Artist’s yard is a big chess set

It’s not every San Francisco garden that can boast a king, a queen and an entire court to boot.

But Nomi Klein’s garden, in a quiet stretch of the outer Richmond, does just that — with a gold and white fiberglass chess set Klein designed.

The tallest game piece measures 43 inches high and the entire set sits atop a 16-foot-by-16-foot board made of paving tiles.

Each piece weighs around 12 pounds. And while the figurines dominate the small backyard, they also lend a gentle order to a space that Klein says was once nothing but grass, weeds and sand.

The tile chess board is bordered by a gravel walkway, grasses and flowers like lavender and pansies in purples, white and yellows and the garden has an easy, impromptu look.

Klein scattered seeds and split grasses to save the cost of buying and planting whole plants throughout the garden and she experiments with plants to see what takes well to the space and requires little water and constant maintenance.

A green shed in the back corner of the yard is intended to blend in with the flora.

“I want to leave it very, very simple,” Klein says. “The chess will be the main thing.”

A Meyer lemon tree is a nod to the Bay Area and an avocado tree reminds her of the 80 fruit trees she left behind in San Diego when she moved here around a year ago to be closer to family. A pomelo tree, with its oversized fruit, is the perfect foil to the massive chess pieces, she says.

Klein said she first thought of creating a massive chess set when she was a child visiting Salzburg, Austria, and saw people playing the game outdoors.

She honed her interest in art and design with a career that took her from Israel to New York, Mexico and San Diego. She studied machine design and did mechanical drawing during military service, as well as studying art.

The giant chess set became reality while she was in Mexico. Some 10 years after she started, her chess pieces — which are all made by hand — are in hotels and private gardens around the U.S. and abroad, she says.

As far as she knows, Klein’s the only person in the U.S. making large chess sets.

“It’s not just for the game, it’s also like a sculpture,” she says.

Art & Museumsartsentertainment

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Cities including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley are calling for large grocery and drug store chains to pay employees hazard pay for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock)
SF proposes $5 hazard pay law for grocery, drug store workers

San Francisco may soon join the growing number of cities requiring large… Continue reading

Hikers walk along a closed stretch of Twin Peaks Boulevard on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board to vote on future of Twin Peaks Boulevard

The proposal would keep Burnett Avenue gate closed to vehicles, open Portola Drive

Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Klein collects crayons from students in the classroom at Lupine Hill Elementary School on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 in Calabasas, California. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom, legislators strike deal to reopen California schools

Taryn Luna and John Myers Los Angeles Times Gov. Gavin Newsom and… Continue reading

A sign about proposed development of the bluff at Thornton State Beach in Daly City on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Retreat center proposed at popular state beach

Daly City residents oppose construction on ocean bluffs

City supervisors are calling for an expansion of free summer programs for elementary age kids. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Supervisors urge city to provide free summer programs for all SFUSD students

San Francisco supervisors on Monday announced a proposal to expand summer programs… Continue reading

Most Read