Sunday, November 10, 2019

Day 1 Part 2 Berrocal Foundation visit

After visiting the main floor of the Berrocal Foundation, we were taken down to the lower level.  Here the molds, unfinished pieces, inventory of finished pieces, large artworks and other items were stored.  As we made our way there, the excitement was mounting.  The room was dark and only lit by the glow of our cell phones.  Carlos turned on one small light and we were off.  

George asked permission to film, more lights were turned on and off he ran.  While my beautiful lover filmed, I walked around corners and took photos and listened to Carlos describe what I was looking at.  There were boxes upon boxes of pieces of the cofinetta that were in various stages of completion.  I can’t tell you how many pieces were here.  It is an amazing amount of raw material.  We spent a great deal of time discussing sunk costs and bringing the rest to market.  Wow is all I have to say.

As I turned a corner, I saw the original molds along with the Styrofoam mockups for the statue in Jardines Picasso.  I saw the fountain I wanted to visit in Málaga.  I saw plastic wrapped art that pained me to see closed up and hidden from the world.  It was all I could do to not grab a blade and start ripping off the shipping wrap.   

I began looking at the molds and the first one I came to was for the Paloma Box.  Not only was the mold there, but there were also unfinished pieces.  What a find!  I hunted for years to get my Paloma Box and here they had many unfinished in this basement.  It’s a shame that they are sitting like this, but after talking with the brothers, I can understand why and what they are trying to do.  It makes my pieces all the more special.

After wandering around in the bowels of the building for an hour we went upstairs to the office space.  Here we saw the cabinet that the famous photo is on and the office workroom.  In the middle was a long table with books and papers laid out on it.  To me it looked like a memorial to Berrocal.   I would have loved to pick up some of the papers and read them, but it wasn’t my place.  We learned that at any given time he had three or four projects going on.  The last of which was his memoirs and a collection of the final pieces he produced before he died. An Anthologica part 2 if you will.  We turned around and were confronted by a massive bookcase filled with all genres of material. In the middle of the books was a case filled with many of the multiples.  I was surprised to see that Maria de O was missing. In it’s place was a photograph of the work.  As I scanned the shelves, I stopped and lusted after four pieces in particular.  I’ve always said I wanted these and one day I shall find them.  La Menina II, Hoplita, Sixtiasis, and Maria Manuela. 
I’ve a line on Hoplita and should have it by the end of November all things going right.  I was surprised by the size of it. I expected a much bigger puzzle.  He also showed us a wine bucket and tapas plate version of Benjamin. What I wouldn’t give to get my hands on that piece. 
From here, we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet on Sunday at noon.  George and I went back to our hacienda for a lovely local dinner and to mull over all we had seen today.  

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Day 1, part 1 of Berrocal Foundation visit

We started this trip on 10 October and are ending our main European trip on 30 October when we jump on a cruise ship back home.  It has been a wonderful adventure up to this date and George and I have both concluded that if we had not made it this far it would still have been worthwhile.  BUT!  This is the real reason for extending our stay beyond our trip with Oskar and José.  I was first invited to visit around five years ago. I had contacted the foundation when I purchased a Berrocal on ebay that had a missing piece.  They gave wonderful instructions on how to send it to them and they restored my puzzle.  Since then, I have gotten the collecting bug as I stated in the last post and have gone head on ever since.

We were to meet Carlos on Sunday, but George and I decided to go over and scope out the area when we arrived Saturday.  We were leaving when who should pull up?  Wow!  We pulled over, greeted each other and began our tour of the factory and the workshop.  This was a surprise for all of us.  He didn't expect us and we didn't expect the warm welcome.

What can I say?  This place is amazing!  It has something like 23,000 square feet of space.  It's massive.  Three floors worth of materials, puzzles, sculptures, paintings....It's all in here.  I walked in and my eyes were immediately drawn to a laser cut sculpture.  This was done by a gentleman who was an artist in residence and is on loan to the foundation.  While I asked questions and listened to Carlos speaking, We spent close to four hours with him on the first afternoon.  This first post will only cover a small portion of what we saw and did on this first day.  Forgive me for being long winded this time around.

He began our 'tour' with an explanation of the large photographs at the entrance.  The first is an image of around 700 Mini Davids with the shoulder and neck removed and the next is the photo of David as a hood ornament.  When I asked why the pieces were removed, I was told it was because that is where the serial number goes.  That makes perfect sense.  It would help ensure that none were released without consent.  An easy way to avoid the copies.

