Most of us can only dream about using our hobbies and turning them into dream jobs. For Jackie Ottinger the dream is reality. Jackie is a professional plastic brick architect.

Iron Man in Lego

I first met Jackie when I went in search of the ever elusive Lego TM X-Wing Fighter- the only item on my son’s holiday wish list I’d been unable to find anywhere else. A few minutes after stumbling into an unlabeled retail store front in St. Clairsville, OH at the Ohio Valley Mall, I knew she was a Geeky Gal to be reckoned with. This was just an interview waiting to happen.

 

 

So, Jackie, for starters, could you tell me a little about yourself?

 

Well, I’m 27,and grew up in Arizona before we moved to Wisconsin when I was 16. Then I met my business partner and we began the business in 2006 – online selling parts before we began working conventions and began traveling a bit in 2007. We ended up coming down (to the Ohio Valley) in 2009 to work Bellaire Toy and Plastic Brick Museum. It’s an excuse to support the hobby (plastic brick building) and traveling.

How did you become a plastic brick architect?

 

I always wanted legos as a kid but never got them because it was a boys toy – I ended up with Barbies instead. When I was 8 or so, I got a tub of plastic bricks from a yard sale and began to play with it – And when I started making my own money began building a collection. My buisness partner was a friend who had been collecting his whole life and at some point we realized we had the same hobby. We started out selling the parts and that just expanded into building custom pieces.

Do you get any flack from people who think it’s a bit geeky?

A lot of people will say things like “I didn’t realize girls did that” or “isn’t that for boys”; “I didn’t think they made Lego TM for girls.” I like doing the shows to help break the myth. I want to be able to tell the girls (at the booth) that it’s ok, girls can play with it. I try to support girls getting interested in the hobby.

What do you think of the latest trend in plastic bricks to follow the movie releases?

I think that they do well, but it’s tough because the sets of toys become less interesting and MC Escher's Relativity in Legohave less parts and pieces. Sometimes they get criticized because the sets get discontinued right before a video game comes out. For example, the Batman set was discontinued just as a Batman video game was released and we’ve had clients come in looking for the related toys. Some of my favorite sets actually follow a theme – such as Atlantis. It seems like those (themed) sets seem larger because there’s more parts without the licensing restrictions cutting into production costs. I’m looking excited about the Prince of Persia sets coming out in the future.

Are there many females in your field?

I’m used to being the only girl in the room – it’s not odd to me any more. It became a matter of embracing it and running with it.

What’s your favorite thing about being a plastic brick architect?

What I really love is the problem solving aspect of building with brick-it’s a limited medium- you can’t build curves- there’s only 12000 parts out there so if you need to look at something in the real world and translate it to brick it can get challenging.

What’s your least favorite?

My least favorite’s that , as a business person, I know whats coming out up to three years in advance and it’s really hard to be patient. To know that there’s this part that’s coming out that I want so badly, and to have to wait is against the American ideal of “instant gratification”.

Do you get any celebrity orders?

Some. We sell a lot to the guy that directed the burning movie on the Wall E movie from Pixar. Also, at cons we’ll also have the people buy the figures that represent themselves from our table – the Russian guy from Indiana Jones bought the figures of himself.

What was your favorite custom build?

The really nerdy stuff. I had a little boy that wanted a lot of Harry Potter characters from the book that don’t exist in any of the box sets. “Which Lego TM hairpiece represents Luna Lovegood?”

Do you go to any conventions?

We’ll be at several. Upcoming ones include Bricks by the Bay in CA, Wondercon, C2E2.

Jackie wants it understood that she is not officially affiliated with Lego TM or any other plastic brick manufacturer, despite using their products.