Gracik + Grechukin = Unplanned Genius. Two Classic Masters collaborate to produce Dramatic & Unexpected Results.

Gracik + Grechukin = Unplanned Genius. Two Classic Masters collaborate to produce Dramatic & Unexpected Results.

Джеф Грейсик & Владимир Гречухин – неожиданный гений.

Совершенно уникальное сотрудничество порождает абсолютно неожиданный результат.

Collaboration in the pipe world takes on many forms. More often than not, when pipe makers collaborate there is a lot of planning involved. When Jeff Gracik & Vladimir Grechukin join forces, all planning goes out the window. The results however, when these two Classically trained artisans connect themselves in the work-shop, are so fantastically unexpected & impossible to anticipate…well, we all get a lesson in exploring the unknown & we also get a glimpse into the possibilities of what pipe makers can do with their briar making talent – without them even able to expect it themselves. It is this unexplored terrain, how they approach it & the final wonderful visual end result that is most fascinating when reviewing how it is that these two pipe makers find their own unique way to cooperate.

Pipe Maker # 1 – Jeff Gracik from San Diego, USA.

Classically trained and focusing most of his effort exclusively on recognizable shapes. As Jeff Gracik says in his own words: “Naturally over time your style develops and you get into a rhythm that you work within. Nine times out of ten, my work falls within shapes that are familiar to me & my clients and I are happy with that. A lot of my work is classically based or from my own shape catalog, because those are the shapes that I’m attracted to. I love making elegant lines and eminently smokable pipes and radical shapes can be difficult to make fit those criteria.”

That last line is of most interest to me. Experimenting is not where Jeff places much of his focus.

Below we see a sample of Jeff’s work. Excellent pieces, most of which we can all easily & quickly classify. Jeff is a Master pipe maker and he can reproduce any pipe on the shape chart with a very high degree of perfection.

Because of this, when we place Jeff on the TobaccoDays design chart, he is firmly in the blue ‘Classical/Traditional’ portion of the graph.

Джефа Грейсика можно легко назвать специалистом в области классических трубочных форм. В девяти из десяти случаях, Джеф создаёт очень узнаваемые трубки традиционного дизайна.

Graphic1 Jeff-Gracik and Graph TOBACCODAYS

If you would like to go deep inside the personal history & mind of Jeff Gracik, you will enjoy this article/interview that TobaccoDays did with him several years ago. Click Here

Pipe Maker # 2 – Vladimir Grechukin, from St. Petersburg, Russia.

Vladimir Grechukin is also firmly in the land of Classical pipe shape design. For him there is no choice but to design from here. Classical pipe design provides in his words: “The fundamental building blocks of all pipe design”. Without them, the pipe design world would be in too much chaos. Eight times out of ten, Grechukin will design a classic or traditionally shaped pipe. Some of of his favorite shapes are Brandy’s & Apple’s.

A very specific area where Grechukin leaves the classical realm and wanders into original design territory is with his treatment of the shank. Vladimir Grechukin loves to both elongate it & enhance it’s vertical presence.

Vladimir Grechukins style also places him firmly within the blue ‘Classical / Traditional’ portion of the graph & the ever so slightest bit of his work enters the brown ‘Creating Original Ideas & Shapes’ portion.

В то же время, Владимира Гречухина, так же можно назвать специализирующимся на классических формах. За исключением, пожалуй, его фирменной трактовки чубука. Владимир всегда стремится сделать акцент на чубуке для того, чтоб подчеркнуть природную красоту материала. Пожалуй, именно в этой области наиболее часто мы можем увидеть следы его экспериментов. В остальном, Владимир так же делает легко узнаваемые трубки.

Graphic2 Vladimir-Grechukin and Graph TOBACCODAYS (1) copy

If you would like to learn more about Vladimir Grechukin & to understand the history that makes up this man, who very likely may contain the greatest amount of design wisdom of any pipe maker on the planet today, you will enjoy reading this article on him. Click Here

Looking at both pipe makers at the same time on the TobaccoDays design chart, you clearly see how they are both rather firmly within the blue ‘Classical & Traditional’ portion.

И не смотря на то, что их индивидуальные работы весьма отличаются по своему внешнему виду, они во многом совпадают в плане традиционного, классического подхода к дизайну.

TOBACCODAYS Graph Jeff-and-Vladimir-style overlap copy

These two pipe makers get together and think about this part deeply, that neither of these artisans speaks the others language. Jeff Gracik does not speak Russian. Vladimir Grechukin does not speak English.

When they do get together in St. Petersburg for the only 2 or maximum 3 days in the workshop, which usually occurs prior to the start of the St. Petersburg pipe show, the focus for both is to try and make 3 or 4 pipes together in that 72 hour timeframe. That is essentially the only general direction & planning that exists when Jeff enters Vladimir’s work shop.

