Rewa Walters and Sophie Morrison are combining art with mindfulness to create a powerhouse of puzzles
Rewa Walters and Sophie Morrison had always wanted to start a business together, but the only question was what. “We wanted to do something that had social impact, something that made a difference or something that supported other Kiwis,” says Rewa. For the pair, who have spent many a night crowding round a dining table, their jigsaw hobby seemed to be, well, the missing piece of the puzzle. “Puzzles ticked all those boxes with the endless health benefits and it’s a pastime pleasure we both enjoy,” says Sophie. In other words, it was the perfect fit.
Thus, PieceHouse was born, offering picturesque puzzles with a mission statement of heart and social responsibility. The end results are good enough to hang on your walls to add that perfect pop of colour and vibrancy. As for Rewa and Sophie, they’re constantly on the lookout for their next collaboration through their day-to-day life, from scrolling social media, to flicking through magazines, and walking past a street installation. “We’re always on the hunt to find emerging and established New Zealand artists who have an eye-catching work that would look amazing but also make for an enjoyable puzzle experience,” says Sophie. They’re also only too pleased to be approached by local artists who are keen to collaborate.
What inspired PieceHouse?
Sophie: We felt puzzle artwork was boring and dated, and there was a need for high quality, unique and modern puzzle designs. We wanted to disrupt the market with a fresh approach showcasing the talent of New Zealand artists and feature their work in a different format. When art meets puzzles, really.
Were you both big puzzle people growing up?
Sophie: I have always loved a good game or activity, often doing jigsaws as a kid. I stumbled back into it about five years ago, after doing a puzzle on holiday, then joking with some friends about doing them outside of holiday times. It became a thing and puzzle nights have been happening regularly since 2018.
Rewa: I am a part-time puzzler, and would occasionally do puzzles during the holidays or with friends and family.
What does your collaboration process with New Zealand artists look like from beginning to end?
Sophie: We have an extensive library of New Zealand artists, which we work through for each puzzle drop, and a shortlist with a range of artists who we think will be most suitable. We connect with the artists and provide them with an open brief to create a one-off commissioned artwork that is true to them and what they want to create. There is a little bit of guidance on what makes a good puzzle along with referencing some artwork of theirs that we particularly like, otherwise the puzzle art is theirs for the making. Once the artwork is ready, Sophie works her magic with box colours and puzzle names, which we’ll ask the artist to approve and to check that they love it. We take every opportunity to showcase the artists and their amazing work, through blogs and social media, providing them with awareness when possible.
What goes into making a good puzzle? What criteria and ideas do you think about when working with the artists?
Sophie: Detail, detail, detail. Lots of little details make the puzzle more fun and engaging. Using a range of colours and contrast with not too much block colour or empty space while appealing to our audience. We aim for our puzzles to be medium difficulty, striking the balance of challenging yet enjoyable.
What have been some of the unexpected challenges?
Rewa: Even though we’re passionate and hard workers, we learnt quickly that even small businesses with a small product offering require a lot of work. Whether it’s finding reliable partners to work with or streamlining the customer process, it has taught us a lot. We don’t shy away from a challenge, so we put our heads down and got to work (and took breaks to puzzle, of course). We are continually looking for ways to improve our customers’ experience and exceed their expectations.
What’s it like running the business together? Is there a yin/yang dynamic going on?
Rewa: We worked together about six years ago, so we knew and understood each other’s working style. We have similar work ethics and trust each other to deliver quality. Our working styles complement each other, with Sophie being the creative mind and I’m the operational whizz. We work closely together and are in constant communication.
A big part of PieceHouse is about cultivating mindfulness. How do you cultivate that in your day-to-day life?
Rewa: It is all about having a balanced routine and being organised. I like to have my days mapped out, so I have a clear head and that allows me to give myself 100 percent to the occasion. Exercising, eating healthy, getting a good night’s sleep and, of course, puzzling are front and centre.
Sophie: In the past I have been a bit of a workaholic, but I now make sure I find time to relax and unwind, if I find I am not, I literally schedule it in and thank myself later. Plus, I always have a puzzle on the go to potter away on when I want a break from the screen, it’s a great work lunch activity.
PieceHouse has a partnership with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand; can you touch on that relationship and why it’s important to you?
Rewa: We are extremely proud to donate $1 of every sale to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. They are our partner of choice as they align with our ‘Why?’ At the core of what we do, our mission is to bring positive change to New Zealanders through puzzles by cultivating mindfulness and bringing people together for meaningful moments. Puzzles are proven to contribute to supporting mental health, they help us to de-stress, increase productivity, improve memory, improve problem-solving skills and more. It’s a full brain exercise. By donating to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand we can help them continue to bring positive changes to New Zealanders’ mental health and wellbeing, whether that is through their incredible programmes, campaigns or services.
What’s next for PieceHouse? Do you have any exciting developments in the pipelines?
Sophie: There’s the Christmas gift hamper range, adding to our existing range of puzzle hampers that create the perfect puzzle experience. Plus, more exciting collaborations with new artists. We’re also looking at expanding to the United Kingdom and the US, making PieceHouse accessible internationally and putting it on a bigger stage. Finally, puzzle mats, so you don’t have to hog
the dining table.
How can people support PieceHouse and your gorgeous puzzles?