Friday, December 16, 2011

Chilkat Valley News - Haines, Alaska

We look at more than 10,000 different photographs every year to find the 300 or so that we will put on our jigsaw puzzles. It is an exhaustive search. We want to make sure we are finding the best images possible for our puzzles.

When we are looking at these photos, we rarely concern ourselves with where the picture is from or even much about what the subject of the photo is. We are looking for photographs that are colorful, fun, sharp, clear, bright and busy. We look for certain themes like castles and hot air balloons, but we try not to limit ourselves too much. And we are willing to try subjects that meet our colorful, fun, sharp, clear, bright and busy criteria even if they are subjects most puzzle companies do not have in their collections. In someways, we like those images even better.

So it was pretty neat when the editor of the Chilkat Valley News in Alaska contacted me recently. He had seen a puzzle of ours that featured a building located on their main street. The puzzle was a panoramic puzzle that we had sold back in 2008 and 2009. The editor wanted to know why we had selected that particular picture. The town is located in Alaska between moutain and the ocean. It is a very scenic location. If one were to visit the town, the last thing they might notice is a rustic building on main street. But that is the image we picked.

The Editor and I traded e-mails and he wrote a small article about the puzzle and the building. Although, we traded e-mails, they missed his deadline, so the last line is technically correct, but I did respond.

Below, I reprint his article with his permission. I found it very interesting to know some of the history and detail behind an image we selected. I hope you will too.

Written by Tom Morphet - editor Chilkat Valley News. Originally printed in the Chilkat Valley New on December 8, 2011.

A popular flower garden on Main Street has been immortalized on a jigsaw puzzle sold nationwide.
Fuzzy von Stauffenberg’s arrangement of lobelias, pansies, salvia, alyssum and tiger lilies along a white, picket fence is part of a series of panoramic puzzles that includes ones of scenes in Venice, Italy, Trafalgar Square, London and St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow.
“I’m immortalized in a puzzle, or my flowers are,” Von Stauffenberg said this week.
The garden scene puzzle, including as backdrop, a weathered, one-room shack at 314 Main Street, is titled “American Home, Main Street, Haines, Alaska.” It was created by the LaFayette Puzzle Factory in LaFayette, Indiana.
Von Stauffenberg said the photo used for the puzzle appears to have been taken the early 1990s. There’s no telling who shot it, she said. “We always had people taking pictures of the garden with Cortez, my cat. Somebody who came through took a picture and sent it off to somebody.”
Although she’s been keeping a garden there since 1984, Von Stauffenberg said she recognized the arrangement featured on the puzzle. “That was probably the most beautiful of the flower boxes we ever did. Everything came together that summer for a perfect garden.”
The building featured in the photo hasn’t been a home for at least 30 years and may have been moved from near the Canada border, she said. It operated as a store selling trinkets and Native crafts before her family bought it in 1984 and started using it as a storage shed.
Von Stauffenberg said her late husband Eric von Stauffenberg, hung a small American flag in the window, and put a metal fuel jug, wicker basket and bicycle rack on the sill because he thought they were eye-catching. The couple operated a restaurant next door for several years.
Rod Hinson, who operates a variety store at Second and Main, has about 10 copies of the 350-piece puzzle for sale. He said he purchased 14 of them through an Ebay seller in California and his mom found and sent him another six.
“When tourists are coming through and they want something from Haines, it’s something we can offer them,” Hinson said. “It doesn’t really show anything about Haines. It’s just a neat backdrop with flowers, but it gets your attention.”
A co-worker brought Von Stauffenberg a copy of the puzzle last spring, but it’s still in the box, she said. “I may get around to doing it when I’m no longer doing flower gardens in my old age,” she said.
Calls and e-mail messages to LaFayette Puzzle Co. this week went unanswered.

Pretty neat! Do not be surprised if we go looking for images from Haines Alaska in the future!


Thursday, December 15, 2011


The e-mail that I was going to be on QVC's Great Gifts show during the early morning hours of black friday (the day after Thanksgiving) came on Friday Nov. 18 around 7pm. I had 24 hours to confirm I could be there. I confirmed within 20 minutes. And then I had a panic attack.

