Interview: Jeff Montanye
PM: Was all the effort worth it?
JM: Several years ago I built a large HO train layout that filled the upstairs of my house. It took almost two years to finish but very few people knew about it. As beautiful and creative as it was, it seemed like a waste of my talent and time because nobody knew it was there. It left me feeling empty inside, incomplete. An artist needs somebody to enjoy his work. When I photographed the mazes for my cousins, it introduced me to a new way of bringing my work to people. It is a moveable platform for an immoveable creation. Now the whole world can enjoy my work. And I can take my creations apart after I build them without losing them forever. That makes me feel really good inside. It also gives me more space in my house.
PM: I'd like to know about the creative process. How do you take it from basic idea, like a maze of children's letter blocks, to the finished product?
JM: To understand that, youíd have to get inside my head and that's a maze you don't want to go through. But I can tell you what I donít do. I donít follow any rules, patterns or plans. I just go! The ideas just flow when I work and I don't even know what the outcome will be until it is finished. I try to think like the person who will be solving the maze and block him where he might cheat. I make it difficult to solve the maze backwards. I try to build at least three different ways to solve the puzzle, each one more difficult than the next. Sometimes I draw a simple drawing out on paper first just to make sure the maze will work. Many times I have to build the maze over because I see a better way after itís complete or nearly complete. My next book will have a twist at the end. Every puzzle in the book will work together to make one large puzzle which you have to go back to the beginning of the book to solve.
PM: This book appears to be geared towards children, although the high quality of the artwork is definitely enjoyable for adults as well.
JM: I designed the book for children eight and up but I may have gotten a little carried away. Although the younger kids like it, they need a little help, especially with the more difficult puzzles. Adults find it challenging too. Sometimes I think I made it too difficult when I see an adult struggling with a puzzle but then a ten-year-old comes up and gets it right away. Everybody loves the book. Maybe there is no age.
PM: Since you are aiming for something that a child can solve, are you ever concerned that a maze is too hard - or not hard enough?
JM: This is difficult for me sometimes. Everybody thinks differently. When it comes to mazes, some solve it easier than others and it doesn't seem to matter what the age is. That is one reason I made different levels in each maze. There is something for everyone. The challenge is to understand the instructions. I wrote all the instructions in verse and because of limitations of using rhyming words, some of the instructions can be difficult for young readers. I have corrected this problem in the next book Maze Zing, Scavenger Hunt. None of the instructions are in verse. Instead, there is a poem for each maze and instructions are separate. Junk Drawer Jewels makes a great book for a child and adult to sit down together and work with each other.
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