Part of the joy of pipe collecting & pipe smoking is seeing the vast range of different pipe design styles that our artisan’s and craftsmen bring to the table. Some styles stay the same and are timeless classics that are often repeated. Some styles are brand new and they take the craft forward in giant leaps & bounds. Each and every one of them are great. Even while I myself enjoy the classic’s more, I will still never be able to say that any one particular style can be described as better than the other.That is impossible for me & should be for you as well. All of the wide ranging styles are simply what we have in front of us today & we should be enjoying each and every one of them and appreciating what each of them brings to the table because all of them bring something.
Over the years I have heard from many pipe makers and collectors alike about how much they enjoy the design analysis & review that TobaccoDays provides. Many pipe makers have gone so far as saying that TobaccoDays has helped them both refine their craft & their focus on pipe making. Some said that it has even helped them explore new design areas more. Pipe collectors as well have said that their collecting habits have changed over the years after reading articles on TobaccoDays & that they are now more open to new pipe design ideas because of what they read here.
Today I am happy to share something that I have been working on for a long time. It is a simple graphic that attempts to further help us all define the various systems of pipe design that we all adore & look at each & every day.
It is a simple graphic, divided into four main areas.
Each area is color-coded and because so many pipe makers have varying styles, they will often straddle between two specific areas a lot. That is why I made the sections split at 45-degree angles, to highlight the often multiple types of different design directions one pipe maker can employ.
1. Pipe makers who Follow Classical or Traditional Shapes.
Essentially this area refers to any pipe shape that when looked at can be easily classified. Whether the shape has it’s roots in English, French, Danish or Swedish design. Whatever it may be. As long as we can quickly name and classify it, the shape and the person making it belongs to this category.
2. Pipe makers who Copy Ideas that already Exist
This area implies that the pipe maker is not inventing something new but rather applying a known idea or concept to his or her pipe design. The concept can both be a unique looking shape that many pipe makers copy, the concept can also be something unconnected to pipes completely, yet still it is expressing something that we all recognize as something we know and understand.
3. Pipe makers who truly Create Original Ideas & Shapes
These are the pioneers who stray far away from the 1st category & they are doing something that none of us have ever seen before. It is the true act of invention that we are seeing. Something that was previously not there. A brand new creation.
4. Pipe makers who are Open to Experimenting
These pipe makers may not focus all of their attention on the 3rd category but you often see them, in one way or another, playing with some new concept a little bit here and a little bit there. They do not stray that far from what we classify as traditional design but they do stray.
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So let’s get into a brief example to help explain how this graph works.
I will use Michail Revyagin as an example as his career path has traversed far and wide all over this graph & he is a good example to visually explain how to use this tool.
Revyagin began his career making 100% Classical & Traditional shapes. Shapes that we easily recognize & can easily categorize.
Therefore, if we were describing where Revyagin is placed on this graphic during this specific time in his career, his graphic would look like this.
After spending a good deal of time learning the Classical shapes, Revyagin slowly began to wander with his design and he began to apply ideas that we know from our world into his pipes.
One example of such an idea was that of rotting fruit. Fruit that rots. An idea we all know very well & one that we have all seen. Revyagin copied this idea and applied it to pipes.
Another known idea Revyagin began to copy was that of Sea Shells or Ammonites. These are commonly known as fossilized marine animals and he showed this common idea to us in his pipes.
While there are many more examples we could reference in his work, this is sufficient to explain this stage of his career. He was copying known ideas that already exist and applying them to his pipes. Therefore if we were to define his style at this time, his graphic placement would look like this.
Moving further along Revyagin’s career path, we see that he spent a great deal of time in this area while slowly making his way into more experimental territory. He began to apply abstract concepts to his pipes. Distorting them a little bit here, applying a little bit of a twist there. You can still see the root classical concept in his work but his desire to experiment and play with it is clearly visible.
Looking at his work from this time period, we would place Revyagin here on the graphic.
Now came the time period when Revyagin began to create something new. Most of his ‘new creations’ came as a result of the shape concept we see here.
This initial idea then spawned an entire design movement which is shown below. Revyagin’s now famous ‘Reverse Calabash’ concept expressed in a multitude of different types of expressions.
Everything that Revyagin had learned up until this point, slowly began converging. You start to see many different design concepts expressed in a single piece.
Revyagin spent a lot of time here as we all know. Even going as far as creating truly outlandish new creation pipes such as these.
Some crazy new stuff or sure. Placing this period of Revyagin’s work on the graphic, we see him in between the area’s of ‘Creating Original Ideas & Shapes’ & ‘Being Open to Experimentation’. This is where his work stands today.
What is further interesting about Michail Revyagin is that I personally know that he is now going to head back to his original roots. Revyagin is going to take his designs a little more in the direction of the Classical & Traditional shapes. Revyagin will never be able to leave ‘Invention’ and ‘Experimenting’ however his future pipes will be “more tame”. Therefore, Revyagin’s future work is placed like this on the graphic. Moving back towards the Classical & Traditional portion of the graphic.
We have looked at Revyagin’s career in phases. Now we can take everything that we know that he has both done and is able to do & we can create a pie chart that tries to summarize his career using each section of the above graphic.
Every new article on a pipe maker will use this graphic and we will place the pipe maker on the graphic. Once again, there are no right or wrong definitions with any placement. Some of my absolutely favorite artisan’s will firmly be in this section of the graphic which is defined as an area that does not produce new ideas nor innovation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Conversely, many other pipe makers will find themselves on the other side of this graphic and here we can define much of their work and internal goals as having a strong desire to invent something new and show us pipes in ways that we have never seen before. Once again, there is nothing wrong with this either. It simply is the way the pipe maker is currently expressing their work.
Why are we spending time defining these styles? Because the more we define and categorize what it is we see, the better we can place what it is we see into groups. When this occurs, we can then designate a pipe better and allow our focus on the ideas it represents to expand our knowledge of pipe design even deeper. The more information we have in this area, the greater we can move the entire realm of pipe design further forward.
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