23 May 2024

Wollongong real estate agent Simon Scholtens shares his building blocks for happiness

| Zoe Cartwright
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Simon Scholtens at the Sydney LEGO exhibition

Simon Scholtens at the Sydney LEGO exhibition on 17 May with some vintage LEGO. Photo: Simon Scholtens.

Open up your toybox – a LEGO resurgence is upon us, and an enhanced sense of creativity and community are just two of the benefits the brightly coloured blocks have to offer, local enthusiasts say.

Illawarra real estate agent Simon Scholtens is a member of the Illawarra LEGO community group and Sydney Lego Users Group (SydLUG).

He packed his childhood set up at the age of 13 and didn’t think much of it for another couple of decades, until a chance sale piqued his interest.

“Back in 2007 we had an office in Wollongong and I’d go into Myer all the time,” he said.

“They had brought out a big LEGO creator set of the Eiffel Tower for adults at $330, and I kept walking past and looking at it until one day they had a 20 per cent off sale.

“I just thought ‘screw it’ and I bought it, took it home, built it, loved it and it’s still standing in my LEGO room today.”

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Simon’s newly rediscovered passion for LEGO has taken him as far afield as Denmark to tour the LEGO factory and meet the CEO of the family-owned company.

The Eiffel Tower set that sparked it all is now worth about $1000 secondhand, but he’s not interested in selling. As well as collecting sets to build, he also collects vintage LEGO toys, which include wooden wheeled toys from the 1930s.

En route to an exhibition in Sydney, he said the creative outlet was what kept him interested.

“All the stuff we’re showing this weekend are people’s own creations they’ve built,” he said.

“I can’t sit still; I have to be doing something all the time and I definitely need an outlet from work.

“When you build something, you can step back and take a look and go, ‘That’s something I’ve done’.

“I started building all this stuff in private, then I joined the local LEGO group and gone from there; I don’t care who knows these days.”

Simon credited reality TV show LEGO Masters – along with the pandemic lockdowns – for the recent boom in adults interested in taking up the hobby.

He said local LEGO groups were a great place to find inspiration and make new friends.

“People in our LEGO group are from all walks of life, and you make a lot of good friends and good contacts,” he said.

“My first display was at an Illawarra show in 2018 and I was really nervous about what people would think – now I’ve travelled around Australia with SydLUG doing shows all around.

“Through the shows we’ve been able to do a lot for charity and for the community. The exhibition at Sydney Olympic Park has more than 130 exhibitors; it’s a massive day out and all funds raised go to the Sydney Children’s Hospital.”

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In addition to Simon making new friends through LEGO, it has had the unexpected benefit of connecting Simon and his daughter.

It’s a hobby families can share for a lifetime – or at least between the ages of four and 99.

Now at university, she’s grown up around her dad’s hobby, and is now a talented creator in her own right.

“She had her first display on the weekend; she’s very creative and it’s a pleasure to have her come with me and see her first creation,” he said.

“We’ve almost outgrown the extension on the house for the LEGO, that’s how mad we get. It’s Christmas every day for us.

“At the moment I’m about bang in the middle of the age range – when I turn 100, I’m going to be devastated.”

If you’re an Illawarra LEGO afficionado looking for a community, Simon recommended following the SydLUG Facebook page or joining the Illawarra LEGO Community Group.

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