Earth & Conservation

I Left My Law Career To Be A Lego Artist

Nathan Sawaya made the jump from corporate law to the world of art when he decided to make stunning sculptures of LEGO bricks full-time.

Nathan Sawaya has one of the coolest jobs in the world: he's a professional lego builder. He uses little plastic Lego bricks, the very same ones pretty much every kid played with growing up, to create incredibly impressive sculptures -- some of which are life-size. But Nathan didn't always have such an awesome job.

Before he played with Legos all day, Nathan was a corporate lawyer. At the end of a long day at the law firm, he would come home in need of a creative outlet. He used to sculpt using more traditional materials like clay, but on a whim he decided to try using Legos. He started small at first, building things like apples and pencils, slowly working his way up to bigger and bigger objects.

When Nathan launched a website to showcase his work, the requests started pouring in. People would ask him to build all kinds of things like people, bicycles and even a scale model of a T-Rex, which took him three months to complete. At one point Nathan was working full time at the law firm and coming home to do 6-8 hours of Lego sculpting at night. It was a scary leap to make, but after realizing how passionate he is about Lego building, he decided to try it full time and he quit his day job.

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Nathan's job as a Lego sculptor is certainly very rare, but surprisingly he's not the only artist who's been able to make a living out of building art from Legos. In fact, Lego corporate employs several professional Lego brick sculptors around the world to create their store displays and special exhibits. However, the job is so competitive that you'd actually have a better chance at becoming a professional basketball player than becoming one of Lego's sculpture artists.

For Nathan, quitting the law firm meant taking a risk, but he knew it was something he had to do. "...as a lawyer, you're trained to be risk averse; you're trained how to avoid risk as a lawyer and yet, here I was taking this major risk and so, of course, I had a bit of doubt [...] during those downtimes when I didn't have something, didn't have a commission, that's when I would create art for myself and that's really what The Art of the Brick became, this exhibition of art that I created on my own that now tours the globe."

The Art of the Brick is Nathan's traveling art show featuring multiple of his exhibitions where every sculpture is, of course, made out of Legos. "These works are very personal to me, since they reflect my growth as an artist as I strove to discover my creative identity," Nathan says.

Above all, Nathan hopes that his work will inspire others to create as well. In each city the show travels to, he tries to have some loose Lego bricks around for people to play with. He says "I encourage folks to become more creative in their world, in their lives. And I'm not saying they need to spend three months working on a sculpture of a giant dinosaur, I'm saying a little doodling in your life, a little finger-painting with the kids [...] it makes you a happier and better person and so I try to encourage creativity, but my whole goal is really just to inspire."

-- Molly Fosco