Following the events of LEGO® Masters season three, episode five, Jon and Xavier were sadly eliminated from the show. While they produced a detailed French Bulldog, ultimately the sculpture did not hold up on the catwalk. We caught up with Jon and Xavier for an interview following the episode. They shared with us some hindsight as well as their experiences in the LEGO® hobby. We conducted this interview in collaboration with Brickset and some of their content is featured here. You can watch clips from the interview below or read on for more!
How did you get into the LEGO® hobby?
Jon: I started really early. What they didn’t show [in LEGO® Masters] was pictures of us both playing LEGO® when we were super young. I think that was before [LEGO®] had the age range. “Kids this young shouldn’t be playing with LEGO®!” [laughs]
Xavier: I was young, so I don’t remember specific LEGO® sets that I had. I know there’s a video of me building a little house. I was being babysat when I was three or four years old. I remember the babysitter asking me and my sister to get lunch and I was too busy building. They have it on a VHS. I was like, “I… DON’T… WANT… NOODLES!!!” I just wanted to keep building.
I always had that blue LEGO® briefcase. That really thick plastic one that you carried everywhere. But, I never really got crazy obsessed with it until 1998. The first set that I got was 6558, Shark Cage Cove. That was enough for me. I didn’t even realize there was instructions. I looked at the back of the box and thought, “I’m going to try to build that.” Just looking at that and looking at the catalog and seeing the amazing number of sets that existed, all these little worlds and micro-stories. They didn’t necessarily have a story, but you could kind of just imagine what you could take from it. That already got me going. I was already obsessed at that point.
Less than a year later, a substitute teacher asked the class what they wanted to do when they grew up. I told her that I wanted to build with LEGO® and get paid for it. She didn’t understand what that meant. Then, when I look at my journey later on, I remember I was going through a rough transition. Jon helped me get back into it. He was working at the LEGO® Store, and I remember telling him I was bummed that I didn’t get to work there. I told him that when I was younger, all I wanted to do was build with LEGO®. He helped me get a job and get me back on my feet. That got me where I need to be.
I’ve had a lot of great experiences building with LEGO®. I’ve gotten to work at a Discovery Center, I was a Master Builder for a brief moment, I got to visit the headquarters, meet LEGO® Masters, and go to conventions. I’ve experienced a lot just from this thing that I was obsessed with when I was younger and still love now. I even got to meet the president of the company!
It’s crazy to imagine myself as a kid being obsessed with this one set that took me through this entire journey in my life. To be able to have all these wonderful experiences because of this toy, and even being on the show, it meant a lot. It still means a lot. There are so many experiences I’ve enjoyed just because of this toy and this company. I’m very grateful for everything.
We don’t get to see much of the creative process you go through on the show. For example, in the last episode you had to build a realistic dog sculpture. Where do you begin with something like that?
Jon: We started creating game plans. Template-wise, we were like, here’s the concept, we’ll spend 30 minutes there, we’ll create a prototype really quickly, and then we’ll decide how to spend the rest of our time. From what I remember of that episode, it was frame, then legs. Xavier was the lead design on the sculpture of the face.
Xavier: Jon is very good on smaller builds, and he packs a lot of detail. But I’m more familiar with building on a bigger scale and trying to make sure the frame is set. So, I tried to make a frame that Jon could understand and work with while I focused on the details of the face. That was the strategy that we had and we tried to break it down to time periods. Then you realize how little time you actually have or how fast time actually passes. I thought I would have been done something in three hours. It wasn’t done, so we had to adjust. That’s where it got a little difficult.
We did have a strategy, it’s just finding that balance. How much time do we really need to invest on something versus making sure we pass their criteria. After that, we could focus on the finer details and presentation. I’ll take the fall for it, I kind of got a little caught up on the details aspect of it. But it is what it is. It’s a competition and you don’t really have a lot of time to make up for split decisions that you made that may not have been the best decision at that time.
