A Father’s Day Tradition

About 15 years ago, I created a puzzle for Catherine Weber, who wanted a very special Father’s Day for her husband, Paul. As he was a new father and puzzle lover, she wanted to surprise him with a unique gift.

She chose seven photographs and scanned a piece of William Morris wallpaper (Chrysanthemum design), which was custom made for their Arts and Craft style farm house in Southborough Massachusetts, to use as the background image for the puzzle.

She also asked for special pieces in the puzzle, their son, Benjamin’s birthdate, as well as his initials. I wrote about this puzzle in 2002, when Benjamin was 14 months old for our printed newsletter, here.

Now, all these years later, Catherine tells me that they put the puzzle together as a family every year around Father’s Day. It has become an important way to celebrate another year of their family life.

 

A Wonderful Photo Makes a Wonderful Jigsaw Puzzle

New Custom Puzzle Features All Figure Pieces

 

Three Girls for Jigsaw Puzzle

In 2012, I received an order for a puzzle from a wonderful photograph of children playing dress-up. Here is the image. The same customer just ordered another puzzle with another beautiful picture (see at right).   The puzzle, below, is 14″ x 21.7″.

Three Girls Jigsaw Puzzle

The third image shows a new design full of figure pieces. Many figures take more than one piece.

jigsaw puzzle design with figure piecesWhile I am not sure that so many figures make for a better puzzle because they tend to make it easier to put together, but in this case, where there are so few different colors in the image, I think it works. Additionally, the light colors make the cuts less prominent and the end result is a prettier puzzle. The customer asked for the girls’ names be cut out, so I used a playful font.

Aside from the cut design, this puzzle shows the importance of a good picture. If you have an idea for a puzzle, send me a picture and we can discuss how to make it a wonderful puzzle!

 

Jim

 

 

Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral: A Puzzle From an Old Family Recipe

Many years ago, my great grandfather founded J. C. Ayer & Company, which provided remedies to customers around the world. This new puzzle features one of the original advertisements from Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral. Below, alongside a picture of the puzzle, you will find one customer’s accolades from an issue of Ayer’s Almanac from 1868, which was translated into many languages and distributed world-wide. This puzzle is 7″ x 11″ and has 174 pieces.

Ayer's Cherry Pectoral

Ayer's Almanac

Announcing Custom Puzzle Facebook Contest!

Here at J. C. Ayer & Company, November makes us think of one thing above all else: Holiday Gifts. To get you started with holiday gift giving, we are kicking off a custom puzzle contest. One winner will win a custom or standard puzzle, maximum size 11″ x 14″, a $320 value!

To enter this content, post a photo on the J. C. Ayer & Company Facebook page that you think would make a good puzzle. Then, tell your friends to like the image. The person with the most likes on December 5, wins a standard puzzle or a custom puzzle with their image, delivered by Christmas!

Custom Puzzle Contest Rules

How to enter:

1) Post your best photo on the J. C. Ayer & Company’s wall on Facebook. (see this link on what makes a good puzzle) The photo to the right is a good example of a custom puzzle made from a customer family photo. Only photos submitted to the J. C. Ayer & Company Facebook page will be eligible to win. You may enter only one image per person. Please make sure to include a photo’s caption if you think it needs one.

2) Share the link to your picture with your friends and family and ask them to VOTE for your picture (and ask them to share the link with their friends, too!) To VOTE, they will need visit the J. C. Ayer & Company Facebook Page and then “Like” your picture. Also, please encourage your friends to “Like” the Facebook page the so that they can see the results on the contest.

Judging and Results:

1) The contest will run from Wednesday, November 21 to Tuesday, December 4th. The winning image will be determined by the picture with the most “Likes” at the end of the contest, and will be announced on the J. C Ayer & Company Facebook page and the Fresh Ayer News blog on Wednesday, December 5th.

2) The winning image will be profiled on the our Facebook page as well as our blog and will receive a custom or standard puzzle, valued at no more than $320!

3) Contest is open to all Facebook users, 18 years and older.

4) The prize includes shipment to an address in the United States. Should a non-US resident win the contest, they will be responsible for shipping fees, taxes and duties on the prize.

