Custom Memento Puzzle - Kitt Peak, AZ

TL;DR= Puzzle project created for a curriculum ended up getting me a custom commissioned puzzle job.

I’ve been playing with cutting unique puzzles out of HD 1/4" plywood, and made a couple of
~10" prototypes to test my preferred artsy finishing technique: painting a primed, laser cut piece of plywood with watercolors and then sealing it.

So. The idea came about from being tasked with creating a constructionist-style learning curriculum for laser cutting. One of the open-ended projects that I came up with (and subsequently fell in love with) was to create a puzzle with uniquely shaped pieces with iconic pieces added in.

This project starts out as a partner project, analogue-style with paper and pencils. The partners choose an exterior shape, and then draw puzzle pieces within the shape. Then they scan in the hand-drawn paper and hand-trace with the pen tool in Illustrator (something these high school students have to certify in). Then add in individually created vector icons of “self”. That means, icons (silhouettes) that have significance to that student and would make good puzzle pieces.

Turns out my mentor loved the idea so much that she commissioned me to create a custom painted puzzle of a place of huge significance in her family, Kitt Peak National Observatory. I required that she send me ideas or icon pieces so I could test out the difficulty of adding individual vectors into an already created mesh, and she sent me several: multiple types of ginormous space telescopes, the U of A “A”, the logo for her father’s Astronomy Camp, a saguaro flower, and the shape of Arizona. She sent me an image that she liked, and I took off with it from there.

First step: take the image and trace out major section, score the plywood to make some painting outlines.

Second step: Paint the primed and scored plywood. Seal the water colors, then cover with adhesive masking paper to prep for lasering.

Third step: draw out the puzzle pieces. I included stars and a nebula in the sky span, and saguaro and prickly pears in the ground span.
Fourth step: trace and cleanup in Illustrator. Add in the individual sentimental icons. (not shown)

Fifth step: laser cut out the shapes from the painting, clean up all the pieces.



Sixth step: Box! I used pre-colored the Wood Gallery ply to cut out a box, added some of the previously used vectors, and added a hand-written note scored into the top of the box. I made this puzzle box to be a sleeve box to better protect the pieces.







Seventh step: Presentation! I added an artists statement (value added :wink: ) and put all the puzzle pieces in a custom sewn brocade bag to add a little more protection when shipped. I love wrapping gifts, so I wrapped up the box, created a gift tag with text stolen from the custom note, and added a sparkly ornament star, with “The stars are calling and I must go…” engraved on it. Just a slightly tweaked quote ;p



Hope ya’ll like ;p Job commissioner is thrilled, and I can’t wait to get some family-putting-together-puzzle pics soon;p

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This is amazing. I’m not typically a big puzzle fan as my brain finds that the pieces interrupt the overall picture for me, but this is gorgeous and the shapes of the pieces add to the whole thing. The puzzle, the box and note are all just fabulous and will be treasured forever I’m sure.

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You probably had too much fun making that! Every part of it is personalized.

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This is gorgeous - they are going to be astounded and love it!

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This is beyond amazing! What a gorgeous piece, from the painting all the way to the presentation. I think it will be handed down for generations.

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Outstanding! Lots of love in that gift.

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A really amazing piece

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That feeling you get when you meet someone who is a master, I haz it.

So wonderful in many ways. Bespoke gifts are what the Glowforge excels at, but your artistry makes the difference.

And the little things, like a side loaded box. Yes!

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Beautiful job !! So die you just draw out the entire puzzle"shapes" layout by hand on paper - then scan, or on screen? Fantastic job and presentation !!

Note: If any readers make it out here to Tucson area - try and catch one of the Kitt Peak “tours” at night. It really is informative and awe inspiring !!

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Definitely busier than when I was living there in the early 1960s!

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Thank you! :blush:

It was the first time I’ve tried making a box on a laser at all, and there were many trials and errors! It was worth it in the end, but dang, that “simple” box was far more difficult than the whole puzzle :sweat_smile:

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Beautiful results on both the box and the puzzle! :grinning:

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Yep, drew out all the puzzle pieces with a pencil and eraser, traced it with marker, then took a picture to get it digital. Then used the pen tool to trace out each line, and the lots of other tools to add in individual pre-made vector shapes, like the telescopes, a rocket, and a simplified space station. This is the third time I’ve tried this technique, but this puppy was ~11x19, and definitely took the cake ;p

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I’m out of likes … But wow! This is a fantastic puzzle. Love all the details added to puzzle, box, bag, box and tag!

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Amazing work. For someone of my limited talent, “now paint…” is basically “draw the rest of the owl”. :slight_smile:

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Thanks! If you look closely, you’ll notice that otherwise than some shading on each of the telescopes, the colors are more or less color-filled sections. Not too much different than a coloring book once I did the score “outlines”. I did it that way because I certainly don’t trust myself to paint that large of a scene. Drawing and painting are by far my weakest art skills, although I’ve been working on them over the last year! I much prefer sculpting by hand any day of the week ;p

Simply awesome. Love all the work that went into this, and thank you for sharing your pictures and information in this thread.

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