The next room we walked into was part museum display area, part workshop, part store.  I zoomed in on the small grey box that I recognized to be a jewelry display and was not disappointed.  I left on Sunday with 3 pieces; just because.  After being given a bit of background on this, we moved on to the main display area of the workshop. Here we saw the Almogávar for the first time.  I’d seen images of these in lots of books and saw the videos that a friend had posted, and was therefore eager to see them in person.  They did not let me down, they are huge!  Each weighs between 300-500 KG! For the uniformed, the Almogaáares were named after Aragonese, Catalan and Balearic warriors.  When these statues are standing tall, it is exactly what they look like.  Strong warriors, that is exactly what these sculptures look like.   When I asked, they can be taken apart, and have many times.  But each one takes two people simply because of the weight and size of these pieces. I am fortunate enough to have found a full set of the smaller anvils and was thrilled to be able to see where they started.  I know my anvils are heavy and they are much smaller versions.  

We saw a large version of Torso de Luces, again, I have a smaller artists proof by my front door.  We saw a copy of Diestro which is Olvedia, Spain.  This was a precursor to Torero and Manolete (both of which we also have at home.)  I saw a mock-up of Manolona as well as a small version of Sainte Agathe II which made me want to purchase yet another piece: La Menina II. I’ve been resisting on this one, but have come to the realization that we need it in our collection.  Now I just need to hunt one down.  

There were just so many pieces to see, I can’t remember them all by name.  The pieces that started as the precursor to Citius Altius Fortius, (we have the much smaller version) was on display, and we were allowed to play with it for a while.  Carlos also explained the mechanism and technical drawings to us.  

I saw a large version of Adriano (yes, we have a smaller one) and immediately realized that it disassembles differently than my version.  After a struggle I was told to use gravity, and with that hint, the piece came apart rather nicely.  Now comes the hunt for Hadrian. We spend quite a bit of time discussing 3D printing and the use of reclaimed plastics before moving on to the work area.  In this section we saw many many machines that were used to create the works almost all of which George has in his workshop.  But then he hit upon a few he doesn’t have and I could see his wheels turning.  Do I really need a heated saw that cuts through Styrofoam?  On the benches I could see a few puzzles that were in the workshop for repair or refurbishing.  Two Torso Sagas and a Richelieu.  Carlos took us over to a rather long work bench and showed us the pieces of Torero both polished and finished, and raw from the moulds.  After an awkward chuckle, he realized that we have seen many of these types of raw works on our many factory visits over the years.  He proceeded to take Torero apart and give a bit of a talk on the way the pieces were made with anecdotes of his childhood as well.  He again realized that we have the puzzle at home so he didn’t offer to let us do it.  He said something along the lines of "I know you’ve done this before."

All in all, we loved this part of the tour.  We next went down to the Bowles of the building where we saw the most amazing sights.  But more on that in the next post. 

For another opinion on this experience, take a look at Allard's post from May of 2018.

Due to very bad internet connection in the Azores, photos will come later. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Puzzling in Spain

This past week we have been on a tour of Spain.  We decided that we would do a Miguel Berrocal tour for the rest of our holiday before heading back to the States via cruise ship.  I got my first Berrocal in 2011 and haven't looked back since.  I wrote then that I wanted only 3 or maybe 4....As of today, we are the rather pleased owners of 76 pieces with more to come I'm sure.

We started out in Barcelona enjoying the sights and found our first puzzle. No, this one isn't a Berrocal, or twisty, or even wood.  It's a jigsaw!  I know, I know.  What right-minded metagrobologist (can I call myself that?) would be caught dead with a jigsaw?  This one is different.  Honest.  First, it's big.  Really big! 42,000 pieces.  And it's not one for the house. We have decided that it will live in the garage. It will be perfect to look at on our way out to trips and as a reminder of where we have been when we return home.

Torso Vectra
 From Barcelona we traveled to Zaragoza to see our first large Berrocal.  In San Bruno square we saw Torso Vectra.  This piece was commissioned in 1996 by Opel car company and was later moved from the factory building to the square.  I had to see this piece as we own a small copy of it which can be seen when you enter our home. While very happy to be able to see this piece, I was saddened by the condition.  The piece itself is in excellent condition, it's the pedestal that needs work.  Vandals have written all over it with paint.  Such a shame.  But thankfully, they left the art alone.  Our version of Torso Vectra is only around 4 inches tall, and has 2 parts.  There were only 1000 made, and we have number 9446.

From here we went next to Madrid.  This city had two sculptures we wanted to see, Manolona and Almudena.  We succeeded in both cases and were not displeased.  Manolona is one of my favorite pieces.  George and I acquired it through an auction last summer and were shocked to discover the piece we own is the artist proof of the larger version seen here in Juan Carlos 1 Park.  This sculpture is just to the right of the main entrance and very easy to spot.  I shrieked with joy when I saw it and went running.  The piece as you see it is resting on a bed of greenery that we later learned was not how Berrocal intended it to be displayed.  But it's lovely just the same.  The beauty of this piece is that you can go under it and get a totally different perspective.  It is well worth the visit.  From there we went to the Funducion Juan March to see the Almudena.  This one is easily seen from the street, but to gain access to it, you must enter the building and then go out onto an open patio. We were glad we arrived during business hours so we could take our photo and head south to Toledo for a few days of sightseeing.

