Working at Legoland isn't all about playing with plastic blocks—though there is some of that.
I Want Your Job finds Torontonians who make a living doing exactly what they love to do, in any field, and for any salary, and asks them how they did it.
If you think playing with Lego is strictly for children, think again. Graeme Dymond is Canada’s first master model builder at Vaughan’s Legoland Discovery Centre, where he has taken his life-long passion for the interlocking blocks and turned it into a paying career. Since he started in January, he’s worked with other master model builders in Texas and California, and logged countless hours dropping his creations to see how they break. It’s all part of a training process that he describes as like a “cheesy kung fu movie—I had to ‘unlearn what I had learned,’ ” in order to make Lego structures that can stand up to the constant “love and affection” that Legoland’s pint-sized visitors can inflict.
Our interview with Dymond is below.
Torontoist: If I understand correctly, you just play with Lego all day, right?
Graeme Dymond: I’m very involved with all aspects of the facility. I work with the staff to ensure guests are having as positive an experience as possible, as we are still a new site and developing what it means to deliver memorable experiences to our guests. I do build models for the site, but I also have to make sure that we have enough Lego on site for kids to play with, as well as maintain that Lego—make sure it is a safe and sanitary environment. Our Lego models get a lot of extra love from our younger visitors, so there is a good deal of maintenance involved. As well, I am involved with the occasional promotion for our site, and get to go and speak about all of the great things we do at Legoland.
One other important aspect of my job is teaching model building to the children who come to visit. Every month, we have a new model in our master model workshop that we teach kids how to make, and I spend a good deal of my time teaching kids how to build these models, which are designed to showcase some important Lego building techniques, such as interlocking, SNOT pieces (SNOT is an acronym for Studs Not On Top, which allows for ‘sideways’ building and building in all directions), colour theory, and just general ways to help make models better and stronger.
Lego is often thought of as a kid’s toy. How did you keep your passion for it alive into adulthood?
Honestly, I’m just a big kid at heart, and I think Lego brings that out in everyone. It is really a toy for all ages, a timeless toy. I say that because it has remained the same for decades now. You can take Lego from a store shelf today, and Lego from 30 years ago, and they are fully compatible. There is a near-infinite diversity of playing possibilities with Lego. In fact, with just six standard two-by-four Lego bricks, you can make over 915 combinations. So, with a standard set that comes with anywhere from 20-2000 pieces, you can imagine that there really are nearly limitless possibilities.
Tell me about applying for this job. I gather it was more like an audition than a traditional interview.
It was, yes. A two-day-long, very public audition! It was very different because my Lego building has always been fairly private. I’m not very much into posting my own creations online, or displaying them. For me, playing with Lego has always been more about storytelling and personal expression, whereas what I see online, structurally and aesthetically, I feel that other people’s creations often blow mine out of the water. Still, I’m no Lego slouch! But the weekend audition was two full days of Lego building, all day long. There were different timed rounds, and themes for each round. We had 15 minutes to build during the first round—our theme was animals—so we would built whatever we could in that time, and then the next round we had sports, and so on.
Interacting with the kids who where there was where my storytelling came into play. Being trained as a teacher, and having worked as a learning consultant, I spent a lot of time talking to people, and telling stories, so I always like my Lego creations to tell a story. I don’t like my creations to be static; I like to integrate multiple parts and have them interact. So when I talked about my builds, I always had a story as to why I built them, and had the Lego reflect that story as well. I found that really worked well with kids, because it engages their imagination and takes it beyond just a structure.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is sharing the love of Lego with kids who really truly love it, and bringing them to that “aha” moment where they realize that they can create something new and cool from what they’ve learned. I know that what I’ve shared with them will live on through their constructions, and know that they are going to continue to pursue their love of Lego.
Where can you take a resume with the words “Legoland master model builder” on them? It seems like such a niche type of role.
A very good question. I think that the role has really stretched me in a number of ways, but I’d really like to find new ways to bring my love of Lego to more and more people, and help encourage kids to challenge themselves to develop and grow and to follow their dreams—whether Lego or otherwise—but to have them know that it is a possibility to do what you love and make a career out of it.
It’s funny because the role requires a number of skills—teacher, artist, entertainer, administrator, manager, marketer—and I have found that there have been a number of opportunities to develop all of those aspects in this role.