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!
Not too long ago Sykes visited our friends at Cornell & Diehl in Morganton, NC. Today, he is in Asakusa for the Tokyo pipe show. As should go without saying, he hasn't had much time in between the two trips for writing about his experience. He did, however, take a moment to send me these photos of his tour. He noted that the flake you can see being made is the G.L. Pease tobacco, "Quiet Nights," a blend of rich, ripe red virginias, fine orientals, smokey Cyprus Latakia, and a pinch of Acadian perique. In addition, we can learn from these photos that it is pressed and cut rather wet so that it has the right consistency for those processes, but then it needs to air-dry for a few hours before tinning. But let's just allow the pictures to illustrate this for themselves. As always, it's great to see how much this tobacco goes through to make it to our humble briars.
Well, folks, it isn't Friday. No, your mind isn't playing tricks on you, this is our weekly update blog post, only it's been moved to Tuesday. Since today's post constitutes three updates, rather than the usual two, we have a lot to show you.
Last Monday's update was busy, featuring Chris Askwith, Gian Maria Gamboni, and most recently from Savinelli, the Petite series. These elegant, French-inspired pipes received special attention from Eric, so check out his blog post "The Resurgence" to read more about them.
Newcomer Lomma, also known as Lars Jonsson, returned to Smokingpipes.com Thursday with another batch of unique and striking briar, a few of which are still available. With Lomma's education from both Tom Eltang and Hans "Former" Nielsen, it's no wonder these pipes have been popular, but a few of them managed to stay on the site over the weekend, so be sure to have a look.
The coveted Ikebana series from Tsuge certainly didn't let us down yesterday. Of course, when you consider that they were accompanied by a number of masterful pieces from Ichi Kitahara, we almost managed eye-candy overload. We're sorry. Since these were both updated yesterday, however, a few of them are still available for your browsing pleasure.
As usual, Chris and Katie in our photography department gave us too many photos to choose from for this week's banners. Many more of these sublime shots are posted to our social media pages, where I am always there to chat with you about them. Come join the conversation!
Many of you are probably already bolting off for your long-weekend fun, so I'll try to make this quick. This Labor Day weekend, there are some things you might want to keep in mind: promotions to take advantage of, beautiful pipes to see, that kind of thing. Let's start with Monday. Michael Parks was a big hit on Monday's update, but two of his darkly-stained beauties managed to hang out on our website. Sykes has been making us quite jealous by sending photos from Denmark, such as this behind-the-scenes shot from inside the workshop with Tom Eltang.
Between new-to Smokingpipes brands/pipe carvers and promotions there's a lot to say about this week. The Rossi promotion, with the free shirts, kicked off yesterday and has been a huge hit. We still have shirts though, so keep those orders coming. Great pipe, great value, and great (free) shirt... who can argue with that? In addition, previous promotions still ongoing are as follows: Lane Limited bulk tobacco is still on sale, select boxes of CAO cigars recieve a free cigar cutter, 20% off 5 tins of Escudo/Orlik, and 20% off select Savinelli pipes.
Whew, that's a lot to get out. Only, it feels like I'm forgetting something. Ah yes, we've added two new brands to our already vast library of pipes. Neither is new to the pipe business, simply new to Smokingpipes.com. The first name you should be familiar with: Rattray's. The popular tobacconist established his Scotland shop in 1903. Their blends have graced Smokingpipes.com for some time now, but until yesterday, the pipes were sadly abscent. We're glad that's been remedied.
The second newcomer to SPC is Konstantin Shekita of Ukraine. This master of the briar produces only about 200 pipes annually, but upon seeing their detail anyone can see it is a wonder he produces that many. We are quite happy to have these beautiful works of art added to Smokingpipes.com. As always, far more photos are posted to social media than on this blog, so to see more about any of these events, just click through to our pages! Have a great Labor Day weekend, and don't forget to check out Monday's update on your day off.
This week has seen some beautiful pipes and some broken pipes, a strange combination I know. It's also been busy, so here's a quick recap in case you've missed anything. Monday's update included showstoppers from Michael Lindner and Maigurs Knets, among many others. Our photography team produced a great number of beautiful images for these, for more of them check out our Facebook and Tumblr pages.
Of course, we have so many promotions and special events, they sometimes get muddled together.
