An Interview with Tim Schwalfenberg

I came across some of Tim’s impressive Homeworld Lego models on Flickr, and was very impressed by his work.  Being the big fans of sci-fi art and Homeworld that I am, I reached out for an interview (plus, I wanted to know how to make awesome Homeworld Lego ships, too)!  He was awesome enough to not only give me an interview but send over some unreleased photos of his models – so here they are!

Mike MaddoxHow long have you been making custom Lego ships, and what got you started?

TimAs with most people, I started playing around with LEGO at a young age – far before I knew that plastic bricks don’t actually taste that good when you try an eat them – though I think I turned out alright anyways. However, it wasn’t until I started University that I began building Lego more seriously with the intention of creating models that might look better than a multi-colored, rectangular box with some guns and engines on it.

Part of the reason that I decided to dive into building LEGO as a hobby was seeing some of the amazing models that other builders had posted online, which were incredibly designed. I wanted to build like that; to take the three dimensional ideas in my head and put them into the real word. LEGO conveniently provided a medium that I could use to do that without requiring a ton of additional knowledge or learning an entirely new skill. So I started building everything from castles to steampunk and of course, spaceships and sci-fi, which is really the area that I’ve always been drawn towards. There’s something special about being able to conceptualize a spaceship in your head and create it on your desk just by clicking blocks together.

Fast forward three years and I’ve had the opportunity to build a number of creations, learn lots of different techniques and improve my photography substantially. And while I continue to build all sorts of themes, I always come back to space and science-fiction. I find that the angular shapes LEGO naturally produces work exceptionally well with sci-fi in general and of course, also complement the beautiful designs from the Homeworld universe.

Lego Vaygr Carrier - Tim Schwalfenberg
Vaygr Carrier in LEGO

Mike MaddoxI ask this on every interview related to Homeworld: Why Homeworld, and what got you hooked?  

TimThere’s something special about Homeworld. There are of course the fond memories of conducting epic spaceship battles with friends late into the evening, but along with that the aesthetic of the game has always stood out to me. In many science fiction universes, spaceship design can be rather bland. While I have nothing against a monochrome grey slab of metal flying through space (and let’s be honest that it probably doesn’t make much sense to paint a kilometer-long spaceship) the vibrantly colored and uniquely shaped Homeworld spaceships drew my eye from the get go. Combine that with the inventive 3-dimensional combat that still has no real equivalent even to this day and there’s little wonder that Homeworld has always had a special place in my heart.

As I’ve studied more of the art and design that went into Homeworld over the years, especially as I’ve worked at building my own models from the game or simply in the same aesthetic I’ve come to appreciate it more. It’s still a game that, even over 15 years since the original’s release, I go back to when I need some inspiration, which is a testament to the game’s quality.

Lego Vaygr Destroyer - Tim Schwalfenberg
Vaygr Destroyer in LEGO

Mike MaddoxHow does one learn to build their own models, and where do you get the pieces?

TimBuild lots and then build some more. As with any creative endeavor, practice helps. You might not start off as the best builder out there, but over time you will improve. My first creations looked no where near as polished as they do now, but each one was a stepping stone to where I am today.

While you’re at it, take a look at the wealth of amazing creations out there and if you can’t figure out how something was built, stare at it for as long as it takes you to find out. I know personally that I’ve spent a fair portion of my own time analyzing the techniques that others have used so that I can add them to my own library for the future.

If you’re looking for a good way to get pieces, there’s a great website called bricklink, which serves as a kind of LEGO exclusive Ebay. You can find almost any LEGO piece imaginable on there all the way from the 1980’s to today.

Lego Vaygr Frigate - Tim Schwalfenberg
Vaygr Frigate in LEGO

Mike MaddoxCan you provide instructions to those (like me!) who want to build their own ship models?

TimUnfortunately, I tend to build my models from scratch without any though towards putting instructions together, though I may at some point put together some instructions for my smaller models. And while I can’t provide any instructions for you today, it’s never too late to get some Homeworld ships going on LEGO Ideas to see if they could become an actual LEGO set one day!

Lego Vaygr Battlecruiser - Tim Schwalfenberg
Vaygr Battlecruiser in LEGO

Mike MaddoxHave any other awesome spaceship models you can share with us?

Tim

Sure! I know of plenty of fantastic sci-fi builders that have inspired me in my own work. One of my favorite artists is Pierre E Fieschi who designs some absolutely incredible concept art and LEGO spaceships. I particularly like his Maersk Highliner and Tesseract Capital Ship.

There’s also an annual contest in the LEGO community called SHIPtember, where people attempt to build LEGO spaceships that are over 100 studs long in a month. Check it out and prepared to be amazed at some of the stunning entries that people have made over the years.

Lego Vaygr Carrier 2 - Tim Schwalfenberg
Vaygr Carrier in LEGO

I continue to be impressed by the level of detail in Tim’s Lego creations – even the forward facing ship antennas are re-created!  Thanks very much to Tim for this interview, and don’t forget to check out his website and his flickr page for more awesome Lego creations, including additional non-Homeworld ships, some of which are very impressive.  We’ve also featured several Homeworld LEGO creations here!

Vaygr Battlecruiser

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I lead a digital marketing team during the day, and spend the rest of my time gaming, rock climbing, reading, and writing, usually in the company of awesome people. My favorite game franchises are the Homeworld series and the Descent series. Follow me on twitter: @FoHmaddox

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