The Thirteenth Puzzle Parley
Thingamajigsaw Puzzles
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This year's parley was a full weekend of events from Thursday through Sunday. It was held once again in Salem Massachusetts at the Hawthorne Hotel. We broke our attendance record of 2014 with 127 people, including 107 participants and 20 guests who joined us for dinner or just to say hello. We also had first-time participants from Italy, Sweden and Canada. There were puzzling trips, puzzling talks, and of course late night puzzling. Below are some of the highlights of the thirteenth puzzle parley.

Some puzzles and other products made by Nervous System
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

We kicked off the 2016 Puzzle Parley on Thursday with tours to Somerville MA puzzle maker N-e-r-v-o-u-s System. N-e-r-v-o-u-s System does a lot more than making puzzles, and attendees were treated to the many diverse projects and products N-e-r-v-o-u-s System produces using modeling techniques based on natural phenomena. Many of us brought home a puzzle of their intricate laser cut puzzles. See the 2016 Pagey Elliott Exchange Puzzles for another example of creative puzzle making.

On Friday we began our day with a tour to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA. There we saw preservation techniques for documents, art work, prints, photographs, audio and book repair. We learned a trick or two about restoring our antique puzzles as well.

Learning about book restoration at the NDCC
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

The afternoon featured a workshop on advanced cutting techniques given by Joe Seymour and Shawn Fergusen. Joe provided particpants with a block of four different colored woods and a pattern of a landscape scene on top. When stack cut, it produced four puzzles whose pieces could be interchanged to form four scenes with different colors for the sky, land, and mountains. Joe made a similar puzzle that he exchanged in the 2016 Pagey Elliott Puzzle Exchange.

Joe Seymour explaining stack cutting at his workshop
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Pattern and four puzzles made by stack cutting

Even time for a participant to try her hand a stack cutting
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Shawn's project showed how to make a three layered puzzle of a flower with a butterfly that also is a figural.

Shawn Ferguson explaining how to make layered puzzles

Cutting the layered puzzles
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Thom Spence reclaiming a Puzzle Craft puzzle from Melinda Shebell
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Examining the new find, but will he keep it?
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

The evening activities started with a Yankee or White Elephant Puzzle Swap led by Wayne Wolf. Wayne had his own twist on the rules. After the first person picked and opened a puzzle, all succeeding people could either choose from any opened puzzle or open a new one. If they chose one already opened, that person could choose either another opened puzzle or a new one. This went on until someone opened a new puzzle. What was the additional trick? If a person got the same puzzle three times, it was theirs and no one could take it away. Some of the hot favorites of the evening were traded back and forth quite a bit before being claimed.

Anne Williams, who has managed three of last four exchanges, explaining about Pagey Elliott
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Next followed the 2016 Pagey Elliott Puzzle Exchange. Fifteen puzzlers made 15 puzzles to exchange with each other and to donate one to the Strong Museum. See the 2016 Pagey Elliott Exchange for all the puzzles.

All of the Exchange puzzles as presented by their makers
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Puzzlers on Friday Night

Beginning the BIG puzzle on two tables!

After all the main events on Friday, there was puzzling until who knows when in the library. A Very large antique push fit puzzle was started but progressed slowly despite all the avid assemblers. This one was not to be completed before we all went to bed.

Is this puzzle complete? Ron Moore of Turtle Teaser puzzles brought the puzzle but it fell open in his suitcase and all those tiny pieces went everywhere.

Looks promising.

Whew! All there.

Along with some of the happy assemblers and cutter Ron (rear right).

Bright and early Saturday morning, the room opened and began to full with displays of puzzles. As in the past parleys, puzzle makers were encouraged to nominate one of their puzzles on display for the "Best in Show" puzzle. This year we also had a raffle of a number of items to benefit the Armstrong Scholarship Fund which provides financial assistance to puzzle makers or collectors who might otherwise not be able to attend. Voting or raffle participation took place during the entire day with results announced at our Saturday evening banquet.

Bob Armstrong, a veteran organizer of all the parleys, welcomed everyone and officially opened the 2016 parley.

The room filled with old and new puzzles.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

New puzzles by Andrea Farnham of Thingamajigsaw Puzzles.

A collection of old puzzles for sale.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

The first talk of the morning was given by first-time attendee Kathy Al-Zand who introduced us to her native Canada and her Canadian collection with her talk on "Collecting Perspectives from Canada". Here are a few examples of the wonderful antique puzzles Kathy displayed.

Canadian Kathy Al-Zand talking about her collection.

