LEGO® Masters Winners Interview
Season one of LEGO® Masters ended we have the winners interview! We spoke to Tyler and Amy last week about the general experience on the show (click here to read it). Now, True North Bricks, , The Brothers Brick, Brickset, and BZPower caught up with Tyler and Amy following their win.
How does it feel to be the first ever U.S. LEGO Masters?
Tyler: It’s okay, I guess. [laughs]
Amy: It’s still sinking in. It feels surreal, just like it did at that moment on stage when they announced our name. It wasn’t something I would have ever expected.
Tyler: It’s amazing. Looking back at all the LEGO that I’ve done over the years, it feels like all of that has been this incredible journey leading up to this final. All my LEGO building has led to this moment. And to be the winners is like a dream. A dream come true.
Was it difficult keeping your win a secret the last couple months?
Tyler: Keeping this all secret was a little bit challenging but also kind of fun. It’s a little bit exciting to have this fun secret that nobody knows and trying to keep it under wraps. It makes you feel a little bit like a like a spy or something, I enjoyed it. I was able to very much keep my dad in the dark. He kind of suspected that we didn’t win, so when he found out that we won, he was quite shocked.
Amy: It was very fun to have a secret that you knew was going to bring a lot of joy and excitement to the people that are close to you. It was quite enjoyable to hold on to that and knowing that they will one day experience that joy.
Do you feel like there is any kind of weight or expectation attached to now being LEGO Masters?
Amy: I don’t feel any weight. My greatest goal and joy in this was supporting my husband and helping him fulfill his dream. I love LEGO as a creative outlet. But as we know, he’s a longtime builder and I’m the newbie. So maybe that’s just an experience perspective that I don’t really feel any pressure at this point. I’m just thankful we’re able to accomplish what we did.
Tyler: I don’t necessarily feel like there’s any weight attached to the title of LEGO Masters.
The final challenge was a 24-hour build. What was it like to have to build for that long?
Tyler: There are two emotions tied with the prospect of going into a 24-hour build. There is the side of it where you’re excited that you get a lot of time, but there’s also the disappointment of having a really long challenge because you can get burnt out pretty easily with the intensity of each challenge. It was exciting to know we had that much time, but it was also very daunting.
Amy: I think that sums it up. Like on any building challenge day, we did have several breaks for lunch and things like that.
The episode didn’t give a great up-close look at all the details of your final build. Could you walk us through the concept?
Amy: The title of our build was “The Treasure of the Griffin.” We were inspired to do this idea by wanting to showcase a theme of strong parental love and protection of their child. We thought through a lot of different themes and variations before we settled on what you see in the finale there. We love the figure of the griffin as the strong noble protector and putting it in an epic scale in a fantasy world and on the top of the ancient ruins of a bygone era.
We did have a few more details to the storyline that weren’t shown. Inside the castle, you could see through the sides and get a glimpse into what has caused the kingdom to fall into decay. There was the overflowing treasure room with the remains–the skeleton–of the former king. The backstory was the kingdom had gone into ruin because the king had been picking the wrong type of treasure. He had become a hoarder and closed up with what he thought was true riches, which they were not. In contrast, there was the griffin on the top of the tower, protecting what can be considered as a true treasure–your children.
We loved all the details we were able to create the world around it. We had different magical things going on. We had our trail of destruction that the lizard went through, there were dwarves hacking away to make the best out of that situation. There was a small cave off to the side where there were dwarves mining for jewels. There were mermaids, a lagoon area, a rock monster, a flying Pegasus, and light up fairies.
After 24 hours, was there any part of your final build that you wish you could have spent more time on?
Tyler: Oh yeah. One thing I would have liked to do more was give a little more attention to the foliage. Maybe more vines growing up the side of the castle and have it look a little more overgrown by the greenery in the area. That’s something that we wanted to do, but then eventually didn’t have time to do.
There could have been any number of things you could use to represent opposing factions. Why the griffin and lizard?
Tyler: Initially when we were trying to come up with the concept, we were talking about this idea of having a mouse be the defender of his family and have an owl or an eagle of some sort be the attacker. I knew that I wanted to create that wing mechanism somehow. We were thinking along the lines of birds and things of that nature. We eventually decided that the mouse character was too small to be our hero character. We decided to go a different route with it. We tossed around several other ideas but landed on this idea of putting it into the realm of mythology and fantasy. Just having something that’s not usually or necessarily seen in LEGO. I think griffins and giant lizard monsters are a little more out of the ordinary for LEGO.
