Alexandra Llewellyn: The Art of Leisure
Alexandra Llewellyn’s handcrafted luxury game sets are timeless objets d’art designed to bring people together and reignite the passion for life’s simple pleasures.
In our screen-obsessed age, there is something to be said for the simple luxury of sitting down to play a game of backgammon. It’s an opportunity to unplug, slow down and engage with loved ones - to truly live in the moment and be present. Such is the philosophy of Alexandra Llewellyn, a London-based designer who creates beautifully handcrafted backgammon sets, luxury games and bespoke furniture. She founded her eponymous label in 2010 after training as a fine artist and working in product development. With her mother a fashion designer and her father a garden designer, her early life was spent surrounded by beauty. “I have made things all my life and have been lucky to have grown up with an appreciation of beautiful things,” she tells me. “Both my parents have amazing taste and we were always encouraged to look and to appreciate. In the same vein, we are a close family and games featured a lot when we were growing up. Backgammon was one of many games we played.” It was on a family trip to Cairo as a young child that Alexandra first fell in love with the game. “I will always remember the thrill of once playing backgammon with a man 10 times my age with whom I shared no language, no culture and no references, but we still communicated through a game of backgammon, and there was a lot of laughter,” she recalls. The moment stuck with her and the conviviality it generated continues to motivate her approach to design. “That absolutely still feeds what I do,” she says. “I love creating beautiful objects that are also games; they draw people in to play and talk and to be with each other… We sometimes joke in the studio about creating world peace through backgammon – pitching two warring countries and sitting them down to get to know each other over a game of backgammon.”
Alexandra’s passion for bringing people together translates to her creation of veritable heirlooms that - as she puts it - “tell stories and hold memories”. The success of her label owes to her ability to maintain traditional ideals of craftsmanship in an era of mass production: each piece is a labour of love, requiring months of hard work to ensure the highest possible quality. “When you can find anything online, my clients are looking for the unique and exceptional,” says Alexandra. “We are not creating huge volumes but instead we take time over making small quantities of truly exceptional pieces... It is important not to rush these things as you learn so much through the process of making and through the materials.” The manufacturing process is extensive: every Alexandra Llewellyn set passes through specific stages in at least nine UK-based workshops, each specialising in different materials and methods. The ancient technique of marquetry is used in the creation of many of the label’s pieces: Alexandra chooses each piece of wood for the colour and grain that best describes the individual design elements and then cuts it by hand or with a laser cutter before putting it together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, pressing and hand lacquering it until glass smooth. The playing pieces are weighted wrapped leather or weighted aluminium with leather bases and the playing compartments and dice shakers are lined in leather with a lip on the inside to ensure effective rolling of the precision dice. All elements are finally brought together in the studio, with each set uniquely tailored to the client’s specifications. Ultimately, each piece makes for an exquisite centrepiece in the home bound to spark conversation and bring family and friends together. With time at an increasing premium in the modern age, what more could one ask for?