Sculpted and sustainable bamboo tangrams

We are Liz Crawford and Adrienne McNicholas and we created Pebbles to offer a beautiful version of the traditional tangram game. We have been friends for more than twenty years and both value tradition and style in equal measure. Following our work in product design and development, we wanted to create a game that captured the best of classic puzzles while having pieces that were beautiful to look at and beautiful to hold.

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The tangrams inspired us with their history and also how much they invited people to use creativity as well as problem solving. Most versions of tangrams have strict and straight lines which do not feel as nice to flip and turn while you contemplate how to build your shapes and solve the puzzle.

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The material choice was an important part of our process. The bamboo material we are using is sustainable and biodegradable which is important for us that our games are not going to contribute to tomorrow’s landfills. We are very happy to be able to tread lightly on the planet while making our Pebble pieces.

Liz used river stones as references to borrow from when making the curves on the first hand sculpted models. It was important that the curves feel right and work well for the pieces in all configurations. The hand made models were drafted into a 3D model that we used to have exact prototypes made.

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Tangram games started sometime in the Song dynasty in China and have been a popular and classic game for generations. There are more than 6000 known shapes that can be made with the classic seven tiles, including animals, letters, numbers, people and more.

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To play the game you start with a solid shape and then players try to build that shape using the seven Pebbles. You can flip and turn and rotate the pebbles any way you wish as you try to recreate the desired silhouette. The only rules are that you must use all seven Pebbles and they must all be touching. That, is the classic way that tangrams are played.

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Players of all ages benefit from being able to practice their spatial problem solving skills and the feeling of accomplishment when the puzzle is solved gives us all a boost. Studies have shown that creative play with a game like Pebbles helps to stimulate creative thinking and get our problem solving skills prepared for the challenges we face in the real world.

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It is also very rewarding to solve a puzzle in collaboration with a friend or with your family. For those people who can’t resist their competitive nature, you can also race another person to solve a particular puzzle or even race against yourself trying to beat your best time in solving one of the classic shapes.

Liz and Adrienne are both very fond of just playing and moving and turning the pieces to create new and original patterns or shapes. It can be a lovely distraction to shift and move the pieces until a shape appears. It is ultimately up to the player if they want to follow the strict rules of the traditional game, or break out into their own expressive shapes. When you have multiple sets, it is possible to make more complex patterns and scenes.

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The Pebbles come with seven pieces as well as a carrying tote so that you can take them with you to a cafe, bar, work, or school. They also come with a puzzle guide and answer key to get you started playing.

The Pebbles are now in a Kickstarter campaign trying to raise the funds needed to go into production. If the campaign surpasses its goal, there will be new colours added which would add to the beauty of the pieces as a display on your desk or coffee table. The Kickstarter runs from now until November 1st and if the campaign is funded, the Pebbles will be shipping out to all the backers In February of 2017.

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