Brickwares approaches ‘celebrity’ status with rare custom mosaic work

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Step. Step. Crunch.

It’s a daily occurrence for Dave Ware.

He looks down, stretches out his foot, and begins to sweep it across the beige carpet of his basement floor in northwest Calgary.

Lego bricks go flying off to the side, only to join the thousands more that have literally taken over the room.

Some may call it a children’s toy, others a hobby. For 41-year-old Ware, Lego is a life-long passion turned business venture.

“It can become whatever you want it to be,” he said.

The Montreal-native has made a name for himself in recent years creating custom DaveMosaicsDave Ware of Brickwares garnered some celebrity recognition from Adam Baldwin of Firefly (left) and Billy West of Futurama (top right) during the Calgary 2012 Comic & Entertainment Expo after immortalizing their characters in Lego. Ware has created more than 20 custom Lego mosaics over the past six years.

Photo by Pamela Di Pinto Lego mosaics, a unique craft only shared by a handful of other people in Canada and the United States.

Ware was in elementary school when he received his first Lego set – a lunar rover that kicked off his fascination with space-themed Lego.

“It was just a really cool toy to have when you were little,” he said.

Ware rediscovered his love of all things brick in his mid-twenties.

He was walking through the Wal-Mart toy section with his wife one day when a Lego set caught his eye: a witch in an air balloon.

“It was different than anything I’d seen before,” he said.

So, he did what any grown man would do: he bought it. He continued buying more and more sets until he built up quite the collection – and a renewed interest in his childhood pastime.

From maps to mosaics

Ware has been creating custom Lego mosaics under the name Brickwares since 2006.

Ware said he was inspired to try his own hand at the unique art form during a trip with his oldest son to the Calgary Science Centre, where he saw a map of the Egyptian Nile made entirely out of Lego.

“I really liked that idea of a poster or a painting done with the bricks,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder if I could do that?’ So, I came home and did a really small one…of my dog, and it worked out.”

Since then, Ware has handcrafted over 20 custom Lego mosaics.

“I don’t generally keep a lot of the pieces together because I need to reuse the bricks,” he said.

Ware said he especially likes science fiction or comic book images, although anything with “bold splashes of colour in them” will do. He uses a program called Bricksaic to “pixelate” the image.

Depending on the size and intricacy of the mosaic, Ware said his pieces can include upwards of 5,000 “studs” and take anywhere from 40 to 100 hours to complete, usually spread over a number of days.

“I’m a bit of a night owl,” joked Ware, who works as a full-time oil and gas analyst.

He started doing commission pieces about three years into his mosaic work to help fund his “very expensive hobby.”

“I really liked that idea of a poster or a painting done with the bricks,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, I wonder if I could do that?’ So, I came home and did a really small one…of my dog, and it worked out.”

– Dave Ware 

Ware has built quite the portfolio since, his commission pieces growing larger in size and magnitude by the year – not to mention, demand.

In October, Ware completed a five ft. by five ft. mosaic of SAIT Polytechnic president Irene Lewis to celebrate her retirement in his biggest build to date.

“My calendar is getting booked up fast, which is good,” he said. “It’s kind of gone from just a hobby, to a hobby that I can make a little bit of money at.”

A Lego celebrity in the making

Since 2009, Ware has regularly attended BrickCon, an annual Lego convention held in Seattle, where he has won a number of awards for his work.

Ware garnered some celebrity recognition during the 2012 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, as well.

His Lego mosaic of Adam Baldwin (his character Jayne from Firefly) earned him a shout-out on Twitter and a front spot in line to meet him.

Ware also received a couple of autographs from Billy West (Fry) and John DiMaggio (Bender) of Futurama after immortalizing their characters in Lego.

Ware said he likes to stay connected to local Lego enthusiasts, too.

“They’re a really good bunch of people,” he said.

He has participated in community Lego shows in Silver Springs and Millican Ogden since 2010, picking up yet more awards along the way.

Ware is also a member of SALUG (Southern Alberta Lego User Group).

SALUG was started 10 years ago to bring like-minded adults together over their love of Lego. The group currently has about 20 members.

“He (Ware) is a cool guy, and he does some great work,” said SALUG president Adam Murtha, who has known Ware for two years. “The group is always happy to have him. We’re always interested in what he’s working on.

He’s almost like a Lego celebrity,” he said.

A family tradition

Ware said both his sons, eight-year-old Finny and three-year-old Max, are huge Lego DaveFinny3Dave Ware (right) of Brickwares was in elementary school when he received his first Lego set. Today, both of his sons are huge Lego fans. Eight-year-old Finny (left) particularly likes building cars.

Photo by Pamela Di Pinto fans – so much that they have claimed nearly every piece of Lego in the basement within arms reach.

“I really like Lego,” said Finny, who has competed in local competitions with his dad. “Basically, you can build anything with it.”

Kate said she has always supported her husband in his Lego work. The deal: it has to stay quarantined to the basement – well, as much as it can with two kids.

“I love sitting and helping, but I think it’s really important that the boys have something that’s very dad,” said Kate.

“I think it’s just a very versatile, positive thing for the family.”

A future in Lego?

Ware has some lofty Lego-laden plans for 2013.

He is expected to build a Calgary Tower Lego robot, as well as a large mosaic of a Calgary icon, using the two $1,200 Grassroots Inspired Grants he received from Calgary 2012.

Ware will also be involved in the February 2013 SALUG community show.

Not to mention, he already has a handful of commission pieces in the works.

Long-term, Ware said he would eventually like to become a Lego-certified professional, and is currently being mentored by the only one in Canada, Robin Sather of Brickville DesignWorks.

“It’s that whole endless possibilities,” said Ware on his love of Lego.

Although, it seems the same could be said of his future. 

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