One of the cool things in transitioning to a brick and mortar workshop from the mobile workshop (read: Mobile Manufacturing With a Laser) is that I found myself with an unused room at the front of the building which, with a lot of sweat equity and help, I was able to transform into a pretty cool retail showroom.
I lack a lot of signage right now and mostly depend on folks traipsing around town to stumble in, or some lost souls looking for some delicious coffee from Cactus Coffee Shop (right next door!!), or looking for some Annie Sloan paint from the Tree House. But on the weekends, it's a pretty hopping place and I spend more time in the showroom than I do cutting puzzles! Sure, it requires working 7-days a week... but all of the cool people that come in, totally worth it.
Recently, a customer came in... she had no idea who I was, what I made, what the store was about, but she came in. Bless her heart. She looked around curiously, possibly thinking to herself, "who in the world would open a store dedicated to jigsaw puzzles?" (P.S. I do have mugs and magnets now, of all of the same images used for the puzzles!)
Thankfully, we started talking a bit, and I pointed out one of the wooden jigsaw puzzles I had on display at one of the awesome tables that I
stole borrowed from the Tree House (A Bluebonnet Sunset!). I pointed out some of the fun pieces that I incorporate into the puzzles. For this bluebonnet puzzle, I cut shapes like an oak tree, an armadillo, a dove flying low across the sky at sunset heading back to its roost, a couple of bees (one very intricate bee!), and so on. Basically, I said, I cut shapes into the puzzles that tell a bit of a story beyond just your regular jigsaw puzzle pieces... sometimes they have to do with my experiences wherever the photo was taken, other times I incorporate pieces into the puzzles that depict the flora or fauna of the location, sometimes the history - sometimes all of the above!
I told her about how I make and design the puzzles, and that most of the puzzles I have out front right now are the Eskaboard/cardboard style puzzles. When she asked if those puzzles were just regular ol' puzzles, or if they also had the special pieces cut into them, I realized how bad of a job I was doing at actually showing off what I was doing!
"Yes, ma'am. Those puzzles definitely have all of the fun, whimsical pieces."
And that's when the title of this Ridin' with Rio blog post created itself...
"These are the coolest jigsaw puzzles!"
"Well, thank you!!" (I suck at taking compliments, by the way)
Traditionally, whimsical pieces, or whimsy pieces, or figural pieces (...these things have a bunch of names!), have only been incorporated into wooden jigsaw puzzles. Not anymore.
When I created this company, I wanted to introduce people to this super cool component of jigsaw puzzles that are typically only found in very expensive jigsaw puzzles. Why should they get to have all of the fun?
A lot of thought goes into what pieces I design and incorporate into each puzzle. Every piece has significance to my image that I'm using for the puzzle. It doesn't make much sense to include a giraffe in a puzzle of a beautiful Texas Bluebonnet landscape... sure, we have a few giraffes around but that's not part of the typical Texas Bluebonnet experience (fun fact from my trip there: South Africa is about the same latitude below the equator as we are above the equator, so those animals that are brought over tend to thrive). Mourning doves flying speedily just above the tree line at sunset, bees and butterflies floating across a field of flowers, a mountain lion perched midway up a small ledge of the cliff at Santa Elena canyon - those are the experiences that you have when you are at a place I've taken photos at. Those are the experiences and memories that I want you to have when you are buying a puzzle of a place you've been to.
Puzzles have this really interesting potential to awake a number of different senses and feelings. Especially when the puzzles are made of art, rather than just something drawn up to be a puzzle... The heft of the piece (especially cool with wooden puzzles, but even so with the thicker chipboard that I use) is a tactile sensation that is evoked. But the subject art develops an emotional connection to the puzzle. Going a step further, introducing the whimsical figural pieces brings back memories and experiences of your experience there.
All I've really gotta say is that this is a lot of fun.
What's your favorite piece? Mine? I developed a piece when I was traveling of a young boy fishing in the creek with a cane pole. I dropped that puzzle off at Lockhart State Park... I made the piece because there was a kid there doing just that. He came in from town and spent the afternoon fishing. But what it really reminded me of was when I was a kid. That's my favorite piece.