Talking about the wing motion, the show demonstrated you having some difficulty getting it just right. How long did it take and how many iterations did you go through?
Tyler: It took maybe three or four hours working on the griffin.
Amy: As we do for every episode, we had split the 24 hours into different phases with different elements of the build to be accomplished in each phase. This is to help us stay on track and keep us working quickly and always have a deadline looming ahead. That griffin definitely went over his deadline. [laughs]
Were there any other moving functions in the build that the camera didn’t catch?
Tyler: There weren’t any other moving functions but we did have a lot of light. Going back to our story, and that treasure room that’s in the center of that tower, we wanted to have an interactive feature for the build. We had a set-up where when you push a button, it would illuminate the treasure of the griffin. We wanted people coming up and seeing the build to see that treasure room and think that when they push that button, that treasure room is going to light up. That treasure room doesn’t light up, but there’s a light in griffin nest that illuminates the babies on top. We also had some light in the forest with some of our fairies as well to add a little bit of magic.
Amy: We don’t tend to use a whole lot of mechanical functions and motion in the competition. One of the reasons is it just takes so long. And there are a lot of things that could go wrong. But we knew we wanted to do it in the final build as a wow factor for the judges. We wanted to highlight that center point of our story and use it very intentionally in that way–at the top, to bring attention to the griffin protecting its the babies.
Tyler: Our philosophy in approaching motors in builds for the show is that if we were going to use motors, they had to contribute significantly to whatever the story is that we were telling. We didn’t want to just have something spinning or moving just for the sake of having something spinning or moving. We really wanted it to be a key element in telling the story that we were telling.
Brick Master Amy has been very vocal about wanting to see color throughout the show. How did you decide on the color scheme for your build?
Amy: I think we started with the color scheme of our focal point, which was our griffin versus the giant lizard and built it out from there. We actually spent a lot of time thinking about color since color is a huge contributor in making a world seem otherworldly. That was something the Brick Masters really expressed strongly. They wanted us to make sure that as soon as you see the build you realize it is a magical world–a mythical world. That really contributed to how we created the color and determined what colors we use. In the foliage, we used white trunk trees with different colors you would not see in this world, plus the sparkling water and other elements.
Tyler: Since we put this build in the realm of mythology and fantasy, we had some room to stretch and play with our colors. Our trees were bright, otherworldly colors, with bright green grass. The challenge for us was how we wanted to show this old and ruined tower. Those sorts of things are usually very bleak and gray. So, it was a challenge to kind of mix this fresh, vibrant foliage of the land with this bleak tower and still maintain a consistent color palette throughout the entire model.
How confident were you going into judging them with your final build?
Amy: [laughs] We loved our build. We’re so proud of it and what we were able to capture. Personally, I was not very confident. I felt a little thrown off right at the end of the challenge due to a comment that Brick Master Jamie made as he passed by. I asked if there were any other details we should be focusing on now, and he said, “Populate, populate!” I was like, “Oh no!” This is what we’ve heard from the Brick Masters all season. They love their minifigures. They want all the minifigure stories. And we saw Mark and Boone over there with like a quadrillion minifigures. My stomach just kind of dropped. I thought, “This is a minifigure challenge and we just failed.” So that shook me up a little bit at the end.
Tyler: Going into judging, this was one of the challenges we didn’t get a whole lot of feedback from the judges. To me, it felt like this could go any different direction with the three teams. Each of the builds is so different, that it’s really challenging to pick one of those three. So it’s hard for me to pick my favorite of the three. I mean, of course I think my art is my favorite, but they’re all so well done–but they’re so different. That was hard to understand how the judges are going to pick just one, so I was certainly nervous in that regard.
What do you think made your build stand apart from the other two?
Tyler: I think the thing that made our build stand out was the fact that we focused a lot on storytelling. I think we told a very compelling story that a lot of people can relate with that kind of tugs at your heartstrings a little bit. I also think our use of characters and our ability to create personalities and characters that really draw you into the scene and make you feel like you’re there or part of it was something that really pushed us to the top.
Amy: I think one thing we did have on the competition goes back to our planning ahead. We had thought a lot about our concepts ahead of time and came into the finals with a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do if the challenge was what we suspected, a master build. In the episode they didn’t show quite so much, but Sam and Jessica and Mark and Boone struggled a little bit with their ideas from the very beginning and they had to make some last-minute changes.
