Interview with Belgian LEGO® Certified Professional Dirk Denoyelle
Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:19 PM
Interview with Belgian LEGO® Certified Professional Dirk Denoyelle
- What exaclty is a LEGO Certified Professional ?
There are different ways to define a LEGO Certified Professional - also known as an "LCP". Personally, I consider it to be a quality label. An LCP has to comply with a certain set of criteria. You need to have built up a business using the LEGO "platform". You need to be able to prove a high level of quality in your work. And you need to incorporate the LEGO values. The latter is pretty hard to measure, but one of the consequences is that we do have quite a lot rules about dos and don'ts. There are quite a few types of jobs we can not accept. It will not come as a surprise that we are not allowed to build anything related to sex. But the list is a lot longer than that...
- How many LCP's are there ?
There are 13 LCP's today. 5 in the US, one in Canada, 4 in Europe, 2 in Asia and one in Australia. You can find their names and websites through my website, www.amazings.eu. The best known are probably Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney, both based in New York City. In Europe you find René Hoffmeister, Matija Puzar and Duncan Titmarsh. And me. Dan Parker from Seattle may be less famous. But just the fact that he employs 23 people is pretty significant, I think.
- Do you 13 know one another ? Are you ever in touch, do you meet ?
There is a summit every year, one year in Bilund, the next in Enfield (US Headquarters). Most of us do their best to make it there. It's a pretty expensive journey. The meetings take only 2 or 3 days, but we pay for airfare ourselves, and we can't get any other work done for about a week. But I find all LCP's very nice and interesting people - there is one woman, by the way -and I think I can say that I am friends with all of them. As an example, I could not imagine going to New York without stopping by at Sean's.
- Are you employed by LEGO, or self-employed and thus suppliers to LEGO ?
We definitely have our own independent businesses. And we are CLIENTS, rather than suppliers. Big clients, even. I am not allowed to give you any numbers, but we buy our bricks where also Merlin and LEGO In-Store buy theirs. And putting the 13 of us together makes us responsible for a more than substantial part of their workload. It also happens, of course, that we are supplying to LEGO. When they need a special kind of building, they do find us, on occasion. In some countries this is an important part of an LCP's income (UK, Australia), in other countries it's a very small part.
- How does one become an LCP ? Does LEGO find you, or do you have to ask ?
Haha. You probably have noticed that LEGO usually is not the asking kind. The procedure is about to change, but in the old days candidates had to apply with the right people within LEGO (Tormod Askildsen and Jan Beyer). And then, together with the current LCP's, they checked if the criteria were met. In the near future, it could be that more initiative could come from LEGO itself, in order to install new LCP's. But alas, I am not allowed to give more details.
- Is there an acceptance test ?
No. You just have to have a good application. For the "business " aspect, I would suggest one delivers a good business plan. For the "Quality" aspect: What have you ever built ? Or if you are not into building MOC's (Beth in Chicago is into events): what do you do exactly, and how is that outstanding ? Then you will have a phone call with someone from Tormod's team and some LCP's. Well, that was when I joined. The new procedure is going to be slightly different, but I'm not allowed to go into details. Changes are not going to be about what you do and how well you do it. Changes will probably be about where to apply, and who can apply....
- Do you get your commissions from LEGO, from fans, or just anybody ? Or do you need to market yourself ?
Now you're touching the hard part: find customers. I guess it's the same for whoever runs a business. A pastry shop invests in window dressing, seduces customers with tasting sessions, or low prices. Other companies spend tons on advertising. Others work with social media. It's no different with me. I do exhibits from time to time. Via my other profession - I am also a comedian - I meet a lot of people in the business world. I talk to them about my LEGO activities. I have websites. I'm on Facebook. The LCP's feature - pretty well hidden, but we are there- on LEGO.com. Some inquiries do seem to come out of nowhere. But many times I can trace the enquiry back to a previous job well done, or a conversation I had with someone. Or it was LEGO that referred them to me. Even LCP's refer to each other. Sometimes an AFOL sends a request. There is no regularity in any of it...
- Do you need to show building plans to LEGO ? Do you make up building plans before you start building ?
No on both accounts. Once a month I give LEGO an overview of what I'm working on. Now and them I send them a picture, if something special was realized. For most projects I make no building plan at all. Only mosaics are an exception to that rule, because I often have them built by my co-workers. But the heads are all by my hand entirely. If I would have to make building plans first, I would loose a lot of time. I think that virtual building is only good when you need other people to actually build the thing, and preferably more than once. But that rarely happens in my business.
