. . . a set of carved ivory chessmen . . . , for which she had conceived an unreasonable affection. . . . They were Chinese, and each piece was a complicated nest of little revolving balls, delicate as fine lace.
When I first read this book, years and years ago, I conceived a mad desire to just see such a thing, and so I was nearly ecstatic when I found a set much like the one pictured below in the Peabody and Essex Museum in Salem, MA.
These look larger than the ones I saw, which I remember as being about 2/3 of the size these are in the picture, and it was an entire set in a lovely case, and I believe they were more delicate and intricate. I kept thinking about how long it took someone to carve the figures, and how no one has the time to do work like this anymore and what a loss that is to the world. After staring at them for a while, I looked around at all the other objects from China and India that were in the room. There were so many exquisite little miracles of craftsmanship, and I wondered how many craftsmen of that caliber there are left in the world.
I remembered the chess set today when I saw the item that is going around Facebook about a young man, Benjamin Harff, who illuminated and bound a copy of Tolkien's Silmarillion. There's an interview with him here, and if you do a Google image search, you can see more of the illuminations.
I find myself a bit jealous of anyone who has the time to do such a thing, but then I wonder if I would take advantage of it if I had it. I probably would not. I like to think that given the time, I would write something here everyday, but I frequently waste the time when I have it. I remember before I worked, though, that I was always making something: sewing, embroidering, or knitting--nothing anywhere near this lovely, but it was very satisfying. I hope that someday I can get back to that.