I first had the pleasure of meeting Scott Thile, who was introduced to me by Brian Levine as the ‘man behind Pipedia.org’, or something along those lines, two or three years ago at a show in KC, on the Missouri side of the sprawling metropolis, at the Club’s Saturday evening banquet event, where we sat next to one another over our meals. While Scott supped on salmon and I picked at a salad, he and I talked at lengths about a great many things besides his conceiving and then managing Pipedia.org, which takes up a considerable amount of his precious free time, in case you didn’t know. We talked about his passion for music that has happily coincided with his career of tuning and repairing pianos. We talked about his extensive touring where he plays Stand Up Bass – sometimes called Double Bass, or as Adam Davidson confusingly calls it ‘Nipple Bass’– in a couple of different jazz bands in a couple of different locales. But perhaps most importantly we discussed his ardor for pipe making.
And therein lies the cause for our meeting. Pipe makers go to pipe shows for a handful of reasons, like to sell pipes for one thing. But pipe makers go to pipe shows to ‘get out there’, to ‘put [themselves] out there’, to be seen and to be heard, and to get acquainted, for the unknowns, or the lesser well-knowns, with those in the pipe world that it’s good to get to know. We at Smokingpipes.com go to pipe shows for much the same reasons: to sell pipes, and to get to know all the different folks that buy and sell pipes. It’s networking, it’s marketing, it’s selling, it’s buying, it’s biz, and we find it fun.
So Scott Thile is a heck of a nice guy. Heck of an interesting guy. Totally loves pipes and the all things adjunct, superjacent, and microcosmic to pipe smoking which can tend to happen I assume after 38 years of pipe smoking. But he’s a heck of a good pipe maker too. Through his work he’s channeling greats like Jeff Gracik, Todd Johnson, and Bruce Weaver, continuing the riff on highly aesthetic Scandinavian functionalism as filtered through the American lens. Scott Thile’s pipes are beautiful, in part because he’s making time to study the best pipes he can get his hands on and with the best carvers out there making pipes. He’s ‘getting out there’. I say you should get to know him and his work because he’s one of those carvers it’s good to get to know. (Bear has an interestingly entertaining or entertainingly interesting blog post on Scott here.) And if you can grab a meal with him at a pipe show you should.
Thursday means ‘new stuff’ here at Smokingpipes.com. New pipes, sometimes by makers new to the site, Scott Thile for instance, will end up on Smokingpipes.com on a day like Thursday. And when we say ‘for instance’ we mean as you read this we’ve just uploaded to our virtual storefront six Scott Thile pipes. Likewise we’ve added five fresh works from Kevin Arthur. So if you’re in the mood for American-made pipe goodness you’ve got a wider selection available here than can be counted on all of your fingers unless your name is Count Tyrone Rugen, and you’re the vizier of Prince Humperdinck, in which case you’ve got bigger problems vis-à-vis you killed Domingo Montoya and by-the-way his son is looking for you.
We’re also happy to host new pipes from Rattrays, Ardor, Ser Jacopo, Mastro de Paja, Brebbia, Savinelli, Neerup, Nording, Brigham, and of course Peterson. Likewise, you’ll find an intercontinental mix of 74 recently restored estate pipes added to the site from Denmark, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the US, Russia, Turkey, Norway, South Africa, and Portugal. All over the place, really.
Also new to the site this afternoon: a gorgeous (naturally) leather briefcase by Claudio Albieri. This latest model is presented in two distinct flavors, one of which is hued a soft butternut-acorn and trimmed in chocolate, the other a medium-grade charcoal balanced in burnt chestnut leather accents, and is somewhat less briefcase and a little more pipe bag than the model we introduced in late 2012. While you might not be able to stuff a 15.6 inch Samsung Series 7 Chronos laptop in this Claudio Albieri briefcase, you can certainly get a Chromebook in there, as well as, more importantly, eight pipes, the briefcase coming complete with a matching set of eight leather pipe socks/bags, in addition to a rather handy leather rollup pouch that can be affixed to the front of the briefcase with leather straps. Voila.
