Dry Matter – LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314)

As much as I see LEGO‘s efforts at re-creating real life objects with bricks as a cheap tactic to lure in new customers, I can’t exactly escape the reality that everybody likes flowers. My mom certainly does and I’ll bring her some fresh bouquet whenever the opportunity arises. That almost makes it unavoidable that I have to show her my LEGO activities on that front just as well, even if my motivations are different. Part of that is simply scalping the pieces for my builds, but the other part is my deeply rooted fascination with organic structures which goes back to when I started doing stuff as a 3D animation artist.

So here we are, having a look at one of this year’s offerings in that department, the Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314) from the newly introduced/ re-branded Icons range which acts as an umbrella for sets formerly found under the Creator Expert moniker and/ or in other existing series. The qualifying factor here seems to be that they a) target adults, b) have a certain complexity and c) are often based on licensed intellectual property (IP) and/ or designs. Not all criteria must necessarily be met, but it’s clear that it is supposed to imply a certain level of premium value.

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Box

Price and Contents

With this this type of set the question of whether they are worth their money naturally depends more on the utilitarian value and perceived overall “niceness” than a more mathematical formula. Due to how many of the constituting parts are created, a simple price per piece can never do this justice, even if on the face of it this doesn’t seem to bad with 812 pieces for 50 Euro. Still, half of that are 1 x 1 elements and from the rest you could subtract a number of other elements that are so commonly used in other sets, you could get them cheap on Bricklink. That pretty much leaves the unique recolors and the larger items that stand out as a measure for gauging the value.

When you boil it down to that, those 50 Euro feel like a bit of a stretch. At the end of the day the result is a pretty small unit that only pretends to be larger with some of its parts sticking out and creating the illusion of volume with clever stacking. Realistically this is more of an 40 Euro package and then it might even have made sense to get multiples of it for that alternate building style (see near the end of the article). With discounts in mind that would have made for a 30 or 25 Euro offering and that would have been irresistible. Of course you get discounts, anyway, but with the higher starting price you essentially never get below 35 Euro. That’s a more realistic price within what I have laid out, though it’s not exactly a steal.

That said, I’m a bit torn on the matter and have to say that the price is at least “fair” due to the sheer amount of recolored elements and there’s some worth in that. It’s more a matter of “Would have been nice.” rather than a serious bashing of LEGO‘s price policies, if you get my drift.

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Overview

General Observations

As I laid out in my review of the Orchid (10311) and Succulents (10309) last year I have rather mixed feelings about using LEGO pieces to build decorative flower arrangements. Not only are there cheaper, more realistic alternatives, but inevitably how tolerable it is depends a lot on the execution. It’s a fine line between utter kitsch and a (under certain conditions) acceptable use of bricks. For me they will always be somewhere in-between and of course I won’t pretend otherwise. Building this stuff can be an interesting experience and a pleasant distraction for a while, but I wouldn’t necessarily plaster my condo with these pieces, not just because I don’t have the space to keep them around forever.

That notwithstanding, these sets make for excellent “parts packs”. I’m always surprised (both in the good and bad sense) how LEGO in particular go out of their way to re-color elements just for these sets when sometimes they couldn’t be bothered to do the same for decades before. On of those simple examples is the crown/ cracked egg piece. Wouldn’t have Dark Tan dinosaur eggs in the Jurassic World series made sense a long time ago already? It’s those silly little things that make you wonder.

One thing you definitely have to be prepared for with these types of sets is the tedious and repetitive build process. Inevitably plugging together lots of small elements for clusters of blossoms and arrays of petals on large flowers is in itself kinda boring, but this particular package ups the ante by throwing a left/ right mirrored base at you where you are building eighty percent identical stuff on top of each half. I already spread the build out across two evenings, but I couldn’t claim I was particularly stimulated or enjoyed it. It simply drags on. The only consolation is that you really see how things fall into place and make sense, which boosts motivation ever so slightly. Still, it’s a bit of a slog.

The Details

A big draw of these sets is the multitude of ways the designers have to come up with creative uses for existing (but recolored) elements and construction techniques. This is not dissimilar to what I experience with Speed Champions sets – I’m not a car aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but one has to marvel at the clever solutions the designers come up with to replicate details at this small scale with a limited number of standardized elements.

