Around The Pipe World – Pt 1. Reviewing years 2014 to present.

Around The Pipe World – Pt 1. Reviewing years 2014 to present.

TobaccoDays continue to promote ideas & design concepts to influence the pipe making & collector community. It’s been a while for me so let’s see what has been going on in the pipe world the past year. Let’s ask some questions, probe the happenings in the pipe world and get some deeper insight into whats making this industry tick. The more we know the better we can collect and the better we understand what is in front of us.

Hobby Side Explosion

Serious/full-time pipe making is seeing the biggest boom in it’s entire history thus far.

The hobby side is seeing this same boom as well. Just in the past year alone we have seen the number of craftsmen hobbyists double or maybe even triple in number. A lot of new guys picking up the briar. The best side effect from all of this is the increased population of carvers. The more people giving it a go, means we have a better pool to see talent from. The more people we have doing the craft, the greater the chance for better pipes.

It is a great stat. The more the merrier.

Grant Batson

It feels like we can use Grant as the posterboy for this hobby craftsman explosion.

Grant-Batson-Portrait1 copy

Obviously he is not the single direct effect of all this but he did come onto the scene just a short while ago. He had a great deal of instant success. He has a good old, country boy wholesome attitude. His story is inspiring and that story definitely motivated more than a few people to pick up a block. We have these types of personalities with this effect in the hobby.

What else is there unique about Grant? I haven’t been able to look away from a certain portion of Grant’s work over the past few years. Why? Part of his design style catches the eye & more specifically it’s in an area I call his ‘Tree Organics’ style. It has this enormous feeling of ‘I Hail from the Woods, The Forest & The Trees’ element that sits within his work. It’s been refining itself over the years & its looking real good. Grant has & brings with him a specific and unique artistic, woodmans like expression. The more defined it gets, as it is becoming now, the more likely other carvers will adopt it and evolve it further.

Some of the better expressed shapes really look like something you could pick off of the forest floor. Like a mushroom or a piece of bark.

Grant-Batson-Tree Organic Look copy

As Grant works, he can’t ignore his thoughts & ideas on nature. Anytime there is a line on the pipe that could be straight…he correctly asks himself: “What would Mother Nature make this line look like?” And here ya go.

The vast variety of his shapes will appear more normal but still, look at his work and you will get that feeling of ‘Tree Organics’ & it’s a solid artistic statement.

Grant-Batson-More Regular copy

In recent months Grant has also brought increased attention to his production process and the quality of his work has never been better.

Here is my Grant Batson pipe. I am more in love with this shape ‘concept’ than anything else. A fantastic example of this feeling that his work expresses. I think we’re lucky to be able to see work like this.

See more Grant Batson pipes & get in contact with him here

US Artistic Style

With someone like Grant in mind, someone who has their own unique artistic style, have you ever wondered why there aren’t that many North American carvers with these unique styles of expression shown consistently enough in their work to see a very clear pattern? Yes, we have a few in the US that are strong in this personal style arena but we don’t have that many . Grant Batson, Rolando Negoita, Trever Talbert – and the list pretty much stops there. We are not including pipe makers who have the ability to create amazing one offs. We are describing a distinct pattern of a specific design style. Two very different things.

With the number of pipe makers we do have in N. America, one would expect to see more of this. Why do we have so few & why does Europe for example have so many? Is this a reflection of the conservative values of the US? Mostly from the collector standpoint if so.

The average US collector will not as readily accept artistic freedom as their European or Asian counterpart. That being the case, the pipe maker is less likely to try and sell something outside that scope of thought.

The one area where North American carvers do excel is exactly in the area of finding a solution to the above problem. N. American carvers ask themselves: “How do we keep the classical shape in tact but explore in other areas like stain or finish?”

Brandon Brooks

Which brings us to this gentleman. I love what he is doing with his stains.

Brandon-Brooks-image1 copy

The exterior treatment of the pipes body is still pretty much virgin ground. There is so much opportunity to go further & every day we see more & more of it.

You look at Brandon’s work and it just puts a smile to your face. Its fun. Thinking back to 10 years ago and imagine what people would be saying upon seeing this for the first time. If your still shaking your head thinking no, no no, at the pipes color, well, thats fine. Being stuck in the past is something we all do in one way or another. Those people that are looking at this green pipe and just smiling and saying ‘how cool of a color treatment is that!’, just think about how far we have come in such a short time.

Brandon-Brooks-image2 copy

See more Brandon Brooks pipes and get in contact with him here

It’s nice to see that artistic freedom in the pipe community has sprouted like wildfire the past few years in various different directions. We did not have so much variety just a few short years ago.



Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.
Reprinting is allowed with permission.

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  1. Richard M Friedman - November 6, 2015

    I think I understand why you did not include Tonni Nielsen in you list of North American carvers with a distinctive and recognizable style. Many still regard Tonni as a Danish artisan even though he has resided in the United States for 30 years…and of course his style is still very clearly Danish.

    However, in my opinion, there are several other North American carvers whose work reflects a unique personal style. Stephen Downie at makes pipes that would be recognizable across a crowded pipe show hall as work with his own unique aesthetic sensibility. I also think that Michael Parks, in perhaps a more subtle way, also meets this criteria as a North American pipe artisan with a unique and recognizable voice.

