alice finch's lego room is like visual ASMR for the organizationally inclined. Stacks upon stacks of plastic drawers rise from the floor, each filled with thousands of identical pieces that Finch has diligently sorted by size, shape, and color. First are bricks, then the plates. Next are slopes, arches, even leaves—whatever Finch and her two kids might need for their ambitious Lego builds.
Even in Seattle, where these Danish-born block sets are in constant demand, one does not simply have a Lego room in their home. It started small. Back in 2010, when Finch's son, Thorin, was around six years old, Finch made a decision. "I realized that I wanted to build with him and not just be sort of the accessory that cleans up," she says. "And so I just started thinking, Well, what can I build? And because he was reading the Harry Potter books at the time, I started to build Hogwarts."
That lark became a 400,000-brick creation that went viral and eventually led to Bippity Bricks, Finch's Lego business specializing in architectural and fantasy world models for everything from books to movies. Most of the models she's built over the years remain intact, tucked away beneath cardboard in a storage unit. But in her Lego room at home, where she estimates she has over one million pieces, Finch and her kids get to simply play, brick by brick.
On going viral
"I posted photos [of Hogwarts] on the internet, and the internet noticed. And it really took me by surprise, the response. Lego contacted me and said, 'Hey, do you want to build models for a book?' and I went from basically being a completely obscure newbie that nobody had ever heard of to not being a newbie and giving talks."
On creating massive Lego models
"I usually like to do a lot of experimentation in the brick itself. So for example, when I have an idea of a building that I want to do, I have to do what I call "studies" first. I have to figure out what parts to build for a particular building, what size is it going to be, based on the parts that are available and the colors... And then when I tinker with it for a while, I'll figure out Okay, this is the way I'm going to go. And then I'll start building the actual thing.... As I'm building, I'm solving these little puzzles as they come up, and eventually get to a finished model."
"It's not just like I'm going to build from 9 to 5 today. It meanders a little bit, because the creative process has these pauses where I like to reflect on, Well, which way do I want to make it go?"
"For Potala's palace, that was a few months. Hogwarts was over 18 months. Rivendell was five months, I think, but a pretty intense five months. [The Isle of] Berk was maybe four months."
On growing the Lego community
"I have sort of paralleled the building with a lot of workshops and trainings for kids and adults. How do you collaborate? How do you build big, or technique-based workshops, particularly promoting the link among women and girls. And that, in particular, has also grown into a lot of advocacy for increased diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Lego hobby itself. And with the Lego company directly."
"I actually started two groups with cofounders. The first was the Women's Brick Initiative, which was specifically to support women in the hobby. We still face a lot of discrimination. Believe it or not, it's very male dominated and a lot of stuff happens. And from that came the founding of the Brick Alliance, which is sort of an umbrella group that supports other marginalized communities within the Lego hobby, including gay folks, and Lego Saved My Life, which focuses on mental health and Lego providing therapy for that."
On growing pains
"I no longer attend BrickCon, because it is a completely toxic environment. They are threatened by successful women."
"After Hogwarts and Rivendell, basically, I was seen as a threat. And there's been harassment. In general, there's been nasty rumors, there's playground-like behavior. I choose not to participate in that convention because it is no longer a positive place."
"I believe that the right and appropriate way to build the Lego community is to support your fellow builders rather than be threatened by the rise of new creative people. Some people are threatened by people that change the status quo."
On Legos and family
"Both of my kids also build. Thorin is 19 and Hadrian is 14. We build together, so it's not just me."
"I don't foresee an end [to Lego building] in the near future because they are still active builders. And we share all of the parts in the build space together. It's continued to be a bonding experience."
On the build that started it all
"I am not quite sure what to do with Hogwarts because Harry Potter is not an entirely positive world anymore like it was when I built it. I have to make a decision about what to do about that. It's a huge investment in time and parts."
"I think I'm actually going to turn it into a pride Hogwarts so it has a full spectrum of colors and make it the happiest pride parade you've ever seen. But I've not done that yet. So it's still sitting in storage waiting for, you know, a year where I can make that modification."