I don't know who started it, but the trick of mixing a Danish-strength contrast stain with a fine sandblast in order to show off both ring and flame grain appears to of caught on. Danes are doing it, Germans are doing it, even at least one Italian artisan, Gian Maria Gamboni, is doing it - and so is Slovenian artisan Gregor Lobnik. The effect is beautiful, but there is of course a catch, from the pipemaker's perspective; you need to not only have a well-developed skill for sandblasting, you also have to have learned or developed a sufficiently strong contrast finish. And such finishes are, as a rule, the most closely guarded secrets among pipemakers, requiring a lot of time, experimentation, and expenditure to devise.
Fortunately, Gregor does indeed have both, and here he's joined them up with a compact, playful, charmingly composed little beauty of a bent Apple.
- Eric N. Squires