Actor Hugh Jackman loves posting about his latest one on Instagram, so does Ellen DeGeneres. Billionaire Bill Gates has admitted he and his family enjoy relaxing together with them on holiday. DJ Norman Cook – aka Fatboy Slim – has gone on the record to say they helped him get over his divorce, teaching him mindfulness and meditation, while author Dame Margaret Drabble, has also acknowledged them as a “sanity saver” during a stressful period in her life, when she was too distracted to read. Finding solace in their creation, they gave her “an illusion of control”.
Currently holed up in Windsor Castle, no doubt HM The Queen has a Wentworth wooden puzzle – the crème de la crème of jigsaws – on the go. She’s a member of the Jigsaw Puzzle Library which has an impressive archive of some 3,000 hand-cut wooden puzzles. Her uncle and his wife, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, also loved pouring over a whimsical puzzle in their own rarefied form of social isolation.
Yes, the jigsaw is having a moment, seen in a global surge of sales. On Instagram hashtags like #puzzlesofinstagram yield tens of thousands of posts, while TikTokers and YouTubers often post time lapses of themselves assembling beautiful, intricate jigsaws. For connoisseurs the gradient puzzle is trending with Areaware, Cloudberries and Ravensburger the designer manufacturers du jour. One of the millennial poster girls of puzzles is Karen Kavett (@karenpuzzles). A niche account which focuses on reviews, Kavett’s corresponding YouTube channel has some 200,000 subscribers. Marie Kondo, Queen of Clean, popped in to help Kavett sort out her puzzle boxes at home (colour coding them on shelves).
While jigsaws are good for entertaining the whole family during lockdown, (accounting for rise of the kidult) they’re also, as Rolling Stone Ronnie Woods, admits “good for the brain.” Exercising both the creative right and analytical left side of the brain, they can actively help fight off conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Susanne Jaeggi, a fellow at University of California Irvine’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, believes “25 minutes engaging in puzzle games [including jigsaws] increases your IQ by 4 points.”
GLOSS Sales Director Tracy Ormiston is an avid dissectologist – the official term for a jigsaw enthusiast. “I adore jigsaws; nothing less than 1,000 pieces will do! The more intricate the better, although these can sometimes be a little stressful defeating the purpose, especially ones in 3D. For fun, try Wasgijs – back-to-front jigsaws – where you can’t see the full picture until the puzzle is completed. The pictures are usually characters in comical situations at church fetes, baking competitions, in gyms or at the races etc. Although a little tedious you have to sort the sides and all the colours into groups before starting. This can take a while but it’s more rewarding as it makes it so much easier in the long run.”
Tracy finds jigsaws a change from reading and watching TV, though admits the worst part is having to break up the jigsaws to start the next one. “I also have a portable jigsaw carrier which is good if you want to store the puzzle away for a later time or take it to the family home – it was great for family fun at Easter and Christmas. A little pricey but worth it!” (Amazon has a puzzle roll mat storage saver for up to 1,500 pieces, which is also helpful if you haven’t got a spare table to dedicate to this hobby).
As for strategy, Tracy says the most popular is to put the edges of the puzzle together first as the pieces are easier to identify. “Afterwards, the larger the puzzle, divide by zones, possibly colour or texture.”
If a little rusty or a complete novice, there are online jigsaw puzzle games (such as dailyjigsawpuzzles.net) with various difficulty levels, while eBay is a good starting point for low price puzzles. Tracy recommends The Art & Hobby Shop, Blackrock and Eason. “Both companies have a good selection, are 100% Irish owned and Eason is currently offering free delivery on orders over €10.”
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