LEGO MOC Geek Spotlight: Justin Chua

The LEGO My Own Creation (LEGO MOC) community is one rife with creativity and innovation, but it also offers fans the means to express themselves in ways that LEGO itself never intended, or didn’t want to touch on. This is something Justin Chua understands very well, with his passion for many things military. 

His primary builds consist of modern architecture and military vehicles, particularly those in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Republic of Singapore Navy (SAF), the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), and even the Singapore Police Force (SPF) all done in a clean, minimalist fashion. 

Also known for starting his own LEGO MOC online blog, A Minifigure Life, and its business arm Lioncity MOCs, Justin has been building up his rep as a distinguished MOC creator in the Singapore community for over 5 years and counting. In Lioncity MOCs, Justin showcases his custom builds, and even sells them individually, complete with instructions for buyers. Aside from that, Justin also does MOCs based on his favourite comics, movies, and video games, as well as a ton of mechs.

Though Justin prides himself in all of his builds, he notes that his military builds allows him to represent the Little Red Dot as best he can, to show off to folks from beyond its shores that a small country such as Singapore can achieve so much in just over 50 years. The dedication Justin had for his Singapore military MOCs, those of the RSN in particular, even ended up as a Kickstarter campaign back in 2019, which raised over S$9,000 — a thousand dollars beyond his S$8,000 goal.

“I build a lot of military models and most of it is from Singapore, because I wanted to represent our small nation and what we’ve achieved,” said the 35-year-old proudly, with whom Geek Culture recently had the opportunity to speak to. “I feel like this is my small contribution to my country, and if it helps in any little way, like influencing someone to be more proud of where we came from, then I would have done my job. “

While Justin’s MOCs aren’t as flamboyant as others in his community, their understated and simple design lends to his acute knowledge of his pieces. His effective use of his bricks allows him to build more models with little to no waste. But of course, this came with practice over time, having spent well over 20 hours a week pushing himself to be better at the craft. Even after becoming a dad in recent years, Justin still tries to find time to perfect and hone his MOC abilities, and make a small living out of them.

“There are many levels when it comes to this hobby, you start off knowing nothing and learn from everything and everyone you can. Then you hone your skills and practise and practise, eventually, you will find or develop a style that you like, and it will show,” said Justin. “The hobby started out as something just for fun, and once I became good at it, I started getting small commissioned jobs and then it became a small business, which is when Lioncity MOCs was born. Lioncity Mocs is a place I sell some of my models and instructions to enthusiasts and Lego fans. I guess the main challenge for me now is to continue and build on what I’ve already done.” 

Interestingly, what put Justin on the global MOC radar was his minimalist interpretation of Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s Game of Thrones. It went up on the pages of the highly-popular LEGO MOC blog, The Brothers Brick, which he remembers as a significant stepping stone in his rise to prominence. Despite getting the attention of the internet, Justin continues to keep his head down and improve his craft brick by brick.

That said, Justin has his fair share of inspirations from his fellow Singaporean LEGO MOC creators that he has met over the years. Despite there being “too many” to list, he names Kelvin “Chubbybots” Low, Evan Chang, and Eugene Tan as some of those whom he admires.

For those looking to start their LEGO MOC journey, Justin has one main piece of advice: “sort, sory, and sort!” For him, being an effective building is all about knowing what is in your collection, such as the colours, pieces, and how the pieces work and interact with one another. This means that folks can get started by just using whatever pieces that are lying around in their home, sorting and categorising them one by one, before beginning.

This then leads directly to his next step, which is trial and error, by “experimenting with the parts” in trying to find the best fit for each build. As an optional step, Justin also encourages would-be MOC builders to try sketching out the subject to help better understand its dimensions and possible parts needed. This, he feels, helps “make your mind work out things you wouldn’t have seen before”.

To Justin, there are “no shortcuts” in honing this craft, be it just for fun or for commissions. That said, it is ultimately still a hobby so his most key advice would be for builders to have fun with the process.

“It took me a long time to become decent at this, and if there’s anything to take away from [me], it’s that if you want to be good at something, just work at it consistently, and have goals and projects to keep your creativity flowing!”