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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The history of artist designed chess sets.

Chess, in its earliest form, is commonly believed to have originated in North-West India in the 6th century. The early pieces represented Indian infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariotry which were the predecessors to pawns, knights, bishops, and rooks respectively. Other early versions have been documented in Persia, Spain, Portugal and Greece. By 1000 A.D. the game had spread throughout Europe, slowly evolving and developing into the modern international game of chess.
                Chess has always been a favourite of royalty and aristocracy for its complex strategy and ornamental pieces. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, chess was a popular part of noble culture being called colloquially as the “King’s Game”. Although many aristocratic chess sets have been lost throughout time, those that remain such as the Lewis Chessmen are valued and treasured.
                The Lewis Chessmen is one of the most famous uncovered chess sets used by nobility originating from the Nordic region in the 12th century. The armour worn by the chess figurines were perfect reproductions of Norwegian armour at the time including rooks that depicted wild Norse Berserkers. Carved from walrus ivory and whale teeth, the pieces feature bulging eyes and glum facial expressions and were widely believed to be painted red and white rather than the conventional black and white. The Lewis Chessmen are currently on display at the British Museum in London and National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Often fabled armies are used as inspiration for themed chess sets such as Natraja’s Limited Edition King Arthur and Sir Lancealot chess sets.
As chess grew in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a growing demand for a standardized chess set design. Early sets such as the English Barleycorn, French Regence, and central European Selenus chess sets were clumsy to handle and had indistinguishable pieces.
In 1849, the current standard chess set for competitive play was introduced known as the Staunton chess set named after English chess master Howard Staunton. Staunton was a staunch proponent for a standardized competitive chess set and widely considered to be the best chess player in the world at the time. The designer of the Staunton chess set was Nathaniel Cook who was Howard Staunton’s editor at The Illustrated London News where Staunton wrote a chess column. Cook shaped his pieces in a neoclassical style with symbols of Victorian society. The bishop was represented by a mitre, the queen by a coronet and the king by a crown. Pawns were inspired by Victorian balconies however some believe that Cook mimicked the Freemasons’ Square and Compasses. Cook added a functional innovation by stamping an emblem on rooks and knights to identify which side of the board they started on (Queen’s side or King’s side). The bottoms of the pieces were weighted with lead and covered with felt to provide for stable balance and ease of movement. Human pieces - king, queen, bishop and pawn – had a head design resting on a flat disk known as the collar. The Staunton style quickly became the standard and favourite among professional chess players and was chosen by the World Chess Federation as its set of choice in 1924. The low production cost of the Staunton set allowed for mass production helping to popularize the game of chess. Furthermore, even though the pieces are supposed to be standardized there is actually a great variety in the minute details of Staunton chess pieces particularly between knights.
Chess pieces are normally figurines that are taller than they are wide, taking from the aesthetics of the Staunton set. Wooden chess pieces are normally made from boxwood by major chess set designers such as Natraja however maple, rosewood, ebony, red sandalwood, and walnut are also common materials. Aside from wood, many artisans prefer using plastic, bone or ivory for a more polished look. For actual play, the Staunton piece sizes are used as a standard with the height of the king ranging between 3.35 and 4.5 inches tall with a diameter that is forty to fifty percent of the height. The rest of the pieces of in proportion with the king as are the board squares which tend to be 1.25 to 1.3 times the king’s diameter. Chess set designs come in all shapes and sizes and many artists have taken to designing chess sets as pieces of art rather than functional game pieces. Modernist chess sets have been featured as works of art such as Man Ray’s set on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

What you need to know about limited edition chess sets


The world of collecting is very diverse and many collectors have specific types of items to look for. Some collect natural items like insects and flower pressings or everyday items like postage stamps and matchbooks. However, most collectors look for antiques and collectibles. Antiques are generally considered to be at least 100 years old and usually represent another era or society. Virtually any item can be an antique however the most prized antiques are well-preserved and demonstrate excellent craftsmanship.
