Traders of the Rift . 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.
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...