The Building Blocks of Creativity with Ekow Nimako

Artisans Exposed Projects presents: One Flow: A series of short interviews with uniquely passionate performers and artisans.
By: Jojo D 

Unique, eclectic and uberifically creative, is how I describe Ekow’s Flow. 

photo by houseofjo photography
I became interested in Ekow and his art because it touches a part of a human experience we have all shared and still luv today. LEGO, a household playtime activity, was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish carpenter. LEGO, literally means ‘play well’…and we did.  LEGO has maintained its dominance and world wide appeal for nearly 80 years and there is no sign of slowing down. In fact, over the years, LEGO has introduced a wide variety of building kits, blocks and interactives that continue to attract and engage the kid in all of us. They have branched out and tapped into exciting accessories and exclusives such as robotics, video games, vehicles, books, and the prestigious LEGO Master Builders Academy.  Their Star Wars collection, one of their most popular series, is just one glowing example of how they have kept relevant over the years. 

As LEGO continues to gain popularity in young and old alike, there are those who have taken ‘building’ to new heights. The most creative of those gain respect and notoriety within the LEGO world community and amongst those are a lucky few that have become certified professional builders exclusively for LEGO. There is only a handful of LEGO recognized professionals and the road to the top is long and arduous but once the pinnacle is reached, the sky is the limit of what can be achieved within the LEGO world community. And, it is a world onto itself!


Ekow is amongst a select group of professional unofficial builders. Unlike official LEGO builders, Ekow is free to creativity explore just about anything he wants to and retains all creative control. He is an independent Lego builder who has established much success over the years through commissions, exhibits and curated projects. 



This is Ekow's Flow….


The Building Blocks of Creativity

photo by houseofjo photography

Who: Ekow Nimako

What: Visual Artist

When:
I've been building with LEGO since I was five years old. My professional art practice began in 2012.

Where: I live in Toronto, Ontario

Why: From as far as I can remember I wanted to work for LEGO, or work with it at any rate, and now it has become a reality. I made it a reality. I can honestly say there aren't many things I enjoy more in the world than building.

How: When constructing beings, creatures, or other living structures out of LEGO, creative play becomes this very natural, alter-biological process for me where creation seems to occur on the molecular level. I always start with the eyes, and everything else takes shape from there.
Photo by Houseofjo Photography

How did your fascination with LEGO begin & how old were you? 

I remember being five years old and moving from London England (where my family lived for a year), to London Ontario, and I remember that from then on it was LEGO, G.I. Joe, and Transformers all day. Now it's just LEGO. Those Michael Bay movies have long lost their muchness.

Where do you commonly draw inspiration for your designs and/or is it always evolving?

I am inspired by the world I encounter, the emotional lived experiences and fantastical imaginings of people and creatures, society, nature, otherness. My sculptural process draws from an observation of living entities, and much like natural creatures it must evolve. Every single sculpture I create is made with a more evolved process than the one before it. They all typically carry the same unique aesthetic, but no two are made the same way.


Where do you commonly draw inspiration for your designs and/or is it always evolving?

I am inspired by the world I encounter, the emotional lived experiences and fantastical imaginings of people and creatures, society, nature, otherness. My sculptural process draws from an observation of living entities, and much like natural creatures it must evolve. Every single sculpture I create is made with a more evolved process than the one before it. They all typically carry the same unique aesthetic, but no two are made the same way.
photo courtesy of Ekow Nimako


Tell me a little about the design and build process. It sounds like a fair bit of math is involved.
Well, there is math involved in my sculptural process, or engineering rather, but it is not something I often recognize as equational. Structural stability must always be negotiated when building, as well as things like balance and weight distribution. Sometimes I have to use some math to work out ratios if I am building larger-than-life, and in those cases I will usually 'sketch' out the piece with a smaller sculpture as a sort of guide. In truth I can draw fairly well, but not as well as I can build.



photo by houseofjo photography

Your work was recently featured in this year’s Nuit Blanche, congratulations. Comment on your exhibit and the influence behind it.
Silent Knight was a monument to the Ontario Barn Owl. It remains one of the most extirpated species in the province, so I thought that if I bring this magnificent creature into the collective consciousness it may help prevent its localized extinction. The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art co-produced the exhibit with the city and they were all very supportive of my work. I was with the piece for most of the event and I'm glad to say that several people were definitely inspired.

image source: (Instagram user @sbnuitblancheto


What’s the largest or grandest build you've ever completed?
The biggest sculpture to date is Silent Knight. It is over seven and half feet tall and weights over 600 pounds.



1 Photo Source: 1LOVETO article by Christina Cheng




If LEGO hadn't panned out, what would you be doing with your creative time?
Well I'm also a writer so I'd probably be writing books. I love reading and writing fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. I've already completed two unpublished novels for young readers, one of which I also illustrated. So I will likely end up writing more at some point.

Professional LEGO artists are a rare breed. There’s but a handful, worldwide, that are recognized by LEGO as Certified and Professional Builders and part of the LEGO extended family, in which artists benefit from employment, sponsorship and endorsements. There are also many talented artists that contribute to the community who are not officially recognized. Where do you stand currently?
I am a professional artist, and as such I am not sure how I feel about forging a direct relationship with any brand corporation. Despite my profound love of LEGO, too, I am an artist before I am an enthusiast. That order of things is important to me.



photo courtesy of Ekow Nimako


photo by houseofjo photography

Amongst the pros, there are a few who generate a livable wage and even fewer bear the rock star status of income generation. This leaves the majority of artists who don’t/ or can’t earn a living at being a LEGO artist but are still finding the time, money and energy to pour into the art. Do you art for the sake of art and the challenge of the medium or is the challenge of becoming one of LEGO elite Builders that entices you?
I think the sensitivity of my artwork is rare even amongst elite LEGO builders creations, however to gain this distinction is not why I make art. LEGO just happens to be something I am extremely familiar 

with having played with it for over thirty years. My main purpose as an artist is to inspire, to make people think, to make people act, that's what art is made for isn't it? To transcend humankind? 

