Credit: Chris Buddy

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There are certain ways to distinguish between casual Lego fans and serious enthusiasts.

“One factor is how anal you get with your sorting,” explains Alysa Kirkpatrick, a highly experienced Lego builder and ambassador for ChiLUG, the Chicago Area Lego Users Group. “If you’re constantly organizing your Lego, you’re probably pretty dedicated.”

Which brings her to another determining factor: whether you pluralize the word “Lego.” If you’re a pro, you know “Legos” aren’t a thing—only Lego pieces, or bricks.

Kirkpatrick, who studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has been obsessed with Lego for several years now, to the point it has impacted her living situation. When the 28-year-old moved from a small apartment in Palatine to a garden unit just west of Rogers Park, she did so to be closer to her job downtown, but also to have a dedicated Lego room to work on new builds. “In Palatine, I had all my Lego in the dining room, and as the years went by, the Lego collection grew into the living room and continued to move out,” says Kirkpatrick, who participates in 15 to 20 shows a year and estimates she spends between $5,000 and $10,000 annually on Lego. “I quickly realized I needed to get a bigger space.”

Lego collector Alysa KirkpatrickCredit: Chris Buddy

Now boxes full of Lego, sorted by part (brick, slope, plate, et cetera), then color, are neatly stacked along the walls of her workroom, located in the back of her apartment. It’s here that Kirkpatrick works late into the night on custom creations, from small pieces, such as the 25 ornaments she makes every Christmas (one for each day of Advent) to a seven-by-six-foot-wide mural piece bigger than the size of a car.

Astra LuminariaCredit: Chris Buddy

Among her favorite works is Astra Luminaria, a giant, spaceship-like orb composed of interlocking spheres. “It was probably my most beautiful piece to this day,” she says. She has also completed commissions for local libraries and displayed at conferences such as Brickworld.

Credit: Chris Buddy

While her home is the primary place she can let go and Lego, Kirkpatrick’s hobby has taken her around the country and world. A highlight of her life as an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego) was a visit to the Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark, last year. “It was with 40 strangers I’d met online—all great people,” she says. “We conversed about Lego for three days, and got to tour the production factory and the vault containing every Lego set ever made. It was the most fantastic trip ever!”   v