Back in July of last year, I was planning a visit to Eskisehir, Turkey. While searching for flights, I discovered that one of them had a connection in Greece and thought to myself that I should stop in and see our Greek carvers. Just a few months later, I put the plan into action. I planned on just three days and had alot of ground to cover.
I hit the ground in Athens in early October, 16 hours of travel behind me and five more to go, with only 45 minutes to catch the ferry to Paros, home of Michail Kyriazanos. I'm not a huge fan of running. In fact, unless I'm being chased by someone intending me serious bodily harm, I wouldn't be seen running. There is, however, one exception: missing a plane, train, or ferry. Needing to make up lost time, I sprinted from the bus stop to the rumbling ferry whose airhorn was speaking directly to me — calling out both a melody of inspiration and growing impatience at my tardiness. With two suitcases in tow, I traversed crowded stone sidewalks, busy streets, and a bouncing gangway, making it to my ferry by seconds.
The sun, now setting, the seat I reserved, in the middle of a long row, occupied by suitcases and small children, and not looking worth the hassle of trying to access, I found a place on the open deck of the ferry. It was cool, but manageable. I snuck a few winks before arriving at Paros, ending my 21 hour journey just after midnight.
The next morning, I was met by Michail Kyriazanos. He helped drag one of my suitcases through the narrow, stone streets of the Paros capital Parikia. The buildings were decorated in the traditional Cycladic style, with flat roofs, white-wash walls, and blue shutters and doors. The walk was short, even with a stop at the bakery for breakfast, and we arrived at Michail's workshop about 10 min later.
Maybe 12'x12,' it too had whitewashed walls and a heavy, blue door. I was treated to Greek Coffee, a taste I would come to love before I left both Greece and Turkey. We started discussing pipes and his inspirations. Michail loves the classics — traditional English and French shapes — which is very apparent in his pipes. One would think that Michail, Chris Asteriou, and Konstantinos had been working with each other, since they have all taken such inspiration from the classics, but this was not the case. Each learned the trade and found inspiration on their own. They knew of each other but never worked together. One challenge unique to Michail: the isolation associated with living on an island in the Southern Aegean Sea. Finding and taking delivery of a lathe was quite difficult, as you might imagine.
I had the privilege of being present for the shaping of one of my favorite designs, a Group 2 Lumberman, in strawberrywood. That exact pipe is actually still available on the site. As I shot video for each step, I couldn't help noticing a few things. 1. The intensity of Michail's focus while working. 2. The precise standard he holds for his work. 3. How amazing it must be to spend your life working on what you love in an actual paradise. I stepped out of the workshop, still within earshot of the work being done inside, and stared up at the clear blue sky, soaking in the whole experience.
When my shop visit concluded, I was treated to a traditional Greek dinner, a tour of the city, and coffee by the bay. As I watched the sun dip beneath the horizon, my ride back to the mainland was pulling into port. A quick 17 hours later, I left for my return journey back to Athens (with a kind gesture of a loaf of bread and bottle of homemade sweet wine), well rested, fed, and with an experience I'll never forget.