“You don’t bring me flowers…anymore”

Come to think of it, you don’t write me love-songs either…you lousy bastard, it’s over!  Get your stuff and get out of my life!

While you mope brokenhearted in the gutter with a needle sticking out of your arm, you may console yourself with this beautiful and creepy bouquet from newcomer Barbara Hoel.  Because that’s how I’ll remember your cheating ass, beautiful and creepy.  The actual title of this attention-grabbing creation is “Yesterday’s Flowers“, and I almost missed it because from the thumbnail on my phone it didn’t immediately register as Lego.  This is a tough subject matter, and the builder handles it flawlessly with some interesting choices from both System and Bionicle.  The variety of translucent parts is particularly effective.  The only thing I’m not sure about is the dark gray propellers, they almost break the illusion but it might be due to having gold components adjacent.  It’s a small nitpick though, the overall effect is satisfying.

I wonder if the hobby will ever get to the point when seeing the work of a female builder doesn’t seem like an oddity to me, like getting a glimpse of a unicorn or drawing a royal flush.  They are not nearly as rare as black AFOLs, but considering they comprise half the population you would think we’d have a better mix by now.  Of course from the very earliest stages of the hobby we’ve had these exotic builders in our midst: Deborah Higdon, Millie McKenzie, Mel Finelli, Heather Braaten, Caylin Malloy, Alice Finch, Breann Sledge and my personal favorite (because she’s rad and builds huge, kick-ass dioramas) Anu Pehrson, but it always seems like the gender ratio is hopelessly skewed towards sweaty mankinder.  That list is far from comprehensive but that’s where I ran out of gas and I look at a lot of models. At least the ladies have one good ratio on their sides that the men can’t claim.  There are very few lousy female builders, I can only think of one or two off the top of my head.  The conspiracy theorist in me thinks perhaps the ladies like to find the weak sisters and silence them before they are noticed by the wider viewing audience.  No, that sounds like a more masculine policy.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe the relatively recent proliferation of sets targeted at girls will help improve things for the next wave of builders.  Or AFOL fathers passing on a love of the Lego action to their daughters.  Maybe dropping the slang FFOL would be a good start too, what a horrible word and it’s impossible to say out loud without sounding like a tool.

Yesterday's Flowers

This one is for rountRee, we like to sing it to each other at conventions:

35 thoughts on ““You don’t bring me flowers…anymore”

  1. That really cool, reminds me those dried flower arrangements. I particularly like the inclusion of those gross worm things.

    Regarding FFOLs (what the hell? first time I’m hearing this). there’s an excellent builder in my lug that doesn’t strive for attention and couldn’t care less about picture quality, but does some really neat stuff. Here’s a few:

    http://www.rolug.ro/2017/01/castelul-phoenix > while not really my kind of build, the size is insane.


    1. I think most of the acronyms associated with the hobby are crap, overly nerdy and make us look like booger-eaters. Thanks for the links, your LUGmate has some nice creations, I especially like the clock-tower. I’m guessing she’s not on Flickr? I think you’re on to something, I have the suspicion that female builders are probably less likely to be vocal or as you say “striving for attention”. They just do their thing and don’t care about the stuff that goes along with it.


      1. Thanks for all the discussions around my piece! Your right about women often staying away from the AFOL community. I was building privately for 20 years before I “came out of the basement” last year and joined a LUG and started posting on-line. I have to say if I hadn’t joined the LUG, I would not be creating my flower displays. Until last February, all I had built were houses and modular mocs. I did a lot of landscaping but nothing out of the ordinary. But I had an idea and took a small sample to my second LUG meeting ever and was strongly encouraged be my group to explore my idea. They also introduced me to some of the wonderful parts I use from Bionical and Hero Factory for my creations.


      2. Barbara, thanks for wandering in to our shabby dive-bar, I always consider it one little victory every time I can lure somebody out from Flickr and into the comments section here. Tanks for sharing your background, score one for your LUG for encouraging you to move forward. I hope you stick around here and comment as much as you’d like, adding a female voice to the conversation here is hugely beneficial. You mentioned modular MOCs, you should check out the “Life Modular” series and chime in if you’re inspired. Good to have you here!


    2. Yep. Most of the female builders I have ever met tend to be more self contained than the standard “drama queen” male builders who make up the bulk of the population. Emotionally self contained. Happy for feedback, but doing just fine without it. They often exude the most refreshing “take it or leave it” attitude.

      The stuff in these links is epic!
      Please do pass on the kudos. (yeah… but does she ever write anything?)


  2. Just roll over and turn out the light, slut.

    There needs to be a whole new category instead of NPU for pieces like the rubber critters there. They really can’t be used other than what they were originally intended: a bug. But seeing a builder use them as something that completely sidesteps that original context is just brilliant. It can’t be NPU when you can count on one hand the amount of times you’ve seen them used outside their basic concept, those cries are worthless in cases like this. But invariably, our tiny cataloguing grey matter has to lump this event into something. NPU. This is beyond “nice” or “new”, this is transcendent part usage. Those damn bugs are just hauntingly unusable, until now.

