|In Mr Puzzle’s lair (repected professional on right, neophyte on left).|
Ed - Just look at that display! Soooooo jealous!
Aloha Kākou readers.
This week I have something quite special to report. While I’ve enjoyed doing puzzle review-type posts for Puzzlemad, I am VERY pleased to be able to report on something a tad more social this time. The online puzzle world is very stimulating in its' own way, but meeting and talking puzzles in person with a professional is really special and not something I am ever able to enjoy on this tiny rock of an island.
Thanks to some extremely fortuitous work scheduling I was able to spend a little time in Queensland, Australia on my way back from a project a couple months ago. Why fortuitous, you ask? Well, besides getting to spend a day in the magnificent little city of Brisbane, it gave me the opportunity to drop in on one of the world’s premier puzzle designers and makers, Brian Young, and his lovely wife Sue, who together run MrPuzzle. Brian needs no introduction to most puzzlers, so I’ll assume you have at least a passing familiarity with his work. If you don’t, just study the MrPuzzle website and/or search any of the major blogs for reviews of his puzzles.
I have always had my eye on Brian’s puzzles but for some reason never managed to pull the trigger on a purchase. Shipping cost was usually the deciding factor. It’s always a bummer when the shipping is half the price of the item. I begin to think about the extra puzzles I could get with that money if I ordered locally (i.e. not internationally) and within ten minutes I invariably dump my cart. But Brian’s design work and execution are so well regarded, and so novel, as to be practically irresistible (Ed - ain't that the truth - just look at my top shelves and my desk and my sideboard to see the fabulous beauties I couldn't resist). So when I discovered that I was passing through Queensland I made up a wish list and emailed Brian to ask if I could pick them up in person to avoid the shipping cost. Brian graciously acceded to this artful self-invitation and offered a workshop tour to boot. Well, I can tell you, for someone of my humble station in the puzzle community, this is the equivalent of a trip to Disney World. It was a fantastic opportunity and one that I tried my best not to squander. So this post is a report on the highlights of the visit including some cool puzzles from Brian’s collection, the sights and sounds of an industrious puzzle workshop, and whatever miscellaneous puzzle trivia I can remember from the trip. For those of you who visited Brian’s place during IPP 27, this will be a trip down memory lane.
Let me start by saying that Brian and Sue live in a pretty remote place. Not by Australian standards, of course, but by any other standard they live in the boonies. It’s a great spot on a hillside with just enough acreage to buffer against nosy neighbors. It also makes for a tranquil working environment and I even hear from the Youngs that there are kangaroos lurking up in the hills. Australians don’t give a second thought to that, but to me kangaroos are like unicorns. I have yet to see one and I am not completely convinced that they really exist. Australia is full of such fantastic wildlife and it has provided inspiration for some of Brian’s most endearing puzzles. More on that later.
|World’s tallest and probably largest burr - fully functional. Brian on left.|
|Giant rings - definitely a two person puzzle.|
|Mr. Puzzle limited edition Telephone Box (left). A beautiful scale mode of the 1950s original (right) and harder to get into I’m sure. Don’t hold your breath waiting for one to come on the market, you’ll surely die|
|Wendy standing watch over the puzzle room.|
|Part of the Young Collection. Lots and lots of great puzzles.|
|Many pennyhedrons - they all look the same until you try to open them.|
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s puzzles.(Ed - too bloody late for that! I've been lusting after the full set of Chinny's Pennyhedra for a long time!)
(Ed again - I took the liberty of spelling neighbour correctly!)
|The unassuming Wombat puzzle, modeled after the equally unassuming Wombat marsupial|
|Minotaur Burr, a highly successful Potts-Young collaboration. Scaled up, this would make nice furniture!|
|Wall of torture implements, figuratively and literally. This is just a fraction of Brian’s tangles. There is a much bigger display of them to the left, but you’ll have to use your imagination, sorry|
|Shiny metal, a nice assortment|
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s puzzles.Like most of us, Brian does not generally strive for “completeness” in his collecting, but rather acquires things ad hoc as they grab his fancy and, of course, as they become available. A puzzle collection is a highly person thing, reflecting the sensibility of the collector more than anything else. Judging from my brief observation of Brian’s collection, I would venture to suggest that puzzle designers have an especially curatorial approach to collecting. At least that’s my romantic vision of the designer-collector, populating his display case with ideas and concepts. The truth is probably more prosaic.
|Twisties in a suitably "cubified" display case.|
|Thousands of dollars’ worth of cube.|
Who would have guessed?
Only the twisted!
Alright, that’s enough for this installment. We haven’t even gotten into the workshop yet, so stay tuned for more on tools, fancy wood, and assembly process. Over tea, Brian and Sue also gave me a primer on the business end of puzzle making, pricing, and marketing. I think you’ll find that aspect interesting and illuminating. It’s not exactly easy to make a living in the puzzle business but MrPuzzle has managed to stay in the game for nearly a quarter of a century. They must be doing something right. Without divulging any trade secrets, I’ll try to explain what in the next instalment.
A hui hou kākou...
Ed - Wow! What a fantastic trip! What a fantastic experience! What a fantastic collection! What wonderful skills! I am very proud to count Brian and Sue as friends and I look forward to meeting them again when the IPP comes back around to Europe. In the meantime, I really must try and save some cash for a while and buy some more of Brian's stock!