A Pipe-Maker says that Freehand is Dead!

A Pipe-Maker says that Freehand is Dead!

Future innovation, be it artistic, technological or even philosophical, is born by way of a challenge to conventional thinking.

With regards to past artistic challenges, do you remember what Francois Duchamp submitted as “art”, almost 100 years ago in 1917? It was this urinal with R. Mutt scribbled on it.

Francois Duchamp 'The Urinal' - 1917. A 100-year old statement that is still screaming.

Duchamp explained his submission as ‘anti-art’ and it was fully meant as a general slap in the face of the establishment and all of the thinking surrounding it.

Picasso challenged our thinking.

Pablo Picasso, Maar Au Chat

Miro challenged our thinking.

Joan Miro, Le Coq

Many pipe-makers and artists, including our own Michail Revyagin, have and continue to challenge our own pipe communities thinking regarding what it is we are looking at in a pipe and how it should or could be constructed & approached. Both from an engineering and artistic perspective. If you have ever met Michail Revyagin in person and spent some time with him like I have, you may know that his personality is a difficult beast to deal with. For the moment, we will ignore the personal emotions that Revyagin tends to elicit and focus exclusively on the work he has produced.

Michail Revyagin lost in the Briar

Several years ago on this blog, I covered Michail Revyagin with an article titled,’Changing The Game’. It has been a short but full 2 years since Revyagin’s reverse calabash approach (in small sized, non-gourd like Calabash pipes) hit the scene and the trail left behind is nothing short of amazing. The number of artisan’s who have applied his general approach to their own work is far too many to count (and still counting) and the number of design spin-offs that other artisan’s have applied from the initial design approach have been fantastic and wonderful to watch as well. The step by step effect of these new ideas, slowly making their way into the rest of the pipe community is a lesson in quickly circulating viral behavior. Michail Revyagin is no stranger to ‘game changing’ tactics and he is now at it again.

I ask Misha to explain to me how he see’s this pipe. What it’s purpose is, what it is supposed to stand for and what statement he is trying to make through it.

Misha begins by telling me that pipes should not be like super models in fashion. He explains: “It became clear to me that all the great pipe-makers have been chasing the idea of a perfect model for the pipe. Everybody from Chonowitsch to Dunhill, all of them are chasing the perfect model. Because I have a desire to explore further, I began to realize that I am being held back with this type of thinking. I felt like a prisoner, like I was chained. Even the material we have to use, must be briar, or so they tell us. There are so many restrictions in and around the pipe world. I simply decided that I wasn’t going to be a prisoner anymore”.

Revyagin continued: “I wanted to be able to build the pipe with anything I want to and build it in any way that I want to. I don’t want restrictions. In my mind, Freehand pipe-making is Dead! I want to destroy that word and focus on a new system and method with which to approach pipe-making. Pipe ModeliZm. Which I see as the pipe-maker having the freedom to create & build the pipe, as best as possible, with whatever material or approach that he or she see’s fit! It is the same thing that anybody making fashion does, the same thing that anybody who builds a car engine does, anybody who builds a plane and frankly anybody who builds and creates anything. The designers and engineers apply a modaliZm approach and they find what works best for that particular object. Have we found the best approach to making pipes?” Revyagin asks. “I am not sure. From now on though, this is what I will do.” Says Revyagin, as he tells me again: “Freehand is dead!”

What has the quaint & generally docile pipe hobby and those within done to deserve this? Why has the mad scientist Revyagin, come to this small & quiet community and turned it on it’s head? Why not pick some other ‘study’ or ‘craft’ where traditional thinking is less entrenched? Those are questions I can’t help but ask myself on the one hand but with the other, I am so thankful that we have our own version of a Duchamp, Picasso and/or Miro, all rolled into one and actually something truly all it’s own, calling himself Revyagin.

At least Revyagin is consistent. This is the second time he has done something to elicit an either fight or flight response / love it or hate it feeling.

Crazy Michail actually feeds off of the antagonistic public sentiments. They invigorate him and he relishes every bit of it. If someone were to yell at him and tell him his pipe making is the work of something evil, Revyagin would consider his work a success.

While it only takes the removal of 2 pieces to clean this pipe, in total, it has 5 pieces.

The front (bowl) and rear (rear chamber & stem) are in fact, not connected. They only become connected when the tunnel/smoke passage is put in place.

What an interesting approach to look at & marvel. Revyagin placed the tunnel/smoke passage/canal on the outside of the pipe. Yes, that is where the smoke will travel for this pipe. From the bowl, out along the exterior, back inside and into a rear chamber and then up a stem. Just saying those words is pleasant.

I would like to stand up for the artistic expression we are seeing here. Hopefully the average viewer can see that the general construction of this piece is completely thought out & fully considered. This is not some ‘accidental and haphazard’ combination of pieces. Michail actually went through 3 variations on the ‘tunnel transfer’ before settling on the one we see here, as well as 3 distinct variations on the stem. Just to be clear and please make no mistake about it, this man has an inner artist inside and his talents are tremendous. Whatever it is that Michail Revyagin has, it allows his work to look purposeful & focused, rather than accidental & immature.

No stranger to Revyagin and his work, the proud new owner of this pipe is Leslie Ng and he has aptly named it “The Motorbike”.

