AFOL Interview – Deborah Cauchi aka ToysRArt
September 6 2018
I came across Deborah Cauchi with her trade stalls at LEGO shows around the UK. She’s an artist who specialises in LEGO under the alias Toys R Art.
She’s based in Sunderland the North East of England, near to me, so our paths keep crossing. I’ve finally got her to do an AFOL interview – so this one is a little different to previous interviews; enjoy!
You’re not a normal LEGO builder! Can you explain what you do?
“I’m definitely not a normal Lego builder although I do build and my house is full of LEGO. I am actually a figurative artist who has a “healthy” obsession with the minifigure. I take this humble figure and I give it a moment in the spotlight in the form of an oil painting. In doing this I turn what is essentially a small, sometimes forgotten about object, into a work of art.”
Ah yes. I too have a “healthy” obsession with LEGO collecting 😉
I have a quite a bit of your art in various forms – mugs, coasters, prints – and I love them all. They capture the figure designs so well, and provide that little bit of extra life to them.
Do you have a favourite LEGO theme? Why do you love it?
“My favourite theme has got to be my Stormtroopers, who doesn’t love a quirky Trooper? I love manipulating them and putting them into everyday situations, like my “Christmas Jumper day at work” or the “Party Trooper.”
“I enjoy seeing peoples’ reactions when they see them. It’s usually a big smile or a laugh out loud. Art should create some kind of reaction from the viewer and I like that mine makes people smile (most of the time, anyway!).”
You attend a lot of LEGO shows! Which is your favourite to attend each year in the U.K.?
“My favourite has to be Bricktastic for a few reasons: the AFOL makers come from all over the world and the MOCS are just so amazing. We get to meet up with so many friends from the LEGO community and it’s just so nice to catch up with them. It isn’t the busiest in terms of trading for me but I talk to so many families who really enjoy what the event has to offer and the fact that it is for the Fairy Bricks charity just caps it off.
Shildon is definitely my 2nd as it’s my local one, meaning we can go home in the evenings instead of a hotel and it is so lovely to have one in the North East. We are certainly starved of events like this “up North” and it’s an extremely busy one which is always good for us traders.”
Bricktastic is a fantastic show – Kev does a great job of securing some of the best LEGO builders in the UK and from abroad to display, which leads to a really impressive display. Worth going along if you can!
Thanks for the Shildon mention, I was about to say! [I help organise the Shildon show alongside my Brick Alley LEGO User Group colleages]. I think many visitors to Shildon are surprised someone so local has such a niche job – you’re certainly one of our most popular and unusual stalls at LEGO shows!
What’s the strangest request you’ve had for a LEGO portrait commission?
“Over the years, I have had some strange and funny commission requests. I’ve had a wedding one where the bride and groom were obsessed with Back to the Future. The Groom wanted himself in Marty’s outfit and his bride to be as Jennifer with their 2yr old soon as Dr Brown with the DeLorean in the background.”
“The funniest one would have to be a husband commissioning one of his new bride in her wedding dress but in the arms of Chewbacca as she was obsessed with the furry guy. My favourite two was an Adam Ant fan who wanted a Prince Charming one and also a couple who’s nick names were Bunny and the cockney builder, hence a Bunny girl and her Pearly king. These days nothing surprises me.”
What an eclectic mix. I’m disappointed (or perhaps relieved!) there weren’t any really kinky commissions – perhaps that’s next!
There’s definitely something compelling about the mix of LEGO figures, popular culture, and art. And LEGO fans are weird (I should know, I am one and I’m weird!).
What are you working on next?
“Commissions have taken over slightly at the moment so my own work tends to have to fit in when I can but I have a few new ideas whirling round my head.”
“My current work is based on a series of “Portraits of ….”, going back to my love of traditional portraiture I’m playing around with old Ladybird book pages as a background but marrying them up with the topic of the book and a LEGO figure. Hence the Ladybird Book of Cooking with the Lady baker from series 17 and the Ladybird Book of Pirates with the LEGO pirate from series 8.”
On a more adult theme Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead are definitely in the pipeline.”
I can imagine anything Game of Thrones-related being very, very popular. Likewise with the Walking Dead – LEGO zombies are COOL! I really love the pirate portrait – I look forward to seeing what else arrives in this series. Many of the collectible minifigure series have some superb.
While we’re at it – my suggestion for a portrait is this guy from 60173 LEGO City Mountain Arrest: I love his boxer shorts with claw patterning! The figure designers must have been endlessly amused producing this one.
Minifigure image: Bricklink.com