Since its creation in 1986, the WCHOF has endeavored to highlight the history and cultural significance of the game of chess. The WCHOF’s collection is diverse and includes sets once owned by legendary players, mass-produced sets with lively pop culture themes, antique ivory sets, travel sets, as well as chess computers. Through these artifacts, the WCHOF illustrates how chess has evolved through its over 1500-year history. August’s Featured Chess Set is on loan from fiber artist Kacey Cowdery.
While working on her BFA at Maryville University, Kacey Cowdery faced the challenge to create a chess set in her senior design class. Students could choose their medium, and she chose fiber. Cowdery states she created the set in 1978, “when fiber was beyond the periphery of acceptable art—unless it pushed into those boundaries with creativity.” A couple of semesters previously, she had used bell peppers as her ‘go-to’ imagery, and thought “why not fall back on it again.” The travel chess set features snap on seeds, with each of the back rank pieces marked with embroidery. Of playing with the set, she states, “My daughter was a rather good player, I was not. I was able to win a few games with her until she became familiar with my stitched code on the play pieces.”