Jay Hollis of Bogarts Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles talks about running an unusual creative business in a small niche market.
ABI: You are one of only a handful of professional wood puzzler makers in the country. What is your background and how do you make puzzles?
JH: Trained as an architect, my custom made wooden jigsaw puzzles embody my keen and exacting eye for detail, composition, and graphic presentation. I started making wooden jigsaw puzzles when I first met Pagey Elliott 20 years ago. It was a chance encounter. She was selling her puzzles at a Christmas show in Concord, Massachusetts, and I was drawn in like a magnetic. She invited me back to her home the next day, and after spending the afternoon with her, I was totally hooked. She became my mentor, and I am so thankful I met her.
My images are printed directly onto 1/4” thick, 5 ply cherry plywood. The plywood surface is coated with epoxy and sanded to a mirror-like finish. The image is then applied to the surface using a flatbed printer. I cut my puzzles free-hand using a German made Hegner scroll saw. Every piece is cut out by hand, starting from one corner and weaving my way through the puzzle until it is completed.
The backside of the puzzle which is faced with cherry is sanded and oiled to a furniture like finish. The puzzle is disassembled and placed into a handmade cardboard box with the silhouette of Bogart, our Portuguese Water Dog embossed in silver on the top.
ABI: How do you set yourself apart from other puzzle makers?
Our puzzles are unique. We are the only puzzle makers in this country who actually print the image directly onto the plywood surface. We have spent the past two years perfecting this process. Traditionally, the image is printed onto paper and the paper image is then glued onto the plywood surface. In time, the paper backed image begins to fray and lift.
With our process, there is no paper to lift. In fact, the inks actually penetrate slightly into the surface, with the image looking like it has been painted directly onto the plywood. Our cut lines are invisible, and the surface of the puzzle feels as smooth as glass. Puzzle collectors and enthusiasts who see our puzzles in person are amazed with what we are able to accomplish. Bogarts Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles adheres to the highest standards of craftsmanship, emphasizing both the beauty and functionality in our wooden jigsaw puzzles. Heirlooms, treasured for their longevity and masterful level of detail.
ABI: How much of your art of the craftsmanship of the puzzle itself, and how much is the imagery?
JH: With the ability to create wooden jigsaw puzzles today using computer aided laser and water jets, our handmade puzzles are distinctive, a true work of art. I try and visualize each puzzle piece before it is cut. Our figural pieces (which we call whimsies) are designed by myself and they are incorporated into every puzzle. Whimsies can be dogs, cats, fish, birds, people’s names, dates etc. Whimsies are a perfect way to personalize a puzzle. I once made a puzzle for a gentleman from Norway who had me include 50 different animal whimsies into the puzzle. Quite a challenge, but a stunning puzzle when it was completed.
ABI: What is your process of selecting and enhancing images for use on puzzles?
JH: I spend most days looking for images that would work well as subjects for my puzzles. I especially like images that have rich and vibrant colors which jump off the puzzle surface. Images with repeating patterns make for a difficult puzzle in which to assemble. Most recently I’ve begun a puzzle series entitled “Iconic Maine.” I have been exploring Maine’s rugged coast and idyllic fishing villages recording a series of remarkable images which can be viewed on my website. Several of these puzzles have received rave reviews for their artistry.
Our puzzles are sold through our website and at prestigious craft shows throughout the country. We are most proud of the fact that we were selected to participate in the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington D.C. It turned out to be a huge success for us and gave us national exposure. All of our puzzles are created in a manner consistent with our dedication to making the very finest wooden jigsaw puzzles available today.