Report: Brickworld Chicago 2019

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As I posted, last week I headed to Brickworld Chicago. I've gone to several LEGO events on the West Coast, but this year I decided to venture farther afield. Sure enough, the stars aligned (read: my work schedule cleared) so that I could travel to Chicago this past weekend. Read on to find out what it's like for a first time attendee at one of the largest LEGO events of the year.

Unfortunately, because of aforementioned day job I wasn't able to make it to Brickworld until late Thursday afternoon. The event had started the day before with set drafts, a mixer and the opening of the display hall. On Thursday there was a full array of activities all day, culminating in the opening ceremonies that featured Kevin Hinkle as the keynote speaker. I arrived just in time for the opening ceremonies, and I was amazed at the size of the crowd in attendance - it was so much larger than any LEGO event I'd been to before. According to the website, over 1000 people registered for the event.

I was ready for my first full day on Friday. First, though, I had some choices to make! For every time slot there were multiple activities offered. For example, at 3 pm, there were the following choice of presentations:

  • The LEGO House (presenter was Stuart Harris from LEGO House)
  • LEGO for a Living
  • Constructing Hollow Domes of Various Scales
  • Discussion on LEGO YouTube Channels

And that doesn't even include the set drafts and other competitions going on! There were several difficult choices to be made over the course of the day. By the end of the day, I’d attended sessions on “Magic Tricks with LEGO Bricks”, “LEGO in the University Classroom”, “The LEGO House”, and “AFOL Designer Program”.

In the middle of that there was also a silent auction being held to benefit local children’s charities. I was fortunate enough to win this set from JK Brickworks, which also earned me another brick for my brick badge. The silent auction was just a prelude to the live auction that was held on Friday night.

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Of course, any spare time in between sessions could be spent in the display hall, which was over 100,000 square feet of display space. LEGO MOCs for as far as the eye could see (along with some vendors). In the center of the hall was a dedicated space for LEGO Games which included the vintage sets I wrote about over the weekend.

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Saturday and Sunday during the day were dedicaed to public exhibition. Thousands of people made their way through the exhibit hall on both days. They were there for the amazing MOCs. And some incredible MOCs there were!

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I liked this series of vignettes from the Indiana Jones movies by John Klapheke.

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This amazing Deep Space 9 build by Adrian Drake has over 75,000 pieces and took two years to build.

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I’m always on the lookout for MOCs that feature the wonderful colours from Elves sets, and I think these creations by Kristel Whitaker and Tim Lydy were among my favourites of the entire show.

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I loved this Pirate Town build by Barbara Hoel and Phred Schunke. There were so many Easter Eggs built into the scene, which never failed to entertain no matter which area of the MOC you were viewing.

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Rocco Buttliere had an array of wonderful Architecture MOCs, but I think my favourite was this one of Mount Rushmore.

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VirtuaLUG made their presence known with this build depicting various scenes of the classic movie The Princess Bride. It wasn’t until the end of the event that I noticed the lettering of “Princess Bride” could be read both right way up and upside down.

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EuroBricks had a very popular build with their Potion Shoppe. Everything under the purple covering is made of LEGO - including the rug, the lamp and all the furniture. There were some exquisite mechanical functions included, too. This creation was the collaboration of 18-20 builder spanning several different countries. I'll likely post more pictures of this build on flickr as there were so many great details.

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Late Saturday, the special event was the "World of Lights". The lights were turned off in the exhibit hall so that any builds that were lighted could be featured. Having the lights off allowed some of the sets to be shown off to their best effect.

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Few builds made a greater impact with their lighting than these phenomenal builds by Lia Chan.

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The dark allowed you to fully appreciate the amazing shadow play build by Amanda Feuk. Amanda also won the Brickmaster Award over the weekend, making her the first woman to receive the honour.

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Even the GBC folks got into the spirit with some lighted modules and glow in the dark soccer balls.

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I really enjoyed Barbara Hoel’s creations. These are not the only MOCs she brought to the event - these were especially created for under black light. I love the intricacies of the builds and the vivid use of colour. I have it on good authority that we may be seeing some of Barbara’s work in LEGO House in the not too distant future!

Sunday was a shorter day for me, as I had a flight to catch. However, before I left, I was gifted with another coveted brick for my brick badge.

View image at flickr

GayFOL is a group of LGBTQ+ AFOLs and their allies, and Brickworld was the first event where they had an official display area. I will be writing more about GayFOL and their terrific builds at Brickworld Chicago in an upcoming article.

The weekend went by all too fast. I was able to meet many Bricksetters and enjoyed chatting with all of you - even though I was battling a cold all weekend and only had half a voice! Many thanks to Bryan and Kathie Bonahoom for putting on a great event - this was their last Brickworld Chicago as they’re passing the mantle on to others, but they have promised to still make appearances at future events.

I think I needed about twice as much time to do everything I wanted to do. But I suppose that’s what the next time is for……

23 comments on this article

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By in France,

Lian Chan and those colorful elvish MOCs are so great. Must have been a pleasure to attend to such a big convention. With that huge surface dedicated, for sure it must have been a real paradise for so patient and imaginative creators. Thank you for sharing all this with us, nice pics and report MeganL.

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By in United States,

Some truly wonderful MOC's, wish I could've been there. Looking forward to watching Beyond the Brick's videos on a couple of those creations; Deep Space Nine and The Princess Bride. I'm sure they'll post a long tour of the whole show eventually, at least I hope they will. I suppose watching those event tour videos is the next best thing to being there :)

Btw I shared some of these pics w/a non-AFOL friend and coworker this morning and she was blown away. I love it when people ask "is that really LEGO?"

