Presenting “Traders of the Rift” by Michael Rutherford.
This science fiction diorama was presented at BrickWorld 2010 in Chicago Illinois with small contributions from Ryan Rubino and Keith Goldman. Although the diorama ultimately lost in its award category to an aging and entirely dubious Jurassic Park construct, its centerpiece boat “The Gar” took home the highly coveted “Best Boat” award.
The diorama depicts thrilling mercantile action on a far-flung world. Set amidst the mysterious and ancient ruins of a bygone civilization, a multitude of Aliens both malevolent and benign pursue the timeless dance of commerce.
Please leave feedback if you dig it; Mike gets a kick out of it while he’s deployed, and as he's stated many times: it helps him improve as a builder.
About this creation
I had the distinct pleasure of joining Mike and his family, Ryan Rubino and hundreds of other LEGO nerds at the annual BrickWorld event this past June in Chicago. We all had a great time and one of Mike's big contributions to the fest was this layout. Mike also delivered a sparsly attended but highly memorable presentation on how to run an educational LUG.
Why yes that is a nice accent lamp in the background, made out of LEGO as you might imagine, and entirely cool. I fantasized many times about ripping out of its wall socket and hurling it at "Traders of the Rift". The reasons should seem obvious.
One downside of bringing a large model to a fest is that you tend to get pinned behind it. I remember Mike telling me that he didn't really get to look around the rest of the exhibition halls until the last afternoon of the weekend. If memory serves the diorama took him about six months to build, with most of it coming in a flurry at the end.
This photo probably best illustrates the technique Mike innovated for the hull. Mike used a large number of brown headlight/snot bricks in a long sheet, which he then flexed into the desired shape. I would imagine we'll be seing more boats in the future using this technique; I have not seen any other technique that produces such sleek, clean lines that bend in two directions. The one drawback is the regular, decidedly patchwork patern of the headlight bricks, but the brown masks the effect pretty well in the case of 'The Gar'
These truly epic flags were created by Mike's equally epic wife Susanna. The flag with the dragon is the Welsh flag and the larger flag behind it belongs to Papua New Guinea. I have a feeling that they will some day combine their marital building prowess on a sci-fi diorama with one heck of a mosaic eye-block/background. Susanna also brought an excellent medieval witch-burning diorama that went over big with Johnny Q Public and fellow attendees alike. Their 3 offspring have been known to get in on the building action in the past, and Team Rutherford is no stranger to awards.
This is actually the second time the three of us have combined on a diorama, although this one was a much more modest effort. Mike was definitely the driving force on this one though, and he was kind enough to invite Ryan and I along for the ride. Collaberation can be really difficult, but the results usually outstrip what is possible alone. About a quarter of the photos in this posting are Ryan's, who won an award himself for his unmatched animal model series Predator Vs. Prey.
The man the myth the Major, Michael Rutheford. Seen here in his natural state of oration, Mike uses his talon-like hands to explain the diorama's key action to a younger builder. I can say without reservation that Mike had a blast at the Chicago convention, both presenting his diorama and meeting so many of the LEGO freaks he'd heard so much about.
What diorama would be complete without a Squidbilly in a crane? Can you do any less?
Fresh as harvest day...the original plan for this diorama called for more and larger fields of dino-tails in various states of harvest. Big plans sometimes have to be downsized when your buildng for a convention deadline though. Mike got a lot of complements for "nice part useage" for this particular detail.
Squidbillies are fillin' dem cells! Dat you Squidbilly?
"I'm telling you for the last time Alberto, you can't turn a ho into a housewife. you just can't do it."
The techinique Mike came up with for the hull of "The Gar" was what ultimately won him the trophy I think. There were bigger boats at the convention and more complex boats, but I've never seen a boat with these kind of sleek lines and the judges had to reward it.
This is my favorite photo of the bunch, and really captures that ruined, old, post-apocalyptic feel without all the usuall three part harmoy of the "Post Apoc" theme: technic-bricks as bullet holes, telephone poles and sandbags.
