I want you to imagine either a sun-drenched summer afternoon under a shade in a garden with a cold glass of white wine, or a winter’s evening by a roaring log fire with a warming, luscious glass of port. Only one thing is missing …. A jigsaw puzzle! So here is all about Jigsaw Puzzles and why they’re good for you!
Right now there’s a quiet movement going on around the world, and it doesn’t involve apps, data or even being plugged in at all!
And this movement gives every one of us an opportunity to unplug and escape the information overload that is buzzing through the very fabric of our lives today.
It’s true: following the lead of adult colouring books that became popular a couple of years back, and other similar trends that emphasise calm and relaxation, good old jigsaw puzzles are seeing a resurgence in popularity.
So popular, in fact, that many of the artworks in my Redbubble shop are now available as puzzles, and they’re selling like hotcakes.
As part of a testimonial for the company Stave Puzzles Bill Gates wrote: “We usually have one or two Stave puzzles along on vacations and during the holidays. We often have a puzzle out on a table at the house. They’re entertaining and stimulating.” So even the world’s most successful businessman and philanthropist has rediscovered the joy of jigsaw puzzles!
Good For your Brain
And apart from being absorbing and interesting, according to Sanesco Health – a US organisation who state that they are specialists in neurotransmitter testing – jigsaw puzzles exercise the left and right sides of your brain at once.
Your left brain is logical and works in a linear fashion, while your right brain is creative and intuitive. When you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle, unusually, both sides are engaged. They’re great “brain exercise”.
Jigsaw puzzles also improve your short-term memory. Can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday? Apparently doing a jigsaw can help with that. Doing a puzzle reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed and is an especially effective way to improve short-term memory.
Improved Visual-Spatial Reasoning
Need another reason to drag out your boxes of puzzles from the cupboard?
Jigsaw puzzles also improve your visual-spatial reasoning. When you do a jigsaw puzzle, you need to look at individual pieces and figure out where they’ll fit into the big picture. If you do it regularly, you’ll improve your visual-spatial reasoning, which then helps with driving a car, packing a case, using a map, learning and following dance moves, and a whole host of other things! “Experiences with spatial toys such as blocks, puzzles, and shape games have a significant influence on the early development of spatial skills. Spatial skills are important for success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Read more here https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S221194931400009X
De-Stress Your Life
Need even more to motivate you? Jigsaw puzzles are a great meditation tool and stress reliever. Focusing on one image for a long period of time, without extraneous thoughts entering your
mind, is in itself helpful meditation. Just as meditation lowers stress, releases useful chemicals, even lowers blood pressure, so doing a jigsaw puzzle delivers the same benefits: the stress of everyday life evaporates and is replaced by a sense of peace and tranquillity that lowers BP and heart rate. You are concentrating on fewer things, and your cognitive load is decreased. Ah, the good old jigsaw puzzle! Welcome back!
Reconnect With Family, Or Yourself
Jigsaw puzzles are also a great way to connect with family. Starting a jigsaw puzzle and keeping it on a table is an invitation for every family member to pause what they’re doing and participate, sharing problem solving and fun, whenever they have a few minutes to sit down and focus..
Conversely, jigsaw puzzles are also great for some much-needed ‘alone’ time. Puzzling is perfect for people who want a quiet, solo break from the bustle and unrelenting stimulus of today’s digital lifestyle.
Heal Your Brain
Studies show that people who do jigsaw and crossword puzzles have longer life spans with less chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss or dementia.
Puzzling stimulates the brain and actually wards off the plaque that is the marker of Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study published in the Archives of Neurology. The study compared brain scans of 75-year-olds to 25-year-olds. The elderly people who did puzzles regularly had brain scans comparable to the 25-year-olds. Now that sounds like a big call to me, so I’d love to know if it’s true. But it certainly sounds true. Certainly we know that doing crosswords and other ‘mental gymnastics’ have been shown to be very beneficial.
So to sum it all up, doing jigsaw puzzles is good for your mind, body and spirit. On your next lazy Sunday (or better yet – your next crazed Monday), unplug, put your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” and get swept away by a great and beautiful puzzle.
So who made the first Jigsaw and why?
John Spilsbury was the second of three sons of Thomas Spilsbury; he served as an apprentice to Thomas Jefferys, the Royal Geographer to King George III.
As a noted cartographer (map maker) Spilsbury created the first puzzle in 1766 as an educational tool to teach geography.
He affixed a world map to wood and carved each country out to create the first puzzle. Sensing a business opportunity, he then created puzzles on eight themes – the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.
Spilsbury married Sarah May of Newmarket, Suffolk in 1761. After his death she ran his business for a period, then married
Harry Ashby who had been apprentice to Spilsbury, and who continued to sell puzzles. (Don’t you just love to hear about a successful woman entrepreneur from the 1760s!)
Jigsaw puzzles soared in popularity during the Great Depression, as they provided a cheap, long-lasting, recyclable form of entertainment.
Indeed, it was around this time that jigsaws evolved to become more complex and appealing to adults.
They were also given away in product promotions and used in advertising, with customers completing an image of the promoted product.
And jigsaw puzzles are still a big part of modern popular culture.
Did you know, even the Rolling Stones wrote a song called, yes, “Jigsaw Puzzle”? And even Laurel and Hardy made a comedy sketch including doing a Jigsaw Puzzle together, reflecting the growing popularity of these puzzles as a shared ‘pleasure’.
