The Faces of Meerschaum

The expressive nature of so many figural meerschaums is a subject of fascination. Every pipe smoker interprets the carved images differently, with different nuances of a pipe taking much different meanings for separate individuals. One person might see a particular emotion reflected in a carving; another might see something entirely different. Here at Smokingpipes we often try to interpret these expressive pipes, because, well, they're looking right at us when we describe them for the website and it would be rude not to try to understand why they look the way they do. We often feel we've come very close, but it's too subjective to be sure.

From a very early age, Reginald knew his purpose in life would be dictated by the shape of his hat. Trying all manner of shapes and sizes, he settled on a poised and taut cylindrical number, and subsequently decided that he try his hand at the priesthood. Unfortunately, he couldn't make it past the first 2 Gospels, so he resolved himself to a career as a train conductor. After derailing a train by staring too long at the oncoming tracks, which buckled under the intimidation, he almost gave up and joined his father's ravioli business, but instead found work as a meerschaum pipe model. However, now his face is stuck that way, and he's also able to work part-time as a middle school vice principal.

This bearded man is unimpressed with your antics, having thoroughly relinquished himself of darns, damns, or hoots. He's just waiting for you to step back onto his lawn so he can turn the hose on you, maybe because his turban is too tight. You'd be unimpressed too, if you bought a turban so tight that it squeezed smoke out of your head.

In a battle to the death are a dragon and a serpent, or maybe a mama dragon and her teenage, contrary son, who wants to borrow the car. Teenage dragons can't fly, after all. How can they get to the mall without a car? What will their friends say? It's emotionally taxing to be a teenage dragon. No one knows what they're going through, with the involuntary fire burps, scales falling off at inopportune moments, and female teenage dragons all thinking he's a mama's boy. No wonder he and his mom fight. We hope he wins his argument, as there's nothing worse than a sulky dragon sitting around on a pipe when he'd rather be loitering outside the Apple store.

A mischievous-looking Claus, this fellow looks a little too cheerful. He has some kind of secret. He knows something we don't know, and it amuses him. This is the Hannibal Lecter of Santas, telling you what a good boy or girl you've been while contemplating how your liver would taste with fava beans. That disingenuous smile is fooling no one. He's safe to smoke, but if you see him coming down the chimney, don't offer cookies.

My high school wrestling coach, Mr. Ebenezer Spleen, passed in the '90s, but was reincarnated as a meerschaum pipe, which is a better application of his skills. "Spooky Spleen," as we called him, used to jab cherry tomatoes onto the pointed ends of his teeth and walk around spitting them at students who didn't finish 100 sit-ups in under a minute. He had no horns yet in those days, but they are not a surprising addition. He could jab full-sized tomatoes, or even cantaloupes, onto those things now.

Harvey's existential crisis somehow manifested through unknown cosmic forces that amplified the problem with additional Harveys growing from the end of his pipe. If he can't find the meaning of his own life, what could he do with all these extra Harveys? Every time he smoked, another would grow, aggravating him to the point where he wanted to smoke even more. He finally resigned himself to dragging a chain of Harveys around with him, none of whom are particularly pleased with the situation.

While enormously proud of his impressive horns and beard, this fellow is even more proud of the stick and orb that he carries. He tried to get others interested in them, but no one cared until he invented a game in which one hit the orb with the stick and then ran around bases. Now he owns his own team and had this pipe commissioned to remind him of his simple beginnings.

Figural Meerschaums offer the imagination a great deal to work with, and a great deal of fun. Not only do they smoke neutrally, providing what some say is a more accurate tobacco flavor, but they change over time by coloring, and contain stories, if you look for them. We urge you to provide your own interpretations in the comments below.

Category:   Pipe Line
Tagged in:   Humor Meerschaum Satire


    • pacman357 on September 9, 2014
    • Just sold one of my favorite estate meers @ the B&M my wife own. I didn't spend a ton of time researching it, as I had tons to do (which is the best you can hope for when owning a small biz). Also, once I do the refurb, I've usually seen enough of the pipe to last a lifetime. Anyway, on the stem and rim of meer pipe, the two horses were each up on their hind legs, either goofing off or squaring off, not sure which. Sure hated to see that beauty go, but someone left with a great deal on a very unusual pipe. Half the reason we do this stuff, isn't it retailers?

    • Kathryn Mann on September 10, 2014
    • There are some truly beautiful, ornate meerschaum pipes, pacman357. I've had the privilege of handling quite a few personally, but have never owned one. I imagine that's a tough thing to let go of.

    • Jake on May 10, 2016
    • You guys at least found some GOOD amusing ones. I have a small collection, saved from eBay auctions, of BAD amusing ones, all of Bacchus. Some of them are truly terrifying.

    • Adam O'Neill on May 11, 2016
    • @Jake Hah! Yeah, we've seen some truly terrifying Bacchus meers come through.

    • Don Ward on April 3, 2017
    • I met an important turkey once ;-)

    • Tom Doss III on October 20, 2019
    • The moderns can’t hold a candle to the antiques. Just compare the detailing. The best of them are actually art.
      I’ve seen collections in Turkish pipe shops that were a feast for the eyes. Unfortunately, they would ruin your bank account. You’ll find them also in British and continental museums.

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