It's been a few weeks since Sykes and Dennis went to the Inter-tabac International Trade Fair for Tobacco Products in Dortmund, but it sometimes takes a while for the results of such trips to reach the website; whether it be pipes for you to purchase, or photos for you to view in a blog post. Well, most of the pipes have made it on the site already, but the photos have yet to be seen until now. Most of us may not have been able to go to Germany with them, but we're lucky enough that Dennis took many nice pictures of some of the places and people they saw while they were there. Since another crew has already been sent to the Richmond Pipe Show, there's been no time to annotate them, but as usual, the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!
"Celebrate good times, COME ON!" Yes, it takes one helluva special update to get me to quote a Kool & the Gang song, especially one that has been beaten to death by every wedding/birthday/bar mitzvah DJ since 1980, but today's announcement and special event has me forgetting every watered down drink and room-temp hors d'oeuvre that I have consumed to the tune.
At this very moment, 'we've got a party going on right here' at Low Country Pipe & Cigars; a pre-Richmond Show and celebration, where we find ourselves honored to unveil the vanguard of the Luciano Pipe revamp. Crafted from top-tier Mediterranean plateau briar, which was hand selected and seasoned by Luca di Piazza himself, the first four all-new series (Breakfast, Lunch, Snack and Dinner) feature elegant, deliriously elongated shapes, exquisite bamboo ferrules, as well as an aesthetic paradigm heretofore unseen from Italy. In addition. each of these new pipes comes with a designer zip-up pouch, organic cotton sleeve, and a technical paper about the pipe.
Accompanying the new Luciano introduction, Radice is doing some special unveiling of their own; their limited edition Christmas pipe for 2013! This year's yuletide offering is a generously sized straight apple, available in the 'Rind', 'Pure', 'Silk' and 'Clear' finish, and all sport a handsome band of antler on the mount, as well as a tamper crafted from the same with briar to match. This will be the last year that the Radice Christmas pipe will feature antler, so collect them while you can. As an extra special surprise, Luca has created a one-time set of the 2011-2013 Christmas pipes, using pipes that he reserved for the specific purpose. Also accompanying any Radice pipe you purchase, for a limited time, is a prettykickin tamper
I hope to see you all at our store show but, for those who cannot attend, all of these offerings (perhaps the three-pipe set not withstanding) and more will be available at the upcoming Richmond Pipe Show.
Yes, our crew has come home from the IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas. Not only did they lug back hundreds of beautiful pipes, which are soon to hit the website, but they also managed to take some video to showcase the many brands represented there. A quick warning: the video below may cause extreme jealousy and drooling. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more clips like this one. Without any further delay, here are the highlights:
I would love to say that I was prepared to take on whatever could be thrown my way, but that would be a drastic overstatement. You see, I’m a bit new to the business of tobacco pipes. I’ve enjoyed a pipe for over 3 years, but that only amounts to about half of a percent of the pipe retail world. When I said I was new to the business, I didn’t mean a few months on the job or even weeks. In fact, at the time we left for Chicago I could count the number of full days worked at Smokingpipes.com on one hand. At the end of my first week, I was whisked away to the Chicagoland Pipe Show for a week of total immersion in everything pipes and tobacco. It wasn't just sales and such going on, but the meeting and befriending of some of the finest pipe makers on earth, while trying not to look like a twit. I've had little exposure to people of celebrity status in my life. Sure, I've read about noteworthy people, but almost never come face to face with them. So imagine my reaction when Adam Davidson is now a coworker, and I've just ran into Benni and Lasse, Lars and Nanna, Tokutomi, Eltang, Armentrout, Lobnik, and so many more. Luckily, the great many pipe makers I talked with were most personable. They were accepting, and willing to answer the most basic of questions, ones they’ve been asked countless times. Interestingly enough, our conversations would frequently stray from pipes and arrive at subjects like photography, music and vinyl records, or the day to day of our home lives. If a week spent with pipe makers taught me anything, it taught me that this is not an industry of competing production, but a family of very talented craftsman and artists who are proud to have common ground.
