Breath of the Wild is the latest incarnation of Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda franchise. Released in March 2017, it is already being hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time. Since the first Zelda came out in 1986, 75 million copies of the game and its spin-offs have been sold.
So yeah, it’s popular.
Shortly after the game was released, we got an interesting request from a woman in Illinois. Breath of the Wild was packaged with a large two-sided map that she wanted to have framed for her husband. The couple didn’t have a lot of money and were expecting their first child, so we all agreed to do the work as a Designer’s Choice Project.
We started the way we always do, with a brainstorming session where the four of us tried to come up with creative ways to make something magic happen. Some of us are Zelda fans too, so it wasn’t hard to really get into this one. The first thing we decided for sure was that the final piece would have to display both sides of the map.
The front side of the map portrays Hyrule, the predominant kingdom in the world of all things Zelda. The flipside depicts a host of Guardians, the eight-legged machines that roam the countryside. Link, the saga’s long-suffering hero, spends an inordinate amount of time fighting them off with various axes, clubs and spears.
We found a great frame that was wide enough to accommodate a double-sided piece, knowing that the original size of the map was about to expand considerably. We’d decided that our focus would be on making the surrounding mat come alive with characters and symbols from the game, giving the viewer the impression that they were truly stepping into Hyrule.
We then set to work drawing the figures on pieces of mat, layering them on top of each other to add depth and texture to the piece. We had Link climbing a cliff on one side, and Zelda braced to face all challengers on the other. The drawing, cutting, painting and layering took about a week to complete. Luckily, David can play the ocarina and absolutely nailed the music we needed to channel Zelda’s world and bring it home to Alamo Heights.
We were all super happy with the way this piece turned out. We’d managed to transform a two-dimensional, mass produced give-away into something unique, complex, and visually arresting.
For the perfect finishing touch, we braided strips of leather to hang the piece, foregoing bland picture wire, and even found a cast iron hook that stood away from the wall so that both sides could be more easily admired.
Our satisfaction with in the Zelda project was matched only by the sheer delight of our client. She was thrilled to be able to give her husband something that she knew he’d treasure and appreciate like no other.
We kind of miss Zelda around here now. The ocarina, not so much.