I chatted with Bewilderness Puzzles‘ owner, Whitney, about this amazing wooden puzzle company!
Tell me about how Bewilderness came to be
I was a business and data analyst in the tech space, and did really enjoy most of the work I did and the people I worked with. But I wanted more challenge and variety in my work day, and I was tired of sitting at a desk all day. The paths I saw ahead of me in my career didn’t excite me, and I just wanted to do something wildly different.
To pick something else, I thought, “If I had to do one thing all day, every day, what could I do and be happy?” And the answer for me was puzzles. Jigsaw, logic, math, any type of puzzles. I looked at my puzzle collection, I did some research, and decided that I could make some really worthwhile contributions to the wooden puzzle world, so that’s what I chose to do.
A couple of months after getting all my equipment and working my butt off to figure out how to make a good puzzle, I had a decent product! So I signed up for a local art fair and focused on getting ready for that. I ended up with maybe five puzzles to sell by then, I had no idea yet how to scale what I was doing, but I sold them all! That was in the summer of 2017. Now in the spring of 2021, we have a team of four and we’ve made thousands of puzzles. There are still big challenges every step of the way and I love it!
You have a ton of interesting cuts that you don’t see on other wooden puzzles. How did you come up with the idea for those?
For me, I just think about what would be cool, what haven’t I seen yet, and what would be difficult? The awesome thing with laser cutting puzzles is that anything you can dream up, you can make a puzzle out of it.
So, first is inspiration that pops into my head, like “Tetris” or “Mars” and then brainstorming the kinds of patterns based on that theme that would be interesting to put together. Then I start to draw it up with Inkscape or CorelDraw and let the idea evolve as it’s being designed.
Once there’s a draft, playtesting comes in, and now that there are a few of us in the office, that part is more fun! Then, hopefully, we have a finished product that looks cool, gives a good challenge with solving, and is fun to do. There are a couple of puzzles that have been paused at the play-testing stage because they may look cool, but they’re just not fun enough for whatever reason, and we have to go back to the drawing board on them.
Then, we finalize the puzzle, take pictures, and put it up in our store. Having all stages of the process in-house makes it pretty efficient to get new puzzles released.
How do you pick the artwork for your puzzles?
Sometimes we’re approached by artists, sometimes we meet them at events or happen to see their work and we reach out. It’s really fun to collaborate with artists and develop that relationship. We also use some free resources, like NASA, or even our own team’s photography or painting!
What is the process from wood to puzzle?
We know that some manufacturers do it the same way we do, and others have differences in the materials and tools they use, but here’s basically how we do it: Prepare the wood, adhere the image to the wood, put in laser, send file to laser that tells it how to cut. After it’s cut, air it out for a couple of hours to reduce the campfire smell (we’re also just starting to use activated charcoal to help with this). Clean any soot or debris that may be on the puzzle from having been in the laser, inspect the whole puzzle to make sure all pieces are cut properly (if not, puzzle goes into a separate queue to see if it can be fixed), then box it up!
Stay tuned for my review of Blue Flower coming soon! Is there a brand or artist you want to know more about? Comment below and let me know!