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Interview with Simon Purkis, Founder and Director of Purling London

He came out with the idea of adding style to a game that consist of black and white. Yes, we are talking about chess where the rules of play are the same for centuries. Simon Purkis and the artists he worked with did not change the rules, but they blended an intelligence game with art.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Simon Purkis, Founder and Director of Purling London - Photo credit World Chess Hall of Fame

Simon Purkis, Founder and Director of Purling London - Photo credit World Chess Hall of Fame


by Beren Dere

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This idea shone in a sunset. He first started with the idea of changing the colors of the chessboard. And since 2012, Simon has been working with over 30 different artists to create a wide range of artworks from chess sets to backgammons, playing cards to darts. While lots of chess sets only taking their place on store shelves, Purling London designs meet with chess and art fans in exhibition halls. Who knows, maybe if Simon had created it 50 years ago, the match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky could have been much more colorful. I asked Simon Purkis, Founder and Director of Purling London, in order to learn more about his colorful chess world. Enjoy the interview and play chess.

Purling London

Simon Purkis, Founder and Director of Purling London - Photo credit World Chess Hall of Fame

Simon, could you tell us about your background and design experience? Who is Simon Purkis?

Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to be featured on your beautiful website. I am a Chartered Engineer and love design. Following several years in engineering, I worked in finance in the City of London. I have always wanted to start a creative business and followed my passions in combining classic games and contemporary art.

Purling London

Purling London Tom Hackney

When did you first decide to design different and stylish chess sets? What was the inspiration?

I was playing chess on a beach against an old school friend of mine. As the sun set over the sea, it became more and more difficult to differentiate between the chess pieces. This gave me the idea of an illuminated chess board. I questioned why so many Staunton chess sets are brown-varnished wood - it seemed a wonderful opportunity to re-vamp the iconic design and introduce lacquered and the one-off artist painted pieces to compliment modern interior designs.

Purling London

Purling London

Could you tell us about Purling London?

Purling London exists to celebrate art and playfulness. Our critically acclaimed, contemporary Chess, Backgammon and Checkers contrast traditional, by-hand-manufacturing against vivid colour, abstract art and theatrical illumination. Purling London’s unique board games, silver-gilded Playing Cards, and brand new tungsten Darts are classic with a British twist. Our goal is to revitalise time-honoured games, mixing established forms with contemporary art and design influences. We aim to create new playful experiences, fresh family interactions, and customer surprise and delight! We aspire to bring back chess, darts, and classic games as fashionable and innovative interior design accessories and gifts; embodying precision, history, and luxury.

Purling London

Purling London Francesco Jacobello

Your all chess sets are hand-painted. How does it feel to present unique chess sets to each customer?

It is exciting to be able to offer such a unique artwork to our customers, each hand-painted piece is one of a kind. Every Art Chess set functions doubly as a beautiful chess set and a sculpture.

Purling London

Purling London Thierry Noir

Who was the first artist you worked with? How many different artists do you collaborate now?

We worked initially with 3 artists: Olivia Pilling, a northern landscape artist (who is also my sister-in-law), and two artists through the West London Art Factory artist studios where we are based - Joanna Scislowicz and Richard Morrissey. We have now worked with over 30 contemporary artists including Sophie Matisse, Thierry Noir, Mr Doodle, Daniel Brusatin and T. Raymonzrek. I especially love the contrast of the street-artists’ work(with neon paint etc) with the classically shaped pieces!

Purling London

Purling London Art Chess by Kate Brinkworth - Red Gold

What are the features of Purling London Chess Sets?

Purling chess sets are hand-carved from the finest Boxwood and Ebony, triple weighted and all in the same characteristic Staunton style. Our chess pieces are all quality inspected, polished and assembled at our London studio.

Purling London

Purling London Art Backgammon Darren John

How many different types of sets do you offer? Could you briefly tell us about your other designs?

