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Interview: Ben Caulkins (Jetfire35)

Today we have our very first interview. Over a few days I was able to talk back and forth with TFOL, Ben Caulkins, a.k.a. "Jetfire35". We talked about him, his Halo Master Chief mosaic, and his experience in Brickworld. Let's get started...

Who are you?

"My name is Ben Caulkins, I'm fifteen, and I'm from New York (no the city)."

How long have you been playing/into Lego?

"I think I came out of the womb building Lego. I've been building for as long as I can remember, and longer than that. I remember in kindergarden when everyone was playing with wooden blocks, I was sitting quietly on the floor building Lego. But it wasn't until I was eleven that I started building seriously."

How and when did you find the online Lego community?

"Since I was ten I had known of the online community, but not all of it. I regularly checked Brickshelf for new products coming soon, and Mocpages and Flickr for peoples' Mocs. I was very inspired by the builders Kevin Fedde (Crimson Wolf), Red IV, and Keith Goldman, who really got me started into building. But it wasn't until I met Arthur Gugick and he said I should join the online community that I started posting my Mocs on Mocpages when I was thirteen.

What themes do you like to build in?

What I like to build the most are things from movies. It could be a robot or a spaceship. But I prefer to do the robots like Optimus Prime, or the Terminator, or the AMP suit from Avatar. But recently I've been doing some more creative stuff in the space theme, one of the Mocs I've done in that theme even receiving an award nomination at Brickworld (for those who were there it was big and speckled with orange). And even more recently I've been building in the Halo theme, which I find a good thing to work with when there are no new movies with robots in them.

Now on to your mosaic,

When did you get the idea to build the Master Chief Mosaic?

"As I became more involved in Halo, I wanted to do something for the Master Chief. I didn't really want to do something 3-d, so I though I'd try my hand at mosaics, but for me using colors was out of the question, so I settled on black and white."

Did you use any online or computer programs to help design the mosaic, if any?

"To design it, I first found a good picture of the Chief, pixelated it, and turned it black and white. I then used LDD to design a model of the chief as close to the picture as I could. When I was done, I slapped a halo logo on it as well as my internet alias to take up space, and then sent the order in to shop at home."

How large is the mosaic?

"It's 64x80 tiles, so that's 5,120 tiles, although there are a few missing because the TLG sent me some pieces in the wrong color so I left those spots blank. So it's dimensions are approx. 20x25 inches."

The mosaic is made mostly of 1x1 tiles, especially orange ones, how did you go about acquiring so many?

"Actually, it's made of entirely 1x1 tiles, which I did to give it a consistency all the way through. I acquired the parts through the online pick a brick store, which I learned is a lot cheaper than shopping from LDD because of the instructions that come with LDD. Also, I learned that Lego is not entirely reliable, as I have already said I didn't get exactly what I asked for, but it worked out for the most part."

Is the mosaic still in tact? Or was it scrapped for parts?

"Well, I disassembled it for the trip back from Brickworld, and have yet to put it back together, although I plan to at some point. It has proven to be a very popular Moc, and I plan to keep it around for future exhibitions."

Now on to Brickworld...

I understand that you brought this mosaic to Brickworld. What was your overall, general experience of Brickworld?

"My experience of Brickworld was overwhelming. I had never attended a Lego event aside from a very small festival around where I live where I met Arthur Gugick, and that's meant more for little kids anyway. But at Brickworld, it was the first time I had been surrounded by people who shared my love of the brick. My eyes were opened up to a much larger community where everyone is accepting of everyone else no matter if they like G.I. Joe's or are obsessed with Star Wars, and I am proud to have been a part of it. Also, I was able to see some of the most impressive Lego Mocs I had ever seen."

Did you attend any of Mosaic workshops?

"No, I did not attend any of the mosaic workshops. Although I had thought about it, but I thought that there wouldn't be anything I didn't already know. Apparently I was wrong, but luckily my table buddy was the teacher of that workshop and he offered me some tips."

Will you be attending next year?

"I will absolutely be attending Brickworld next year, and will hopefully be able to stay for the closing ceremonies next time. But I wouldn't miss it for the world."

And lastly,

What is the future hold for Ben Caulkins? Any more mosaics?

"In my foreseeable future, I'm thinking of doing a layout of models that tells the story of the film 2001: a space Odyssey, and I've already finished one of it's iconic ships, a midi-scale Discovery One. Also, if I go through with the display, I would like to include a mosaic depicting the stargate sequence. Further in the future I look forward to building another Vic Viper which I've already made some Bricklink orders for. The last thing I've planned out is a model of one of the drones from Iron Man 2. But mosaics are a tricky thing, and a bit pricey, but whenever I can, I'll try to squeeze them in."

To see Ben's fantastic MOCs, visit his Flickr photostream, here or visit his MOCpages account here.



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