Published on April 28th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich1
“A Puzzle Worth Solving”
Puzzles have long been a favorite way to spend my “me time”. There is something so peaceful about sitting down in the early weekend morning that both relaxes my nerves, challenges my brain and lets me focus on a task without distractions. Earlier this month, Rachel Happen published a guest article about her Baffledazzle puzzles and campaign on Kickstarter. She explained her inspiration and love of puzzles and shared a little bit of her creative process with us and I highly recommend you give it a read! I wanted to write a bit more about my own experience putting together La Plage: a puzzle that captures a very specific time in history where the user discovers the story as they build towards the final picture. It was an experience the was fun, moving and very personal.
There are multiple sets of puzzles available on Baffledazzle’s Kickstarter and each captures a unique discovery in science, tradition, or in La Plage’s case, a moment in a revolution. Rachel includes a puzzle within a puzzle for fans: a written riddle intended to set the user on the breadcrumb path to the riddle’s conclusion and the familiar stack of scrambled pieces separated from a larger image. A backer of baffledazzle would also receive an envelope with a letter and postcard-sized images which reveal the puzzle’s unified shape and concept origin. I can give you a little hit that will help you with all of them: these aren’t puzzles made to fit any rectangular frame constraints.
Each piece is unique with some being abstract shapes and letters to some being powerful silhouettes or words. At first, opening a box of very oddly shaped pieces and tiny fragments was a bit overwhelming. I knew that separating the edge pieces wasn’t going to be a useful approach in this situation. Instead I started filtering through the different colors and textured pieces. When I found an interesting shape I would stop and see if I could find its inverse match. I knew from the written riddle that this must be puzzles about a student revolution, but with so many spanning the globe over the past century, I had no idea what one to expect. What was so exciting and so eerie about putting La Plage together was coming across pieces and smaller images along the way like the photo above which is clearly two people carrying away an injured, unconscious or possibly dead peer. There were many other similar moments during this process that moved me and I would love to know what surprises her other puzzles (and future puzzles) will hold.
The quality of the pieces varies but usually includes cutouts from a high quality of wood. Some of the puzzles are made with felt-lined Walnut and others with stained Maple. La Plage is made from quarter inch Pine and cut out using a laser cutter. The front and back have been stained in different colors and the face of some of the pieces are textured because of the engraved words and images on top of the puzzle piece. Like most laser cut wood pieces there is a burnt smell that comes with it so I highly recommend letting the pieces air out before delving into them.
While La Plage isn’t a 3D puzzle in the same way building a fully 3D model of Big Ben is, it does offer more than just the flat, 2D-feeling picture on most jigsaw puzzles. There is texture, color and engraved messages in addition to the shaped pieces adding even more complexity to the story. More funding on the Baffledazzle Kickstarter will help Rachel get her own laser cutter and let her create puzzles out of different materials like acrylic plastic.
I received the puzzle in a box padded and layered with tissue paper. Not much shifting occurred but some of the spindly pieces did break off leaving some of the picture with very tiny gaps. I actually liked the use of negative space in art and didn’t mind some pieces missing and didn’t want to put some of the pieces together. In the instance of the different letters, I found the image more powerful with the “A” or “C” that formed by just the outside pieces. The Kickstarter-fulfilled packaging will likely be more professionally boxed to prevent any kind of sliding around or damaged pieces and I’m sure it will continue to have the personal touch that Rachel includes in all her puzzle designs.
I can’t begin to explain how wonderful of an experience putting together La Plage was. Rachel has elevated the lowly puzzle making it more than fitting similar jigsaw pieces together. The journey from building the puzzle is just as important as the finished big picture-each piece of the puzzle builds upon the story. In my head was military, rebellions, uprising, conflict and inevitable violence. As I moved and separated the pieces I felt them come alive and is a very personal experience when building the puzzle by yourself.
These puzzles are a powerful tool of deduction, story-telling and learning. What would a puzzle depicting the American Revolution look like or the space race or Cold War of the 80s? I feel you would learn and experience a lot more about these events through a personal story sketched into a puzzle than reading a textbook aloud in class. Just as there are YouTube channels like CrashCourse trying to make history interesting- we should encourage designers like Baffledazzle to make games, puzzles and more media that create meaningful experiences and that are both educational and entertaining.
BaffleDazzle has less than a week left on Kickstarter! Visit the campaign before Sunday, May 4th and pledge for any of the amazing puzzle designs. We hope to see more puzzles from Rachel in the future!