Guernsey vs Jersey Chess Set

La Table des Pions. 

This chess set has been in the making for two and a half years, with over 300 pieces made as the set went through various redesigns.

“An artist never really finishes his work, he merely abandons it.”

(Paul Valery)

In this case, I abandoned the discarded early pieces in places that people (possibly you) might find might find them, then go to the website and see what it is about.

Choosing ‘who’ or ‘what’ would represent the various pieces on the chess board was the first job. In particular, the bishops on both sides proved to be the most challenging ones to make, changing from the obvious first ideas to the final piece as the set went though it’s many incarnations.​

What started out as a summer project for myself and my daughter became a challenge that once I started, I could not stop until I had got it right. Along the journey, through choosing the items to represent each piece, to the size of the pieces, the overall look of the set and the colours- my daughter has been my harshest and my most helpful critic -urging me to create the very best that I knew was held inside my hands.

Here is the story of the Guernsey vs Jersey chess set…

Why is the chess set called ‘La Table des Pions?’ 

This was inspired by the ‘Fairy Ring’ at Pleinmont in Guernsey.

The Guernsey Chevauchée took place in the 1800’s to check the state of the island roads. Officials on horse back were attended by local folk on foot, and ended at the ‘Fairy ring.’ This is in reality a dug out table that the footmen, serfs, or ‘pawns’ sat at to eat. 

The little pions of the chess set represent the islands everyday folk;

The crapauds and the donkeys, together at the table.

The ‘Fairy Ring’ at Pleinmont in Guernsey.


The Jersey Crapauds vs the Guernsey donkeys

When thinking of the islands, the first thing you think of is- The Jersey Crapaud, and the Guernsey donkey. There has long been a friendly rivalry between the islands, usually played out on the football pitch in the inter-island Muratti. Why not now on the chess board?

Guernsey locals are known as ‘Donkeys’ and Jersey locals as Crapauds ‘Toads’

Such delightful characters giving the obvious place to start, with the development of the pawns.​

The first piece is always a ‘sketch’ and looks like a five year old made it.

Then it gets re-made until the final piece is reached. The crapauds took five attempts, and three designs for the donkeys. ​

Each time there was a new pawn design, it was made ten times. All at once to keep the look uniform, and an extra two in case of breakages (the kiln can be unforgiving). If I tried to make them one by one, they lost their uniformity.

So every new re make, was ten pieces at a time!

The second crapauds design was a glazed colourful version. Super cute, but too big and chunky. Once placed on the board, you could not see the back row. Who knew making a ‘simple’ chess set was going to prove so complicated?

The crapauds, version three,

The crapauds, version three, had coloured eyes and looked adorable. But this was not the image I was going for so it was back to the drawing board.​

Round two of the donkeys.  Like the crapauds they were too big and now you could not see the back row characters. Feedback from people said they looked like a child’s set, maybe a future project?

Baby Kiln- the firing process

Baby Kiln- the firing process​

It was surprising how many pieces I got in my 20cm x20 cm baby kiln. ​

• The first firing is the bisque firing​

• The piece is then under glazed for colour.​

• Second firing to ‘set’ the glaze.

• Third firing for the gold or platinum luster.​

The finished pieces…

Kings and Queens

The Queens…

The Jersey Queen: Lillie Langtry (1853-1929)

The Jersey Queen as an easy choice it had to be the islands famous daughter, the Jersey Lille.

This wild child who grew up to be a beauty from the island of Jersey.​

She gained notoriety when she became an actress and the mistress of the Prince of Wales.​ I based her figure on the three combined images.​

This first design is the one in red (muratti colours) but was later made into the gold and sepia/white.​