Interview: Jeff Montanye
Jeff Montanye is a computer network specialist with a love of photography and mazes. He recently released his first book, Maze Zing: Junk Drawer Jewels. We talked with him about the challenges of self-publishing, the usefulness of electric sanders in an elementary school classroom, and the joys of a true labor of love.
Puzzle Monster: How would you describe your book, Maze Zing: Junk Drawer Jewels?
Jeff Montanye: Maze Zing is a book of mazes from photographs. Most maze books are illustrated, drawn by hand, but my book is all pictures of items that I arranged into a maze. Itís also poetry. Part of the puzzle is deciphering the poem to figure out how to solve the maze.
PM: What makes it different from other books of mazes?
JM: The photographs make it different. As far as I could find, there is no other maze book out there that depicts mazes with photographs.
PM: I understand you got the idea while entertaining your cousins.
JM: I have two young cousins who, at the time, were 8 and 9 years old. My book is dedicated to them: Kayleigh and Taryn. Taryn, especially, likes picture puzzle books where you have to search for certain items. One snowy February day we were hunting through these books all day and had no more left to do, so I decided to make our own picture puzzles. I teach classes in digital photography and have lots of equipment so I went to work setting up picture puzzles. I didnít want to recreate something that someone had already done, so I went back to my childhood love of mazes. I set up four mazes with items I had around the house: macaroni, pompoms, popsicle sticks and toothpicks. I photographed them and brought them over to my cousin's house. It was fun. They solved them in just a few minutes but it took me all day to create them.
PM: So how long did it take to create all the mazes in this book?
JM: It took me about three months to create all the mazes. Some I was able to finish within several hours and some took several days. In "Plumber's Nightmare", I had to polish all the pipes with copper polish to make them shine and I had to crazy glue the copper pipes together to get them to stay. The glue wouldn't stick but it gummed up the ends of the pipes just enough to hold and I was able to move them around when needed. After photographing the maze "To The One I Love", which is about five pounds of candy valentine hearts, I took the maze apart only to find out that the photo was slightly out of focus. I wasnít happy with it so I had to build the maze over again. It took me and my nephew four hours to put it back together using the original photo as a guide. After building the match stick maze "Light Up My Life" (but before I photographed it), the photography light stand fell over and hit the corner of the board and all the match sticks flew up in the air. "Macaroni and Cheese" was first a meat ball with sauce but the sauce ran all over and made a mess of things. At first, I lined up the macaroni one at a time by hand but got smart and put them all on a fishing string for the final shot. There were many interesting challenges. I think the biggest challenge was finding the items. I visited many online auctions to get enough items. "Easy as ABC" has over eight hundred alphabet refrigerator magnets.
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