The biggest single sub-assembly/ flower in this package is a Dark Red gerbera. It’s built from paddle pieces that are clipped onto a large steering wheel with those little “wrench” clip bars. It generally works, but for my taste those orange bars could have a lot more grip. The petals will change their angle at the slightest touch, which is not desirable. Imagine having to re-set them into a nice even fashion every time you do the dusting!

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Gerbera

The blossoms are attached to some cheat mechanisms, most of which use combinations of clips and (hinge) bars as well as well as a few of them being simply plugged into the Olive Green and Dark Orange classic leave elements. The latter for instance applies to those Orange ones created from three minifigure pauldrons (or epaulettes if you want to be posh about it). The white chamomile blossoms are attached to the new branching “candle” bar element introduced last year with the Farmers Market Van (60345), only this time in Olive Green instead Bright Green. Additional leave pieces in that same color are also present, including the very desirable palm leaf, which has not been done that often in this shade. The small pine tree is also a new color for this long-existing element. Lots of good stuff here.

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Achillea

The egg shell/ crown pieces I mentioned in my intro are used to emulate grain husks on stalks and to similar effect stacks of small Tan cogs are used. To me those particular bits look like corn stalks where mice have gnawed off the actual grains. The “rose” could be a variety of flowers from an actual rose to a poppie, an Eustoma or so on. It’s more about the general vibe rather than the exact shape, as of course for most of these plants it would have to have an odd number of petals and not four. In any case, it’s a nice idea and if you have those shoulder pad pieces and small mudguards floating around in other colors than Nougat you could recycle the method for your own purposes, i.e. alternative color versions of this set or a completely separate arrangement/ bouquet.

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Rose

The Achilleas in Bright Light Yellow introduce the 1 x 1 flower plate in this color, which once more is one of those “It should have existed in this colors for years already!” things. It’s definitely useful and no doubt will make its way into other regular sets as well. Couched below this cluster you can also see the “papaver capsule”, meaning the pumpkin piece, but in a new Dark Orange color. This could come in handy for quite a few things from simply depicting a field with some withered away pumpkins among the normal Orange ones and of course the inevitable Halloween decorations.

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Papaver Capsule

On the technical side there’s no big surprises. The base is just a stack of different black plates and the two halves are connected in the middle via a simple Technic pin construct. The two 1 x 5 plates then merely lock everything in place so the separate segments don’t slide off the pins. See how I used the transparent column elements from the Avatar sets to raise the plate for the photo? I forgot to do a different shot to show the underside, but there also are hangers integrally hidden in the plates of the base. Some may already know them from a few DOTS sets (the message boards for instance). This would allow to hang the contraption on a wall, door, cupboard or whatever you fancy, given there’s some hooks or screws in place.

As an alternative to the flat panel layout there is one with a 90 degree corner. by itself this doesn’t do much, though. It is meant to be used if you purchased multiple(!) sets and then you can clip them together to form some form of wreath/ big flower with a central hole into which you could place some candles, a flower pot or similar. Due to the weight this cannot be hung on the wall then, however, at least not without some extra engineering to reinforce the structure. The image also exposes the connection system with the pins. As you might guess, for the linear panel version it’s simply a Technic brick with longer pins sticking out on both sides.

LEGO Icons, Dried Flower Centrepiece (10314), Angular Connector

Concluding Thoughts

I’m certainly not crazy about this kind of stuff, but one has to admit that this isn’t bad. It shows that the LEGO designers get better every year and apparently these sets sell well enough to afford them quite a few liberties in requesting elements to be produced in new colors or old molds to be dusted off. The latter is still my primary reason why I get these packages, but I’ll try not to be too judgmental about people genuinely decorating their habitat with LEGO. I would still prefer to go out in the field and harvest a bunch of real flowers, but each his own.

The versatile use could certainly make it interesting for even more people, but given the long-winded and tiring assembly I’m not sure I would chew through three or even more sets as suggested in the instructions. That really would be more of a family project with each party involved building its own segment or work being split up by specialized sub-assemblies/ different flower types like someone putting together all those Achilleas and another the corn cobs while yet another person builds the support structure.

Getting multiple packages would also be quite an investment and that 200 Euro line would come closer and closer, at which point many may wonder whether they couldn’t spend their cash on a different set such as a Modular Building for example. Settling on just a single set may be a better strategy. That is, unless you really don’t mind and swim in money. 😉

Sharp Swords and colorful Plants

It’s the first real summer heatwave this year, so I’m lazy as a sloth (in addition to my fragile health not responding well to the temperatures), but I figured I’ll at least share the MOCs I created for some contests I took part in. As per my self-imposed rules I’m only releasing the info now that the competitions are over and this therefore is not a “Please vote for me!” post or that sort of thing.

