Paolo Becker is one artisan who really takes a free approach to working in multiple mediums, with non-briar pipes representing a far larger chunk of his work these days than anyone else I can think of off the top of my head. What other artisans dabble in, Paolo embraces. Typically the quickest way to distinguish sandblasted strawberry wood from sandblasted briar is by the course of the ring grain; the pattern on this stuff tends to really wander off in rolling curves and convolutions. In this big, darkly beautiful bent Billiard, however, Paolo has turned up a piece which, although possessing a signature, lively waver, possesses fine ring grain that still remains "on course", stacking up the very lofty, very smoothly-formed bowl in consistently perpendicular layers.
- Eric N. Squires