Our next Berrocal stop was in Sevilla.  We went to the sight of the 1992 Worlds fair to see Doña Elvira.  Sadly, the statue is behind a gate and has been permanently closed to the public.  It is such a waste of a beautiful piece.  George and I took a taxi there, jumped out, snapped a few photos of it and returned to the station to return to Cordoba for the night.  I really wanted to get close to it, but didn't want to risk being arrested.  When it was originally put into place it had a beautiful water feature around it. It's a shame that Seville didn't take better care of it.  Another piece, Torso de Luces has all but been destroyed. It is not a city that takes care of it's public art.

Today we had the great pleasure of traveling to the Berrocal Foundation in Villanueva de Algaidas.  This is something I have looked forward to for a very long time.  But more on that in another post.  

Friday, October 18, 2019

Post DCD trip with Oskar and José

Every year we have a bicycling trip with Oskar and José.  This year was no different, but we were much later than usual. But first, we had to introduce Oskar to his new 3D printer!

Sunday night George and Oskar stayed up well past midnight to learn the basics of the 3D printer.  They worked for about 4 hours before calling it quits. Some of the highlights were Oskar trying to warm up the bed with a blow dryer, Oskar finally printing out his name, and George realizing that this particular printer didn't work well in Antartica because he forgot to calibrate it!

After a good night's sleep, we packed the car as full as possible, threw the bikes and helmets in the back, and headed for Zeeland.  Over the course of three days, José tells me we cycled 83 kilometers. The first day found us at the beach and crossing over to a small town in Belgium, Knokke.  (As it turns out, this is the same town we caught the train to Brussels in.)  We enjoyed lunch and a very wet ride back in the rain.  I realized that I need to purchase new rain gear as mine really isn't fit for any kind of real rain.  We found no puzzle shops nor puzzles but after my DCD haul, I was fine with that.  The first evening we had a very nice meal brought in, gourmet, and just enjoyed the evening.

The next day we ventured to Brugges and really enjoyed the city.  A brewery tour, a lot of walking, some wild houses, a wild goose chase for a non-existent toy shop and we were done.  This is a quaint little town that reminded me of Amsterdam.  I will be visiting here again in the Spring.

  The last day was another day of cycling in the Netherlands, this time to Sluis.  A very beautiful fairytale town complete with moat and fortified embankments.  Even though I was terrified, we rode our bikes around the entire top of the wall.  Ok, it's supposed to be a walking path only, but as it turns out, we couldn't read the Belgian signs.  We managed to find a toyshop and George and I bought 3 puzzles that we didn't have.  We were all surprised by this.  We also discovered why all the paintings by the old Dutch masters are so dreary and dark.  Even on a sunny day, it was dank and dark.  The wind must be terrible in the winter because it was awful in October.  Or maybe I'm just used to Florida weather.  After a wonderful ride back through some beautiful countryside, I made dinner while Oskar and George played with one of the SmartGames that I bought.

Friday morning and it was once again time to say our goodbyes.  We took the train to Brussels airport and are now sitting patiently awaiting our departure for Spain.

Bring on the Berrocal tour!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


For my 6th year in a row, I attended DCD again.  I'm not sure if the main draw is the puzzles, or the people.

After a rocky start leaving Boca we finally made it to Delft on Friday afternoon.  We were unable to meet with Guido of Recent Toys because of one delay after another.  We missed the train in Boca, had to take an Uber to the airport only to have that flight delayed.  When we arrived in Frankfurt there was some commotion at the customs inspection so we waited over 1/2 an hour to get our bags on the x-ray machine feeder.  As always my bag was singled out (don't have jerky in your bag) and this time George's was too (the scissors that got through Miami didn't pass the muster in Germany.) We were sure we missed our connecting flight only to discover that this plane was delayed by an hour.  When it finally arrived, because of some 'weather' in Amsterdam, we had to sit on the tarmac or another 45 minutes before we were able to take off.  When we finally got our luggage, we had 3 large suitcases
to haul around and simply got on the train to Delft.  We were both dead.