First there’s my model I created for Zusammengebaut‘s May the 4th… Star Wars building challenge that also doubled as part of LEGO‘s overall #buildtogether (#baumituns) initiative during the current pandemic. At the time I was helping my brother to move to his new flat, so I didn’t have an abundance of time to spend on elaborate large scenery pieces or vehicles and had to come up with something simple, yet elegant and original. That and of course I knew right away that had I gone that other route, I probably would face stiff competition with hundreds of similar projects.

All those factors being relevant and the idea having run around in my head for a while, anyway, I opted to build what I call “The Imperial Light Sword Point Sharpening Facility”. I tried to poke a bit of fun into that whole light saber thing by simply assuming that their tips/ blades would wear down and go blunt, after all, and needed some freshing up every now and then. I looked up some examples for traditional pencil sharpening machines and since I wanted to stick with the traditional palette of the Empire built one in Red. I also added an engineering/ architectural touch by giving it a proper foundation with support beams.

Light Sword Point Sharpener MOC Light Sword Point Sharpener MOC

In keeping with the Empire‘s standard tropes I tiled over the floor in as much shiny Black as I could and added a bit of flair by having rounded corners with Light Bluish Grey trim all around. In a real factory/ maintenance facility there need to be some safety measures in place and stuff has to go somewhere, so I also added a container with some “spent” light saber blades. With the glossy floor in place and the Empire valuing their almost clinically sterile cleanliness, of course someone had to sweep up the debris/ chips and who better than a captive Chewy? Adding an officer with a whip and a Stormtrooper with a gun as supervisors evolved naturally.

Light Sword Point Sharpener MOC

I dare say that for a mere 24 x 16 studs this isn’t all that bad and who knows, maybe one day I’ll get around to building a much bigger version of it as I originally envisioned? In any case, I’m glad it worked out and netted me a third place. Since it took so long for the Zusammengebaut people to actually rate the contest and publish the results I haven’t received my price yet, but if everything holds as per their initial announcement I should be getting a Sith TIE Fighter (75272), the triangular one from the The Rise of Skywalker, soon-ish. Nice!

The second MOC is my entry for the Eurobricks Flower Challenge on the Eurobricks forum. I didn’t win anything for that and in my opinion the contest was a bit of a shit show with only few people voting, ultimately skewing the outcome, but I can acknowledge that there were several entries way better than mine.

Anyway, I called my entry “The Duke’s Arboretum” and tried to evoke that feeling of an old English manor in the countryside some time in the 19th and early 20th century where a scientifically inclined nobleman would maintain his own greenhouse/ arboretum to harbor all kinds of exotic plants in a contest with other lords and dukes on who has the most rare species.

The Duke's Arboretum MOC The Duke's Arboretum MOC

To that effect I built a tall Gothic window all with fancy red velvet drapery and that. The walls are more or less plain and only have a Sand Green oil paint socket for easy cleaning. Similarly, I kept the floor rather muted. You know, just like it sometimes is with those science labs. A bit stuffy and old-fashioned, yet oddly charming. On second thought, though, I should perhaps have used some brighter colors. My camera just sucks and doesn’t have enough dynamic range to accommodate these dark colors.

Other than that this was mostly a test bed for trying out different plant building techniques in such a way that I wouldn’t just lap on standard LEGO blossom elements everywhere. This is definitely a topic worth revisiting at some point, but I definitely have to stock up on some parts and build a larger, more open outdoor garden next time…

Kiosk x 2? – LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426) and Olivia’s Flower Garden (41425)

In today’s review we’re going to have a look at two relatively small Friends sets. I’ve rolled them into a single article to make it worthwhile in terms of volume and because there’s a potential little twist to this.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Box

The first set is the Heartlake City Park Café (41426). The name sounds grandiose, but in fact it’s really just a tiny waffle stand – of sorts.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Overview

The point why I’m using “of sorts” is that while the whole thing is modeled after those little shallow sheds you can indeed find in parks or on the sidewalks of cities like Paris for instance, which really aren’t more than boxes, it doesn’t quite qualify as a waffle stand or even “café”. A newspaper stand? A flower stand? Just fine, but not anything to do with food. There would be some serious hygiene and safety concerns.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Front closed

