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jigsaw puzzle pieces leisure fun

Jigsaw Puzzles and Life — Putting Together the Pieces

jigsaw puzzle pieces leisure fun

Somehow, all the disparate pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit together to create a whole image — kind of like life.

How you approach putting together a jigsaw puzzle says a lot about you.

Of course, how we approach any project says a lot about us, but for now, we’re talking about dumping a box of disparate pieces onto the table, organizing them into some semblance of order, and reassembling them so that they look like the picture on the box.

jigsaw puzzles animals landscapes quilts

Animals, places, quilts and faces. The image of jigsaw puzzle we choose to put together depends upon our likes and preferences.

Some people, when it comes to the “organizing them into some semblance of order” part, get very precise. They seek out the edge pieces, hone in on the corners, and create piles of the rest according to color and form. Others dive right in and match piece with piece. If shapes are still stuck together from the manufacturing process, some people insist that they be separated and mixed back into the box. It’s only fair, they reason.

Others say, “If we’ve got 1000 pieces to put together, why not take advantage of any advantage we’ve got?”

No Rules

I know one man who, when he assembles a puzzle, refuses to look at the box, other than a first glance to see what the eventual goal is. His girlfriend prefers to refer to the image. Neither approach is “right” or “wrong,” just different, a celebration of individuality that encourages us to

  1. Be polite about other people’s way of doing things,
  2. Remain open to trying things a different way,
  3. Recognize that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, and
  4. Accept that rules are not unalterably sacrosanct.

Imagine that — life lessons from a jigsaw puzzle.

But there’s more — one of the most intriguing things I’ve found about jigsaw puzzles is that, though they seem to be nothing more than a jumbled series of random shapes that have little to do with one another, those pieces all fit together, eventually, to make that picture on the box. When we start, it’s easy to despair that we will ever finish, especially when the image has little contrast or distinctive shapes and colors. (There’s another preference: some people gravitate toward homogeneous images, like a pile of Snickerdoodle cookies or a night sky. Others recoil from such visual uniformity.)

Lessons of Life from a Jigsaw Puzzle

300 piece jigsaw puzzles simple art

Only 300 pieces? Don’t underestimate the complexity of a puzzle with fewer pieces. The dog puzzle on the right is delightfully challenging.

But we start, and the more we work on the puzzle, the more familiar we become with the parts. Eventually, something clicks in our brain, saying, “That vibrant blue — it’s connected with that odd vase in the corner somehow.”

And oh, what a feeling of satisfaction when the pieces neatly slide together! In the bigger sphere of life, this happens when a seemingly random fact fits into other information we hold, with a resulting Aha moment: “THAT’S what the writer meant!” But we generally don’t experience this unless we’re reading and re-reading, analyzing and questioning, playing with the facts and the pieces.

childrens jigsaw puzzles big pieces

Little children can be surprisingly good at putting together puzzles, even if — maybe especially when — they don’t follow the rules we adults feel compelled to impose.

Another intriguing element: jigsaw puzzles are companionable projects, providing we remember Points 1-4 above. It’s remarkably comforting to know that, while we’re putting together the trio of horses in the bottom right, another person is tackling the cloudy sky above. We realize, if only for this pleasurable moment, that it’s not all up to us, with nothing getting done unless we’re doing it. While we’re washing the dishes, someone else is sweeping the floor. It is a form of teamwork that is natural and normal, resulting in a finished project about which we feel good.

Quiet Concentration

Not to be discounted is the element of concentration jigsaw puzzles demand of our minds. Unlike watching TV, putting together a puzzle is not a passive endeavor, requiring nothing more than staring at a screen. Each piece has its place, and it won’t find it without a human hand putting it there. And while it may seem trivial to focus so much attention on interlocking all the red and white pieces into a panoply of roses, there’s nothing trivial about letting our minds ruminate in a gentle, quiet, and peaceful state.

The moment comes for the last piece. And then . . . what? Do we immediately dismantle the project and tumble it back in the box? Do we take a picture of it and send it to friends? Or how about carefully transporting it downtown to get it framed, an unusual piece of art in which we have had some part to play? Again, it depends upon the individual, and the circumstances.

