Seattle's LEGO Superstar: Alice Finch Goes 'Beyond the Brick'
This weekend at the Seattle International Film Festival you can catch a one-of-a-kind movie that’s so unique, it has its own genre: a “brickumentary.” The family-friendly documentary Beyond the Brick gives a close-up look at the world of LEGO, from the toy’s beginnings to its blossoming “builder” community — many of which are adults.
Beyond the Brick features a number of builders from the Seattle area, including local LEGO superstar Alice Finch. Alice, a mom of two, has showcased her stunning builds at like conventions Emerald City Comicon and BrickCon. Built from hundreds of thousands of bricks and pieced together over many months, Alice’s re-creations of Hogwarts and the fictional town of Rivendell from The Hobbit are practically LEGO legends.
ParentMap chatted with Alice about becoming a master LEGO builder, advice for getting into projects of your own and if everything is cool when you’re part of a LEGO-building team.
Did you play with LEGO as a child?
I remember playing with LEGO and Duplo. I definitely did have experience with just general bricks, but somehow still found ways to make houses back then. I’m still building architecture now – so there’s definitely a connection.
What inspired you to pick up the bricks again?
One of the main reasons I got back into building in general was because of Hogwarts and its Great Hall. My first main solo build was Hogwarts. The Great Hall was the beginning; that’s how it all started. The room that began it all, I guess you could say.
One of my test models was the Camlin Hotel in downtown Seattle. It’s a historic building right smack in the middle of the city. It sort of got my feet wet [with building].
What do you think has caused this recent surge of popularity in LEGO?
I think the popularity has always been there – people are just finding ways to have more awareness of it. For example, when I first started to build, I didn’t know what a LUG was. LUG is the acronym for LEGO User Group, and it’s basically a club for LEGO builders. They existed when I first started, but I didn’t know about them.
Gradually they’ve become known enough that we’re catching some momentum from it. So SeaLUG used to be 20 members, and now it’s 150-200 members. The word is getting out. We have a forum for sharing and collaborating and having fun, doing this all together.
The Beyond the Brick documentary focuses on the LEGO fan community, and many of the participants at BrickCon took part in it. Does Seattle have a highly active LEGO community?
They filmed at the convention itself and then actually filmed at our house. The opening scene of the movie is actually of Thorin, my son, in our LEGO room. Our whole family is certainly well represented. But there are actually quite a few builders in the area who are in it, who are either momentarily in the film or featured in some way.
BrickCon is the oldest U.S. LEGO convention. It’s not the largest, but it is the oldest. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest have a very strong and active building community. We have a very good display for showing all the variety of builders out there.
Speaking of variety of builders, is it rare to be a female in the LEGO fan community?
Yes. For a long time LEGO has targeted their products toward boys, and boys grow up to men. Only recently have they been creating products that are highly attractive to girls as well. I’m hoping that this will over time even out, because we’re certainly as capable and imaginative and creative.
Sometimes it takes seeing a role model to inspire you to do something like this. The more visible women builders are, the more we can inspire girls to build.
While the LEGO Friends are a step in the right direction, do you have any other advice for getting girls interested in building bigger projects with LEGO?
Some of the architecture sets lend themselves well. They’re not just basic bricks, but have a theme to it that’s not just pink and purple. I find that there are a lot of things that you can use them for other than the original model that blend in well with the other colors available.
If you are a burgeoning builder and you want to do more, you can find additional resources online. We’re starting the My Own Creation (MOC) shop on BrickLink, which will be a good way for people to see what other people are building. So there are an increasing number of ways young builders can get involved and meet people that create models in the same theme they’re interested in.
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May 16, 4 p.m., Lincoln Square Cinemas
May 17, 3:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown
May 18, 2:30 p.m., SIFF Cinema Uptown