As exciting as all of this was, there was the other side of the coin: the logistics of presenting Smokingpipes.com in the flesh. Moments before our departure, I was up to my neck in some of finest pipes I’ve seen, assisting in their safe transportation. Then was the task of creating a visual display that represents Smokingpipes in the same way you'd expect from viewing the website. No pressure, right?
When I came to Smokingpipes.com, I imagined I would use some of the skills I acquired as a Firefighter/EMT such as logistics, inventory control, and communications skills. I didn’t realize, though, that I would also make use of skills like working while sleep and food deprived, working under intense pressure, and organizing chaos. Fortunately, we had a dedicated group of people traveling, backed by some top notch folks at the home base, and a world-class shipping department, so as a team we overcame the obstacles and pulled off a great show. I enjoyed meeting those of you who came to visit us, and I'm looking forward to meeting many more pipe enthusiasts, carvers, and collectors. My door and inbox are open to those seeking answers or conversation, and my thanks go out to those who have welcomed me so warmly into this community. I'm happy to be the new Pipe Manager, I'm happy for the freedom to make this unique position my own, and I'm happy to be considered part of the Smokingpipes.com family.
The day before Valentine’s Day I flew to Japan. Actually, I flew to Georgia, then to California, then to Japan, but you get the gist. The purpose of all this travel? To represent Smokingpipes.com at the Fourth Annual Pipe Fiesta in Tokyo, of course.
I was met at Haneda airport by our very own Ryota Shimizu. He whisked me away, and over the course of the next few days I met with friends, pipe makers, business folks, and customers alike. I'm pleased to report that the show, which was held Sunday, February 17, was a complete success. Just like last year, it was a blast. This year, however, the venue was bigger, the turnout of pipe smokers and collectors was better, and even more international travelers turned up to take part, like Luca Di Piazza of Neat Pipes and Sebastien Beaud of Genod (and the man behind our very own line of Sebastien Beo pipes).
Japan is awesome. The people are gracious, generous, and extraordinarily congenial. Tokyo is beautiful, wild, exotic, and captivating. It was especially cool to hang out with other pipe people who are super excited about the hobby, even if we couldn’t understand one another. That’s a magical thing right there.
The fourth-annual West Coast pipe show, an event my wife and I look forward to every year, was held in sunny Las Vegas this past weekend. With most other pipe shows, the carvers that attend are usually flying solo, but quite a few wives, of carvers and collectors alike, appear at this one. Perhaps it has something to do with a venue that is not only exciting in and of itself, but that also features a free shuttle to a massive shopping mall on the strip (which just happens to be flanked by about a million-and-a-half other attractive lights, sculptures, shops, and restaurants) that makes our better halves willing to accompany us without even the slightest bit of coaxing.
Pipe guys like to browse a wonderful selection of tobacciana, as well as hang out with each other over coffee in the mornings and pints slightly later (everyone seems to take the time change into consideration when at pipe shows). I was lucky to get five full days in Vegas this year with my lovely wife; arriving early in the morning on Thursday and leaving very late Monday night. Pipe shows are great times to meet up with friends we might only see one time a year; twice, if we are lucky. Ted and John held down the Smokingpipes tables where quite a few face-to-face introductions were made with many of you. It's always great for us to meet with customers as well as other artisans, and quite a few pipes from many artisans will eventually make it to our site, as well as a staggering variety of lovely estate pipes we acquired, once they get cleaned and refurbished.
