How Eric Became the Puzzle Guy
30 years ago, Eric Dowdle was hard at work building his reputation as a budding artist. He developed an original style of art by applying folk art stylings to modern settings. Things were going along well when one evening he met a celebrity who was assembling a folk-themed puzzle. As they worked the puzzle, the man's demeanor was relaxed and natural. Conversation flowed easily as they worked on the puzzle. Eric said, "After half an hour, it felt like we were longtime friends. It was an amazing experience. The idea that my art would make great puzzles kept coming up but I balked. I thought I'm an artist. No, thank you puzzles." The idea didn’t go away though. A while later, Eric produced his first puzzle and over ten years, the puzzle market continued to take off, dragging Eric with it. "People started calling me 'the Puzzle Guy, and I would cringe. I was an artist. No one goes to art school with the idea that 'Yay puzzles! That's where it's at.' I was still pushing back against the idea."
When Eric was put in charge of a program to celebrate Currier and Ives' art, he was not aware of how it would change his outlook. Currier and Ives sold themselves as "Publishers of Cheap and Popular Prints." Their images showed scenes of American life. They made art obtainable for the average person. Eric learned that people would hang a Currier and Ives print prominently in their homes. Families and guests would gather in front of the art to study and discuss it for long periods. "People don't do that anymore. We live in a 'microwave society' where the competition for attention span is fierce. People glance at art on a wall for a couple of seconds and move on. With puzzles, I get to share art, and a story with people and have their attention for 3 hours or more. It was an epiphany."
Eric is, above all else, a storyteller. Seeing how puzzles can get the art story in front of an audience for several hours, the puzzle picture came together for him. It was a method of sharing his stories in a meaningful way to bring people together. "It's like it slows down time, strips away our barriers, and opens conversations to create bonds. I finally realized that I was helping create this positive environment with these puzzles. Suddenly I was ok being 'the Puzzle Guy.' I love the thought of the art and puzzles bringing families and people together."
Dowdle has produced over 10 million puzzles. These have been shared by millions more. "I feel incredibly blessed to have been apart of so many people's lives," Eric said," I hope to be able to keep doing this for years to come. I still believe in bringing people together one puzzle piece at a time." We also feel blessed to work with Eric, to share his vision, and to have so many amazing friends, fans, and enthusiasts who share our love of puzzles, Eric's art. You make our work worthwhile. Puzzle on.