They’re puzzles that challenge you to arrange seven geometric shapes (“tans”)in figures, such as the goose pictured above, with only a silhouetted image as a guide. There are something like 6,500 shapes that can be made using all seven tans.
The seven tans are two large triangles, two small triangles, one large square, one small square, and one parallellogram. I’m not very good at doing the puzzle. Mostly I cheat and use the solutions page.
It is believed that the puzzle originated in China more than 1,000 years ago and was brought to Europe and America by sailors. It enjoyed several waves of popularity as a parlor game. Today it is sometimes used in elementary school math classes.
Tangrams have been historically made of natural materials such as wood or ivory. Why not polymer clay?
I had this grand idea of making tangram sets, complete with the tans, cloth drawstring bag, a page of silhouettes (and companion cheat sheet), and a faux Chinese take-out box to hold it all.I made a bunch of sets and attempted to launch them at a craft show. I didn’t sell a one. That’s the failure part. That’s OK. I had fun playing with different colors and surface techniques. And I had fun giving them away. That’s why it’s a favorite failed project.