The first time I can remember being blown away by the figuring of wood was when I got my first glimpse of my Paul Reed Smith hollowbody electric guitar. It had a "10" top, meaning that the figuring of the curly maple on the front of the guitar was deemed to be as good as it gets. It looked three dimensional with its tight, undulating waves but was smooth to the touch. I appreciate the beauty of that wood every time I take the guitar out to play.
In addition to "curly", figured maple is known by different names such as tiger, flame, blister, bubble, quilted or fiddleback, with considerable overlap between these terms. The latter comes from the use of the wood by instrument makers for the backs of stringed instruments for its strong resonance and striking beauty.
I enjoy using curly maple in projects whenever possible. It generally looks better as an accent wood since gluing up multiple pieces almost always results in an obvious glue line at their intersection. Those accents can be powerful however, espeically when used with a wood that is darker and straight grained, particularly quartersawn sapele.
Every year when I visit the Northeast in the summer, I stop by a small lumber company in Stamford, Vermont called Eagle Lumber to stock up on beautifully figured hard maple.