A life as a Lego master model builder

Daniel Morey, a Lego master model builder, stands next to a Lego version of the Two Prudential Plaza skyscraper in Chicago.

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Tess Vigeland: It's not all bad news on the job front of course. Plenty of people have found opportunity even in the midst of this recession, a chance to rethink your career, perhaps try a new line of work.

WBEZ Producer Joe Deceault has this profile of a young man who went from carpenter to playing with Legos all day long here in Chicago.


Daniel Morey: My name is Daniel Morey and I'm the master model builder here for the Legoland Discovery Center Schaumburg. I've been building with Legos since I was knee-high to a duck. And I've been working here since about 2008.

When I started out, I worked for a carpenter contractor. And the first couple of years I started, there were between 500-600 carpenters working for that one contractor. We were quite large. But by the time I was about 24 years old, the market started to really go down, so was our business and we started to lay off more and more carpenters.

But I was still there when other guys were leaving; I was being promoted even. And so I hoped that there would be a career for me when the recession hopefully just kind of faded and went back to normal, but it never really did.

So about six months probably before the Legoland Discovery Center opened, I was speaking with my girlfriend at the time -- now my fiancee. She had just signed onto this account and they were doing the PR for Legoland Discovery Center. Right around that time they also need a master model builder, so she tells me they were going to have this contest for a model builder, you should sign up.

They gave me one hour to build whatever I want. So I built a little kid's happy meal. The judges liked it. There were kids for judges, they loved it. So the more interviews I went on, the more I spoke with Lego and they really painted this great, great picture for me. And it seemed like it was better, which I couldn't even believe, it was better than what I had at the time.

Working for Legoland really opened my eyes to whole kind of different satisfaction. We have kids coming in and I'm teaching them the values that I learned as a kid. So I'm kind of helping the next generation of engineers and architects and doctors and lawyers coming. And they're learning, they're building their brain skills and their synapses are firing. Maybe even thanks to me, or thanks to Legoland itself, they're going to have these skills that they're going to take with them for the rest of their lives.

Ole Kirk Christiansen was the guy who originally invented Lego and he was a carpenter. I think that's one of the defining moments for this career, too. It really makes me appreciate this kind of work because the guy who started this all, this all started in a workshop, like I used to have from a carpenter. You know, I was a carpenter myself.

That's always in my mind, you know, all this came from a carpenter, too. And right now, it's ending with a carpenter.

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