APSU professor engineers paper chess set for Ivy Press in England

4093298927_f98ec07a1e“Inspiration is everywhere. Learning to draw is basically learning how to see, and once you know how to see, the world is never boring,” Kell Black said when describing where his inspirations come from when designing paper.

Black began to work with paper at the age of 5 when his father came home from the New York World’s Fair with a paper model of a Dutch village.

“After watching him build it, I went out to the driveway and drew our VW bus from all sides on a big sheet of cardboard, cut it out, folded it then glued it together,” Black said. “I’ve been making things ever since.”

Throughout his education, Black excelled in subjects such as geometry and drafting and used classes such as sculpture, drawing and mechanical drawing to refine his skills in paper engineering. Black has created everything from realistic paper structures to, recently, a chess set.

Last spring, Black received an e-mail from Kate Shanahan, an editor at Ivy Press in England, who was looking for a paper engineer to work with Ivy in creating a paper chess set.

Black just happened to be on the top of Shanahan’s list of paper engineers Ivy would like to work with. Black accepted the job and began working on models of chess pieces which would be featured in his first book.

“I had made literally hundreds of things [from] paper, but never a complete chess set. I had made one piece, though — a knight — over 25 years ago. It seemed like a great challenge,” Black said.

After months of designing, building, redesigning and building again, Black finished the project. “We had dozens (of pieces) around the house,” Black said.

Black said the hardest part was “creating elegant designs that can be built by a beginner.”

With the release of “Paper Chess,” Black is once again in the beginning stages of creating a book. This time around, however, he will be creating “Paper New York,” which will be followed by “Paper Cut.”

“‘Paper Cut’ [will] examine the work of ten international artists, designers and illustrators who work in the medium of cut paper,” Black said.

“I’ve been interviewing the artists and then creating tutorials that examine a technical or conceptual aspect of their work.”

Black also devotes his time to large-scale charcoal drawings and blackandjones, which is a new media in sound and video collaboration.

“I have upcoming exhibitions in all the areas I work in — paper, drawing and new media,” Black said.

“I’m exhibiting new paperworks in a group show next month at the Cumberland Gallery in Nashville; I’ve an upcoming solo drawing exhibition at Belmont University; and my colleague Barry Jones, and I have a new media show this spring at the Renaissance Center in Dickson.”


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  1. […] a couple interviews (see “APSU Artist Releases Book of Paper Chess Pieces” and “APSU Professor Engineers Paper Chess Set for Ivy Press in England“) with designer Black, an art professor at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, who […]

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