Al Pascia



March 11, 2013

The Easy Transformation of the Briar Block’s Skin from Wood to something Extraordinary

Its nice to know that if a pipe maker ever becomes flustered with difficult thoughts related to what type of shape they should make next, they can always breath at least a small sigh of relief knowing that we also have the pipe’s exterior, or it’s skin to experiment and play with as well.

It seems relatively easy to assert that 95% (and likely more) of pipes being sold today have one of the three major types of surfaces on it. They are a smooth, sandblasted or basic rusticated surface. The average pipe will look like one of those three. My desire would be to see a greater number of alternative ‘surface definitions’ added to this existing general mix. It seems like there are several pipe-makers who agree and we will briefly review their work here.

Why do we have this scarcity in alternative surfaces? The short answer is – Tradition. Our market is heavily rooted in the past and the difficulty involved in breaking out of this mold, especially from a pipe-makers point of view, cannot be underestimated. Why should a pipe-maker even search for something new and different when there is so much steady business connected to the regular way of doing things? Clearly a relatively new pipe-maker would have not only a different perspective on this topic but also different motivations in the ‘be seen’ and become known department. Being the first pipe-maker to ‘test out’ some new idea always carries risks with it but the potential reward is very much worth it.

For established pipe-makers it should actually be much easier to take such risks since it should not impact their existing standing with the collector community to a high degree. Obviously the hope is that the risk being taken turns out to be a smart one. Cearly the result should look good from both the aesthetic point of view and ensuring the pipe’s overall design remains harmonious and flowing, no matter what interesting and unique applications are applied to the pipe’s skin. Once those basic’s are achieved, the results are very positive. In such a competitive market as we see today, any added element of differentiation can only help the pipe-maker. 

Anne Julie has been applying unique skins for decades now. Her most famous and aesthetically pleasing to me, is her flower series. I most especially enjoy her black stained flower pipes. They tend to exude in my mind, a strong leathery type quality, implying both a hard yet soft texture.

Anne Julie – Image Courtesy of Bisgaard-Pipes

This dual (hard yet soft) element in Anne’s pieces were the first to truly open my eyes to what ‘can’ be, with regards to the true transformation of a wooden block of briar into something exuding a completely different overall sense. At that initial point of realization, all one can then think about is what other extraordinary transformations and modifications can occur to a regular block of briar?

Anne Julie – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

To enhance the overall fluidity in her design, Anne ensures that the entire piece speaks in one language by allowing her carving to travel over the shank and even to the tip of the stem. A smart and natural way to approach an all-encompassing, single design concept.

Anne Julie – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

Rolando Negoita has been applying interesting skins for the bulk of his career. Negoita often finds himself borrowing from nature for his inspiration. His pipes often express the form and texture of various nuts, from acorn’s to walnuts.

Rolando Negoita – Image Courtesy of Al Pascia


Rolando Negoita – Image Courtesy of Al Pascia


Rolando Negoita – Image Courtesy of Al Pascia

Ukranian carver Konstantin Shekita takes a decidedly different approach to transformation. Konstantin seems to enjoy the almost complete elimination of the pipe surface area altogether and applying a webbed or fishnet style of application.

Konstantin Shekita – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

It seems difficult to imagine the time needed to create such a startling piece but the results are nothing short of fantastic in the realm of new ideas for us to look at. Exploring in this area, it seems that Konstantin has found an new way to potentially take the word ‘contrast’ to a whole new level.

Looking at this next piece, one can easily imagine some potential future applications when allowing the two levels of pipe surfaces to interplay with one another on a deeper level.

Konstantin Shekita – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

The always unique and different Michail Revyagin enjoys modifying as many elements as possible. Michail is always twisting what we believe we know and understand regarding what a pipe should look like. It should therefore come as no surprise that Michail decided to actually glue layers of different materials, such as vulcanite in various colors and even briar itself, on top of the briar.

Michail Revyagin – Image Courtesy of Quality Briar

Michail Revyagin – Image Courtesy of Quality Briar

Michail Revyagin

For Misha it is all about the interplay of elements and what type of visual waltz he can create for our eyeballs. Chop off a section of the pipe here and replace it with some rubber. Why not! It seems to open things up quite a drastic bit…creatively speaking. If the material is functional and performs the same job as the briar would, all while adding new elements to the surface, what can be more pleasing in terms of a final result?

Michail Revyagin – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

Alex Brishuta, another Ukranian carver, says that he adores the rusticated finish because it provides him with more opportunities in terms of the final look. He could not be more correct. Anything that gives us the opportunity to discuss something new and different is an asset to us.

Alex Brishuta – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

Moon pocked marks all over the bowl, sometimes finished smooth, other times with additional, even smaller pock marks to go on top and left rough. What a simple yet very interesting application.

Alex Brishuta – Image Courtesy of ScandPipes

And finally, new carver Grant Batson and what he calls his ‘tormented’ finish.

Grant Batson

It seems that Grant was experimenting away, possibly looking at the natural plateau placement in his pieces and looking to find a way to extend those rough elements related to it, throughout the rest of the pipe. No matter what the course taken, I think he did a wonderful job in finding something new for us to digest.

Grant Batson

One of the greatest things about so many of these exteriors that we look at, is the general ‘simplicity’ in the idea they portray. This is  not rocket science and is likely more connected to these artisans having either a personal desire to find something different and or they had enough time, in between commissions, to actually ‘think’ about what more they could do to transform the briar’s surface.


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