Title:
Puzzles and other two dimensional visual designs made from distinctively shaped pieces
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A picture is divided into individual sections each having a distinctive visual design element (such as geometric patterns, abstract designs, cartoons, and/or photographic images, possibly with variations in color, texture, orientation, and/or proportion). The division into sections preferably follows defined lines and borders in the original design image, but a defined portion of the original image may be divided arbitrarily into multiple sections, and contiguous portions of the original image may be combined arbitrarily into a single section. The overall design may be thought of illustrating a theme including interrelated objects (or components of objects) which in turn may each be sectioned to emphasize shadows, prospective etc. In one embodiment, a separate shaped backing piece is fabricated for each section of the design, and a piece of fabric (or other flexible material) appropriate for that section is placed over the front of the piece and wraps around its borders. The individual fabric-covered backing pieces may then assembled into the desired design. Other embodiments involve similarly sectioned design elements constructed from other materials, some of which are suitable for more utilitarian applications, while others provide entertainment and learning experiences for the visually impaired. A computer may be used to assist in the selection and fabrication of the various design elements.



Inventors:
Fabrige, Anastazia (Westlake Village, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/397078
Publication Date:
08/03/2006
Filing Date:
04/03/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
29/428, 29/896.43
International Classes:
A63F9/10; B21D39/03; B23P11/00; B23P17/00; B44C3/02; D05B97/12; D05C17/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20100052253INTERACTIVE MODULAR TILE SYSTEMMarch, 2010Macura et al.
20060001212Jimmy block puzzleJanuary, 2006Toland et al.
20030085523Novel paintball velocimeter and closed-loop regulationMay, 2003Spaulding et al.
20060255537Tossing gameNovember, 2006Gandley
20060220311Lottery organizer kit and methodOctober, 2006Campbell
20080116637Rhombus twelve manipulation gameMay, 2008Seals
20080122176Spot bet for craps gameMay, 2008Dickerson
20090045572Educational Board Game and Method of UseFebruary, 2009Teal
20060154225Test preparation deviceJuly, 2006Kim
20070273095CHESSBOARD DEVICE WITH AUTO-ELECTRONIC SCORINGNovember, 2007Cho
20090127784KEYED ACCESS TO HOLLOW THREE-DIMENSIONAL PUZZLESMay, 2009Paquette



Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FULBRIGHT AND JAWORSKI LLP (555 S. FLOWER STREET, 41ST FLOOR, LOS ANGELES, CA, 90071, US)
Claims:
1. A kit of parts for making a decorative two dimensional object, comprising: a mat board on which is depicted a design comprising a plurality of contiguous two dimensional sections; a separate shaped backing piece corresponding to each section of the design and formed from a relatively stiff material; and a separate piece of flexible sheet-like material for each shaped backing piece adapted to cover at least a front surface of said backing piece and to be secured at least to a portion thereof such that at least the front face of the backing piece is completely covered by the material.

2. The kit of parts of claim 1, wherein all said shaped backing pieces are die-cut from a single sheet of said stiff material.

3. The kit of parts of claim 1, wherein at least some of said shaped backing pieces have an open center and a shaped periphery.

4. The kit of parts of claim 1, wherein said sheet-like material is adapted to be laminated onto said stiff material.

5. The kit of parts of claim 1 wherein the sheet-like material is a textile fabric

6. The kit of parts of claim 5, wherein said shaped backing pieces collectively include several different shapes and the separate pieces of fabric collectively include several different patterns.

7. The kit of parts of claim 5, wherein said stiff material is a flat piece of plastic or cardboard, and each piece of textile is adapted to be wrapped around an edge of the stiff material and to be secured to a back surface of the stiff material.

8. A puzzle adapted to be assembled into a framed two dimensional decorative object, comprising: a mat board having a front surface on which is depicted a design comprising a plurality of contiguous two dimensional sections that completely fill a central portion of the mat board; a separate decorated piece corresponding to each section of the design and formed from a relatively stiff material; and a frame for holding the assembled decorative object, said frame having a window for viewing a selected portion of the decorative object corresponding to the central portion of the mat board.

