Puzzle Fun!

Palmerston North librarian Joy Hamilton’s accident led to a new career, importing and selling jigsaws for others who enjoy this hobby.

In 1990 I was involved in a car accident and fractured my spine. I spent 16 weeks in the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch before returning home to Palmerston North. The pathway of my life changed instantly. As a tetraplegic, I found I had a lot of time on my hands, so started to do jigsaws. They were wonderful for filling in the long days and nights, and kept my mind active.

Over the years I found others who also liked to do jigsaws. My father and I swapped puzzles and helped each other to complete them; people who came to visit would also sit down to place a few pieces. The puzzles were often a conversation point. Jigsaws also became very therapeutic for me. Completing them was good physiotherapy and helped my hand function to return.

After a few years I did get tired of doing the same old types of jigsaws which were then available in New Zealand shops. I found great jigsaws on the internet, but couldn’t buy them in New Zealand. I purchased some shaped jigsaws from an American company that were wonderful to work on. Others asked where I’d found these puzzles, so I set up a website to sell them, and found they were popular. Pathway Puzzles was born!

We now sell hundreds of puzzle styles sourced from Australia, the United States, Great Britain, and Spain. We try to import puzzles that aren’t readily available in local shops, especially ones that are shaped, a bit different, or have big pieces for those with mobility or vision impairments. We also cater for customers who like intricate puzzles with more than 1000 pieces.

Our range now includes adult jigsaws with 100 to 18,000 pieces. The world’s largest puzzle has 24,000 pieces!

Our range even includes puzzles with mostly light pieces that are easy to see; glow in the dark jigsaws; 3D puzzleballs; jigsaw greeting cards; and accessories such as puzzle mats and glue.

Kids and cats can be bothersome when putting together a big puzzle. We sell a ‘portapuzzle’, which is like a large, flat suitcase with two sorting trays; it easily zips up for storage out of the way if there are toddlers or pets about.

Jigsaws make wonderful artwork for the wall and are simple to glue together. We have developed information sheets for those who want to glue or frame a puzzle, and can email these on request.

We often visit care facilities, libraries, and hospitals, taking our puzzles out to people who find shopping difficult.

We have discovered that jigsaws are a passion for many people, who appreciate the variety of puzzles we stock.

As far as we know, we are the only company that imports such a large variety of puzzles into New Zealand.

Another service we offer is locating specific jigsaws for those seeking the last of a series, or with a particular theme or interest for gifts. We have been asked for jigsaws with images of vintage cars, race horses, or a favourite masterpiece such as Van Gogh’s Mona Lisa. As I am a librarian by profession, I love this research aspect of our business!

If you live in Palmerston North, please visit our puzzle room, which has wheelchair access. Most of our puzzles are sold via the internet. If you aren’t able to visit our website, you can call us to discuss what kinds of jigsaws you might like. We can then post images of the puzzles that might match your interests!

What to do about missing pieces?

Some puzzle manufacturers can replace a missing piece, so do ask the retailer who sold you the puzzle, or Google the manufacturer’s website where you can inquire about a replacement. If you have lots of puzzles with missing pieces, try using them for craft work. Everything from earrings to clocks can be made from puzzle pieces. Again, Google is a great source of ideas!

Puzzle History

  • The earliest form of the jigsaw was the ‘dissected map’. Mapmakers were the original jigsaw manufacturers.
  • It is generally agreed that the first jigsaw puzzle was produced around 1760 by John Spilsbury, a London engraver and mapmaker. Spilsbury mounted one of his maps on a sheet of hardwood and cut around the borders of the countries using a fine-bladed marquetry saw. The end product was an educational pastime, designed to aid teaching British children their geography. The idea caught on and, until about 1820, jigsaw puzzles remained primarily educational tools. The children of King George II played with them, and maybe learned some geography!
  • Plywood was used for puzzle making from the late 1800s. With instructions glued or painted on the front of the wood, pencil tracings of where to cut were made on the back. These pencil drawings can still be found on older jigsaws.
  • The Golden Age of jigsaw puzzles came in the 1920s and 1930s, with companies producing a huge range of affordable cardboard puzzles featuring sentimental scenes, and capitalising on enthusiasm for new technologies in rail, shipping, and motor cars. Consumers began to clamour for more intricate and difficult puzzles, while companies began using them for advertising. Einson-Freeman of New York began this practice in 1931 with its toothbrush shaped giveaway puzzle.
  • Over time, jigsaw puzzles have become collectible heirlooms, and this favourite hobby continues to evolve.
  • There are now computer programs that transform photos into puzzle pieces that can be shown on your monitor. You use the mouse to move and turn the pieces into the finished solution. At least with a computer puzzle you never risk losing a piece!

Joy’s website, Pathway Puzzles, is NZ’s only specialist online jigsaw puzzle store. Here you can purchase shaped jigsaws, glow in the dark jigsaws, as well as puzzle mats and glue. You can also email puzzles@xtra.co.nz, or phone 06 358 5917. For Pathway Puzzles news visit http://jigsawjoy.blogspot.co.nz You’ll also find Pathway Puzzles on Facebook.