A little new and a little old

Navigating the hectic rush of events that flash past me like midnight cars on the freeway is one of the skills that lies at core of running a small business. While this one is free from the special challenges presented by managing people in addition to the aforementioned, it also suffers the liability of being a ‘one man show.’ That is, that the urgent event is often the most present one and unless that necessary or advised activity squeaks its wheel, as it were, that it will often go unnoticed for shamefully long periods of time.

This blog, and this website for that matter, has begun to squeak. When I looked with surprise at the last update–‘surely it was earlier this year, or late 2018. 2019?! Has it been that long?’–I was (I will put it mildly) surprised by the vastness of the gap. After updating all the many many code and plugin updates that had been advised and reminded and rereminded in the ensuing period, I set to work laying the foundation for what I hope will be a somewhat less lengthy gap before the next missive.

What’s new? Nothing and a lot. By ‘nothing’ I mean, pipes are still being made. Many of them. And they’re still keeping me so busy that I have difficulty justifying the time away from the studio to come type in these digital pages. And by ‘a lot,’ I mean that there are some exciting new things that I’ll now tell you about.

The first is that I’ve been exploring some novel (to me) photographic techniques and textures to present my work to you all. Many of you may have witnessed these images on my instagram page. This has been a delightful addition and has invigorated my work and workspace with a creative energy that has been a joy to experience. Some recent examples can be seen here:

The other new thing will likely be of interest to both the pipe enthusiast as well as to the aspiring maker of briars. That is that I’ve published a new video. As with the photography above, the making of videos is an enormously creatively rewarding exercise that demands different muscles to fire and flex than I typically draw upon for my actual work of making pipes. A key to creativity is to avoid stagnation, and both photography and video making help to keep me on my toes and thinking about things differently. In short, to be a good and improving artist one must follow creative pursuits in other mediums. I can’t speak for other people, but this is essential for my work. Without further expounding in some meandering treatise on creativity I suppose I should just cut to the chase and share my work. Here’s the video. I hope you all enjoy.

Briar and the Pipemaker

In the Fall of 2003, immersed in my graduate studies, I set out to craft my own pipe.  I’d been smoking pipes for a few months, and as I learned more and more about them, I began to develop preferences.  The problem was that the preferences that I developed were represented in pipes that were quite a bit out of the budget of this graduate student.

So, I did what many of you may have done, I decided to try my hand at making a pipe for myself.  At the time there were scant resources available to the aspiring briar craftsman.  But, I dug in and learned what I could, even calling up the few active pipemakers whose work I had discovered.  When it came time to buy the supplies, all I knew was that some blocks were bigger than others and that their shapes fell into a few categories.  My limited research taught me that plateau blocks were always better than cross-cut blocks.  Factories mostly used the cross-cut pieces, while the high-priced artists who worked in briar used only the finest plateau.  So, my mind was made up; I would buy two plateau blocks–the cheapest two that I could find.

I’ve learned a thing or two about the material since that first order, and wanted to share some of it with you.  The video below is about briar, the various shapes and cuts in which it is available to purchase, and what to look for when you are selecting briar for your next project.  Pipe enthusiasts and collectors may gain insight into the challenges that face the artisan, and the aspiring pipe maker may find some nuggets of information that will prove useful as he or she selects briar for the next project.

Sandblasting Video Lesson

It was almost ten years ago, I think, that I noticed that there was a need for content for young pipe makers.  When I first began making pipes there was really only one media source for learning about pipes, an old book that influenced a generation of hobbyists and not a few professional pipe makers. PIMO’s Guide to Pipe Crafting at Home was the only game in town, both the primary and final source for anyone who wanted to read about the craft of pipe making.

Sometime in the early 2000s, Trevor Talbert introduced an updated guide published on his website.  This attracted the attention of the ravenous bunch of us who had already worn out the pages of the PIMO book.  Then Tyler Beard published his methods to his early website.  Again, the small, but growing, hoard of young pipe makers devoured the information he provided.  This was followed by his creating of the pipe makers’ forum, a space for people to share ideas, learn new techniques, and discuss all matters related to making pipes.  It was where I really cut my teeth.

I had been selling pipes for a handful of years by the time my family and I relocated to California from New Jersey.  And in the span of years that I’d transitioned from amateur to professional, there was still a startling absence of video content related to pipe making.  So, I took it upon myself to start creating and publishing videos on the topic.  Over the years, I have been pleasantly surprised every time someone introduces him or herself to me at a show and thanks me for the videos.  It’s good to know that they have been helpful, and periodically I’d like to introduce some new ones.

The third video I ever made, on the topic of sandblasting, has by far been my most viewed tutorial.  I’m stunned when I see the numbers.  They aren’t large by Youtube standards, but for the pipe community the view count is pretty high.  It has been a long time since that video was first published and a lot has changed, not the least of which is my workshop.  So, without further introduction, here is a new video on the subject of sandblasting.  I hope you enjoy!

The truth about my website

Hey all,

Some time in the last year or so–was it 2016 or 2015?–this site disappeared. I was on a trip somewhere, probably across an ocean, doing what I do. Pipes were being made, clients and friends were being visited, and I noticed an email pop up with a subject line of ‘Your site is broken’ or ‘I think there’s a problem with your website’ or something of the sort. I didn’t read the email, and a short time later another email from a different sender arrived with a similar subject. Then another, and another. Well, I finally decided to open and read one of the emails to see what this was about. Then I headed to my site and sure enough, it was down. To make a long and not-that-interesting story shorter, I redirected my site to my Instagram account and promptly forgot about it.

You see, the truth is that I like to make pipes. I mean, I REALLY like to make pipes. It’s what I do all day long. It’s my vocation. When I’m not making pipes, I’m usually on the phone or traveling to promote and sell my pipes. There just isn’t as much time for writing and making videos as I would like to have. So, after sinking a sack of money into having a site developed in 2010 or so, I discovered that I really didn’t update it all that often. And I’m guessing that those of you who were curious enough to sign up for my newsletter discovered that too.

So, why this site? Well, because I kind of need one. Instagram is great and all, but it doesn’t really communicate much besides pictures. It doesn’t give me as clear a platform to communicate, and it doesn’t present my work in a way that is as thorough as I would like to have it presented.

Now, here’s the new site. Hopefully, you find it pretty. For the first time you will be able to buy my pipe making tools directly from me (of course, you can also still buy them from Steve at Vermont Freehand-he’s awesome!) and maybe learn a little more about my work and history in the business.

Additionally, I’d like to present some more writing on the subject of pipe making to help all you beginner and intermediate pipe makers out there. I have published a fairly broad library of videos to youtube over the years, and those are always a great jumping off point for answering particular pipe making related questions. Yet, I would very much like to spend more time writing here on the subject. Stay tuned for those articles.

My hope is to also sell some pipes here throughout the year. Generally my work is available directly through me, but hasn’t been listed on my site for years. I’d like to change that. As always, if you see a pipe or shape that you find interesting and it’s not available, please contact me to inquire about it.

Thanks for tuning in,