9. The kit of parts of claim 8, wherein all said shaped backing pieces are die-cut from a single sheet of said stiff material.

10. The kit of parts of claim 8, wherein said frame is folded from a single sheet of material.

11. The kit of parts of claim 8, wherein at least some of said shaped backing pieces have an open center and a shaped periphery.

12. The kit of parts of claim 8, wherein said sheet-like material is adapted to be laminated onto said stiff material.

13. The kit of parts of claim 8 wherein the sheet-like material is a textile fabric

14. The kit of parts of claim 13, wherein said shaped backing pieces collectively include several different shapes and the separate pieces of fabric collectively include several different patterns.

15. The kit of parts of claim 13, wherein said stiff material is a flat piece of plastic or cardboard, and each piece of textile is adapted to be wrapped around an edge of the stiff material and to be secured to a back surface of the stiff material.

16. A method for assembling a kit of parts adapted to make a decorative textile object, comprising the steps: selecting a two-dimensional design; dividing the design into contiguous two-dimensional sections; selecting a pattern and pattern orientation for each section; fabricating a mat board on which said design has been imprinted; fabricating a pattern board on which said sections have been die-cut or otherwise indicated; and providing a quantity of flexible material imprinted with different said patterns to cover at least a front face of each of the sections with the corresponding selected pattern and pattern orientation.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the quantity of flexible material is sufficient to also cover an edge and a portion of the rear face of each said section.

18. The method of claim 16, further comprising the step: separating individual said sections from said pattern board.

19. The method of claim 16, wherein the quantity of material includes a separate piece of fabric for each of said sections.

20. A computer assisted method for designing a decorative object, comprising the steps: selecting a two-dimensional line drawing that illustrates a theme involving several objects wherein each illustrated object corresponds to a respective object area of the drawing that is bounded by one or lines of said drawing, said drawing also including a background area that includes all portions of the drawing that are not covered by any object area. dividing said background area and at least some of said object areas into two-dimensional partial object sections; selecting a pattern and pattern orientation for each said section and for any object area that is not so divided into partial object sections; fabricating a mat board on which said design has been imprinted; fabricating a pattern board on which said sections have been individually indicated; and providing a quantity of flexible material imprinted with different said patterns to cover at least a front face with the corresponding selected pattern and pattern orientation.

21. The method of claim 20 wherein the surrounding edges of each of the sections are also covered with the flexible material.

22. A puzzle comprising: a mat board on which is depicted a line drawing comprising a plurality of contiguous two dimensional sections; and a separate shaped piece corresponding to each section of the design; wherein a respective upper surface of each said piece has a surface decoration having a distinctive visual design element, and the line drawing is camouflaged with additional lines which have no relationship with the individual pieces.

23. The puzzle of claim 22 wherein the shaped pieces are formed from a relatively stiff material such as a sheet of cardboard or plastic

24. The puzzle of claim 22 wherein the distinctive visual design elements include geometric patterns, abstract designs, cartoons, and/or photographic images

25. The puzzle of claim 22 wherein the distinctive visual design elements include variations in color, texture, orientation, and/or proportion.

26. The puzzle of claim 22 wherein the additional lines comprise a mesh.

27. A puzzle comprising: a mat board on which is depicted a line drawing comprising a plurality of contiguous two dimensional sections; and a separate shaped piece corresponding to each section of the design; wherein a respective upper surface of each said piece has a surface decoration having a distinctive visual design element, and both the sections and the corresponding pieces are provided with additional “clues” to identify which piece of the puzzle is to be placed on which design section on the mat board.

28. The puzzle of claim 27 wherein the shaped pieces are formed from a relatively stiff material such as a sheet of cardboard or plastic

29. The puzzle of claim 27 wherein the distinctive visual design elements include geometric patterns, abstract designs, cartoons, and/or photographic images

30. The puzzle of claim 27 wherein the distinctive visual design elements include variations in color, texture, orientation, and/or proportion.

