We've been fans of Piecework Puzzles and its founders, Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe, since we spotted their beautiful design forward puzzles at Shoppe Object in February. Now, with many of us spending more and more time at home and turning to puzzles to keep us entertained, we're seeing their show stopping puzzles popping up all over our Instagram feeds (one of those feeds belongs to our CEO Nina, who is, as she says "obsessed with them"). So we spoke with them to find out how and why they started Piecework Puzzles, what inspires them, and the best wooden puzzles for serious puzzle fans.
Can you tell us a bit about how and why you started Piecework Puzzles and your backgrounds that led you here?
Yes! Absolutely. We love telling this story. We have a creative agency together and spend a lot of time on screens. We’re constantly looking for ways to unplug and unwind from our work lives.
In 2016, after a particularly stressful few weeks at work, Rachel booked some time away at a rental cabin in Yosemite. She was hoping to spend the weekend in nature — hiking and being outside. But when she got up there, there was a huge thunderstorm and it rained for the entire weekend. She found a closet full of old, dusty jigsaw puzzles and started working on one — in front of the fire and with a bottle of wine. And then another, and then another. She spent the whole weekend working on puzzles.
We’re business partners and close friends and started doing puzzles together in our downtime. They were the perfect activity — whether to step away from the computer at the end of the day and wind down, or to show up at a dinner party and have something to do with dessert. (Side note: we miss dinner parties right now.)
But even though we loved doing puzzles, we didn’t feel like there were any out there that really spoke to our own aesthetic. Puzzles are so visual — you’re staring at them for hours on end. And not just the image, but the packaging — we felt a puzzle could be like a coffee table book or a high-end candle. Not just an activity, but something worthy of being gifted or set out. We wanted to create the puzzles that we, as puzzle doers, would love to have.
As soon as we decided to make our own puzzle everything kind of fell into place. The rest, as they say, was history!
How do you go about designing each puzzle? Where do the images come from? Do you pick certain images to make some of the puzzles more difficult or easier?We designed our launch collection ourselves and custom created each image. We wanted every puzzle to feel like a moment in time — something you could escape with. That’s why each has its name down the spine; they’re a collection that can grow over time. We try to design all of our images so they make good but aesthetically pleasing puzzles — naturally, some are more challenging than others. We also have a lot of great partnerships coming up where we’re branching out with some collaborations.
Have you noticed people are more interested in doing puzzles right now than before?
Yes, 1000%. We’ve never seen so much interest in puzzles. Everyone is looking for indoor activities. We’re very happy they’ve offered some respite and distraction.
For someone new to puzzles, how would you suggest they pick which one/s to start with, in general?
First off, puzzles should never be stressful! We like to do puzzles alone and with friends, often with a glass of wine, music playing, or a movie on. We don’t treat them competitively; they’re for zoning out and relaxing. When you take that approach, there are no bad puzzles. That said, it’s always nice to fit pieces together, so if you’re new, pick an image with a lot of variety and objects. Life of the Party is our hardest puzzles because of its blue background. We love Feeling Flushed as a starting place because there are lots of smaller things — a martini, a strand of pearls, a deck of cards, etc. — that you can focus on.
Are there any older/more established puzzle creators you are inspired by? Do you have any non-piecework puzzles you’d recommend?
We love vintage puzzles!!! There are some really hilarious and endearing ones out there. We also love wooden puzzles for true puzzle fanatics; Liberty has stunning ones. And we’ll never turn down a museum puzzle. Who can pass up a classic?