Chess-inspired sculptures by Nancy Nevergole.

Maine Craft Portland will celebrate the opening of “The Craft Maker’s Gambit” from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 5. The exhibition, inspired by the game of chess, will run from Nov. 5 to Dec. 31.

The exhibition features 15 exclusive, handmade chess sets and chess-inspired work by 28 members of the Maine Crafts Association, working in a variety of media.

Due to a growing public interest in learning the game of chess and acquiring unique chess sets, MCA put out a call out to its member craft-artists to ruminate, collaborate and create their own concept of sets for gameplay. Many artists remarked that they had always desired an opportunity to design and execute an original, custom chess set. Their collective creativity has graced us with stunning work in media such as: blown glass, carved wood, forged steel, illustrated columns, and hand shaped or wheel thrown ceramics. Each set of playing pieces has been paired with a handcrafted board. Some boards and sets were created from start to finish from an individual artist, and others are collaborative efforts between friends, partners and fellow makers in different media.

The aesthetics and sources of inspiration from artist to artist are vast. Ceramic artist Nancy Nevergole presents chess-inspired sculptures crafted from manipulated and carved clay slip, inspired by surrealist and romanesque influences. Distinguished wood-worker and furniture maker David Masury tricks the eye with a chess board that isn’t quite as it appears. Barbara Walch, a participating ceramic artist, combined a uniquely patterned and organic parallelogram chessboard with beautiful songbirds. Glass artist Peter Lambshead married his signature borosilicate glass stylings with a handmade wooden base and board. Known for his whimsical animals born through carving and pyrography, Don Best created a set featuring loveable and expressive, wild and domestic beasts.

From Maria Wolff, a participating metalsmith and manager of Maine Craft Portland: “I grew up playing chess with my father. We would daydream about how we would craft our own chess set someday. As an appreciator of the game of chess, I have tried for years to excite select artists to create a Maine-made chess set, but the challenge has sat unmet. Chess sets are 32+ playing pieces. The time and materials it takes to create a chess set by hand is quite an investment. After the release of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ on Netflix, I began to receive requests from gallery patrons for custom and unique chess sets; and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to chase my dream of making a chess set of my own, while affording other makers the opportunity to bring personalized chess sets to life, as well.”

“The Craft Makers Gambit” features an astounding array of full chess sets from Wicks Forge, Peter Lambshead, Don Best, Ian Trask, Elysa Rose-Coster, Peter and Sandra Asselyn, David Masury and Maria Wolff, Whitney Gill and Allison McKeen, Rebecca May Verrill and SE Hall, Jim Macdonald and Lucky Platt, Shannon Richards, Barbara Walch Pottery, Goodland Pottery, Joe Rosshirt with Dole’s Orchard, and Naomi Grace McNeill. The exhibition also features chess inspired work by Jaime Wing, Tröskö Design, Melanie West, Boyd Johnson, Erica Schlueter, Christine Peters, Nancy Nevergole and Erlynne Kitagawa.

“The Craft Maker’s Gambit” closes out the 2021 exhibit calendar for Maine Craft Portland. The opening reception will be held during the First Friday Artwalk.

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