31. The puzzle of claim 27 wherein the clues are tactile indicia distinguishable by size, number of points, convexity, elongation factor, and/or the presence of specific adjacent such indicia.

Description:

This application is a continuation-in-part of my prior U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/265,054, entitled “Decorative Objects and Method for Making Same” (now U.S. Pat. No. ______) and claims priority from my prior provisional application 60/327,883, entitled “Decorative Pictures Using Textile as Abstract Liquid Paint.” Each said application is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Textiles are used for a number of decorative and utilitarian purposes, including screens, drapes, furniture covers, and wall hangings. They may be formed of one or more pieces of cloth, with designs woven into the fabric or printed or tie-dyed. Non-woven fabrics, plastic films, and other flexible sheet-like materials may be substituted for traditional woven textiles in many of these applications.

Quilts are decorative objects typically assembled from individual pieces of flexible materials such as multiple scraps of patterned cloth which are sewn together to create a large design which may be geometrical, abstract, or even representational. The resultant two dimensional assembly can then be used s material from which jackets and other clothing may be fabricated, or can be used as an ornamental hanging or covering. Other decorative two-dimensional objects such as walls, windows, floors, and table tops have traditionally been assembled from rigid shaped pieces of stone, ceramic, glass, and/or wood, each individual piece being provided with a distinctive color, texture, and/or pattern.

A so-called “jig saw” puzzle comprises a number of irregularly shaped pieces that are to be fitted together to form a picture. The individual pieces have distinctive shapes that are typically unique and are covered with a corresponding piece of the overall picture such that they can be assembled in only one configuration which when assembled reveals the overall design. The player is able to use both complementary shapes and overlapping design elements as clues as to how the pieces should be assembled. Frequently the puzzle pieces are accompanied with an additional clue in the form of a reduced size print of the overall design. Such puzzles not only are entertainment but also can provide intellectually stimulating and rewarding education and therapy.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The present invention is generally concerned with decorative objects, puzzles, and the like, in which a larger picture is assembled from individual pieces each having a distinctive visual design element (such as geometric patterns, abstract designs, cartoons, and/or photographic images, possibly with variations in color, texture, orientation, and/or proportion).

In accordance with one aspect of the invention, a “mat” board is provided with a line drawing of the completed picture partitioned into individual design segments, onto which the player places correspondingly shaped individual “pieces”. In some embodiments the picture on the mat board is camouflaged with additional lines or other design elements which have no relationship with the individual pieces, while in other embodiments both the segments and the corresponding pieces are provided with additional “clues” to identify which piece of the puzzle is to be placed on which design segment on the mat board.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, individual pieces may be constructed of various types of materials, which may include not only a relatively flexible material which covers a relatively rigid backing piece, but also less flexible wrappings, more flexible backings, as well as rigid pieces constructed from a single layer of a rigid material, flexible pieces constructed only from flexible materials, and pieces having a three-dimensional shape which complements the surface configuration of the mat board and/or which provides an additional spatial dimension to the completed picture. In other embodiments, the pieces are assembled without underlying any mat board or without the assistance of any drawing of the completed picture.

In accordance with yet another aspect of the invention, the design depicted on the mat board only approximates the size and shape of the individual pieces, the individual pieces do not fit together in a precise fashion, and the mat board is provided with a border region into which the assembled pieces may extend, thereby giving greater freedom to the manner in which the individual pieces may be constructed and/or more possibilities to the manner in which the pieces may be assembled, not all of which are necessarily correct or desirable.

In accordance with other aspects of the invention, various means are provided to define the shapes of the individual pieces and to retain each piece to the mat board.