                Collectibles are items of certain significance that are too current or modern to be considered antiques and are usually created for the purpose of collecting. Oftentimes collectibles will be available for a limited time or quantity also known as a limited or special edition. Limited editions may refer to items that are restricted to a fixed number of copies produced or available for a given period of time and can be numbered or unnumbered. Numbered limited editions provide more authenticity because it makes each item unique to its collector and ensures authenticity and the limited quantity. The scarce nature of limited editions makes those items more valuable and special to the collector because he or she has one of the few that are in existence. With items that require precise human work such as sculpting chess pieces, producing items as limited editions optimizes the quality of the production which in the case of chess sets is the craftsmanship of the pieces and/or board. Furthermore, limited edition products have an inherent scarcity and rareness that give them greater value than mass produced products in the long-term. 
                Chess, one of the most popular games in the world and in human history, is rich with collectibles and has many fans that don’t even play the game. Aside from its rich and complex gameplay, part of chess’ appeal is the ornamental design of the chess pieces which in themselves can be considered works of art. Artists often deviate from the normal board and piece designs to come up with absurd takes on the look of chess. Many chess sets have been built around specific themes or brands ranging from African tribal pieces to characters from The Simpsons. The beauty of chess set design is that nearly any enthusiast can design their own personalized chess pieces easily and cheaply. However, there are also many amazing professionally made chess sets to fit your every taste and preference. Many chess enthusiasts even purchase limited edition chess sets as part of their collection with no intention of using them for chess. However, collectible chess sets aside from being aesthetically pleasing also provides a thoroughly enjoyable chess playing experience.
                 If you are looking begin or expand your chess set collection, the crucial factors are authenticity and quality. As with many dealers, it is important to find a trusted source for collectibles with a devotion to providing high-quality collectibles. One of the most well-known manufacturers of limited edition chess sets is Natraja. Natraja commissions a select number of limited edition chess sets to renowned sculptor, Avtarjeet Dhanjal. While Dhanjal’s background has mostly been in large sculptures and exhibitions he also provides a line of limited edition hand carved chess sets at natraja.com. Dhanjal, himself the son of wood carver, collaborated with master craftsman Bhupinder Singh and his son, Mandeep Saggu to create a series of five designs, with only 100 numbered sets per design available to collectors. Natraja also devotes two sets per design for museum collections and another two for Natraja’s own collection. Each set is made from boxwood and ebony or boxwood and rosewood in themes such as King Arthur, Marc Anthony and even sea horses. The set includes a special leather bounded box for storage and a signed certificate of authenticity. Of course, in the world of collecting authenticity is the name of the game. The outlets that Natraja’s sets are sold in are limited to protect consumer’s interests and ensure quality. The only place to get Natraja chess sets is at www.natraja.com and select outlets. This prevents a major issue with collectibles of counterfeits and knockoffs being sold at non-authorized dealers to unassuming customers. There are several chess dealers that fraudulently advertise limited editions for sale and any chess set collector needs to be wary of these scams. Natraja sells its limited editions through very select outlets that are referred on Natraja’s website. Other dealers claiming limited editions that are not part of Natraja’s outlet network will not be able to issue the artist’s signed certificate. In the United Kingdom, Natraja sets can be found in limited supply at Chess & Bridge in London while House of Staunton has its own exclusive special edition of Natraja sets in the United States.
                Limited edition collectibles are the gold standard for any respectable collector. Particularly, for chess set collectors, limited edition chess board and pieces are the prized possessions in any collection. For starters, they are one of a kind pieces of art that are excellent conversation pieces that will pique the interest of any person. Moreover limited edition chess sets tend to display superior craftsmanship and greater attention to detail. Whether you are buying your first chess board or your hundredth, always go for quality and authenticity.

Why collect chess sets?


