Eric Squires
Expanding the World-Map of Pipedom

Sam Cui Tobacco Pipes at Smokingpipes.com

The Greek phenomena was strange: several younger artisans all cropping up at the same time, all with great appreciation of (and skill in rendering) classics — and none of them starting out with any connection to each other. The Chinese one that I suspect we're seeing the first nascent signs of is arguably even stranger.

There are about 540 miles of ocean between the nearest point of China and the nearest point of another country where artisanal pipe making is well-established. There is no older generation of well-known pipe makers, however small in number (unlike in Greece), nor any face-to-face pollination, as it were, through a Western artisan, Eastern student relationship (unlike in the Japanese school's beginnings). And last but not least, the high-end, hand-made pipe market in China has been a thing where demand was largely driven by the fundamentally foreign nature of the luxury goods in question.

Sam Cui Tobacco Pipes at Smokingpipes.com

Nonetheless, I'd say it was bound to happen, this recent emergence of native Chinese pipe makers. Several well-known Western artisans of today began their journey by chance meeting with an Eltang, an Ivarsson, a Barbi, or the like on display somewhere, and getting it into their heads that they might learn to make such a pipe for themselves — usually at a time in their lives when they couldn't afford to simply purchase a handmade of such rarefied status. With artisan-made briars having made their way into China, it's not all that surprising, then, to see that same ambition inspiring another generation of potential carvers.

So far we know of maybe a dozen who've actually gone beyond "potential." Sam Cui, whose work hits our site for the first time today, is one of them. He joins Ping Zhan, whose work we premiered just last year, as only the second Chinese artisanal pipe maker we've ever represented. And even should work remotely close to Ping or Sam's caliber only ever represent a fraction of a fraction of a tiny percentile, a sliver of the potential pipe-makers in China, the world-map of pipedom is still going to look mighty different in years to come.

Sam Cui Tobacco Pipes at Smokingpipes.com

Sound unlikely? So no doubt did a Danish or English briar, long ago. So would have a Tokutomi or Kikuchi at one time less distant. And so did the idea of an Asteriou, Kyriazanos, or Anastasopoulos, just a few years ago.

Category:   Makers and Artists Tagged in:   Pipe Makers Pipe Making Sam Cui

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