Sunday, April 10, 2011

If the Piece Fits

Last Sunday (while I was supposed to be writing my last post) I was perusing the Facebook page when I came across a post titled Geocachers Puzzle.  It was a photo album showing about a hundred submissions to a jigsaw puzzle created by Louisiana geocacher, Sequoia_2.  Here's how it works: you email her to request a puzzle piece, she mails you the piece, and then you decorate it and send it back for inclusion in the puzzle.  It's pretty simple, but epic in terms of both creativity and commitment. 

I requested my puzzle piece immediately and emailed FTF Geocacher with what I thought was a hot tip.  Their response:  Why don't youuuuu write about it?  (That is NOT what they said, but it's what I heard in my head when I read the email.)  It's not that I didn't want to write about it, I just wasn't sure I would make time to, which is kinda my style lately. 

A few days later, the 4x4" shiny white puzzle piece arrived.  If you know me well, you know that I'm neurotic and become paralyzed when faced with too many options.  Wal-mart is hell for me...but I digress.  That's basically what happened with the puzzle piece, so I threw some mail on it and forgot about it for a few days.  But in the back of my head, the wheels were turning about what makes me unique as a geocacher that could be expressed in an art form. 

In the mean time, I decided to find out more.  Sequoia_2, whose real name is Brenda, has been geocaching since 2005.  She discovered the Community Puzzle in 2007 while purchasing school supplies.  At the time, she had no idea how this project would evolve.  She decorated one piece with a geocaching theme and showed it to a friend, who (of course) loved it and wanted to decorate her own.  Next, Brenda started passing out additional pieces and assigned a trackable number to the puzzle.  Word spread like a newly-published cache notification and soon she was receiving pieces from all over the world.  Her goal is to give the completed puzzle to Groundspeak when she has 500-1000 pieces.  Brenda doesn't know exactly when that will be, but she thinks it will be before the 20th anniversary of Geocaching in 2020.  Several hundred pieces have been mailed out so far. 

There are no specific goals/requests for pieces, but there are a few things she would like to see. "It would be awesome to have one from every country in the world...[and] it would be great to have pieces made by the reviewers and other Groundspeak personnel," says Brenda.  She goes on to say that although there are a few well known cachers she would be "honored" to have designs from, she would never ask.  I couldn't help but wonder if she has a favorite piece so far.  As you would expect, she loves them all and feels that picking one would be like "picking your favorite child." 

Another thing I wondered about Sequoia_2 was what kind of cacher she is.  PNG'er?  Number fiend?  FTF hound?  Her reply, "My favorite cache would have to be the one that takes you for a nice long walk in the woods.  I do truely love those the best."  Good answer.  I love those, too. 

Last night I unearthed the puzzle piece.  I had only one, so I knew I better have a good plan before even touching it.  I went into my office to look for my sketch book, long since buried by more useful, grown-up things.  But before I found the sketch book, I found my old juggling balls (more like hacky sacks than balls).  Twenty minutes later Brian showed up to investigate the dull thuds reverberating across the house.  Ashamed, I went back to looking for the sketch book. 

A few minutes later, I found it and started doodling.  I decided to focus on the iPhone, because I owe my start in geocaching to this glorious piece of technology. 

The first one is uber simple, because sometimes less is more.  In this case, less is really boring.  The second one is a take on the iPhone's compass app icon.  I actually fell asleep while doing the second one, if that tells you anything.  The idea for the one that became the one hit me last night, but I didn't have the energy to explore it.  It began as a very rough sketch.

Hopefully you recognize where I was going with it (and hopefully I don't get sued for copyright infringement).  A few hours later, I had this final product (click to enlarge).

I'm really happy with it.  The true stroke of genius was spotting a hot pink gift bag in my office that became the perfect backdrop.  The only downside is that it reinforced my tendency to hoard things.  Case in point: sometimes hoarded things make the perfect backdrop for a hobby-centric craft project.  Take that, A&E!  Anyway, the doodle is done with black Sharpie, and the white bits (stroke #2) were made from blank file folder labels.  It's not perfect, but it's way better than I expected.  The final step was carefully gluing the art onto the puzzle piece.

If you want to decorate your own piece, just go to Brenda's geocaching profile to find her email address.  She's very friendly, and very prompt, so you shouldn't have to wait long for a response.  Don't worry about your mad skillz, or lack thereof.  According to Brenda, "You don't have to be artistic, as long as your geocaching name is in the design, it can be anything at all!"

Also, if you are going to request a piece, please do so with good intentions of finishing it.  The postage alone is an enormous cost, especially if she has to send out 2-5 pieces for each one that actually comes back.  When you add-in the cost of the actual puzzle pieces, the envelopes, and Brenda's time, it's just best if we all respect it.  Those are 100% my words.  Brenda seems like she would be the last one to complain.

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