We have a Winner in the Facebook Holiday Photo Contest!

Congratulations to Catherine Rafferty-Millett for winning our Holiday Puzzle Photo Contest! She got a whopping 58 likes on her photo!

We look forward to working with her to create a beautiful keepsake puzzle! When it is complete, we will share it with you here!

Stay tuned.


A Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear

Last fall, a customer asked me to make a puzzle from a tiny jpeg. I asked if she might have a better picture, but no luck. Moreover, the puzzle was to be for a friend who “had everything,” a dilemma that has happened to many of us in the past.

I spoke to a colleague who suggested using photo-editing software that works within Photoshop to make a copy of a photographic file to look like it had been painted in the style of a particular artist. We picked Vincent van Gogh. This produced the much larger picture shown below, very impressionistic, and almost unrecognizable from the original. The result was my best puzzle of last Christmas season.

This can happen to anyone who takes a picture with their mobile phone or even with a handheld camera on a low setting. And sometimes there is no other option but that small photo. If you want to create a puzzle with a low resolution photo, don’t give up. Send it along and we can work together to make a spectacular puzzle.


Original Photo








Photoshopped image

Three Times Three

Here is a picture of three of our granddaughters for an 11×14 custom jigsaw puzzle. The original pictures were “Photoshopped” into a collage by my son-in-law Jack Lee who is a musician by trade. He transformed his garage into a recording studio and records many acts around Los Angeles. Of course the resultant CDs need artwork so Jack trained himself in Photoshop. This is just an example of what can be done with a little imagination. A knowledge of Photoshop or similar software is a help but not really necessary because we can do that part. Really, your imagination is the limit.3x3a

Another advantage of a collage like this or especially the one in a previous blog dated September 29th. is that the individule pictures can be of lesser quality as they are not enlarged as much.

Custom Jigsaw Puzzles – Drop-out-lettering

         One neat way to make a puzzle special is the add specific lettering to it. The lettering can be pieces in the puzzle as in the blog two weeks ago, or it can be spaces between pieces as shown below. I call that drop-out- lettering. The spaces can be smaller than pieces so more words can be put into the same space. Numbers work too. When letters, words or numbers are pieces in the puzzle, they can go anywhere because they don’t change the picture. On the other hand drop-out-letters interfere with the picture so should by designed into unimportant areas. For this puzzle of a friend’s boat, I alligned the lettering with the oval shape and for RUNNYMEDE I copied the typestyle from the name of the boat on its transom.


      The picture was taken in Sandy Bay at a Junior Olympics regatta last summer. We were there as Race Committee. Next week’s blog will depart from puzzles to discuss junior sailing and Sandy Bay. Puzzles are not the only things I’d like to blog about.

Custom Jigsaw Puzzle

          This is a large and ellaborate custom puzzle that I made last year for a Christmas presant. It is about 16 x 20 inches with 700 or so pieces. I was asked to make names of the kids in the puzzle as pieces and put each name near each kid. The MARSHALL piece was over two inches long. Normally I would prefer to use drop-out-lettering (covered in a future post) but in this case it would have resulted in too many spaces in the puzzle. The added design made the puzzle much more than just a custom puzzle with a nice collage of pictures.


          Over the years I have made many large custom puzzles. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures so I can’t show them to you. One I especially remember started in 1994 when a couple came into the shop with pictures to be made into a collage for a 50th wedding anniversary. The center picture of the parents was a sepia toned black and white 5×7 enlargement of the parents on their wedding day. She was in a wool business suit and  “sensible” shoes. He was in his navy blues. He had weekend liberty from his ship in Boston to get married.

Digitizing the Rooster

Rooster Puzzle, 15 3/4 x 15 3/4, $400.00

Rooster Puzzle, 15 3/4

This puzzle has been my repertoire for a long time. The original, which is about 3 feet square, is in our family. The puzzle had not been popular but recently I made one for a customer. My older puzzle images are kept as film, either negative or positive (slides). Now, when I get a new order, the image is digitized so we work with a file. The file is usually enhanced subtly in Photoshop. In this case the colors were made more vibrant, closer to the original as I remember it. I also made a new, more intricate, puzzle design. Now, if I can say so myself, Rooster is quite smashing.

Gracie Puzzle – best results with digital photo post-processing

Gracie, West Highland Terrier

Gracie, West Highland Terrier

About a month ago, we went to Pasco, Washington to pick up our new puppy, Gracie, a West Highland Terrier. Pat did the research and found the best breeder in the country, Chris Larson.  It didn’t matter that Pasco was in the middle of the state, vineyard country, three airplanes away from Marblehead.

Now Gracie has taken over our household. I think the older dogs look on her as we would an adolescent Lady MacBeth. Of course in our house, her royal puppyhood had to be commemorated with a puzzle.

I picked the best of many pictures, taken at a rare moment.  I “tweaked” the picture on my computer.  Her coat is so white that I had to reduce the highlights a bit and also set the overall color balance since the picture was lit both by bounce flash and the kitchen incandescent lights.

I write this because post processing an image on the computer is becoming an important step to ensure that it is the best it can be for the puzzle.  I will write more about this in future blogs.   You can see the final result above.