Popular Cultural Symbol
Images of Jigsaw Puzzles are habitually used in modern culture as a cipher for things that are complicated or difficult. In fact, puzzle pieces were first used as a symbol for autism in 1963 by the United Kingdom’s National Autistic Society.
The organization chose jigsaw pieces for their logo to represent the “puzzling” nature of autism and the inability to “fit in” due to social differences, and also because jigsaw pieces were easily recognizable and understood.
But proponents of the autism rights movement opposed the jigsaw puzzle iconography, stating that metaphors such as “puzzling” and “incomplete” are harmful to autistic people.
Critics of the puzzle piece symbol instead advocated for a rainbow-colored infinity symbol representing diversity. In 2017, the journal Autism concluded that the use of the jigsaw puzzle evoked negative public perception towards autistic individuals, and in February 2018 removed the puzzle piece from their cover.
Jigsaw Puzzle Records
There are a whole bunch of records regularly made and broken for jigsaw puzzles. One of the biggest ever made was in Vietnam in 2011.
Despite its huge size, this puzzle was no big deal for students at Vietnam’s University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City.
They assembled a 551,232-piece puzzle on September 24, 2011, scoring the record for the most pieces in a finished jigsaw puzzle. This massive puzzle, depicting an iconic lotus flower, measured a whopping 14.85 x 23.2 metres once completed.
The six leaves on the lotus represent six areas of knowledge: human beings, geography, history, culture, education, and economy. It took 1,600 students 17 hours to put this big picture together. The students secured their victory with more than double the number of puzzle pieces used in the previous record. That record had been set in 2002 in Singapore with a measly 212,323-piece puzzle!
And when it comes to creatively celebrating a major event, there’s no better way to do it than with one of the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzles. That’s exactly what government entity DMCC did to commemorate the Year of Zayed, honouring the late Sheikh Zayed, founding father of the United Arab Emirates. All 12,320 pieces of this 6,122.68 square metre puzzle featuring the Year of Zayed logo were assembled on July 7, 2018 in Dubai. And if creating that puzzle on land wasn’t challenging enough, the Dubai Police decided to take this hobby underwater. On December 2, 2013, a team of aquatic puzzlers solved a 168 square metre puzzle, winning one of the weirder accolades in Dubai’s growing collection of world records.
The Joy of Puzzling continues to develop
The latest hot trend is towards three-D jigsaw puzzles that combine the traditional pleasure of working out which bit goes where with the skill of model-making. To the left is a recent example which is part of a series of puzzles featuring a certain boy wizard.
And on the right is an amazing 3D puzzle which requires you to think multi-dimensionally – as if just working out which piece fits which piece wasn’t enough!
This beautiful example is from Chris Yates Studio: such talent.
Whereas with a traditional puzzle you can dot around the design putting a few pieces together here and there, three D puzzles nearly always require the puzzle to be solved in a particular order, otherwise the whole item cannot be assembled.
Such puzzles can often be building shaped, box-like or globes.
And if you really want to torture yourself – or become very brainy indeed! – you could try to solve a jigsaw puzzle without the traditional photograph, and all one colour.
Here the only thing you have to guide you are the shapes of the pieces themselves. Personally I think that sounds like a nightmare! On the left below is an interesting and fiendishly hard example of an all white puzzle.
Perhaps it is to prepare you to enjoy the walls and floors of your padded cell after a while spent trying to figure it out?
At my Redbubble shop I simply love turning my artwork and photos into jigsaw puzzles, the perfect answer to lockdown lunacy in this Covid era.
I like to have a favourite piece of music on in the background or even a favourite TV show that I don’t really need to watch with any attention to enjoy – TV as radio, if you like.
I can easily while away a few hours doing a beautiful jigsaw, and seeing the completed puzzle is a real joy. Many people lacquer the finished puzzle or put it under glass as both an artwork and a testament to their dedication and success in getting it finished!
The puzzles I sell are a mixture of photos that I think will make an interesting puzzle, or graphic designs. I have done varying puzzles with
what I consider to be differing levels of difficulty. Which in itself raises another interesting question, is it the picture that attracts you to a puzzle, or the inherent complication? I think I am definitely a lover of beautiful pictures. What about you?
All my puzzles come neatly packaged in a durable metal box, so you can keep your new puzzle safe for decades. One day you’ll be handing it down to your grandchildren! I’m so glad that Redbubble do a great job of making and packaging these puzzles – a quality of product in a variety of different number of pieces to suit all ages’ level of experience and tastes.
Which are my favourites from my collection?
I know you’ll want to know what my personal favourites are, so here they are.
The first is a very tricky puzzle with Dewy Nasturtium leaves, from a photo taken in my very own garden.
The other is a grapevine from the lovely Victorian country town of Daylesford which we were visiting, and where they make lots of really excellent wine! It’s such a happy memory, and offers a puzzle with distinct sections, which I think is slightly less difficult than the Nasturtium leaves.
Remember you can browse all my Jigsaw Puzzles here and I do hope you drop by and find something to give yourself or a loved one as a gift. I’d love to know if you have a photo of your own favourite puzzle to share. If you email it to me at [email protected] maybe I could include it in a future blog? Or if you have a really good high quality photo you would like me to turn into a jigsaw for you, just send it over and let me know.
Now …. I think I can feel a puzzling session coming on!