If you look close you'll notice there isn't a human to be found on the diorama, which was one of Mike's goals before ever putting bricks together. Sometimes minifigs can drive giant dioramas from the beginning.
The catamaran pictured here was designed by long time crony and current employee of LegoLand Carlsbad's model shop, Ryan Rubino.
I think Ryan called this beauty the "Scatamaran Caruthers" out of respect for his favorite actor.
The rather dubious orange ship belonging to the rather awesome Twitch-fig is my design. I can't find a photo that shows it from a good angle. I think Mike was right to quietly shuffle this one off in the back...behind one of the ribs....which are curved monorail track pieces, for those of you not familier with them.
There was one rule concerning minifigs that this diorama proved perfectly. If you use a Star Wars minifig head in any other context, it will always remain that Stat Wars character. Master Plo-Kloon is not in this diorama, but 4 or 5 aliens with his head are. This was very confusing to several young people who argued with Mike that "look, its Master Plo Kloon, Master Plo Kloon and Master Plo Kloon". Not space-vampires, not martians, not interdimentional traders...no, they are and will forever be "Master Plo Kloon". So use your SW heads with caution.
Here is a short list of people Michael wanted to give a shout-out to that he met at Chi-Town. Deborah Higdon, Iain the drummer, Ley, Flo, Kelso, Phipson, Kaleta, Dennis Price, Connor and Father, That guy who looks like Santa and always wears red, Carter Baldwin, Nannan, Tyler, Kyle, Dave X and son, The Sterlings, that kid with OCD, Mike from the Lego store and a ton of people he mentioned but I forgot. So if you met him and you were not mentioned, its my fault.
Mike's automated harvesters were a big hit too, he really packed alot of great vignettes within the larger diorama, which is a nice study for newer builders.
In my not so humble opinion, this shot reveals one of the diorama's few flaws, namely the harsh transition between the tan earth and the rocks. I think a little separation, some transition areas, more elevation changes and definitely more water would have put this thing over the top. Maybe not enough to take down Jurrassic Park mind you, but over the top baby.
Even though this shot is blurry, it earns its place because it highlights my two favorite features of "The Gar": the sunken cockpit and the rigging...both unique details to any boats I've seen. You can also see a baggie of parts, you always end up with extra parts when you take dioramas to conventions...its almost disturbing. Not as disturbing as seeing a fat LEGO mannkinders shout "Dirty Brickster!" with greedy delight, but almost disturbing.
In this final photo you can see a little bit of my other questionable contribution to his otherwise pretty spectacular Diorama, the "Hopi Tanker" It also features Mike's excellent moveable dock that really would need a video to properly present. Even if Traders of the Rift ultimately lost to a low-res, dusty, pre-fab dinosaur having, nepotistic diorama with delusions of grandeur...it still rocked the BrickWorld house.
[if you can edit this from Iraq Mike, great, if you can't...bummer for you!]
This entire narrative was written by Keith Goldman, and should not be attributed to Michael Rutherford in any way shape or form. I'll close with one quote that Mike would endorse without qualification...
I love it. Can I have your mocpages autograph please? It is where you type your autograph on the computer. It is the closest to a real autograph you can get for MOCpages. I am collecting autographs from mocpages celebrities.
I don't know where to begin. This is so incredible I just want to stare at it for a few hours, then I want to play with it. I have to say, I'm jealous (in a friendly "I wish I had done that" kind of way) of your skills and collection.
Quoting Mastermind º
A very nice build Mr. Rutherford. Quite amazing! Just wondering: why did you leave Divide and Conquer?
Thanks for taking the time to assess "The Rift".
In regard to your question about leaving D&C, I think you will find my post on the INN2 thread provides a fairly detailed answer.
I just started an experimental group here:
I encourage you and any of the other members of D&C to take a look. It is quite different from D&C, but you might find it entertaining.