Jon: I think a learning lesson post-mortem is that when you are hitting the one hour or two hour mark before the build ends, run it through as if you were going to present to the judges. Make sure you are solid. The worst thing that will happen is what happened with Xavier and I. We didn’t fully test what it was supposed to do at the end of the day. Don’t lose sight of that.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on the show?
Xavier: For the first couple challenges, we were very fortunate to have tables closer to the brick pit. The way that Jon and I both build, we’re definitely more of a mess-around-and-find-out type of thing; grab the pieces as we need. There’s not a lot of preconceived pieces that are like, “we’re definitely gonna need that!” It’s like, “oh, we could use that!” Then our table is a whole mess.
Being closer to the brick pit was definitely an advantage. I don’t want to say it was the only reason, but in the later challenges it was definitely an adjustment having to be more deliberate about the choices that we made when we did go to the brick pit. You don’t have a lot of time for going back and forth. You’ve got to grab pieces; do we need them or not?
[The show crew] is constantly trying to replenish too. You could run there and look for the piece that you want, and it’s not there yet. So, you end up waiting. You have to pivot and work on something else. For me, that was our biggest adjustment.
Jon: On my end, it was a bit of nerves. There was a little bit of mental blockage. We’re both pitching ideas, trying to figure out what the concept is. You wonder, is this enough? Is this what the judges are looking for? Does this hit all the right beats?
Xavier: To add to that point, you’re used to a set way of building and knowing what looks nice to you. In a competition, it’s much different. Jon would always provide that outside perspective and would help me reset a little. It was kind of like, “whoa, you’re focusing too much on this, I need you to work on that.”
It’s a give and take too. Sometimes Jon would have some crazy ideas and I’d love it, but we didn’t have the time to do it. There was a lot of figuring out what we can do within the time that we have. It’s definitely a learning process in the moment. It’s not something you can really account for right off the bat.
What advice do you have for adults just getting into the LEGO® hobby?
Jon: Find what you like the most out of a set and just run with it. I mean, it’s different for everyone, I think. For me, I found an Exo-Force set called Supernova, 7712. That set really turned me into a mech-focused builder. I ended up following a bunch of really talented LEGO® MOC accounts and just tried to analyze their techniques. Reverse engineer how they did it. That’s my process of learning how to build.
I remember when I was building on LEGO® Masters with Xavier. This is not word for word, but he said, “it’s time to stop playing, let’s start building.” We were in a tense moment, and we were like, “alright, let’s build.” There’s a difference between playing and building.
Xavier: I don’t remember saying that. That’s crazy! [laughs]
In a sense, I had to get back into the hobby myself. Not to say that I lost it completely, but I wasn’t immersed in that world for a while. I would say for any adult getting back into the hobby, find the sets that you would enjoy. But I would also say don’t stop there. You can build something and put it on a shelf, and it looks great. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what got me really excited was seeing all the MOCs that people would build. Early on, when I started getting back into it, there wasn’t really many anime MOCs online. I thought I would try to build my own.
I decided to take apart sets and reverse engineer them. It doesn’t always come out the way you want it to. Be willing to figure something out and make something that you would really like to see. I wouldn’t say wait for someone to make it for you. If you really want to make something, there’s nothing stopping you from trying to do that. That’s what I would say to anyone getting back into the hobby. Just start building, but if you want to make something of your own, take that next step.
A huge thanks to Jon and Xavier for this interview. Their energy and dynamic on the show was great and I am sad to see them go. However, if you want more from the team, you can follow Xavier Viloria (@xviloria) Jon Alcontin (@dauntlessmecha) on Instagram. Moving forward, eight teams remain in LEGO® Masters, season three! Who will be next to join us on the interview circuit? You’ll have to watch episode six on Wednesday night to find out. The show airs at 9:00 pm EST on FOX and CTV. Meanwhile, catch up with our full season three coverage!
Until next time,
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