There’s a strong connection between the griffin protecting their young and you expecting your first child. Do you think that themeing contributed to your win?
Amy: Ultimately, I don’t think so. I think the Brick Masters were definitely considering the whole competition in their final decision. And I believe what made us stand apart was that we really tried to show variety of styles and technique in our builds throughout the whole competition. Possibly what set us apart from the other competitors in the end was our range.
Tyler: In terms of the story, we had brainstormed, even before the competition, different stories that we might possibly be able to tell and the story of protection and standing up for what was right or standing up against evil. All these were stories that we had talked about telling long before we even knew that we were expecting. So it wasn’t like we pulled this out of the hat and tried to link it with our parental story. This was a story that we had wanted to tell from the very beginning just because we think it’s a very compelling and gripping story that tugs at emotions and the heartstrings of somebody that might be seeing it.
Amy: It definitely ended up being a connection for us in the end.
How does it feel to have your mini-build for your personal microscale challenge already done since you essentially built that as your mock-up to show the judges?
Tyler: Yeah, I think I’m going to improve upon that mini build. [laughs] There was certainly a time crunch that we had to build that under. And we didn’t necessarily at that point have the entire scene fleshed out as far as how it’s going to work. So now that I have the final build that we can go back and look at, it’ll be exciting to recreate that again in a miniature scale.
Was there any additional feedback that the judges gave you that set you apart from the other teams?
Amy: There was more feedback shown in the episode than we got in person. They recorded that separately. For some reason, they decided to do it that way away from the builders for the last challenge. So we really got zero feedback from the judges at the time on our final builds, on what they liked or what they wished was stronger.
Your families visited you in the middle of the challenge. Did you know that they were in town for this?
Tyler: We knew that there was a possibility of our families being there at some point. But we weren’t expecting it in the middle of the challenge. It was really a huge surprise to have them stop and bring them all in. It was an incredible moment.
Amy: That did feel quite emotional. We’re in the middle of the final challenge, stress was running pretty high, we’ve been away from home for weeks, and the door opens and your family comes in. It was just an amazing feeling and very encouraging.
Who from your family was there?
Tyler: My mom and my sister were there. And that’s everybody from my family.
Amy: And on my side, my father Matt, and my sister Leah, my brother Timothy, and his wife Nicole. I do have a number of other brothers and sisters but only two are represented there.
They all seemed very excited to learn that they were getting a new addition to the family.
Amy: It wasn’t quite how we planned it, but it happened!
Any updates on potential names for your baby?
Amy: We are getting closer to picking our baby boy’s name, but we are going to keep up under wraps until he is born.
How heavy was the trophy was and did you get to keep it?
Amy: I was surprised how heavy it was!
Tyler: Yeah, you see the trophy in clips, but you don’t realize how big it actually is. And it’s very solid. It was surprisingly heavy and yes, we did get to keep the trophy. We don’t know exactly where it’s gonna go because like we said, it’s huge.
Amy: And the colors in our house aren’t exactly bright yellow, but we’ll find someplace for sure.
(LEGO confirmed after the interview that the trophy was around 20 pounds and was made of around 4,000 bricks.)
What did you like best about your competitors’ builds?
Tyler: For me, one of the things that I loved about Mark and Boone’s build was their interactive feature with that paint brush. You dip into the paint, and that building transforms from being old to this colorful painted building. I just thought that was such a cool feature, especially with the way that it happened putting that brush in the paint can. And then you see this transformation. I thought that was a really clever and exciting way to use the motors and the function to tell their story.
For Sam and Jessica’s build, I have in the past wanted to make a giant life size peacock. And I am super impressed with how they did that. Their peacock was gorgeous. It’s something that I’ve never seen before in LEGO. It was just so cool to see something that I’ve always wanted to see in LEGO actually happen and be built right there before our eyes.
Amy: We really appreciate a clear story and fun colorful characters. So, Sam and Jessica’s build was really exciting for us as Tyler mentioned. We had thought about peacocks earlier in the competition as a possible brainstorm idea. We never got the chance to execute on that, so to see them have the opportunity in the finals was so fun. For Mark and Boone, I’d agree with Tyler. The motors and the unique ways they used them is just fantastic and inspiring. How they used it with the transformation and paintbrush was really cool.
Do you think it was fate that earlier in the season you won tickets to LEGOLAND New York’s opening and then ended up having a build to be featured in the park?