                For every type of interest that exists out there, there is a supplemental collection to go along with it. Sports fans collect cards of their favourite athletes along with other paraphernalia while film buffs proudly boast their collection of favourite movies even if they haven’t seen them in years. It is natural to want to show off what you are passionate about. The act of collecting works is actually a very old traditional custom that can even date back to the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty with their global book collection in the Library of Alexandria. The Medici family in Renaissance Florence were among the first to have a private art collection which provided artists with a stream of revenue distinct from the Church and State. Today, many great works of art on display for the public in museums are actually privately owned and donated to the museum by wealthy philanthropists. Although formal collections were initially reserved for the wealthy and noble, collecting became accessible to most people as general income and leisure levels rose. Collectibles were brought into the mainstream as complimentary products such as baseball cards in cigarette packs and comics in bubble gum wrappers.
These days, collectors can amass their collections with little to no cost with items from their everyday life such as postage stamps and bottle caps. While some collectors are generalist, accumulating any type of a certain item, most tend to focus on a narrower selection typically based on age, geographic origin or unique properties like 16th century French paintings of flowers. Some people even practice intangible collecting where they collect experiences or mental images such as bird watching or travelling. An item that is manufactured for the explicit intent of collecting is aptly known as a collectible. Collectibles are generally items of certain significance that are too current or modern to be considered antiques. Many times, an item that is initially intended for functional use and not as a collectible like a toy or car can become a collectible over time and be re-released as one. This is similar to a collector’s item which is not intended to be a collectible but becomes one through a rarity that it has such as a production defect or human error.
                Many collectors enjoy seeing their collections grow and selecting new pieces to add. Often, collectors strive to own an entire set or series of a particular item. This process involves learning expert information, planning a general theme of the collection, and interacting with other similar collectors. Like-minded collectors can meet each other through trade conventions and shows or local interest groups where members are more than happy to share any knowledge they have. Through collecting and meeting other collectors, collectors exhibit and express their passions outwardly such as chess sets for chess enthusiasts.
There is also the prestige associated with owning valuable high quality collections. One is perceived to be of a certain status and income level to be able to own a collection of chess sets or art works whether he or she actually is or not. Furthermore, most collectibles tend to appreciate over time and are highly valuable on the secondary market unless they are part of a speculative bubble. In many ways keeping a collection is like an investment and like all investments you need to do your diligence and make sure you have a good one to begin with.
One of the most well-known manufacturers of chess sets is Natraja. Natraja commissions a select number of limited edition chess sets to renowned artist and craftsman, Avtarjeet Dhanjal. Dhanjal is notable sculptor based in Britain and originating from India. While Dhanjal’s background has mostly been in large sculptures and exhibitions he also provides a line of limited edition hand carved chess sets at natraja.com. Dhanjal, himself the son of wood carver, collaborated with master craftsman Bhupinder Singh and his son, Mandeep Saggu to create a series of five designs, with only 100 numbered sets per design available to collectors. Natraja also devotes two sets per design for museum collections and another two for Natraja’s own collection. Each set is made from boxwood and ebony or boxwood and rosewood in themes such as Sir Lancealot, Marc Anthony and a gallant set. The sets include a special leather bounded box for storage and a signed certificate of authenticity. Of course, in the world of collecting authenticity is the name of the game. The outlets that Natraja’s sets are sold in are limited to protect consumer’s interests and ensure quality. The only place to get Natraja chess sets is at www.natraja.com and select outlets. This prevents a major issue with collectibles of counterfeits and knockoffs being sold at non-authorized dealers to unassuming customers. There are several chess dealers that fraudulently advertise limited editions for sale and any chess set collector needs to be wary of these scams. Natraja sells its limited editions through very select outlets that are referred on Natraja’s website. Other dealers claiming limited editions that are not part of Natraja’s outlet network will not be able to issue the artist’s signed certificate. In the United Kingdom, Natraja sets can be found in limited supply at Chess & Bridge in London while House of Staunton has its own exclusive special edition of Natraja sets in the United States. Always check natraja.com for up-to-date information on the company.
Since so many resources are put into populating a collection, just as much time and effort should be put into security and maintenance. Collectibles like chess sets need to be stored in proper conditions and away from potential hazards and in the case of expensive collectibles, might have to be locked behind a strong security system. In the end, it is all worth it to have a collection that you can be proud of.

