• By Walkertown Branch
  • Posted Thursday, August 9, 2018

Puzzle Exhibit on Display at Walkertown Branch Library

Numerous large and colorful jigsaw puzzles assembled by Mike and Doreen Mabe will be on display at Walkertown Branch Library through the end of August. This exhibition showcases not only the beauty of the puzzles, but the challenge of their construction.

Mike and Doreen Mabe have been together 48 years. After retirement, the couple took up puzzle assembly and have put together over 100, 1000-piece puzzles over the last 12 to 14 years. They have kept around 20 puzzles, which they’ve glued together, and given the rest to public libraries, assisted living facilities or their friends.

Natalia Tuchina, branch manager at Walkertown Branch Library, conducted this interview with the Mabes about their experiences as puzzle hobbyists:

How did you start doing puzzles?

Mike: I retired in 2005 and Doreen in 2009, from teaching. We had more time on our hands and wanted a family activity that we could both be involved in. So we started to do puzzles. We created a space in our house where we could lay them out undisturbed and come back to work on them at our leisure. We started with 500-piece puzzles, then we advanced to 1000-piece puzzles. We’d work on a puzzle on our own, as well as together.

We also began admiring puzzle artwork. We settled on a favorite brand, Springbok. The pieces fit together nicely and there’s not much dust. We found another brand that’s made in Italy, Clementoni. They have marvelous artwork—animals, landscapes, places—but they’re hard, really hard. They’re challenging to put together. Doreen doesn’t like them and I like them, so we trade off deciding what the next puzzle we do is. We have accomplished about 10 to 12 puzzles a year for the last 12 or 14 years.

We started storing puzzles we had done and taken apart in the basement, but they started building up. So we started giving them away to public libraries and retirement homes. As we honed in on the beautiful artwork that we admired, we started gluing them.

We have about 20 glued puzzles displayed around the house, in the basement “museum,” and in our home gym. We thought maybe this would be an interesting exhibit for a public library.

We travel a lot and still substitute teach often, so doing puzzles is just part of our spare-time activity to keep our minds going. You use color and shape to figure out where the pieces fit together. It’s good mental exercise.

How do you decide on what puzzle to pick? Do you buy them in a store or online?

Mike: We do both. We travel, so we seek local pictures on puzzles. We like to bring them back from trips, such as to Florida or Washington, D.C. We go online and order Clementoni from Amazon. We also shop at the local Hallmark store and find some there (Doreen: They carry Springbok).

How does it feel when you finish a puzzle?

Mike: Relief! Sometimes we can’t wait to get them done. Then other times, there’s no rush, there’s no deadline. Sometimes we’ll get depressed not being able to find a piece for 30 minutes and get up and leave out of frustration. It’s amazing how if you can’t find something sitting, you can stand up and the distance can make it jump out at you. It’s amazing how the mind and eye work together to solve puzzles.

Have you ever finished and had one piece missing?

Both: Yes.

Doreen: There’s one puzzle we brought you that has a piece missing.

Mike: We’re very careful, but it’s easy to lose a piece in the vacuum cleaner or have a piece fall into the cuff of your pants. Then you’ll find it in another room. That’s definitely happened before.

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