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Interview: Chris Howard (Duckingham)

Today we have our second interview, with Chris Howard. Over a few days I was able to talk back and forth with AFOL, "Duckingham", and we talked about him and the many things that he does all over the internet. Let's get started...

Who are you?

"My real name is Chris Howard, though anywhere and everywhere online you'll find me using "Duckingham." Except on my webcomic, The Brick Side, it's Chris Howard there.

I am 34, married, and have 4 kids (8, 5, 3, & 2 -- yeah, things are crazy-go-nuts in our house). I grew up in the beautiful state of Maine, but have lived in South Carolina since college."

How long have you been playing/into Lego?

"Some of my earliest memories are building with Duplo and LEGO toys around when I was 3 or 4. So, I'm pushing 3 decades here. Makes me sound old. I never had a "dark age" per se, though there was a bit of a "grey" age between the time that my folks quit being LEGO sets for me and the time when I could afford them on my own. I never stopped building, though it did slow down a lot in college."

How and when did you find the online Lego community?

"In 2006 we took a trip to Disney World and I spent a bit of time at the LEGO store there at Downtown Disney. Allan Bedford's The Unoffocial LEGO Builders Guide had recently come out and I bought it. And devoured it. He referenced some websites which I began to check out. I also started Googling "LEGO," discovered The Brothers Brick, and the rest is all a blur. I have a MOCPages account, but don't use it much. I'm more active on Flickr."

What themes do you like to build in?

"My favorite themes growing up were Castle and Space. I still have a strong affinity for Castle, though I'm a bit more ambivalent toward space -- perhaps in part b/c Star Wars has almost completely replaced Space. I don't mind the sets that go w/ the classic Star Wars sets -- I really like the Empire Strikes Back sets (it was always my favorite SW film) -- but I almost can't stand the Clone Wars sets (though I recognize it's pretty much a cash cow for LucasFilms and LEGO, so no problem there, I just don't want them.)

I bought most of the recent Pirate line (still don't have the Imperial Flagship), and most of the Indiana Jones sets. I don't have tons of time for building stuff just for the fun of it, except when it comes into play for something on The Brick Side. I have a tricky balance to maintain between building with my kids (which is still mostly DUPLO), and having time to build just for me.

I did recently spend an hour with my 8-year old building robots based on the YouTube video advertising Sean Kenney's upcoming book. I imagine we'll be doing quite a bit of robots when the book comes out next month."

Now that we know a little about you, let's talk about the many things you do in the online world starting with, BricksABillion.

You run a blog called "BricksABillion". What is it and why did you start it?

"BricksABillion was originally the name of my Bricklink store. Well, it still is -- though I only sell on Bricklink on and off, mainly use it for buying (as most of us do, right? well, except of course for the sellers). So, I had the name from that, but I also spent a great deal of time wrestling over what exactly I wanted to do with Duckingham Design -- did I want to use the site just to blog my own creations, or did I want it to be my "all-in-one" website?

Eventually I decided that the sole purpose of the website sitting on duckingham.com should be particularly for the branding purpose of my side business as a freelance LEGO artist. That is why you will only see things I've created there -- I don't want to water down my own efforts to build that business by blogging everyone else's creations. But you know what? I still really wanted to be able to blog other people's creations -- especially as a part of my journey toward becoming a better builder. So as I learn techniques, or see examples of things I'd like to be able to do better, I blog them."

BricksABillion is also described as a "Catablog." What's a Catablog?

"In an effort to describe what I envision BricksABillion as I combined the words "Catalog" and "blog" -- I've never seen that word before, so maybe I made it up. BricksABillion is a blog intended to be a "catalog" of tools, tips, and techniques for building with LEGO bricks. Hence, a "Catablog."

You also have a web comic, "The Brick Side". What's the webcomic about, and when did you start it?

"The Brick Side is a variety comic, originally envisioned as a LEGOfied version of The Far Side. I do a lot of 1-off episodes, but to retain sanity I also have a number of ongoing storylines. I began posting comics in late April, first on
duckingham.com, then I went ahead and bought the domain name and moved things over there. I recently updated the theme with ComicPress, and am relatively pleased with the results. Of course, ComicPress doesn't build the strip for you, but it does make the time to post more efficient. :) "

Do you have any personal favorite episodes from it, or any great memories that have come from the comic?

"Personal favorites? Usually whatever episode I'm putting together at the moment. :) Actually, I'm really really enjoying the new theme I just started, "The 4 Riders." There are a few things going on there that has been different than a lot of the previous episodes. The pictures are a lot more close-up on the characters and the dialog visuals are a little more complicated -- each character has it's own coloring and bubble style for his speech. And they have a sort-of a "three stooges" kind of thing going on.

Great memories? When I was at BrickWorld in 2009, I set out the Bad Minifigs as part of the display. During the public days, a kid came by, looked and said, "hey, are those the 'bad minifigs' from The Brick Side?" I said, "Yup, that's my webcomic." And he said, "I love The Brick Side." That made my day. :) And then any time someone I know randomly references an episode of The Brick Side ... yeah, that really does it for me, too."

Lastly, we will talk about Duckingham Design.

What is Duckingham Design?

"Duckingham Design is my personal outlet for displaying my portfolio of LEGO creations -- sculptures, portraits, and other mosaics that I've built."

What made you start up the business side of it? What made you think, "Hey, I can do this!", or something...?

"Someone put a gun to my head and said, "You need to go play with LEGO bricks." Okay, just kidding -- but I say that to contrast it with the idea that ... these are LEGO bricks we're talking about .... I've always had the brick around. I've always been creative. I've always loved to incorporate LEGO building into aspects of my life. So when I saw that there are people like Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney who actually make a living building with LEGO toys all day ... that made me think, "Hey, I can do this...at least in a part-time sort of way." So I do.; I haven't quit my day job at this point. But I'm also not opposed to doing so."

If someone would like you to make them something, either a mosaic, sculpture, etc., how would they go about doing that?

"I have a blurb at the top of duckingham.com that introduces folks to what I'm up to. There is a link to the "ever seen yourself in brick?" page and multiple links to my contact page, where there is a drop-down to let me know if you're interested in a portrait or mosaic, a sculpture, or just have a random question. I offer free estimates, always respond within a couple hours to any question or request I get (hate to avoid a potential sale by being slooow)."

Lastly, what does the future hold for Christopher Howard?

"Wow, there's a question! I write lists of long-term goals and short-term goals for myself, that I continually work at and continually revise. :) God has not promised us tomorrow, so I try to keep that in mind as I plan. At this present time I continue to plan on writing my webcomic, building sculptures, and mosaics, and to continue to try to grow Duckingham Design. But not necessarily in that order. :) I also have my wife and kids who are (to me) much more important than any of that. But it helps that they all like LEGO toys, too...so as the days go by and we can incorporate the LEGO building in with family activities, it's win-win."

Thanks to Chris Howard for the interview. To view all of Chris' things, click the links below. He makes a lot of cool mosaics.


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