I've been meaning to comment on this for ages, but every time I come to look, I just don't know where to start. The landscaping, alien structures, just perfect. The hull technique used on The Gar is the best I've seen - very sleek lines. Overall, a cracking MOC - your efforts are most appreciated! 6/5!
Awesomeness, not sure what to say other than its really neat. The Gar has such amazing and innovative shape im still not sure how it was done.
I like it
June 28, 2011
Maybe some SNOT grey plates (and 1x1 round plates) near the edge would have improved the transition, but apart from that the diorama is really great. The ship is really awesome, especially the technique that was described by Keith.
This diorama is completely mind-blowing! The amount of detail and work that must have gone into this is beyond my comprehension. And if that weren't enough, the flags your wife made are superb. Just the fact that your wife builds Lego is fantastic, but to do it that well... you are a lucky man indeed.
I like it
June 6, 2011
thats clever big and i love the set i wish i could have seen it in person cool aliens 2
This Diorama is really great!!! But the boat lover that I am has his preference for The "Gar" and its magnificent hull curves!
This technique is really clever! Makes me want to make a big big boat myself, using it... :-)
oh yeah! i ve noticed this dio in someone else s post, unforgetable! like gio, the greenery, and rock plateaus add to the feeling of abandonned and desolate ambiance a lot to me! as i see this, i get another good dose of modesty, and inspiration for my city, as some of this work would apply on the futuristic vision i have for it! i can t wait until you apply the ships technique to a spaceship! as the curves and sleek shape are revolutionary!
i ll check ryan rubino s work, as he seem also very interesting as a person and builder, it really does nt hurt to have the feeling that you three guys used to, or still are, kind of the three musketeers of massive dio kingdom! lol! it s really funny how you guys all have escape from ny actors as icons, (snake!, i thought you were dead!) it s one of my fav movies too! did anybody asked you to say that the duke is no 1! lol! had you ever made an esc ny moc! (sorry my question mark does nt work!) now, i REALLY need to get to these events, if just to shake your hand and look you in the eye! i m a fan michael! ATTACK!
An amazing example of what post-Dark Ages builders can really do when they get their butts off the couch and hit the bricks! ;) Not that anyone's accusing you of having your butt on the couch... Keep on brickin'!
A wonderful creation (not just the physical build). I can see why the ship is an award winner, though there is much more of equal caliber here. Don't sweat the shore line, to the extent that you'd want to enhance that, I think 10 minutes of gnarling it up would satisfy all cravings. Nice talking to you, I have to go back to my defenses now.
Truly outstanding. There are too many details to pick out one that I liked most, but here are a few of my favorites: The harvesting machine's blades, the perfect in-construction arches reminiscent to the Death Star during building, and especially those curved rock steps.
March 11, 2011
I really like this and would definitely give it more than five points if I could.
This is a real masterpiece, this is. The boats, the buildings, and especially the arches are spectaular. My only critisism is not the models themselves, but the way the whole thing was put together. For example, the ancient overhanging arches over the water doesn't seem to blend in well with the modern looking buildings and alien equipment. I think if there was some sort of natural terrain or ancient ruined buildings between the alien colonies and the ruins, like maybe a colonization shelted in a valley somewhere behind the arches might work well, with only light patrols and docking boats near the arches themselves, It's just the modern structures right slam next to the ruins is a bit too much contrast. Overall though, this is one of the most impress dioramas I've ever seen.
You sir are amazing....I am officially inspired to do something. It won't be as good, so I'll keep plugging away in this basement. This is really a detailed diorama, and very believable(for plastic guys with claw hands)
As others have already said, there is simply too many amazing details here to mention them all. But in particular I like your rock work on the shore line. Beautiful. I send my best wishes from New Zealand to where you are and a safe return home.
Superb - I love the feeling of the Nile that it brings to mind, the artery running through the landscape allowing trade to flourish by the desert. Great choice to go with the non-human figs. the arch structures, the Gar, all the cool little details (got to love a squidbilly too)will certainly bring me back here for inspiration and possibly wholesale theft. Be safe in what you do, my thoughts go out to you and your family.
