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29 November 2012

The Grail of Pipe Luggage Found
 Pipe Briefcases and Pouches from Claudio Albieri

       -Posted by sykes-

I first met Claudio Albieri a few years ago. We chatted at the time, making small talk about our shared passion for pipes, but short of a bit of camaraderie nothing really came of it. This past September, I saw him again at the Dortmund Tabac Fair in Germany. I wasn't deliberately seeking him out and would probably have missed him had he not been sharing a booth with our mutual friend, pipe maker Gabriele Dal Fiume, who was right next to another mutual friend, Mimmo Domenico of briar cutting fame.

When I first arrived at Gabriele's booth, I was immediately impressed with his set up and presentation, especially the selection of various colors of leather to skillfully set off his pipes. And upon closer inspection, the leather was that sort of clean, vibrant, soft, Italian leather against which all other leather is compared. The sort of leather that makes women swoon, or, failing that, at least coo appreciatively and insist on picking it up to feel its texture and breathe in its scent. We got to talking about pipes and I started picking out some of Gabriele's lovely pipes for the site. That's when Gabriele then went to his briefcase for something. While I can barely dress myself, even I still know what a really fine handmade Italian leather briefcase looks like, and Gabriele most definitely had one. I was impressed.

But then Gabriele showed me that it was actually a pipe bag and a briefcase and a laptop bag, and in short order I was the one swooning like a Russian noblewoman in a Tolstoy novel. We temporarily abandoned the pipe transaction to have a conversation with Claudio, who, this whole time, was right there waiting for Gabriele and me to finish business so he could to talk to me.

I saw two examples that day: Gabriele's, bright yellow with brown trim, and Claudio's, blue with yellow trim. In my case, well, dark hair aside and Italian-American wife aside, I'm just not Italian enough to pull off a blue briefcase. It seemed just a bit daring for me (or, frankly, most American pipe smokers I could think of; I'm a bit jealous that I'm not as cool as the Italians I know, but at least I recognize that I'm not; it takes a certain panache to pull off a blue briefcase that I simply lack... but I digress...). So, as things progressed we settled on more sedate and earthier colors for most of the bags that would ultimately end up on (the black and red roll-up is still pretty bold-looking in its own way).

The work was stunning. I immediately and unhesitatingly decided that we really needed to carry these on I love them. It's like someone finally made the thing I always wished existed. After years of cramming my trusty Martin Wess 5-pipe bag (which, to be fair, has been an extraordinary companion for ten years) in my laptop bag (which, to be fair, is a piece of junk that came free with a laptop... two laptops ago), the prospect of a pipe bag and a laptop bag in one, with space for a book, my Kindle and assorted other odds and ends (all 838 cables I seem to travel with these days) seems so extraordinarily liberating. And I'd be tastefully sharp-looking and all Italian and stuff, which is something my wife has been trying to make happen (with little success) since we met. I'm on the road thirteen or fourteen weeks a year, which doesn't exactly encourage acquiring an impressive wardrobe. But briefcases and luggage are really important to people who spend more than a quarter of their lives living out of them.

They only arrived two days ago, but I've been dropping hints to my wife about Christmas since September. Of course, I'd told her the whole story and shared pictures of them with her. So, hinting, basically came down to: "and you know that pipe briefcase; you know Christmas is coming; you know you could call Ted; hint...hint." Subtle. I know. But I really hope she caught it...

Sykes Wilford: Founder/President

  Sykes Wilford: Founder/President

Posted by sykes at 4:00 PM | Link | 0 comments

An Artisan's Dilemma
 Newsletter Introduction for Thursday, November 29, 2012

       -Posted by adam-

Life is full of choices, and it's up to us to decide what is best for us given various situations. I'll refrain from discussing moral topics or those involving struggles of necessity, but drift over to the side that all of us think about from time to time, and especially around this season: Stuff! It's no secret (even here) that I like good food; buying it, making it, dining out, or - most often - buying choice ingredients to make something at home or in the office for my friends and co-workers. In the end, you often get what you pay for. Making it right is the key, really. One could get a perfectly marbled rib-eye steak and ruin it in a hundred ways. Similarly, one could use the finest cloth, leather, briar, or anything else as a raw material, and muddle it up into a solid disaster. So, given the choice, many choose to buy something good as a luxury, as opposed to trying to make it themselves, but how does one measure worth? Not everything can last a lifetime, but a great many things - including pipes - can.

As an artisan, I'm one of those weirdos that sees something really cool and immediately wants to make it [yeah, this is true for food and pretty much anything that doesn't involve computers, gasoline, or a phone-book sized instruction manual]. When my wife first wanted a purse handbag for her birthday a few years ago, she sent me a link to a site that carried Marc Jacobs handbags. At the time (*please see weirdo), I suggested to her that I make one. Suffice to say that this was my first time trying to make a purse handbag, failure ensued. Fortunately, making some pipes to sell to Smokingpipes helped me buy her the one she originally wanted, and I must fully declare how impressed I was when it arrived. The leather is of fantastic quality and the details throughout the design proved its worth to me.

Only a few days ago, Sykes showed me the new leather bags from Italian artisan Claudio Albieri. Not only are they of superb quality materials and craftsmanship-wise, they're also just really smart designs that have clearly been well thought-out in terms of offering something that both looks great and is also very functional. How many pipe cases have you seen that will carry your laptop, too? Sykes has a blog going up really soon which goes more into detail, so I'll simply say that you've got to see these pieces. One thing I'll point out that these bags are all made by an artisan; not a factory. Just like great handmade pipes, you'll notice the extra care that goes into making them.

Tonight you can find not only the new bags from Claudio Albieri, but a fantastic variety of pipes to whet your appetite. Claudio Cavicchi, Maigurs Knets, Scott Klein each have especially impressive pieces going up, as well as always-popular Ashton pipes with staggering blasting details. L'Anatra, Randy Wiley, Winslow, Nording, Savinelli, Peterson, Brigham, and six-dozen estates combine to make another - always different - update from the folks here at Smokingpipes.

Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector Adam Davidson: Quality Control & Pipe Inspector

Posted by adam at 3:55 PM | Link | 0 comments



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