Most of us approach jigsaw puzzles as a quiet form of visual concentration, of doggedly putting a jumbled world back into order — something to do on a rainy day or during a digital detox. Who would have thought of finding clever, mind-bending art within these pieces?
Tim Klein is an American artist based in Vancouver, Washington. Tim works in the unusual medium of machine-cut jigsaw puzzles, creating surreal works that are half collage, half assemblage, and always with an undertone of off-kilter humor. The artist’s works combine pieces from two or more separate puzzles, leading to unexpected and bizarre imagery.
Klein says he was inspired by the work of art professor Mel Andringa, whom he credits as the pioneer. He says he first read about his work in a magazine article from 1988. Klein adds:
Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable. As a result, I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal picture that the publisher never imagined. 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.
Below you will find some of our favorite jigsaw puzzle mashups, and you can find many more jigsaw puzzle collages and mosaics at Tim’s official site below.
#1 Thaw (Warm Breath On A Winter Window)
Tim Klein – “Perhaps this montage was too easy! After all, the pieces came from two puzzles showing the same scene. They were Milton Bradley puzzles from the late 1960s, taken from a set of “four seasons” paintings by Paul Detlefsen. (When I show this one in public, I credit it to “Tim Klein, after Paul Detlefsen”.) At the bottom of the “thawed” circle, where green spring meets white winter, the curvature of the puzzle pieces gives a nice melting effect. It’s as if you, seeing the winter scene through a window, have breathed upon the glass and magically revealed a glimpse of the warm spring to come”
#2 Daisy Bindi
. It’s fascinating to think of puzzles as an art medium in this way — the use of the puzzle pieces lends a playful quality to the pieces while forcing the viewer to think a bit more outside the box in terms of what might be considered artistic media.
The images themselves also tend toward a sense of play — Klein often utilizes wordplay and puns in his titles. Occasionally these titles suggest a more serious or introspective reading, like in Surrogate, which combines puzzles of a teddy bear and a beer can.
#3 Schools (Fishing For Answers)
Tim Klein – “Made using pieces from two Hallmark puzzles from the 1970s, one showing a comically unsuccessful fisherman, and the other showing the answers to a blank crossword puzzle that was printed on the box. I like the fact that the school at the lower left has “arcana” at its core. (Aristotelian arcana, no less!)”
#4 Metamorphosis (Unburdening)
#5 Iron Horse
Inspired by Mel Andringa, who pioneered this fascinating art form as a specialized kind of collage or mosaic over 50 years ago, Klein has been creating what he calls “puzzle montages” for the last 25 years. He explains some of 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.
#6 How The West Was Won
#7 Waterfall Grille
Tim Klein – “Made from two small panoramic Perfect Fit brand puzzles”
But it’s not as simple as throwing some pieces together, as Klein notes:
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.
#8 The Mercy-Go-Round (Sunshine And Shadow)
#9 King Of The Road
Tim Klein – “Constructed from two Springbok puzzles from the 1970s.”
#10 The Other Side
Tim Klein – “Made from two American Publishing Company puzzles from the 1980s. Most of my puzzle montages are in a single plane, with pieces from the two source puzzles intermixed. But in this one, the coins puzzle is on top of the puzzle containing the eyes, resulting in a two-layered piece. Thus, the eyes look into the viewer’s eyes from the other side of a wall of gold”
#11 The Dance Of The Bathroom Cleaning Fairies
Tim Klein – “Made from two Springbok puzzles published in the 1980s.”
#12 White Elephant (Present And Future)
Tim Klein – “Made from pieces of two Springbok puzzles published in 1978 and 1980.”
#13 Bow Wow
Tim Klein – “A diptych made from two miniature Springbok puzzles published in the 1980s, one showing a dog and one showing a clown saying “Wow!!” The two halves are inverses, each one using all the pieces not used in the other. This pair debuted at the Splendorporium gallery in Portland, Oregon, as part of a circus-themed exhibit”
Tim Klein – “Made from the pieces of two small Hallmark “greeting card” puzzles from the 1980s.”
#15 Mountain Plantation
Tim Klein – “This was the first puzzle montage I ever created, using pieces from two Golden Guild puzzles from the 1980s or ’90s. One puzzle showed the mansion at Orton Plantation, located in my boyhood hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. The other puzzle showed Mt. Jefferson, near my current home in the Pacific Northwest.”
To see more, visit Tim Klein’s Puzzle Montage.