chess sets and open studios

** Stop Press** Open Studio Sat/Sun 6/7 Dec 11-5 at 23 Parade Mews. The Ruh glassblowers will be open too **
 
chess pieces I’m casting a chess set for my nephew Harry for Christmas. I have a set of moulds for some of the Lewis Chessmen, 78 12th century chess pieces found on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in 1831. They are now in the British Museum.
 
chess piecechess pieceI’ve made a few extras, including this ‘half a king’, with left-over plaster. I hope to experiment with painting them: I’m hoping to use Gesso for the white ones (rabbit skin glue + whiting), and ox-blood shoe polish on the other set, probably after sealing.
 
It started me thinking about chess sets: they are an interesting sideline of many artists and sculptors. Really, they are mini-sculptures in their own right: perhaps the first ‘installation’ ever? And you have an excuse to handle them – whether you ever play a chess match or not (for me, it’s *not*).
 
I particularly like the more abstract sets. There’s a fantastic Bauhaus set, from 1924, by Josef Hartwig.
Bauhaus chess setchess set - bauhaus
     
chess set, EsserAround the same time, 1920, Max Esser created a set for the Meissen Porcelain works. They are in stoneware, not porcelain: I think so that he could colour the clay more easily, and very ‘Art Deco’.
 
Alexander Calder, famous for modernist mobiles, made one of my favourite sets in 1942, out of a broomhandle, screws, and paint. It’s wonderfully abstract.
chess set
 
chess set Back in the spirit of the Lewis chessmen I also love this set from Kholmogory, in Northern Russia, made in the late 19the century. It rather inspired me to try making my own set, a small one, perhaps for my other nephew. It’s an interesting exercise, making distinctive pieces within the tradition of chess sets, and in a small size.
  chess set
I’ve managed to take a photograph with the pieces in the wrong order: Castle-Bishop-Knight-bishop-Queen-King. And one of the bishops looks suspiciously like a snowman with a Christmas Hat on. I’m still quite pleased with them – they have come out well considering they are about 2cm tall.
Do you have any favourite chess sets? Shall I make some more?

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3 responses to “chess sets and open studios

  1. That Alexander Calder one is fantastic. Simple and yet clever.
    I love your mini set though, amazing that they’re only 2cm tall! Great fun. Yes, more… Maybe a Welsh set based on characters from the Mabinogion?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! It’s one of those areas where the I’m not sure whether I’ve crossed the ‘cute’ boundary into ‘twee’. I like the Calder set too: it makes you want to try making things yourself (hence the porcelain… )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: post-christmas wash-up? | carys davies porcelain·

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