The notion that “it would be fun to buy a laser cutter” kept creeping into Maya Gupta’s brain. “I studied electrical engineering because I was interested in lasers,” she explained in the warehouse space of Menlo Park-based Artifact Puzzles, which she started as a hobby and is turning into a business.
The idea of making puzzles using a laser cutter faced one significant hurdle. “Laser cutters are not designed to cut plywood, which are what puzzles are made out of,” she said. “They’re made to cut wood. It takes a lot of work to cut 300 pieces.”
Artifact puzzles are designed for teens and adults and range in size from 54 to close to 600 pieces, priced from $25 to $120. Many contain”whimsy pieces,” a recognizable shape of something, such as an animal or airplane.
About 100 different puzzles are in stock at any given time, and 40 new puzzles will debut this year. “We spend a lot of time deciding how to design the pieces,” said Maya. “Shapes and sizes are what make puzzles interesting. A puzzle needs to look good in pieces as well as when it’s put together.”
Customer feedback is key to puzzle creation. “It’s fun to read the customer reviews,” said Maya. “Some of our customers buy every puzzle we make — there are a lot of collectors!
“Our customers also select what images we should use to make a puzzle. We give them five options and they vote.
“Van Gogh has been a popular artist but Picasso has not. We also commission original artwork. Hummingbirds have been our best seller.
Maya and her team welcome inquiries from artists about licensing their artwork. They can be reached at email@example.com
Photos by Rebecca Flanagan