The update for today (January 9th) features a carver new to Smokingpipes.com. As always, we were contemplating the way in which we could introduce him to you; the pipe enthusiast. What better way than to actually introduce him? It is for this reason that the following interview was conducted, as a precursor to the update. So, without any furthur delay...
Born in Athens, October of '89, Michail Kyriazanos (Mi-ha-il Ki-ria-za-nos), with the exception of five years of collegiate study in the city of his birth, was raised in, and continues to live on Paros Island. Greek law and custom requires young men to serve 9-12 months in the armed services and until he completes his year in the Hellenic Navy, pipe making is his sole profession.
Bear: At what age did the idea of pipe smoking appeal to you?
Michail: In my late teens. I don't think I had what anyone would consider a major epiphany; I saw a man in a drugstore smoking a pipe and thought, "Why not?"
Bear: Do you smoke a pipe yourself? If so, what types of blends do you prefer?
Michail: Of course I smoke pipes, I began pipe smoking with a Stanwell Zebrano and a Larsen 1864. As far as tobacco, I prefer VA/Pers, lightly cased Virginias and I also enjoy the occasional English blend.
Bear: Did you acquire any skills from previous jobs or hobbies which you found to be of help, once you started pipe making?
Michail: Even as a small child, I showed a strong aptitude for both handcrafting as well as quickly mastering the use of a wide variety of hand tools. Eventually, this led to my 2-year occupation of making stands and furniture for Hi-End audio systems during my collegiate studies. From the age of 15, every summer I worked with a marble sculpture artist who lives in Paros, but I never tried to make a marble sculpture myself from scratch, because Parian marble is still the most precious marble on earth.
Bear: Who was the maker of your first quality pipe?
Michail: Dunhill. Specifically, an estate Cumberland 3103
Bear: When did you create your first pipe that you were proud of, one that you felt was worthy to sell?
Michail: I started pipemaking as a hobby on November 2010, and my first pipe was a saddle stemmed Dublin. My 3rd pipe was a Pickaxe shape and it was the first pipe that I thought I could sell, and finally did. My first pipe that I was really proud of, not only in terms of grain, shape, finish but in further determination of today's work, was my thirteenth: a Liverpool/Dublin.
Bear: What is the origin/source of your briar, and, roughly, how long is it seasoned prior use?
Michail: I use only Greek briar, and my sources are two mills. The first one sells briar that is seasoned 8 to 27 years and I can use it from the moment I buy it. It's the tastiest briar in the world, but doesn't have much softer wood, making deep, craggy blasts nearly impossible. My other source cures the briar 2-4 years before I buy it, and I cure it for one extra year before I make a pipe from it. It's softer and light colored.
Bear: Having looked at your pipes, it appears that ebonite/vulcanite is your stem material of choice, is that accurate?
Michail: Yes, I prefer to use ebonite to make my stems and I only use acrylic for rings or if a customer specifically orders it.
Bear: Do you hand cut your stems?
Michail: Yes, I hand cut my stems. I believe that a properly shaped and well-crafted stem is an absolutely critical element of a superior pipe.
Bear: Do you prefer delrin for your tenons, or do you elect to turn your tenons in the manner of Chris Asteriou?
Michail: My tenons are integral, like Chris's. Both of us love and admire old English pipe craftsmanship.
Bear: What size are your draft holes?
Michail: I drill my draft holes at 4mm on stummels and 3mm on stems, I then insert a 4mm taper drill to the stem, which makes the transition from 4 to 3 smoother.
Bear: I noticed that 4 of the 5 pipes that we debuted, seem to hold a special reverence for traditional English shapes. Is this a prevailing theme of your work?
Michail: My logo is a modern twist on Cycladic Art Figurine. [Editorial note: first created in roughly 3300 BCE by the Cycladic people of the Aegean Sea] These figurines are the world's first -consciously made- minimalist sculptures. For me and my work they symbolize the importance of functionality and non-superfluous aesthetics. Yet another reason why I like to smoke English shapes, my personal pipes are mostly Billiards and Bulldogs. This, in turn, carries over to my art and my preference for crafting these pipes. I feel that I have a lot to "explore" within the classic shapes. In addition, I feel lucky because there is a great market for these pipes. It's not easy to find a superbly hand crafted classic Billiard, or a Group 2 Prince or, for that matter, a silver army mounted pipe.
Bear: What pipe makers, if any, have aided you in your progress as a pipe maker?
Michail: The Pipemakers forum helped me a lot to progress in the basic creation process and, along with talking with Chris Asteriou and Kostas Gourvelos on many ideas, I managed to advance.
Bear: Looking at the broadest spectrum of great pipemakers, either living or passed, whose work do you most admire?
Michail: I admire Paolo Becker for his ability to match classic shapes and modern design, Michael Parks for his aesthetics in classic shapes and his work's quality and Michail Revyagin for his innovative thinking and crafting.
Bear: Ok, are you up for some personal questions?
Michail: How personal? I'm kidding. Sure.
Bear: Do you have a nickname?
Michail: Well, I don't have a nickname, but in Greece I also called Michalis. It's the "everyday" calling of my name, imagine it like "Misha" in Russian. So Michail or Michalis, will work.
Bear: What kind of music do you like?
Michail: I prefer to listen to classical and jazz music, and some forms of traditional Greek music.
Bear: What are your favorite things to do, when away from work?
Michail: Listening to music, reading a great book, board gaming with good friends. Then there's snowboarding during winter and having a good aged rum or whiskey along with my pipe in my favorite bars.
Bear: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Michail: I do have a favorite sports team, it's Greek and called Olympiacos. [Editorial note: Olympiacos is the most successful club in Greek football history, having won a record 40 Greek League titles, more than all other Greek clubs combined]
Bear: What is the correct pronunciation of your name? In absence of knowledge, most of us Yanks can mispronounce anything Greek, and will continue to do so. When you are spoken of in the US, we want your name pronounced correctly.
Michail: Ah, I can see what you mean, well I'll try to pronounce it now, and we'll fine-tune it on Skype. I'll put the intonation on bold. Michail: Mi-ha-il. Michalis: Mi-ha-lis. Kyriazanos: Ki-ria-za-nos
Bear: On behalf of Smokingpipes.com, please accept our thanks, and appreciation, for taking the time to answer a fairly daunting number of questions.
Michail: Very glad to be of help.