Jeffrey Kong: An Award-Winning Brick Artist On How He Got Started

From playing with LEGO to cope with his dad's cancer diagnosis to becoming an award-winning brick artist

By Camillia Dass

October 5 2018

Featured Image: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapore

STYLEGUIDE sits down with Jeffrey Kong, 39, who is a brick artist. Jeffrey first started experimenting with LEGO blocks when he was in his early thirties as a way to cope with his dad being diagnosed with cancer. When he started showing off his creations, he realised how much joy they brought to people and he then sought to spread the joy of building with others. Today, Jeffrey has won many awards and has been featured numerous times in the media. He sits down with us to tell us all about how he started and about his building process.

Tell me more about what you do

I create art with building bricks. These include sculptures, building kits, workshops and events. I am known for my retro and Singapore-inspired works, and for packing in plenty of detail in small builds.

How did you get into designing art using LEGO bricks? Were you very interested in playing with LEGOs when you were a child?

When I was a child, I had a basic LEGO set that I played with for a few years. I only got back into building with bricks in my thirties and it was by accident.

Around six years ago I found out there was a software that enabled one to create without using physical bricks. So I gave it a try because it’s like being able to compose music without an instrument.

I got into it at a low point of my life. My dad had terminal cancer and creating with bricks kept me sane and gave me comfort. As a result, I thought I could use my work to spread joy to other people.

When I showed some of my earliest creations to people, some asked me if I was selling my work and if I could show them how to create with bricks.

From then I started accepting commissioned work and I was fortunate enough to win quite a few building competitions and to have my work featured on TV, radio, print and online media.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapore

What does a typical day look like for you?

In the day I go for meetings with clients, do research and work on building current projects.

I do most of my design work at night.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapore

What was the toughest part of your journey as a brick artist?

When people think that your work is not worth much just because they associate it with a toy or when your work gets copied and there’s nothing you can do about it.

What's the best part of your job?

Being able to meet interesting people and to visit cool places such as the Google and Facebook offices.

I also enjoy the satisfaction of being able to create with this medium, to spread the joy of the brick and to use something tangible to express the intangible.

I enjoy being able to inspire people to also express themselves with this medium and to put a smile on their faces.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapore

How much do you spend on LEGO blocks in a month?

On average, four digits.

How do you conceptualise a piece of art and figure out how many pieces you need and what goes where?

First and most importantly, I have to ask myself these questions: What is the story you are trying to tell? Who is the audience?

I then sketch out ideas with pencil and paper. When I am happy with the look and proportions, I build it out using the design software. The software is a tool I use to help me figure out the type and number of parts needed.

What was the most memorable piece of art you created?

If I have to choose my favourite creation, it would have to be the balloon dog that I built back in 2013 because it represents what I strive to achieve as a brick artist – to push the limits of this medium and to make people smile.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapore

What are three interesting things people might not know about being a brick artist?

Math helps. I do a lot of calculations when planning for any build, even small ones. Small builds may use fewer parts but they can actually be much harder to design than big ones.

The less time you take to search for a part, the more time you have to be creative, so organise your parts well.

I have zero art background and have never been to art school. I am indebted to the art directors and designers who encouraged me.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapor

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

See as much of the world as you can. Spend your money not on possessions, but on experiences. Listen to your inner self and figure out what you really want. Then figure out how to get there.

What are your future plans?

To continue to spread the joy of the brick. To experiment with other art mediums. To collaborate and learn from artists in other fields.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Kong/Artisan Bricks Singapore

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Be yourself. Tell your own story your way. Never copy anybody’s work and let yourself be inspired by people and places around you.