It's no secret that my youngest son is hard on books. He loves them to pieces...literally. I'm a book lover, too, which makes it painful for me to throw away all those beautiful illustrations. When several pages fell out of "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?" a few weeks ago - our third copy of this favorite title - I had the idea of turning the sheets into puzzles.
And so my upcycled book art puzzles were born. Each is made from an original page salvaged from a children's book and affixed to sturdy birch plywood. The pieces are large enough to be safe for the littlest kids and at 1/4" thick, they are durable. A clear acrylic sealant protects the image. The frame and tray keep the puzzle together when assembled and make for easy storage.
Since I won't be able to keep a consistent stock of these on Etsy, I thought I would post them here for people to browse. If you would like to purchase any of these puzzles, message me with the puzzle number and your shipping address. I will send you the total price with shipping and tax, if applicable, and payment instructions. Remember that each puzzle is one-of-a-kind, so once it is sold it's gone for good.
Lastly, if you have a page from a much-loved book that you would like made into a special puzzle, let me know! Mail me your page or picture and I'll send it back to you as a unique puzzle souvenir.
Upcycled Book Art Puzzle Gallery - Browse and Shop Below
I'm confirming the final details for my summer and fall schedule of craft fairs. This year you'll be able to find me in more places than ever before!
Google calendar assures me that it's spring, although given the snow flurries yesterday I'm not entirely convinced. The one good thing about lousy weather is that it encourages me to sit down at my desk to catch up on piles of neglected work.
That begins with craft fair applications. Several shows now appear on my 2017 fair calendar. That list will grow as acceptances come in. Check in periodically to see where I'll be in the coming months. Next up is the Music and Arts South Hadley Craft Fest at the Plains School April 22 from 9:30 to 3.
New puzzles continue to come out of the workshop. An equine theme emerged in my latest designs. This horse and centaur are made of walnut. I also plan to try them in other woods like maple and shedua. I've had commissions for a few custom puzzles of favorite pet dogs and a lovable squirrel with chunky pieces.
I've started 2017 with a new collection of country-themed puzzles. These designs are straight from the barnyard. I made a special effort to create some puzzles perfect for the smallest kids. The bunny, duck or sheep would make a great Easter gift this year.
The idea of making resolutions for the new year is appealing but always gives me pause. In the past I've set too many goals or made them so ambitious as to be unachievable. Then when I didn't meet those impossible goals, I felt bad. Yet setting goals is important for making progress. Without a clear goal, how can you chart a way forward? I'm going to take a page from my teacher playbook and be sure that my 2017 goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based. With that in mind, I'll tackle my resolutions for the new year.
First, a recap of my 2016 personal and professional goals and how I fared.
Resolutions for 2017
Are you making resolutions for 2017? I wish you the determination and resolve to follow through on them.
Happy New Year!
- Barbara, your happy puzzle maker
I have been such a slacker since August! Well, at least where the blog in concerned. But if I have neglected the blog, it is because I have been hard at work creating new puzzles and gearing up for the holiday craft show season.
Here is a sampling of the creations that have come out of the workshop in the past two months.
Now that you've seen what I've been up to, I hope you'll forgive me for gross blog neglect. If you want to see these new puzzles in person, stop by one of the many craft shows that I have coming up.
The first time I did a craft show I was terrified, worried about dealing with bad weather and mean customers. Happily I can report that I have never encountered a single mean customer at any show and have had pretty good luck with the weather. (Knock on wood!) Going to craft shows has become really fun for me. Here are the top reasons why I like them.
#8. The food
There's usually something delicious to be found at fairs and shows. Whether it's a chowder made by the ladies of Saint Paul's in Ludlow or amazing chocolates from the vendors at stART on the Street, there is something yummy to keep me energized.
#7. Visiting different towns
I'm not a particularly adventurous person. Give me a weekend with nothing to do and I'll stay at home 95% of the time. Craft fairs get me traveling around the state, seeing towns that I've never visited before. I get to see them at their best, usually from their downtown or another prominent location.
Holyoke Puzzles might seem like a one-woman show. While it's true that I do all the designing and puzzle production, my family is an essential ingredient in the puzzle magic.
My husband Sean has the biggest support role. He is chief child-wrangler, shipping clerk, and errand runner. If Sean didn't keep the kids occupied, I would never have time to get into the workshop. From September to June when I'm busy with my other full-time job during the day - teaching - he runs boxes to the post office and picks up supplies. He's always willing to step in and lend a hand when crunch time comes up. With Celebrate Holyoke coming up this weekend, Sean and our oldest son Gabe helped me assemble and package up several dozen puzzles that I cut over the past few days.
Sean isn't the only family member who has had an impact on Holyoke Puzzles. Gabe is my chief inspiration officer. He has his finger on the pulse of the 9-year-old set. A number of the puzzles that have made it into production began with his ideas, including the saber tooth cat and my redesigned bunny. Unfortunately I can't keep up with the speed of his imagination, so I keep a list of puzzle ideas by my computer for when I'm in a creative mood.
My youngest son, Xavier, is not yet in a place where he can help out in a practical sense. But he keeps me going in his own goofy way. Xavier has a rare genetic condition that ends up looking a lot like autism. Building my business is one way that I can help create a better life for him and pay for the medical equipment and specialists that he needs. Xavier inspires me to keep going despite whatever hardships come my way.
Another main player who is an essential support for Holyoke Puzzles is my mother-in-law Linda. She steps in to babysit the boys so Sean and I can have a night out to recharge. This weekend she'll watch the kids so that Sean can accompany me to Celebrate Holyoke. With the festival ending at 11 p.m., I'm sure to need him to prop me up by the end!
I'm not unique in relying on my family for support to make my small business successful. I'm lucky to have great people around me and to live in the business-friendly city of Holyoke. Behind every small business success story is a family and community.
Thanks for reading! - Barbara
Barbara Bitgood, Artisan owner of Holyoke Puzzles in Holyoke, Massachusetts.