Thanks in part to people spending more time at home, puzzles have recently enjoyed a resurgence. There’s something undeniably therapeutic about meticulously piecing together tiny pieces to reveal a work of art, and now designer puzzle company PuzzQuest is taking those works of art to the next level.
The new Peterborough-based company is working with undiscovered photographers, illustrators, and artists around the world to create fun, original 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles for adults — and supporting the arts community in the process.
PuzzQuest was created by marketing consultant and fine art photographer George Gill, who says he understands first-hand how promoting and selling art is much more difficult than creating it. PuzzQuest is another channel, he explains, for artists to showcase their work to a wider audience and, in this case, those who enjoy jigsaw puzzles.
“Jigsaw puzzles are both creative and complex,” Gill says. “Yes, you have the artwork but the puzzler is also immersed in the artist’s creative process. It’s not just a puzzle — it’s an experience, it’s a quest.”
With the coronavirus taking a colossal toll on the arts world with cancelled and postponed industry events, it has left artists seeking creative ways of adapting to trying circumstances. Gill says artists looking to boost their income need to offer their art in new and innovative ways. That’s where PuzzQuest can help.
“For people who love a particular artist’s work, jigsaw puzzles can offer a fun affordable means for them to take home a quality piece of art. It’s just accessible in a different way.”
VIDEO: Introducing Conformity from PuzzQuest
Gill adds that some people who purchase PuzzQuest puzzles take it one step further, by actually framing their puzzles as wall art.
He believes the growth of jigsaw puzzles as a mindfulness technique is one of the reasons puzzles are making a comeback. In addition to being a great way to spend time with family, working on a jigsaw puzzle stimulates your mind while lowering your stress by giving you something specific to create and work towards. There’s a new adventure in every puzzle box.
PuzzQuest is taking the challenge of puzzles another step further. Each jigsaw puzzle available through PuzzQuest will be part of a unique quest. Each puzzle will become part of a series for puzzlers to complete the overall quest.
“The idea is that each jigsaw puzzle is presented as a different challenge but connected through a common theme,” Gill says. “We don’t want to regurgitate puzzles that are already out there.”
The quality of PuzzQuest’s puzzles also makes them stand out in the industry. The company controls every step of a sophisticated manufacturing process from design to packaging to shipping.
Made from recycled paper and coated in a UV oil varnish, the individual pieces are punched at precise tolerances, so that you can hear a satisfying soft click when one fits into another. Every piece is soothing to the touch, providing a calming effect.
Small details like a resealable bag which not only protects the pieces, but also avoids the potential of losing a piece mid-way through the building process, are just some of the features that go into the design process.
“Every little detail has been taken into consideration to match not only the quality of the art we’re reproducing, but the entire experience of creating the puzzle,” Gill says.
Any artists interested in having their work considered for a jigsaw puzzle can fill out a form on the PuzzQuest website. There’s no charge to submit works of art and there are no restrictions, although Gill says all submitted artwork will be evaluated to ensure it would make for a challenging puzzle.
“Some artwork doesn’t transfer over to that medium as well as others. We want to know if it works as a jigsaw puzzle, makes a unique puzzle quest, and will be a good puzzle to build from a puzzler’s perspective.”
Puzzlers typically look for a challenge, Gill says, something that will keep them interested, captivated, and entertained. Artwork with lots of colour and detail is ideal.
One of Gill’s own art creations, called Conformity, is the first of a quest in the company’s line of puzzles.
“Conformity is a challenging jigsaw puzzle to do,” Gill says, adding that he recently tasked his family with trying the expert-level 1,000-piece puzzle to test the degree of difficulty and enjoyment level.
He’s also ecstatic to have puzzle enthusiasts from Quebec, B.C., California, Romania, and Germany reach out to him expressing their interest in trying their hand with the Conformity puzzle.
Beyond a quality unique puzzle to challenge yourself or offer as a great gift, your PuzzQuest purchase makes a difference in the art world too. You can feel good knowing every PuzzQuest puzzle sold results in a portion of the proceeds going back to the artist and a portion to the arts community.
“At PuzzQuest, we’re more than just puzzles, we’re about contributing to a great cause,” Gill explains. “I’m excited about supporting artists and the arts community. I can’t wait to write that first donation cheque.”
The first production of PuzzQuest puzzles has been arriving at warehouse distribution centers across North America and are now available for purchase.
If you’re looking for a new hobby or you’re an experienced puzzler seeking a new challenge, you can buy a puzzle directly from PuzzQuest’s website at puzzquest.ca. They are also available on Amazon, currently in the U.S. and Canada.
For more information, visit puzzquest.ca, where artists can learn more about submitting a piece of artwork and puzzlers can purchase a unique jigsaw puzzle experience. You can also follow PuzzQuest on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
This story was created in partnership with PuzzQuest.
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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.
Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.
1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.
2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party
Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
3. Check out local performers
Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.
4. Have some family fun
The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.
5. Drop off your hazardous waste
The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio
Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.
The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.
“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”
Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.
Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.
“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.
“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”
‘We need a territorial gallery’
The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.
“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”
Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.
The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.
“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.
That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.
“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”
“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.
“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”
Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.
“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.
“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.
“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”
‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery
In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.
The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”
“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”
Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.
“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”
More spaces that can host art are on the way.
Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.
Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.
As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.
“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”
Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”
“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.
“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”
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