    I love the color gradations that Babs, I mean Barbara, used to hint at the illusion of overall decay (I actually like the grey props, gives it a bit of motion; and sound, like I can hear the rustle only a leaf can make.) This is rarely seen in the mankinder community ’cause spaceship. It isn’t a particular thing, it’s a study of an abstract idea. There’s more going on here than simply rotting flowers at a specific moment, there’s an attention to and appreciation of the process of that cycle. We all love the colors of autumn, but it takes an encompassing understanding to respect that it is death and that it’s a good thing with beauty in it. With the moc, there is a wider understanding THROUGH the details rather than a wider display WITH details. It is what I’ve noticed about female perspectives on building of ANY sort. Lego, woodworking, welding, you name it. The best I’ve seen in every discipline usually are female because of an attention to detail that does not sacrifice the overall picture. The male mind tends to get in, get out, done, next. Both have their place and can produce builds both incredible and pathetic, but the fact that you passed over this on the thumbnail because it didn’t register as Lego is indicative of our predominantly male perspective. Shock and awe gives way to stay and look. We definitely need more of the female psyche in the Lego community if only to keep the male psyche balanced and in check. The saturation level of testosterone is drowning our ability to expand.

    Great catch on this build, I’m afraid it’ll get undeservedly passed over for the most part.

    Moah women!


    1. You’re right, the color gradations is exactly what sucked me into this model, the subtle use of translucent shades is pretty amazing and unique. You know more about color than I do, but those gray propellers still kind of bug me and I think it’s because the brushed gold elements are right next to them.

      It would be interested to see what would happen if the collective dudes of the hobby were forbidden from building pointy spaceships and mumbly-jumbly castles for a year. I wonder what kind of stuff would emerge if the worst of the boilerplate was verboten.

      You make an interesting point about lady-welders and those kinds of disciplines, that would not have occurred to me. It’s always good to have as much diversity as possible and the Lego hobby is no different.

      We really need to rehearse for the next convention, and you’ve got to put a perm in your hair if you’re gonna be babs.


      1. I really noticed the difference between male and female psyches when I taught welding to conservators up in the Bay Area. The first thing I’d ask was if anyone ever sewed before. The men always shrugged no, but the women all said yes. Then I told them that TIG welding is exactly the same. The women got it instantly, the men were so lead footed that they always melted the shit out of the metal; zero finesse. I also told them that for MIG welding, they had to make the heat and speed sing in harmony. The men would crank everything up to where the wire was exploding rather than mating the metal, the women slowly brought the speed up to where the tone started buzzing properly. The men also focused on getting the two pieces of metal together, that’s it; whereas, the women made the welds look perfect knowing that would get the metal together and had less of a chance of hyper-heating the surrounding metal. And these were just the novices. The pros are fucking artists, and all their artwork is hidden behind facades and store fronts or lost in ceilings and subfloors.

        And the hair is already permed, I had to look just right as Marjoe Gortner in a Starcrash LARP.


  3. Nice catch, I probably wouldn’t have seen this if you hadn’t brought it to our attention. I always dig MOCs that manage to use Bionicle parts in non-Bionicle builds in an interesting fashion without resorting to “just get a couple 100 of them and use them for texture”.


    1. Thanks! I was quite surprised to see that Barbara’s work had not been picked up by the bigger blogs. I’m sure that oversight won’t last long, especially if she keeps cranking out great stuff. The integration of Bionicle was indeed nicely handled.


  4. So beautiful, and yet revolting. That’s a mix of feelings I’m entranced by, and frankly I’m delighted the build summons emotions in me at all. I dream of making stuff like this. It’s almost startling that an art medium can actually be used to trigger an emotional response, even though that’s what art should do. I definitely think more female psychology would help expand the horizons of this hobby. Thanks for blogging this, Keith! This is exactly why I follow the Manifesto.


    1. Glad you liked it VA, and I couldn’t agree more, this MOC does give the feels, it is definitely more than just the sum of it’s parts. Evoking some kind of emotion in the viewer is probably the hardest thing to accomplish with a build and it’s nice to see somebody succeed regardless of gender. Only a hollowed-out douche like Rutherford would be able to look at this model and not feel anything. Each time I look at this model it reminds me of a painting or silk-screening that I can’t quite put my finger on.


      1. Now when I look at this MOC it DOES make me feel emotion… the emotion of hate… for you Goldman! I’m glad you like these flowers… cause there going on your grave!

        hollowed-out? Like… what? I came back from the Nam different? Dead inside? Just slap yourself you grubby hippy!


      2. Takes a special breed of individual to feel hatred when looking at pretty flowers… even dried maggot ridden ones.


      3. Hate! A pure, organic, and renewable energy source with zero impact on the climate. It has a long shelf life, burns hot in all weather conditions, and it travels well so it won’t interfere with your busy lifestyle!

        Hate! You don’t have to like it… but you gotta love it!


  5. Just love Barbara’s work. I’m always looking to integrate those crazy “unusable” pieces, but I hardly stray from the MOC’s of the “vehicular nature” when using them. Great to see a kindred spirit, but looking to using them in ways I just would never, ever, have considered.