Amy: [laughs] Well, all three finalists get their builds displayed, so we will not be the exclusive build there.
Do you know where in LEGOLAND New York the final builds will be displayed, and will you be personally installing it?
Tyler: I do not know where in the park it will be displayed. We will not personally be installing it. I believe there is a team of more competent people at dealing with LEGO bricks than we are that is making sure that it arrives there safely and gets installed properly.
What little details from your other builds are you especially proud of that weren’t featured on the show?
Tyler: The very first episode, in the Dream Park challenge, we built our Funny Farm and we had two different rides. The show focused primarily on our Egg Drop ride. But our other ride that we had going was a Flying Pigs ride. I think it made it into only one shot, but I loved our little Flying Pig ride. It had this big, cartoony pig face that spun on top and these little pigs with wings that little minifigs could ride in. And there’re these clouds with the different pig cars that kids can ride up and down on make them look like they’re flying up and down as they spun around.
Amy: Another detail in our Storybook challenge I was proud of was an additional tie-in of the story the kids gave us creating the world of the Cuckoo Magic. Our floating platforms were held up by these gushing fountains of water. So in our story, the magic of the Cuckoo Land was in these magical waters. In the world, the Taker Waker had captured the magic of the water, and that’s what she was applying to the magical toys that we saw in the story. In our model, if you look closely you can see we were suspending toys with blue flame elements using those as water. So, we created a back story to Cuckoo Land, what was magical about it and how the Taker Waker was using that magic in the story. I just loved how expanding on that made the story complete.
What building techniques or styles did you improve the most on over the course of the show?
Amy: One thing we definitely improved on was our use of minifigures. I entered this competition as a brand-new builder, with so much to learn. So in our first model, the Dream Park, one of the critiques we got was that it was quite empty–there weren’t enough minifigures. I was thinking, what do you mean? We’ve got minifigures. Not realizing that there is a lot more potential if you have a large scene to really bring in so many different stories and interactions with the minifigures. That was something the Brick Masters really valued and we tried to improve in later challenges with the storytelling with those minifigures. That was something we really learned from the other teams.
Tyler: I would say one of the things that we improved on was building big very quickly and trying to build up the size for these models in a quick and efficient way. At first, you of don’t realize the scope of the amount of pieces that you have on hand. It was over time that we managed to wrap our heads around the pieces that were available and how we could use those to our advantage to create some really huge stuff.
Were there any specific pieces that weren’t in the Brick Pit that you wish you had?
Tyler: One of my favorite newer pieces that was not in the brick pit, that wasn’t necessarily a crucial element to have, were some of those rounded tiles–the ones that are curved and rounded. I just love that they create a lot of options as far as decorative like scrollwork or lettering and things of that nature. So it would have been really fun to utilize some of those pieces on a larger scale. But one of the challenges of LEGO Masters is having to deal with not necessarily always having all of the parts that you might want. But we certainly had more pieces than we could ever use.
Are you referring to the types of tiles and pieces in the LEGO Dots line?
Tyler: Correct. Yeah, the small ones even up to the ones that complete like an eight by eight circle. All the different quarter round tiles.
What was your favorite challenge of the whole competition?
Tyler: My favorite challenge was the Space Smash challenge. I just loved the contrast with the dichotomy of creating and constructing something and then also destroying it. That contrast is certainly present in LEGO. We’re aware that things are built and can easily be destroyed. But to build it with that destruction in mind was a really unique concept for a challenge. To incorporate your story into that destruction was really unique, and I really loved the entire concept of that challenge.
Amy: My answer would be split into two. My most enjoyable challenge and my favorite challenge–I would agree with Tyler–was the Space Smash. There was something special about that challenge. Maybe the build that we chose to make was one singular object. There weren’t too many details or small things around. During building, that challenge just felt less stressful. Maybe because there were less things to accomplish during the time period. It felt like more of a relaxed challenge as much as you can be relaxed under a clock ticking down quickly. Second, my favorite result at the end of the challenge was at the finale. I’m just in love with the griffon story we were able to bring to life. At that point, we were really pinching ourselves. We were tired. We were starting to feel some of that creative burnout. So the fact that we were able to end strong was really wonderful.
In many of the teams’ builds, you could see a unique style for each of the individual competitors. However in your builds, it seemed there was one consistent stylistic voice throughout the whole competition. Amy, did you have any specific details or techniques that were 100% your contributions versus Tyler’s or was it all a joint effort?