In still another aspect of the invention, computer graphics technology is used to determine the overall configuration of the completed picture, as well as to section the picture into individual design segments, and to provide each design segment with distinctive patterns, textures, colors, orientations, and/or other design elements, preferably in the form of computer generated objects in a virtual display. Once the desired selections have been made and adjusted to the user's satisfaction, the computer may then be used to print a completed ornamental design on a single sheet of paper or fabric (or equivalently, the complete design is decomposed into cells each a previously defined standard size and shape and the design cells are then printed on individual tiles having that size and shape). Alternatively the computer can specify and/or fabricate the individual distinctively shaped components from which such a design may subsequently be constructed. In any such computerized embodiment, the individual elements may exist as separate elements only as numbers in a computer memory or as graphics displayed on a computer screen; any desired reconfiguration of the individual elements and any required assembly of the elements into a completed design is performed only in a virtual reality. Alternatively, even if the various shapes and patterns are printed in a computer controlled process as a completed design on the same sheet of paper or fabric, the individual sections of the design may subsequently be manually cut into individual puzzle pieces for subsequent re-assembly.

The invention is defined in the appended claims, some of which may be directed to some or all of the broader aspects of the invention set forth above, while other claims may be directed to specific novel and advantageous features and combinations of features that will be apparent from the Detailed Description of certain exemplary embodiments that follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a mat board on which an exemplary design has been drawn or printed in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a pattern board on which an outline for the individual backing pieces required to form the design of FIG. 1 has been die-cut or otherwise specified.

FIG. 3 (comprising FIG. 3A through FIG. 3D) shows steps in covering a shaped backing piece with a corresponding piece of fabric, in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is an exploded view showing the pattern board of FIG. 2 after it has been cut or separated into individual backing pieces with each piece decorated with an appropriate piece of fabric and about to be mounted onto the mat board of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 shows the individual decorated pieces of FIG. 4 mounted to the board of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 shows how a single object may be divided into components, and how each component may be further divided to emphasize the physical characteristics of that component, in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 shows how a printed design on the mat board of FIG. 1 may be camouflaged to provide a more challenging puzzle, in accordance with yet another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 shows how individual segments of the design of FIG. 7 may be specially marked for easier identification.

FIG. 9 (comprising FIG. 9A and FIG. 9B) shows how the individual decorated pieces used to complete the puzzle of FIG. 7 may be marked for convenient correlation with the marked segments of FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 (comprising views FIG. 10A, FIG. 10B, FIG. 10C, and FIG. 10D) shows how an exemplary decorated piece (shown in orthogonal views FIG. 1A, FIG. 10B, and FIG. 10C) may be guided into its proper postion on a mat (exploded view FIG. 10C and FIG. 10D) by means of matching projections and openings.

FIG. 11 (comprising two orthogonal views FIG. 11A and FIG. 11B) shows an alternative embodiment in which the mat board is not flat, but rather defines a variety of varying elevations.

FIG. 12 shows an alternative embodiment in which the backing pieces of FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 are replaced by a wire form.

FIG. 13 (comprising FIG. 13A and FIG. 13B) shows how a computer graphical user interface may be used to modify the segmented design of FIG. 1 by merging two adjacent segments.

FIG. 14 (comprising FIG. 14A and FIG. 14B) shows how a computer's graphical user interface may be used to modify the segmented design of FIG. 1 by splitting a larger segment into three smaller segments.

FIG. 15 (comprising two orthogonal views FIG. 15A and FIG. 15B) shows how the covered pieces of FIG. 4 even formed from backing pieces that correspond to segments of a drawing within a defined border will sometimes extend outside that border when they are assembled into a completed picture.

FIG. 16 (comprising three orthogonal views FIG. 16A, FIG. 16B, and FIG. 16C) show an alternate method of attaching the covered pieces to the mat board.

FIG. 17 (comprising a plan view FIG. 17A of the unfolded frame and two orthogonal views FIG. 17B and FIG. 17C of the folded frame) shows how one embodiment of a simple frame for holding the completed picture of FIG. 15 can be cut and folded from a single sheet of material.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the appended drawings, an exemplary method for constructing pictorial designs, decorated materials and visual puzzles, (such as the decorative textile object of FIG. 5) will now be described.

