Many Powell River residents are seeking home-based activities to do during the global COVID-19 lockdown, and while many gardens have been planted, renovations done and books read, other residents are looking forward to engaging in a puzzling pursuit.
“I have two puzzles that I haven’t done yet,” said Jennifer Lawlor. “I’m good for a while.”
The popularity of jigsaw puzzles was already on the rise before the pandemic. Now, sales are way up. In a recent piece for National Public Radio, host Lulu Garcia-Navarro noted that sales for Ravensburger Games North America had increased by 370 per cent over last year.
“Part of the appeal of puzzles is that it grounds you,” said Lawlor, who has been doing puzzles since she was six years old. “It makes you concentrate on something else, and it passes the time. I can sit for three hours at a puzzle, but then my FitBit starts telling me to get up and move.”
Anne Baker, another dissectologist (name for people who do jigsaw puzzles), agreed.
“I think more people are doing puzzles now because they want quiet hobbies that aren’t computer- or smartphone-based,” she said. “Sometimes I get into a mood where I know that a puzzle is what my brain needs: the quiet mental exercise that I can just focus on and nothing else matters. There’s only one solution, unless your dog has eaten that last piece. Ask me how I know about that,” she added with a laugh.
Lawlor and Baker both feel the picture is the most important factor in enjoyment.
“I traded with someone for a puzzle, but I just couldn’t get into the one she gave me because I didn’t like the picture,” said Baker. “I’d still be getting the brain exercise, but if I wasn’t enjoying the picture, the time would feel wasted. I just finished a puppy puzzle, and the way the pieces were cut made it more challenging than many that I’ve done, but I kept at it because I loved the picture.”
Lawlor is currently intrigued by puzzles with spring themes. “I’m doing bird and garden puzzles right now,” she said. “The two hardest puzzles I ever did were with my dad. The first one was 3,000 pieces and took all summer. The other was only 1,000 pieces, but it was all black and white, so it was more looking at the shapes of the pieces than how the colour or image went together.”
Lawlor credits her late father George for instilling the love of puzzles in her.
“Santa would always drop off a puzzle for us, and we always had one going at the lake during the summer,” she said. “Dad was a supervisor at the mill, and puzzles were one of the ways he relieved stress. Now, if I’ve had a bad day at work, I’ll sit down to my current puzzle and just let things go. It’s something I learned from him, and one of the ways we bonded and relaxed together over the years.”
While there are puzzle apps for electronic devices, Baker believes the tactile experience of a jigsaw puzzle can’t be replicated on screen.
“When I’m finished, I have to run my hands over it,” she said. “I don’t consciously set out to do that, but once it’s done, I just have to touch it and enjoy the smoothness, before I break it all apart into pieces again.”