Beautifully Handmade Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles, and What They Can Do for You

Beautifully Handmade Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles, and What They Can Do for You

Here’s a fun summer activity that can be done in groups or alone, all ages, requires no athletic prowess or (mercifully) the wearing of a bathing suit, has no calories, does not need Wi-Fi, and… is soooooo good for you.

Here’s a fun summer activity to do in groups or alone, all ages, needs no athletic prowess, no bathing suit (mercifully), no Wi-Fi, has no calories, and… is soooooo good for you.

Puzzles.

I have become obsessed with a brand of old-fashioned wooden jigsaw puzzles like you didn’t think they made anymore, where the pieces fit together with a satisfying thwick.

Puzzle in the works

With whimsy pieces! A hallmark of the skill and artistry of puzzle-makers of yore, whimsey pieces traditionally relate to the subject of the puzzle itself.

Liberty Puzzle - Whimsey pieces

Growing up, didn’t you do puzzles in summer? Back then for us the closest thing to a Game Boy was the guy working in the floating duckie booth at the fair, and the closest thing to an iPad was, well never mind.

Interior With Violin by Henri Matisse

Puzzles can be a social or a solitary pursuit, and there are health benefits galore, from lowering blood pressure to increasing dopamine, which helps learning and memory. The mental exercise of puzzles helps keep you from getting senile. More on that later.

If I remember.

Don’t you love Van Gogh’s Wheat Field With Cypresses?

Liberty Puzzle-Van Gogh

So I shopped for puzzles. The ones in most stores are cardboard and cheesy.  Like kittens in soft focus or Hawaii at sunset. Or God forbid kittens at sunset. With a ball of yarn. And butterflies. In a basket. With a bow on it. And pink glitter.

Un-uh.

The duchess wants beautiful, interesting, tasteful, sophisticated puzzles.

Searched high and low I did, until I found Liberty Puzzles, based in Boulder, Colorado, right here in the U-S-of-A. Says co-owner Jeff Eldridge, “We want to make puzzles that people wouldn’t mind leaving out on their coffee tables.”

Liberty Puzzle
Liberty Puzzles attractive, uniform packaging is appealing and the boxes would look nice on a bookshelf.

They’re doing it. Jeff and partner Chris Wirth started the company eight years ago. Two dudes, one jigsaw and a card table. Today they have 15 machines and 25 employees.

Detail of Childe Hassam's 4th of July 1916. This was my first. I love how putting together the pieces engages you in studying how the painting itself is put together, the composition, the brush strokes, the colors.

Liberty works closely with the artists and museums whose paintings they license, from MoMa to the Met and beyond, sending proofs as necessary to the curators to make sure they’ve got the colors right.

Map of California by Jo Mora. This looks really hard. I can't wait.

Jeff clearly loves what they do. They’re doing well and doing good. “We hear from people with traumatic brain injuries who say the puzzles helped in their recovery,” he tells me. “Or that the only time Grandpa remembers all our names is when we’re doing a puzzle together.” Parents say, “It’s the only time our kids talk to us and aren’t on their phones.” (Ugh.) And, “It’s the only time our family can get together without fighting.” (Lord.) “Puzzling brings out conversation. It calms people down,” Jeff says, “and it staves off memory loss.” (Wow.)

I’m so in, and also a little addicted. Must be the dopamine.

Florence Stettheimer's Spring Sale at Bendel's. Woo, this looks really really hard. I double can't wait.

Each of Liberty’s 400-some designs is cut differently and entirely by hand. Prices range from $39 for children’s puzzles to $185 for large models. The standard is about $95. They also do custom orders. If you lose a piece, or the dog eats one, they’ll replace it for free.

Octopus and Fish by Ito Jakucho

Even the flip sides are beautiful. You can see the whimsey pieces–fish, shells, whales, an anchor.

Liberty Puzzle, Octopus and Fish back

How can you not love these?

Well, not everyone’s a puzzle person. My husband His Grace would rather go to the dentist than do a puzzle. I will attempt to reform him but based on past experience, don’t hold your breath.

