" Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night?"
John Milton, 1634 poem "Comus"
A Puzzling Silver Lining - or -
The Puzzle Parley Goes Virtual in 2021!

The Puzzle Parley community was very disappointed when Covid-19 forced the postponement of the 2020 Parley. But we found some silver linings in the huge jigsaw puzzle craze that took hold in spring 2020 and continues today, as well as in the emergence of new jigsaw puzzle manufacturers on an almost weekly basis. Buoyed by Zoom, the Steering Committee put together our very first virtual (and free!) Puzzle Parley for twelve hours spread over the July 17-18, 2021 weekend.

While we look forward to gathering in person again in 2022, we found that a virtual event had some real upsides for the Puzzle Parley. It drew many far-flung enthusiasts who could not travel in person. Attendees joined us from the United Kingdom, numerous European countries, Australia and South Africa, as well as far flung parts of North America. Total registrations exceeded 200, including more than 100 fans of wood puzzles who were new to the Puzzle Parley. The Zoom format lent itself to easy recording of the entire program; we will publish it on our YouTube channel in the fall. We also hope our free online event has whetted the appetite of new wooden puzzle lovers, and that they will attend our regular biennial gatherings.

Janell Amely's Acrylic Puzzle Pieces

Chris Yates showing how to make his Baffler Puzzles
Saturday's programming kicked off with Bob Armstrong (oldpuzzles.com and co-founder in 1994 of the Puzzle Parley) introducing this long standing tradition. Next, Anne Williams hosted a lively Show & Tell with contributions from ten participants. Chris Yates (Chris Yates Studios) then showed how he makes a small crab-shaped Baffler in a fast-paced video shot at his former studio on the Jersey Shore, followed by Janell Amely (3catmax.com) demonstrating how she creates her beautiful laser-cut acrylic puzzles in Georgia.

Some show and tell highlights from Saturday:

Conrad Armstrong's fret-work inspired puzzle.
Not visualized until the final pieces are in.

Pastime puzzle, complete, but only half of it. Do you have the other half?

Beautiful puzzle from art in London's Westminster Palace

Chas Bridge's 3D puzzle

Hungarian puzzle maker Gabor Gondos' refrigerator puzzle with multiple solutions.

After a brief break, the puzzle fun resumed with the traditional hand cutters' Roundtable, moderated by Joe Seymour (icollectpuzzles.com) with panelists Conrad Armstrong (newpuzzles.com), Shay Carmichael (Shay's Puzzle Workshop), Mary Lush (aupuzzle.com.au), Thom Spencer (Puzzle Art) and Chris Yates who ably fielded questions. Special thanks to Mary for logging on from Down Under in the wee hours of the morning. Many attendees, from novice amateur crafters to experienced commercial puzzle artists, chimed in via Zoom's chat function.

Author Anne Williams then presented "Puzzles in Geography: from 'Dissected Maps' to 'Silent Teachers'," covering the history of pre-WWI map puzzles for children.

After Bob Armstrong's closing comments many remained on the open-ended Zoom meeting to reconnect, chit-chat, and enjoy the company of other puzzle friends.

Virtual Puzzle Parley resumed on Sunday with opening comments from Bob and Joe. Conrad Armstrong then explained the minutiae of "Using Photo-Editing Software in Puzzle Design" before our second round of Show & Tell, also moderated by Anne Williams, and chock-a-block full of fantastic puzzles!

Some show and tell highlights from Sunday:

Modern cutter Genes Desfosses's push-fit color-line-cut puzzle. 1636 pieces.

1910-1920 era Holtzappfel "Figure-it-out" puzzle.

800 Pieces, 4 layers cut by the late Terry Walters, aka $apos;Grandpa TJ'

Rebecca Tushnet ( rebeccaspuzzles.blogspot.com), a Harvard Law School professor and jigsaw nut, spoke authoritatively and clearly about "Puzzles of Intellectual Property: A Brief Tour." Her talk about the confusing law of patents, trademarks and copyright generated by far the most questions!

Midafternoon, we explored Janell Amely's studio where she mixes watercolors with wood. Janell then joined moderator Joe Seymour along with Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Jessica Rosenkrantz ( Nervous System), Ashley Boyd (Artifact Puzzles), and Claire Schaffer ( puzzleclub.fr) in a thorough discussion about the rapidly-changing technology and techniques in the Laser-Cutter's Roundtable.

The final exciting event of the weekend was the traditional Pagey Elliott Puzzle Exchange. Deb Dana (Pixels Puzzles) spent many months coordinating it in advance. She also hosted it with slides and commentary from the nine cutters. The nine participants in this truly unique sharing of ideas and craft consisted of Janell Amely, Shay Carmichael, Graham Curtis (gkcurtis&casscom.com), Deb Dana, Ron Davis (Quill Pig Puzzles) , Jessica Rosenkrantz, Joe Seymour, Thom Spencer and Chris Yates.

Deb Dana and Melinda Shebell ( Jardin Puzzles) together organized the sales directory on the Puzzle Parley website. Collectors kept sellers busy throughout the weekend and picked up lots of unique treasures there.

Melinda Shebell delivered closing comments that touched upon the unique nature of this event, appreciation for the efforts made by the Steering Committee and all the presenters in this Virtual Parley, as well as details about our plans for the July 2022 in-person Parley in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

Pivoting to make an entertaining, informative, inclusive and technically functioning virtual event challenged all of us. But we were all very pleased with how well the Virtual Parley went, and have appreciated all the positive feedback! We hope to see you in Sturbridge in 2022 for even more puzzle fun!!

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