The man behind those epically minimalist Star Wars Lego models


(Peter Rogerson)

Earlier this week, we featured some of the Lego subreddit's beautiful minimalist Star Wars models. User par016 was the mastermind behind many of those works. In real life, par016 is Peter Rogerson, a 24-year-old glass-melting engineer who lives in New York state. We talked about how he got into making tiny Lego Star Wars ships and what goes into his design process Thursday. 

So how did you start making these sculptures? 

I'd been a user on Reddit for a couple years. Then I found this Lego subreddit about a year ago and will occasionally look through it. Maybe a month ago, someone started a 20-piece challenge thing, where it was a challenge to make something with 20 pieces and only 20 pieces — no more. One day I saw something Star Wars around my house, and just thought, "Hey, I'll try this out." So I made one, posted it and people seemed to like it — so I kept doing them.

So, are you a big Star Wars fan? 

I wouldn't say I'm a huge Star Wars fan — I certainly love the movies. But I don't know everything about the movies like some of the more hardcore fans out there.

How did you choose which ships to model?

Sometimes I got suggestions from people on Reddit — someone would post in the comments, "Hey, can you make this one?" Some of them are just ships that I like or had an idea how to build.

Do you have a particularly large Lego collection?

I actually do have quite a large Lego collection. I don't know if you've heard of bricklink.com, but it's a site where you can buy and sell Legos. It's unofficial and you don't have to buy sets, per se. I actually run a store on that site, so I have a lot of Legos in my house. [Editor's note: Peter actually has his 20-piece version of the X-wing for sale now.] I don't normally build with them, though, I just buy them and sell them. But on occasion I'll build one or two, so I do have quite a few Legos in my house.

That's pretty convenient for this hobby.

Yeah, it makes easy when I have the pieces already here. A lot of the submissions on the subreddit were using the Lego computer software they give out for free that has it all on a CAD-like software with pre-built pieces.

Do you have a favorite out of the designs you've created yourself?

I think I like my snow speeder the best probably, or maybe the X-Wing as well. Those two. Some of the ones you posted were some of the more recent ones, not my older ones which actually seem to be more popular on Reddit.

About how long does it take you to come up with these designs?

Usually about an hour. I'll typically try to build one and it'll be more than 20 pieces, maybe around 30-plus pieces. Then I'll have to try to figure out how to keep in as much detail as I can within the piece limit.

It seems like that slimming process might be the most difficult aspect ...

Definitely — you want to put in detail and then you're running out of pieces. The worst is when you have 21 or 22 pieces and you're like, "But they're all critical," and you have to come up with a way around it. People get pretty brutal in the comments if you leave some detail out or if they think they can do things a better way. Well, okay, do it in a better way — I don't care.

Are there other aspects of the design process you think are important? 

There's not really too much else. I usually just pull up a picture of the ship that I'm building on the Internet, then put together all sorts of small pieces from my collection. It's trial and error, just like playing with them as a kid.

Growing up I played with Legos all the time. Obviously, once I hit high school I wasn't playing them for years. But I think that probably contributed to the career path that I ended up taking anyways. All of the people that I work with grew up playing with Legos at some point.

And you're a glass engineer — that seems like it would require a lot of conceptual thinking. 

Yes, it's a lot of design work, followed by fabricating materials and equipment then installing and construction.

So that must be really helpful as you think of cool ways to do these Lego sculptures? 

Yeah, it's kind of the same thing — although also completely different, if that makes sense.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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