Expat adventures

Wed, 31. Jul. 2019
A fabulous jigsaw: one of the past treasures to be found at the Brocante (Anna Charles)

Not long after moving to Saanenland I decided that jigsaw puzzles and the local Scherenschnitt art were a match made in heaven.

The monochrome patterns would make naturally difficult puzzles and the number of near identical cut lines doubly so.

I asked Michel Villiger, a local master craftsman of Scherenschnitt, to create a special design, contacted a jigsaw puzzle manufacturer and before long a hundred or so boxes of my very own product landed on my doorstep.

Call it a madcap scheme, but for one reason or another I didn’t sell them all. We stacked the leftover boxes at the back of the garage and largely forgot about them until a neighbour mentioned the Saanen Brocante.

Saanen Brocante
This market is held every summer. It’s a wonderfully festive occasion and if you’re near Saanen on 3 August, I definitely recommend you take a look. There’s a staggering array of items for sale, plus copious amounts of food and drink to enjoy. These days we attend the market as visitors, but that year, with the puzzles still consuming an annoying amount of garage space, I decided to have a go at selling them.

The wonderful Marina von Grünigen found me a spot despite the last-minuteness of my request and with some trepidation I set up my stall that Saturday morning. I was joined by my husband and youngest son and our plan was simple: rather than any active selling (which I despise), we would stand there completing one of the puzzles and see if anyone was interested.

Initially things were very slow. After an hour we had sold just one puzzle. Perhaps our approach was wrong? Worse, it had started to rain. Our makeshift market stall didn’t stretch to any kind of canopy, so we resorted to holding an umbrella above us. It was cold and rather unpleasant, and certainly not the kind of weather to bring visitors flocking to the market. It looked as though the day would be a washout.

But then something miraculous happened: despite the rain and despite the cold, people started to arrive and we began to sell puzzles. Lots of puzzles. So many, in fact, that we were in danger of running out of stock. My husband gallantly drove home to collect the remaining boxes and before the market closed that day, we had sold every single one.

If you load in all the costs of design and manufacture, I’m pretty sure we didn’t make a ‘profit’ as such, but it was still, as my Dad would say “a job well done”. That evening we dined out on our earnings at a swanky restaurant.

Handbags and gladrags
Not that this had been the original plan. During the day we had each taken short breaks from our stall and during one of these my husband excitedly reported there was a man on the market selling vintage Hermès handbags. The prices were high, but not outrageously so (considering this was a market, after all), and my husband insisted that if all the puzzles got sold, the earnings should be put towards a handbag for me.

The only flaw was that we mis-read the price tags. The seller was (pretty obviously in retrospect) asking for thousands, not hundreds, of Swiss Francs for each bag – way beyond our day’s takings. So dinner it was, then.

Join in!
I have long since hung up my jigsaw-making boots so you won’t see my stall again, but I do hope you pop along to the market and take a look at everything on offer. Maybe I’ll see you there? I’ll be the one loitering around the handbag stall.

Anna Charles



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