Assembling a jigsaw puzzle involves creating order out of chaos. Whether a set includes hundreds or thousands of pieces, the desired outcome always remains the same: to form a picture exactly like the one on the box.
As it turns out, this traditional approach is not the only acceptable method of building jigsaw puzzles.
Tim Klein, a software engineer by day and puzzle enthusiast by night, isn’t one to follow the rules. Instead of arranging puzzle pieces to imitate the photo on the box, he combines components from different puzzle sets to create a mind-bending hybrid image.
You might be wondering: how does he do that?
Apparently, it’s common practice for jigsaw puzzle manufacturers to use the same die-cut pattern for many unique puzzles. This means the pieces are interchangeable and can be merged, which is precisely what Klein has been doing for the past 27 years.
The Vancouver, Washington-based artist combines portions from two or more different puzzles to create a “puzzle montage” that the manufacturers themselves could have never imagined was possible.
“I take great pleasure in discovering such strange images lying shattered, sometimes for decades, within the cardboard boxes of ordinary mass-produced puzzles,” he said.
The resulting images can often be described as surreal, humorous, and intriguing.
Klein says it was American art professor Mel Andringa, the originator of puzzle montages (although he refers to it as collage or mosaic), who inspired him to explore this art form. He read a magazine article about him in 1988 and set out to follow in his footsteps.
While puzzle montages can be done using modern-day puzzles, Klein says he prefers working with vintage sets from the 1970s-90s.
He gathers his materials by scouring estate sales and thrift shops.
There’s a lot of trial and error involved during this hunt since he has no way of telling a puzzle’s cut pattern just by looking at its box. This adds to the challenge of finding pairs of puzzles that would merge well.
Over the years, Klein has “developed an intuitive feel” for discovering puzzles that he can utilize for his projects. But even so, putting the pieces together takes tremendous amounts of patience, perseverance, and luck.
“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,” he said.
Nevertheless, Klein takes delight in the process of creating these puzzles montages. He says he “sometimes feel like an archaeologist reconstructing some curious, shattered artefact” because the resulting images are often very different from what he pictured initially.
Klein says he rarely frames his works because he thinks it would lessen their “puzzle-y character.” He believes they’re better admired out in the open than framed under glass.
“I mount each one on a thin platform, and mount the platform on a shallow box of smaller dimensions, making the artwork appear to float about an inch in front of the wall,” he said.
Since there’s no glass to protect it from UV rays, these puzzle montages shouldn’t be displayed under direct sunlight.
Scroll down to some of the most surreal puzzle montages created by this artist.