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By in United Kingdom,

Thank you for sharing all this with us, MeganL. love the shadow play build
and the set from JK Brickworks,

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By in United States,

Awesome article, MeganL! Look like an amazing time. Looking forward to the GayFOL article, too.

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By in United Kingdom,

DS9 looks amazing

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By in United States,

I missed out on DS9 _and_ Princess Bride? The logo (a 180 degree rotational ambigram) actually comes from the 20th Anniversary DVD case from 2007, where the text was written through the center of the case (it also includes to instances of the word "the", which don't really work as part of the ambigram). Above the text are Westley and Buttercup on the farm, and when flipped over you see the Princess and the Pirate next to a lake with a castle and small sailboat in the background.

I think Amanda was up for the same award last year, after doing something similar to produce a girl's face. A lot of us expected it was only a matter of time before she won. This looks like a simplified version of what she did last year, since it's all sitting on a tabletop surface. Last year it was all suspended with monofilament line, which had to have been a massive pain to get set up. That's a learning experience that a lot of people go through at an event like this, as some models get absolutely destroyed in transit (several years ago there was a really cool ~6' tall model of Barad-Dur complete with the Eye of Sauron formed out of old Castle flames...and a group of people were rebuilding it pretty much around the clock on Friday to get it ready for the public days), and a lot of times people find that something that goes together really easy at home doesn't work out so well once they try to set it up on different tables, or the components have had time to settle into a slightly different shape. Or in some cases, they've just been building to the wire to get it done on time, and the first time they try to reassemble it is at the show.

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By in Australia,

Sounds like you need a holiday to get over the exhibition!! All sounds so great and so much to do at one time. Thanks for sharing this with us :)

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By in United Kingdom,

Wow, these are some stunning models! I love the gayFOL tag on Instagram too!

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By in United States,

"GayFOLS" confuses me on so many levels.

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By in United States,

I was going to mention the Princess Bride anniversary dvd. Since that is the one I own (favorite movie).

I’ll have to look for more of the Moc pictures of that layout.

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By in Australia,

Sure, GayFOL, but multi coloured printing on bricks? That's next level!

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By in United States,

Definitely interested in hearing more about GayFOL.

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By in Belgium,

Thanks for the article and the pictures. Looks like an amazing event! Some really amazing mocs there!

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By in United States,

Really like those Indiana Jones vignettes!

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By in Malaysia,

I thought about doing a model of DS9 a while back, but that one is amazing and probably can't be bettered, so I guess that's struck off the list!

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By in United States,

Inconceivable! Check out those Cliffs of Insanity! Wish I lived closer to Chicago and could see these myself.

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By in United States,

@commandervideo: GayFOLs is a closed Facebook group for LGBT Lego fans started by one of the reporters from The Brothers Brick in response to a tendency for any LGBT-related Lego posts (whether that be a Pride-related MOC, a wedding topper, or heck, anything that acknowledged non-heterosexual couples) to attract rude and/or homophobic commenters in more general Lego groups. It's mostly a way for LGBT Lego fans to find other AFOLs with similar experiences without having to deal with an onslaught of negativity, hatred, or trolling. AFOLs looking to join can find the group by searching the group name on Facebook and answering a brief questionaire about who you are and why you'd like to join.

I believe BrickWorld was the first "in-person" meetup for this group (not that there haven't been LGBT meetups not formally connected to a group at previous events), hence the custom bricks.

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By in United States,

Thanks for the write-up, Megan. I wish I could have made it over, especially to see the Princess Bride creations!

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By in United Kingdom,

Are those stickers on that GayFOL brick? If not, how does someone create something like that?
I'm still curious about the "Lego in the university classroom" presentation...

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By in United States,

It was an incredible event as always! If none of you have been to BWCHI, I highly recommend it. Good selection of MOCs in this article as well - the Deep Space Nine and Amanda Feuk's Dragon Silhouette were incredible!

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By in United States,

@EvilTwin:
There are several methods that could be used to accomplish something like this. The oldest of these, at least as far as the AFOL community is concerned, is to engrave the text into the side of the brick and fill in the letters with paint. For something like this, that would be incredibly time-consuming due to having to deal with six different paint colors.

Some custom brick printers started offering pad-printed parts, which are very expensive because you need to cut one pad for each color used in a given design. That also gets into alignment issues, especially if you're going to print each letter in a different color and still want your text to line up nicely when you're done.

A third option is some sort of 3D printing method that results in a raised, textured print afterwards because you're basically printing onto plastic with more plastic. It's usually pretty obvious from photos, if you know what to look for. I _think_ that's the method used here.

And a fourth option is something that looks very much like traditional inkjet printing, but which can be used on plastic. I suspect it uses trace amounts of solvent to bind the print to the plastic, because the result tends to be extra shiny and smooth, but one of the few examples I've actually examined had quite a bit of bleed off the edges of the tiles.

There may be more non-stickered options. If you want something that applies more like a sticker, but looks more like direct print, there's always water-slide decals. If you just want a few custom-printed parts, but don't feel like starting up your own custom-printing business, it's probably just cheaper and less hassle all around to get in touch with a few of the established custom printers out there. Find out what printing methods and design services they offer, get a few quotes, and see if something works for you. Otherwise, be prepared to spend several hundred to a few thousand dollars buying equipment, plus all the time and materials involved in learning how to do it right.

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By in Latvia,

So many awesome MOCs and events! Wish I could go there, because then EVERYTHING would've been (IS) AWESOME!

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