Pandemic puzzles: Calgary friends craft new opportunity during COVID-19


COVID-19 has forced a lot of Calgarians to make some big changes in their career direction.

For one group of three longtime friends, it’s a pandemic pivot where all the pieces are falling into place.

The men are working together at StumpCraft, a Calgary company that creates laser-cut wooden puzzles.

“We work with a variety of Canadian artists and what I do is I design puzzles and patterns that reflect the theme of their art,” StumpCraft’s Jasen Robillard said. “So I’ll include whimsical people, animals, objects, symbols that relate to that theme.”

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Manufacturing puzzles marks a major career shift for Robillard.

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“Prior to puzzle making I was an environmental engineer and worked in the oil field,” Robillard said. “I was a big puzzle fan and thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.”

Robillard’s longtime friend Cory Krygier also tossed in his hat.

“I used to be a partner in a home-building company and as soon as the pandemic hit, it essentially closed us down,” Krygier said.

“It was perfect timing to jump into this.”

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The company has been enjoying growing demand as puzzles have taken off during the global pandemic.

“We’re going to send one off to Switzerland later today,” Krygier said.

“We’ve sent them off to the (United Arab) Emirates, we’ve been sending them to Australia — all over the world.”

Making puzzles is also a huge shift for the third member of the team, James Lee.

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“I am trained as a geologist and I’ve had a 20-year career in oil and gas, (but) I was laid off almost a year ago now,” Lee said. “When this opportunity came up, I jumped at it.”

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Lee and his colleagues are also jumping at the opportunity to promote mental health, by donating puzzles to nurses and to families with sick kids staying at the Ronald McDonald Houses.

“To be able to supply a little something that might give some joy to somebody that’s in a tough time, I think that’s a great idea,” Lee said.

StumpCraft has so far created 20 different wooden puzzles.

“The full range goes from just over 100 pieces to about 900 pieces,” Robillard said.

The three men are enjoying piecing together a bright future — as Lee notes with a laugh, “A friend of mine calls me the puzzler.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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