So many fantastic pipes were at the show from so many different types of pipe makers. Each pipe maker applying their own unique style & using their assets as best as possible. Let’s take a look at what was new, interesting & unexpected.
The New Pipe Maker, Mark Price from the USA impressed a lot from the perspective of him being so good while still in his infancy of pipe making.
Mark showed us his production from his 45th through 55th pipes. They look more like pipes 150+ from the average maker. To be making such good pipes at such an early stage says a lot. A new big talent perhaps!? We shall soon see. I definitely think so.
Mark is honing his craft very well right now. He is perfectly capable of finding his own voice, as he is already doing right now. You can see it in his lines and his existing aesthetic. Mark has a concept of what pipes should look like in his head & he is executing it.
Mark is a very good listener and he also happens to be a perfectionist and those traits will allow him to quickly absorb good advice.
Any high end pipe makers wanting an amazing new student to influence should check out Mark Price & participate in a serious career. Mark is already preparing mentally to take the big step of going full time. Enjoy his talent and feed it with some good artistic fertilizer. He will blossom!
Do you like Color in your pipes? I do. We need more color in pipes these days, its slowly coming in more & more.
The best place to start with color is in the stem. Why? That’s the easiest place to incorporate color into a pipes design successfully.
The black stem will always remain but for those makers who want to expand their audience of customers & their own general knowledge of color application in their pipes, colored stems done right are an easy way to both learn more & expand your market.
For pipe collectors, they should be looking at how well the colors integrate with the whole pipe. The combo of colorful stains & a colorful stem is not the easiest thing to execute. A collector with a good eye should quickly be able to see a smart application.
Note that ferrules are good tools to bridge the visual ‘high contrast’ gap between a stain color on the pipe & a colored stem. As seen in this example from an older Manduela pipe. Orange stain, white line splitting the two sides of blue ebonite. Very smart application of color.
The most colorful stems at Chicago this year were from US maker Sam Adebayo who seems to enjoy it a lot.
It is good to see more color coming into the community and we will now bring out even more. Collectors should consider some color in their next commission & assist the Color Invasion into pipes.
Li Zhesong from China showed us a lot of new ideas this year.
Li is exceptionally skilled at shaping briar. He has shown some truly fantastic pieces, mostly within the Danish style. Li can execute existing shapes very well.
Last year you would have seen pipes a La Eltang, Ilstead & Ivarsson on Li’s table. Like these beautiful Li Zhesong pieces.
What I found refreshing in his batch of pipes at Chicago this year was a lot of black sandblasted pipes, which he mentioned to me is a new area of focus for him. He is trying to branch out & explore new territory.
This is always a smart way for pipe makers to grow & find themselves. Try something new & different. For Li, that new & different is sandblasting.
I also enjoyed his slight exploration into different shapes & bowl treatments. That sideways sitting shank on the bent Dublin below is just fantastic.
Li also used both color & plateaux very wisely on his bowl rims to make them rather visually striking.
It’s nice to see a pipe maker expand their vocabulary of shapes through exploration, which is the only way to grow as a pipe maker.
Highly Modern Shapes were on display at Chicago this year. Shapes that don’t really have a classification yet but when these new shapes are done well, our eyes cannot stop looking at them.
One of the most striking pieces was from US artisan David Huber.
This piece merges the idea of hard & soft lines very well.
While there are a lot of curves on this pipe, what makes it a success is the degree of curve applied. Its rather gentle & applied gently, everywhere. That consistency in application is nice to see.
We have the combination of a big round feel done in a tight corner environment. As opposed to a bulbous, fully round sphere, we see a softer execution of those lines and the result is very eye-catching.
The final touch, as it should always be in such pipes, is to continue the shape’s theme to the stem & that was done as well.
He was able to carry the idea throughout the entire pipe, from stem to shank to bowl & the full composition is very harmonious. A very successful pipe.
Nate King from the USA, who is known for straying deep into experimental territory rather often took some of his cues for the below pipe from the Art Deco design period.
Once again, we see a unique concept executed well. From front to back, the balance on this pipe is firmly in place. That very heavy bowl is perfectly balanced with the smaller shank & stem. Look at the lines on the bowl’s profile, they are copied over to the shank very well.
A beautiful & interesting piece that shows a lot of potential in the modern design arena.
Nate opted to add in some metallic (titanium) lines on her as an accent.
The metal lines, from a visual perspective are very heavy in nature. Your eye is forced to look at them rather than the curvy briar. The pipes shape is almost asking the metal for a gentler, more subtle application to not take away from her focus. A beautiful & very unique shape by Nate King.
Gustavo Cunha, Martelo pipes, from Brazil.
“South American pipe makers.” We don’t hear that too much when discussing high grade pipes. Well, we got one and he is the new High Elegance Chaser in town. You can expect Gustavo to give the high elegance concept a good run for its money.