Brand new Art Backgammon - Our launch range is with Darren John with a street art influence, Francesco Jacobello with hand-cut gold leaf and Crystal Fischetti inspired by Italian landscapes and nature.

Purling London

Purling London Dark Backgammon Gold White

Purling London Art Chess and Art Games are individually hand painted by specially commissioned British and international artists and no two sets are the same. From established figures to rising stars of the Contemporary Art scene, Purling has collaborated with 30 artists to date, including Sophie Matisse, Inkie, Thierry Noir, Kate Brinkworth, Inkie and Mr. Doodle.

Purling London

Purling London Art Chess by Caio Locke

Art Games are Hand-made in London, each Art Backgammon is a contemporary, one-off and playful centrepiece. And Art Chess by Purling London designs are complete with an artist-signed certificate and our exceptional maple or painted boards; each hand-carved, triple-weighted Art Chess is a miniature sculptural masterpiece.

Purling London

Purling London Bold Chess Metallic Gold v Shadow Black

Purling London’s ‘Bold’ luxury chess sets unite classic with contemporary, incorporating vibrant hand-carved Staunton pieces with a premium Maple wood board. Our deluxe hardwood pieces are finished with a deep, glossy lacquer and the branded leather felt - and included four queens per set for effortless Pawn promotion. Presented with a Purling London certificate and elegant packaging, each Bold Chess is a timeless beauty to be treasured

Bold Checkers
Bold Darts
Silver-gilded Playing Cards

How do you describe the Purling London Chess Sets in one sentence?

Celebrating art and playfulness.

Purling London

Purling London Nette Robinson

Please tell us about your bespoke service.

Purling London offers a luxurious range of bespoke chess sets, backgammon boards and checkers tables which can be created to a client’s exacting specifications. Our bespoke games are hand-made in England.

Ever since we were established, we have been collaborating with British and international artists both to create beautiful and unique Art games. Our artists have been specially chosen to collaborate with Purling - including street artists, up-and-coming British artists and world famous contemporary artists such as Sophie Matisse, Tom Hackney, and Thierry Noir.

Purling London

Purling London Mr Doodle The World Chess Hall of Fame

In a sense, they are proof of your success. Could you briefly tell us about the awards and selections that you won?

Europe’s largest interior design exhibition Maison & Objet Paris selected Purling for their ‘future trend’ space in September 2016. The World Chess Hall of Fame art museum in St. Louis MO USA exhibited over 20 of our unique Art Chess sets in their ‘Painted Pieces’show from April - September 2018 featuring Sophie Matisse, Mr Doodle, Daniela Raytchev, Thierry Noir and more.

What will be your next event, where and when will we see your collection?

Purling London is back at Library - the fab private members club in Covent Garden for another 2 of our popular Pop-Up Games events. You are invited to play Purling chess in Virtual Reality plus illuminated backgammon, chess, checkers and playing cards with the club's cocktails, refreshments, and music.

- Purling London @ Library, 112 St. Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4BD
- Wed 5th September & Wed 3rd October 2018, from 6:30 - 9:30 pm
- Dress code is smart casual. Complimentary entrance and games
- RSVP to colm@purlinglondon.com

Social media has become part of our life. How do you use social media for Purling London? How can our readers follow you?

Our products are very visual, and we’ve found Instagram to be the perfect platform to showcase them (@purlinglondon). We also use Facebook and Twitter with the same handle, and recently Youtube ‘Purling London’.

Purling London

Purling London Gold and White Bold Chess Packaging

Where can our readers buy Purling London products?

All of our products are available on www.purlinglondon.com, as well as in store at selected locations including Harrods.

What is next for Purling London?

Purling London is passionate about creating new playful experiences, fresh family interactions, and customer delight! We aspire to bring back more classic games as fashionable and innovative interior design accessories and gifts; embodying precision, history, and luxury. Our goal is to apply these values and standards to other classic games, and bring more traditional games into the present.

Thank you Simon.

For more information, please visit website of Purling London

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