Why high quality is the way to go with chess sets


Nearly all humans strive for the finer things in life. It is not materialistic to say that higher quality items, especially with crafts, are more valuable and enjoyable to own. High quality crafts have greater attention to detail and use better materials which is evident in its finish. Many people also enjoy making crafts on their own to show off their creativity and unique artisanal skills. Sites like Craftster allow craft enthusiasts to share expertise and discuss their relevant interests. Crafts are a fulfilling combination of art and science, creativity and technique and oftentimes tell stories in the case of folk art. While crafts are mainly collected today on their artistic merits, they typically also serve a utilitarian or functional purpose aside from aesthetics such as chess sets.
Chess sets represent the aforementioned finer things in life and are perceived to be classy and cultured. Therefore, the quality of the set must match the perception and be equally classy and cultured. An emphasis should be placed on the quality of the materials used for every part of the chess set and if you plan on using the set for competitive play, whether the pieces are the recommended size by major chess federations.
                There are many factors involved with buying a chess set and much research should be done before any purchase is made. Grandmaster and five-time US Chess champion Larry Evans provides this advice for buying a set, "Make sure the one you buy is easy on the eye, felt-based, and heavy (weighted). The men should be constructed so they don't come apart. ... The regulation board used by the U. S. Chess Federation is green and buff — never red and black. However there are several good inlaid [wood] boards on the market. Avoid cheap equipment. Chess offers a lifetime of enjoyment for just a few dollars well spent at the outset." The last sentence is key because it is so true. A simple chess set can give you years of endless enjoyment so it is important to choose a good one. Find a set that meets all of your specifications and has an aesthetic that you enjoy. Do not skimp on the chess set and buy a cheap board because you will regret it in the long-run.
If you are looking begin or expand your chess set collection, the crucial factors are authenticity and quality. As with many dealers, it is important to find a trusted source for collectibles with a devotion to providing high-quality collectibles. One of the most well-known manufacturers of limited edition chess sets is Natraja. Natraja commissions a select number of limited edition chess sets to world renowned sculptor, Avtarjeet Dhanjal. Dhanjal is notable sculptor based in Britain and originally from India. While Dhanjal’s background has mostly been in large sculptures and exhibitions he also provides a line of limited edition hand carved chess sets. Dhanjal, himself the son of wood carver, collaborated with master craftsman Bhupinder Singh and his son, Mandeep Saggu to create a series of five designs, with only 100 sets per design available to collectors. Natraja also devotes two sets per design for museum collections and another two for Natraja’s own collection. Each set is made from boxwood and ebony or boxwood and rosewood in themes such as King Arthur, Marc Anthony and even sea horses. The set includes a special leather bounded box for storage and a signed certificate of authenticity. Of course, in the world of collecting authenticity is the name of the game. The outlets that Natraja’s sets are sold in are limited to protect consumer’s interests and ensure quality. The only place to get Natraja chess sets is at www.natraja.com. This prevents a major issue with collectibles of counterfeits and knockoffs being sold at non-authorized dealers to unassuming customers.
There is no substitute for quality and in the end the counterfeits prove themselves to be inferior. If you want the full enjoyment of a handcrafted high quality chess set, then you should stick with the well known players such as Natraja. It will pay off in the long-run when your rare chess set looks as good as new because of its superior craftsmanship.

The tradition of wood carving in India and Punjab.


The art of creating elaborate designs in wood by hand, with the help of various carving tools is known as wood carving. Wood carving may vary from floral and traditional motifs to geometrical or abstract patterns and varies greatly between cultures. Carving wooden handicrafts is a laborious process as a great deal of attention and skill needs to be paid to every little detail. Wood carving has been practiced by humans since the earliest civilizations and has been found widespread throughout the globe. In India, wood carving has a long and distinguished history especially the Punjab region. Wood carving in India is a traditional art which is passed on by master craftsmen through the generations. Carving involves shaping wood to make objects of utility and chiseling parts of wood to form intricate designs, with the help of hand tools. Articles of daily use like rolling pins, ladles, walking sticks, and combs are made from softwoods, while exotic wood like sandalwood, ebony, walnut, rosewood and teak are used to carve items of decorative value.