Wow this is an absolutely beautiful diorama, and the detail poured into every corner give it a very believable 'used future' feel. The water craft are all perfectly (especially the 'gar') done, but its the landscaping and structures that steal the scene for me. Wish I could have seen this one in person.
Ahh, I wish I could have been at BW to see this and fully appreciate it. So many great little scenes and features, each with it’s own story to tell, as well as adding to the cohesive whole. I especially love the solar panel structures with the hanging plants and of course the magnificent ruined arch structures. They remind me of the Halo 3 trailer at E3…brings a tear to my eye. Critiques are few and far between, but since I know you encourage feedback on your work I would offer two things. I think perhaps a little more random stuff (debris, crates, tools etc.) might add to the wonderful, Star Wars-ish “lived in universe” feel you’ve got going on here. And second, the “house on stilts” structure is a bit jarring in my opinion and interferes with the otherwise graceful left to right, low to high, less to more flow of the piece. But artsy and pretentious critiques aside, you truly hit a grand slam with this one. All around awesome, Mike! Well, except for Keith’s stuff…
There's too much goodies going on here to name, but a few are to be said here: the hanging plants are a brilliant touch and an excellent detail for overhangs in ruins or ancient sites; I love the detail in the third ruine arch: it's built with precious and balanced choice of pieces; and third: the cow! The only detail that sets this river bank on planet earth: Yes, the cow outlived humanity!
Fantastic dio, a feast for the eye!
Hang in there, Mike. Keep safe and come back home soon. We all miss you.
I met Mike at BrickCon '07, and the image of him that stays with me is similar to the one captured here on this page: Hanging out by a huge sci-fi diorama (in that case, The Omicron Weekend), happily answering a litany of questions from the crush of slack-jawed yokels that filed through during public hours. The sick puppy actually seemed to ENJOY it! On an Iraq note, when my sister got back from her deployment (yes, my sister, the marine -- she's the son our father never had), she was looking at some pictures of a road trip I'd taken and skipped right over those of the Great Sand Dunes National Park: "I've seen enough sand to last me the rest of my life," she said. If she was a Lego geek, she'd never be able to build anything with a tan base again. I hope, Mike, that when you come home safe and sound, you are not similarly affected.
This was one of the knock-outs at BW last year, and it's great to see it getting some time here on the hallowed pages! Brilliant parts usage throughout, and despite your questionable taste in friends (had to get the jab in there somewhere), there's no denying your ninja building skills! Stay safe over there, amigo, and I'll look forward (as I suspect will you!) to your return to the states and some fresh building!
Since I’ve never been to Brickworld, this beauty is absolutely new to me. Right now I’ve spent about 45 minutes looking at the pictures (okay, 20 minutes of them to find out how you did the magic with the headlight bricks on the hull). Each photo tells a story; there’s so much to see that I had the feeling of watching a movie. I really, really fell in love with the dino-tail fields. Your work is definitely inspiring, so I want to thank you and send best wishes from Germany.
Brilliant work ! I love those curved ancient structures, really my favorite type of moc, the hull of the ship is genius, I never saw a ship shaped so pure before, the river bedding has a nice touch as well, keep it up !
Rutherford! This was a thing of beauty at BrickWorld. I'm still trying to figure out how to steal those crumbling arches for some sort of ApocaLego display. Looking forward to stumbling across your trippy album-art creations again at a future fest, and I'll need your election-stealing know-how next time I build something good enough to get nominated for an award.
