How I worked with female artists to launch my jigsaw puzzle business

Growing up, I was never an artsy person. My upbringing to Vietnamese migrant parents meant that pursuing a career in a traditionally well-respected profession was valued over doing anything creative. Their efforts did not go to waste because I ended up becoming a lawyer. But this career trajectory has led me to put a lot of pressure on myself so while I was studying at uni, I turned to jigsaw puzzles as a coping mechanism for my stress. 

Puzzles were my therapy (and still are) and doing one puzzle after another gave me more exposure to the art space. I was always on the lookout for jigsaw puzzles within the Australian market that had beautiful and contemporary art since I would be spending countless hours putting the pieces together. Finding puzzles that were not stock photos was difficult which gave me the idea to build The Positive Piece – a brand that aims to help others relax and connect to the present through beautiful jigsaw puzzles. 

An important aspect of this business idea was art procurement. Like many people, I didn’t know any artists outside the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh. I wanted to learn more about art, particularly female artists so I scoured Instagram to find some that I loved. I became drawn to work by female artists from culturally diverse backgrounds like Bayley Mifsud, the Aboriginal artist behind our Merindah-Gunya puzzle and Krystelle Ann Avsec, the Filipina-American artist who created our Moroccan Oasis puzzle artwork. This is when I recognised that art is a powerful form of communication for these creatives to convey their cultural perspectives and experiences, and featuring art by diverse female artists through puzzles would be a great way to support intercultural understanding. For the first collection of puzzles, I manifested this vision and reached out to six female artists who originate from different parts of the world. 

Another key aspect of art procurement is licensing and this is where being a law student came in very handy. To familiarise myself with the basics of copyright law, I elected to do a foundation of intellectual property course in my last semester. I also took advantage of my accessibility to legal databases where I found mock licensing agreements that I could adapt to the puzzle business. This background helped me ensure that I was obtaining permission to use art legally and ethically. Further, I wanted to provide artists with certainty that they maintain ownership of their works and the business will only be using their art in the ways authorised by the license.

There have been many times on this business journey that I have felt my lack of an artistic background would be a significant barrier to building this business. However, I am appreciative of my background in law as it has taught me valuable knowledge that I need to build this business. For what I lack, I make up for in passion and willingness to learn. The Positive Piece has been my creative outlet from my 9 to 5 as a lawyer and I plan to continue working with female artists to produce puzzles that will help people of all ages to destress and unwind.