
Phil RedBeard: Excellent. Are any other people are involved with Tips&Bricks?
Alex: I am the only one who posts and runs the various social media and creates the handbooks. Almost 100% of the content I post are MOCs and techniques from other builders, but I do include my own techniques from time to time. I am looking to team up with some other builders from the community to expand the brand of Tips&Bricks and be represented internationally at conventions.
Alex: The first product released on the website was called ‘The Unofficial Collection of Advanced Techniques – Volume 1’ and is compiled of almost every post from the first year of Tips&Bricks. Although it offers explanations of over 130 techniques, it does not include instructions for each technique. However, instructions have been heavily requested.
Phil RedBeard: Great. Will the tree handbook have instructions?
Alex: The next handbook will focus on tree techniques, hopefully around 30 in total from various builders. It will detail the exact parts required and show instructions to build them. Hopefully this will also inspire others to create their own techniques!
Phil RedBeard: I can’t wait! I notice the handbooks are digital. Will they be available physically?
Alex: I am looking to make the handbooks available in physical form and have been searching for the right printing company. To help worldwide, I am looking for representatives in the US and other continents. I hope to get it fully organised for a September release. But, I can’t promise anything yet!
Phil RedBeard: Fantastic. Last Question: what upcoming LEGO sets are you most excited about?
Alex: As a Star Wars fan, I’m very excited for the next wave of Episode 9 sets; especially the minifigures, which have always been a passion for me. As well as this, I’m looking forward to any new pieces that upcoming sets will offer, such as the Hidden Side sets.
As soon as the tree handbook is ready, Alex has confirmed that I will be able to post an exclusive review here on the FireStarToys blog. Consequently, I cannot wait to dig into that and give all my readers an inside look. The tree handbook will be for sale soon. Alex has an Advanced Techniques handbook for sale right now.
Alex donates a portion of the sales from the Advanced handbook to a charity called Fairy Bricks. He told me a little bit about who Fairy Bricks is and what they do:
“When I first got involved in the LEGO community, I was overwhelmed with the positivity from most, if not all of those who I interacted with, whether it was providing encouragement or constructive criticism. Therefore, as well as hopefully inspiring and informing our audience, I wanted to give back in a meaningful way. Fairy Bricks is an incredibly worthwhile charity who donates LEGO sets to children in hospital. I donate 20% of profits to them. The good work they carry out thrills and inspires me.”
You can find more information on Fairy Bricks on their website. Do consider donating to them as they have a wonderful mission that all LEGO fans can love.
Tips&Bricks is exactly what I love about the LEGO community. Alex is a guy who shares his love of LEGO and his knowledge in a comprehensive and accessible way. I have learned much from him and his techniques. His tips have improved my LEGO builds, no doubt about it. Not only does he share what he knows, but giving 20% of what he makes to a charity who looks after kids is very admirable. As a student, I know he probably is short on time, but he makes certain to give back to his community.
In addition, I have been to BrickWorld Chicago and BrickFiesta Dallas, both LEGO conventions, and met many people who genuinely want to share their love of LEGO. They were willing to talk to me for an extended time about builds, minifigures, and collecting, even though they had just met me. I loved pouring over the details of the custom builds they had on display and asking questions about the build techniques.
I know that many who read the FireStarToys blog and who love LEGO also enjoy giving back to others. Whether you are a child, teen fan of LEGO, or an adult fan of LEGO, be sure to make room to include others in your pursuit of fun and LEGO.
After all, I look forward to what we can build together!