In the Friends world Emma remains my go-to girl and therefore I’m always looking forward to her art-themed releases with every cycle on some level, so Emma’s Art Studio (41365) from the first 2019 wave was quickly added to my list.
Initially I was a bit skeptical and reluctant, so I put of the purchase until the price dropped to something I was ready to swallow. With the MSRP being a mere 25 Euro it was clear to me right from the start that this set would be quite small, given how LEGO price their stuff these days. I wouldn’t say that this is a bad price to begin with, but it never hurts to get your sets as cheaply as possible and so I waited for the powers of the free market to work its magic and the average to settle around the 18 Euro mark.
Unlike other sets, this one doesn’t have any larger side build, so the contents of the package are limited to essentially just the building and the stuff that goes inside it. Even the easel shown separately here is supposed to be fixed in the second floor. The piece of cloth it comes with is printed with a special water repellant varnish, so when you wet it with water, a paw print pattern is revealed due to the difference in moisture becoming visible as brightness differences. As a one- or two-time gag for your kids it’s okay, but quickly loses its appeal and of course that cloth piece can easily get lost. They perhaps should have included some additional rags with different patterns to keep the surprise factor fresh and if they had been in different colors the kids could have picked their favorite “canvas” color to boot.
The building itself is actually done pretty well. Naturally, big panels mean big stickers and I never use those, so it looks a bit barren. It would have been nice if they had included at least some plant elements also for the sides, a fire ladder, some gutter plumbing or something like that. I also tend to think that generally structuring the walls by building them from bricks instead of panels might have been nicer. In fact I think getting the stickers placed nicely on those 6 x 6 panels could be quite a challenge in itself. There are definitely a lot of pros and cons here.
The benefits of a simpler build thanks to the panels can of course not be denied. the downside to that naturally is that up to the point where they get capped with plates or interlocked with neighboring elements they break off as a whole just as easily. On the ground floor this isn’t helped much by the front being made up of columns and door frames itself. It’s workable, but up to that magic moment of firming it up at the top edge requires to be handled with care.
The second level is more practical to build due to its front being based on bricks. On the other hand the decorative columns mounted on inverted slopes at either side can be just as tricky to handle. The window construction is nice, though in this case it’s not ideal, taking up even more space of the already only 6 units deep room.
The interior is quite frankly pretty lackluster and underwhelming. It’s my pet peeve with pretty much all of the Emma sets: They have fancy names prominently featuring the word Art in them, yet they almost never look like an actual painting, sculpting or pottery workshop. It’s more like they are crammed utility lockers where the artsiness is merely communicated by some paint pots on the window bench or the artisan branding totally down to applying stickers to serve as depictions of art. Not sure how you feel about it, but as someone who dabbles in various art forms all the time this frustrates me quite a bit.
While it falls short of its own promise of being an art studio and it’s a total misnomer, the set on a whole is quite okay if you come to view it more as a generic city building. Most of the shortcomings come down to its teeny-tiny size. Everything feels crammed and this is by no means the liberating, open space most true painter’s ateliers really are with large windows, glass roofs, big doors. I really wish LEGO would do some such thing one day that is truly deserving of this name.
If you know what you are getting into and are perhaps willing to buy a second and third identical set to build a larger house then things begin to look better. Due to the panel-based construction it would be easy enough to modify and expand even for less experienced users. If you have no such plans, the house will simply be quite practical due to its format. It can be stowed away ins the smallest corners and regardless of the structural limitations it is very stable. Both things combined plus the absence of too many dangling parts that could go missing would also allow your kids to take it with them quite easily. Arguably that’s still a good thing…