    • David M. - November 13, 2015

      Yes Richard. Tonni is not on the list essentially because I consider him European rather than American. Even with his US residency, his ‘mind’ and that element of him. The biggest thing guiding his work, is mostly European.

      With regards to defining what it means to have a style I think the best term to use is ‘Distinctive Design Pattern seen consistently throughout one’s work’.
      Therefore, whatever shape is tackled, this ‘distinctive design pattern’ is seen. No matter what type of pipe they create.
      With that in mind, because Stephen most often creates pipes that are heavily in the ‘Realism realm’, I would not categorize that design style as distinctive. That is more copying what reality is showing us. Yes, it is something we can recognize from far across the room but as for it coming from some other place of reference, the ‘soul’ as opposed to the beautiful Octopus creation ‘realism’ he recently made, I see those as two different categories. That is just my personal perspective though so your welcome to disagree. I am just trying to explain where I come from with my view.
      Michael Parks, whom you know very well that I adore Completely & Totally and I have my 5th commission en route with him as we speak, also has a distinctive style but not to the point where I would define it as ‘Searching & Experimenting Territory making it very Unique’.

      The best guys to compare all of the above to would be:
      – Wolfsteiner or Tarock Briar
      – Revyagin
      – Rolando Negoita
      In most of their pipes, we would be able to verbally describe this ‘distinctive design pattern’ that we consistently see. If we can do that with a pipe maker who tackles all the shapes there are and we still see it, then this is what I am referring to.

    • David M. - November 13, 2015

      Richard & Dan,

      Lets look at Roush for example.
      If we were to look at 10 of his pipes, we would be able to pick out at least 5 ‘visual design cues’ that make his pipes distinctive.
      If we were to do the same with Adam Davidson for example, do you think we could find the same ‘design cues’ in all of his pipes?

      Roush: Thick, Gnarly, Rugged, Obese, Bulging etc…
      Davidson: If we were looking at one os his gorgeous pencil shanks -and- my beloved Fig for example. It will be more difficult to highlight these consistent similarities.

  2. Dan Coomer - November 6, 2015

    Negoita, Talbert, and Batson have very distinctive style but I can think of several carvers who have a distinctive style. I guess Julius Vesz and Mike Butera areis probably outside your criteria due to age but they certainly have a unique style.

    I certainly think Nate King, Michael Lindner, Adam Davidson, Jody Davis, Brad Pohlman, J.T. Cooke and others have very recognizable styles.

    This is certainly going to be a great multi-part story as it is going to generate some serious discussion..

    • David M. - November 13, 2015

      Hi Dan,

      I think all of the guys you mentioned definitely have distinctive styles. No doubt about it.
      Most of the them however would still be classified as conservative expressions of individualism.
      I adore many of the names you mentioned and own more than 10 pipes from King, Davidson, Pohlmann and Cooke combined and yes, I can recognize each of their pipes in a heart beat.

      When you look at someone like Negoita (for example) and compare 100 pipes of his work to that of JT Cooke for example. Can you describe any type of difference in what you see? Please help me answer this question as your response will assist in better comparing the two.

      • Dan Coomer - November 24, 2015

        Well, I wish I had even 20 of these guys pipes. Cooke is readily distinguished by the incredible depth of his blasts.

        Negoita is more noticeable for his use of original shapes and textures. His walnut pipes are immediately recognizable as are his conductas. His whales are very identifiable.

        • David M. - November 27, 2015

          Thanks Dan,
          I hope you saw my new reply on Part 1.

          Yes, Todd is polarizing but the most important item about him is that people ignore that it is his passion that does most of this polarizing.
          His passion for Great Pipes To Be Made at The Highest Standard.
          Todd and I are acquaintances only so I did not write this for his benefit. More so for all the people I talk to who have not the best things to say about him.
          Even Todd deserves a fair shake at trying to help people understand where he is coming from & so thats what I did.

          Yes, the growth rate today is phenomenal isnt it.

          I will soon be posting pics from the West Coast Show and you should be wow’d by the pipes from Negoita’s table from that specific perspective. Recognizable & identifiable.

          As I just mentioned to another poster Dan, TD tries to be equally democratic in its review/journalism of the pipe hobby.
          The best example I use is Michail Revyagin. On a personal level, most of his designs are not up my personal alley but honestly, my ‘personal opinion’ of his pipes dont matter. What he is doing though, his art, his experimentation, is worthy of big discussion and that is why I write about him.
          For me, give me a classic pipe most any day of the week and I will select it over a more artistic pipe. That’s my personal opinion.
          Educating all of us though requires a different approach so I cover those items that deserve our attention. At least I try to. 😉

          Thanks for the comments and discussion Dan.

    • David M. - November 27, 2015

      You know Dan / Richard,
      I have been thinking about these comments for a while.
      Ultimately, the main focus of the question should be: “Are American Pipes less open to being ‘out of the box’ creative than their European and Asian counterparts?
      If you think the answer is yes, then you agree.
      If you think the answer is no, then you disagree.
      Both are fine.

      I just think its better to focus on the bigger picture rather than get mired in the details of each individual carver.

      Thanks again for your comments & the discussion.

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