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Tracyton man finds world a puzzling place

Tracyton businessman Robert Sherby has built an artful business by taking mainstream aspects of American life and turning them into puzzles, maps and other products. In business in Tracyton since 1985, Sherby is shown with some of his more recent product lines, including a puzzle of Native American Chieftains, dinosaurs, and a small puzzle of the art deco ferry Kalakala. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Tracyton businessman Robert Sherby has built an artful business by taking mainstream aspects of American life and turning them into puzzles, maps and other products. In business in Tracyton since 1985, Sherby is shown with some of his more recent product lines, including a puzzle of Native American Chieftains, dinosaurs, and a small puzzle of the art deco ferry Kalakala.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

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In a 15-second glance at one of Source Map Inc.’s products — one could help people relocate, introduce people to the world’s presidents or reveal a little known fact about the Green Bay Packers.

The epicenter of map and puzzle publishing company is nestled in the basement of Robert Sherby’s Tracyton home. Computer workstations hum, and phones ring as ideas become artful information sources for the masses.

Sherby has operated the business from Tracyton since 1985 and it includes brand names World Impressions and ArtMap.

There are about 10 projects going on at any one time. An “army of researchers” and fact finders amass information then boil it down into the most interesting tidbits. Paired with hand-drawn artwork, the facts take on a life of their own.

Many of the products center around pastimes such as hockey, baseball, golf and of course football. While other maps delve into past times.

“The Chieftains map represents more of what we can do and sets us so far apart from what other companies do,” Sherby said.

The Chieftain’s map has color, artist renderings of the most influential American Indian leaders and took six years to complete. Each tiny portrait is placed on the map where they lived. Among the facts and faces the map also dispels 39 myths about American Indians.

A few Kitsap County schools display the map, which shows Chief Seattle’s likeness. The Rapid Cities, S.D., school district has put the map into all of its schools, Sherby said.

Maps aren’t Sherby’s only involvement in the education arena. He also heads up the School Citizenship Foundation, which seeks to reward students for their citizenship.

“Grades are great, sports are great, but citizenship is what counts,” Sherby said.

Schools pick the criteria and awards and businesses sponsor the awards. The students receive a silver medallion licensed by the Martin Luther King Foundation.

He would like to see the concept promoted nationally.

He pulls maps from steel drawers. With each glossy sheet comes stories about how each one came to be. To commemorate the rescue workers who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, an American Heroes poster was published. Their photographs and names fill the space.

Source Map also produces more traditional maps to show people the topography and attractions.

The line of “Adventure Maps” show an area, say Montana, and have pictures bordering the map that show fun things to do there. On the back is a detailed street map of major cities and advertising from local companies.

Sherby said his company has found a niche for second tier cities like Sacramento and Anchorage and why they should draw conventions.

Street maps are also paired with a relocation guide, something real estate guides don’t show.

“You don’t really get a feel for what’s going on in the town,” Sherby said.

“Thinking of what to do is not the problem,” Sherby said.

So where do these ideas come from?

“Where does creativity come from? How did you decide what you were going to wear today,” Sherby replied.

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