Kristal Dubois began building with LEGO as an adult and enjoys creating intricate mechanical models. Kristal is a high school mathematics and chemistry teacher and lives with her partner, Jason, in Ottawa, Canada. Together they are JK Brickworks. In addition to teaching and building with LEGO, Kristal also enjoys rock climbing.
How did you get started building with LEGO bricks?
I actually didn’t play with LEGO at all as a kid. My little brother had some, but he was five years younger than me, and I was way too cool to play with his toys. When I first met my partner, Jason, I had no idea that there were adults that played with LEGO. The first time I saw his LEGO room and the enormous wall of LEGO sets piled in his dining room, I was flabbergasted!
Eventually we moved in together and I went back to school to get my teaching certificate. During that year, I was pretty set on moving the LEGO out of the dining room, so I slowly started helping Jason part old sets and at some point he had me mass assemble windows for a large building he was making. One weekend, Jason was out at some LEGO event and I had an annoying homework assignment where I needed to recreate an illustration from my favorite children’s book. I realized that I had access to a giant room of LEGO and that homework assignment became my first MOC.
Which project (or projects) are you the most proud of? Why?
I built a sculpture of a head that I call “The Engineer”. I guess I’m particularly proud of that one, not only because it turned out exactly the way I had envisioned it, but because I learned so much along the way.
Where do you find inspiration for new projects?
Sometimes my projects start as some abstract idea that I want to illustrate. Sometimes I’m inspired by the movements in nature. And sometimes, I’m inspired by a particular mechanism that I’d like to incorporate into a sculpture. For example, before designing my skating penguin, I was playing around with some Technic pieces and thought I had come up with this amazing, novel mechanism. It turns out the mechanism was actually The Trammel of Archimedes and it’s been around for over 2000 years. Still, the mechanism inspired me to create the skating penguin.
How many iterations do you typically go through when you create your projects?
So many. While building one of my more recent models of a fruit bat there were probably 8 different prototypes of bat wings lying on the build table at any given time. Building for me is a very iterative process. [Read more about the Bat here.]
Do you document your creative process? If so, how and why?
I’ve learned to take pictures of my prototypes so that if they break or I take them apart, I can always figure out what I had done. I occasionally take video of my prototypes in motion so I can compare between the movement of different designs.
As for finished products, I am certain that, if left to my own devices, I would never get around to sharing any of my models. I enjoy figuring out how to design models and the actual building, but not photographing or taking video. My partner, however, patiently documents all my work as well as his own.
What role does failure have in your creative process?
For every project I manage to complete, there are probably two or three abandoned projects that I start and realize that I just can’t make things work the way I want them to. It’s all part of the process.
How do you evaluate your success?
I really don’t build for anyone but myself, so if a finished model looks the way I want and moves the way I want, I’m content.
For students who are ready to go beyond the basics, what project would you recommend to get them motivated, without overwhelming them?
I would say let yourself get overwhelmed! Find a project that you want to build and delve in. If you get stuck along the way, remember that’s part of the process. There are plenty of resources out there to help.
“I would say let yourself get overwhelmed! Find a project that you want to build and delve in.”