Review: “Safe Travels” by Aimee Stewart — MasterPieces, 8.25/10
Publisher: MasterPieces (US), published 2016
Title: “Safe Travels” by Aimee Stewart, 1000 pieces
Finished size: 26.75″ x 19.25″
OUR RATING: 8.25/10
Since I just got back from vacation, it seemed like a good time to tackle travel themed puzzles (say that three times!). I’ll be reviewing two puzzles this week and sharing some of my favorite travel themed puzzles at Puzzle Warehouse on the weekend.
Box Quality: (9/10)
This puzzle is in MasterPieces “suitcase” puzzle line. The suitcase line are all travel-themed puzzles. The box is really elaborate. There’s a small suitcase, which even has a handle.
Over the suitcase is a slip cover that has the information about this particular puzzle. You can see the front above. The back is below. On the front is the name of the puzzle and the image in a fairly small size. I think it’s interesting that they don’t have Aimee Stewart’s name on the front since she’s a well-known puzzle artist.
The back of the slipcover has some info about the puzzle but also doesn’t give the artist name.
The sides of the slipcover are shown below. The artist name is given under the copyright notice. There is no release date. This puzzle is “made in China”.
The box contains the bag of puzzle pieces and a small poster of the image. You can see below the size of the poster versus the size of the image on the box slipcover. Again, the suitcase box is really pretty elaborate and very thick and sturdy.
I’ve given the box a ‘9’ score. MasterPieces really went all out with packaging for this series, though I’m sort of ambivalent as a collector about having this on my shelf vs a regular (nicely done) box.
The Image: 9/10
Recently Aimee Stewart has released a number of scrapbook or collage style images. I reviewed “Vintage Love Letters” from Schmidt, Fishing Fun from Ravensburger, and “Pastry Party“, also from Master Pieces. Obviously, I like the Aimee Stewart collage puzzles a lot. She had an eye for perfection and her images are always nicely put together with excellent bending and a soft, painterly style. Unlike some vintage collages, it doesn’t feel like just a bunch of photos of vintage cards and objects photoshopped together.
This travel-themed collage is very attractive with good color placed around the composition and some fun doo dads such as the small binoculars, charm bracelets, pilot’s pin, and coins. A few of the objects, like the charm bracelet, were a little fuzzy in focus. Also, there is still quite a bit of white/cream. I’ve given this image a ‘9’ rating. I am happy to have all of Aimee’s collages, and I enjoyed this one, but “Pastry Party” is still my favorite.
(Click on any of the images in this review for a closer look.)
Puzzle Quality: (7/10)
You can see my brand page for Master Pieces here. “Safe Travels” is one of their regular puzzles, not their EZ Grip (large size pieces) puzzles, so the pieces are normal-to-small in size. Because of the random cut, some pieces got pretty small.
I had one big quality issue, which I discuss below. Other than that, the quality was decent. I liked the random cut, the pieces felt fairly thick, and the image reproduction was very good. The puzzle has a nice finish. The cut is not as seamless as some brands such as White Mountain, Ravensburger and Jumbo — meaning that when you look at the final puzzle the cut is very obvious versus blending into the image. Check out the detail close-up below.
Quality Control Issue:
I did experience one big issue with this puzzle, and it’s one I haven’t seen before in any puzzle I’ve done. The problem was the puzzle was not cut all the way through in places. As soon as I started sorting pieces, I found things like this:
And even pieces that were separated sometimes had hanging chads in the back, like this:
You can see from the back of the puzzle how prevalent this issue was.
As a result of this issue, I had to spend more time up front separating pieces. It was only the very bottom layer of the cardboard that wasn’t cut through in places, and I was able to tear it. During assembly, there was sometimes a hanging chad in the ‘hole’ area that was in the way. I had to tear out the chad or press it under with the top piece. Once the puzzle was assembled, you can’t see this issue. From the front the puzzle looks normal. It only affects the back side of the puzzle.
It could be that I got a box that was at the end of a production run, when the die cutter blades were blunted. However, something like this should have been caught in a QA check. I haven’t had this problem with any other MasterPieces puzzles such as the recently reviewed and highly rated “Pastry Party” by Aimee Stewart. So I’m not sure if it was this particular suitcase title or, as I said, I just happened to get a bad one-off. In any case, I’ve dinged the quality score for this issue, but keep in mind you might not have the same problem if you buy a copy.
This was an easy-to-moderate puzzle to assemble, though it took me four sessions which is longer than usual for a 1000 piece puzzle. There are a lots of creams and whites, but if you look at the box lid, you can usually tell what item of ephemera each piece belongs to.
In the first session I sorted the pieces and put together the border. Because of the irregular cut, border pieces weren’t always obvious so I had a few gaps. But I got enough of the border done to make a rough framework. I started working on the notebook in the center of the composition first.
The notebook has highlighting in blue, pink, and green in different areas, which helps in assembly. The notebook paper background is easy to spot among the pieces. The brown/purple postcard in the center of the image is also super easy to identify, so that got done early on.
DAYS TWO & THREE:
In this collage there really isn’t a ‘background’ or ‘filler’ texture per se. But I did the high-color areas first, as usual. This included the camera, photo array in the upper right, ruler, the green glasses in the upper left, and the red scarf along the side. The black and white snapshots are also easy to find in the piece sorting box.
I like the jewelry in the image such as the charm bracelet near the camera and the one in the lower left.
The final session was a matter of filling in the remaining pieces.
Overall, I’ve given assembly an ‘8’. I liked the image itself and the random cut, but the ‘hanging chad’ issue affected my enjoyment of assembly. It also wasn’t my favorite Aimee Stewart in terms of keeping my interest through all the white-cream paper items.
I love Aimee Stewart’s collage puzzles and this travel-themed one is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of color around the image, but also a lot of white and cream in the various bits of ephemera, which adds challenge to assembly. Overall difficulty is easy-to-moderate. The puzzle comes in a cute little suitcase box with a small poster of the image inside for reference. The puzzle has a very random cut, with each piece unique. The pieces are normal-to-small in size, and the fit is snug. In the unit I assembled there was an issue with hanging chads on the back of some pieces, but it didn’t affect the look of the final puzzle on the front. Recommended for fans of Aimee Stewart or travel-themed puzzles.
Where to find:
Click below to see the puzzle on Puzzle Warehouse.