Ryan McNaught, Lego master, 44
You work with Lego for a living. What would your younger self have thought of that? To a child there is no such thing as boundaries. So, astronaut, professional Lego builder… it was my dream but there was no job like that in those days, unless you wanted to move to Denmark. Reality kicked in and I ended up going into the IT field. I also wanted to open the batting for Australia, but that was never going to happen… How did you go from having a “real job” to becoming one of only 14 Lego Certified Builders in the world? I was a CIO of a media company when our twin boys were born in 2008. My mum gave me back my Lego and I started putting my old train set and racing car back together. I discovered a robotics package and used my IT skills to make it more useable for kids. Some guys from Lego saw it online and we got talking; eventually I was working on Lego projects for hours at night. It became an easy decision to say, “I’m quitting my day job to go and play with Lego”. In 2009, I got the certification. Your boys are now aged nine. Is it a case of “kids, keep your mitts off my Lego”? This is going to sound really lame, but work is work and home is home. I don’t bring work home with me, though the kids often come to the workshop. What is a typical day at the Brickman workshop in Melbourne? I have six staff: Lego builders, engineers, structural people. There’s management work to do but about half the day I might be “on the bricks”, designing or building. Who are you building for? About 25 per cent is for the Lego company – we do all the store displays in department stores and toy shops. Then there’s our exhibitions, which tour the world, and we also do special installations – for instance, a couple of years ago we did a big Christmas tree in Pitt St Mall. What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever built? The Colosseum we made for the University of Sydney a few years ago. It took a couple of hundred thousand bricks and about six weeks to build. Making something oval-shaped out of rectangular bricks is very difficult to do. The technique I had to invent to do that was really quite complex. Since then I’ve used the same technique to build an MCG, among other things. What’s that behind you? The world’s largest Lego flower, a begonia. It’s 2.5m in diameter and it’s one of my favourites. Is there a limit with Lego? What can’t you do? We haven’t found a limit yet. We’re working on Australia’s tallest Lego model in our workshop – it’s a 7.5m project that will be unveiled in Sydney on Boxing Day. When it’s 750 bricks high you need a cherry picker and cranes to put it together. Is “glue” a dirty word in Lego land? No – in some instances we have to do it for safety reasons. If that 7.5m model, which weighs the same as the average family car, fell on top of someone, we’d be talking about serious injury or death. What’s your favourite Lego piece? The 2x4 brick. We use hundreds of thousands of them; they’re really versatile. The one that hurts the most to step on? The 1x1. They’re a nightmare. I have very well developed callouses on the soles of my feet.