Charlotte and Joe recently decided to take on one of Ravensburger’s largest puzzles, entitled Colin Thompson Bookshelf and made up of 18,000 pieces! This is the story of their incredible 18-month build.
Did you complete puzzles as a child and if so what is your first memory of doing them?
As a child, I preferred to stay indoors and read, draw, do arts and crafts and puzzle. But my memories are vague. I remember doing the same puzzle a couple of times which had a bunch of people on the picture. I had fun trying to find the right face for the right person. But I don't remember what the picture was from. Joe remembers doing one of a gnome and it involved a deer. When he was a teenager, he made a 3d puzzle of the globe. He also lived with a family for a year who had and probably still have an interesting tradition for Christmas: the family makes a puzzle every year.
Do you complete jigsaw puzzles regularly? If so, which piece counts do you complete most often?
Not regularly. Before committing to this puzzle, I was doing another one on my own at my parents' place. It is of a painting by Van Gogh (Starry Night) and it contains 1000 pieces. I still haven't finished it. It's been 3 years or so. Maybe I should visit my parents more often. On the internet, I'm addicted to a puzzle called nonogram, which is a logic game. I also like to solve sudoku's, word puzzles and things like that. I do those fairly often.
Have you ever done a jigsaw as big as this before?
Why did you attempt this particular puzzle?
Joe admitted he influenced me when we started dating because he wanted to make a big puzzle -he was thinking 5000 pieces- for a very long time before he knew me. When he found out I also liked puzzles, we looked for one online and then promptly decided to choose the biggest one we could find. There were some other options, but we liked this design the best.
Where did you assemble it?
We did it at Joe's apartment. He has a spare room for clothes and guests, but now it has been converted into the ‘puzzle room’. It takes up the whole space. Guests had to sleep in the living room. When his sister visited for a week and needed more privacy, we had to put a mattress over the puzzle and hope she would not ruin anything. She didn't.
Once, when we had a party, 3 months after starting, Joe decided to carefully store away one-fourth of the puzzle we had completed to make room. He ended up destroying parts of it. It upset me more than it should.
Was it as easy/hard as you anticipated?
There were some easy parts, but sometimes it got harder, like for instance the bookcase itself with all those similar looking pieces (Joe assembled that part, it was too boring for me, I guess he did most of the hard work). I think we worked fairly quickly when we put our minds to it, but ran out of stamina and that's why it took us so long.
Other than you and Joe, did you allow anyone else to help?
No. Joe was very adamant about it. When people wanted to, he said: “Not without Charlotte". And I wanted to do it with only him anyway. It was more special that way.
Did you ever feel like just giving up and packing it away before completing it?
No. We just took long breaks. But we still loved looking at it, even though it was unfinished. And we proudly showed it to anybody who came over. The puzzle was never a source of frustration.
Did you follow a strict system or puzzling regime? Give an example of a typical puzzling day
I think the original plan was to have a puzzle evening one a week, but since we both have very different and flexible schedules, it was impossible to keep it up. When I came over in the evening, I was often too tired to focus on a puzzle. I preferred to puzzle during the day, for instance on Saturday, but Joe likes to sleep till late in the afternoon. Sometimes weeks or even a whole month passed that we didn't do any puzzling. My favourite kind of puzzle day was when we started early (2 pm) and then spent the rest of the day puzzling (especially on a rainy day). It's easy to forget time when doing and enjoying it. We had music and snacks. And before we knew it, it was 11pm. Once we were done for the day, Joe took a picture of our progress to put it on Facebook. Some people were intrigued, posted enthusiastic comments and followed our progress that way.
How was it spending that much time together as a couple?
I thought it was interesting to notice how different we actually are. Joe liked to work on big structures, so he would collect all pieces of the same colour and put those together without looking at the picture. I, on the other hand, grabbed piece by piece, looked at the picture and then looked for the correct spot. I think we started to understand and appreciate each other's methods. It was also fun to show each other an interesting looking piece we found. We invented names for some of the structures we were working on (‘the anxiety kettle’, ‘the zombie boat’) and helped each other with finding some of the pieces for those. We listened to lots of music, sang along (usually with made-up lyrics), joked around...
Have you taken the puzzle apart and put it back in the box yet? If not, what are your plans for the completed puzzle?
Not yet. But we should. We are postponing. We'll enjoy it for a while before putting it back in the box. Then we'll probably share it with anybody who wants to give it a try.
Will you do another large piece count puzzle, and if so, which one do you have your sights on next?
Colin Thompson’s ABC puzzle that he is currently working on.
And finally, what did you enjoy most about the experience?
Joe said “zombie boat", jokingly.
We loved discovering the book titles and Colin's references throughout. It's definitely a great puzzle to work on with somebody or even with a couple of people since you can share your enthusiasm when you find something funny.
The very last piece (we saved it for last) was one I had named ‘little man in the elevator’ (in Dutch/Flemish ‘manneke in de lift’). I spent a very long time looking for this on the picture. When the puzzle was nearly done, I understood I was looking for the wrong thing this whole time. It was actually a portrait of a man inside a man's living room inside one of the shelves of the bookcase. All the little details were very enjoyable.