Marbling Infinity Puzzles

Explore endless fields of color and pattern with our Marbling Infinity Puzzle made in collaboration with artist Amanda Ghassaei. Intricate wooden puzzle pieces interlock in waves and spirals. The artwork was created through a digital simulation of paper marbling. The puzzle is an infinity puzzle™ so it has no fixed shape and no edges. It can be assembled in thousands of different ways.  There are 5 color schemes and 3 sizes: Small ($45, 100 pieces), Medium ($65, 170 pieces) and Large ($110, 370 pieces). Each features a different puzzle cut. The medium and large size have themed whimsies hiding amidst the waves

Paper Marbling

Paper marbling is a traditional craft that uses combs and styluses to swirl pigments which are floating on top of a shallow tank of fluid. It results in beautiful tapestries of color which can then be transferred to paper or cloth and has been used in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Paper marbling is a lovely intersection of natural pattern formation and design which is ripe for digital exploration. Simulation allows us to expand marbling techniques in new avenues through interactivity, accessibility, and physically impossible mathematics. What happens when you marble a painting or photograph? What about marbling on a complex 3D surface? We started looking into simulation techniques for paper marbling in 2013 while working on a project for Google ATAP. There are two approaches exemplified by two papers we read: “Level Set Driven Flows” by Acar, which uses fluid simulation, and “Mathematical Marbling” by Lu, et al, which takes a more procedural approach defining mathematical transforms for combs. These techniques didn’t end up fitting the project at the time, but we always wanted an excuse to explore computational marbling again. So when we saw Amanda Ghassaei was already making her own GPU paper marbling experiments, we reached out and asked if she wanted to collaborate on a puzzle.

Featured Artist: Amanda Ghassaei

Amanda Ghassaei is an engineer and maker with a background in physics, based in San Francisco, CA.  She uses physics simulations to create computational design tools spanning topics in fluid dynamics, origami, and audio processing.  She makes these tools freely available through web-based apps that allow non-technical users to experiment with form and function through playful interactions.


Amanda’s simulation takes a hybrid approach combining the procedural work of Aubrey Jaffer (a co author of “Mathematical Marbling”) with a fluid simulation. Common fluid simulations have a lot of dissipation which leads to blurred artifacts that ruin the crisp lines of paper marbling. So Amanda wrote a fluid solver based on a modern approach called “Efficient and Conservative Fluids Using Bidirectional Mapping,” which reduces blurring but still runs in real time. The whole thing is wrapped up in a webgl framework Amanda is releasing, so it can run interactively online. You can read more technical details in Amanda’s post

Wave Cut

For these puzzles we developed a new cut style called Wave to complement the fluid theme of the Marbling Infinity Puzzles. The Wave style is an evolution of our Maze cut. We take the Maze system of growing elastic rods and introduce vortex forces which draw the growing edges into waves and spirals. In addition, the initial piece shapes are determined by an anisotropic centroidal voronoi optimization, elongating them in flow fields which themselves form waves and spirals. The wave cut is now available in our custom puzzle maker and was previewed in our previous puzzles this year: Cosmic Cliffs, Chess Puzzle, and Mini Succulent.

Example wave cut. Left is the initial piece shapes. Right is the final grown edges


lasercutting a Marbling Infinity Puzzle at Nervous System in Palenville, NY

The puzzles are lasercut from maple plywood at our solar-powered studio in the Catskills. The artwork is printed directly on the plywood using our Mimaki UV printer, creating a durable vibrant image. There are three sizes: Small ($45, 100 pieces), Medium ($65, 170 pieces) and Large ($110, 370 pieces). The photos below show a comparison of the color schemes and sizes. We have a limited supply available for immediate shipping in the Nervous System shop.

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