From his own line of artisanal handmades to his work for the BriarWorks workshop, Micah Redmond's unique style continues to impress. The Jacksonville native's output shows a fairly wide stylistic breadth, though his penchant for rounded forms, the likes of which often make use of interesting, graceful flows of line and varied displays of asymmetry, is evident to anyone familiar with his pipes. He's also developed a reputation for holistically incorporating color into a pipe's overall composition too, with the palette serving as a complement to the form of the design rather than simply as an accent.
To get some insight on how this signature aesthetic developed, I sat down with Micah to talk about his history, process, personal taste in pipes, and more.
You've been making pipes for a while. How has your approach changed? What has working with so many pipes at BriarWorks done for your outlook on handmades?
It's refocused my attention on different details. It's helped me to see the way that the line and the different parts of the pipe fit together and work together, in a more sophisticated way. Working on the same shape over and over, for instance, forces you to see the way that composition works by looking at it from all angles over and over.
Working in the factory setting, what shapes are captivating you now that weren't before? What shape would you find most challenging to make a handmade version of?
The shape that I've come to appreciate the most is the Rhodesian. I was never super in love with the shape, but working on a few different versions, it has me more charmed and understanding of why people like them. I would find a Bulldog challenging — shaping the piece's diamond shank especially so for me. That was before I did a lot more lathe work.
Why have you been doing more freehand shaping now?
I never did it before I moved to Nashville (freehand drilling), but after coming here and being determined to learn the skill, it now feels more like art than machining. The flow and feel are different.
Do you feel that freehand shaping is more personal for you?
I definitely feel more connected to the piece and the process. There's less of a disconnect than when there's something between my hands and the pipe that I'm working on. I like working this way so much better that I even find myself freehand shaping classic shapes, like Billiards. Even though it's more difficult and sometimes frustrating.
What about color palettes? We've seen you use some interesting combinations. What sort of inspirations spark these combinations?
Many years before I made pipes, I was super into comic books and drawing and I've taken college level fine art classes. The use of color and line in fine art (and not so fine art) are very interesting. When I got into pipe making I felt limited. There are certain combos that just work and I was hesitant to get outside of the box. I didn't want to be gimicky or be the new guy who thinks he's doing something fresh. After I started to explore other materials and became more confident with my abilities as a pipe maker, it freed me up to start experimenting. You have to find the right materials, too. You can't have things be too busy. That's why I use a lot of Bakelite that's solid colors. It's fun and bright, but not too busy. You have to be careful when pairing colors with your stains (which are often made using more than one color).
The aesthetic that I'm always working toward is more modern/minimalist. That goes back to my experience in design. 20th century modern.
Tell us about your experience in design.
It's mostly a personal interest. I started dabbling in some graphic design when I was in college. Part of my time in school I was a graphic design major. I took drawing, 2d and 3d design classes. I was drawn to anything like that. Print design. drawing, web design, furniture design. Even an alarm clock — the idea that something can be equally useful and beautiful is comforting. I try to apply that to my pipe making. I want it to be beautiful but there's a restraint in pipe making — it has to be functional. Striking that balance is exciting. And its the same question or goal that designers have always tried to answer or perfect.
Do you see yourself doing any other form of design while you continue to make pipes?
I do. That's always been in the back of my mind. In college, doing 2d and 3d design, there's things that I've toyed with that I always wanted to work more with. I was doing a lot of sculptural work and I'd love to get back into it. In fact, that interest is what got me into pipe making. Painting, sculpture. other types of wood working. Id love to be living in a barn and working on a bunch of different projects.
Music. too. A lot of the same principles apply to sound design.
Any pipe maker living or dead, if you could spend a week in their shop, who would you choose?
I hate questions like that! And you can quote me on that. I'd probably say Tokutomi. His approach to shaping and the lines and designs that he uses are so different from the vast majority of other pipe making. There are a lot of pipe makers that use his approach, but there's something special about his pipes. I'd love to watch it happen and observe his process and decision making.
What's your dream pipe? Anything, cost is no object. Be specific as possible!
I feel like a pipe that I'd really appreciate would be something from Cornelius Manz. Something subtle asymmetric and minimalist. Smooth lines that are perfect in profile, but as you turn the pipe around there's a lot of small things happening that aren't immediately apparent. A small, smooth bent, round form with subtle asymmetry.
So you'd love to witness mad, uninhibited shaping, but you prefer to own restrained, refined and subtle work?
Right. I think the two inform each other. Some of Toku's best work is crazy and wild, on the surface. But what I'm drawn to is that it's refined minimalist shapes combined and put together to create something different. But Manz is a distillation of those forms — it's focused and worked down until something really good comes out. It's a matter of scale. Toku is working with those same forms, but playing with them — riffing on them and combining them to create something new.
Manz takes the things that I like most about Danish pipe making, but applies a certain bauhaus minimalism. It's more austere and refined, but builds on the work of the great Danish pipe makers.
If you could magically own any tin of tobacco, any age and vintage, what would you pick? Or what have you always wanted to try?
Old Three Nuns because it was CS Lewis' favorite. But seriously, I'm more into variety. I wouldn't trade the variety we have today for any old "holy grail" blend.
Pete Prevost (sitting in the same room): When I was little my grandpa gave me an empty tin of Edgeworth Sliced and I used to keep my coins in it. A little, blue flip top, painted tin. My dream tobacco would be an old tin of that, because I've never tried it.