The day starts and some minor sketching out occurs at the beginning of the day & Jeff and Vladimir each do a little nodding to one another. That is all they have time for. Each of them has one block in hand & off they go.

Then Vladimir describes the general process that occurs for all pipes and relates it to a kind of musical chairs scenario. They work on their own individual blocks for some amount of time and Grechukin will say: “Switch!”. And the blocks change hands. Some more time goes by and again the “Switch!” is heard. This process takes place numerous times until the final shape reveals itself.

The end results as you will shortly see are nothing short of jaw dropping, amazing & completely both un-preparable and un-envisionable designs.

When these two Classically focused pipe makers get together, the work they produce often ends up in the green portion of the TobaccoDays pipe design chart, the ‘Open to Experimenting’ area as seen below.

If you read the blurb explaining this graph you know that pipe makers who spend their time in the blue & orange areas of the chart, rarely make it over to the brown, let alone the green side. If you’d like to read the article on the TobaccoDays design chart please Click Here

TOBACCODAYS Collaboration Result-of-Jeff-and-Vladimir copy

It is not always a given that collaboration amongst pipe makers will occur with natural ease. Jeff discusses some of the potential pitfalls that can occur: “It’s rare when it happens but sometimes when you work with someone else there is the potential to clash with them in terms of the different design ideas you may both have. In those rare situations when you are clashing it can create confusion in the preparation stage because both pipe makers are on unfamiliar or even unstable design ground.”

As Jeff discusses this, I automatically think about some important points that make the particular collaboration of Gracik and Grechukin so successful. First, both pipe makers are on equal ground. They both are very very good at what they do & they both respect each others abilities. This is an essential point. Without these foundation elements in place it is difficult to create progress. Second, because of this respect the process of helping each other grow & explore these new areas can occur in a more natural fashion.

Самое интересное в их сотрудничестве, это то, что ни один из них не говорит на языке своего партнёра. Они не разговаривают друг с другом в процессе работы. Всё их «общение» происходит на изобразительном языке дизайна.
Джеф считает такое положение дел большим преимуществом в их работе. Это не позволяет слишком много и долго обдумывать тот или иной дизайн, не перегружает творческий процесс. Я думаю, Джеф абсолютно прав.

Here are some of the results.

Pipe1 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

 I could write books about these fantastic pipes. I will pass though and try to let their unique & amazing shapes do the talking.

Pipe2 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

Vladimir Grechukin says that: “It’s not that together, Jeff & I are now two times or twice as good. No he says. Because we allow ourselves to help each other we are three times as strong together.”

This type of verbage only stems from strength partnering with strength. Both of these pipe makers are behemoths in pipe making. Without this heavy backbone this type of beautiful work cannot find such strong roots.

Vladimir elaborates on their general approach: “Its like a game of tennis. I see what kind of ball Jeff is hitting my way & I make adjustments for it.”

Pipe3 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

As a collector, I am myself finding it difficult to put my finger on the alluring design enchantment that happens when these two come together. I know and can see that their work is absolutely beautiful. I know it is extremely rare & very special. I can immediately see all these things. How it occurs though? That’s the more interesting question. How these two pipe makers who are so firmly entrenched in the classical school of pipe design create this beautiful art that is so harmonious while still being so experimental, is one of those tough to answer questions that are a pleasure to explore.

Jeff Gracik sheds some light on working with Grechukin: “With Vladimir & I something truly magical happens. Part of the reason in my opinion is exactly because we are not able to communicate and discuss as much mainly due to the language barrier. The fact that I don’t speak Russian and Vladimir doesn’t speak English, it forces us to first talk less which is always a good thing.”

Because of this inherent communication barrier, both pipe makers are required & forced to interact in the language of design. There is no other choice. Imagine what that means & how their day goes by with that constraint in place.

Pipe 4 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

What does less talking do? It eliminates a lot of the focusing in on minor details that tend to slow things down & hinder the creative process. With no speaking taking place, the process becomes more natural and by looking at the final result (the pipes), well, it is hard to deny the effectiveness of this approach.

Would you be able to look at these pipes and easily say which pipe maker or pipe maker(s) made them?

Что же происходит, когда они работаю вместе? Нечто совсем неожиданное. Сотрудничество друг с другом выводит их на совершенно другой уровень креативности. Открытость к эксперименту становится их непреложным правилом. Могли бы они по-отдельности создать эти формы? Скорей всего, нет. Вместе – да!

Pipe 5 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

A quick design sketch over some Russian tea is all they have to start with each day.

