I trust that everyone here has heard the old saying about the fox and hedgehog — how the fox knows many things (i.e.: every sneaky trick in the book, and some that aren’t), but the hedgehog knows one big thing (i.e.: how to curl up into a spiny ball with no weak points), and that’s why no fox has ever eaten a hedgehog.
By this measure, Chris Yates is probably two hedgehogs, because he knows two Big Things: expressive face-making (of the sort that you mother always warned you against, because it would get stuck) and his way around a scroll-saw. The former is key to his photo webcomic, Reprographics, and the latter to his shop full of various toys and the puzzles known as Bafflers.
After six months of talks and prototyping, today I signed a three-year licensing contract.
What does this mean? It means I’ll be able to get production Bafflers out to a much much broader market, for a very reasonable price, while maintaining the same aesthetic and quality you expect from my work. And quite possibly, I might make a buck or two.
Yates was kind enough to answer some of our questions on this exciting new development.
Yates: Well, Gary, I was just minding my business one day back in June, y’know, making puzzles, comics, toys, y’know the usual. And then all of a sudden this dude Jason from a big puzzle and game manufacturer emails me and just found my work, and is super-excited. We talk on the phone later that day and agree to see if we can’t make some kind of production Bafflers available to the masses.
Over the six-month viability and development process, (VP of Development) Jason and Ceaco at large have treated me with respect and seem truly excited to break some ground, making something the mainstream puzzle market hasn’t seen before.
But to answer your question directly, Jason said he was just surfing the web for interesting illustrators for work, but I only had one, expensive, highly clicked Project Wonderful ad for my puzzles up that very day at Questionable Content. So yes.
Fleen: Are you doing original Baffler designs, or have they licensed some of your existing designs?
Yates: Ceaco and I will be working together to adapt previous designs I’ve made in painted wood for the initial series. It’s been and going to be a tricky process, but I’m confident we’re going to get some great results.
The production Bafflers will still be inlaid tray puzzles, printed on chipboard, with graphics directly taken from an extensive spray-paint mottling “library” I am providing. Ceaco is creating custom dies to cut each of the Baffler designs, so they will be just as lovely and tough as my original.
Fleen: Since most of us probably aren’t puzzle afficianados, give us some scope — how many puzzle designs do these people publish each year, how many copies, in how wide a market?
Yates: Ceaco is a gentle giant, one of the largest North American jigsaw puzzle companies, selling and distributing world-wide, via many imprints and licenses. They sell jigsaw puzzles everywhere you can find them. From specialty game shops like It’s Your Move to Barnes & Noble and Target, it’ll be out there!
I am not exactly sure how many other folks’ work Ceaco pick up a year, nor their exact distribution figures, but I do know they are selective and successful, so hopefully that is a good sign!
Fleen: Any idea how many copies they’re going to print of your designs? How many designs, and over what time frame?
Yates: We’re starting with 3 “abstract geometric” designs for the first production run, but there will likely be more designs added in if everything goes well. There will be plenty of them, is all I can say. Put them on your Xmas (next years) wishlist, they should be available officially in stores October 2010, but if all goes to plan, we may have some ready a little earlier than that.
Fleen: Are they putting your designs into a definite price band, or will it vary with the size/complexity?
Yates: The first three will all be around 8″x8″, so they will definitely be affordable and probably around the same price mark. Some bigger or smaller ones may be in the works, we shall see….
Fleen: What’s the name of this line of puzzles? Are they all “Bafflers”, or do they have individual titles, and does the Chris Yates name/website/mention of wooden originals make it onto the packaging?
Yates: “The Baffler by Chris Yates: X” will be the title of the product! This is my thing, Gary-O! Copyright and signature on the back, man! (“X” being the name of the specific design of course).
Fleen thanks Chris Yates for his time, and encourages everybody who knows a puzzle fan to keep their eyes open for the new mass-market offerings. And if those fans like the chipboard jigsaw puzzles, be sure to point them to the originals.