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Celebrating the Journey of Backgammon Designer Alexandra Llewellyn

Azza Fahmy Jewellery launches the second episode of 'Modern Cultural Curators' Film celebrating the journey of one of the world's leading Backgammon Designers, Alexandra Llewellyn, in collaboration with AnOther Magazine, UK.

Alexandra Llewellyn

"For nearly 5000 years, the game of backgammon has been a source of entertainment in cultures across the world, long associated with the leaders and aristocracy of ancient civilisations including Persia, Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Far East."

 

"A derivative of the game was found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb, Plato describes a form of backgammon noting its popularity, and the Romans used it to play a classical version of strip poker. Backgammon as we now know it originated in the 1920s when an unknown New York gambler first introduced the doubling dice, requiring the development of strategy and technique, and thus creating a more intricate and popular game."

 

Backgammon Designer Alexandra Llewellyn

"British-born Alexandra Llewellyn has established herself as one of the world's leading backgammon board designers. She was first introduced to the game when visiting her grandparents in Egypt. "We would often wander around the back streets and play a game of backgammon with the older locals. I had little in common with them – language, culture, age – but we were all able to communicate with one another through a game.""

 

Backgammon Design by Alexandra Llewellyn

"Travel was an important part of Llewellyn's childhood and there was usually a backgammon board available in most of the places she visited. "Quite often it wasn't even a proper board – I distinctly recall one fashioned from bottle tops in Morocco.""

 

Having trained in fine art, Llewellyn decided to make her first backgammon board as a thank you to some close friends. "I built the board and painted it with orchids and leaves," she recalls. "I remember the immense feeling of satisfaction making the board and then later, playing on it."

 

Backgammon Design by Alexandra Llewellyn

In December 2010, Llewellyn decided to start her own company, specialising in backgammon board design. She now produces six key designs for her boards, adorned with unique palm, pheasant, butterfly, nude, antler and peacock paintings accompanied by weighted pieces and leather lined turned shakers.

 

 

Alexandra's Workshop- London

Each board is the result of collaborations with a number of international master craftsmen who excel in working with different techniques and materials, including Ben Gaskill, a London-based stone-mason. Gaskill and his team, working from a studio under the railway arches in Brixton, South London, create exquisite semi-precious stone playing pieces to accompany the boards.

 

Ben Gaskel- Backgammon Master Craftsman

Llewellyn also takes one-off commissions for games tables and boards, where every detail is created in close conversation with the client to create a truly original way to commemorate memories and life achievements. "I made one board for a couple which was made up of their love letters to each other over a period of 50 years. It had American black walnut with hand painted surface, engraved playing pieces and secret messages embossed in leather."

 


"I'm inspired by the incredible history of the game of backgammon", Llewellyn explains, "but also the board itself as a beautiful centrepiece. I love how it brings people together."

Text by Laura Bradley, AnOther Magazine
Film by Stefan Heinrichs

 

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