Art Chess: Purling London’s Simon Purkis shares his thoughts with TheTopTier

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Nothing says luxury than a uniquely crafted chess set. Luxury games are one of our favorite categories at TheTopTier and in the past we have featured artisan chess sets from Purling London. We had the exclusive pleasure of speaking with Simon Purkis, CEO and founder of Purling London and he shares his insider view of this unique company:


TheTopTier: What inspired you to get involved with artisan chess sets? Are you a player yourself?

Simon Purkis: I’ve been a keen chess player ever since I was little when my dad introduced me to the game. I was really excited by the idea of reinvigorating the traditional Staunton chess set. After seeing the collection of artists’ chess sets at the Saatchi Gallery in 2012, I started thinking about harnessing the talents of contemporary artists to create innovative chess sets. As you play, the pieces form a kinetic sculpture as new colours and patterns form.

Simon Purkis CEO and Founder of Purling London

TTT: Who determines how many pieces in a certain edition? Does the artist or creator limit the sets themselves or is it a market decision?

SP: Each Art Chess set is a unique, collectible item. All the artists we use are up and coming within the UK and global art scene. We anticipate that many of the sets will appreciate in value as the artists establish themselves further.

TTT: How much freedom do the artists have in creating their sets?

SP: Usually what happens is that the artist will take away some trial pieces to experiment on and test their ideas. They will then discuss their designs with Purling London. We might then advise on certain aspects such as colour combinations based on our market knowledge but the fundamental design will come from the artists.

TTT:: Are there any specific standards Purling has when building the sets? What types of materials are frequently used?

SP: All Purling London sets come with pieces of the standard Purling London Staunton shape. These pieces are hand carved from boxwood. We use boards of Bird’s Eye Maple, Black Anegre and standard maple woods according to the line. Our Dark Chess boards were developed with a British company and are hand crafted in England to our specific design.


TTT:  A while back, we featured a set that included a self destruct button and gas masks. Do you see a big market for avant garde sets like these?

SP: We have several more exciting concepts for Couture Chess sets in the pipeline and are currently in discussions with two very talented artists.

TTT: Any sneak previews on what’s coming up from Purling?

SP: We’ve been in discussions with some street artists regarding collaboration. We’re really looking forward to contrasting the traditional Staunton figures with the edge of street art.

TTT; Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and we look forward to all the exciting new designs!

For more information or to purchase Purling London Art Chess sets, please visit the Purling London website.

By Doron Levy Courtesy TheTopTier Digital Media

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