‘I’m a Lego artist. People say your work can’t possibly be art because it’s Lego, but art is art’

What I Do: Jessica Farrell struggled to find her medium until her hobby turned into her career

People always ask, “How many times have you stepped on a Lego piece?” I can truly say that the answer is never. I’m a freelance Lego brick artist and I’m highly organised with my craft.

I’ve had people say your work can’t possibly be art because it’s Lego. Art is art regardless of the medium. It can be used for education, mindfulness, play – it’s all of those things – and it’s art too.

I’m in my early 50s and come from a long line of female artists in the family including my grandmother, mother, sisters and daughter.

Growing up in Kildare, I struggled to find my medium in a family of such talented painters, sketchers and the like. I found that I was never good enough to make a career out of my art and didn’t find a medium I particularly loved until much later in life.


I fell in love with Lego at the age of four when my mother bought me my first set. It was a basic building set – you just got inspirations from pictures on the box.

I was into animation as a teenager, but could never find the thing that fit, so I drifted away from it. I qualified as a horticulturist, worked in garden centres and progressed to run my own garden centre for 20 years in Kildare. I filtered my artistic creativity into the arrangement of planters, hanging baskets and all sorts of botanical arrangements. When I took up Lego, I poured that love of colour combinations, beauty, form and organic shapes into my pieces.

Lego is universally loved by people regardless of a language barrier

I started as a hobbyist, joining the Irish Association for Adult Fans of Lego in 2014 and exhibited some pieces. In 2015, the second model I exhibited was Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, which drew the attention of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The model, which is now sitting in the theatre, took about 11 months, on and off, to create. After Lloyd Webber’s company purchased the model, it created a bit of media attention which had a domino effect.

I was a contestant on Channel 4’s Lego Masters in 2017 – a Lego version of the Great British Bake Off – after which I was commissioned to do some works. Very quickly, the hobby became so all-encompassing that I decided to take on part-time work and soon it was time to wind up the garden market for a career change.

I decided to take the plunge in 2019 to go full-time as an artist. My time is split three ways between creating commissioned works, making Lego books and running workshops around the country. For example, recently I was commissioned to create a diorama of a monastic settlement at Glendalough as it was in the 12th century. Another model of Liberty London department store took a year to create full-time – alongside some other smaller jobs. I’ve also created scenes of Trinity College and Temple Bar for the Lego store on Grafton Street.

For a long time I struggled in a small room in my house in Kildare, but this year I moved into a studio. One of the things that’s so important with Lego is sorting and having everything to hand. If you have pieces all over the place you can’t utilise them properly because you spend so much time searching for them. You could have millions of pieces but if they’re all in one jumbled pile, they’re no good to you.

I try to stick to working five days a week, but I’ll often end up sorting Lego bricks with a tray on my lap while watching TV in the evenings.

One of the things that attracts me to Lego is that it has strict mathematical parameters and the whole system is based on a grid. But the creative side of me loves the fact that even amid that mathematical grid, there’s an allowance for unbridled creativity.

At the moment I’m working on a long-term project exploring legends and folklore around the world, and I’m exhibiting dinosaur dioramas at libraries in Kildare and Wicklow where families can get some hands-on learning. In the future, I’m hoping to create a series on Irish legends. A lot of the work I do is international, but I haven’t had the opportunity to do much about Irish folklore, trying to break through the tropes at the root of these stories.

I’ve learned that Lego is universally loved by people regardless of a language barrier. One time I was working with a group of children in direct provision. Some had never held a Lego brick in their life, and most didn’t speak English. Within 20 minutes of working together, it was as if we were all communicating in the same language. They were creating and we were sharing a wonderful experience. At times like these, it’s rewarding. I get a lot back from what I do.

- In conversation with Conor Capplis

Enda O'Dowd

Enda O'Dowd

Enda O'Dowd is a video journalist at The Irish Times