This becomes clear once you open the doors. On the real thing those wouldn’t even be glass doors, but rather just solid doors with all sorts of little utilities, hooks, compartments and so on on their inside, so once opened those could be filled with goods for presentation, i.e. newspapers, flowers or souvenirs.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Front open

The actual working space would make any safety engineer’s hair stand on end (and a hygiene inspector’s as well). Things would topple over and fall down all the time, the workers would constantly bump into their kitchen appliances and furniture or burn their fingers. All those very adult concerns aside, the thing that bothers me most is that the model just doesn’t breathe that sense of a busy food-related kiosk.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Rear, Left View

You know, if this were real they couldn’t keep up with demand with only one waffle iron, There’s no mixing machine for the batter, there’s no coffee brewer, no fridge and the selection of fillings and condiments is at best sparse. Point in case: It would have been easy for LEGO to throw in at least an apple, banana or cherry and extend the model further in the back to add some more stuff. There’s no reason it only needs to be eight studs deep.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Rear, Right View

Getting to the good parts, there’s of course the new 1 x 1 heart tiles with the waffle grid print along with the older square tile version of similar ilk. Having had some Magenta window frames ever since the Heartlake Pizzeria (41311) from way back then I figured having matching door frames might come in handy one of those days – whenever that may be.

The yellow flowers are indeed actual Yellow, not the usual Bright Light Orange. That’s a pretty funky thing and one of those “I thought they had been around for years already.” moments, when in fact the color has never been used for this element. It seems trivial, but such is the world of LEGO and their inconsistent usage of colors.

Speaking of which, and this will come as an even bigger shock and you may not believe it, this set is also the first time in over forty (!) years the 1 x 1 round brick is available in Medium nougat. Given how suitable it would be for building plants and some other things and that e.g. the complementary palisade 1 x 2 and 1 x 4 bricks with their wood stem imitations have existed in this color since forever, one can really only wonder about the company’s logic in these things.

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), Printed Tiles

LEGO Friends, Heartlake City Park Café (41426), TableTo cap things off, there’s a small table where potential passers-by could perch and chit-chat while eating. You know, those annoyances that the kiosk owners always put smack in the middle of where you walk and you have to navigate around. Nothing special to see here, but it’s good that after quite a while at least the squirrel is available again and with a new eye print to boot.



Now for that “special twist” I hinted at earlier. There may actually be a way to turn the waffle stand into that little flower kiosk with a relatively cheap investment. That’s where Olivia’s Flower Garden (41425) comes in. But first let’s look at it on its own merits.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), Box

Did I say merits? Well, sadly it doesn’t have any. This set literally feels like someone at LEGO took a tour in their storage facilities, discovered a few leftover pieces from other production runs and then told the designer to make something of it. Each of the separate items could just as well be one of those models you get in the various LEGO magazines’ foil packs. They have been reduced to the bare minimum.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), Overview

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), CartThe little cart is reminiscent of those electrically powered baggage carts you see at airports or wholesale markets. It wouldn’t really make much sense outside those scenarios, but who knows? Maybe Olivia is running a big greenhouse like the ones in The Netherlands covering acres of ground that you can see from the airplane when approaching Amsterdam?


LEGO Friends, Olivia's Flower Garden (41425), Flowerbed

Unfortunately this isn’t the case. All you get is a tiny, tiny piece of elevated flower bed/ gardening table under an angled glass window. What makes this even worse for me is that there is not a single new piece in this set (at least they use the new binoculars piece on Zobo, though). By that I especially mean some newly colored plant piece, naturally. You know, had those leaves been Dark Green or Sand Green and we finally got those daisy blossoms in Medium Blue or another new color I’d be much happier.

Now back to my original argument: Combined with the leaf elements of the waffle stand the contents of this set could be used to re-dress it as a flower stand and if you have some extra parts from other sets to throw in, this may be even more feasible. At least in my world this would make much more sense.

As a conclusion I have to say that neither of the two are extraordinary sets by any stretch of the imagination. While the waffle stand at least tries to be a bit original and when remodeled and repurposed could actually look quite nice, the supposed “flower garden” is just a bad joke at the cost of the customer. The irony is that I get what they were aiming for, but again LEGO‘s laziness and forced cost-cutting rear their heads, preventing the sets from being much better.

