Yavuz Demirhan is one of the most prolific puzzle designers around, putting out new creations every few days. Between 24 April 2011 and 21 September 2014 he published 370 puzzle designs and there is no sign of him slowing down.
Yavuz has had an interest in puzzles since he was young. As he explained in an email interview conducted between February and July 2014, “I was always busy as a child, handling and working with wooden blocks in a variety of ways. Creating and building shapes was natural to me, and was a conduit to express my creativity and expression. Whenever I was involved in such activities, I felt connected with a deep sense of fulfilment.”
Yavuz’s introduction to the world of wooden puzzle making is connected to a trip he took to Mexico in 2001 to work with disabled children as part of a university social project. The project lasted for around two months and afterwards Yavuz decided to move to Mexico, living in the city of Juchitán de Zaragoza in the state of Oaxaca. Located in Southwestern Mexico it is home to many indigenous Zapotecs.
Yavuz explained, “I was staying with a family who welcomed me in their home. The husband was handicapped and had a special corner in which he stored simple and over-used tools to repair domestic appliances such as mixers and ventilators. Since I spoke no Spanish at the time and had no specific occupation, nor a very extensive social network, I started spending time in that corner, with him joining me from time to time.
“One day, he asked me to create a reproduction of a kaleidoscope that I had brought from Germany and offered his daughter. I looked for a plan on the Internet, found one but then came across a plan to create a wooden knot puzzle … and therefore proceeded to create my very first puzzle, after a two week intensive trial period!
“The man of the house encouraged me all along on this journey, and still today, I recall the deep sense of victory and achievement as I was holding the puzzle in my hands, the man cheering on! A neighbour came in and loved the puzzle so much that he wanted to buy it…”
Yavuz continued, “I made the acquaintance of numerous carpenters who taught me the proper skills and generously shared their expertise with me – and my first experience in relating to a public unfamiliar with puzzles and their inner nature. I developed a large network of customers on the ‘zocalo’ from a variety of backgrounds: teachers; architects, engineers… my name circulated to other cities, with a strong interest from schools.”
Yavuz made his puzzles from regional woods such as balsamo, huanacaxtle and limoncillo as well as discarded doors and furniture that he found.
He left Mexico in 2009 moving to Datça in the south-west of Turkey where he decided to make a living producing and selling his own line of puzzles. He set up a workshop next to his house and put out his first puzzle in April 2011, called Chicos Woodworm. The puzzle was named after Don Chico, a Mexican carpenter who taught and supported him over the years.
Yavuz’s stated mission is make puzzles that can be appreciated by the wider public. He elaborated, “Since I am in regular contact with the public and am sensitive to the needs of people to introduce them to the intricate world of puzzles, I somehow specialized in accessible, fairly simple, nicely shaped puzzles. As soon as I finish one, my mind moves on to the next one, a new concept, a new idea… one idea combined to another, and so on… creating a myriad of possibilities!… which most probably explains my prolific output!”
Yavuz specialises in wooden take-apart puzzles often composed of simple, congruent pieces which are chosen both for ease of construction and aesthetic reasons. Yavuz always starts a design with the finished shape, working backwards to find the shape of the pieces. The puzzle creation process usually takes him a couple of hours from the idea to the finished design with the longest he has spent on a puzzle being a week. He favours contrast and variety in his choice of woods, often combining wenge (which is black in colour), padouk (a reddish colour) and maple (white in colour) in his puzzles.
“I am interested in the variety of shapes and how I can enhance its accessibility for users. Since I am also a carpenter, pieces have a similar background to ease the actual wood making. This is the reason why the majority of my interlocking puzzle design has congruent pieces.”
Asked if he has a favourite from his numerous designs, Yavuz said, “There are many I like; if I have to choose one, I would pick the Tres Jolie puzzle made in November 2013.”
(All photos courtesy Yavuz Demirhan)