Another Great Success!
The Twelfth Puzzle Parley, a "specialty meeting" of the AGPC, was held at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA Friday thru Sunday, August 1-3, 2014. Approximately, 114 jigsaw puzzle cutters, collectors, enthusiasts, dealers, restorers, family members and friends attended part or all of the program. This nearly matched the record set two years ago for the Eleventh Puzzle Parley, also held at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem. The last 3 puzzle parleys have been the largest gatherings of jigsaw puzzle people since the 1930s on this side of the Atlantic. Liz Platais (Riverside Puzzles), Carlisle, MA chaired the meeting, assisted by a committee of Bob Armstrong (Oldpuzzles), Worcester, MA, Melinda Shebell (Jardin Puzzles), Stow, MA and Anne Williams, Lewiston, ME. Kelly Taylor from the KelJoy Group, Durham, NC again served as events planner.
The Parley began mid-day Friday with an open house at Melinda Shebell's home in Stow, MA. Many attendees were able to fit in a visit to Melinda's to view her collection of old (Arteno, Pastime, Dinn, Par and more) and new (her own brand Jardin) puzzles. Then, from 3 to 5 that afternoon, several experienced puzzle makers gave cutting lessons to about 15 beginners at the Hotel, a first for Parley events. Meanwhile, John Cabot led a group of attendees on a tour of the First Salem Church with Rev. Jeffery Snell to view its magnificent stained glass windows.
After a social hour and excellent buffet dinner at the Hawthorne Friday night, Bob Armstrong presented a short history of the puzzle parleys dating back to Pagey Elliott's original suggestion to him in April 1994 (Bob described her as "the founder"). Then, about 20 attendees participated in a giant Yankee swap ("White Elephant Swap") in which each participant contributed a wrapped puzzle ostensibly worth up to $100, drew a number, and successively selected and opened a puzzle from the pile. He/she could then exchange that puzzle for any puzzle already opened, until the last puzzle was drawn at which point the first person to have drawn could exchange his/her puzzle with any in the room. Thanks to the fine organization of Kathleen Pigeon (Pigeon Puzzles) the event went off without a hitch.
After the Swap, everyone stayed in the Grand Ballroom to watch (or participate in) the Pagey Elliott Puzzle Exchange. Sixteen cutters had brought their own hand cut jigsaw puzzles to swap with 15 others. Anne Williams organized the Exchange which, also, went off without a hitch. Yes, Clearly, a fast way to build a collection of puzzles cut by some of today's top makers! Each cutter was urged to use the same or similar image for his/her puzzles and to bring an extra already assembled to display. Each participant talked briefly to the group about his/her puzzle, and all the puzzles were displayed prominently in the Grand Ballroom the next day and eligible for the "Best in Show" award. The evening ended early so that most of us were able to adjourn to the Hotel Library for puzzling, with 9 tables and up to 30 puzzles being worked on simultaneously. This was the largest participation in after dinner puzzling for any parley.
Most of the puzzle events were focused on Saturday, and the weekend attendees were joined by puzzlers who came just for that day swelling the crowd to over 100. The room was lined and the center filled with as many tables as could fit in and covered with jigsaw puzzles set out by cutters and collectors, a magnificent sight to behold. Liz Platais started the meeting by welcoming everyone followed by introductions around the room.
The first session began with Paul Berger (Paul's Puzzle Boxes), talking about and displaying via PowerPoint Pastime figure pieces. Paul had done an extensive study of figurals in his Pastime puzzles and had reached a number of interesting conclusions, including the circle being the most popular one and the puzzles containing approximately 12 figure pieces per 100 puzzle pieces. Graham Curtis followed with a PowerPoint presentation about planning and cutting figurals in his own puzzles, with special focus on the selection and location of the pieces in the most appropriate parts of the puzzle picture. After a short break, Anne Williams gave a history of the Par Company, the "Rolls-Royce of Jigsaw Puzzles" which was operated by the original partners, Frank Ware and John Henriques, from 1932 to 1972, followed by Par employee Frank Gallagher and now John Madden. The morning session ended with Melinda Shebell acknowledging and thanking the vendors participating in the Parley.
A buffet luncheon was served in the Hotel lobby and eaten "on your lap" either back in the main Ballroom or down in the Library. Cutting demonstrations were put on in the main Ballroom during this break.
The afternoon featured a panel chaired by John Stokes (Custom Puzzle Craft) with participants Ron Moore (Turtleteasers Puzzles) and Paula Tardie (Stave Puzzles) and focusing on how to sell puzzles in the Internet age. Ebay, social media, print media were all discussed. A Cutters' Roundtable chaired by Melinda Shebell followed with David Beffa-Negrini (Fool's Gold Puzzles) putting on a lively demonstration of trying to cut a 3' x 3' puzzle without a large enough table on his scroll saw or a foot pedal. Melinda Shebell then discussed several methods to cut multi-way puzzle pieces; Jay Hollis (Bogart's Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles) concluded the session describing how he has refined the practice of printing directly onto wood. The rest of the afternoon consisted of Show and Tell with the theme "Dozens" and Table sales ending with prompt exiting of the Ballroom at 5 pm so the Hotel staff could reset for dinner.
After another excellent meal, Anne Williams introduced our featured speaker, Steve Richardson (Stave puzzles), who described the 10 major mistakes he made since founding Stave Puzzles in the 1970s, using a PowerPoint presentation. Finally, most of us adjourned to the Hotel Library again for puzzling, with 7 tables and over 20 puzzles worked on.
A continental breakfast was provided for those who had signed up for the weekend. After breakfast, Carol Ottenberg described a "Woodies" group of puzzlers at her Seattle area retirement community which she had founded and nurtured and the impressive number of puzzles they have been assembling (some repeatedly), all while losing only one piece! Then Bob Armstrong put on a demonstration of how to repair a Pastime puzzle box, working on an actual box in front of everyone. Lisa Lee (Forgetmenot Puzzles) concluded the program with a description of her restoration techniques, showing her tools and aids. This stimulated many questions which Lisa stayed to answer after the morning program ended. Finally, Melinda Shebell, Liz Platais and Bob Armstrong wrapped up the Parley with prizes and thank you gifts. Andrea Farnham (Thingamajigsaw Puzzles) received the Best in Show award for her stunning "Sherlock Holmes" puzzle; Sophie Olle Laprune (Puzzle Michelle Wilson) received the award for coming the farthest: all the way from Paris, France.
Sunday afternoon featured an Open House at the home of Saul & Paulette Bobruff (Here to There) in Beverly, MA, with a display of both jigsaw and mechanical puzzles. Also, Sunday afternoon, for the first time, a Puzzle Fair organized by Ann Eddins and Susan Marcell was held at the Hawthorne with the public invited. Local publicity generated a lot of attention and dozens of people came to the Hotel to view, buy and assemble puzzles. The event exceeded all expectations.
That concluded a 3 day weekend filled with many and varied jigsaw puzzle activities and near record numbers of participants. From all accounts it was the most successful Parley ever but we say that after every Parley!