Lily Hevesh, Domino Artist
Lily´s passion for dominoes comes from her love for building structures with her hands, and her interest in combining art with engineering. She is been building structures her entire life. As a kid, Lily would construct creations with building blocks, Tinker Toys, LEGOs, and anything else she could get her hands on. Once she found dominoes at age 9, she fell in love with the fact that what she built could also move.
Dominoes have a function: to fall over and make a chain reaction! The challenge of building domino projects in a way that will successfully topple, while also trying to make it look aesthetically pleasing is something Lily really enjoys. „I do not think I would be satisfied solely focusing on the artistic side, or exclusively on the technical side, trying to get things to work. It’s the combination of form and function that gets me excited to challenge myself and build bigger, more complex domino projects.“
Lily, YouTube played a big role in your career. What are the most exciting things that happened to you since and would you have ever thought that this could end up being successful like it is now?
I never would have thought that I could create a multi-faceted career and also earn money building and toppling dominoes. When I first started building with dominoes, I was 9 years old, and just did it in my spare time for fun. I posted them on my YouTube channel, Hevesh5, and slowly but surely it started to grow. People became more aware of my work and commented on how much they enjoyed my videos.
Eventually, I started receiving business inquiries from companies asking if I could build their logo out of dominoes, do live domino events at trade shows, and even make TV commercials. When I got my first business inquiry at age 13, I really didn’t expect it! At that point, my dad had to step in and help with things. I made the most of the opportunities I got, and from then on, one inquiry led to the next as my YouTube channel grew. Some of the most exciting projects that I’ve had the opportunity to work on include building the domino setups for the Will Smith movie Collateral Beauty, doing a project on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to celebrate him hitting 20,000,000 YouTube subscribers, and being a featured artist on Katy Perry’s live stream for the launch of her album Witness. I am incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that have come my way, and the tremendous support of my subscribers and family. Because of YouTube, I have a dream job that I never knew could exist, so I thank each and every person who has watched my videos and supported my work.
At just 13 years old you got hired by companies to build dominoes. What´s going on in a teenager’s mind back then? Did you realize the weight of this?
As a 13-year-old getting hired I was pretty surprised at the thought that brands were willing to pay me to set up dominoes, but really excited by the opportunities. I probably thought, “Wow, they want ME to build dominoes for their company? AND I get paid to do the thing I love?! I’m in!“ I don’t think I realized the extent of how big this could become, but I did know that this was the beginning of something great, and I that had to embrace each opportunity with open arms.
You also dropped out of college after a year for your career as a domino artist. What gave you the confidence to do that? What was your parents reaction?
I went into college knowing that I may not finish my bachelor’s degree. I was getting so many inquiries that I could not pursue while in college, and also could not build dominoes. Seeing the growth of my YouTube channel and the demand for domino art, I could not live with the regret of not trying to pursue dominoes and YouTube full time. What if something amazing happened? What if my channel died out and was unrecoverable? If I had never tried to do Domino Art full time, I might be miserable living with remorse, and all the “what if“ questions. I was very lucky and had a job in place. The idea of being an entrepreneur working for myself was appealing, so I decided to do what my heart was telling me to. My dad was extremely supportive – in fact, when I brought up the idea of choosing classes for the next year, he was like “Lily, you are not going back to college for sophomore year. With all the work coming in, there’s no way. You can always go back to school someday in the future if your plans change.“ He knew that I wouldn’t go back. My mom still would have liked to see me complete 4 years in college, but she could foresee me dropping out, and completely understood why college was not the ideal path for me at the time. I’m very lucky that my parents support what I do, and cannot thank them enough for fueling this passion and helping me build my business.
How has your life changed since then on a personal note?
My life has changed drastically since college. At age 20, I now live on my own for the first time. I turned the house I’m in into a studio, so I live and work there building my projects. I’ve had more time to learn about myself, think about the things I love, and what I want to turn this business into. It’s certainly a lot of work being an entrepreneur, but I love what I am doing and know that I am working toward something great.
How does a day in a life as a domino artist look like? Are you building dominoes the entire day?
A day in my life can vary drastically. It comes in waves with exciting peaks when I’m traveling doing a project and more chill periods of time when I’m home doing my own thing. On those days, I’ll work on editing videos, emails, phone calls, planning projects, filming videos, or building. It really depends on what needs to be done at the time. As a YouTube content creator, there are a lot of tasks in addition to my core responsibility of building dominoes for posting on my channel.
You also collaborated with Katy Perry and Will Smith. That´s amazing. Tell us more about how these projects came up.
For both projects, the producers found me through my YouTube videos and reached out to see if I could do custom domino art. Katy Perry was planning to do a 4-day nonstop live stream to kick off the release of her new album Witness. I was hired to build a domino project overnight (yep, I pulled an all-nighter!) with 7,000 pieces on her live stream so that viewers would have something engaging to look at while she was sleeping. When she woke up the next morning, I showed her the domino project I built and she absolutely loved it. The project toppled perfectly and we had a great chat getting to know each other. For the Will Smith project, I was hired as the lead domino artist to design the projects for the feature film Collateral Beauty. In the movie, Will Smith is a domino artist (he does what I do which is incredible!), so I got to meet him, teach him how to build, and experience being on a movie set for 2 weeks.
What was the coolest experience and the most amazing projects you did?
The coolest experience I’ve had is probably the Collateral Beauty movie with Will Smith. Not only was it amazing being part of the production, but I also had the incredible opportunity to attend the movie premiere in NYC and London. I was hired to build Christmas presents and a large Christmas tree out of dominoes for a press event. They flew us out in business class, put us in a 5-star hotel, provided us with a talent handler, and got to visit London. It was over my head and truly a wild experience. The most amazing project I’ve done is the Amazing Triple Spiral with 15,000 dominoes. This starts with a spiral on the ground that goes in and out, then the path goes up a staircase on top of a wall, and then the wall itself falls over. This video went completely viral when it was uploaded and now has 83 million views! I’m very glad that the project I am most proud of is also one that went viral.
It is one thing to follow your own passion and doing amazing art, but it´s another thing to do this as an entrepreneur. Was it very difficult for you to do it with the pressure of making money with it?
It is sometimes tricky to find the correct balance between being a true artist with driving a multi-faceted business (with my dad’s help!). Sometimes you need to give up some creative control in order to meet a client’s needs. Sometimes you have to make decisions that the true artist would not like. I would love to take 3 months off and make the most unbelievable domino project ever, but I can’t because I need to run the business. From a business perspective, I should be doing a lot more things like making projects based around trending topics, but the artist in me doesn’t want to do that all the time. You need to learn how to balance the two, and sometimes it can be difficult, but I am willing to give up some of those freedoms if it means I can continue doing what I love, and inspire the next generation of domino artists to get into this amazing STEAM hobby. Dominoes have taught me so much about patience, determination, physics, design, and creative problem-solving. I want to spread this message to the world, and show how much dominoes can help people learn new skills that can transfer to many aspects of life.
Do you have a team behind your work or are you running this as a one-woman-show?
Most of my domino projects are done on my own, but sometimes I go to domino events where builders from around the world come together and build one large project together. Those events usually happen a few times a year. In terms of the Hevesh5 company, I am growing a small team. My dad is my business manager, I have a few part-time video editors, an H5 Domino Community Manager, and support with social media.