Indian craftsmen are known for a wide range of wooden handicrafts like furniture, decorative panels, wooden screens, toys, spoons, bowls, trays, vases, book stands, jewel boxes, window frames, masks, idols, photo frames, chess sets and beads. In India, each region has developed its own style of structures and carvings. Local traditions and locally available wood varieties have been very influencial in these styles.
Architectural remains from Kashmir Smats in Punjab from the 3rd century show wood carvings while old havelis in Punjab had carved doors and windows. Wood carvings are prominent on many ancient Hindu temples throughout India which were often decorated with various carvings in teak and other woods. The doors of the teniple of Somnath for example were famed for their carved design and are valued as sacred relics. Wood carved temples still stand in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Karnataka is specialised in sandalwood carving. Earlier they carved sandalwood idols of their deities but now sandalwood boxes are their specialty. The Srigandha variety of sandalwood is used for this purpose. They have a distinctive aroma that sets them apart from other woods. Large boxes covered with mythological scenes are an important product of Mysore, Kumta and Sagar. In south Kanara, look for life-size wood carvings of Buddha. Mysore city developed an intricate form of ivory - inlay on wood. The ceilings and doors of Mysore Palace are expressions of this special skill of its artisans.
Assam, which has extensive forests, has a rich tradition of wood works. Their places of worship included large carvings of mythical figures like half-man, garuda, hanuman, and lions with a Simhasan where the deity is worshipped.
In Kashmir, the houses are lined with wood, with ceilings worked in geometrical patterns and lattice - worked windows made up of pieces of wood locally known as Pinjara. The state also produces many wood carved items such furniture, screens, boxes, and bowls. These are mostly prepared from walnut wood, which is in abundant in Kashmir. A special craft called Khatamband has a long history in Kashmir where crafters decorate wood panels used for ceilings and pillars.
Tamilnadu has a well developed tradition of woodcarving used for decorating houses and temples. The wooden Tanjore dolls, similar to Tirupathi red dolls in Andhra Pradesh and Punki wood dolls in Kondapalli, form a part of the rituals followed in Tamilnadu and are also used for educating small children.
Kerala state has one of the richest traditions in woodcarving. The houses here have carved pillars and beams. Most of the houses have a carved family temple. Kerala wood carvers also work wonders on sandalwood and rosewood. Kerala woodcarvings have strength of form, which is reminiscent of the murals and dance forms of the area. Large wood carved figures are prepared in the round as well as in relief work.
Sankheda in Gujarat is an important center for lathe-worked lacquered furniture. The surface is painted with designs on a lacquered background. This is used to give silver-like effect. Bedposts and cradles and toys for kids are also made here.
Surat has a tradition of marquetry work, which is also called Sadeli. In this, different materials like ivory, ebony, sandalwood, metal having different textures and colors are used. These materials are made into strips with their width shaped as triangles, squares and circles. These are then joined by gum to get a geometrical pattern. They are then cut across into thin strips and pasted on a wooden background, mostly boxes. Wooden blocks for printing in textiles are also made in Gujarat. The design is first stenciled on the wood and then the intervening spaces are chipped out.
While wood carving has declined in popularity throughout the world over the years, the continued survival of the art and craft of woodcarving proves that it is a timeless art form. The large number of woodcarvers, many of whom come from generations of woodcarvers, carry on the proud tradition in India and different parts of the world. For example, one of the most renowned Indian craftman, Avtarjeet Dhanjal, himself a descendent in a line of woodworkers, is a diverse artist that also creates a line of limited edition chess sets. His limited edition chess sets represent the long tradition of craftsmanship and quality that has come from the many talented woodworkers from India.