Came back to soak in the greatness of the whole layout and also thank you for doing what you do. My brother just recently came home from Iraq, safe and sound, which is what we all hope for you and your brothers/sisters in arms who risk your lives to protect us. Thank you is not enough.~H
First of all, it was a pleasure meeting you at the con. Second, I admit that I was shocked this one didn't take home more hardware. The ship was a worthy prizewinner, but the overall dio was tops in my book as well. Third, if and when I get enough headlight bricks I'd love to know just how you pulled that sleek hull off. Fourth, although the so-called rough transition between the water and sand might be bothersome, the rest of the structures/landforms are well integrated and feel natural to the terrain. That enhances the overall "reality" of the scene. Fifth, the name "Plo Koon" makes me laugh nearly as much as "Kit Fisto," so hearing so many kiddies saying when they looked at the dio would be comedy gold. That George Lucas, huh? Being drawn to the storytelling aspect of the hobby myself, I tend to make up my own little stories about what's happening in a MOC and why. I remember thinking "Where are evil female overlords and why aren't they crushing this pathetic attempt at a men's movement?" Just kidding . . . ok, I'm not. That's what happens when I see a dio that opens that little door to the sick side of my mind. At any rate, thanks for your service and for bringing us Traders of the Rift.
This was certainly a memorable creation from Brickworld, I've mentally revisited those ruined arches several times after the con was over. I can say that there's even a "spirit" to this diorama that makes it alive.
Mike, this was the MOC highlight of my 2010 Brickworld. I kept wandering past just to stare at it, and looking at these pics makes me want to get off the Internet and go build something. So that's what I'm going to do, but before I go, I'd like to offer my very best wishes to you and your family during your time overseas!
Wow, this is exceptional! The only constructive criticism I can offer is the already-mentioned rock to sand transition, the rest of this is as good as it gets. By the way, thank you for your brave work defending your country and freedom everywhere. I hope your deployment goes well, and that you return from Iraq safely.
I suppose it's a testament to the fun we had, that I've noticed many details in the pictures that I missed while standing mere feet away. I do remember feeling safe and free, though, and I can't thank you enough for that.
I'm puzzled by the comment about being more interested if this came from a book. Where do you suppose books came from? This creation is the pure outpouring of a beautiful mind with contributions from a couple more similarly beautiful minds. You're in the presence of the gentlemen who wrote the book on this style of storytelling. Enjoy!
I thank you all for your kind feedback. The fest really WAS a blast, and meeting so many AFOLs really WAS the main event for me. I have been prohibitively busy almost since the day after this fest, and would love to have posted this sooner. Keith (AKA Instigator 6), Thanks for goading me into action, and for crafting this outstanding text. You nailed my own biggest gripe with this DIO, the harsh transition between rock and soil at the edge of the canal. I concur, and have logged it for future action. Ram, you need to build a CAT-MOD2, just so you can call it “Scatamaran Caruthers.” Attack!
Nice write up Keith! Ahh, Scatman C. The voice of Jazz. Easily one of the coolest Autobots. I gotta say that this was not only one of my favorite dios of the con, but meeting Mike was REALLY cool! I had only known him though the pages here and that man was not only a TRULY nice person, but an excellent contributor to the entire con as well. Stay safe Mike, we need you back in Chi-town soon! ~ Chris.
Amazing build, Rutherford! Everything from "The Gar" to the Squid-men inhabiting the diorama screams awesomeness. I especially like those curving structures; the arch you achieved, as well as the ruined look, leaves little to be desired there. But really – there’s far too much good in this MOC for any bad to bleed through. Very impressive work!
A truly fabulous creation. It makes me think a little bit of "Containment," the amazing build by Nannan Z, but I'm not sure why. Maybe a combination of the aliens and the way that those half arcs have some of their innards showing. Anyway, great build, and a well-earned award for that boat.
There's a lot to absorb here! The boat is clearly award winning material. Was that Kevin Costner at the helm? The arches are quite impressive, especially with the different levels of deterioration. Thanks for doing the write up, Keith. And thanks for your service, Mike. Awesome!
Excellent rockwork! It really stands out. The boat is superb, better than any I have seen of this type! My favorite part of the build is the ruined arches, but what really amde me comment on this is the fact that you are stationed in Iraq. Thank you, Mike, for what you do to keep us safe and free. God bless you and all those serving with you.