Roan's awesome LEGO cottage model
Roan's awesome LEGO forest cabin model

Interview with LEGO fan Roan Fryer – rdflego

September 20 2018

Adult LEGO fan Roan Fryer, known as rdflego, lives in Norwich in the South East of England.

We came across each other on – you guessed it – Twitter, which seems to be a popular place for my interviewees to hang around in. I love Roan’s building style, and he manages to capture some fantastic photographs of the models too, which he shares on his Instagram and Twitter accounts – well worth a follow!

What is your favourite LEGO set?

LEGO freestyle bucket set

“This is a tricky one because each set I think of has its own advantages and nostalgia attached to it. It’s like trying to determine your favourite film: there’s at least 20 in everyone’s top 5!

Having said that I guess I have to choose the first set I ever received back in 1997; 1797 Freestyle Bucket. It was a simple plastic bucket that contained some basic bricks, roof pieces, wheels, etc. and a minifig or two – but it started me off on a life long journey that made me into the AFOL I am today. I used to pour everything out of it after school and build cross-legged on the living room carpet. I would be completely oblivious to the outside world when it was just me and my little red bucket of joy. I still have it too! It sits next to the chair in my Brickcave, taking pride of place amongst the sorting bins. It’s a little rough around the edges now but it still shines to me.”

Ah, you must have been born a true MOCer – I always built the sets and largely kept them as they were as a child. These days, of course, I’m quite happy to mix parts up and modify sets, or just build something entirely different with the parts!

LEGO fan model

Best MOC you’ve built so far?

“Oh man, how do you choose just one of your children! I always try to make a new MOC every week if I can and I make about 60 MOCs on average per year. I tend to stop working on something once I think “that’ll do” but occasionally I see how long I can keep fiddling.

One of my recent MOCs is one I’m actually proud of; Forest Cabin. What started as an exercise in texturing slowly became an aging cabin in a woods surrounded by nature and decay. The stonework is a mixture of 6 elements in four colours and the roof is made with a net and some 1×2 tiles. The foliage was an afterthought and really challenged me because I don’t usually build natural looking structures. I often struggle with plants and trees so I was happy to push myself to get that result. I also enjoy making cars, buildings and, of course; trains.”

Some really nice textures and use of colours in the forest cabin – love it!

LEGO fan model

What are you building at the moment?

“I’m currently enjoying the Unikitty! theme and I have a few blind bag characters to build but that’s about it. Sets don’t usually last that long with me because I never lost the childlike whimsy of ripping open a set as soon as I get home. I usually build them unassisted but my father is developing quite a collection of his own and he likes to peek over my shoulder from time to time.

My sets don’t hang around for long. I’ve never been a fan of having sets sitting on a shelf collecting dust. It annoys me because I can see the potential in the pieces and what I could turn them into. It annoys me so much that only 0.2% of all my sets are still built with the original designs. Instead the other 99.8% were quickly parted out into my sorting bins so that I can use the pieces to make something of my design. My MOCs don’t take that long either. A vehicle will take around 90 minutes to design and a modular-esc building is about 8-12 hours. Bigger or more complex structures like the Forest Cabin I mentioned earlier take about 24-40 hours (a month of weekends when you map it out). While that seems very time consuming I work on other, smaller MOCs while I’m building something big. I’m currently finessing a train that just seems to get longer and longer at the moment and a three storey building at the same time. I always have an idea of what I’m making next with a few half-baked MOCs laying around. I also keep a notepad on my phone with scribbles, drawings and inspiration for me to pull from when I need to.”

I definitely still get the rush from opening a new LEGO set for the first time. Love the buzz!

I had a long look through your website and it’s full of great LEGO models of all sizes. I particularly loved these cars – the shapes are really nicely captured at this scale.

Which LEGO builder do you admire the most?

I have so many builders that help me day to day whether they are actively doing it or not. If I could thank all of them individually we would be here for a while. I have always appreciated the honesty and integrity of JANGBRiCKS because, whether he is discussing piece availability or how he came to a decision, he always shows his work. He explains the steps and the process of why a certain piece should be where it is. If he’s using big ugly rock pieces to make a mountain he’ll explain that they’re cheaper and just as sturdy as a mountain made out of 2×4 bricks. I love getting knee deep into details like that and JANGBRiCKS has a hypnotic authority on everything LEGO that just fills me with potential.

I must also thank my lifelong friend Dan Lovett for his dedication to LEGO and spreading brick based love across Norfolk and Suffolk. Thank you Dan.”

I’m a big fan of Jang too – I like the way he explains his builds, and his city is fantastic.

Favourite LEGO colour?

“Every colour has its purpose, even New Dark Red, but White is such a powerful base tone to me. It’s unforgiving, inconsistent, difficult to photograph and fades in sunlight if you’re not careful. Its inability to let you hide your mistakes is why I like to start building in white and take my time gently adding colour.”

