From Lawyer To Lego Legend

It's the old toy that never seems to get old. CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman asked kids what exactly is it that draws them to the Lego?

The answers varied from: "With Lego you can like build different things with them … and then take 'em apart and build 'em again - over and over and over," to "I can make anything I can think of out of it."

Nathan Sawaya is 35 going on 10. And he's the envy of his peers.

"I get to play with Lego all day," he said.

Although "play" may not be the operative word.

"What I've tried to do is take Lego to a place it has never been before - into the fine art world," he said.

He uses regular old square Lego pieces. But after he gets his hands on them, they become transformed into art - legitimate art pieces that are making their way into museums across the country.

It's a talent Sawaya first started honing on his living-room floor. Growing up in western Oregon, he got into Lego like few kids ever have.

"When I was 8 years old, I wanted a dog," he said. But whereas most kids would get an actual dog, he made one out of Legos.

And that little pet project was just the beginning. He built a 36-square-foot Lego city and played with it through high school.

"Then I went away to college," he said. But instead of forgetting about the Legos, he "packed up little parts of it and took it to college with me."

He took it to law school, too.

Sawaya was working as a corporate attorney when he built a sphere out of Legos - and it changed his life.

He reasoned if he could make a sphere out of nothing but squares and rectangles, he could make other things. His mind exploded with ideas.

"And soon I was getting commissioned to do pieces," he said.

It was enough pieces to quit the law firm.

"My bosses were confused and my colleagues were jealous," Sawaya said.

Today he says he can make anything out of Lego. Literally, anything. Or for that matter, anyone.

Either in two-dimension like the handsome piece he made that's a likeness of Hartman or - if you're willing to spend the bucks - he can make you a life-size 3D lego-likeness.

We weren't willing to spend the bucks, but if you are, you can buy it out of this year's Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue.

Just be sure and look at the price before you give them your credit card number. Sawaya won't say exactly how much he's making now, except to say it's more than he made as a lawyer. And that no matter what he's making now, he's definitely found his calling.

"I see the world in little squares. I see the world in little rectangles," he said.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.