First, as shown generally in FIG. 1, an overall two-dimensional design 10 is selected and divided into contiguous sections 12. In a preferred embodiment, the design and the included sections are imprinted (lines 14) on a relatively stiff mat board 16 such as may be commonly found in a graphics supply shop. The imprinting may take the form of a conventional printing process, or may be done freehand. The design may be original, copied from a photographic, or reproduced from an existing design inventory. The division into sections preferably follows defined lines and borders in the original design image, but a defined portion of the original image may be divided arbitrarily into multiple sections, and contiguous portions of the original image may be combined arbitrarily into a single section. The overall design 10 may be thought of illustrating a theme including interrelated objects (or components of objects) which in turn may each be sectioned to emphasize shadows, prospective etc. For example, as best seen in FIG. 6 to illustrate a tree at the edge of a field in which a girl is reading a book, the tree will be shown as assembled from a tree trunk, branches, and multiple clusters of leaves, and each component part of the tree (for example its trunk) can be further divided into more detailed fractions to show shadows, prospective etc to emphasize its girth and three dimensional meandering. Similarly, the body of the girl includes long hair which is formed from multiple strands extending in different directions. In both of these examples, the overall objective is to provide an ornamental effect that uses different shapes and patterns to achieve an effect that is not completely natural and that is not completely geometrical.

Next, as shown generally in FIG. 2, the defined sections 12 are laid out on a pattern board 18, also formed of a relatively still material such as was used for the mat board. The individual sections may be die cut in a manner similar to form a jig saw puzzle, but are preferably separated from each other by a small gap 20 to accommodate the fabric therebetween.

Third, as shown in FIG. 3, a piece 22 of fabric preferably having a selected pattern and pattern orientation, that is somewhat larger in area than the backing piece 24, is placed over the front of the backing piece (FIG. 3A and FIG. 3B), and the edges of the fabric 26 are wrapped over the edges of the backing piece and preferably secured to a corresponding region on its rear face 28 (FIG. 3C) by a suitable adhesive. The edge of the fabric may be slit or darted 30 to facilitate a neat appearing front 32 (FIG. 3D) that is completely covered by the fabric. Depending on the effect desired, the fabric may be loosely draped over the front face in folds or pleats, and/or a layer of padding may be placed between the fabric and the backing to provide a softer, three-dimensional effect. Alternatively, the fabric may be stretched over the front face and/or secured to the front face by a suitable adhesive to provide a more formal, starched effect.

In an alternative embodiment, rather than wrapping the edges of the fabric over the edge of the backing piece, the backing piece may be used as a template for marking and cutting a correspondingly shaped piece out of a colored or otherwise patterned sheet of material (not necessarily a textile fabric), which is then glued or otherwise laminated onto the front face of the backing piece.

As shown in FIG. 4, once the individual backing pieces have been covered with fabric with respective patterns and pattern orientations that are appropriate to overall design, these covered pieces 34 are preferably assembled, for example by glue or double sided tape, to their designated positions 36 on the mat board 16.

The result, as shown in FIG. 5, is a decorative textile object 38 that preferably combines shapes, colors, patterns, orientations and/or textures into an overall design that achieves a highly artistic and individualized effect that is neither completely realistic nor completely geometrical, and that is especially suitable for teaching artistic principles of design and composition in a manner that will be highly satisfying even to relatively unskilled students. For example, as shown in FIG. 6 to illustrate a tree 40 at the edge of a field 42 in which a girl 44 is reading a book 46, the tree 40 will be shown as assembled from a tree trunk 48, branches 48e,48f, and multiple clusters 50a,50b of leaves, and each component part of the tree (for example its trunk 48) can be further divided will be divided into more detailed fractions 48a,48b,48c,48d to show shadows, prospective etc to emphasize its girth and three dimensional meandering. Similarly, the body of the girl 44 includes long hair 52 which is formed from multiple strands 52a,52b,52c extending in different directions. Depending on the desires of its creator, the assembled object can be framed, incorporated into a larger collage of objects, and/or further embellished with handwritten markings and other surface ornamentation.

In accordance with other embodiments which emphasis the puzzle and instructional aspects of the invention, the visual guidance provided by the printed outlines of the individual pieces on the mat board is camouflaged with additional lines or other design elements which have no relationship with the individual pieces, while in other embodiments both the design elements and the corresponding pieces are provided with additional “clues” to identify which piece of the puzzle is to be placed on which design element on the mat board.

