Jack and Dawn Interview (LEGO® Masters)
Following the elimination episode last week on LEGO® Masters, True North Bricks caught up with former contestants Jack and Dawn for an interview. With fellow fan media outlets Brickset, Brothers Brick, and BZ Power, we Zoomed our way through their experiences on the show in addition to learning about their LEGO® story. Be sure to check back later this week for Frank’s recap of the third episode, and early next week for the next elimination interview. For ongoing LEGO® Masters season two coverage, click here.
Until next time,
How long have you guys been LEGO® fans and what are your collections like at home?
Dawn: (Laughs) Go ahead, Jack. Seniority first (laughs).
Jack: Oh, thanks (laughs). I’ve been playing with LEGO® off and on for about 57 years. Obviously, experience doesn’t mean everything (laughs). My collection has actually increased tremendously just since the show. I did not have a lot of LEGO® because my kids are grown and I just hadn’t had the opportunity to get out and do a lot of builds or anything up until just prior to the show. So, I’m slowly increasing my collection. I’m really getting into the Architecture and the cityscapes, and the builds that all connect…
Dawn: The modulars.
Jack: Yeah, the modulars, thank you (both laugh).
Dawn: I knew what you were talking about. That’s what we do, we finish each other’s sentences (both laugh). I didn’t start with LEGO® 57 years ago, but pretty darn close. He’s, what, seven years older than I am? So, give or take seven years. I built mostly stuff with his LEGO® because back in the ‘60s LEGO® was not a girl’s toy. It was very gender oriented, as toys were at the time. But I would use it and I would make homes for the Barbies or whatever else I had, or we’d make ramps for the Hot Wheels (laughs). So, I remember playing Hot Wheels with them. We did various things like that. And then once my kids got to a certain age, we expanded, and we bought LEGO® for them and I never got rid of those. Those sets and bricks are now inter-mixed in with mine, because my kids are all now grown. So, I had a couple of dark ages, I guess you’d say. Then within this past year or so, I really got back into doing some building. The room I’m in is gradually being overtaken by LEGO®, surprise, surprise (laughs). I’m getting more selective as to what I’m buying because I’m buying for parts. I enjoy the sets, but once the set’s put together I want to know: what can I use these parts for? I am more of a MOC builder than a set builder, so that’s what I’m looking at. Specialty parts, I’ve got all kinds of Bricks-and-Pieces orders waiting for me on LEGO®, oh my gosh (laughs).
What has this experience meant to you?
Dawn: It was one of those things, for every step of the process we kept thinking “Oh, we probably aren’t gonna get any farther than this, it’s no big deal, it was for fun.” And it just kept progressing and progressing. Then we got notified we’re actually going to be on the set, and went to the studio, Like we said earlier Jack said “Slap me, see if we’re really here.” It’s an experience that we were blessed to have been able to experience together. And something I wouldn’t trade for the world except for maybe a little bit of the last episode. But other than that it was awesome. The fact is that we now have these 22 additional new friends, that we are constantly in contact with. Messages every day between us, and it’s just crazy how we haven’t stopped. We are already talking about meeting again. Some of us are going to Brick Rodeo. There’s so much camaraderie and honest love between these individuals that it just warms my heart.
Jack: Yeah, it was very surreal. In some ways, it still is today. I have to add on what Dawn said, these are not my friends, these are part of my extended family. I truly do love these people, they’re amazing. I never would have dreamed to be able to be in a competition like this and still have the caring and compassion, and the love that you have between these people. Every time I’ve ever been in competition it was pretty much cutthroat. This was like that. If you had a shortcoming, people are trying to help you up your game and strengthen your weakness. That’s amazing. That’s unheard of in this day and age.
You have talked about your grand-niece Kelsey in both episodes and dedicated your builds to her. Tell us a little bit more about her.
Dawn: It’s very emotional. Kelsey battled with health issues all her life. And two years ago, a tornado took out their house, right after a benefit to help with some finances. It was just awful – they had to find a new place to live, and of course they had vehicles that were damaged and they had property that they couldn’t salvage. A couple years before that she was diagnosed with diabetes, and she had leukemia. It was just was one thing after another that she was battling. They were trying so many different things to try and give her a quality of life. She turned 16 in October, and we lost her just before Thanksgiving. She really did not have a chance to have any quality of life. But she had a love of life, and a love of people. She was just the kind of soul you would always want to meet.
