“I think it’s in the Constitution that you have to have a puzzle at the cottage,” jokes Brigitte Gall. She and her husband, photographer Michael Bainbridge, founded TheOccurrence, a toy and game company, in 2018 after watching their friends huddle around a puzzle of van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” on a freezing New Year’s Eve. “We looked at each other and had that little lightbulb moment,” recalls Brigitte. “We could make puzzles with Michael’s photography.”
They launched the company just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (“We accidentally opened up a jigsaw puzzle business at exactly the right time,” says Michael.) By now they’ve made roughly 30,000 puzzles; TheOccurrence specializes in niche Canadiana imagery including scenes from Ontario cottage country. The Road Trip series—featuring road signs from areas including Haliburton and Lanark County—is a favourite of Brigitte and Michael’s. They spent days traveling around cottage country and photographing the signs. “It was really surprising, actually, to see how much the culture of a place was evident in the road signs,” says Michael “And it’s fun to capture that for each of the different places.”
Brigitte is a long-time Haliburton cottager, and the couple moved to the area full-time in 2009. They support the community however they can, from manufacturing the puzzles in-house to using environmentally conscious materials such as 100 per cent recycled board and paper, and water-based inks for printing. Brigitte takes pride in the puzzles and the company. “We’re like the Ravensburger of the north.”
This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue of Cottage Life.