To that end, FIG. 7 shows how the individual lines 52 of the printed design 10 on the mat board 16 of FIG. 1 may be camouflaged by means of other lines 54 to provide a more challenging puzzle. Alternatively, FIG. 8 shows how individual segments 56a,56b of the design 58 on the mat board 16 may be specially marked with corresponding tactile indicia 60a,60b for easier identification by a visually impaired person. Examples of such tactile indicia include bumps, dimples, and cutouts, and are preferably readily distinguishable by features such as size, number of points, by convexity, by elongation factor, and by the presence of any adjacent such indicia.

FIG. 9 comprising FIG. 9A and FIG. 9B shows how the individual decorated pieces 34a,34b used to complete the puzzle may be marked with tactile indicia 62a,62b for convenient correlation with the marked segments 60a,60b of FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 (comprising views FIG. 10A, FIG. 10B, FIG. 10C, and FIG. 10D) shows how an exemplary decorated piece 34c (shown in orthogonal views FIG. 10A, FIG. 10B, and FIG. 10C) may be guided into its proper postion on a mat (exploded view FIG. 10C) by means of matching projections 64 and openings 66.

FIG. 11 (comprising orthogonal views FIG. 11A and FIG. 11B) shows an alternative embodiment in which the mat board 16a is not flat, but rather defines a variety of varying elevations 68a,68b,68c, which, even if the individual pieces 32 are simply cut from a single sheet of paper, fabric or other flexible material, nevertheless provides a three dimensional bas-relief effect to the complete picture 38a. In other embodiments (not shown), a similar enhanced bas-relief effect can be achieved by suitable shaping of backing pieces 24 (see FIG. 3) or by providing padding between fabric 22 and backing 24.

FIG. 12 shows an alternative embodiment in which the backing pieces 24 of FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 are replaced by a wire form 24a, around which the outer edge 26 of fabric 22 may be securely fastened.

FIG. 13 comprising FIG. 13A and FIG. 13B shows how a computer graphical user interface may be used to modify the segmented design 10 of FIG. 1 by using a computer mouse (or other pointing device) to select and merge two adjacent smaller segments 12a,12b into a single larger segment 12c. At the same time, the pointing device may be used to select the orientation axis 70 of the merged segment 12c. Similarly, FIG. 14 comprising FIG. 14A and FIG. 14B shows how a computer's graphical user interface may be used to modify the segmented design of FIG. 1 by splitting a larger segment 12d into three smaller segments 12e,12f,12g along a line 72 defined by the movement of the mouse across the original segment 12d.

FIG. 15 comprising FIG. 15A and FIG. 15B shows how the covered pieces 34 of FIG. 4 will have a combined transverse dimension 72 along section line B-B that is somewhat larger than the corresponding dimension 74 that would accommodate the uncovered backing pieces 24. This effect is particularly pronounced when, as shown in FIG. 3C, the fabric material 22 is wrapped about the edge of the backing piece 24. Accordingly, even if the segments on original pattern board were confined within a border area 76, the completed picture 10 may extend outside that border 76 when the covered pieces 34 are assembled into a completed picture. To accommodate such an extension, the mat board is preferably provided with a relatively wide border region 76. Moreover, as shown in FIG. 16 a flexible method of attaching the covered pieces 34 to the mat board 16 will more easily accommodate variations in postion resulting from the use of different covering materials and folds or layers of materials between adjacent backing pieces. One embodiment of such a flexible attachment uses strips 78 of a malleable, shape retaining material (such as sheet copper or aluminum) between backing piece 24 and covering 22, with projecting legs 80 that extend through corresponding openings 82,84

Although the illustrated embodiment utilizes a flexible covering over a relatively rigid backing piece, with the whole composition mounted on a rigid mat board, alternative embodiments may comprise complete compositions and images that include individually ornamented segments of an overall design that are developed using the same design principles for subsequent printing on either flexible or rigid sheets of paper, canvas, vinyl, man made and natural resins, plastics, fibers, glass, metal, wood, other engineered materials, and the resultant printed composition can either be framed as a picture suitable for display on a wall, or can be used as a textile material for garments, wall papers, window coverings and the like, or even can be used as a substitute for the more conventional building materials normally used in cabinets, wall surfaces, floors, ceilings, and countertops. In particular, since the overall design is rendered electronically, inside a printer, rather than being assembled by hand from individual pieces, no separate mat board is required to hold those individual pieces together in the desire arrangement.