    There are also quite a few other female builders that “rock the house”, but most don’t wear their gender on their avatar sleeves. Two I became aware of when I ran the last flickr steampunk contest, as they kicked ass and took names. I only realized they were female when they gave me their names so I could ship out the prizes…

    Charis Stella (from Indonesia) took the top honors.

    Jen Spencer had a great showing too, and I sought her out for my BW17 Steambugs collab. I just dig her whimsical style.

    Then, of course, is the current female Iron Builder as well… Cecilie


    1. Damn, I should have thought of Cecilie, I just watched her throw down with Madison in a very entertaining fashion. I actually missed the final results so congrats to her for beating one of the best our hobby has to offer. Maddison is no slouch. I’ve never heard of Charis or Jen and I’m happy to add them to my contacts, thanks for the links! I think I missed out on Charis because of my all encompassing hatred of Steampunk, but the loss was mine.

      My point remains the same, even with these fine additions to my entirely non-exhaustive list of lady-builders….the gender ratio is horribly skewed towards mankinder. Maybe things are improving though. I wonder how many of them are operating under gender-neutral avatar handles.

      Thanks again Ted! Oh and hey, did you see Barbara’s stuff in person at Brickworld? I understand Adam Tucker purchased them for some brick museum he’s starting. Did he scoop up one of your speeders too?


      1. Steampunk is a whole other topic. The majority take the “revisionist Victorian history” approach, and I prefer the “anime fantasy” style (Use some imagination, and take the thing somewhere different, for crying out loud!). That’s what I was hoping for, and Charis delivered… but haven’t seen much from her lately.

        Last year, Rowntree, Halliwell and I were fortunate to see Barbara’s debut. She has only stepped up her game from there. Her large display was beautifully tailored to being lit up at night too (she varied the lighting colors to have different sections pop out). It was magical stuff. She got a deserved nomination for “Best Art”…

        No unneeded attention sent my way as far as under-the-table offers for my MOC’s. Just enjoyed spending time with fellow builders, giving each other a few nods of mutual respect, and then time to slip back under the radar again.


      2. Agreed, steampunk is another kettle o’ fish entirely and I realize I’m in the minority with my dislike of the theme.

        I can’t believe Barbara has been around for a year and none of the big blogs have featured her work yet. I know a few of the bloggers hate-read the manifesto so I have no doubt that situation will be remedied soon. Good builders can only live under the radar for so long. I hope I can make it out to Chi-Town next year, I’m gonna make it a priority since Seattle is less and less attractive to me. I’m lucky if I can get to one show a year (more likely every other year) and I yearn to see the big action again. I can’t really conceive of a con with a thousand registered attendees, I’ve got to see that for myself. It will also be great to manhandle your speederbikes in person, and possible slip one into my pocket when you’re not looking. I also look forward to seeing Barbara’s stuff up close and in person.

        If you get the itch, I’d love to see an article from you about the convention, or at least share some of your stories in the comments.

        Cheers man, always a pleasure.


      3. Barbara doesn’t post all that much, so easy to miss her. After her debut, I think Adam bought her 1st display MOC then. She went back and spent time reworking it. I think she then built the others with the intention of going into the museum too (but she was also like, “before I do this, show me the actual museum space”)… I also hope Adam payed her a commission for the number of museum fliers she handed out at BW.

        “It will also be great to manhandle your speederbikes in person, and possible slip one into my pocket when you’re not looking.” – and the odds are that if you didn’t, I would have already slipped one into your pocket by the time break-down rolled around. I try to bring back fewer than I arrive with (or at least fewer of my own).

        Maybe I will write up something on the BrickWorld-18. Probably won’t break any new ground, but may have some interesting anecdotes…


      4. Anecdotes would be cool. Better than the usual “I saw cool things and here are some pictures.”


  6. I’ve been a fan of Barbara’s work since I saw some of it at Brickworld last year. There’s a couple of things that bug me about this one though. The most obvious is the base. I think it’s too ornate and distracts from the focus here, the flowers. Second, I don’t like that she repeated the flower designs. I think it would work better if there was only one of each or if they were more varied somehow. As it is they look too cookie cutter, which is fine for healthy flowers but dying ones tend to decay at different rates and their shapes get distorted in different ways. I’m fine with the propellers, but the parts surrounding them look too industrial to me, like some sort of robotic flowers that you might see in the background of a Mega Man level. The Bionicle pieces are obviously brilliant, but I feel the composition as a whole brings them down and they don’t pop as much as they could if there was more focus on just a few flowers.


    1. I agree about the base; however, I wish it were actually more ornate to give the idea that this was an expensive arrangement bought to celebrate a grand event and not just something dropped off by FTD for working in a cubicle for ten years to be placed next to a red Swingline.


  7. Well, Christopher and Matt – another thing for me to think about. I like the idea of showing the flowers molting with age and enhancing the container so it is a bigger contrast to the state the flowers have fallen into.


    1. Both takes are worth exploring, your take already based on Keith’s observations about the grey props and gold improved the bouquet dramatically.

      Welcome to the Manifesto! Hope to see you at BW next year.


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