Ever wondered what’s the best job in the world? Chocolate taste tester? Chart topping musician? How about a lighthouse caretaker?
Ryan McNaught, 44, might hold the clue … the Keilor local plies his trade around the world as a professional Lego builder – a master builder, no less. In fact he’s known as The Brickman, one of just 14 certified Lego professionals worldwide, and the only one in the southern hemisphere.
“I’m very lucky,” he said. “One of my colleagues overseas says there’s been 12 men on the moon … so I am lucky to be in my position.
“It’s more fun than you would believe – I mean a bad day for us is not really a bad day.
“When I was a kid, if you had told me I was going to make Lego models for a living, I would have said ‘wow, that’s pretty cool’ … but I probably wouldn’t have believed you.”
His journey to master builder status with Lego began just nine years ago, when the former IT worker combined his love of robotics with the famous building blocks. After building a Lego plane and filling it with Mindstorms (a branch of Lego that includes robotics), his life began to change.
“I’d played with Lego as a kid, but stopped when I was about 12 … it wasn’t until we had twin boys that I touched it again, so there was more than 20 years without Lego, until 2008.
“I was working on some stuff technology-wise in schools, and I built this Lego plane filled with Mindstorms, so things like the wheels and wing flaps would move,” he said.
“I hooked it up to an iPad, so kids could be the pilot, and some guys from Lego saw it and thought it was pretty cool, and we started working on things from there.
“We did a couple of projects together, and then some more, and eventually I had to choose whether to fully commit. I went full-time in 2010 and now I have six staff with me, so we keep pretty busy.”
It’s fair to say Mr McNaught has come a long way since his grandmother bought him his first Lego set for 29 cents when he was three.
His latest exhibition has been 12 months in the making and features more than two million Lego bricks, showcasing some of his most fantastical creations, such as a three-metre tall statue of David, the Mona Lisa, and the Empire State Building complete with King Kong. There are another two million Lego bricks for visitors to build with when they visit the exhibition.
“Over the years, we’ve made pretty much everything you can think of, and this exhibition has the biggest models we’ve ever done,” Mr McNaught said.
“Lego has come a long way since I was a kid, from plain old plastic bricks to now including robotics and all sorts of things, so that was the hook that got me back into it.
“Now my boys are nine, and last year they started to realise the street credibility of what dad does for a job … whenever there’s school pick-ups, there’s always kids who want to come and talk Lego, which is pretty cool.”
Mr McNaught’s Wonders of the World exhibition is on now at Melbourne Museum, and runs until May 7.