A PACK OF BRICKHEADS: RUSSELL KIRKPATRICK

There have, in past days, been the occasional interview series’ on this page. We’ve seen Treacherous Carrots, the depths of Room 102, Precious Things, enjoyed Fetish Friday…… but always, the interviewees have been largely drawn from friends and peers from my writing world.

So this time out, I want to introduce you to my other world: the world of my visual arts practice. My Lego world. First out of the blocks (Heh. See what I did there? See it? You see it? Suit yourself) is mapmaker, lecturer in Geography, chronicler of Kiwi waterfalls, and bloody brilliant fantasy novelist (okay, so I’m not exactly tearing myself away from the writing world to begin….) — not to mention hilarious Facebook poster and all-round just lovely fellow, Russell Kirkpatrick. (And a more recent snapshot of what he’s up to can be found here).


What is your name, for the record?

Russell Kirkpatrick


Do you have a day job?

I work at an 0.6 lecturing position at University of Canberra.

Not to be confused with Peter Harvey’s old gig at the University of Canbrrrrrrrggghhhhhh

Why do you enjoy Lego?

Immediate gratification. Delight and whimsy. Family engagement. An ever-changing hobby where the basics remain the same. A local community and a world-wide community. Extreme cleverness by designers. Nostalgia. Happiness.


What role does Lego play in your life?

It’s my go-to, no-failure, non-judgemental hobby. It consumes most of my discretionary income. I’m part of the local LUG and connected to a global community that takes up time (for example, answering interview questions).


What was your first set?

6508 Wave Racer (bought for my infant son).

From little things, big, really expensive things grow…

What is your favourite set? Your favourite theme?

6399 Airport Shuttle would be my favourite, and Classic Town my favourite theme.

Fair enough, too.

What was your favourite/most enjoyable build?

I find this question much harder to answer. A lot of my most satisfying building has been laying out, automating and mechanising cityscapes and railroads. Probably my favourite single build was the Wingatui Station MOC, based on a restored century-old New Zealand railway station.

Every Lego AFOL in existence: “Oooooh, I could see that……”

Russell: Done it!

Do you prefer to build sets or MOCs?

I had a great time putting sets together in the 1990s, but these days I buy maybe a handful of new sets each year, devoting most of my time and money to building train and scenery MOCs. The annual tradition of putting together the year’s new modular, and the rare (and expensive) build of a Classic Town set I don’t have, is the only set building I do these days. This is because I’ve run out of space. The downside of this is it’s harder for me to keep up with new pieces, colours and building techniques.


Do you build to display, exhibit at shows, or otherwise?

I build entirely to display. No matter how good it is (Sesame Street, Piano, Fishing Shack etc), if it won’t fit on my layout I don’t buy it. I have modular parts of the display I can detach and take to exhibitions.


Did you have a Dark Ages? What brought you back?

I started buying sets in the early ‘90s for my older son, but after a few months I realised I was waiting until he’d gone to bed to make them up. Buying and building slowed at the end of the 1990s as the quality of sets deteriorated sharply. By 1999 there was nothing except the new Star Wars theme worth buying, and we stopped.

We’d bought and constructed every set released in NZ and most of the more exclusive releases between those dates, as well as a fair chunk of sets from the eighties. Back then it was actually quite difficult to work out what had been released, let alone find second-hand examples of specific sets.

We moved a number of times in the next fifteen years and the Lego didn’t emerge from the storage boxes until 2014, when I retired and had time to devote to it. In the intervening years the Internet had revolutionised the hobby, and you could buy anything – set or part – you wanted. I had to get some of that.


Do you have any special achievements in your Lego life?

A few collectors got together in the mid-90s to try to raise money to start a Lego club in New Zealand. We held a couple of exhibitions but the Lego hierarchy put the kibosh on our ideas. We were featured on national and regional TV as kind of an oddity – adults who love kids’ toys – and I still have the videos on VHS.

Back then I had probably the largest Lego collection in New Zealand. Now I probably have twice as much Lego and have the third-largest collection in my suburb, so huge has been the growth of the hobby among adults.


How big is your collection?

How do you measure a hybrid collection of sets, MOCs and scenery? My main town layout is 27 square metres, with over a thousand minifigures, 300 baseplates, 300,000 pieces, 46 motorised trains, 108m of track (845 rail tracks), 50m of monorail, 27 planes, 33 helicopters, 45 boats, 32 motorcycles and 314 cars and trucks. I’m planning to build a much larger shed in the front yard.


Are you working on anything now?

I’ve finished a year-long upgrade of my layout, including ballasting all my track and baseplating everything. I’m at a bit of a loss as to what’s next, although I’ve been tinkering with various ways of displaying my 80s-90s space collection.


Do you have any online galleries where people can see your work?

Recently I created Dr. K’s Classic Bricks, a YouTube channel to showcase my layout. It has proven shockingly irrelevant in the affairs of the world.

(Because I’m a sucker for the space stuff, here’s a choice video from Russell’s channel: a journey through a display of his space sets, for your entertainment)

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