Some Assembly Required

Marc Tschida, BA’96, maneuvers his scroll saw through striking images of the Sample Gates, Griffy Lake, Beck Chapel, and more. But the Bloomington-based Press Puzzles owner isn’t just handcrafting original jigsaw puzzles—he’s fostering community.

“Typically, you [do puzzles] with a group of people—say family,” Tschida explains. “So, puzzles bring unity and, at the same time, they also can give a sense of place.”

He may be onto something. With families in many communities largely stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, demand for jigsaw puzzles has soared nationwide.

By day, Tschida serves as operations and business manager for the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, home to one of the country’s longest-running world music festivals.

And in his free time? “I photograph the sights, sounds, and events that really represent my community,” Tschida says. Then he transforms those images into workable jigsaw puzzles. He’s been at it since 2013. Although Bloomington and Indiana University locations dominate, Tschida recently expanded his creative and geographic repertoire to include scenes from Indianapolis, Columbus, Madison, Spencer, the Indiana Dunes, and others.

To make his photographic puzzles, Tschida adheres archival-grade prints to one-quarter-inch wood sheets, cures them inside a vacuum press, and then cuts out individual puzzle pieces. To finish, he coats the puzzle’s front with acrylic and lightly sands and waxes the puzzle’s back.

Tschida also makes marquetry-style puzzles, including a mixed-wood series of all 50 U.S. states. Two of those puzzles belong to former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Tschida’s puzzles are also owned by John Mellencamp, DM Hon’00, Stephen King, and T-Bone Burnett.

Common to much of Tschida’s work? “My Indiana [photographic] and my mixed-wood puzzles feature an Indiana-shaped piece somewhere,” he says. “Most puzzle cutters have a signature piece they include. It made sense that Indiana be my figural shape.”

This story appeared in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of the IU Alumni Magazine, a magazine for members of the IU Alumni Association. View current and past issues of the IUAM.

Written By
Susan M. Brackney
Susan M. Brackney, BA’94, has been a professional writer since 1995. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, she has written four nonfiction books, including Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest-Working Creatures on the Planet.