That’s the beauty of jigsaw puzzles. In order to fully enjoy them, you really can’t confine them to a box. They’re like people that way.

Wenaha GalleryThe Art of Jigsaw Puzzles is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 12 through February 9, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

java junk journal gift diaray trudy love tantalo

No Rules — The “Junk” Journals of Trudy Love Tantalo

steampunk junk journal no rules trudy love tantalo diary

Steampunk, junk journal by Trudy Love Tantalo.

Rules are funny things.

We’re taught that they make our lives easier and “safer”  by protecting us from all the bad stuff and people.

But they also do something else: they grow and multiply, expand and enlarge, develop to the point where it takes libraries of volumes to contain them, and everyone, at some point, becomes a rule breaker. When rules get out of control, they limit and hinder, circumscribe and restrict, regulate and dominate.

It’s the perfect place to draw one’s thoughts — Art Paper 1 junk journal by Trudy Love Tantalo.

Artist Trudy Love Tantalo discovered this foray into philosophy by, of all things, creating “junk journals,” handmade paper books embellished with additions like lace, fabric, ribbons, even discarded cereal boxes. It was an epiphany.

Initially, the Des Moines, WA, creative “jumped onto the scrapbooking bandwagon” because of her fascination for papers and design. But she found that the emphasis on getting the pages perfect, the unwritten rule of scrapbooking, was stressful.

The Rules of Perfection

She encountered a similar sense of stress upon receiving an especially beautifully bound journal as a gift, after years of using whatever notebook she had on hand. A lifetime lover of journals to record her day or feelings, Love Tantalo noticed an unusual change in her behavior when she used the gifted journal: instead of writing in pen, as she usually would, she used pencil, in case she made a “mistake” and ruined the perfection of the page. Journaling, like creating scrapbook pages, was no longer fun because the emphasis was on perfection, not creativity.

Bird Neighbors junk no rules journal birding trudy love tantalo

For the birder, or someone who loves birds — Bird Neighbors journal by Trudy Love Tantalo

And then she discovered junk journals.

“I happened upon them on Pinterest — the uniqueness and creativity really appealed to me. And the fact that you didn’t necessarily need a lot of fancy supplies or papers fit perfectly with my innate frugality and desire to ‘upcycle’ as much as possible.

“This finally fit the bill for me.

“There were no rules!”

Freedom from Rules

The finding of junk journals released a sense of creativity that Love Tantalo didn’t know she had. She quickly put together her first two journals, choosing folded-over cereal box as covers and incorporating a variety of papers.  One she used as a travel journal on her trip to Europe, filling it with brochures and postcards, tickets stubs and packaging, thoughts for the day. And . . .

java junk journal gift diaray trudy love tantalo

JAVA — coffee comes in all flavors and styles, with no rules to limit its style. Handcrafted junk journal by Trudy Love Tantalo.

“I threw caution to the wind and used a pen to write with!”

Junk journals, to Love Tantalo, perfectly fit her desire to create, her interest in journaling, and the challenge of using items that might ordinarily be thrown away. These were interests, she realized, that other people had as well. She turned a second bedroom into her studio, filled it “to the rafters” with a variety of papers and all manner of upcycled items (“AKA ‘junk'”), and got to a most pleasurable and productive work.

“My biggest problem is becoming overwhelmed with all my ideas and possibilities,” she says.

Lots of Space for Writing and Drawing

“Because I am a journaler and use my own creations, I always make sure there is plenty of writing space in each one, although I want to make it fun and interesting to look at and use, too.”

Junk journals, like the precious people who use them, are unique, Love Tantalo says, and there is no one way, no incontrovertible series of rules, to use them. Some people use them as diaries, others as doodle spots. Some draw in them. Others write quotes, list what they’re grateful for, tuck in mementos, pen prayers, fashion collage.

Or do it all.

Because, after all . . . there are no rules.

Wenaha GalleryTrudy Love Tantalo is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from August 11 through September 4, 2020.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.