Of course he is already perfect. Puzzles make you very Zen.

You are completely absorbed, totally in the moment. Like meditating. Other benefits include the simultaneous harnessing of right and left brains, the creative and the logical. Your concentration increases. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease. This is good.

Unless you are talking on the phone to your sister while she is driving back from Florida. This is also good but a different experience.

Liberty Puzzle - Vintage poster of Paris Expo

But mostly, puzzles are just fun.

Until they drive you mad and you look up and it’s been an hour and oooh let’s find one more piece and then you turn a whole tree upside down and it joins into the hill and oooh  the man with the shovel fits there and then…like on that commercial for cable TV that’s running now… and then you think you are a genius.

When you think you are a genius, you go to Vegas.

When you go to Vegas, you lose everything.

When you lose everything, you sell your hair to a wig shop.

Don’t sell your hair to a wig shop.

Or maybe the ad is for satellite and against cable? I’m not sure, though I have seen it 72 times. Clearly I need to do more puzzles.

How about you? Do you do them? Do you have special or fun traditions around them? A dedicated place in your house for puzzling? I’d love to hear.

PS: A very handy accessory is the portable puzzle assembly board from Ravensberger. Available also on Amazon.

PPS: Another report on the mental benefits of puzzling and the production of dopamine here in The Intentional Caregiver.

41 Comments

  1. Frances! We have been doing these Liberty puzzles for several years in St. Simons with a good friend who has an awesome collection of them. So glad you are enjoying them, too. And I love your view of the back! Brilliant!

    • Susie! I had a feeling Liberty fans would come out of the woodwork (heehee). I hadn’t even thought of how collectible they are – but of course. So glad to hear from you. Thanks for writing, hun.

  2. Linda tilley

    Another wonderful idea…just in the nick of time…August…

  3. Kathryn Long

    Frances, love that you’ve featured my favorite Liberty Puzzles- aren’t they amazing? A friend gave me one and I was hooked…..might have to order another!

    • They are amazing, Kathryn. And I loved talking to Jeff about his company, how it started, etc. I don’t think they’ve had tons of press so I hope they’ll be glad to hear from fans here. Thank you so much for writing. Love, Frances

  4. I love puzzles and these look like works of art… Thanks for sharing Frances.

    Regards,
    Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

    PS. I’ve added you to my blogroll – I hope that’s ok

    • I’m so glad, Emily, and OMG on your blogroll – GOSH, thank you. I am very flattered. Gee I prolly need to do a blogroll. Thanks for making me think about it. Your fan, Frances

  5. Good find Frances, can”t wait to try it.

    • Camille, puzzles from your paintings would be wonderful! Hope to see you and paint together in August and Sept. xo Frances

  6. What a fun idea. I just ordered Irises by Van Gogh. The colors in the Paris Expo are smashing. This will be a great way for guests to mingle around a fireplace this winter. No telling what you have started Frances. Keep it coming!

    • Hi Nancy! Wow, yes a great idea for your Hacienda guests! And wouldn’t a scene of Hacienda’s beautiful courtyard and fountain make a beautiful puzzle?! I am so happy to hear from you always, Frances

  7. Joan Brennan

    Frances, Thank you for sharing such wonderful inspirations. The puzzles are a work of art. These two men are talented …what a gift to share. I can’t wait to get my hands on one for the cabin. It will a fun conversation piece! Love, love, love!

  8. Catherine Reynolds Scott

    Frances,

    I am enthralled! A rainy day (or many days) at the beach and a work of art in puzzle form … A match made in heaven. Can’t wait to start a collection of our own! Maybe a perfect housewarming gift for Craig!

