Vancouver, Washington-based artist Tim Klein realized that for years, jigsaw companies have been using the same cutting molds to make puzzle pieces. Which means that in most cases, puzzle pieces from one box can fit with the pieces from another, different box. So by finding the interlocking pieces from different puzzles, a mashup comes together to reveal a surreal image you’d never imagine.
“I take great pleasure in ‘discovering’ such bizarre images lying latent, sometimes for decades, within the pieces of ordinary mass-produced puzzles. As I shift the pieces back and forth, trying different combinations, I feel like an archaeologist unearthing a hidden artifact.” – Klein
Klein doesn’t take the credit though for first noticing this odd quirk of jigsaw puzzles. He says it was an art professor called Mel Andriga that discovered the fact. He pioneered this fascinating art form as a specialized kind of collage or mosaic over 50 years ago. Klein was read an article about Andriga’s work in back in 1988 and became inspired to make some of his own jigsaw puzzle mashups.
He says puzzles nowadays are too busy with a bunch of images piled together with photoshop; but in the past, the pre-digital age, puzzles were of just a single image. Here’s what he has to say about his creative process and how he finds his materials:
“Although the process works fine with modern-day puzzles, I prefer the pictures on vintage puzzles from the 1970s-90s so I haunt estate sales and thrift shops in search of them. There’s no way to know a puzzle’s cut pattern just by looking at the box, so there’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding pairs of puzzles that are compatible both physically and visually. Over the years I’ve developed an intuitive feel for spotting [puzzles] that are likely to be useful to me, based on their imagery, brand, age, piece count, etc. But even so, matching up vintage puzzles takes luck, patience, and the tenacity of a treasure hunter! I own stacks and stacks of puzzles that I call my “art supplies”, some of which have been waiting years for a suitable mate to appear.”
Most of the pieces are titled and tell a story that is humorous, or downright bizarre, but entirely entertaining, or even moving and containing a deeper meaning. For example, “The Mercy-Go-Round (Sunshine and Shadow)”, in which a fairground carousel uses the steeple of a church as its spindle and whirls riders around from the light to the dark and back again.
Whatever the story may be, he definitely makes jigsaw puzzles look a whole lot weirder! Here are a few of his mind-bending montages:
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