Who can remember the days of opening up your box of Lego, letting all of its small plastic pieces sprawl out in front of you, and sifting through the pile to finish off your ship construction? Or maybe it was a car or a house – whatever your childhood brain was imagining, Lego helped you build it.
Huynh Khang, a freelance designer and graffiti writer living in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, has been playing with Lego ever since he was five or six-years-old and it’s still very much his hobby today. It was a couple of years ago in 2018 that it started to really pick back up again, when Khang decided to explore the limits of the plastic construction toy, testing what can be achieved with the colourful blocks. And in doing so, he started to prove that Lego isn’t just for children, and that adults can still have creative fun with it too.
“When I was a kid, Lego really attracted me with the limitless possibilities,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I loved to draw a hero, a house or a robot, and build it by Lego. The feeling of finishing a building and showing it off to my mum is so great. I’m not a kid anymore, and it’s still like this.” Now, Khang creates practically anything from Lego. He gets a lot of his inspiration from everyday life, so his muse can be a familiar street corner; a building; an old motorbike moving in front of him; a meal on a traditional holiday; the small or large moments from the day-to-day. He never needs to purposefully seek out inspiration, nor does he turn towards specific materials for references. Instead, it’s these very surrounding and fleeting moments that really gets his creativity brewing.
When his influences “catch” him and he’s ready to start building, Khang will head down to his studio and begin his works. First things first, is that he refers to himself as a MOCer (which is a Lego term that means “My Own Creation”), and the initial task is to sort and store each bricks. This is particularly relevant amongst all MOCer’s, as Lego has countess shape types and colours, so it can easily get confusing. “This is important to help me do it faster and easier,” he adds. “Then I head to my shelves that have a lot of orderly boxes. I mess them up to work and re-sort them later on.” Additionally, Khang’s process involves a detailed phase of research, followed by photographing the object and then turning it into a sketch. The latter will illustrate the directions on paper, meaning that the process thereon should be quite simple.
“After that, I find the Lego part to match the concept. This is a difficult step but it’s not too important because we can replace another by using creativity,” says Khang, noting how he finds this part the most exciting. “And the final step is the reward; I can immerse myself in my creative world.”
An example of how Khang is bringing the playful elements of his childhood into a more modern, adult content can be seen in a couple of his more recent works. Sitting alongside a variety of meals and food compilations, there are various houses, Bonsai trees and bikes. The first that Khang points out is called A Cub. “Maybe you know Honda Cub, a famous motorbike product from Jona,” he says. “In Vietnam, Cub is a lifestyle icon, familiar to everyone.” For him, Cub takes him back to his younger days biking with his dad – “what a beautiful time!” – and thus he decided to transfer these memories into a Lego piece. “After the final A Cub, I added some plants to it and it’s a Green Cub now. In Vietnam nowadays, you easily meet a moving plant shop in the street. So cute!”
Another is Familiar #3, depicting the construction of a railroad crossing gate. A familiar scene indeed, it reminds Khang of heading to the workplace every day. “I have a chance to observe in detail when I stop to wait for the train crossing. It’s a very small scene, nothing special, but it’s feeling is good.” The final piece that Khang talks us through is called Ăn Tết, which translates to “A Tet Holiday meal”. Inspired by the Tet holiday, which is a new year day it Vietnam, it details the event’s signature delicacies. “We have many special and traditional things, and food is an indispensable element,” he says. What’s more is that after completing this one, Lego then featured it on its Facebook page – “I’m so happy about that.”
Khang’s work is not only going to make you ever more nostalgic for the time passing by, it’s also going to bring you a smile. It’s something that we need to see these days – adorable yet carefully constructed pieces that are built purely for the joy of it. And that’s just it; Khang doesn’t make anything with a hidden agenda or plan, “it’s not serious”, he concludes. “I build it based on feeling comfortable, so I expect the same from the audience.”
Huynh Khang: Tet meal (Copyright © Huynh Khang, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.