Jack: Her faith was strong, in spite of all the hardships she went through. Her brother was a bone marrow donor. She just struggled and struggled but she never gave up. She was just an amazing spirit. And she loved butterflies and that’s why we went with the butterflies. She had a special connection with them – they would come and land on her. It was a tough ride for her, and she was a trooper.
You wore bracelets in Kelsey’s honor. How can someone get one of their own?
Dawn: Grab a LEGO® DOTS bracelet pack and create away! Choose your color palette, quarter-round tiles make for great lettering options. And notice the yellow butterfly on the end of the bracelet? Made with 3 quarter-round tiles. Take a picture and share it on Instagram with the hashtag #TeamKelseyLEGO and tag Jack (@jackschwarzii) and myself (@msslobrickda) so we can see all your creations.
Who is the more intimidating judge on LEGO® Masters, Amy or Jamie?
Jack: I’ll say Amy (laughs).
Dawn: I’m going to say the same thing. She kind of towers over you. I was very comfortable with both of them, but I would say Amy was probably marginally, a little more intimidating.
What was your impression of the brick pit? Did you discover any new favorite elements?
Dawn: Walking into there and seeing that wall of parts…. I just wanted to just walk right past Will and everybody and just run my fingers through some of those bins right away. It was just so cool. I just wanted to get my hands in there. I don’t know if I had a favorite new part. Although we did use the one by two plate with the handle. That’s what we used for our dentil molding, and that was kind of on the fly. I’m like, “Oh, put these next to each other, look what it does.” I actually have used that technique since then on some other small architectural things I’ve built. So, I think that might be one of my new favorites.
Jack: I think my new favorite is a two by four tile. I liked them. And if you look really close with that last build we did, I used a lot of them. That sidewalk was covered! But yeah, it was amazing just to run to the brick pit and see everything. Other than that, I didn’t really find any new favorites. That piece is the one that worked out real well for what we needed.
Can you share some of the details of your builds that were not shown in the episodes?
Dawn: For the parade float, you could see the bunting around the edges of it. We made it very uniform, so it looked like it was a dedicated float for a parade. We had a lot of kids on the float that represented Kelsey’s family and friends, and they’re holding balloons and just celebrating. All the little different colored things up on the Flexi tubes were actually supposed to be balloons. We were hoping that the motion of the float would jiggle them a little bit, so we would have additional motion with that. On the back side, which was never seen, we had a tree with a little boy swinging. He was frightened, so he had a scared face. With him as well we were looking for some natural motion from the actual movement of the float.
Jack: For the second episode, we started out with explosives in the safe inside of the jewelry store. So, that was never seen. The building next door to the jewelry store on the left side was a pawn shop. The inside was never shown. Part of the things that were supposed to fly up in the air were tools, musical instruments, and things that people would pawn in a pawn shop. There also was a toilet that was supposed to go airborne. Unfortunately, it disintegrated before it got airborne when the actual explosion went off. There were rats, there were jewels. A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
Dawn: We had corbels and cornices, and some dentil work. We really made details because we knew Jamie is really big on architecture. So, we were going to play toward what we knew they liked, and hopefully get a big thumbs up. I posted three pictures on my Instagram where I listed quite a few details. I couldn’t believe how long the list actually was. For example, on the telephone wires, we have brick-built birds. If you looked in the window of the pizza shop, we actually have a brick-built pizza because David and Richard used all the little two by two pizza tiles in their build the week before and they hadn’t been taken apart yet. We’ve got a little dining area off to the side of the pizza place. There was a line of gems that Opal, our jewel thief, was dropping as she was walking away. We wanted to play up the fun stuff.
You got the jewel thief for this challenge. How excited were you to get that character?