Regardless of whether the puzzle or decorative object such as the completed picture 38 of FIG. 15 is assembled manually from a number of physically separate components, or is constructed in a virtual computer world and then printed on a single sheet (or possibly in a tiled sequence across several sheets), its perceived value to the creator can be enhanced by providing an appropriate frame to hold, protect and display the resultant two dimensional object. In that regard, as shown in FIG. 17A, a frame aspect 86 generally corresponding to the outer border of the object to be framed is inscribed on a sheet of stiff paper or thin board 88. Diagonal cuts 90 are made from opposing corners 92 of the inscribed aspect 86, to thereby define four inwardly projecting triangular flaps 94a,94b,94c,94d which, when folded back along the lines defining aspect 86 (see upper flap 94a of FIG. 17C, form a corresponding window 96.

Then, as best seen in the cross section view of FIG. 17B each of the three lower flaps 94b, 94c, 94d is folded back along a line 98 parallel to the corresponding edge 86 of window 96, to thereby form a support groove 100, with upper flap 94a projecting upwardly to thereby function as a hanger, and with the three lower flaps 94b, 94c, 94d projecting inwardly toward the center of window 96 to thereby form a rear support surface inside the window 96.

By dividing the overall composition into regular geometrical squares, rectangles, and other shapes that are dimensioned to correspond to the exposed surfaces of individual pieces of ceramic tile or the like, it is possible to provide the normally plain and unornamented utilitarian surfaces normally associated with tiled walls and floors with the visual excitement provided by the above described design principles. Moreover, even if a line drawing or other similar visual clue as to the desired arrangement of the individual pieces is required, such a requirement can sometimes be satisfied with a drawing on a flexible sheet of paper or plastic which can be applied to a wall or other existing supporting surface, or such a line drawing can be traced onto the support surface by hand or by means of a suitable machine.

Although the above embodiments are intended for mass production and are especially suitable in a class environment with many students using the same basic design, shapes, and fabric patterns to achieve many different personalized but equally satisfying results, other embodiments can provide much greater flexibility and choice to the individual creator. For example, the design could be selected from a computerized design library, perhaps modified by the user, the user could use his or her computer to select or alter the sizes and shapes of the individual sections, and various fabric colors and patterns could be selected from a computerized collection of simulated fabric swatches and dragged with different orientations and magnifications onto different sections of the design. At each stage of the selection process, a computer generated replica of the corresponding resultant object could be displayed for approval or further modification. Once the user is satisfied with the overall effect, the computer could then print the selected designs, backing pieces and patterns on plain sheets of cardboard and fabric (or on iron-on transfer paper which could then be used to print an outline or pattern on a larger sheet of fabric), which the user could then cut apart and assemble as previously described. In another embodiment, the fabric could be replaced with a flexible sheet of material that is more adaptable to imprinting by the type of printer typically connected to a personal computer. As noted previously, even if the various shapes and patterns are printed in a computer controlled process on the same sheet of paper or fabric, they may subsequently be manually cut into individual pieces, thus potentially providing a more individually crafted look for the finished object, as well as a relatively simple and inexpensive method for designing and fabricating individually customized puzzles.

Having described certain preferred embodiments of the invention (which are intended to be illustrative and not limiting), it is noted that modifications and variations can be made by persons skilled in the art in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that changes may be made in the particular embodiments of the invention disclosed which are within the scope and spirit of the invention as defined by the appended claims. For example, rather than a relatively limp piece of woven fabric, the covering material could include a metallic foil layer which retains its shape when folded, thereby securing the folded edges in a desired position without adhesive.