Especially the “flower garden” is in no way the 10 Euro they are asking when the actual value feels like 5 Euro. Naturally, lower prices on the open market mitigate this somewhat, but even then it still feels unwarranted. This could just as well have been a 4 Euro polybag. The waffle stand fares a bit better as it boasts at least some new and unique parts. For a 15 Euro street price at a MSRP of 20 Euro that’s okay. Not great, but okay.

Hamsters and Bees – Olivia’s Hamster Playground (41383) and Tulips (30408)

I don’t get to go to the “next big city in the neighborhood” that often, so I’m always on the lookout to pick up at least a tiny LEGO goodie when I am. That’s mostly when I’m on the road, anyway, taking care of my many medical appointments. What opportunities present themselves and the success of the hunt of course always depend what stores I can actually come across. Therefore the sets I’m going to present today are a bit of case of not wanting to go home empty-handed while having limited options, but that doesn’t make them any less cool in a weird way.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Hamster Playground (41383), Box

The first set, Olivia’s Hamster Playground (41383) on first sight is one of those ridiculous things that you never would even think they’d turn into a commercial offering. It’s so simple and obvious, yet nothing that would immediately spring to your mind. Therein lies some sort of brilliance, but inevitably it’s also the greatest weakness of the set in terms of commercial viability and attractiveness. It’s once more one of those models that you can lump together in a wee if you have the parts, meaning people who can, will indeed likely completely ignore the box.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Hamster Playground (41383), Overview

Another reason to just overlook the set are of course the color choices. It’s really regrettable that this had to be an Olivia-themed Friends set and therefore the curved parts are done in Dark Azure. Using a more neutral color like White or a color that conveys the idea of wood like Dark Tan would have been infinitely better and could have compelled more people to buy since the parts then would have been more universally usable for other stuff as well.

The content is okay, but the regular price of 10 Euro is definitely too much. Lucky enough you can get this box as cheap as 6 Euro, which seems about right and could warrant buying it spontaneously as a little distraction for your kids. For me personally it’s also nice that I now at least have a complete color lineup of the Friends hamster in all colors, including the Medium Blue one from an Elves set. Oddly enough, before buying this set I never realized that the Light Bluish Grey one was missing from my collection, even though I already had the Tan and Dark Orange version.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Hamster Playground (41383), Hamster Wheel Front

Construction of the set is as straightforward as you can imagine – you build a basic cross from some 2 x wide plates and plug the curved railings onto them, then attach everything using a few Technic pieces. As I said already, pretty much like you possibly would build it yourself from scratch. The little bike on which a master can be sat is a nice gimmick and it even behaves almost correctly – due to the friction of the parts it will rotate along with the wheel ever so slightly before “rolling” back into its centered position thanks to gravity. It simply works and doesn’t require any convoluted engineering.

LEGO Friends, Olivia's Hamster Playground (41383), Hamster Wheel Back

The rest of the set is not really worth mentioning as simply the parts are too small to truly play with them owing to the hamster scale. I get what they were aiming for and I vividly remember those props from Mice Circus performances from when I was a very little kindergarten preschool kid, but they just don’t seem particularly useful. I would even say those little cones are extremely unsafe and easy to swallow, so beware!

LEGO Friends, Tulips (30408), Overview

When I was doing my little tour I also picked up the Tulips (30408) polybag. That in itself is almost miraculous, as chasing polybags can be an art form in and of itself. In the area where I live many of them never even make it to store shelves, not even in the official LEGO store, so it’s often a matter of pure chance and “making the rounds” in the right week around the release date. so i consider myself lucky having found this, even though I wasn’t exactly planning on buying this in the first place.

It’s nothing special, but that little idea with the tiny bee made me giggle when I saw it, so I just had to take it home with me. I have no idea what duck beak style wedge elements might be useful for, especially in this Red color, but I’m sure I’ll find some use for them later. The rest is bog standard stuff – a few Dark Purple bricks and tiles, some Lavender, some Pink. I think that with a little more effort this could have made a nice, fully fledged “flowers in vase” set, meaning a few more flowers, perhaps in different colors and of different types and of course some additional little critters like perhaps a bug, a fly and a spider. Overall it’s okay, though, as far as polybags go. There are really worse ones than this.

The trip on which I picked up the two sets may not have been the most fruitful in terms of volume of LEGO stuff I got, but those two little sets actually made me feel very satisfied in their own weird and wonderful ways. If you can accept their slightly humorous approach, they sure are worth taking a look at. Their practical value admittedly is pretty low, though. There’s nothing to be had here but a bit of fun.