The evolution of Courtly Check
September 08, 2020
Our beloved Courtly Check pattern has come a long way, and this month we’re celebrating its 25th birthday. Let’s look back at some key events in its evolution.
Early 1990s: Then unnamed, Courtly Check first appears on an armoire as a thin hand-painted border that separated two ornate patterns.
1995: The Camp MacKenzie-Childs collection of enamelware, which was designed for casual outdoor use and glamping, is introduced with a black and white check called Roasted Marshmallow as one of the five patterns. The name was inspired by the subtle hints of additional colors that resembled the caramelized sugar on marshmallows toasted over an open fire. Later that year, Roasted Marshmallow is renamed Courtly Check after an editor referred to MacKenzie-Childs as “the court jester of tabletop.”
2003: The Courtly Check Tea Kettle is introduced in the three-quart size. Today, the Courtly Check Tea Kettle, now available in a two-quart size and a whistling model, is probably our most iconic product, and it’s often the first piece of MacKenzie-Childs that a customer purchases.
2004: Courtly Check is incorporated into pottery production. Pieces were handmade and hand-painted and trimmed with gold lustre by our artisans in Aurora, New York, a tradition that continues today.
2009: Courtly Check fabric is unveiled. Getting the checks just right took five years but was well worth the effort, says Rebecca Proctor, our creative director and chief brand officer.
“We created a hand-painted textile document first, which then needed to be digitally printed. Finding the right printer that could produce our design on high-quality fabric was challenging and required more samples than I can count,” Rebecca remembers. “We wanted the coloration of all our brushstrokes from the original art to be perfect, and we spent days reviewing each check, one brushstroke at a time. When it was finally approved, a new world of projects became possible. Upholstered furniture, pillows, and tabletop textiles were among the first collection.”
2010–2020: Courtly Check continues to expand across all our product platforms. Currently, you can find Courtly Check on everything from dinnerware to drapes, from pillows to Halloween pumpkins, and so much more. And, yes, it’s still on furniture, too, although it has taken on a much bigger role than just that thin border of years ago. There are several products that feature Courtly Check in their designs and their names.
Finally, Courtly Check has influenced the development of other check patterns, including our Parchment Check, introduced in 2012 and inspired by the beautiful love letters written by Rebecca’s grandparents when they were courting in 1918; and Royal Check, introduced in 2019. This interpretation of checks in a range of blue hues was inspired by our location, which overlooks Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, in Upstate New York.
Who knows what other checks might be on the horizon? We’re not telling—yet. But we will say that Courtly Check continues to be a great source of inspiration that even in its 25th year shows no signs of slowing down.