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Interview: Dave Ware (Brickwares)

Dave Ware, a titan in the mosaic world, has built some awesome mosaics. Over the course of a few days, I was fortunate enough to interview him over the course of a few days about him, his "War of the Worlds" mosaic, and his experience at Brickcon.

Who are you?

"I’m Dave Ware (Brickwares). I’m an AFOL who specializes in LEGO Mosaics. I’m a husband and father. I live in Calgary, Canada, and I work in as a Business/Systems analyst in the Energy industry."

How long have you been into/playing with Lego? Have you ever had a dark age?

"I loved LEGO as a kid, my friend had all of the space sets, and I would play for hours, making mostly the interiors of ships etc. My dark age would be from the usual (13? 14?) until I was about 27, when I saw the Witch’s Windship, and bought it on impulse. Since then, I’ve been collecting sets. I started building mosaics in 2006, after a trip to the local science center with my almost 3 year old son. It was a LEGO Egypt exhibit, and I was fascinated with the map they had built, and wondered if I could make something like that. The answer is “yes”. I started experimenting with colors and designs, and have built around 20 mosaics in the last four years, and have been honored to win the Best Mosaic category at BrickCon in both 2009 and 2010. These days I’m looking at ways of expanding by mosaic building into a side business, trying to find art galleries to hang my pieces in, etc."

How and when did you find the online Lego community?
"I started searching on the web for other mosaics probably in 2006. Early on, I was using MOCpages a lot, but these days I pretty much post my works on my website (brickwares.com), as well as my facebook group and flickr. I’ve made a lot of friends through attending BrickCon the past 2 years, and most of them I stay in touch with through Flickr and facebook. Readingwise, I enjoy Brothers Brick and Eurobricks, and check in daily to see what other people are building. Seriously, the best thing about this hobby is the imagination and creativity that people show, with seemingly no limits."

What themes do you like to build in? (if any?)

"I like building Town stuff, mostly. I’ve been collecting the “Cafe Corner” style sets, and have a nice street made up. I’m trying to learn how to work in that style so that I can make my own buildings, as I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of wonderful style houses in my travels. I also have a soft spot in my heart for the Islanders theme (sub theme of pirates). I can’t explain it, I just really like them."

Ok, now let's move on to your mosaic, "The War of the Worlds."

Where did the inspiration for this mosaic come from?

"Apart from portrait style mosaics, I like to make mosaics of comic book covers, art deco style stuff, and generally iconic images. The important thing to remember about larger scale mosaic building is that you’re going to be working on, and staring at, the image for dozens of hours, so you HAVE to choose subject material that inspires you, something you’re excited about. I had done a classics illustrated comic book cover last year (“To The Stars”,), and found that the comic book covers really have a lot of style and big splashes of color, without being overly intricate. Often I’ll just randomly do Google Image Searches, and also on flickr, to find subjects I think are interesting, and save them to an “idea” folder. I’m a big sci fi fan, as well as a comic book reader, so War of the Worlds was a natural fit. The thing that really grabbed me after I started tinkering with the image was that there were big areas of bold color, which really stand out for me."

The mosaic is absolutely huge! It's one of the biggest I've ever seen. How did you go about designing such a large project?

"It’s big, for sure. I’ve made a couple that were bigger than this, but not many. This past summer for the opening of the first Canadian LEGO brand store, I built a Stampede Poster mosaic that was 7 feet tall by 5 feet wide . And to certain, there are bigger ones out there. The issue you run in to, quickly, is that more baseplates means more brick, and adding a row or column to the mosaic translates to a LOT of brick and time. When I’m trying to sort out how big something needs to be in order to pull the details I need, I always have to keep in mind that adding 1 baseplate in width could translate to an extra 4-5 baseplates worth of brick."

Once it was all designed, how does it stand right side up? Do the bricks connect to baseplates, or do you glue them, or something else?

"The baseplates (X-large) are drilled through, and attached with screws to a piece of 5/8 or ½ inch MDF. I tried plywood in the past, but it bends too easily. There’s a LOT of weight, and it tends to warp the wood quickly. Most people tend to use plate, which would be a lot lighter. I’ve never switched over, I work only in brick. I use everything from 1x1 up to 2x10. I’ve never glued, as that would easily double the time involved, and make the works permanent. That’s fine if it’s for a commission, but with stuff around the house, I generally want to build something else sooner or later, and use the bricks again. Also, it’s LEGO. It won’t fall off or loosen unless lots of people are touching it. For something really public where folks are touching, I’d consider glue."

Were there any other particular challenges that went along with building this mosaic?

"The biggest challenge was one of capacity. I built this for BrickCon 2010, and I wasn’t about to trust it to the airlines, so I knew I’d be driving it, which meant I had to keep the size down to something that would fit in my CR-V. Width-wise I was fine, but it was too tall. I had to remove the top row of16x32 baseplates, and mount those to a separate piece of MDF, and then assemble on site. Recently I installed this piece in a local comic book store, so I had to do it all again. Essentially, there’s a point where big mosaics become all about carpentry!

The other issue I ran into, is that skin color doesn’t translate well in LEGO, so while there is a tan color, it’s not quite right. So for the central gunner in the picture, who was wearing a tank top in the original, I added some camo sleeves to avoid this. Also, there’s a lot of fine detail towards the bottom, so there was some changing and new color choices involved in trying to keep some of the detail."

Next, we're on to Brickcon...

What was your experience at Brickcon 2010 like?

"I had a blast at BrickCon. It’s a great chance to meet other AFOLs, to get inspired about new things, and to see the brilliant creations that people come up with. I made a lot of new friends, and tried out a few new things, like the Speed and Master build challenges. I recommend going to BrickCon, or the other conventions to everyone. Because of the size of the mosaics, and the fragility of them, I end up driving down. It’s a two day trip, but I really enjoyed the whole experience."

Was there a large presence of mosaics there?

"I think there might have been fewer mosaics this year, but the quality was certainly there. There was a beautiful castle mosaic in a very classic style, an Obama “Hope” poster, and a few others."

You also mentioned that you won an award for the War of the World's mosaic which is also your second mosaic award from Brickcon. What was that like? Were you shocked to win again?

I was honored to win the award, it’s always thrilling to be recognized, especially by your peers. While I don’t build the mosaics for BrickCon for awards, it’s certainly a nice pat on the back. Hopefully we can encourage other people to create mosaics for next year.

Do you plan on going to Brickcon next year?

"I’m planning on going. It’s a long time from now till then, but unless something major comes up, I’ll be there."

And lastly...

What does the future hold for Dave Ware?

"Short term, I’m working on displaying my work in local shops and hopefully a gallery. Long term, I’d love to do this for a living. Until then, I’ll keep building things I like, and hopefully others will feel the same way."

Many thanks to Dave Ware for the interview! Even more thanks for your patience! ;-D View all kinds of things about Dave, below:


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