Love Geiger and Sara Mossberg are two of the most prolific pipe makers in the business right now. Geiger Pipes are classically informed, but quite unique to the extremely talented duo. Shane Ireland recently had the opportunity to sit down with the married couple and talk about their own pipe making process and how their relationship has grown, along with their pipes, over the years. Here's what they had to say:
Love: Well, we're going to move our shop after the summer. We're trying to improve our efficiency, and the new shop will have enough space for us to double up on some of the machines, which will allow us to work at the same time without having to share machinery, so we'll be able to make more pipes.
Shape-wise, we've stepped into a more shaping-before-drilling approach, whereas before we did about 50/50.
Sara: And you have more control over the wood this way, of course. I think the pipes are much more personal being shaped before being tied down to what you've already drilled.
Love: Drilling first requires more planning from the beginning, but a flaw can come up and change everything. What we're doing now is far more liberating and free.
So who in the pipe world are you most impressed by these days?
Love: Chris Asteriou is great. I think he's captured a lot of the classic shapes really well. And now he's moving on to nice freehands. You can see his lines are really nice and sleek.
Sara: And his balance is very good.
Love: Andres Bennwik is really good too. To see what he's accomplished in such a short time is impressive.
Sara: It's also great that there's more of us here that can share information, which brings everyone up.
Love: It's hard to make high grade pipes, so it's a bonus to share that. The rest is implementing the tricks into your skillset. Some pipe makers stop once they hear the information, but it requires practice as well.
Have many pipe makers learned from you?
Sara: Not many so far, but in the new workshop we'll have a space for pipe makers to come and stay with us while they visit.
Love: We've had people come for a day, like Andreas, but once we're in the new shop, we'll have a space for them to stay, so hopefully then we'll be able to take on some apprentices.
Why pipe making?
Sara: Making pipes isn't about money for us. Of course, we need to support our family, but the best part is to be able to make something from just raw materials. We've been doing it for a long time, and if it weren't pipes, then we'd have to make something else.
Love: The best part is that it still feels like an adventure even after so many years.
Tell me about your process since there's two of you working on the pipes? Is every pipe worked on by both of you?
Sara: Yes, always. We need each other. For pipes and otherwise. We're always talking about pipes. So most of the desgins we make together.
Love: Sometimes I have an idea, and sometimes it's Sara. Either way, they get tweaked by both of us along the way.
Sara: It's common that by the end of the process we can't remember who's idea it was from the beginning. Sometimes I'll be shaping and Love will come over and say, "Take a little more away there, or here." It's collaborative.
Do you ever fight over who has to the "dirty work"?
Sara: Not these days (laughing). We're like one in the shop now.
Love: It was difficult in the beginning to give each other critiques, but it's been so long now that it just doesn't happen.
Sara: We have our own workshop language now. We understand each other, and it's even more fun.
Sara: That being said, Love is always the machine guy.
Do you have a favorite and a least favorite part of the pipe making process?
Love: My favorite part is the idea stage — coming up with a new shape for instance. Especially when it's a new shape and you still have all the variations to explore. My least favorite is the sanding work.
Sara: Really? I think the sanding part is still fun! My least favorite part is the logistics, making sure we have the materials, enough briar, and all that stuff. My absolute favorite part is the shaping. When I'm shaping time stops; I don't even think about it. It's more like mediation for me. Stem work is fun too, but vulcanite is very smelly!
Love: And stems don't have grain! For me the special part is cutting into a block of briar or a piece of horn to see what's on the inside.
Sara: Exactly! Those materials have little secrets to be discovered.
Love: Of course, we each have main areas of expertise. Mine would be turning (when we do that), drilling, and blasting. Sara does much of the design, shaping, and the stemwork. We both do finishing, naturally.
Sara: It's not really important to us what we do individually; it's always the nicest feeling to know that we're looking at something we have made together. We've made a lot of things together.
Love: Some children, many pipes, and a life. Not many couples get to spend so much time together. We try to imagine what it would be like like if we had normal day jobs, to spend the day apart and only have a few hours in the evening to be together.
Sara: We sit and talk for hours each day, and I like sanding especially because it's not a noisy part of the process and we can listen to music and talk.
Love: Though some days we're so focused on individual tasks that we're not even in the same part of the shop much.
Sara: Love is the most inspiring person I know, so I'm very fortunate to be working with him.
Love: I'm the pipe nerd of the two of us, so I look at a lot of pictures and keep up with the pipe world, so in that sense, her ideas are perhaps more separated from the latest trends in the pipe world.
Functional art has to have a purpose also, it doesn't matter if the shape is beautiful if it doesn't smoke well.
Are your children interested in learning the craft one day?
Sara: Not really, but it's funny because they thought what we do for a living was normal, and now they understand that not many people are making pipes. They even told me that their schoolmates think we're cool!
Love: They are both creative though.
Sara: But they do know that they can find something to do in their life that is both different and creative.
Do you both smoke pipes? Favorite shape? Tobaccos?
Love: Mostly me. I smoke everyday.
Sara: And I do once in a while. I've never been a heavy "smoker," but pipes are different, and I enjoy them.
Love: I am an Orlik guy. I like Virginia tobaccos.
Sara: Me too. I don't like anything too sweet.
Love: For me, favorite shapes vary over time. As a pipe maker, I like the novelty of being able to play around with variations. It's more exciting when you've worked a shape a lot. But then again, you have to know exactly how to work the grain and how to engineer.
To smoke, my favorite is the reverse calabash BoDog. It's slim enough to carry in your pocket and small enough to clench while you're working. And it smokes cool.
Sara: I also like small pipes, but rounded and shorter shapes. Nosewarmers are good for smoking, and they're also nice to handle.
If you could only tell one thing to all of the smokers and collectors out there, what would it be?
Sara: Personal meetings mean something. It's not just a pipe and money. We choose to live like this. People who buy our pipes live a different life, and we need each other. It's like that for many arts. I love when my customers tell me to have creative freedom. They might have wishes, but when they say I'm free then I'm relaxed. I can make a better pipe if my soul is free to do whatever it wants to do.
Love: One thing that I've always tried to tell collectors is to take the time to visit a pipe maker. To understand the difficulty and what goes into making a pipe. The more we understand each other as people, the better the hobby as a whole will become.
Love: I try to tell some people that some things are made in a certain way because it's the best way to construct the pipe that way. Sometimes you can use that knowledge to explore. Like the BoDog. It's a really technical shape, so if someone wants one with a very heavy blast, we have to explain that there's not room for that on this shape, as you would just destroy the lines. Some other shapes can stand up to that. There's always a lot to consider.