What’s the Lego Community like?
My connection to the greater LEGO community is tenuous at best, but I know some pretty diehard fans. They go to all the conventions, win LEGO awards, and probably spend all their disposable income on LEGO. Completely fanned out.

LEGO is a fundamental part of most childrens lives, yesterday and today, unwaveringly. What is it about LEGO that holds such power over our inner child?
It effortlessly merges complexity, simplicity, and colour for every emotion.

photo by houseofjo photography


If you could relay a message to Ole Kirk Kristiansen, the founder of LEGO, what would that be?
Thanks man!

What sort of opportunities emerged for you as a LEGO artist?
I think LEGO is amazing at captivating people's imaginations, so working with it has definitely afforded me opportunities to work with great institutions and people. There are a couple celebrities who own my artwork so I have their patronage to be thankful for, as well as all of my clients who supported me from the beginning.



photo courtesy of Ekow Nimako
What types of LEGO events, conferences, tradeshows etc are offered to the community and have you ever attended any yourself?
There are various LEGO themed events around the world to be sure, but I don't really know how many, I took part in a contest once, but I haven't participated in anything LEGO-themed since. I am more concerned with moving forward as an artist than being wholly defined by my medium.


What types of objects are you most recognized for building?
I think people recognize my creatures most of all. Silent Knight got a lot of attention which then brought more attention to some of my other birds and mammals. I think deep down most people really love animals more than people.

photo courtesy of Ekow Nimako

You work with large quantities of LEGO blocks. Are the tools you require easily available to you or do you have to custom order your supplies?
I order my parts from an aftermarket website, most of which are recycled, all of which are from people's personal collections from all around the globe. There is nothing special about what I order, except maybe the quantity depending on the build.

What prerequisites does one require in pursuing this creative & specialized path?
An aptitude for art, the patience of a snail, and an impervious layer of skin on the bottom of you feet.

If I wanted a life size LEGO sculpture of myself, how much would it cost to produce something like this?
A life sized human sculpture would cost... more than a few thousand.

photo courtesy of Ekow Nimako
Here’s an LEGO art project for you...the Toronto skyline...with the help of a youth artist volunteer initiative program. Have you worked with such groups?
Actually I have been the Artist-in-Residence with The Power Plant Gallery's Power Youth Program for the last two seasons. In it I visit the Boys and Girls clubs in marginalized neighbourhoods once a week and work with the youth on exhibitions that focus on themes like identity, community, and afro-futurism. The winter exhibition was called Building Beyond: Legacy 3015, and this fall we focused on gentrification and street art in Regent Park with Building the Block.


What piece of advice can you offer other young LEGO artists trying to make it in this discipline?
Keep at it, and avoid building things that other people have already built unless you can build it better.



photo by houseofjo photography

What approach/es do you take when seeking financial support & investment for sustaining your art?
When it comes to seeking investment or financial support for a career in visual art it is important to find as many revenue streams as possible. It is rare for artists to make their income solely from selling art. In Canada there are three major governmental councils (Municipal, Provincial, National) that disburse grants for artist at various levels of their career provided they meet the eligibility criteria. Residencies are also a good resource to explore. If you are a Canadian artist, signing up with CARFAC (Canadian Artists Representation/le Front des Artistes Canadiens) is a good move.





photo by houseofjo photography







What’s coming up next for you and your art….any new projects on the go?
I have some exciting projects that will be coming together in the new year, but you'll just have to wait and see.




How can potential clients & event planners contact you and see your work?
The best way to reach me is to visit my website: www.ekownimako.com, or email me at: info@ekownimako.com.

Thank you Ekow. You are amongst an exclusive group of artists and you have the fortunate opportunity to skillfully and playfully extend joyous parts of your childhood into adult life. You inspire others to pursue their dreams, especially if those dreams surround childhood memories and pastimes. Any parting words of wisdom?
I always try to remember that for all its imagery and inherent sentimentality, art is politics, and in this world you can't have politics without rebellion.




Artisans Exposed Projects
One Flow Series
http://artisansexposedprojects.blogspot.ca/

Artist: Ekow Nimako
http://www.ekownimako.com/

Artisans Exposed Projects is a Toronto based Blog highlighting the solo artisan, the creative warrior, the 'One'. One challenges conventional ideals on all fronts. One is true to One's creative self and exhibits endless passion for One’s unique endeavours. One is resilient and steadfast in the pursuance of One’s flow and gains strength while streaming through the face of adversity. #rebels #creativewarriors #blog #deviantartists #one #flow #rogues #Toronto #artisans @circusjo @G5CanadianUrban

Artisans Exposed Projects is a monthly publication for Artisans Exposed Projects Blog & G5 Canadian Urban. AEP features Toronto's most interesting solo artisans, so if you believe you are ‘One Flow’ and would like to be featured…and you reside in Toronto, send a brief bio to houseofjoartistry@gmail.com. Share your Flow!