Sketch TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

Jeff describes this unique process: “I look at the sketches that Vlad makes and I think they look crazy. Quietly I think to myself that these will not work out…and then BAM! they do. Something fantastic happens and they do work out”

Through their time together both pipe makers have become much wiser. Jeff highlights some important elements that he has learned over the years. During the normal process of doing in-depth planning with another pipe maker on a collaboration piece, Jeff says: “The more you parse something the less heart it can have in it. If you take music or a poem, there is theory behind them, an idea. Unfortunately, sometimes, when you discuss it a lot, the more you break down that theory through analysis, it can take some of the magic away. You can take a fluid and unique design and break it down by it’s elements. Or instead you could just let it happen spontaneously as it happens with me and Vladimir. You’re not making decisions by theory as can happen sometimes with other pipe makers.”

Pipe 6 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

How do these pipe makers know when to stop throwing the block back and forth to each other? Vladimir Grechukin explains: “Both Jeff and I realize that we do not know where our collaboration will take us. It is an unpredictable place that we both work within. There is however a moment at the end where we stop. We look at each other and we both say “Wow” – we just made something special.”

Pipe 7 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

Out of the two pipe makers, I personally envision Vladimir Grechukin as pushing the boundaries a little within this unique partnership. We have the older, wiser and perhaps slightly more sly pipe maker, throwing in an extra curve ball or two when he plays this back & forth match with Jeff. Why? Perhaps because Vladimir Grechukin knows that if he tosses Jeff a heavy curve ball, even if Jeff may not expect it nor see it coming, Grechukin knows that Jeff and his talent will find a way to make it work. That is an important point. Another one though may be due to Vladimir Grechukins age. He is still a relatively young elder at 64 years of age but I see his wisdom looking to find an opportunity to push himself & his career a little more in his old age. He wants to experiment more and like all pipe makers, this is not an easy thing to do. Perhaps when Vladimir is with Jeff though, he has found a partner who can catch the curve balls he throws and throw them back at him n a good way. Jeff may be a good grounding tool for Vladimir and some ideas and he knows it.

Я думаю, Владимир, будучи более опытным и умудрённым, получает несколько больше от этого сотрудничества. Оно позволяет ему сильней расширить собственные горизонты и продвинуться значительно дальше по сравнению с их совместной работой.

Pipe 8 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

The other area I find absolutely amazing about this work is the lack of foresight with it. There is no planning involved. No direction. No guidance…nothing except for each of these pipe makers spirit & willingness to go with the flow. This in fact is the hardest thing for any pipe maker to do. Letting go and going with it.

It requires stepping outside the lines and going well beyond the boundaries of comfort & I am so thankful that these two get together and for one reason or another produce this work. We, you and I get to see the amazing results.

То что меня поражает в их работе больше всего, это полное отсутствие планирования как такового. Никаких границ, никаких направлений или указаний. Ничего, кроме умения следовать и доверять друг другу. Я считаю, что это самое трудное для любого Мастера, отпустить идею и дальше, просто, следовать за ней. Это требует от Мастера отойти от обычных рамок, уйти из зоны комфорта.

Pipe 9 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

How much more quiet and uninteresting would our pipe world be without these new ideas to interest and fascinate us. This is the hardest area to impress within. Experimental yet good design, held down by strong basic principles but showing us something new.

Pipe 10 TOBACCODAYS Gracik Grechukin

Over the past 3 years, those 72 hours before the St. Petersburg show starts, they have made 14 pipes together thus far.

С годами их совместный дизайн становится всё более и более захватывающим. На данный момент Мастера совместно создали 14 трубок.

What an unexpected yet fantastic match. Pipe collectors are a lucky bunch to have these two working together with such a unique environment around them.

Как бы там ни было, я благодарен судьбе, что эти два Мастера встретились и по той или иной причине совместно трудятся. Надеюсь, мы ещё не раз сможем насладиться результатами творчества этого прекрасного тандема.

Jeff Gracik & Vladimir Grechukin. St. Petersburg Pipe Show 2013. Foreground is two of the pipes they worked on that year.

Jeff Gracik & Vladimir Grechukin. St. Petersburg Pipe Show 2013. Foreground is two of the pipes they worked on that year.


Special thanks to Alexie & Lev from PipeShop.RU & to pipe collector Sergey Danchenko for assisting with translation.

Images courtesy of PipeShop.RU,, SmokingPipes, Jeff Gracik & Mikael Pertot.




Copyright © 2015., All Rights Reserved.

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  1. The Smoking Yeti - April 6, 2015

    The only issue I see with this whole arrangement is that they don’t work together more often!

    I love the joint aesthetic they produce, it truly is more than a sum of parts. Jeff and Vladimir elevate each others’ aesthetic in a truly inspiring way!

    Great stuff!

  2. steve morrrisette - September 6, 2015

    Great write up on a most interesting aspect of the pipe world David.
    Jeff and Vladimir compliment each other well and have truly come up with some fine pieces.

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