~15% off all estates (even Monday's update)-Active four more days
~Coming soon: Tobacco selections from Drew Estate
~20% off select Savinelli pipes
~All Lane Limited bulk tobacco is on sale through August
~FREE cigar cutter with select boxes of CAO cigars
~Now available: McClelland Holiday Spirit
We undertook a pretty significant mission this Tuesday, hints of which were dropped on Instagram, which resulted in over 300 broken estate pipes being hung from the ceiling in the Marketing Department. We created this short video to explain why, show you the process, and the most entertaining part: capture the reactions of our employees who didn't know! Give it a watch.
Dennis also wrote a blog post about his thoughts on the matter yesterday, which delves further into the motivation and meaning of the display.
For Thursday's update, we were blown away by the work of Lasse Skovgaard and Alex Florov. Again, the photos Chris and Katie produced for these pipes are pure art. If you haven't seen them, do yourself a favor and follow a link to one of our social media pages below. We recieved some pretty colorful compliments (of course, beautiful subjects make beautiful photos).
Finally Friday! Happy weekend, TGIF, and other greetings reserved for this special day. Once again, it is time to fill you in on what you might have missed this week. Those of you who were enjoying Vegas for IPCPR probably missed a lot, and those who stayed to "hold down the fort" or work out the week like normal folk (myself included), will be happy to hear that our crew made it home from IPCPR safe and sound, and with lots of presents.
In other news, Monday's update featured pipes from Gian Maria Gamboni and Rad Davis, a few of which are still available (though, not for long now that I've said that). Here is just a fraction of the beautiful work our photography team created to highlight these pipes:
Also, thanks for the entertainment! We were able to filter the 48 submissions we received for our caption contest down to a winner and four finalists after putting them to a company-wide vote. The winner has already placed his order, with four FREE tins of Capstan added to it... to hear more about it, check out our blog from Wednesday, HERE.
Sales and promotions! There are so many going on right now, even we are having a hard time keeping track! Be sure to take a look at the following offers before they expire:
-Savinelli Clearance- 20% off select pipes
-Escudo Navy Deluxe- Buy-4-get-1-free
-Lane Limited- All bulk on sale until August
-CAO Cigars- free cigar cutter with select boxes
Lastly, yesterday's update featured one impeccably sandblasted beauty from Bruce Weaver, and five swirling stunners from Michal Novak, a few of which are still available. Once again, Chris and Katie in photography did quite a job capturing the character of these pipes:
This information, and much more has been shared throughout the week on our social media pages. Come join the conversation!
Whew, it's been a busy week: the kind of week that's really meant for socializing and relaxing, but had been sacrificed for productivity. It's a good thing, but it comes at a cost. We all have sources for connection with the world outside our personal bubble, but an active life means things will be lost in the blur--however, now's the time to catch-up. As the week comes to a close, you can see here what you might have missed, stay up to date with the work of your favorite pipe makers, and keep tabs on what the personalities here at Smokingpipes.com have been up to.
For instance, this week Alyson and Sykes sent us great matieral for a photo blog, documenting their tour of the Chacom pipe factory in France. It's definately worth a look if you haven't seen it.
The photography crew produced some beautiful shots for Michal Novak, Tonni Nielsen, Smio Satou, Gabriele Dal Fiume, and Vladimir Grechukhin. These aren't even all of them; check out our Facebook and Tumblr albums (linked below) to see the rest.
Rain formed a river in our parking lot, lightning disabled the internet and almost gave a few people a nice new perm, but it created a sort of Cabin Fever that allowed for the creation of a few videos around the offices on Instagram.
Lastly, we unsurprisingly sold out of Three Nuns quickly after it's re-release to the U.S. market, but managed to have it back in stock within a few days. Many of you sent in your thanks, as wells as photos. Those below are courtesy of Gregory Ceaser, Jimmy Muraco, and Ron Forbes-- thanks guys!
If you haven't yet, feel free to join the conversation. We're active on all major social networking websites and love to hear from our customers. Have a great weekend!
It seems Sykes and Alyson can't escape work. Loving what they do makes it less like work, I'm sure, but even whilst on vacation enjoying the balmy weather in France they are sending me photos of their tour of the Chacom factory with Antoine Grenard. Riveted by the historic building, the endless stacks of briar, and the scenic views, they didn't have time to provide a narrative for these photos, except Alyson's back-story for Baya, Antoine's dog, who apparently followed them throughout the tour, chewing on a block of briar, and who has her very own line of pipes. They'll be home soon to tell us all about it, but until then enjoy some of Alyson's handiwork behind the camera.
