Biography Page

Bruce Hirst, owner and creator
of Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture

Hello! My name is Bruce Hirst. My wife, Joanne, and I are the sole owners of Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture. Joanne handles the bookkeeping, order processing and helps with mold production.

I do everything else, which includes drawing up the original ideas, sculpting the building blocks, making all of the molds, taking photos, writing the articles and updating the web site.

What follows is a personal history and a description of how the mold design process works for me.

A Little History

To start with, I feel like I'm very lucky. I get to do what I enjoy and make a living from it. As far back as I can remember, I've always loved architecture. As a child I would occasionally play by the banks of a small creek and build little houses in the mud connected by tiny ladders and walkways carved into the side of the bank.

I loved building blocks of any kind - wooden blocks, Legos, and one of my favorites were those big cardboard bricks you could build with (about 12" x 6" x 3"). I always wished I could have had about a thousand of those bricks, a large room and a gallon of glue. Then I could make steps, windows, balconies, secret passages, and be able to crawl through and explore what I made.

While growing up I discovered several other interests. I absolutely loved drafting, which at that time was done with a T-square and vellum (no computers) and I could always picture things perfectly in 3 dimensions. I continued drafting in college where I was introduced to several CAD and 3-D design programs.

I also enjoyed math, especially algebra and trig. Trigonometry was my absolute favorite. I think it satisfied the puzzle solving part of my personality - and it always made sense. I liked numbers because they always followed the same laws. I often look for order and try to understand the relationships between parts.

My high school had a crafts class, which I excelled in. I was extremely good with my hands and enjoyed the variety of projects such as candle carving, rug making, batik, macrame, copper enameling and lots of other projects that most people thought of as a waste of time. I did very well in art, but was better at sculpture than at painting and drawing.

During college I discovered something that would change me forever - ceramics. Working with clay is such a freeing experience that I couldn't stay away from it. You can mold clay, roll, shape, flatten, texture, carve or add it to an existing form.

I've made a number of pieces, mostly strange tribal pots consisting of roots, horns and natural elements. I also like to have several inner chambers and decorate the inside as much as the outside. You can click on the photos on the left to see a couple of them along with some quick sketches out of my sketchbook. The trick is to find the shapes and combinations that express what you want, and arrange them in a way that works together. When designing decorative elements, I still use clay to explore different shapes and ideas.

Many years after college I became a high school graphic arts instructor. Graphic arts is a good combination between logical business thinking (planning, estimating, fixing machinery) and expressive art (advertising and commercial design).

After 10 years of planning lessons and writing instruction sheets, I developed a talent for explaining things so the average person can understand them. Here is where I learned many of the drawing and graphics programs used in the printing industry. I taught Aldus PageMaker, Quark Express, CorelDraw, Adobe Photoshop and web page design using basic HTML commands. Actually, my students taught me how to make a web page at first. I continued learning more about it so I could teach it adequately.

A few years after I started teaching, one of my students introduced me to Warhammer miniatures. I began painting them and looking for a way to display them. As I stumbled upon the building block idea, I began to create molds and buildings for my own use. What I learned (and taught) about web pages led me to make my first web page featuring the molds. One of my students actually came up with the Hirst Arts name. The free server I wanted to host on needed an account name, and he thought it was a good combination between "Hirst" and "graphic arts". I've used the name ever since.

How It Works For Me

It seems that I've always had two sides to my personality - a side that likes logic and puzzle solving, and a side that handles artistic and creative things.

Here's how my creative side works: I usually get a vision in my head. If I'm lucky, I'll get a good detailed picture to go by. More often than not, I just get a sense of a building or a place. I imagine the feeling I get when I explore this place. The frustrating part is that I get no details of what the place looks like. So I'm left struggling - sketching ideas, forming pieces out of clay, and all the while looking for shapes or designs that express that feeling. Finally I come up with some drawings that transform that feeling into a new model building or diorama.

Next I shift to my logical side. Here my enjoyment of puzzle solving comes into play. I break this design into small parts that can fit together in various ways, and try to find interesting relationships between the pieces. I explore a variety of ways to solve building problems, looking for the best way to build this model as well as make simple pieces that can be used in a number of ways.

I always feel that there's a perfect way to make things fit together - which usually eludes me, so I spend countless hours exploring every type of geometrical possibility - only to find that my first and simplest inclination is usually the best.

Once I have the pieces figured out, then I plan a model using those pieces. The tricky part is figuring out block-by-block where everything goes, and then deciding how many of each block should go on the mold. I always try to add more of the blocks used most often. Most building plans have to be redrawn several times to find the best layout and combination of useful blocks.

Creating the original blocks is extremely time consuming, and I won't go into the details here. I usually have to make the original blocks, make a master mold, cast the pieces, build the model, and then re-make the original blocks again fixing any mistakes I find.

In the end I've created a mold that is usable, easy to build with and still expresses part of my original vision. Thank you for visiting my biography page. I will do my best to continue making new molds so you can build the visions of fantastic places that appear to you. -Bruce Hirst