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Bricks By the Bay 2013: Carl Merriam's LEGO Cthulhu

By Norman Chan

My favorite LEGO piece at this year's Bricks by the Bay was this amazing Cthulhu sculpture, designed and pieced together by Carl Merriam. Carl explains its origins and how he built it.

I intentionally left one LEGO creation out of my Bricks By the Bay photo gallery. During the two hours I spent walking through the exhibit floor, I kept a mental ranking of the favorite pieces I saw there. Carl Merriam's "The Madness from the Sea" stood out as far and away my favorite. It's a menacing Cthulhu armed with a flowing entanglement of tentacles, sprouting both from its back and slithering around its mouth. The beast towers on a platform of LEGO rubble which floats on a bed of translucent blue and white studs that shimmer as a wake does clashing on the shore. Majestic and awesome were the words that stuck in my mind as I stared at this model.

Carl, who builds custom creations under his handle The Brick Laboratory, is also the creator of the amazing working LEGO microscope (a design now on Cuusoo). But this Lovecraft-inspired piece debuted at Bricks By the Bay is far more organic than his other creations, which include an elegant John Deere tractor, StarCraft Battlecruiser, and even soldering iron. And as Carl explained to me, its creation originated with the hunt for a rare LEGO minifig.

LEGO released its 10th series of stand-alone minifig "blind box" packs this year, which included a rare Mr. Gold figure. While buying packs in search for Mr. Gold, Carl found himself with an excess of Medusa figures, which caught his attention with its beautiful dark green tail piece. He knew he could use that piece for a custom creation, and thought on vines and trees, but it was the idea of the Cthulhu that clicked.

With the Medusa's tail (13 were used in total) setting the tone for the piece, Carl also had to find complementing bricks that would pair well with it. Apparently, dark green isn't a common color for LEGO models, so Carl sourced some parts from Bricklink and even bought a random bag of 225 dark green parts from eBay a week before the convention. 30 hours of building and 1,400 LEGO bricks later, a Cthulhu was born. And even while at the show, Carl continued to tweak and mod the piece, swapping dark green hands (originally from a Star Wars Dewback body) with light green pieces with printed art found from an old modular dinosaur model.

High-res photos of Carl's build below. (And the best part of seeing this piece in person? Overhearing awestruck kids explain to their parents what a Cthulhu is.)

Find more of Carl's awesome work on his website, Brick Laboratory, and on his Flickr page.