Ever spent 16 hours on a puzzle? It is par for the course for jigsaw enthusiasts, who are putting together thousands of pieces to create things of joy and beat lockdown blues
DJ Ma Faiza has been sitting at her table for eight hours today, piecing together a puzzle. This is day five. She has been spending a few hours every day over the past four days, trying to complete this 1,000 piece jigsaw. At 11 pm, she is finally done. With a triumphant smile and an aching back, she gets up and takes a picture of the completed work, shimmering with glitter.
“It took me 16 hours on the whole to get this done,” says the Pune-based DJ, adding, that she was occasionally helped by her mother and friend. “Each piece that fits gives one the sense of finding a treasure. While working on it, I try not to look at the box for help. In the beginning, it took a while but I finished the last half of the puzzle rapidly,” she explains.
Ma Faiza with her fantasy puzzle
A puzzle enthusiast, Ma Faiza has not had time for her hobby for the past 30 years, given her touring schedule: till the ongoing lockdown to tackle COVID-19 began. “Solving this has reinvigorated my joy for it. Maybe it comes for my love for fitting things and sorting them. I love arranging and segregating according to colour,” she laughs.
Once the stores open up, she wants to get herself a 2,500 piece puzzle. The bigger the challenge, the more Ma Faiza thrives on the thrill of fixing it.
She is not the only one. Social media is suddenly brimming with pictures of puzzles in various stages. Some of the completed ones truly look like works of art. No wonder, a lot of avid puzzlers choose to frame their completed work and put it on display.
An example of how intricate jigsaws are lately
The new crop of puzzles are complex and sophisticated and some even come in non traditional shapes. While you can get pieces that come together to create the Burj Khalifa, Avengers, Harry Potter or famous art works, the tougher ones are just the gradient of one colour, instead of images.
“The quality has improved over the years and pieces stick better. Images too are better and of high resolution,” says C Senthilnathan, who along with his wife Subhata R, launched Chennai-based Untangle — House of Puzzles, which stocks 300 to 400 boxes of jigsaw puzzles and other such brain flexers, in February this year. At his space, a 1,500 piece puzzle of an island holds pride of place. It was done by his 62-year-old mother. “During this stay-at-home period, between my wife, four-year-old daughter and I, we have finished at least six large (600 to 1,000 piece) puzzles,” he says.
Two enthusiasts try to complete a large puzzle
The biggest puzzles Senthilnathan has are a 6,000 piece one — that when put together reveals an image of the Sistine chapel — and a 24,000 piece that depicts the evolution of life form. “Like baking and cooking, solving puzzles has become a sought-after activity during this lockdown. In the US, some of the largest brands have run out of stock,” he adds, stating that over the last few weeks, he has received messages from clients thanking him for the inspiration to start off on puzzles, an activity that has kept them occupied at home.
He believes that the reason for this popularity is because “people want to do something that is gadget free. It’s a way of giving a workout to the brain while keeping the hands busy.” It’s also a mood lifter as it gives one the sense of accomplishing something, says Senthilnathan.
Rachel and Jena, founders of of Piecework Puzzle
“They are meditation for the modern age,” says US-based Rachel Hochhauser who, along with Jena Wolfe, started Piecework, a line of designer puzzles, last summer. Priced between $26-$36 USD, these are primarily for adults. So far, their most popular product is Forbidden Fruit that features a table laden with papaya, grape fruits, kiwano melon, lemons and a cocktail glass with a paper parasol. “It’s also challenging because of the monotone background. Most people solve it in about a week’s time,” says Rachel.
She says that the demand has sky-rocketed ever since physical distancing started. “We have completely sold out,” she adds. Though Piecework normally ships internationally, it had to pause for the time being owing to COVID-19.