Here’s an old article from the Sydney Morning Herald we’ve dug out of the vault that explains the story of how Tuzzles™ began:
Faced With A Puzzle, Invention Is The Necessity Of Motherhood
Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday April 9, 2002
Twenty-five years ago Bronwyn Savage’s second son, Ian, was born with cerebral palsy. As a child he had to wear calipers for two or three hours a day to keep his leg muscles from contracting. She was told by doctors that he would never walk.
One of the Queensland mother’s challenges was keeping Ian stimulated. Her son enjoyed simple puzzles, but she could not find enough of them. She helped establish a toy library for disabled children in her home town of Mackay, but that did not solve her problem.
So Ms Savage did what many parents before her have done: she decided she might as well make the puzzles herself, invention being a necessity of motherhood.
“I’m not the sort to wait for somebody else to do something for me,” she says matter-of-factly.
With a self-sufficiency she regards as typically Australian she set about teaching herself how to do it. She examined the few wooden puzzles available in stores. She talked to teachers about the needs of children, abled and disabled.
She educated herself in the ways of plywood, learned screen printing and airbrushing, then bought some timber from her local hardware store and made her first puzzle at home with a hand-held jig saw. It was a green and black fish with yellow spots.
“It was disgusting,” she says. “I’ve still got it. I look at it and laugh. I keep it because it’s important to know where you’ve come from and how far you’ve come.”
Ms Savage kept experimenting. When she sold a puzzle to a local pre-school, the Tuzzles business was born. The company now makes 600 designs, turns out more than 20,000 puzzles a year and employs 13 people in a factory in Mackay.
Along the way, her jig saw was swapped for a scroll saw, which was then swapped for a laser cutter, which was recently swapped for an even more powerful laser cutter.
And after two decades of supplying the educational market, Ms Savage has this year put her toe into the retail business. In February she took Tuzzles to the World Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. As a result of that trip her puzzles will now be sold in the legendary London toy store Hamleys, and Harrods is considering a deal.
A visit to the Australian Toy, Nursery and Hobby Fair, held last month in Melbourne, has resulted in a batch of orders from local stores. Sydneysiders will soon be able to buy Tuzzles from the bookseller Dymocks, as well as boutique toy stores.
Meanwhile, Ian, the inspiration for the venture, began work at the company four years ago. He runs the laser etching machine and programs the computerised cutter to make puzzles. He walks with crutches, and uses a wheelchair only for longer journeys and basketball.
“I admire him,” his mother says. “He drives a car, gets himself around. He’s really committed to work. If he has to be up and at work at a certain time he will get there, though it takes him six times the effort to get out of a chair than it would you or I. It takes him six times the effort to do anything. He has a wicked sense of humour. And he has guts.”
© 2002 Sydney Morning Herald