Nicola Caras has been an avid jigsaw puzzler for seven years, ever since her kids were given a 1000-piece puzzle they were too young to finish and the job went to her. She got into puzzles, but noticed one thing. “They [usually] had such daggy images. Like, boring landscapes, horses on fields or farms, flowers in a paddock – I was even doing Disney ones,” she tells Broadsheet. “Back then I would’ve killed for a cool one by an artist I liked.”
She couldn’t find one, so she and friend Lauren Seeman decided to make them. That’s how Journey of Something – a Melbourne-based company dedicated to beautiful puzzles and other knick-knacks – was born.
Each 1000-piece puzzle comes with a dust bag and a sturdy box with a hinged lid. There’s an image of the design under the lid, which you can leave open (with attached ribbons) so there’s less strain on your neck when you’re trying to work out where a piece should go. Alternatively, you can get a puzzle in a soft pack for a reduced price.
The pair approach artists and photographers they admire to see if they would like their work to feature on a puzzle. “There’s a lot of Instagram stalking,” Caras says. “But Lauren’s a graphic designer and always has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the design scene. There’s a lot of looking at what’s trending with homewares and colour palettes, because we want the puzzle to be frameable art.”
Journey of Something has collaborated with a number of artists, photographers and creatives, both local and international. There’s a puzzle with an image of the Amalfi Coast (with bright orange umbrellas and blue waters) by Australian photographer Armelle Habib; a colourful illustration of native flora by Leah Bartholome; and a dot painting (with lots of blues and pinks) by Indigenous artist Natalie Jade. There's also an X-rated puzzle featuring a photo by Barbara Nitke, a New York City photographer who has worked extensively in the porn and BDSM communities.
Melbourne illustrator Billie Morris was even commissioned to draw an image of Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner for the Edition K puzzle.
“A puzzle with Kanye was always the example we’d give about [how to] reinvent puzzles, and now we actually have one featuring him and the Kardashian sisters,” Caras ays. “It’s got lots of really fun details: Taylor Swift’s on the dartboard, there are Yeezy clothes, one of them is taking a selfie; there’s lots to discover in it.”
From puzzles, the company has branched into other gift-y products, such as scented soy candles (with the phrases “#lit”, “melt down” and “hot mess”), and a board game based on Guess Who featuring famous (and infamous) political figures called Guess the Politician. There are also boxes of fortune cookies filled with conversation starters and funny phrases (one example: “Most of my socks are single and you don’t see them crying about it”).
“I think, ultimately, what we love is design,” says Caras. “That’s why it’s called Journey of Something: we didn’t know where it was going to go. I started out with puzzles but it’s expanding into other somethings.
“I guess the irony is that now we’re so busy I don’t have as much time to do [puzzles], but when the kids go to bed [my husband and I] will sit around the table with tea or a glass of wine and just do puzzle night. It just gets so hypnotic, and so satisfying every time you get a piece right.”