Dawn: I was super excited. We were the last ones to draw. It was all random as to who got to draw when, and we got whatever was left. I pulled it out and it’s the jewel thief and glitter! They didn’t show it on the episode, but I could hardly contain my excitement. We knew glitter was going to give the best visual effects on screen. Water can be kind of hard to see. For slime, we didn’t know how much color was going to be there, or how viscous or liquid it was going to be. So, when we saw glitter, I was super excited.
Jack: I was not as excited. I was really unfamiliar with the minifigs, so it was like: “okay, whatever.” That’s where I was at. I was glad that she was happy about it though. And I knew she was happy about the glitter, so that was cool.
Dawn: Glitter and it’s not in my house, so I don’t have to clean it up. That was exciting.
LEGO® creations don’t usually get blown up. What was your strategy with the explosion and glitter?
Dawn: It was hard to blow up. It was hard to think about blowing up your build. You build to stand, and to build to fail that was really hard. You really had to put yourself in a totally different mindset. We had, I think, the right idea, but at the very last minute. I pushed something down with a little more clutch power that I probably should have. Because it wasn’t stuck together, and in my mind, it needs to all be stuck together, you know? It’s the typical way you build. Of course, that was the side that didn’t fall in.
Jack: We actually had walls that were designed to fail. But then we decided to add another feature and add corbels onto the top of the building. That added a little more structural integrity, maybe a little too much. So, it took a lot more to actually knock the walls down. My concern, and why I decided to put the telephone poles in there, was everything was going to blow forward and knock our figure off of the board. The telephone lines were more or less like a net to catch some of that debris. But then when we put those corbels on there it kind of strengthened it just a little bit too much.
How were the explosions set up?
Dawn: They had charges that were about the size of a quarter. We weren’t allowed to handle them, because they had a pyrotechnical professional to do that. We had two small ones and a larger one. We could tell them where we wanted the explosives placed, and what direction we were hoping to go. But never having blown up LEGO®, before we weren’t sure how it was going to react. It was one of those things that mostly worked, but not quite enough.
If you could go back and change something in your last challenge, what would it be?
Dawn: We probably could have used a big rat sitting on top of the jewelry store signifying that evil rat that’s selling the bad jewels. Something bigger than life, you know. Something that’s going to have bright colors just flying out of it when it explodes. We were playing very much to a very detailed small-town scene. Looking at the other builds, we probably could have gone, like I said, bigger and bolder.
Jack: Much bigger, yes.
If you had been in the show a little bit longer, what would your ideal challenge have been?
Dawn: Ideal challenge… I was looking forward to doing the wearable challenge that’s coming up soon. We’ve seen some things in the promos, and I think that’s what they were assigning a color to. At one point, while we were still there, they drew colors and they said “well, this color is for such and such a team” and “this color is for such and such.” We got a color that would have been perfect tying back to Kelsey and her leukemia. We would have had orange. The color of the leukemia cancer ribbon is orange. I was so excited. We didn’t know what we were doing at that point, what that was going to be for. We never got that far. Whatever that assigned color was tying into, I wanted to do that.
Jack: Anything to do with the motors again. We did some research while we were there thanks to Amazon and some overnight shipping and stuff. After the first challenge, I got to know the motors a little better and learned. I was kind of looking forward to playing with them again. So, I guess that would be my answer, anything that was mechanized.
Was there some type of build technique that you were hoping to show in a future episode?
Dawn: I enjoy doing a lot of landscaping in my builds, and we did a little bit with the butterfly. But we weren’t really able to touch on it much. I dabble in so many different techniques. I’m constantly learning, and I get inspiration from a lot of places. It’s just crazy. I’m always trying to learn new techniques. I don’t really know if I have a niche yet, but there’s so much that I just love to do.
Jack: I’m still looking for my niche as well. I don’t really have any specialty technique, per se. I like doing figures as well as architecture. I’ve done a couple figures. I did a biker, for obvious reasons. And then I also did a pianist to go with the Grand Piano. They’re a little different, but they work, and I’m still learning. I learned so many different techniques that people used in the competition that I’m still trying to process it all mentally and apply it.
What are your favorite memories from your LEGO® Masters experience that the cameras didn’t catch?
