Candy Bedworth speaks to Andy Morris, founder of Little Big Art. Andy sells art made from LEGO, in boxed sets and as one-off bespoke commissions. He also sells prints, posters, and T-shirts. And drinks lots of coffee. Recreating iconic art pieces and famous Welsh landmarks in LEGO sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, so we asked Andy to take time out from his passion for playing to answer some questions for us.
Candy Bedworth: What was the ‘day job’ before you set up Little Big Art?
Andy Morris: I worked in finance for almost 10 years before setting up Little Big Art. I was a numbers man, dealing with spreadsheets and data, but always knew there was creativity in me – beyond making excel files look pretty.
Candy Bedworth: How did the idea for Little Big Art come to you?
Andy Morris: After leaving finance I studied a degree in interior design and floated the idea of making my scale architectural models out of LEGO – always looking for the quickest (laziest) route, building out of LEGO seemed much easier than all the mess of cutting and gluing materials. This idea, however, was quickly shot-down as the models wouldn’t be to scale (apparently, a key part of ‘scale models’), but LEGO had re-entered my life, and I started to incorporate pieces into my architectural models, a brick on a plinth or some tiles on the wall.
Candy Bedworth: How big is the company? Who is involved in Little Big Art
Andy Morris: It’s just me! A one-man passion-project. Although I do have a good network of freelancers and contractors (and friends) to assist me on big projects, which is really important as it’s impossible (or really bloody hard!) to do everything yourself.
Candy Bedworth: Do you make a living from Little Big Art?
Andy Morris: Yes… and no! I did, and sales were growing steadily, but then the economy had other ideas. The next few years will be a tough period for anybody in art / retail, but hopefully we’ll all emerge stronger.
Candy Bedworth: Why LEGO? What is the appeal / fascination for you?
Andy Morris: I grew up with LEGO, as far back as I can remember it’s always been in my life. I wanted to tap into and rekindle those fond memories of childhood play with my work, become a “professional big kid”.
Candy Bedworth: I absolutely love the Art Sets – Bricksy, Andy Brickhol, Brichelangelo, Frida Brikhlo et al. Tell us about how LEGO and art collided!
Andy Morris: Well this comes back to my degree and incorporating LEGO pieces into the models as artworks, when between my first and second year I thought “I wonder if I could make these in real life”, and set about to supersize them. The initial idea was to make a fully immersive walkthrough where it felt like you were inside a LEGO model, but after realising the size (and budget) needed, I scaled it back to individually “human-size” art pieces hanging on a gallery wall. And it turned into the most visited exhibition the gallery had ever hosted.
Candy Bedworth: Give us a short, rough tour of the Little Big Art start up?
Andy Morris: The initial artist sets were a commission for a finance company who specialise in artwork financing. They ordered 250 and randomly sent one each to galleries (“pay for artworks piece by piece” I believe was the slogan), and the galleries loved them so much that they asked how they could complete the set! The finance company had a year exclusivity with them, and then after I decided to release them as buyable sets.
Well, this makes it sound very streamlined and efficient. In reality, when the exclusivity expired I sat on the product for a bit (a year!) wondering if people would buy them, and it was only when a friend came over for coffee, saw them on the side and said “these are f’ing cool!!” that I thought, yeah, I should probably sell these.
Candy Bedworth: Did you hit any walls/ stumbling blocks along the way?
Andy Morris: Was the pun intended in this question? Yes, many! From originally fabricating large scale artworks to designing detailed instruction manuals for the sets, there were many stumbling blocks or new skills and technologies to learn. There is still a lot of trial and error and YouTube videos when doing something new.
Candy Bedworth: How did the Welsh set come about?
Andy Morris: Despite being born and raised in England (don’t judge me), I was always raised to be Welsh, with the family roots just down the road in Swansea. As a result, I’ve always been interested in Welsh heritage, culture, and iconography (I can say the long place name, although probably badly). I’ve since lived in Cardiff for 20+ years and, as an honorary Welshman, wanted to immortalise Welsh culture into a set. I only intended to do one, but they’ve sold well and the range has grown.
Candy Bedworth: What does it mean to you to be based in Wales?
Andy Morris: It feels like home. As I said, my family roots are here and I have family scattered all over South Wales. Welsh people are lovely, Welsh history is exciting, and Welsh iconography is plentiful enough to keep me creative for a while. I moved here for university and loved it so much I never left. Cardiff has a big city feel (international sports and major concerts) with a small city vibe (you can pretty much walk it, and everybody seems to know everybody – or with minor degrees of separation).
Candy Bedworth: You’ve been featured in the Saatchi Gallery, exhibited across the UK, and built LEGO for UNESCO heritage sites, castles and CADW. What has been your personal highlight?
Andy Morris: It would have to be meeting Mr LEGO, the man who turned the company into what it is today. Although, if I’m fully honest, I didn’t know who he was when I met him. I’d only been working with LEGO for a matter of months at this stage but I knew he was important as he had an entourage. When I got home that evening I had to google the LEGO execs and finally found him at the top of the hierarchy. It was probably for the best though, I would have likely fan-boy’d or forgotten how to speak if I’d known at the time.
Candy Bedworth: Walk me through one of your sets – your favourite perhaps?
Andy Morris: My favourite set to date is the Welsh flag model. Firstly, its a f’ing dragon! Secondly, it’s made up of random LEGO elements. Look closely and you’ll see a crab, some cherries, spanners, taps, the list goes on. It was a complex one to make, took lots of prototyping, but the final result was worth it, and it’s been a best seller this year. I did have to change the design recently though as one of the parts was rare and I’d exhausted the available supply worldwide, something I didn’t consider at the start. Everyday is a school day.
Candy Bedworth: And finally: Where next for Andy Morris? What are you working on right now?
Andy Morris: More Welsh sets! They have sold well and I have so many ideas for new ones to do. Three models are currently in the design stage and all should be heading to prototype / feasibility stage soon. Keep your fingers crossed for some 2023 set launches.
To see Andy Morris’s work, you can visit his art page, www.littlebigart.co.uk, and his Wales page www.baddragon.cymru