Just a little while back, we had a visitor. You’ve probably heard of him: Canadian pipemaker Michael Parks. He’s made quite a name for himself with his great interpretations (and re-interpretations) of traditional designs, not to mention some really stellar sandblasting. And, of course, we feature his pipes in our regular updates.
He flew down here a few weekends ago to spend several days collaborating with our own resident pipemaker, Adam Davidson, and I was asked to join them in order to observe and report – the latter of which I’m doing right now. John also joined us on my second day there, and between the four of us conversations ranged across such subjects as the evolution of the “behaviorally modern human”, pipes, automobiles, pipes, flowers gardening, pipes, what to do if attacked by a bear in Canada, and of course, pipes. Michael is a proper outdoorsman, Adam was raised in a small town in Indiana, and though I grew up in New Jersey, my parents’ families hail from the outskirts of the Appalachia on one side, and deep in the hills on the other – resulting in quite a bit of common context between three thirty-something fellows who grew up hundreds of miles apart.
And of course, we all enjoyed a good meal. And because Adam is Adam, it was only natural that excellent, home-cooked fare was provided each evening. (He also took Michel out to a Cracker Barrel breakfast on Sunday morning, and, as is only fitting to a true Canadian, Michael made sure to taste and assess the maple syrup before applying it to his pancakes.)
But the real reason we were there was pipes, or more to the point, pipe-making, and regarding that there was plenty to learn of and observe. Between one day and another, John, Kat, or I had cameras at the ready to document Michael and Adam at work, and a picture is, as ever, worth a thousand words. So let’s all have a look at what went down, shall we?
Conceptualizing - Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes. While there are those out there who can just pick up a piece of briar, or stone, or a blank canvas, and create something technically proficient and aesthetically engaging on the fly, they are very much a minority – akin to those who can produce the answers to complex mathematical problems at a moment’s notice. For the rest of us mere mortals, forethought and preparation are in order. As a special project for this visit, Michael and Adam were handed a big chunk of plateau briar, with the idea of producing a pair of matched-shape pipes. Not identical, mind you; the artisans would each apply their own final tweaks, as well as their own finishing techniques, but both pipes would share in a common concept, as well source material. Even this foundational step in the pipemaking process (developing a shape) absorbed plenty of time and a lot of thought, Adam and Michael sketching, rubbing out, re-sketching, and passing the block back and forth, all while carrying on a running discussion covering flow, aesthetic balance, engineering, and grain.
Shaping – That sleek, modern Dublin seen above is Michael’s. He spoke to us about how when hand-filing he gets into a deep focus that he thoroughly enjoys, and how the time flies as he works to perfect the pipe’s design. And, sure enough, once he started, he was off in a world of his own, patiently puffing on his pipe and making no noise but the measured rasping of wood and steel, and the periodic scratching of a pen as he paused to plan out his next moves. The results speak for themselves, even when looking at an unstained stummel, sans stem, and still sporting some of Michael’s pen-marks– I really liked this pipe. The ability a pipemaker has to develop and intuitively conceive a design in three dimensions, and confidently understand how altering a line or plane in one place will affect other aspects of a shape’s balance, is, by itself, impressive.
Drilling, Engineering, and Stem-work- It’s all well and good to make a pipe look fine, but if the drilling and engineering isn’t solid, looking fine as it sits collecting dust may be all it ends up doing. Both Michael and Adam recognize this, and though they had different methods for ensuring that chamber and draft-hole were cleanly executed and precisely aligned, each clearly put a lot of thought into the process. As artisans, they don’t just want their fellow pipe aficionados to purchase and collect the briars they create, they want them to smoke them, enjoy them, and, hopefully, praise them to others. A lot of work, as well as a whole lot of patience goes into building up a reputation as an artisan whose works can be counted on as an investment – pipes that one can trust to provide enjoyment for years to come. Developing and maintaining habits and methods that produce consistent results were clearly a point of pride for both Michael and Adam. At the same time, both were more than willing to observe and learn from the other.