Gustavo loves clean lines. He is combining minimalism with classical shapes. All of his work coming together with a “less is more” classical expression. Everything is compressed, condensed, minimized. Each line. No beefy volume here.
Gustavo’s “less is more” perspective produces a unique visual treat in his BullDog shape. The compression comes out very nicely & very clean. His new take on the squat BullDog is rather beautiful.
Most of Gustavo’s pipes are in the classical shape arena. I am very much looking forward to his growth in pipe making.
Jared Coles, USA.
Formerly of J&J pipes, Jared had a strong 1st time showing his own aesthetic under his own name this year. He had many unique and interesting pipes that remind me of a heavy wilderness & nature like aesthetic.
You look at many of Jared’s pipes & they carry this rough around the edges aesthetic within them; asymmetry, irregular plateaux placement on the bowl rim & just a general organic rhythm, not just in the bowl shape but in the entire pipe. Even his materials feel this way.
You get a strong sense of this ‘Wild and Out West’ spirit in his pipes. You can see his pipes fitting in very well with the outdoor element.
I enjoy looking at this ‘Out West’ aesthetic quite a bit & wish it was honed in on more. It should be celebrated when any pipe maker finds a niche. The more its celebrated, the more its explored and the better it evolves. Definitely a uniquely American Outdoorsey style of pipe.
Bill Shalosly, USA.
Bill is known for Large, Bold & Muscular shapes. “Big America” are two words you easily attach to Bill’s pipes.
I have enjoyed looking at his “Big” design philosophy for several years.
Different & very interesting this year was seeing Bill wander into the high elegance arena. Its a big arena my friends and essentially involves thinner lines. These blowfish highlight this very new side to Bill’s work. Such thin lines. A full fin sticking out even where before the maximum bit of briar curl on a Shalosky happened on the rim of the bowl, a gentle curl. Now we see this.
Bill has been working close to T. Johnson & Co. for the past year & you can see the effect of being around the people & the pipes in that crowd.
Moving forward, fans of Shalosky’s work will still get to see “Big American” design but it’s wandering into the elegant arena.
Who doesn’t like a good sandblast? JT Cooke of the USA is the master of the sandblast process & he has now taken it one step further.
JT already has a 5 step sandblasting process. Five steps to sandblast perfection. You can read about his process and see some of his amazing work here.In Chicago I learned that JT added a new step to his whole technique. Not connected to blasting but a new step nonetheless.
I have always had a desire to see the peak & valley of a blast ring have even more contrast, above & beyond the height contrast of those peaks & valleys. He found a simple & efficient way to add more visual depth to that area. It’s hard to see in the pictures but easy to see when the pipes are in your hand. JT is staining the peak in a beautiful accent color that is different from the bottom of the valley. Not exactly a new practice in blasted pipes but JT does a fine job in perfecting such techniques and you can look forward to seeing it more pronounced very soon.
A fantastic addition to the JT Cooke program & again it is nice to see a pipe maker continue to grow his own craft.
That is it with pipes.
Lastly, to finish off the analysis on what I saw was the many unhappy faces from pipe makers who had not sold as many of their pipes to collectors as they had hoped. It is the pipe makers job to allow the act of collecting collectors to occur as easy as possible. The right combination between price & quality will always give you the simple results a pipe maker looks for. Sold pipes & happy customers, the foundations of a long & happy career.
It is likely easier said than done however if your pipes are selling out & your demand is so high that you cannot keep up, this is a good indicator of when you should raise your prices. If this exact scenario is not happening & pipes are not selling out, then a very different existence will take place. When a pipe maker is literally relying on income from retailers, this is not a long term business plan. Getting paid for 50% of the value of your work is not sustainable. At a bare, very bare minimum, pipe makers need to sell 60% of all their stock directly to collectors in order to have a chance at living a comfortable life making pipes. Preferably that number should be much higher in fact.
Pipe makers have very little guidance in this area. The best advice in fact comes from other pipe makers. Even there though, when looking at advice from other pipe makers, they should pick and choose what specific advice they need from which pipe maker. Too often we see newer pipe makers chasing the dreams of a more successful pipe maker & in itself, this is not a bad thing. Its great to have goals. The problem though is that not all pipe makers mix & match together well.
Pipe makers should seek out different pipe makers for specific areas of advice. There are good pipe makers to get advice from on business and still other pipe makers for advice on new pipe making techniques and even other pipe makers for advice on improving their production efficiency in the shop.
The absolute most important area however is finding the right pipe maker who can improve the individual art that a pipe maker already carries. Too often I see pipe makers going to one place for all of the above & the results are never good. Pick wisely & in which specific area you seek help. Rarely does a one size fit all problems solution exist.
That was the 2016 Chicago Show for me. Looking forward to next year.
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