The ninth meeting (a/k/a Puzzle Parleys) since 1994 of jigsaw puzzle cutters, collectors, enthusiasts and dealers was held November 7-9, 2008 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA. Co-chaired by Bob Armstrong and Melinda Shebell, a record 87 people attended the all-day session on Saturday, November 8. Puzzle Parleys are designed for puzzle makers from the professional to the beginner to share their techniques, sources, tips, and for puzzle makers, collectors, enthusiasts and dealers to learn about the history and cutting of puzzles and to buy and sell old and new puzzles.
The three-day meeting started at Melinda Shebells house in Stow, MA Friday afternoon with an Open House. Melinda displayed many of her old and new puzzles and gave cutting demonstrations in her workshop for interested parties.
Friday night featured a buffet dinner at the Hotel, followed by Bob Armstrongs remarks describing the history of the puzzle parleys beginning in 1994 with a suggestion made to Bob by Pagey Elliott, Why dont we hold a meeting of puzzle cutters? And we could call it a puzzle parley! What started as a meeting in September 1994 of over 20 people, mostly puzzle cutters from New England, at the home of Deborah Greeley, Pagey Elliotts sister, has expanded to include puzzle cutters, collectors, enthusiasts and dealers from all over the country, Canada and England, with meeting locations in Concord, Lexington, Sturbridge and Worcester, MA; New York City (2) and Katonah, NY, and San Francisco, CA. Following Bobs remarks, the group gathered in a separate room to work on assembling approximately 15 puzzles well into the night. This was an opportunity for current cutters to test their latest creations against experienced puzzlers. Generally, the puzzlers won but not easily!
Saturdays all-day session featured:
- Meeting room was awash with puzzles. View Carter Johnsons video to see puzzles displayed along the walls. Many others were stashed under tables awaiting Table Sales later in the afternoon.
- Discussion of copyright and trademark laws as applied to puzzle cutting, with Attorney David Talman on hand to answer questions and a three-page outline of the law handed out (copies available from Bob at: ). Randy Crossman described his recent experiences in successfully obtaining permission from Curtis Publishing Co to use Norman Rockwell prints.
- Discussion of building a mega-website for cutters, collectors and enthusiasts to post images and descriptions of their favorite puzzles and links to their own websites, with Webmaster Troy Thompson on hand to answer questions. Many attendees expressed interest in such a project and several signed up to serve on a task force to look into its feasibility and costs. Rob Jones agreed to chair the task force; anyone interested in participating on the task force should contact him at; .
- Presentation by Anne Williams tracing the history and types of personalization in jigsaw puzzles including photo puzzles, puzzles with a story, correspondence puzzles, original art on puzzles, and personalized cutting especially in customized Par puzzles. Well-researched and expertly delivered, Anne's presentations are always a big hit at any meeting. Contact Anne at: for a printout of her PowerPoint slides.
- Presentation by Bob Armstrong on how to repair puzzle boxes, especially Pastime boxes. Bob showed how old, dilapidated puzzle boxes can be made strong again so as to safely hold disassembled puzzles, using archival materials and techniques. Bob even tossed over to Greg Fullerton a 19th century puzzle box belonging to Greg, which T.S.A. had pretty well destroyed on his trip to the AGPC convention in South Carolina. Greg was delighted with the sturdy repair work done by Bob over the summer.
- Presentation by Melinda Shebell describing how she designed and organized the three spectacular collaborative puzzles presented to Pagey Elliott, Anne Williams and Bob Armstrong during the last two parleys. All three puzzles were on display (for the first and probably last time) behind the speakers table all day Saturday for everyone to observe and study. At the end of Melindas presentation, Pagey, Anne and Bob turned the tables on Melinda by presenting to her special puzzles from their own collections. Pageys puzzle (Pagey herself was unable to be present) was a magnificent early Pastime;
Bobs puzzle was a rare round Pastime;
Annes puzzle was actually cut by Anne herself.
Bob then presented to Joe Seymour who had designed and built the frame for Bobs special puzzle, the Map of California, Mexico and Texas and the United States puzzle published ca.1849 by Kelly & Levine, Boston, MA, one of the earliest map puzzles made in the States. View the entire presentation.
- Show & Tell which involved the puzzle makers in attendance who had cut AGPC 2008 Showcase puzzles talking about their puzzles, as well as other attendees describing their own puzzles. Note: all Showcase puzzles were on display during Saturday for everyone to examine. The difference in styles and approaches was truly amazing! The AGPC Quarterly is running a series of interviews with the makers of the Showcase Puzzles (another advantage of AGPC membership).
- Table sales, which filled the room with old and new puzzles and resulted in untold numbers of sales. New cutters, especially, were able to show and sell their puzzles to sophisticated collectors and enthusiasts from all over the country and gain new customers.
- Cutting demonstrations led by Mark Cappitella during lunch and table sales where anyone could try cutting their own puzzle.
- Following a banquet dinner involving three choices of entrees and red and white wine, Carter Johnson gave a talk on Personal Marketing Leads to Increased Recognition and Results. Carters enthusiasm filled the entire room to the delight of the audience. He also handed out a short summary of his remarks which may be obtained upon request to: . Again, most attendees then adjourned to the puzzle room to work a variety of puzzles well into the night.
Sunday morning featured an Open House at Bob & Hildegard Armstrongs home in Worcester, MA.
Their house was filled with old (and a few new) puzzles from all eras and different makers, and Bob showed anyone interested his workshop and discussed how he restores his old puzzles.
Also handed out at the meeting and available free upon request from Bob at: :
- List of Parley registrants
- List compiled by Melinda Shebell of suppliers for puzzle cutting equipment and supplies
In summary, the Parleys have expanded over the years to include cutters, collectors, restorers, enthusiasts and dealers. Sturbridge was the biggest and best to date with 87 attendees. However, Melinda and Bob need more help as the meetings grow larger. Volunteers, anyone? The next Parley probably wont be scheduled before early 2010.