Boulder’s Liberty Puzzles
Many a family and group of friends have sat around an empty table, drumming their fingers in anticipation, as a box of jumbled jigsaw puzzle pieces is poured out in front of them. It’s this image, one of friends gathered in conversation and laughter, that inspired Liberty Puzzles Founder and Co-owner Chris Wirth to create his unique Boulder business 14 years ago.
“Jigsaw puzzles are a social vehicle,” says Wirth, “something meant to bring people together.”
The golden age of jigsaw puzzles was the 1930s, as the Great Depression had people seeking inexpensive entertainment. The popularity of puzzles, then typically wooden and hand-cut using a scroll saw, exploded. By the early 1940s, however, die-cut, or stamped, cardboard puzzles hit the market, and the hand-cut puzzle’s popularity waned. It’s the artfulness and creativity synonymous with hand-cut wooden puzzles that Wirth aims to bring back into prominence, and into people’s homes.
Each puzzle at Liberty is the result of an elaborate creative process kick-started when the art print subject matter is chosen. Wirth, partial to bright colors and busy, exciting compositions, adds that searching for new puzzle art the best part of his job.
Lynon Aksamit, staff artist with Liberty Puzzles for ten years, then conceptualizes the design of the puzzle’s cut pattern, ensuring individual pieces reflect the art’s content. “Whimsy” pieces, hand-drawn to resemble recognizable forms that correspond to the puzzle’s theme, are a signature of Liberty Puzzles and are dropped into the design for extra character and charm. For Aksamit, a 500-piece puzzle design can take ten hours of drawing, resulting in a puzzle whose pieces and design are works of art themselves.
Liberty Puzzles takes this whimsy and humor into their character as a business as well. At their Boulder factory, visitors can tour the facility and see much more than the manufacturing and laser-cutting processes. Their “Wall of Shame” is comprised of photos of canines who have mistaken a precious puzzle piece for an oh-so-chewable treat. Don’t worry, the replacement puzzle piece is free, but a photo of the guilty pup is expected in return.
Opening a Liberty Puzzles store on Pearl Street Mall three years ago simply felt right for Wirth and his local business. Wirth looks forward to the upcoming release of a collection of Dr. Seuss puzzle images and continuing to create artfully crafted puzzles for the Boulder community and beyond.