Meet the Makers: Puzzle Box Creator Robert Yarger
In this Meet the Makers blog series, we will feature an artist that, quite simply, makes something. Drawing inspiration from custom works handcrafted in various media, we travel beyond the pieces by diving into the minds of the creative makers themselves.
Today, we feature our interview with Robert Yarger, the creative maker of wooden puzzle boxes. Robert owns and operates Stickman Puzzle Boxes, which makes mechanical boxes with interlocking gears and complex relationships, completely out of wood. Impressively, this all happens out of his garage in Edmond, Oklahoma!
GPI Design: What (3) words best describe your work?
Robert Yarger: Innovative – Mechanical – Interactive
GPI: What compels you to create with this particular medium?
Yarger: Aside from its natural beauty, wood has historically been the medium of choice for crafting puzzle boxes, going back centuries. I love its feel and workability, as well as the fragrances that differing species produces when cut. I am not opposed to other medium forms myself and dabble in glass, metal and even plastic. However, using wood maintains the origin, culture and heritage of the original art form that I am attempting to preserve. Wood is also the medium of choice for those who collect puzzle boxes, so it is somewhat necessary to cater to this collector base to maintain a living.
GPI: What is your biggest constraint in the creative process?
Yarger: The biggest constraint has to be time or funding, depending on how you interoperate it. A run of puzzles generally requires 4 months, so I only get 2 or 3 paychecks a year. Often I find myself in positions where, the additional features I envisioned, compete with the necessity of completing the project before resources run out. I am constrained by time or money, and cannot always implement the full scope of what I wanted.
GPI: What would your 5 year old former self say about your work now? And what do you hope your future 90 year old self will say about your current work?
Yarger: That is a tough question. If there has been an evolution or progression to my work over time, then I am mostly unaware of it. If there was one aspect that my old self would likely notice about my current work, it would be a increase in quality. You learn as you go and pick up techniques over time. I would hope that my older self would look back on my current work and feel it lacked ingenuity, because that would mean that I had substantially evolved in my art over time.
GPI: What other maker would you most like to collaborate with?
Yarger: There are very few puzzle box makers worldwide, and I have already worked on joint projects with most of them. One maker that has eluded me and I would enjoy working alongside would be Kagen Sound. His work is exceptional, and I am certain that we both would learn a lot from each other.
GPI: What do you think the future of creation/creativity holds (for you, and the artistic world as a whole)?
Yarger: One aspect I have certainly enjoyed and seek to continue about my creations is that they have inspired a new generation of artists, and revived a dying genre of artistic form. When I started out, very few knew about this art form, and if there were any other craftsman pursuing it at that time, I did not know about it. These days I seem to be flooded with those desiring to be mentored in continuing and reviving the art.
This impact on the art world as a whole is minimal, but what I appreciate about art is that it consists of so many diverse genre, and I am content to have simply found my small niche. Honestly, I feel that if someone’s goal is to shake up the artistic world, then they are doing something wrong. Art that is not at its core a means of personal expression is just another pretty object.
GPI: What does your work space look like right now? Send us a selfie of you in your creative arena!
Many thanks to Robert Yarger for the insight into his craft. Stay tuned to our next Meet the Makers interview coming up in two weeks! The interviews will publish every other Tuesday throughout the remainder of the year, focusing on a wide variety of makers, which has us truly redefining what it means to create.
View this maker’s work: Stickman Puzzle Box