We were staying with Peter Knoppers yet again.  He and Friede are wonderful hosts.  We truly enjoy our time with them. On Saturday we decided to take two of the suitcases to Oskar's as we would be spending a week with them bicycling in the south of the Netherlands.  George and I brought along a little surprise for Oskar. His very own 3D printer.  George had great guilt over not using the small one  I bought him for our South American cruise, and we had been after Oskar for a while to get a 3D printer.  You can only imagine the look of surprise on his face when George took it out and gave it to him.  You can only imagine the look of dismay on my face when I realized what he had done and I didn't have my camera out.

They put it together but didn't play right away.  There was puzzling to be done.  Throughout the visit with Oskar poor Andreas measured for the twisty puzzle museum.  He even got the exact weight and length of this SPH.  We had the opportunity to see Steve and Ali's latest adventure into brass puzzling and were thrilled.  George loved it and I asked to be added to the puzzle of the month club.  I think I now have a standing order for whatever they decide to make.  After a few hours Dave Pitcher showed up with his beautiful twisty puzzles, but it was sadly time for us to return to Peter's for dinner out.  Not to worry, we would be enjoying a whole lot more puzzling in the morning.

At DCD proper, we met with old friends yet again.  I always enjoy talking with Geert Hellings and Tony Fisher among others.  This is really why we attend DCD.  It's honestly not the puzzles, although we did manage to purchase 57 this year.  The amount of 'necessary' puzzles gets smaller each year.  Could it be that we are satisfied with what we have? Have we reached saturation point?

This year saw more people and more tables than in the past.  Yes, I know the room looks empty.  This was taken just after lunch was served.  Food always seems to clear the room.  It was very nice to even see Nick Baxter there!  What a surprise that was.  After the day was over, we left rather abruptly.  I want to apologize to all who  I didn't say good-bye to.  I was taken by surprise when Oskar said it was time to leave.  Until 2021!  See you then.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

DCD presentation

As promised, here is my DCD presentation.  It is best viewed as a presentation as there are stacked photos and videos to watch.

For now, we are off on a short Holiday with Oskar and José Van Deventer.  

Friday, October 11, 2019

Long overdue post

Is anyone still reading this blog anymore?

I have not been an active blogger for the past 3 years.  It's not for lack of puzzle parties, or puzzle purchases, but rather because I was ending one life and starting another.  I have finally quit Hong Kong after 25 years, left my old life behind and started a new one in Florida.  It was my intention to begin blogging again at my last post, but circumstances dictated otherwise.  I am now fully retired, divorced from a life of misery, living in a wonderful area, and married to the most amazing man I have ever known.

Take this as notice that I shall be posting again about our adventures in puzzling.  Both in our travels and new puzzle purchases, and also in our house.  You see, when George Miller and I married, we combined our collections and fulfilled a life long dream that we each had.  We have built for ourselves a small puzzle house.  One in which you can look at, touch, and play with all puzzles.  It's a real treat for both of us to have this.

We are now in the Netherlands for Dutch Cube Day and will be heading from here to Spain to visit other puzzlers, do some puzzle shopping and visit a museum dedicated to puzzles.  In the coming months I will write about this month of travel and about the home we have created for ourselves.  Expect a bit of gushing about how wonderful my beautiful lover is (because it's true).  Expect non-solving videos of puzzles I fancy.  Expect reports on our visits with other puzzlers.  This time around, I will not be going it alone.  I have a fellow puzzler along for the ride. Expect his contributions to be much more sensible and technical than mine.  He may even solve a puzzle or two as we go along.

On Sunday we will be giving a short talk on our home and an update on 2D and 3D printers.  After it is over, I will post them here for your viewing (dis)pleasure.  As a preview, I give you a few photos of what we have done in our home.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Looking back over 2015

It's that time again.

And I have to say, it's been a wonderful year of puzzling.  I started out in January with a Boys and Toys!  I mean does it get any better than that?  It was in close competition to the Toys fair.   The next month I saw my sweet AJ (he's got a nice a** y'all-runner that he is)!  We are both fools and signed up for the Standard Chartered Marathon.  A special couple of guests were in town.  Otis and Timur.  we met briefly before heading home for naps.

My boy Otis stayed through the new year and it was on to April flowers. And flowers there were! I finally had my Astronaut brought home and I had a young lad 'visit'.  Sadly I was remiss in my message reading and only got to meet him at the airport.

In May I got to celebrate with my boys in HK and our favorite prototyper!  I managed to end the month with yet another trip to Finland and the FPP.  (I love my job!)
August was a full month with George followed by The KPG.

October saw the annual Boys and Toys in GZ with all the usual suspects.  I had the joy of traveling to the DCD yet again.  I have a feeling this is going to be an annual trip for me.  November brought Otis to HK, and I met up with Ming and AJ in GZ.  December was a puzzling dinner with some of the boys after AJ and I ran in the GZ marathon.

Only 8 puzzle gatherings this year.  I'll have to do better in 2016.