This weeks interview features Lara from BellaPuzzlesToo. Lara is located in Portland, Oregon.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Lara Braithwaite, and my talents are making mischief and making art. I’ve joined these talents together with puzzle-making, a career that began for me in 2005. I started by cutting my thumb. It was during a scrollsaw class that my husband insisted I enroll in before buying a scrollsaw. I knew puzzle-making was going to be more than a hobby, but *he* didn’t know that, so I took the class to convince him I was serious enough to buy a $1500 scrollsaw. An hour into the first day of class I jammed my thumb against the blade. Classic newbie mistake. I worried the cut on my thumb would persuade my husband I had no business working with tools, so I hid my hand from him for two days. When he finally noticed the bandage, I passed it off as a cooking injury. The next week I finished the class, got the husband’s blessing, and bought my scrollsaw. I have been making wooden jigsaw puzzles ever since. There’s a scar on my thumb to prove it. I share life with my skeptical husband of ten years, our autistic and tomboyish daughter, and an attitudinous feline named “”Mr. Cat.””
What special things do you create for weddings?
Guest books are an often-overlooked bit of wedding planning. I create custom wooden wedding puzzles with large, signable pieces. These are more than guest books; they are wedding activity, heirloom, artwork, and puzzle, too. All of my puzzles are personalized with details like names, wedding date, and shapes. You’d be amazed at what I can do with my scroll saw to turn a simple piece of 1/4″” birch plywood into an heirloom.
Clients can choose between three types of wedding puzzles:
The first type – Photo Wedding Puzzle – has the client’s photo or other image affixed to one side of the puzzle. Guests sign the back of the puzzle pieces. I print all images myself with a large format printer.
The second type – Wood Wedding Puzzle – has no photo attached. Guests can sign both sides of the puzzle pieces. I like to make these in interesting shapes like states, hearts, trees, etc.
The last type is the Custom Color Wedding Puzzle. This one will be featured soon in Martha Stewart Weddings spring issue. Clients select two colors and I create simple, modern layouts of shapes, names, and dates using the colors chosen. Like the Wood Wedding Puzzle, these can be made in interesting shapes.
My earliest guest book style puzzles were for retirement parties and birthdays. Through word-of-mouth I began getting requests for wedding puzzles. I loved those first few conversations with brides- and grooms-to-be, and decided to offer more of these puzzle “officially.” After several months I opened a second Etsy shop dedicated exclusively to my wedding puzzles.
What is a little known fact, or something unique about your work that is interesting?
The whole process of planning, printing, mounting, and designing the image for a puzzle takes almost as long as cutting it. From start to finish a single puzzle can take three days to create.
What is your favorite wedding song?
Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
What trends do you see happening in your specialty at the moment?
Trees! I love seeing trees – a favorite symbol for family and marriage – on so many styles of guest books. There are artists who make handbound guest books with trees on the covers, I make a tree-shaped Wood Wedding Puzzle, and there are clever artists who make hand-drawn trees that guests can sign with their fingerprints (as leaves) and a signature.
Who or what sparked your interest in making wedding-related items?What is your favorite part of the wedding journey?
Choosing a location and choosing a dress. They set the tone for everything else.
What advice can you share for all the brides getting married this year?
Have the wedding *you* want. It’s difficult to avoid compromise entirely, so be sure the parts that mean the most to you are going to go the way you want. Don’t care too much about the floral arrangements? Let Mom decide. Feel strongly about the dress? Take charge there. And remember to include the groom in the big decisions about food, the guest list, and the venue.
What is your perfect honeymoon spot?
I’m partial to Hawaii.
If you could choose 1 item from your shop that you wish every bride could have, what would it be?
I would recommend the Photo Wedding Puzzle. A beautiful, professionally done engagement photo works very well for these. Select a photo with lots of room around the edges for me to place your personalized shaped puzzle pieces. They show up well in otherwise “blank” sections of photo.
What are some of your favorite shops on Etsy, wedding or otherwise?
Palomas Nest, PomLove, 3Squares, EarmarkGatherings, Flytrap, justhatched, uncommon, amberalexander, sarapaloma
To learn more about BellaPuzzlesToo visit: