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For The Love of Art

By Hailea Boykin

Part of my teen and early adult years included puzzles with my cousin. One thousand (sometimes even more) pieces were dumped on the perfectly square, black folding table in front of the living room TV. For some reason we always chose the most difficult designs and would spend hours sorting and grouping the pieces by color and design in a fruitful attempt to make the piecing process easier. Of course, I say fruitful because then came the task of fitting each of the sides together which included a lot of sifting and “Oh I thought this would’ve fit,” but actually wouldn’t even come close. All of this is to say one thing: There is a certain nostalgia that puzzle building holds for many, if not most of us.

Very Good Puzzle knows this feeling well, but has added their own touches. As lovers of art and puzzling, Paige and Brian Dixon always search for unique pieces of art that tell a story and share new perspectives. The company began in 2017 and has blossomed into a plethora of support for local artists with all different mediums and styles. They start with the art which results in a beautifully unique (and sometimes perfectly eccentric) puzzle. “The whole idea is for us to share their art in a fun and accessible way,” stated Brian Dixon.

Upon speaking with Dixon, he put a lot of emphasis on the work of these local artists, “We don’t like to put ourselves into our promotion too much, we try to put the artists into it.” He directed me towards two people he knows very well, Mary Porter and Will Eskridge — whom you may remember from our spring 2021 issue, which only goes to show how tight knit the Athens art community really is.

From Will Eskridge

Determined to be an artist since his childhood, Will Eskridge never stopped creating. In his older age, graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, fear sat at the forefront of his mind. He took up graphic design to pay bills but deep down couldn’t keep away his love for fine art. After some years, Eskridge pushed aside his fear, quit graphic design and ran with his fiery, creative passion.

Flash forward to today, Eskridge has found his groove and hasn’t stopped celebrating his louder love of animals with the Athens community. “I’ve actually been doing a lot of murals as of late,” said Eskridge. “A few different ones for local businesses and schools.”  He also hopes to open some studios this year as things get a little safer.

After his successful Beach Punx debut, Eskridge continued with Hit Singles, Lil’ Clawz and Weird All In This Together. Weird All In This Together features the familiar outcasts — some with a snack or record — partying until the sun comes up. New to his arsenal are Hit Singles — originals with a twist — they can be mixed and matched for your own perfect showcase. A raccoon and a slice of pizza? What about a stout beer? How about all three … the raccoon would probably enjoy the snacks.

From Mary Porter

Mary Porter’s unofficial start in art began at a little wooden table stocked with construction paper, Prang watercolors, pencils, scissors and any child’s holy grail — a jumbo box of Crayola crayons with a built-in sharpener. “Growing up, I was always drawing something … My mother lamented that being sent to my room did not constitute a punishment,” said Porter.

After formal training at UGA, Porter now finds her inspiration through light, color and liveliness. Her artistic process is one of continuity, “You have to have a regular studio habit,” she says. “You begin painting with a concept, but it never ends up like your preconceived idea … Some paintings materialize quickly but most need to evolve over time to achieve physical layering and emotional depth.”

Porter continues bringing life to still photos — front porches, cars, yards and foods — with one crucial question on her mind at all times: “What is important?” The answer: “That is to make something meaningful.” Her studio walls are currently lined with sketches that she hopes will materialize and evolve into something that will be an inspiration to us all.

One Last Piece

Occasionally you can catch puzzle building action on their Facebook page, Very Good Puzzle, where even Daryl gets in on the fun — Daryl is their black cat and company mascot. He enjoys puzzling as well, though his version is more of a counter-productive pawing at the pieces (but we won’t tell him that). He is, as they’ve jokingly deemed him, “shipping manager,” though where he fits, he sits, even if that means getting cozy for a cat-nap inside the box.

These thousand-piece puzzles make good gifts for any art or puzzle lover. A portion of each purchase goes directly to the artists and the arts. If you discover an artist that calls to you, each puzzle is accompanied by a short bio on the back of the box where you can find their contact or website.

Whether it was with your parents as a child, in your young adult years with an aunt or uncle, or even as an adult by yourself, there is a particular comfort provided by matching colors and piecing edges of a beautiful puzzle together. Not to mention Very Good Puzzle and the artists always have something glorious to behold.