Artist mixes different jigsaw puzzles to create surrealist montages

Tim Klein
© Tim Klein

This artist mixes and matches up jigsaw puzzle pieces from different vintage puzzles to create mind-bending collages.

There's nothing quite like the immense satisfaction of completing a jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of little pieces. But did you know that puzzle manufacturers sometimes use the same die-cut patterns to create different puzzles? That means that in many cases, puzzle pieces from one box can fit with the pieces from another, different box.

Pretty neat, and apparently, there is art to be made out of this situation. At least, that's what Washington-based puzzle montage artist Tim Klein is doing: creating surreal images by mixing and matching up pieces from an array of jigsaw puzzles.

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

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.

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

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.

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Tim Klein© Tim Klein

Often, Klein's pieces sport intriguing titles and interesting pedigrees from puzzle companies like Springbok, American Publishing Company and Perfect Fit. Some of the stories behind Klein's puzzle montages are humourous, or downright bizarre, but entirely entertaining, or even moving:

Some of my montages are simply chuckle-inducing, like my combination of King Tut's burial mask with the front of a truck, which I call "King of the Road". But my favorites are ones that also have a bit of a sardonic bite to them -- such as "Surrogate", in which a beer can with teddy bear eyes spreads it fuzzy arms and tells you to "consider yourself hugged" -- or "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. And, to my complete astonishment, a few people have written to tell me they were moved to tears by "Daisy Bindi", a blending of a cat's face with a basket of flowers. Surreal images sometimes strike people in deeply personal ways.

Tim Klein© "Surrogate" / Tim Klein

Tim Klein© “The Mercy-Go-Round (Sunshine And Shadow)” / Tim Klein

Tim Klein© "King of the Road" / Tim Klein

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? To see more, visit Tim Klein's Puzzle Montage.

Artist mixes different jigsaw puzzles to create surrealist montages
This artist mixes and matches up jigsaw puzzle pieces from different vintage puzzles to create mind-bending collages.

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