Montrealers know the Orange Julep. This fast-food staple has graced Décarie boulevard since 1967, offering up hotdogs, fries, and a signature orange drink. More recently, the Julep has been in the news for entirely un-food related reasons. A Montreal based artist, Addy Parsons, took Montreal’s Orange Julep and built it using LEGO® Bricks. Her work made the rounds of Reddit and Instagram before appearing on Global News. Now, Addy’s sharing her story directly with the AFOL community in a sit-down interview with True North Bricks. Additionally, you can watch a video of my interview with Addy at the end of this article.
Addy’s love of the brick started at a young age. She remembers being three or four and already playing with her mother’s childhood LEGO® bricks in the bathtub at her grandparents’ house. “I have loved LEGO for as long as I can remember,” she recalls. “I remember being a little kid in the bath, when I was three or four, and having this little red LEGO® boat with a little attachable weight. The boat would float around in the bubble bath with me. It just kind of continued throughout my life. I went to fine arts school, and I found a few ways of incorporating LEGO® into some of the projects I did then. There’s always been a bin of LEGO® within arms reach of my life, I guess you could say.”
Addy played with hand-me-down bricks from a very young age.
While Addy played with hand-me-down bricks from a young age, her first actual set came around 2007. Anyone remember 7994? “I remember going out to PlayValue in Ottawa and buying my very first LEGO® set with money I had saved up,” says Addy. “It was the LEGO® City Harbor, with the big, blue City Lines boat and the red crane. I was ecstatic to have that.”
While Addy maintains she never really went through a dark age, it was more recently that her brick artistry started to bud. During the pandemic, she found LEGO® bricks again in big way. Inspiration came from right outside her front door in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood. “I’m originally from Ottawa,” Addy recounts, “and Ottawa does have some beautiful buildings. But they are kind of few and far between. The old architecture there hasn’t survived in the same way that it has in Montreal.”
During the pandemic, Addy began exploring Montreal’s architecture through LEGO® bricks.
“I started making Montreal landmarks just because I was so inspired by the architecture that we have around us in this beautiful city. Montreal has done a really good job of preserving the old architecture, but also incorporating new architecture. You see examples of really, really beautiful, old-school buildings, as well as contemporary structures like the Orange Julep, and mixes of them both. There’s lots of inspiration in Montreal, for sure.”
So far, Addy has already built numerous houses from around the Plateau. However, she has created a number of more iconic buildings from around the city as well. Included among those are Schwartz’s Deli, the de Sola house on des Pins, the Couche-Tard/Tim Hortons by Snowdon Metro, and of course, Montreal’s Orange Julep. “I decided to make the Orange Julep because I wanted the challenge,” says Addy, “and maybe because of a little masochism. I had a few people suggest to me that I try to do the Orange Julep after I did Schwartz’s deli. However, just given the nature of it, I was a bit intimidated to try taking on the project. I knew it was going to be a bit difficult.”
“I really wanted to see if I could do it… and the Orange Julep was born.”
“Once I sort of got going with it, it became more of a determination thing. I just really wanted to see if I could do it. It took a long time, but finally, I figured out all of the small details that were holding me up and the Orange Julep was born.”
The final model of Montreal’s Orange Julep consists of 1635 bricks and measures 44 cm wide, 39 cm deep, and 25 cm high. Recalling the build experience, Addy says: “it took a little while. I had to come back to it over time. The actual dome part of the Julep is based off the LEGO® Globe. For the keen eye out there, you might notice that not all the exterior plates are the same as the Globe. Unfortunately, not all of the blue plates that are in the original set are available in orange. So, I had to change it around a little bit.”
Addy’s Julep consists of 1635 pieces and took six months to develop in Stud.io.
“How the dome would be incorporated into the service area of the Orange Julep, and how the whole structure would be supported without the support that is included in the original Globe, that took a long, long time to figure out. I’d say, probably the entire Julep, no physical building, took six months to design. So, coming back to it over the course of six months multiple times to fully flush it out before I was happy with it.”
In terms of details, Addy’s LEGO® Orange Julep has it all. But among her favorites are the flags. “They are so fun, and they make me really happy. They’re actually kind of an iconic part of the real Orange Julep. They’re all sort of spraying around everywhere in the wind, so it’s kind of fun.”
“How can it be authentic without an orange cone?”
And, of course, what tribute to Montreal is complete with a nod to our deplorable roads. Addy points to a toppled over traffic cone on the side of her Julep. “These little traffic cones are inspired by the Instagram account, Ponto. He’s a cute, little, plushy orange cone who travels around Montreal and documents his journey in different parts of the city. This is kind of a little tribute to Ponto and life in Montreal. I mean, how can it be authentic without an orange cone?”
Sadly, at this point in time, Addy’s Orange Julep cannot be seen on display anywhere in the city. It was commissioned for a private collection. Addy has a number of other private commissions of buildings from around the city in the works right now at her downtown studio. One such project, involving a hotel in the Old Port, is nearing fruition. Addy sees her commissions as a fun means to an end.
“In the future, I am hoping to do an exhibition of Montreal based landmarks and culturally important buildings.”
“As it is now, I am primarily focusing on commissions,” Addy admits. “In the future, I am hoping to do an exhibition of Montreal based landmarks and culturally important buildings. That collection of structures will be fully chosen by myself. I think the Orange Julep will probably be included in that. I have a couple of other ideas of structures I’d like to include. But that’s sort of a longer-term project which I’m working towards. Doing the commission work will allow me to do a project like that because LEGO® is not cheap. To create an exhibition like that is a large endeavor. So, hopefully we’ll see some fun LEGO® exhibitions in the future.”
In terms of advice to any AFOLs following in her footsteps, Addy says: “you need to find a good supplier, someone who you can rely on and someone who you can trust, because having to sort out 10,000 LEGO® bricks to make sure that all 10,000 are actually there is a lot of work. As well, you should have fun with it. I didn’t start doing this with the intent of making money or anything like that. That’s probably why people have gravitated towards it. I think people recognize that it’s kind of art in its own right. There’s a lot of people out there who make really, really beautiful art with LEGO®. I think its just fun for everybody. It’s fun to explore.”
LEGO® is a physical manifestation of expression.
“I think the thing I like most about LEGO® is the creative freedom,” professes Addy. “I love how colorful it is, I love the sensory feeling of putting it together, and the sound of it snapping together. You can make anything from an abstract shape to a super detailed and complex model. The possibilities are endless. It’s kind of a physical manifestation of expression. You can just do whatever you want with it.”
Montreal’s Orange Julep is just the beginning. With several projects currently in the works, and a dream of a brick-built Montreal landmarks exhibit in 2024, there’s plenty more to come from Addy. To keep up to date with her exploits, be sure to follow her on Instagram (@brickablock). What Montreal landmarks would you like to see in her show? Let me know in the comments below or reach out on social media.
Until next time,
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