Adam also demonstrated his stem-making to both Michael and me. As with most things, Adam takes a systematic approach. Even with the aid of a lathe set up specifically for the task, buffing wheels, etcetera, it can take two or more hours to complete a single, custom-shaped stem. Quality of stem work is something many consider to be a major aspect of pipemaking, distinguishing the skilled artisan. Although I wasn’t there to catch Michael working on his stems, I did get to see the materials he’d brought along, including some really gorgeous cumberland. As with the briar from which bowls and shanks are fashioned, for an artisan, after investing countless hours developing your skills, making the best of your efforts begins with acquiring appropriately high-quality materials to work from.
Silverwork - Annealing is an important step, preventing the sterling silver (hardened by its extrusion into tubes) from folding or cracking during shaping into a mount. Adam was kind enough to display for Michael and me just how important this step is, by first attempting to shape a mount from silver he hadn’t annealed. Granted, this wasn’t intentional – it was a piece that he had thought he’d annealed previously - but it was instructive. As Adam good-naturedly put it, “There goes about five dollars. As you can see, making mistakes with silver can get expensive.”
R & R - Both days that I was present my arrival didn’t come until afternoon. For Michael and Adam work began around 9:00AM. This meant that by the time I’d been poking around for several hours, everyone was hungry, and both artisans could use a bit of a wind-down to refresh their grey matter and give their hands a break. (And just let me say, I’ve yet to meet a pipemaker with anything like a weak handshake.) Grilled meat, a bit of drink, and plenty of coffee and tea were provided by our host in short order – all of it excellent. Along with this came of course a bit of simply lounging around, passing about our various personal supplies of tobacco, and enjoying our pipes while the birds chirped, cats wandered through the yard, and the lathes, sanding disk, and what have you cooled off in silence.
Final Notes– Like I said, I really liked this pipe. (Also, while I’m not a terribly photogenic fellow, I do think I looked damn good in this picture, rather stately - so onto the internet with it.) Michael and I had discussed various marques the first day I was over, and one that had come up was the old Kriswells, which had given Stanwell a lot of competition back in the 1960s, offering as they did a lot of lean, trim, streamlined designs. Though Michael’s design featured a touch more substantial bowl than most of the old Kriswells I’ve seen, (which often looked like sharpened-up variations of the Sixten Ivarasson look) I saw in it the same kind of confident dynamism in line, form, and posture that I think of when I picture one of the really good, vintage Kriswell shapes. This struck me as something of a happy coincidence, given both that I’d not even seen this pipe yet when we’d had our discussion, and Michael mentioned that this design was something of a departure from the variations on classical shapes that he usually concentrates on. I think both the classic shapes and this more dynamic, direct, and active style strike as a natural fit for a man who is both an artisan and an outdoorsman, and hope to see plenty more from Michael in the future.
Since our 2013 poster not only accompanied the most recent issue of Pipes and Tobacco Magazine, but was also promoted on our social media, and was announced in our newsletter, hopefully most of you have seen it by now. If not, the images can be seen HERE. But this isn't about the official images. This is about the folders full of various unofficial, behind-the-scenes photos that I believe should be seen too.
The first side of the poster features a step-by-step guide to making origami pipes (disclaimer to the more impressionable: please do not try smoking these). Since it was originally Ted's idea, he oversaw the process. It seemed like the entire marketing department was folding tiny papers into letters and figures for hours, but eventually they all came together. Katie (who made many of the tiny pipes and things) was asked to take the poster photo, and if you ask me she did a great job. Although the photos of this process don't lend themselves to blooper-type humor as those from the other side of the poster did, it was still a lot of fun.
The other half of the poster went through more of a journey, and I had the pleasure of taking the photos as we worked on it. Brandon's idea evolved from old-timey boxing photos to Monty Python-like taunting, from solidly black and white, to playing with slight color and saturation.
It spawned team-building exercises like rubbing hot pipe-ash on one another because "we need to look period-correct dirty," and, in one case, actual sparring that Brandon took way too seriously. What ensued made us realize that John, normally the most laid-back and cheerful person in the marketing department, is probably not to be messed with. And of course, we learned that it's hard to make a pipe (and yourself) look good while fighting and making menacing faces.
Hopefully we'll have time to put more of the blooper shots up in a Facebook album soon, but until then, you don't need fisticuffs and mustache wax to have fun smoking your pipe. Enjoy.
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