- How do you get your bricks, and at what price ?
That is probably the main advantage of being an LCP: we can order straight from Kladno. The limitation is that we can only order what is in catalogue. No Q-elements either. Something which can be quite stressing. Take the lime green 1x1 plates. I had a stock of about 1000. I designed a giant mosaic, a parody on a painting by Rubens: 4,8m x 3,6m. There were about 6.000 extra 1x1 lime green plates needed. I ordered them, to find out they had become Q. I could have searched the internet for them. But I preferred to just alter my design... Which took a lot of time !
- Do you work alone, or do you have assitants ?
Well, Amazings.eu IS a company, and companies like to grow. So I work with some co-workers on a project basis, them being self-employed as well. They help out mainly with mosaics, and architecture models.
- How does it work financially ? Does LEGO pay you ? How are prices determined ?
LEGO pays me only for the pieces they commission to me. In a good year we are talking about 5 mosaics or so. About pricing: as any company, I added up my costs (bricks, workshop, computers, labour cost...) and derived an hourly fee from that. For some pieces, the heads, I have a very unique position in the world. Exclusivity is worth something as well, so that hourly fee is higher. In some cases it's just a matter of question and demand. What is a client willing to pay ? And do I want to do it for that amount ? I just try to avoid to really take advantage of my clients. I recently had someone who had a budget of 25.000 Euro's. That would have been way to much for the job he wanted me to do. So I DID take an extra margin, but charged only a fraction of that 25.000... Honesty is an important value as well, even if you know the client is loaded. :-)
- Are LEGO Certified Professionals involved in designing LEGO sets ?
No, except for Adam Reed Tucker, the man that started LEGO Architecture. He is kind of a special guy within our LCP group, because he does not do many commissions. He basically does LEGO Architecture. And he is the thriving force behind Brickworld in Chicago.
- What are the rules you need to follow ? Is there anything you can't do ?
This is a subject that makes many candidates draw back from their application. The limitations imposed upon us usually are discussed thoroughly at our yearly summits. Not as if we have a problem with the principle behind those limitations. But sometimes we just don't see the reasoning behind them. I can't give details. But just a few examples of don'ts: building a Supermario without written permission from the IP holder (IP= intellectual Property) AND (probably) LEGO itself. No commissions for advertisement agencies, as we are not allowed to make models for advertising campaigns. No sex, but also no alcohol (which means: no Belgian beer in LEGO !). No custom sets - except in some very specific occasions. No use of the LEGO logo as such.
Again: in most cases, the reasoning behind this is clear and understandable. LEGO is a toy. It is meant for kids. It has a positive connotation all over the world, and we want it to stay that way. But in some cases we get a " no, you can’t do that”, because that is the easy answer. So we don't do the job - and the client finds the AFOL next door to do the job in stead. Which can be a little frustrating....
- Anything else you want to share with us ?
Yes. I want to stress the fact that in my opinion, the LEGO Certified Professionals are not "per se" the best LEGO builders in the world. I have seen truly amazing creations made by AFOL's at their events and on websites. Also here in Belgium, with the BELUG guys and girls. The main difference is that for AFOL's, it's a hobby. For us, it's a job.
- Thanks !
after Serge Belsack, BELUG, dec 2012
You can have a look at Dirks work on his website amazings.eu.
Feel free to comment on Dirks work, ask extra questions or just post feedback on the interview in this topic. I'm sure Dirk will be around!
Posted 22 February 2013 - 10:36 PM
It´s good to get an insight on how the LCP´s in general go about their job. I think there´s room for more of them around the world, it will be interesting to follow the increase in the years to come.
As for Dirk, he´s a super nice and highly intellegent guy. I had the pleasure to spend two days with him and some other great persons (AFOL´s) two weeks ago and we had a blast. I think he speaks about every language there is (or at least a bunch of them ).
And he looks ok as a minifig also:
Here you can see the whole list of LCP´s!
Posted 23 February 2013 - 12:27 AM
Sean Kenney is actually having a show near me in Omaha, NE until May I think. I should definitely go check that out sometime.
I will definitely be looking into some of their work.
Posted 23 February 2013 - 10:45 AM
Posted 24 February 2013 - 04:13 AM
Betty in The Pearl Mafia.
My Academy-approved reviews: 9469 Gandalf Arrives, 8236 Bike Burner, 30027 Reindeer, 8737 Toa Hordika (Bionicle),8514 Power
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