By: Stephen Dalton
What would you give to earn a six-figure salary for playing with Legos all day? Meet Nathan Sawaya, he’s a professional Lego artist and a proud ‘dream job’ holder. He uses thousands of the small plastic toy building blocks to create customized models on a commission basis.
He’s built designs for Donald Trump and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz, among others. Surprisingly, the story of how he got to this point might be more interesting than his mind-blowing creations themselves.
Sawaya graduated from NYU with a law degree back in 1998 and began working on Wall Street as an attorney earning a decent six-figure salary. As many people on the Street will tell you, the lifestyle was a tough one. One way Sawaya handled the stress of dealing with type-A personalities with tight deadlines all day was to come home and unwind making clay sculptures late into the night. He eventually got more creative with his supplies and branched out into his childhood Lego obsession.
Sawaya won a Lego competition in 2004 and was given the opportunity to work as a full-time ‘master builder’ at Legoland’s San Diego theme park for the starting pay of only $13/hour. It was a ballsy move, but he quit his Wall Street job for this and eventually gained enough ‘experience and notoriety’ at Legoland to set off on his own.
He now works for himself, creating customized sculptures for wealthy clients and also travels the country showing off his work at exhibitions. You can see most of his work at his website, The Brick Artist. Some photos of our favorite examples can be found below.
Although Sawaya is non-specific about his annual take home pay, he does make it known that his creations sometimes come with a hefty price. According to the recent Portfolio magazine bio on Sawaya:
At any given time, he’s working on three or four projects, earning anywhere from a couple thousand dollars up to six figures per work, depending on the complexity of the project and how quickly they need to be built.
And let’s make it clear – Sawaya has been earning more each year than he would if he stuck with his Wall Street attorney job. So that gives you a good idea of how far the dream job paycheck can go.
You’ve gotta love the final answer on Sawaya’s Frequently Asked Questions page for potential buyers of his website:
How big can my LEGO project be?
As big as your imagination. And your wallet.
That says it all, doesn’t it?
Judging by this photo, Sawaya may or may not be working on a new WallStreetFighter Lego logo:
Sawaya with Stephen Colbert:
The giant bee Pete Wentz had made for Ashlee Simpson for their wedding:
Sawaya at Iwo Jima:
Other cool stuff:
Nathan Sawaya’s Website: The Brick Artist
Portfolio: Piece by Piece, August 17, 2008