Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Egyptian Chess Sets

Egyptian chess sets are awe inspiring and every home should feature one. They are indeed a focal point suiting any decor both old and new, but non more so than a handmade Egyptian Chess set made by Jim Arnold.

During my first few weeks after opening a shop on Etsy I created my first treasury called Egyptian Delights which featured a beautiful Egyptian Chess set handmade by Jim Arnold.

A few months later I bumped into Jim again when he joined me as one of the leaders in It's A Madcap Life on Etsy team.
I decided that his work was just to good to be missed. I will let Jim tell you the rest.

"I made my first chess set with tools found in my father's garage. My first set looked like the one he taught me how to play on, and I had no intention of making another...that was over 1,000 sets and over 32,000 pieces ago. I was on the 'art show' circuit for years, and there was this person who sent my design to his buddies overseas and I found myself competing against my own design at the same show. I had no idea what this would lead to at the time, but I was kind of upset, so I started to make a different 'themed' set every week and told him to copy them too! He ended up leaving the circuit and I found my niche.

One of my earlier designs was "The Egyptian Chess Set". As with all of my best sets, there is a great deal of research that goes into selecting figures for the individual chess pieces. There are dozens of factories around the world making themed sets, but so many times the sets don't make any sense at all...all the pieces are the same height, you can't tell what the significance of each piece is let alone the position its supposed to occupy on the chessboard. When I decided to make an Egyptian themed chess set, I wanted to make sure it was done with purpose and meaning.

Egyptian culture is so rich with history and iconic figures, there is enough to make 20 different sets, and it was difficult to select just a few subjects to cover within the framework of a chess set. Naturally, the King and Queen were the easiest. I chose King Tutankhamun and Ramses II only because of their worldwide fame and that each are instantly recognized. It also made it easy to select figures for their respective pawns, the Ank and the Papyrus Leaf. Both the Ank and Papyrus leaf are main characters is their respective Kartouche (sp). For the queen I chose Nefertiti, common to both sides. When it came to the bishops I used an Obelisk, inspired by Cleopatra's needle and then embellished the obelisk with "The Eye of Horus" a suggestion made to me at the time by an Egyptian Archaeologist who I met on the 'art show' circuit. My archaeologist friend guided me through almost all of the figure selection process. I wanted to make sure the tone of the set was meaningful, educational, and reverent, not trite and just thrown together devoid of any thought like all the rest. Anubus and a pyramid with each King's symbol carved on it round out the knights and rooks for the set. The original chessboard had the word CHESS painted in hieroglyphics across the middle of the board and I also painted my initials in hieroglyphics on top of the board. The results are that "The Egyptian Chess Set" has been one of my most popular designs.

If you've ever thought about owning an Egyptian inspired set, let's get together and bring it to life, I've already started on bringing in a new cast of characters for another version!"

Please take some time to visit his shop on Etsy you won't be dissapointed.

Custom Chess Sets by Jim Arnold


  1. Great feature, Jenny! Loved the story.

  2. Fantastic. He certainly does beautiful work.

  3. Thank You for the wonderful piece, Jenny!

  4. Love this! Jim's work is amazing and I liked hearing how he created the Egyptian set.