Bringing Her “B” Game

Melanie Boggs inspires an addition to her husband’s woodworking repertoire

HER TURN TO PLAY
Backgammon enthusiast Melanie Boggs and her artisan husband Brian.
Photo by Colby Rabon

Brian Boggs Chairmakers is well known, highly regarded, and multi awarded for collections of striking handcrafted wooden chairs, tables, stools, desks, and custom pieces. Though Brian works the wood, and the company bears his name, his wife and business partner Melanie Boggs is the marketing powerhouse who, since 2009, has built the brand.

And it was Melanie who made the first move in creating a timely addition to their line: stunning backgammon sets crafted of straight-grain maple, walnut, and quilted maple (different for its diamond-shaped grain). 

Boggs’ backgammon boards are richly crafted heirloom pieces.

Her love of the game was inspired by her father, who taught her to play backgammon and chess when she was ten years old. “I really fell in love with backgammon,” she says. “You can play a game a lot faster than chess, and my general mojo moves at a faster pace.”

When she was in high school, he brought her home a set he purchased on a business trip to Lebanon, “handmade and inlaid with mother-of-pearl … definitely a step up from what I learned on. I took it to college, it traveled around the world with me, I played on it all the time with a backgammon buddy when I lived in D.C., and I have it still.”

And yet, in the 13 years she has lived in Asheville, it was rarely opened, in part because the city did not have an active backgammon scene and also because Brian doesn’t play: “He’s a Scrabble guy.”

In September 2019, the Boggses were exhibiting in Dubai, and while Melanie doesn’t recall seeing a set there, she thinks being in the Middle East, the birthplace of the ancient game, as well as different images she saw whiwalking around the city, combined to plant a seed in her subconscious. 

CHANGING THE GAME
Brian Boggs at work.
Photo by Colby Rabon

The idea manifested itself back home. “We were at a local brewery, and while Brian was at the bar getting a beer, out of the blue I had this complete download and started doodling a round backgammon board on a napkin. Brian was so excited; he is typically the doodler, but he kept teasing details out of me and encouraged me to make a cardboard model of what I envisioned.” 

That was as far as she got until COVID locked everyone down; she pulled out the cardboard model and handed it over to the shop. “I participated in all the decision making through the process; my input was the ‘what’ and Brian’s was the ‘how.’”

The challenge, she explains, was how every piece would relate to everything else structurally and aesthetically. The look of the “points” was especially important to her, and to accentuate them, Brian did an overlay of veneers, cutting windows through the quilted maple of the playing surface, exposing either straight-grained walnut with a deep chocolate hue or straight-grained maple. The inset area is filled with clear resin and a finish applied overall. Playing pieces — checkers — are made of leather, wood, and brass and the board closes into a demilune, held shut with hidden magnets.

Melanie thinks as days grow shorter, backgammon is a mentally stimulating, fun way to interact with others. And, she adds with a laugh, “Now that we have this gorgeous board, Brian wants to learn to play.” 

Brian Boggs Chairmakers, Asheville. For more information, call 828-398-9701 or see brianboggschairmakers.com/p/backgammon-game.