I had first met the QVC buyer more than 2 years ago. I had gone to on-air guest training 15 months ago. I passed the class and the forgot everything they told me. I had lost weight and put it back on thinking I would never go on the air. Suddenly the thing that I thought would never happen was happening. The panic attack continued.

I had a lot to do in less than 7 days. I had to get to Philadelphia. I was going to miss Thanksgiving. I had to lose some weight. I had to stop biting my nails. I had to start washing my face better so that I did not have a break out. I needed a haircut (but not too short of a haircut). I needed to make sure I scheduled time at the QVC salon for make up. And I needed to find those QVC on-air guest notes I took. I needed to think about what I was going to say.

But it all worked out. I found my notes. I got a great haircut. I made my appointment with the QVC salon. I stopped biting my nails (still good 4 weeks later!). I found a cheap airfare (Thanksgiving day is a great day to fly. They even have turkey in the airport). And it was easy to know what I wanted to say on air. The puzzle I was showing it one of my favorites.

QVC is a very professional organization. Incredibly accomodating and helpful to the on-air guest. My show was going to run from 1am - 4am eastern time. I was to arrive at 1opm. I arrived at 9:45. There was a nice waiting area with coffee, pop, snack foods, cupcakes and water. The seats were comfortable. There were a couple of dressing rooms the on-air guests shared. And everyone was friendly. I was the only rookie going on and the rest of the guests could not have been nicer. They all had encouraging words. They put me at ease.

I will admit to being nervous. But the most nervous I got was when I was checking in with the security guard at the front desk. I have no idea why, but I actually started hyperventilating a bit and had trouble telling him my name. It was so strange. It was the only time the whole evening that happened. Sure I was nervous, but the most physically nervous moment was at the security desk.

So I arrived at 9:45pm and after a few minutes of introductions and a quick tour, I was given a beeper so the producers could find me. Not that I was going anywhere, but everyone gets one. As I walked in the guest waiting area a funny thing happened. There was a woman sitting there that I knew. It was one of those moments where you see someone and your mind says you know them. They are a familiar face. And you just need a moment to place them. Then I realized I did know her. I had watched her almost every night on QVC talking about bed linens. I knew her, but she did not know me.

From 10pm to midnight I just sat around. I put together my puzzle and watched QVC. I watched the difference guests to get a feel for what words they used and how they acted on the air. At midnight things started to happen quickly. I went to make up at midnight. A very nice make up artist made me look not too shiny and not too pale. I was quite pleased. He even helped me fix my hair so it was not sticking up in back like it has done for the last 40 years Dennis the Menace style. Then I met with the host for my show, Amy. Amy and I spent about 10 minutes together talking about the puzzle, its key features, the type of person who might like the puzzle. She loved that it was my first time on the air and said she was going to mention it.

My time slot was 2:25am. I was going to be on the air for between 5 and 7 minutes. The final timing would depend on how the show was running and my success at generating phone calls and sales. I was on set by 1:45 getting set up. I was a bit nervous and I set up really early.

I can not tell you how talented the QVC hosts are. Amy was unbelievable. She never took a break. And she made it sound like she was just hanging out with friends who had brought in the most incredible items. It did not matter if it was a touch pad computer, a flashlight, or a tin of candy. She sounded knowledgable and convincing about each product. The QVC hosts are incredibly talented.

My segment started and the rest is a blur. I was nervous for the first few seconds and then I was off and talking. I think the host had a lot to do with making me relax. Our segment ended up being over 7 minutes long. It felt much shorter at the time. The sales were strong and I was really quite pleased. QVC was too.

I was done by 2:40. I was pretty hyper and did not leave the studio until 3:30. I returned to my hotel and took a shower. I watched my segment on a computer in the lobby, but there was no sound. I did not actually see and hear the segment until almost two days later. I took a 7:30am flight home and slept all the way on the airplane.

To watch my segment, visit the QVC website - Search Sphere puzzles. My puzzle is the Royce McClure puzzles.