Jack: Dawn slapping me in the face because I wasn’t sure that we were really on the show.
Dawn: (laughs) He gave me permission! He said: “slap me, are we really here?” So, I slapped him! That and the chance to bond with the other contestants. That was an experience in itself, just getting to be elbow to elbow with all these amazing builders and see their skill level and get to know them as people; not just as amazing builders but as amazing people. Those friendships we are going to carry forever.
Jack: We had a lot of bantering between both of us, and then between a couple of the other teams too. Tim and Zack come to mind immediately because they were next to us. Other than Dawn, Tim was the next oldest person. He’s 19 years younger than I am but there were still old man jokes between us and things like that.
Dawn: There were a couple times where Jack was off doing something else, and I’d be like “get back here old man!” I can do that because he is older than me. There was a lot of very friendly, in good fun bantering that went on between the teams. We just had so much fun together. I hope that in future episodes they will show some more of that, as they won’t have to showcase as many builders. Show a little bit into the actual people and their builds as well as how we each get along with each other because it’s just remarkable.
Jack: The interactions we had in the green room too, while we were off set waiting to go on, were fun. There was a lot of that. And it was amazing. I can’t even describe it. I really can’t describe it. Just the camaraderie that we had in general.
Dawn: They were short one meal at one time and Jack hadn’t gotten his yet, so Caleb gave Jack his meal. Just simple things like that. That shows the caring of everybody trying to watch out for each other, and the human side of the builders.
What was the most difficult part of the show for you?
Jack: The most difficult? Dealing with all the COVID protocol.
Dawn: Yeah, I agree. They took very good care of us. They tested us every other day and we went through so many different tests before we even got there. We were quarantined, so we couldn’t do anything, we couldn’t go anywhere. I know last season, if they got an afternoon off they could go to the LEGO® Store or something like that. We weren’t allowed off of the hotel grounds, unless we were in the van going to the studio. That was probably the hardest thing.
What advice do you have for others who want to be on LEGO® Masters in future seasons?
Dawn: I would say hit the gym. Run sprints. Get used to running sprints in shoes you’re not used to running sprints in, because you aren’t necessarily going to wear the most comfortable shoes every episode. That run to the brick pit can take it out of you.
Jack: I would say do research. Dawn was a little more versed on the motors than I was. I had no idea about any of the coding or any of that until it was presented to us. So, I was a little bit out of touch with some of the newer themes. I wasn’t well into Technic. But we took some crash courses when we headed there. Research, research, research.
What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from season two of LEGO® Masters?
Dawn: I’m going to say go big, go bold, and don’t stop laying the bricks (laughs). That’s a big part of it.
Jack: Yeah, what she said (laughs). And try not to second guess yourself either. Just keep going at it. The lessons I learned were more about the people than anything else. And spending the time with my sister, because we don’t get to spend that much. That was…
Dawn: That was an awesome time. It was very special to do together because we live 300 miles apart. So, having that time to spend together and be creative – that involves our family history, the people in our family are very creative. So, we’re very blessed to have had that opportunity.
What’s ahead of you on your LEGO® adventure?
Jack: Building up my inventory because I don’t have a lot of bricks. I’m trying to increase that. I want to be able to do these mega builds that I see other people do. With my limited supply, it’s hard to even attempt to do it right now. I’m in the middle of a project and it’s like, man, I’m gonna have to make a trip to the LEGO® Store, or order online because I just don’t have enough bricks to do it.
Dawn: I am not done building or learning. I’m going to participate in my first con next weekend at virtual Bricks by the Bay, so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also going to Brick Rodeo in July. There are several other LEGO® Masters from this season that are going as well. It will be a good chance for us to see some of them again. So, I’m dipping my foot into the convention pool. I’ve been doing a lot of the Instagram challenges, but I’m probably going to cut back on that a little bit. I’ve been doing the daily brick challenge since January 1. I’d like to get through the year, but it’s a lot of builds. But I just keep building. I’m planning a trip with a couple other AFOLs from Michigan to our local LEGO® Store soon as a group trip and to hang out for a little bit. My husband is very supportive so that’s a blessing.
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