A passion for Lego has provided a Nanaimo father and former professional artist with a new creative outlet and a chance to teach children how to work together creatively.
Richard Hoedl has created Brick Masters Academy, a business that offers year-round Lego brick workshops designed to inspire, educate and entertain while teaching children to collaborate to solve building challenges.
Hoedl’s fixation on Lego started about a decade ago when he was given a collection of the bricks from a relative for his then-newborn son Lucas. Some of the Lego kits dated from the 1980s.
It wan’t until a few years later when Hoedl finally pulled the bricks out of storage and father and son started rooting through the collection. They started building together and supplementing the collection with purchases from garage sales and flea markets where they would sometimes find bins filled with the plastic bricks.
For Hoedl, who hadn’t worked as an artist since 2008, the growing Lego collection offered a whole new opportunity for creative expression while playing with his son.
“It just kind of kept going until we had giant piles of Lego,” he said.
Hoedl, who said he likes teaching and being around children, hit on the idea of creating Brick Masters Academy, which among other benefits provided justification to buy even more Lego. The academy offers scheduled workshops sessions, based on a theme, often with bricks from limited-edition kits.
“We come in. We learn different techniques. We hang out and we build these things,” Hoedl said. “A lot of it is building stuff that they just would never get a chance to. The last session we did was train building, so it’s all old trains. We had a dozen train cars.”
Some of the custom Lego sets have been out of production for decades. Others are just strange, such as the Lego Bionicle series of kits.
“They’re kind of weird-looking, alien robot things that Lego put out quite some time ago,” Hoedl said. “They don’t do them anymore, but there’s still a lot of people that still collect them.”
Hoedl runs a summertime series of workshops plus sessions through the school year and free sessions in Vancouver Island Regional Library Branches.
“We’ve been starting to do the free things at the libraries and stuff like that to, sort of get out there and engage other kids and let them know what’s going on and just to have fun with Lego,” Hoedl said.
To learn more about Brick Masters Academy, visit the academy website at www.brickmastersacademy.com/.