An engineer by trade, Andrey Grigoriev has been fascinated with creative processes and with understanding the inner workings behind an object's function ever since his father gave him a carving knife at eight years old. As a student, Andrey began smoking a pipe in the early 2000s and was immediately drawn to the inherent balance of function and art in pipe making, carving his first pipe soon after: a simple Poker in the style of those iconized by Popeye the Sailor. "Since that moment," Andrey says, "I fell in love with pipe making."
The early stages of his pipe-making career saw Andrey learning from online forums, specifically Alex Florov's tutorials in Russian, but his skill and expertise increased exponentially upon meeting fellow Russian carver Viktor Yashtylov, who lives near Andrey in Saint Petersburg. While the internet age has expanded the pipe-making world and allowed for a confluence of ideas, styles, and skills, many pipe makers still consider in-person tutelage invaluable; pipe making is a craft of nuance and finesse, and such aspects are difficult to encapsulate, let alone teach at a master level, outside of face-to-face interaction.
Andrey recognized this need for hands-on instruction, and over the course of five years, he was a frequent guest in Yashtylov's workshop, growing in the knowledge and skill of fashioning handmade pipes and also developing a close friendship with Viktor. However, Andrey considers these early years the developmental stage of his career: He was still working as an engineer, patiently improving his craft as pipe maker and waiting for the opportunity to pursue it full time. That door opened in 2010 when Yashtylov offered Andrey an apprenticeship. Now able to leave his engineering job, Andrey focused entirely on pipe making for the next seven years, and he counts this transition as the start of his full-time pipe-making career.
During this apprenticeship, Andrey perfected his acumen as both a craftsman and an artist, prioritizing the engineering aspects of a pipe — from drilling and button work to finishing techniques and hand making stems — as well as creative and evocative aesthetics. "Viktor has influenced my style most of all," says Andrey, "having worked most closely with him. But so has [famed Russian artisan] Mikhail Revyagin: His pipes are poetry to me." Such influences create a distinct aesthetic within Andrey's work, merging the balanced line work and harmonious proportions of classic pipe design with more organic and flourishing cues.
Furthermore, Yashtylov taught Andrey how to fashion his signature magnetic stems, an innovative technique that transcends the paradigm of traditional tenon-and-mortise constructions. By fitting the stem base and shank end with small, high-quality magnets, not only is the connection smoother and more seamless, allowing for more creative and inventive forms, but it also enables the pipe to be disassembled while still warm, similar to an army mount — not to mention that the *click* and invisible magnetic pull offer a tactile enjoyment that's unique in the pipe world. Many of Andrey's pipes utilize this pioneering aspect, but he also fashions those with standard tenon-and-mortise arrangements.
Inspired by Yashtylov's inventive approach, as well as Revyagin's popularization of reverse Calabash engineering, Andrey cites the imaginative, envelope-pushing process of pipe making as among his favorite aspects of the craft, and over the years he's developed a technique in line with the creativity of those carvers who inspire him. He's developed a distinct manner of rendering tenons and mortises by molding the mortise around the tenon for unique, non-standard tenon shapes — ovals, triangles, etc. — that still fit perfectly. Such innovative creativity is also evident in his signature "wrinkled" aesthetic: an intricate carving technique that imbues the briar with the look of being wrinkled, as if fashioned from cloth. Andrey enjoys the challenge of realizing what once may have been considered impossible, planning the shape and imagining the final composition being among his favorite stages of the process. "Pipes are not only smoking devices," he says. "They're modern art."
When making a pipe, Andrey usually begins with sketching the design, and he draws inspiration from natural elements, from pieces by artisans he respects, like Yashtylov and Revyagin, and from the minimalist practicality of Industrial Design. He utilizes high-quality briar from Algeria and traditional, black vulcanite for his hand-cut stems, and if accenting a pipe, Andrey typically opts for exotic hardwoods, such as boxwood, and other organic elements, like horn or bamboo, but sometimes adorns pipes with titanium. He's also started to experiment with liquid polyurethanes and modeling clay during the design process, and it's this implementation of new ideas and acquisition of distinct skills that continue to grow and inspire him as an artisan; there are always new aspects to learn and perfect, and Andrey appreciates this never-ending freshness. Carving roughly 50 pipes a year, Andrey maintains a low production rate to ensure the utmost quality of design and engineering, spending around a week on each pipe he produces, and those that he deems particularly exemplary regarding shape and grain orientation, he stamps "Extra."
We're delighted to partner with Andrey and feature his work. See the first selection of his pipes on site now, and look forward to more from the talented Russian artisan.
Tagged in: Alex Florov Andrey Grigoriev Pipe Culture Pipe Makers Viktor Yashtylov