Next on the agenda was Bob Armstrong who instructed us on "Keeping Track of the Pieces: Organizing and Documenting Your Puzzles" . In addition to sharing his database format with everyone, Bob gave a live demonstration of how easy it is to find puzzles in your collection with once you have entered the data. For example, how many puzzles with horses in the picture do you have? If "horses" is a key word, the answer pops up immediately along with all the data on each puzzle. Compare that to having to look through your entire collection one puzzle at a time!

Bob Armstrong (standing) and his son Conrad giving a live demo of Bob's data base for his puzzle collection

Anne Williams followed with "Puzzle Libraries, Then and Now". Covering a number of early lending libraries and the formal and informal ones today.

Anne Williams explainging about early puzzle lending libraries.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Our last speaker of the morning was Phil Orbane, the president of the new Association of Games and Puzzles International (AGPI, formerly the Association of Games and Puzzle Collectors, or AGPC). The name change is not all that is going on with the AGPI, and Phil outlined his plans to register the organization as a non-profit and to bring it into the 21st century. Check out its progress at .

The main information session of the afternoon was the Cutter's corner chaired by Bruce Gehman with speakers Joe Seymour, Melinda Shebell, Marc Tschida and Shawn Ferguson. Bruce gave a brief description on aligning your saw and saw blades. Joe showed a short video he took while in Vietnam of a street vendor who cut names for people out of wood as souvenirs. He used only a coping say, with no design, all free-hand. He was very fast. Melinda gave a talk on how an experienced or amateur cutter could easily develop or enhance their repertoire of cutting styles. Marc gave an overview of his experiences and practices with art licensing. Shawn rapped up the session describing the hazards of cutting plywood made from formaldahyde glues. Because cutters are so close to the wood, the formaldahyde gases can be breathed in even with a mask and it is carcinogenic.

Cutters' round table discusions. L-R Marc Tschida, Melinda Shebell, Bruce Gehman, Joe Seymour and Shawn Ferguson.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Melinda Shebell talking on how to develop new cutting styles.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Old and new puzzles and more for the raffle
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Show and Tell followed the Cutter's Corner. Among the participants, John Lillie brought a nice display of Par and Falls puzzles to talk about, Jeanne Spiezer showed a late 1800's puzzle from the St.Louis Worlds Fair, and Ilaria Rocchi, who came all the way from Italy, showed her father's puzzles and told how he began cutting them.

Our day program ended at 4 PM with forty five minutes to buy those final puzzles, put in our votes for the "Best In Show" puzzle or put our tickets into a raffle bag.

The evening Banquet began with the announcement of winners. John Stokes won "Best In Show" for his "Golden Dragon #2" puzzle. Raffle winners prizes included a Stave puzzle, a Jardin puzzle, Lisa Lee's coupons for replacement pieces and a night stay at the Hawthorne Hotel.

Our after dinner speaker was Amy Elliott who showed us her film "Wicker Kittens", a documentary about a jigsaw competition held in 2014 in St. Paul Minnesota.

We adjorned to the hotel Library to continue our puzzling. All told at least twenty people worked on the Big One from time to time.

As we left it late Friday night.

Sky is done and all the horsemen.

But it has to go here...Lisa Lee center.

Near midnight and victory is at hand

Finally around 1 AM the puzzle was completed, and this was with some of the best puzzlers in the country!

A huge magnificent puzzle by an unknown cutter circa 1910. What a challenge.

Sunday brunch featured "An Update on the 'Woodies' in Seattle" by Carol Ottenburg. The "Woodies" are puzzlers in Carol's retirement community who get together to do wooden jigsaw puzzles. She first told us about them and setting up a puzzle library in a talk at the 2014 puzzle parley.

Carol's talk was followed by a hands-on workshop for coloring replacement pieces for puzzles. Lisa brought a number of puzzles with missing pieces. She had made blank replacement pieces for them and participants could use her watercolor pencils to match the scene.

Lisa Lee with puzzles for her workshop.

A closeup of the puzzles and the new replacement pieces

A workshop participant coloring the replacement pieces.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Participants coloring the replacement pieces.
[photo courtesy R. Tucker]

Our formal parley wrapped up at 11 with a special thank you to Anne Williams whose work through out the entire planning process made our event such a success.

The final event of the parley was a puzzle fair Sunday afternoon that was open to the public. It featured a puzzle cutting demo, new and old puzzles and puzzles set up on tables for people to work. Kudos to Deb Dana for her energy and imagination in setting this up, and to the dozen or so puzzle cutters who displayed their creations.

More puzzles from the puzzle parley.

Puzzles by Italian maker Ceasare Rocchi

Some creative puzzles by artist Thom Spence
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Puzzle Detail Caesar Puzzles Caesar Rocchi