Failing is not fun. It's annoying. When I fail a prototype of a new design, it means wasting time and materials.
At least that's how I used to see my failed puzzles. Over time I am becoming more philosophical about the failures, trying to see the "seed of success" in each lopsided, ugly or broken puzzle.
And so I present to you the story of some ugly giraffes and how they became beautiful.
Holy Catastrophe, Batman! Baby giraffe, what have you been drinking? And mama's not gently guarding her calf; she's looming over him like a helicopter parent of the African savanna. "Get up and go meet that well connected gazelle kid or you'll never get into Harvard!" We won't even talk about how their heads look ready to fall off. Sorry, you two. You're headed for grandpa's wood stove this winter.
I won't lie. I was annoyed and disappointed. Several hours of work later I had nothing to show for it. The design went into my accordion folder for the next six months.
Then last week I decided to go through some of my failed designs to see if I could save any of them. (Yeah, the giraffes are just the tip of a pile of puzzle disasters.) I pulled out the giraffes prototype to analyze its problems. Mama's front leg is at the wrong angle and the heads were doomed to droop because of the vertical orientation of the keys. But I liked the shape of the heads and the overall composition.
One re-drafting later and I decided to boldly go right to cutting the new pattern from a special board that I had been saving: Leopardwood. You've got to see this material to believe it. It has spots!
Here are mama and baby giraffe in all their glory. Now they reflect the vision I had in my mind when I set out to create this puzzle in December.
I'm always pleased when a design looks good the first time. Who doesn't love to have something work out almost effortlessly? But some of the most gratifying - and popular - designs I've made are the ones that took some sweat and tears to produce. Putting aside a failed design for a while gives me the time to reflect on it without stressing over it. I've surely developed new skills in the past six months and I've had the time to get some emotional distance from the failed giraffes. Overcoming a failure doesn't mean that you have to fix it *right this minute*! Putting something aside for a while can be the best way to find out how to evolve it into a success.
Barbara Bitgood, Artisan owner of Holyoke Puzzles in Holyoke, Massachusetts.