The humble jigsaw puzzle has gotten a rebrand. Earlier this year, Rachel Hochhauser and Jena Wolfe launched Piecework Puzzles, which would look at home on a HAY coffee table (designs include a manicured hand smashing a coconut cake and a supersaturated still life of halved fruits) and which sell through a website made by Winsome Brave, the firm behind the Primary Essentials and Apiece Apart. The brand strategists are not the only ones creating decidedly non-folksy jigsaws. Last year, Areaware, after the success of its breakout Gradient Puzzle, launched a series of puzzles in the shape of foodstuffs (a bowl of ramen, a cheese puff); they proved so popular that the company went on to create collaboration puzzles with womenswear line Dusen Dusen and accessories label Poketo. And puzzles have been gaining popularity in general across the country: The U.S. market, still dominated by Ravensburger and Springbok, was valued at $631 million in 2019 (up from $404 million in 2012), according to Statista. This makes sense, says Hochhauser, who decided to start Piecework after finding herself rained in with no cell service and a closet full of dusty puzzles in a rental house in Yosemite. “We’re in this moment where people are experiencing digital overload — they’re not a digital activity; they’re good for your brain. Plus everything else in our lives is so curated, from our toothpastes to our luggage. Puzzles sit out on your coffee table for weeks: They should look good, too.”
Dusen Dusen Arc 500-Piece Puzzle
The latest from Areaware, a pioneer in the cool-puzzle scene.
Piecework sells four puzzles, each 1,000 pieces: the “Forbidden Fruit,” a tableau of citrus and tiki drinks; the “Meta Puzzle,” a hand assembling a puzzle; the “Life of the Party,” a smashed cake; and “Feeling Flushed,” a poker table.
These jigsaws, which design studio Nervous System launched in 2017, are made of birch plywood; the pieces are algorithmically generated, and their unusual shapes mean they’re particularly difficult to complete.