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December 5, 2015
Source: Longmont Times-Call

Made in Boulder County: Local artists present a treasure trove

The soft-spoken, mild-mannered puzzle designer hunkered over his sketchbook in the morning sunshine looks anything but loathsome.

Yet, Liberty Puzzle customers love to hate him.

"He's had a lot of profanity directed at him," said Chris Wirth, who co-owns the Boulder-based company with Jeff Eldridge.

Wirth, 48, is only half joking, and that's money in the bank.

Lynon Aksamit's designs force players away from the usual outside-in puzzle building method. For example, he splits the telltale corner pieces. Then, he brings fresh oddity to all the other pieces, draws them freehand with borders reminiscent of Chile's southern coast — a texture of inlets, peninsulas and twisty causeways that mirror other pieces with keyhole precision on a Lilliputian scale.

In this forest of irregular shapes laser cut on the underside of the puzzle's quarter inch-thick maple plywood, Aksamit also embeds so-called whimsy pieces. A movie star with two paparazzi. A skier and a snowflake. A man sitting cross-legged on a bench strumming a guitar. About 35 contemporary artists, including locals such as Louisville resident Janice Larson, provide original art for some of the 500-plus puzzles featured on the company's website. Other puzzle scenes include vintage Harper's Magazine covers and classical art, such as Leonardo da Vinci's "Annunciation" oil painting.

Puzzles range from extra small, 80-piece puzzles for $39 to extra large, 1,534-piece puzzles for $425.

The 10-year-old company with 35 employees also designs and manufactures Little Liberty Puzzles for kids and customizes puzzle designs with family photographs and submitted images not otherwise licensed by, say, the Denver Broncos or Disney.

"This is decidedly non-digital entertainment," Wirth said. "... And it is something too specialized to farm out, just not something a big factory in China can figure out."

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— Pam Mellskog

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