Putting together the pieces

When she was a child, Linda Jarvi's family would gather in the living room and work jigsaw puzzles. Each member excitedly would fit the pieces together - except for Jarvi herself, who found the activity boring.

"I wasn't interested," Jarvi said.

Instead of liking the tedious logic of jigsaw puzzles, the young Jarvi longed to be an artist when she "grew up."

After spending 20 years as a high school and community college teacher in Alaska, Jarvi finally got her wish - she began making wooden pens, but soon realized she craved a more creative process.

"There are only so many pens you can make before you go crazy," she said.

So exactly one year ago, in October 2007, Jarvi decided to make wooden jigsaw puzzles full time. By doing so, she said she joined a handful of artists in the United States who have mastered the craft and work on it full time.

"When I realized I could make my own puzzles, I became interested in them," Jarvi laughed.

To create the puzzles, Jarvi prints the pictures and sets them on high-quality plywood. About nine months ago, Jarvi said, she began hand-cutting the pieces with a scroll saw instead of using a pattern, making each puzzle piece unique.

"Even if I wanted to make the exact same puzzle twice, I couldn't," Jarvi said.

"The hand goes where it wants to go."

Jarvi said she is self-taught and had "a steep learning curve" at first, but now she is more comfortable with her craft. She has begun

to work with area photographers, including Ron Carlson and Ross Hamilton, for the images she uses.

Lately, Jarvi said she has been making puzzles with a collage of pictures relating to a theme - some of her favorites include a Pacific Northwest-themed puzzle, an Alaska-themed puzzle and the latest, a Sequim-themed puzzle featuring the New Dungeness Lighthouse and snow-capped trees.

Jarvi also began looking for unique ways to store her puzzles, alternatives to the traditional cardboard boxes that puzzles generally come in, which often fall apart. She began storing her smaller puzzles, for which she uses 1/8-inch-thick plywood, in CD cases, which she said made them easy to display, as well. For bigger puzzles, for which she uses 1/4-inch-thick plywood, she uses clear plastic tubes.

Jarvi said she has started to customize puzzles for people, starting with a family portrait of her neighbors. All she needs, said Jarvi, is a photograph.

"Anything that can be photographed, I can turn into a puzzle," she said.

Recently, Jarvi traveled to Alaska, where she used her skills to raise nearly $900 for a Methodist church in her old hometown. She made a large puzzle for the church, for which they charged a dollar to buy a piece in a raffle - the winner of the raffle received the entire puzzle.

"It's a different kind of fundraiser," Jarvi said, adding that a couple of Sequim groups have expressed interest in doing something similar.

Jarvi said she stumbled upon her craft somewhat by chance but now wouldn't trade it for any other medium.

"I really love this, I am always creating or thinking about these puzzles," Jarvi said.

"I was meant to do this."

Wooden jigsaw puzzle artist Linda Jarvi will take part in several shows during the holiday season, including the annual holiday bazaar at Sequim High School on Nov. 29, the Sequim Prairie Grange bazaar on Dec. 6 and the United Methodist Church bazaar on Dec. 13.

For more information about the shows or customizing puzzles, contact Jarvi at 683-8929


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