Yes, white is very unforgiving. I‘m sure every AFOL has had a Bricklink order of white parts arrive, only to be disappointed at the yellowing of pieces!

What’s your favourite LEGO element?

“I’m going to have to buck the trend on this one because it’s not the headlight brick. While I enjoy the headlight brick and it’s versatility this is a surprisingly easy one to answer; the 1×1 round tile. I begged for this piece to be introduced when I was a kid. I asked my parents, I asked my teachers, I even wrote a letter to LEGO asking to have this.

Now that I’m much older I cannot remember why I wanted this so badly but childhood me wouldn’t stop until he got some answers. I do remember that when this piece was finally introduced, I went to a LEGO Pick-a-Brick wall and scooped an entire large cup of Light Bluish Gray 1×1 round tiles. I went from 0 to over 2000 of the dang things in a day! And I love them because they can be anything. I’ve used them for paths, architectural details, track ballast, buttons, fuel caps, they are an easily
overlooked piece in my opinion.”

Sometimes, the simple pieces are the best. For LNUR displays, we have around 40,000 – 50,000 of those pieces to use as loose ballast. Takes a while to set up, but looks great once they’re all down!

LEGO fan model

Most unlikely source of inspiration for a MOC?

“Most of the things I build originate from the world around me like cars, buildings, etc. so my inspiration comes from interacting with a city or a place.

Sometimes ideas come from the pieces themselves by wondering ‘what couldn’t this piece be’. It often leads to experiments where I use droid arms for foliage or Creationary dice for structural supports.

It struck me as odd when I started to get inspiration from a niche podcast called The Adventure Zone back in June of 2017. One story arc features a steampunk car made specifically for illegal combat racing. In this fictional world the main characters were chased through Mad Max type scenarios and I fell head over heels in love with the description of this vehicle. I took what I heard and made a sleek vehicle with massive tyres and lots of adornments to add to the plethora of fanart that already existed.”

Which theme do you wish LEGO would bring back?

“BRING ME JOHNNY THUNDER! The Adventurers theme [1998 – 2003] is the first theme that I remember enjoying along with CITY. Unlike CITY, Adventurers just seemed so fun and exciting because I was discovering the world around me, just like Johnny Thunder and his companions. Johnny would go on expeditions in cars and planes to far flung places just like four year old me was doing.

While I was sitting in the car on the way to the seaside or the supermarket, Johnny Thunder was by my side racing through the jungle on the back seat with me. Oh man, the feels <3″

LEGO fan model

Where do you build your LEGO models?

I’m fortunate that I have a very understanding family who support me and give me space for my hobby. I’m 23 at the moment and I can’t afford to move me & my collection because the housing market has a barrier to entry that I cannot climb right now.

RDFLego and his cat building LEGO

I have a room at my father’s house I like to call my Brickcave which is stacked high with anything from the major brick-based toy brands. The Brickcave contains a 4 metre desk where I build, bins & drawers for parts, some shelves, storage for the instruction booklets and two photography areas. The desk was installed almost a decade ago with everything else slowly accumulating around it. The largest photography area is elevated to my chest height so that I don’t need to bend down to see the image I’m getting. The smaller photography area is lower to the ground so that I can sit in my chair. Other than the Brickcave I share the bed at my mother’s house with our cat named Cookie. He likes to sit by my knees and watch me build as I lay next to him. I don’t enjoy building in public places because people often ask questions I don’t feel comfortable answering.”

Do you want to work with LEGO for a living?

Yes, absolutely! Not just the toy but also the company. I loved every LEGO set I received as a child because they filled me with so much joy and wonder. Each and every brick gave me the ability to travel to distant stars, race around a track or build a house for my minifigs to sleep in at night. The many worlds and universes these bricks helped me to explore energised me to be better at school, college and now; work. When I go to a toy shop I always love to see children/people getting excited by a toy. To be able to give that feeling to people across the world would be so satisfying. Over the past 18 months I’ve been seriously investigating what I would need to do to be a LEGO Designer. I’ve attended independent building workshops to practice my techniques, conversed with AFOLs chasing the same dream and invited to join a Brick Model Building company to obtain some professional experience. The only sight I’m set on is becoming a Product Designer because, as nice as building large-scale LEGO models is, I want to inspire people.

Making Miniland models would be fun but it’s not the same as seeing years of your hard work in a box, sealed with the famous red logo. I want to see children/people pick up a model of my design and be excited to race home & rip it open, just like I was as a child. That sounds so gratifying: to make so many people happy. Admittedly, I’ve still got a long way to go with a lot of learning, rejection and development ahead of me. I don’t see myself achieving this dream in the next few years but I spend time every day thinking ‘how can I make this happen, how can I be better, what makes me a valuable asset, etc.’. It’s finally beginning to feel like an inevitability after all these years. I’m doing as much as I can to make my dream a reality.”

And it’s not just children who get excited in the LEGO aisle in their local toy shop! Ahem.