  9. Linda Dabney

    Hey Frances,
    I have a couple of old puzzles like these, although not as fanciful, nor are they Liberty. We have a bunch of games and puzzles in MI, hope I can get the kids and Gordon involved..I love them. Thanks for the intro to Liberty.
    XO, Linda

    • Oh Linda I bet your puzzles are wonderful if they are the old ones, and they have soul, baby, like you! I hope you do lasso those chillens and husband around a game or puzzle and have a ball together. Lmk, and ox, Frances

  10. Laurette Kittle

    Frances! Really enjoyed this piece. I am one of the few people writing in who is not a fan of the jigsaw puzzle! In fact I have never done one and always felt bad for those doing them! Probably cause I could never sit down that long and concentrate – would rather be out doing a sport in summer!
    But now I am completely intrigued by the beauty and craftsmanship of these puzzles! Being an artist I was always turned off by the creepy images found on normal puzzles!
    I guess getting older helps too- ugh… This is a great solution as something I can do with my 89 year old Dad who still never wants to sit down. He is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s and this would be so helpful for his well being! Thank you Frances for opening us up to a new and beautiful world of puzzles!!!!

    • Adorable energizer bunny Laurette, I am glad the artistry of these puzzles speaks to your artist’s soul. It does mine too. Re your dad, you are probably familiar with studies that tout the benefits of puzzles for Alzheimer’s patients and the positive effects of puzzling as a family activity. xox F

  11. Frances, we have been obsessed with these puzzles for years! They make great gifts, especially when they make a puzzle out of a personal photo. Also fun to take on vacation!!

  12. Laverne Swenson

    Dear Frances,
    I have always loved puzzles. Haven’t done one in years. Perfect info and thank you for sharing. Will go shopping today.

    • Hello dear cousin Laverne, I bet you are a great puzzler. Now that I’ve read about the “meditative” effects, I’m curious to hear about others’ experiences. Love to you, Frances

  13. Thanks, Francis! Love, love, love this! and yes, great gift for any reason.

  14. Maggie Feldmeier

    LOVE these! What a fabulous gift idea! And after looking at their website, the choices are endless – thanks so much for the suggestion, Frances!

  15. Frances
    You might be interested in a little puzzle manufacturer in the Cotswolds. The Wentworth puzzles are exquisite although somewhat hard to find. Their lovely wood puzzles have whimsies themed to the puzzle picture as well. Their website is well done: http://www.jigsaws.co.uk/

    • Thank you, C! I did run across Wentworth but didn’t realize they were UK based. Makes sense though as I actually have two small Wentworth puzzles I bought at English country house museums – one at Claydon House and the other at Sissinghurst. They are actually what sparked my interest! I will definitely go to their site. Thanks so much for the info, Frances

  16. Fluffy. McDuffie

    Frances, The Liberty Puzzles are so exquisite and as is the
    Fabric!
    I will order a few for Christmas for very special friends.
    You find treasures everywhere.

    On a side note my daughter
    Nona is working for Keith in NYC and has learned so much.
    What talent he has and a great person. I am in Atlanta in Buckhead and enjoying your blog every week.
    Thank You.
    Fluffy

    • Fluffy, greetings! I am so flattered to have you as a reader and so glad you like the puzzles. 🙂 Hope Nona is having a good time with Keith and a great summer. She is indeed at the feet of a master, and a funny and great master at that. Thank you for writing. Warmly, Frances

  17. I LOVE these Frances and have never seen them! So nice to find Christmas gifts in August….and get them delivered to my door….thank you.

  18. Allison Burnett Smith

    We love puzzles, and I am thrilled to know about this company. We have a puzzle on our game room table right now, but nothing as gorgeous as these Liberty Puzzles. Great find, and thank you for sharing!

  19. LOL, loved this post and the puzzles. You always bring a smile to my face.
    xo, Lissy

  20. Janey Ferguson

    So many thanks for this wonderful website for puzzles. I went shopping and now can’t wait for puzzles to arrive. Please keep us up to date and informed about wonderful, adventures and fun items.

  21. Kristi Kunkel

    I love Liberty Puzzles too! I also love Peaceful Wooden Puzzles which are similar to these. My kids are actually setting down their iPhones and it’s been a real bonding experience! What a great activity for all ages. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Kristi, and I look forward to looking into Peaceful Wooden Puzzles as well. Also – thanks for reminding me – I have been wondering about Liberty as they are based in Boulder, CO, where they’ve had such a terrible time with flooding. I will give them a call.

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