UPDATED: July 21, 2021
Jen Smart and Susan Earls, two mothers from American Fork, Utah, are out to show the world that Lego bricks aren’t just for kids. The duo competed on season two of Fox’s hit TV show Lego Masters, where their original creations were judged each week against the creations of other Lego enthusiasts.
A Love of Legos
Smart has always been a Lego kid, receiving her first set for Christmas when she was 6 years old. But when she grew up and started a family, she had to forgo her beloved building bricks for a time. “I packed my Legos away for a little bit when I got married and when my kids were little,” she says. “I was just waiting for the time when I could pull them all out and we could play again.”
Earls, on the other hand, didn’t venture into the world of Legos until she started buying them for her 5-year-old son. “I was just buying more and more. At that point, I was just buying them for myself,” she laughs. “That’s really how I got my start.”
Smart and Earls met through the Utah Lego User Group (ULUG), where they progressed from building Lego sets with their families to merging sets together to creating original masterpieces.
“I think the transition happens when you [go from] building a set you have instructions for to creating something of your own—an image you see in your head,” Smart says. “You’re thinking, ‘Oh, what would this tree look like in Lego? This building? This train?’ Then you’re wondering, ‘Can I do it?’ Then you’re fiddling with the parts trying to see if you can create what you see in your head.”
Earls says that the expert Modular series that Lego creates helped sparked the inspiration for creating her own buildings and trains. Smart has always loved creating landscapes and draws inspiration from the space sets she used to build as a child. She also creates statues and portraits and has been influenced by fellow Lego artists such as Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney. Her favorite creation, a 6-foot-tall Wonder Woman statue, is currently on display at SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem, Utah.
For Earls, one of her favorite things about Legos is the colors. “Right now, my favorite kind of Lego color is the bright orange,” she says. “I think in recent years Lego has really expanded on their color palette. They’re making earthier tones, which is great.”
One of Smart’s favorite things about Legos is the infinite possibilities of what she can create. “The colors and shapes are fantastic, but the possibilities just blow my mind,” she says.
Competing on Lego Masters
This season on Lego Masters, Smart and Earls competed against 11 other two-person teams—and they were one of only two female-female teams. The show is hosted by Will Arnett, and judges Amy Corbin and Jamie Berard evaluate the teams’ creations, eliminating one duo each week.
Earl says of the experience, “Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real yet. It’s starting to sink in now, but I was just so shocked.”
“It’s surreal. It is insane,” Smart adds. “It’s fun that this gets to be our life and our job right now. It’s great wave to ride on.”
For Earls and Smart, they can spend days, weeks, or even months creating their individual designs—a luxury that they didn’t have on the show. “On Lego Masters, you had a certain time frame, which is a different element than we’re used to,” Smart says. “When we’re building, we’re used to being able to take a break and mull things over. On Lego Masters, you have zero time for any of that. You’re all in 100 percent of the time, and you just have to throw those bricks together and hope it works.”
The duo was eliminated in the sixth episode, “Demolition Derby.” The challenge was to create a wild remote-control concept vehicle to battle it out against the other teams’ creations. Brick masters Amy Corbett and Jamie Berard were looking for aesthetics and strength for this challenge. The teams had six hours to complete their machine, and Earls and Smart created a tractor for called the “Muscle Sprouts Tractor.”
During the challenge, the duo made remarks about their time management and how they weren’t feeling confident in finishing this challenge. After their six hours were up, the judges reviewed each team’s builds before the derby began.
Judge Amy Corbin said she loved how Susan and Jen’s creation looked like it was taken out of a kids toy box.
While judge Jamie Berard loved the blade design, he wondered how strong the blades were going to be during the derby portion.
“Visually they look great, but I would be surprised if they didn’t come off fairly early,” he said.
Ultimately, Earls and Smart were eliminated.
“You had a nice overall vehicle but were missing some of the details and story touches that we saw in the other teams’ builds,” said Corbin. “The coolest parts of the build were the blades on the front and back of the vehicle, but they were destroyed really quickly in the derby, leaving a more basic build.”
Clicking with the Community
Smart and Earls were able to watch the first episode of the season with their friends, family, and community in one of the theaters at SCERA Center for the Arts. “To see ourselves on that big of a screen was crazy,” Smart says. “Seeing the other contestants on the screen was phenomenal. I was cheering and hollering. It was a lot of fun.”
Outside of Lego Masters, both women are active in the Lego community. They will be attending Brick Slopes—A Lego Fan Event this August at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah.
“It’s a really awesome community and support network to be a part of,” Smart says.
Lego Masters airs on Fox Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. MDT. To see more Lego masterpieces, follow @JenRaineSmart on Instagram and Facebook.
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