When it all began, some people were wondering just how well a pipe show would do in glitzy Las Vegas. Everyone attended the first year on a gamble [pun!], but after the show ended that Sunday and everyone was saying their goodbyes, many people I was speaking with were already planning on what they would do at next year's. As it turns out, my wife and I finally made it to the Grand Canyon this time, as well as seeing (per my wife's request) a David Copperfield show. John, Ted, and I all sampled some wonderful rare tobaccos, as well as a few blends that were just released (stay tuned!). Quite possibly the most fun show around, Las Vegas is definitely something to put on your radar for next year. Until then, check our updates on Mondays and Thursdays to see some new wares freshly-offered, and choose a tin or two to bundle up with as the winter's cooler weather begins creeping in.
Now, for today's update we have great handmade pipes from Michael Lindner, Ardor, and Ser Jacopo, in addition to briars by Savinelli and Neerup, plus meerschaums from IMP. This update is also happens to be packed with Peterson's, each just begging to be purchased with a free tin of Peterson tobacco, our promotion this month. There's also lots of estates to be had, as well, a full seventy-count in all.
The Chicago pipe show is, as many would rightly claim, "The greatest show on earth". In respect to the amount of pipes to be found at the show, such a claim is difficult to deny. The show is not necessarily a who’s who of the pipe making, collecting, smoking, business, and hobby world, but it’s considered the number-one "must do" show for many people simply because there are a great number of carvers/customers who only go to this one show. And that’s because it’s huge. Carvers, collectors, customers, and people from all walks of the industry gather at the Pheasant Run Resort each May to attend a show full of fun, excitement, relaxation, and the chance to buy, swap, or sell almost anything pipe related.
For the pipe maker, the CPCC show is likewise a chance to show thousands of people what you can do. In fact, many pipe makers view Chicago as not only the biggest show around, but tend to reference the show almost like it’s the beginning of the year. Because so many of us only get a chance to meet up with many collectors and different friends once each year during the show, it’s an opportunity for many to compare present works to those of previous Chicago shows. Also, because there’s plenty of friendly competition among makers, many pipe carvers decide to bring a piece (or two) that stands out simply for its beauty and craftsmanship. A lot of my pipe making friends arrive with stunning pieces of which they are very proud - and should be - but still spend as much time talking and learning from other pipe makers as much as possible. When so many guys meet up annually after working feverishly for weeks or months, often working the previous week before the show until early in the morning fueled by caffeine, nicotine, and a healthy balance between excitement and stress, that first gulp of an adult beverage while sipping on a favored tobacco can often be interpreted as the first time to relax in quite a long while.
It's always nice for a carver to share a smoke with friends and it’s especially delightful when those friends are smoking pipes that the carver remembers having made for them in his shop months or years earlier. There’s great satisfaction in knowing that something one created is being enjoyed by another.
Not only do collectors enjoy sharing stories of their favorite pieces, many enjoy sharing vintage tobaccos. Much like a fine meal or bottle of wine, rare tobaccos are enjoyed even more so when sampled together. A good friend and collector of mine brought a tin of Balkan Sobraine #10 from 1962 he was saving for such an occasion. Never before have I had the chance to press down the cutting tip, hear the hiss, and smell the aroma while the foil was being cut. True to his nature, the man who owned this tobacco enjoyed sharing bowls with the gentlemen around him. The experience of such a smoke like this is quite a rarity.
My wife was not able to go to the show with me this year because of her work schedule and the fact that extra flights and such make for a very expensive trip compared to other pipe shows. This, coupled with the realization that as much fun as I seem to be having until nearly 3:00 a.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, doesn't take away that pipe shows are still a lot of work. Arranging meetings with friends and customers, lunches, dinners, a carver’s panel, focus groups, and penciling in plenty of time to relax with a pipe and/or a beer leave little time to do much of anything else. Pipe makers not only need to spend a lot of time with customers and friends - they want to do so. Meeting many of these people face-to-face is something we all look forward to, I believe.
When all is said and done, when traveling home from the Chicago pipe show there’s a calm satisfaction peppered with utter exhaustion to be had when one steps foot in the front door of their home. I greatly enjoy meeting up with so many people during all the pipe shows I attend each year, but none compare to the vastness of the annual show put on by the good folks of the CPCC.
