Much like the game of chess, collaborating with another maker is full of risk, not knowing until the very end how things will turn out. Gambles with the ceramic process alone involve fragility, timing, shrinkage, and surviving the test of fire (in this case, 3x!) with no guarantee of success or financial compensation. Rising to the challenge and questioning my own sanity at times, I created the pieces for this custom chess set with my friend and woodworker, Steve Hall, learning much about compromise and alignment of visions from our separate studios, trusting one another to find commonality in the end result.
Within the game of chess, I recognize that there is an unspoken universal language among players from cultures around the world, with regard to identity and hierarchy of chessmen on the board, along with various strategies within a match. For this reason I intentionally kept my character designs as classic-ly identifiable as possible.
Working in a more sculptural capacity than my familiar wheel thrown forms, I was challenged to create the game pieces, from an idea to a 2D sketch to their current 3D forms. Learning how to maintain consistency, symmetry and balance within 32- 3D forms certainly took some trial and error. I threw most parts ‘off the hump’ on the potters’ wheel, utilizing a series of self-designed sledge profiles cut into expired PMA membership and Gas Buddy cards. The knight, for many, has been classic-ly considered the most challenging piece of the set to create. For my own, I designed a simple profile and made a drop press-mold of opposing horse profiles and clam-shelled them together, then attached to a thrown base. As it turns out, in my own case, the most challenging piece wasn’t the knight, it was the woodworker! A great reminder that what may appear simple is usually the result of much deliberation and editing to deceptively appear that way.
While creating the chessmen, I too considered how the pieces interact with each other, their profiles in their home squares on the board needed to align, in my mind, where one waxed the nearby piece should wane. The cycle of play and the artistic process both involve great strategies of the mind. Check!