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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