Whatever you yourself choose to call this pipe, just as the purpose and response to Duchamp’s urinal above. If it is a general statement to pipe-making society, a random experiment or even a focused attempt at something specific. When such an act is in the hands of talented individuals like Revyagin, it’s result is bound to produce offspring in very large numbers. This idea will give birth to many more new ideas and this is where I give people like Revyagin my utmost respect. In a few years, we will see this initial step, taken further, by so many different artisan’s and their work will then inspire others and so on it will go. All beginning here with this pipe but actually starting much further back, with other unique and similar typed individuals.

Michail Revyagin - Showing us Old vs New

At it’s essence, Art is freedom. That is the best definition of art that you will ever be able to find. So we have Michail Revyagin practicing his freedom. If that independent spirit is something you can relate to, then you understand some of Revyagin’s motives. If you feel like you can appreciate a little more in this pipe, then all the better.

To purchase such high quality and unique art creations, please visit the following retailer:

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  1. Andrei Kadnikov - June 18, 2013

    Misha’s brave works show us how deferent and interesting can be the world of pipes andor just the world. Bravo!

    • David M. - June 18, 2013

      I agree with you Andrei.
      No matter what, even when you strip away all of the personal feelings and initial *shock* from looking at this pipe, he shows us how different things can be.
      Bravo is right.
      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Boris Starkov - June 18, 2013

    Now I’m sure that a lot of different things just starts to rotate around it, because the main detonator is triggered.

    • David M. - June 18, 2013

      For someone like you, a pipe-maker, yes KABLOOEY! Boris.
      In English Boris ‘KABLOOEY’ is the same as KABOOM! Like a Bomb went off.

  3. Эбонит Бриарович - June 18, 2013

    Заложена бесконечная идея. Машина леонардо на астеройде.

    Translation – Google Translation – May be bad:
    Laid down on the idea of ​​the infinite. Leonardo machine on asteroids.

  4. Andrew - June 19, 2013

    That pipe is amazing.

  5. Mikael Pertot - June 19, 2013

    GREAT article David – you did it again!! And I can only agree: regardless if you like this pipe or not Micha is a genius explorer that brakes new boundaries again in our conservative little zoo.. You just HAVE to love him !!

  6. Dan Coomer - June 19, 2013

    I admire the great skill and craftmanship to make this pipe and even admire the audacious creativity to design ite, but seriously would you pay real money for it and actually smoke it on a regular basis?

  7. David M. - June 20, 2013

    Thank you Sergey. Very kind words and makes me happy to hear you were smiling. :) Yes, the ‘Misha Effect’ here always has excitement around it.

    We are on the same page Mikael. We have to love our own little Columbus here.

    Hey Dan, so I can tell you that definitely yes, someone would pay for this pipe and no small sum either. If they would actually smoke it, I guess that would be up to them and it is likely more of a personal preference matter. If I would buy this pipe, I would smoke it. But that is me. Others may differ and they are welcome to offer their opinion. Yes, it is an ‘artistic piece’ but it does not have to sit up on a mantle and on permanent display. Just because it is ‘unique’ does not make it un-touchable in my opinion. If any pipe-maker were to pour their heart and soul into some piece (however that ‘heart & soul’ expresses itself in the end) does that automatically make the pipe un-smokable? if you yourself did something above and beyond, would you want to use it or put it on display? All good questions.

  8. David M. - July 11, 2013

    Thank you Roger. Happy to receive a compliment from an artist like you.
    Yes, dead dead dead!
    Nothing to be afraid of I think.
    My Best to You.

  9. TobaccoDays :: Michail Revyagin: In the right place, at the right time & Pipe Smoking Design takes a giant leap forward. | TobaccoDays - June 24, 2014

    […] in particular. I titled that article “A Pipe Maker says that Freehand Is Dead”, you can read it here. It gives great additional insight into how Michail Revyagin […]

  10. PAUL MILLS - August 24, 2016

    I agree wholeheartedly that we should not allow ourselves to be bound by convention, but within reason. A pipe – like say a motorcycle, or an egg beater or a pistol – is typically made to “do” something specific, that is to say it has a “purpose”. This must in some ways guide our design. That the pipes presented here do have a bowl, a draught hole, etc… shows that the maker does bow, however slightly, to convention. If we set out to make a pistol, and instead fabricate a big-bore shotgun, I think we have failed. This, despite the fact that the instrument created shares a barrel, chamber, trigger and so forth with the average pistol. How much license should we take? I don’t know, but I do believe that we should fashion an instrument suitable for enjoying tobacco when we make a pipe. Is that possible with these designs? Are they suitable for enjoying a nice bowl? I wouldn’t care to smoke them, yet I do appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship involved, just as I might appreciate a fine shotgun in the example given above. I also wish to give my support to the maker for following his own mind and heart in creating his art. We should all have the courage to do so without regard for how well or poorly the design might be received by the pipe-collecting public.

    • DAVID M - October 18, 2016

      Well said Paul.

      I think you hit the nail on the head and used a good example.
      I will twist it slightly.

      Lets say you inherit on of them old, original, several hundred year old Spanish exquisite rifles. All the details, engraving etc etc etc…That piece may very well never get shot again and just hung up on a wall. The level of ‘ornate’ on it just takes it to a different place.

      I agree. This is more art than function so this guy stands apart from the ‘regular smoking pipe’ & yes, Revyagin is pushing the boundaries on everyone’s minds and changing the game.

      Thanks for the comment!

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