The art of creating elaborate designs in wood by hand, with the help of various carving tools is known as wood carving. Wood carving may vary from floral and traditional motifs to geometrical or abstract patterns and varies greatly between cultures. Carving wooden handicrafts is a laborious process as a great deal of attention and skill needs to be paid to every little detail. Wood carving has been practiced by humans since the earliest civilizations and has been found widespread throughout the globe. In India, wood carving has a long and distinguished history especially the Punjab region. Wood carving in India is a traditional art which is passed on by master craftsmen through the generations. Carving involves shaping wood to make objects of utility and chiseling parts of wood to form intricate designs, with the help of hand tools. Articles of daily use like rolling pins, ladles, walking sticks, and combs are made from softwoods, while exotic wood like sandalwood, ebony, walnut, rosewood and teak are used to carve items of decorative value.
Indian craftsmen are known for a wide range of wooden handicrafts like furniture, decorative panels, wooden screens, toys, spoons, bowls, trays, vases, book stands, jewel boxes, window frames, masks, idols, photo frames, chess sets and beads. In India, each region has developed its own style of structures and carvings. Local traditions and locally available wood varieties have been very influencial in these styles.
Architectural remains from Kashmir Smats in Punjab from the 3rd century show wood carvings while old havelis in Punjab had carved doors and windows. Wood carvings are prominent on many ancient Hindu temples throughout India which were often decorated with various carvings in teak and other woods. The doors of the teniple of Somnath for example were famed for their carved design and are valued as sacred relics. Wood carved temples still stand in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Karnataka is specialised in sandalwood carving. Earlier they carved sandalwood idols of their deities but now sandalwood boxes are their specialty. The Srigandha variety of sandalwood is used for this purpose. They have a distinctive aroma that sets them apart from other woods. Large boxes covered with mythological scenes are an important product of Mysore, Kumta and Sagar. In south Kanara, look for life-size wood carvings of Buddha. Mysore city developed an intricate form of ivory - inlay on wood. The ceilings and doors of Mysore Palace are expressions of this special skill of its artisans.
Assam, which has extensive forests, has a rich tradition of wood works. Their places of worship included large carvings of mythical figures like half-man, garuda, hanuman, and lions with a Simhasan where the deity is worshipped.
In Kashmir, the houses are lined with wood, with ceilings worked in geometrical patterns and lattice - worked windows made up of pieces of wood locally known as Pinjara. The state also produces many wood carved items such furniture, screens, boxes, and bowls. These are mostly prepared from walnut wood, which is in abundant in Kashmir. A special craft called Khatamband has a long history in Kashmir where crafters decorate wood panels used for ceilings and pillars.
Tamilnadu has a well developed tradition of woodcarving used for decorating houses and temples. The wooden Tanjore dolls, similar to Tirupathi red dolls in Andhra Pradesh and Punki wood dolls in Kondapalli, form a part of the rituals followed in Tamilnadu and are also used for educating small children.
Kerala state has one of the richest traditions in woodcarving. The houses here have carved pillars and beams. Most of the houses have a carved family temple. Kerala wood carvers also work wonders on sandalwood and rosewood. Kerala woodcarvings have strength of form, which is reminiscent of the murals and dance forms of the area. Large wood carved figures are prepared in the round as well as in relief work.
Sankheda in Gujarat is an important center for lathe-worked lacquered furniture. The surface is painted with designs on a lacquered background. This is used to give silver-like effect. Bedposts and cradles and toys for kids are also made here.
Surat has a tradition of marquetry work, which is also called Sadeli. In this, different materials like ivory, ebony, sandalwood, metal having different textures and colors are used. These materials are made into strips with their width shaped as triangles, squares and circles. These are then joined by gum to get a geometrical pattern. They are then cut across into thin strips and pasted on a wooden background, mostly boxes. Wooden blocks for printing in textiles are also made in Gujarat. The design is first stenciled on the wood and then the intervening spaces are chipped out.
While wood carving has declined in popularity throughout the world over the years, the continued survival of the art and craft of woodcarving proves that it is a timeless art form. The large number of woodcarvers, many of whom come from generations of woodcarvers, carry on the proud tradition in India and different parts of the world. For example, one of the most renowned Indian craftman, Avtarjeet Dhanjal, himself a descendent in a line of woodworkers, is a diverse artist that also creates a line of limited edition chess sets. His limited edition chess sets represent the long tradition of craftsmanship and quality that has come from the many talented woodworkers from India.

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