The Chicagoland International Pipe & Tobacciana Show is an orgiastic smorgasbord of some of the finest tobacco pipes ever made, past and present. Technically speaking, this year the event began on Saturday morning and ran through Sunday afternoon, and was prefaced on Friday by a short pre-show event held in the Smoking Tent just adjacent to the show room floor proper. For many, including Smokingpipes.com, the experience that is the "Chicago Show" begins quite a bit earlier than it does for most. Sykes arrived Monday prior. The rest of us, Susan Salinas (Purchasing Manager for SPC and the brains of any pipe show we ever go to, ever), John Sutherland (Marketing Manager, Senior Staff Photographer), and I, followed by Tony Santiague (Vice Chairman, VP Emeritus, and "OG" Smokingpipes team member), and Ryota Shimizu (Customer Service: Japan), arrived Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.
As usual our room was open to all; it could be found, expectedly, in room 1405 of the tower, complete with a properly thick atmosphere painted in pipe smoke of several different room notes, joined by the fragrance of neatly prepared French-pressed coffee and freshly brewed espresso. There was, of course, also a healthy dose of bourbon, Scotch, and vodka, which unsurprisingly overshadowed a much-shunned selection of canned Pabst Blue Ribbon, Diet Sunkist, Cherry Dr. Pepper, and Red Bull. And then, of course, there was the rather conspicuous presence of a few hundred gorgeous briar pipes. We were fortunate enough to have on display new works from such esteemed artisans as Smio Satou, Hiroyuki Tokutomi, Kei Gotoh, Kent Rasmussen, and Former, to name but a few. There was also Nanna Ivarsson's truly awesome, first-ever, Seven-Day Set.
By the time the weekend arrived, and the show proper with it, we were in full force. Looking back Saturday seemed like an extraordinarily busy blur, and it probably was, what with all the running around talking to numerous carvers and customers and the like. In fact, I think the general sentiment for the show as a whole was that it was quite busy for everyone involved, whether they were attending for business or pleasure, or both. And that's a good thing, methinks.
However, all good things must come to an end (or so the cliché insists), and by Sunday we were fighting exhaustion as we said our long goodbyes and annual farewells. Once again we'd like to thank the CPCC for having us, and for putting such tireless effort in maintaining the tradition of an extremely successful show. Until next year, everybody!
This past weekend, John, Sykes, and I attended the TAPS show in Raleigh, NC. Although Smokingpipes.com has been appearing regularly at this show for years, this was only my second time at the convention, and the first time for Sykes in almost ten years. And John? This was his very first pipe show. We were all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. But I don’t think anybody noticed.
I’ll mention that I also dragged my wife along. It was her first pipe show as well. We’d decided that it was past due she see for herself what all the fuss is about regarding these expos of old pipes and tobaccos, and because the guys in TAPS are so friendly and do such a great job of making vendors, collectors, smokers, and tourists alike feel very welcome and invited, I figured this would be the one to bring her to. Also, it’s an easy show for Smokingpipes.com to do. The TAPS show is one of the very few we can drive to, and of the relatively short, three hour drive, two thirds of it is a tour of pristine, beautiful country on a two lane highway, specked along the way with small villages and barn houses. This makes for a very pleasant drive, especially when you don’t rush it.
If you’ve never made it to the TAPS show, you’re missing out. Although small (I prefer to think cozy), its proximity to NCU means that it brings out a very diverse crowd of people, particularly across age and gender. It’s really cool to meet a lot of young guys who are just getting into the hobby; they’re green passion and eagerness to absorb new ideas is refreshing. And it’s endlessly pleasing to see so many girls out and about puffing away on Peterson pipes. We also managed to acquire a few dozen really neat estate pipes, meet a handful of customers in person for the first time, and catch up with guys like Steve Monjure, Bill Dougherty, Morty Berkowitz, and Jim Carrino, and many more. So yeah, all in all, it was a very good show. My wife might even want to do it again… one day.
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