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.
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″.
The third image shows a new design full of figure pieces. Many figures take more than one piece.
While 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!
Who can resist stopping to put in a piece of an unfinished puzzle laid out on the dining room table, especially a puzzle whose picture has yet to be revealed? While it is still September, some have already begun thinking about holiday gifts. A wooden jigsaw puzzle is a great way to bring the family together (and away from staring at mobile devices.).
I have made many puzzles from family photos over the years, but this one is particularly special given it is an image of my son, Jimmy, and his family. This puzzle is 16″ x 20″. The design uses very large pieces so the kids could put the puzzle together, though they didn’t; they left that up to daddy. Everyone’s name is in the puzzle, one piece per letter. Many of the pieces are figure pieces. On the left, the picture of the puzzle was struck by the sunlight a bit which inadvertently showed the texture of the face of the puzzle and brought out some of the pieces. Lower left is a 3-leafed clover. Up from there is a snow leopard, lizard, locomotive and coal car.
If you would like to know more about creating a custom puzzle from your family photo, visit my website, or for more help, give me a call at 781-639-8162.
The Port of Tripoli, Flemish School, signed JVO, c. 1650. 12 ¾" x 19 ¾", $460
The Port of Tripoli is one of the first puzzles I made at the very beginning of J. C. Ayer & Co. circa 1986. The original was painted on wood. My brother Rick had it in his apartment in Paris. We propped it up in indirect sunlight and photographed it. I had a Rollei and Rick had a 35mm Minolta . We used both slide and color negative film. Very amateurish but somehow we got a good result which made some of my first puzzles.
When we went digital, I lost the original. Recently we found a high quality digital copy while reworking the website. I t is a really good picture and a good puzzle. I think the unknown painter painted the mountain in a dream. The pastel colors of the mountain, sky and sea blend together to add a bit of difficulty for the puzzler.
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.
This is a story of a special puzzle that I recently made. My customer sent me two pictures of racing motorboats, one for the puzzle and one for the drop-out-lettering. We decided on an oval puzzle because a rectangular one would have too much unnecessary background. The final size was 10 x 15 inches. I used a design from an 11 x 14 puzzle so I had to modify the periphery. The picture above shows the design part-way made.
I wanted the name in the puzzle just as it is on the transom. I was glad that the picture was taken almost directly from astern so I could just trace the letters. The name was slanted to be parallel to the boat’s waterline. The letters were large enough so that the puzzle could be put together with or without them.
Teaching inner city special ed kids has always been a challenge. They have short attention spans and would much rather be active than reading or listening. Studies have shown that spatial intelligence interacts positively with mathematics so, as an experiment, a 6th grade teacher introduced my puzzles to her special ed class.
Of course the kids loved them. What 6th grader wouldn’t? Here is something they can do with a clear but difficult goal, a put-together puzzle. Normally, making puzzles is no substitute for reading, writing & arithmatic but something must be said for active minds working hard and having fun. The most skilled and enthusiastic boy (below) is also good at math. Now the classes end each week with puzzle time Friday afternoon.
Over the years since I started making puzzles, 1986, I have made more flawed puzzles than I care to admit. If they were pillow cases, they would have been seconds. They are OK but not good enough to ask money for. I am glad an imaginative teacher found a good use for some of them.
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.
A client asked me to make a difficult puzzle for his wife on their fifth anniversary. He comissioned a painting and asked me to make a 16 x 20 puzzle of it. Furthermore he asked that all edge pieces be taken away. For the hell of it I made two copies. His wife liked the puzzle and did it in about two weeks. The second copy is below. Luckily, a waterjet puzzle is not made by jigsaw. When it is finished, it comes off the machine cut, wet and together. I have never taken it apart. I don’t dare to.
Here is a puzzle of a picture that I took recently at a wedding in Marrakech. I don’t think much of it as a picture but as a puzzle, its impressionism and movement makes it interesting and perhaps difficult.
Years ago I read of a famous and hard puzzle named Little Red Riding Hood’s Hood. It was solid red, without a picture of any kind; difficult but oh so dull. For me an interesting picture is important.
I am going to take Marrakech home and put it together. I think it will be fun but I am not sure that it is good enough to be one of my standard puzzles.