5) J. C. Ayer & Company reserves the right to use entries for marketing purposes including including on Facebook, the ayerpuzzles.com website, and printed material.

If you have any questions about the contest, please contact Catherine Weber (cweber@webermediapartners.com)

Thanks, and Holiday Shopping!

– Jim

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.

Jim

Original Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photoshopped image

Marblehead Girl’s Swim Team

This is my first blog since before Christmas so it is appropriate that this year starts with an upbeat story. For the first time the Marblehead High School girl’s team won the state championship. The meet was at the Harvard pool. 31 teams competed but only with each team’s fastest swimmers. All afternoon Marblehead exchanged the lead with Wayland, a prennial winner. Comming into the last event, a relay, Wayland was slightly ahead. Marblehead won the relay and the championship by one second. It was David vs Goliath. Wayland had 19 swimmers, Marblehead 7. The Boston Papers were there. A Herald reporter christened the Marblehead team The Magnificent 7.

My wife asked me to design and make puzzles for the swimmers and coach. A mother took a good picture. In the upper center of the puzzle my signiture cat is surrounded by fish. All other silhouettes are female. The cat is too.  She comes from a cartoon by Albert Dubout that shows her leading her kittens across a war torn Paris street. Notice Olive Oyl , lower middle next to “Jane Bond” but no Popeye. I put in as many figure pieces as possible; that makes the puzzle easier. Swimmers are not necessarily avid puzzlers.

New Designs for Small Puzzles

I have redesigned my smaller puzzles. Below left is the old 8×10 design with about 160 pieces and right is the new with about 250.

This new design is the first I am really happy with smaller than 11×14. Prices are the same so now you can get a good custom puzzle for $190 rather than the $320 that an 11×14 costs. Of course there wil be more than one design as time goes on and these designs will apply to the new 7×11 format as well. I will show some samples in future posts.

New Puzzle Sizes

I have been basing the sizes of my puzzles on the photographic standard: 8×10, 11×14 and 16×20. These sizes are now less relevant than they used to be. Like movies and television, the new standard is more horizontal. Many digital camera sensors follow the 24×36 millimeter standard, a width to length ratio of 1 to 1 1/2. So now I will offer puzzles based on the new standard as well as the old. The new sizes are 7×11, 10×15 and 15×22. Here is an example of a custom puzzle I made under the old standard and what it would be under the new:

The puzzle was 8.75 x 13.7 from an 11×14. Now I would make it 9.4 x 14.7 from a 10×15. I forsee making almost all of my special puzzles this way and, as time goes by, my standard puzzles as well. Prices will remain the same.

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles – Hand vs. Waterjet cut.

I have been cutting wooden jigsaw puzzles since 1986. I think it is high time to contrast waterjet cutting to hand cutting. Each has its advantages.

I think the most obvious advantage waterjet cutting has is price. Cutting a puzzle by hand takes skill and time. Good hand-cut puzzles are more expensive. The biggest advantage that a hand cutter has over a waterjet is the ability to relate the cut to the picture. I wish my machine had that ability but obviously it just does not see the picture. Almost all my puzzles are regular shapes, rectangles and ovals, that conform to the length and width of the picture. I cannot make a cut along a horizon or the outline of a tree.

 

Here are two pair of pieces pictured front and back. The hand-cut ones on the left are very smooth. The waterjet-cut ones are smooth only at the top where the jet enters the cut at the picture. The cut is progressively rougher toward the back. This is not a disadvantage. The rough edges hold the pieces together so the puzzle will stay together until it is taken apart.  I think you can see that the waterjet cut is a bit thinner than the hand cut. I am amazed that the jigsaw cuts are as fine as they are. That’s a tribute to the skill of the cutter and the quality of the blade. But the hand-cut puzzle is a little looser, has more visible cuts and the pieces slide around because they are so smooth. 

This is a picture of several pieces that make up a centaur weathervane. It is part of the design of many of my bigger puzzles. I show it here to illustrate the amount of detail I can put into my figure pieses. The jet stream is like a tiny round jigsaw blade, in this case .007 inches dia. It can cut in all directions. I take advantage of this to put a lot of figure pieces into a puzzle.  Also this allows me more freedom to add drop-out letters and numbers to custom puzzles.