Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 24, 2014

Working on the big pictures

Yoasis owner completes giant puzzle

RUSSELL — Some assembly required is an understatement when applied to Eric Robinette’s most recent undertaking.

“I worked it over nine months. It has 24,000 pieces,” said Robinette, speaking of the now-completed jigsaw puzzle hanging at his frozen-yogurt shop, Yoasis, on Diederich Boulevard.

Robinette, 34, of Ashland said he has enjoyed solving jigsaw puzzles since he was a young boy. He recalled working and reworking some of his childhood puzzles so often that he became bored, flipped them over and “just work the brown side.” He estimates 30 to 40 completed puzzles, ranging from 500 to 1,000 or more pieces, are stored in sections and boxed up at home. He has also completed an extensive selection of 3-D puzzles, which he finds easier to work than standard jigsaw puzzles.

The shopkeeper said he fell in love with the 24,000-interlocking-pieces kit as soon as he saw it.

“Me and my wife, Amy, went on an overnight trip to Cincinnati and they had a mall there with one store that was just puzzles. I thought, ‘OK, I can’t spend $300 right now.’ But, I kept it in the back of my mind. In 2012, that’s what I asked for for Christmas, because opening a new frozen-yogurt store and raising a newly adopted child wasn’t enough for me!”

The gigantic puzzle came packed in four sections, which Robinette said eased the assembly process.

“If I do it again, I will mix all four,” he said with a grin.

“I started on my birthday and found all of the edge pieces first,” he said, explaining he got lucky and found the two pieces with the artist’s “Royce” signature as soon as he inspected the first group of parts. To celebrate, he posted a photo of the two matched pieces online with the message, “2,398 to go.”

For the next nine months, Robinette said he spent from as little as a few minutes to several hours sorting and fitting each component as the picture depicting life in the sea, sky and space came together.

“Some days I would just sit until my back couldn’t take it anymore,” he said, shaking his head at the memories and demonstrating his typical hunchback-style posture while seeking the next matching tiles.

“The hardest part was the first blue section,” he said, pointing to an area depicting an Atlantis-like scene beneath an ocean’s surface. A pink section of the sky or outer space was likely the next most difficult, he noted, later adding his favorite animal in the entire photo is among the sea creatures — a green, grassy seahorse. Family members left Robinette to himself while puzzle solving, he said.

“This is my thing,” he said, confirming he enjoys assembling puzzles as a form of stress relief, helping balance his typical 60-hour work week and the demands of being a husband and father. He works in standard manner, first finding edge pieces and then sorting like colors before finding parts that interlock. Eventually, he said he developed a sense for the pieces, knowing where each was likely to go and how it should be oriented.  As anyone who has ever worked a puzzle with a missing piece could attest, Robinette said his greatest concern while assembling the 24,000 piece project was that one or more of the parts would disappear, “especially with a one-year-old at home.” As the final pieces came together to form the elaborate image, however, everything was where it was supposed to be. Oddly, Robinette said he recently completed a 1,500-piece puzzle for a friend and found it was indeed missing one piece, so he bought an identical puzzle to complete the first.

Once completed and sealed together with a hobbyist-brand adhesive (Mod Podge), Robinette used a double-sided tape to mount the entire puzzle on backing boards. He and his father, Frank, built a frame for the 14-foot by-5-foot-2-inch image and mounted it at the frozen yogurt shop for the public to enjoy.

Satisfied with his results, but now facing empty work spaces, Robinette said he already has his next “big” project waiting to begin.

“I have a 32,000 piece puzzle that was a birthday gift from myself,” he said, noting his next project will be the world's largest commercially-available jigsaw puzzle, released by the German company Ravensburger in 2010 depicting 32 works by American artist Keith Haring and has 32,256 pieces, measuring more than 17 feet by 6 feet when completed.

Robinette laughs when asked about personal obsessive-compulsive behavior, and laughs when he confirms his wife accuses him of needing an entire afternoon to clean out the pantry.

“I also have to get my baseball cards organized and I have about a half million of them,” he said with a grin, pausing before adding “Yeah, a little bit of OCD in there.”

Robinette said his fellow puzzle enthusiasts are encouraged to stop by the frozen yogurt shop, and adds he is interested in forming a group exclusively for people who love puzzles.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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