Amy: [long pause] When it comes to specific building techniques, I feel like I don’t have a whole lot to offer being brand new. What I feel like I *was* able to offer were a few different things. First of all, when it came to the initial idea generation and selection, I found over the course of the competition that I was able to have really good ideas and visualize what would come across well in LEGO. Tyler and I really benefited from bouncing ideas off of each other, and we’d keep refining and making the ideas better. Secondly, I discovered that I have a good eye for layout and design and what looks good. Even if I can’t build the technical side of it, I can give a lot of great feedback. I can help with the theme we’re creating, whether that’s in color choices or scale or layout. I feel proud that I was able to contribute in that way.
Thirdly, I helped just get the thing built at the end of the day. There were a lot of things that needed to be built. We agree I probably built 50-75% of most of our models. Tyler was of course the technical head but then I could take it and run with it. But not just copying, there were a lot of opportunities to be creative and add my own flair. Whether it was landscaping or small touches, or just positioning and layout. That was something I was very thankful I was able to be a contributing member to the team. Going into it, I definitely had that concern of what am I going to contribute to this team? But at the end of the day, I definitely had a lot of confidence in us as a team.
Tyler: I want to add one useful story. In terms of Amy’s ability or our style that really surprised me was on the droid challenge. I was working almost entirely on the mechanical portions of our build. And pretty much everything that you see that is “Star Wars-y” that makes our droid fit in the Star Wars universe, that was all Amy. That wasn’t how we had had the original build broken up. But I was so impressed to see her jump on making all the panels and the detailing of all of the character elements that went into our droid. I was just so surprised to see her style come through, and it’s very much a similar style to mine. I think that just lends itself to the fact that we’re very much on the same page when it comes to our building style and how we want things to look.
Amy: This allowed us to have, I believe, a very cohesive build, where it’s not “one person did this, one person did that,” but to create a unified creation.
Tyler, do you think that you will ever get satisfaction or approach a speed build or a master build at a LEGO convention the same way ever again?
Tyler: I’m sure anytime there is a clock ticking down to a deadline while I’m building, I’m probably going to have a mild heart attack, or at least some level of high anxiety. [laughs]
What were some of your favorite LEGO sets growing up?
Tyler: I think you see some of my favorite sets come out in multiple builds throughout the season. In terms of the Star Wars challenge, I loved the first AT-AT walker set that LEGO produced–that was one of my favorites growing up. I also loved the Adventurers line. You could see that in the Good vs. Evil challenge with our temple and all the tracks and fun Egyptian iconography. So those were some of my favorite sets growing up. It was fun to incorporate a little bit of that into the builds that we created for the show.
Amy, do you have any childhood memories of LEGO?
Amy: I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that question! I do have some memories, of course not as extensive as Tyler. One of my biggest memories revolves around the LEGO Magazine that we would get every month. I would sit on the couch with one or two of my brothers. We would go through it page by page, and play this game called “I got it!” You flip the page and then you find the set you want the most but you have to be fast, and then you slap it, and say “I got it!” And you’re trying to beat out the other person and get the most of the epic and best sets. I did not have a lot of LEGO sets myself growing up, but we did have some large bins of LEGO that all of us kids liked to make creations with.
What is your favorite current LEGO set?
Tyler: The Saturn V would probably be my favorite current set. I don’t typically display sets, with the exception of two. I have the LEGO Ideas Wall-E set because I think Wall-E is a cinematic masterpiece. I love that movie, mainly because it’s got an adorable robot. So, I love the Ideas Wall-E set and I also love the Saturn five rocket. It’s just a beautifully designed set and I think it’s a testament to how well the designers were able to capture that shape.
Amy: The latest modular. The one with the bookshop.
Have you kept in contact with your other competitors and, and what has that relationship meant to you?
Tyler: We all keep in contact. We have our own little private chats where all the contestants can just talk with one another and encourage one another. One of the things I was just so delighted by throughout the show is just how supportive and encouraging all of the contestants were to one another. I think that the LEGO community as a whole has just been a wonderful place where everybody’s very supportive and encouraging because we’re all unified by the love of LEGO and creativity. So we love talking and chatting about the episodes and just keeping up with what each other are doing. For example, a few days ago Kara and Jessie were asking for pictures of the baby bump–they wanted a baby update! So it’s really exciting to see just how close we all became as a LEGO Masters family.
Amy: We have everybody on our Christmas letter mailing list now. We hope to keep these friendships for a lifetime.
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