About Puzzle People

Puzzle People handcrafts high-quality wooden puzzles for education, fun, presentation, creativity, and more. Our products are kid-friendly, eco-friendly, non-toxic, and have been lovingly handmade in Northern California, USA since 1972.  We often hear from customers (who received one of our puzzles as a child) that are now Grandparents sharing the puzzle, and also finding a new puzzle for their family.

Since June 2023, Jeff and Joanna have increased their role in the family puzzle business to enable the founders, Michael and Pat, to ease into retirement. The family is excited and honored to continue the legacy of handcrafted wood puzzles, made at their off-grid home and workshop in the Redwoods! 

Our Team


Jeff, Pat’s son, first cut a puzzle at the young age of 13. Since then, he’s lent his talents to a variety of careers ranging from the US Air Force to Business Analyst. Finally, he’s returned to the Redwoods to take on the family business! He’s honored to be guiding the next generation Puzzle People along with Joanna, and excited to continue the legacy of crafting puzzles that become family heirlooms. 


As a lifelong puzzle lover, Joanna is thrilled to be joining the Puzzle People family as a new co-owner with Jeff! With a background as a professional chef and outdoor garment designer, creating puzzles is a new and exciting artistic adventure in her dedication to creativity and craftsmanship.

Michael & Pat

The original Puzzle People themselves! In the early 70’s, Michael was a street artist. It wasn’t long until he was approached by a San Francisco businessman and started Puzzle People. About this time, Pat joined in marriage & business partnership! Thanks to them, kids have been enjoying lovingly handcrafted educational puzzles for over 50 years. While they may be retiring from the official helm, they'll continue to be important pieces of the family business through their guidance, support, and creative input.

A Puzzle People Timeline

What a journey it's been! We're proud to celebrate over 50 years as a family-owned business handcrafting kid-safe, eco-friendly wooden puzzles.

Puzzle people is born


The Puzzle People was started by Michael Smith. One Christmas, Michael made a wooden USA map puzzle for a young nephew. After seeing the public response to quality wooden puzzles, he came to realize there was real satisfaction in making wooden puzzles and a potential for earning a living. Within that year, he shifted over to full-time puzzle maker and street artist.

The Dynamic Duo meets


A big year in Puzzle People history! Not only did Michael and Pat meet, but the doors opened to the first ever brick-and-mortar Puzzle People store on Pier 39 in San Francisco (after being personally scouted by the Pier's retail curator!).

Small business, big growth


Puzzle People is in full swing, manufacturing for dozens of wholesale accounts and running four retail locations across the country. Pat & Michael married, and Pat retired from her tech job to go in full-time on the family puzzle business and join Michael in his riverside log cabin.

Family First


Pat & Michael's first (of many!) grandchild was born! After decades of meeting the public in their retail store, the couple decided to slow down and start a new adventure by moving their workshop and home to a beautiful redwood grove near Philo, California.

A new chapter


The Puzzle People go online! Their first web store was launched as Michael & Pat continued to prioritize more time together and with their growing grandkids.

puzzles in the oval office


Michael and Pat shut down their last brick & mortar store and moved to Redwood Grove (their current home), completing the transition to taking Puzzle People fully online. The same year, they were honored by a commission to create a custom puzzle for the Obama family – featuring none other than the First Dog himself, Bo the Portuguese Water Dog.

The next generation


Jeff, Pat's son, and his partner Joanna were passed the Puzzle People torch to continue the legacy of handcrafted wood puzzles from the Redwood grove workshop. Michael & Pat are looking forward to more time for traveling, gardening, and enjoying their chosen lifestyle.