You may know that:
- Geiger Pipes come from the country of Sweden.
2. That each Geiger Pipe is a product of the joint collaboration between the husband & wife duo, Love (pronounced Lou-Ve) & Sara.
What else do you know about Geiger pipes?…if in fact you even knew about both # 1 and # 2 above?
Here you have it, the deeper insight into what makes Geiger pipes tick.
Yes # 2 above is true. The pipe-making world has an absolutely genuine full-fledged, husband & wife team making world-class, high-grade pipes. The key words there were ‘husband, wife & high-grade pipes’. On the surface of that comment, one may tend to shrug their shoulders and say: “So what?, there are lot of two-person pipe-making teams in our hobby.” While that may very well be the case, I am not aware of any two-person teams out there who not only work together for 9 hours a day but also take their kids to school, clean and scrub the toilet & have romantic dinners together as well. For me, this ‘husband/wife’ team fact is an absolute ‘wow’. The ‘wow’ gets even bigger when you look at and understand, the amazing high level quality of the pipes that this married couple makes together.
Sara: “A strong trust between us has grown in the abilities of the other doing their utmost to succeed. Therefore if one of us screws something up in a pipe, we seldom get angry. This trust must also extend to letting each of us lead our specific areas of expertise.”
I guess for me, that thought of ‘married pipe-making couple’ highlights itself so much because of the common notions related to pretty much ‘all the immensely difficult things that one encounters when one is in a relationship’. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and so forth. Then my next thought is – How does one overcome those difficulties to the point of being able to produce elite class pipes together? How can a normal married couple possibly have the patience to work together so well? It simply amazes me how successful they are at doing this craft together. When I learned the details of their pipe-making process & how they make it all work, I was astounded even more. We will get to that shortly.
Let’s first briefly review who these people are so we understand how they approach pipes.
Love: “After working together for a while you start taking the pipes & our overall work together less personally. We realize that we are part of a team and these wonderful little pipe gems are the result of our collaboration. I think that most of us here in in the western part of the world get trapped up in our own ego’s and a very linear type of thinking. Because of that, we end up forgetting the source of some of our greatest achievements. Most great things come from more than just one person. Other people and their energies have always helped move things forward in inspiring ways.”
Love (again, pronounced Lou-Ve. Visualize a Swedish Louie only with a hard Ve at the end. Or say the famous Paris museum Louvre, minus the R and now you’ve got it) is the original member of Geiger pipes. In the mid-90’s Love’s appreciation for pipes started to take a hold of him and he began to immerse himself into it’s world. Sara was not a part of the process at the beginning. Love was the one taking the first curious steps into the pipe world. Every single detail about pipes interested him. His personality is so ‘excessive’ that when he enjoys something, he literally immerses his entire being into the subject matter & focuses on nothing else. So with pipes, every single detail interests him. He can discuss any minute pipe detail for hours on end, covering each possible angle & reviewing every potential positive or negative impact that comes from working a pipe in one way or another. The bookish & deep pipe wisdom in this duo resides within him. Love actually refers to himself as a full-fledged pipe-geek & he says it with the biggest smile on his face. It is quite naturally so. Love has been learning & working with briar for a good 20 years now.
Love: “Given the nature of briar what is most interesting to me is what that specific piece of briar will allow. We are always trying to optimize whats within the briar rather than forcing an idea onto it. Sometimes the results from having to work out a flaw in the briar will yield interesting new variations that force us into new and exciting territory. Since I am the more technical of the two of us, I have to take the drilling and functional aspects of the pipe into consideration.”
The Geiger Pipes business uses the following tagline to describe their pipe-making work – CLASSICAL INNOVATION. The bulk of the ‘Classical’ portion of those two words clearly hangs out within Love.
Love was initially drawn towards the Classical pipe designs. Not the English Classical design but rather the Danish & Scandinavian Classical design. Love has spent time with all the Danish and Swedish pipe masters & artisans. When you look at any Geiger pipe, no matter how innovative a shape it may be, you can always see that it is grounded within a Sixten Ivarsson’esque design philosophy. That portion of any Geiger pipe, will mostly come courtesy of Love. Although firmly rooted within the classic pipe design foundation, Love’s pipe mind has definitely had room for more than just Classical wisdom and he discovered this upon his first look at one Trever Talbert’s unique creations. The American artisan Trever Talbert exposed Love to the other side of the pipes, the creative side & Love fully appreciates that part of the hobby as well.
Love: “If you care too much about the normal pipe ideas, then the future of pipe-making will be really boring. Its always nice to challenge yourself to look at a shape and ask yourself – what more can I do? At the same time, we have to find a balance between being able to sell a pipe that someone wants to buy.”
Sara on the other hand, became the other half of Geiger Pipes about 10 years ago. Sara had always been interested in art. She studied art & artistic concepts at great length prior to joining her husband in the shop. Sara has an incredibly creative drive & a deep artistic spirit. Prior to her jump into pipes, she was searching for a medium to allow the artistic side of her to express itself in. Thankfully for fans of Geiger Pipes, she met a block of briar and started her career in pipes.
Sara: “When it come to pipes, I guess not taking yoruself too seriously & finding a way to have fun, in a professional way of course, is something I bring to the table. I also don’t always guess on what shape will be popular and I dare myself to venture into new territory and to explore and learn, even if it sometimes the results turn into nothing. We apply this philosophy to our day to day lives as well.”
Going into the pipe-shop however, to work with her husband no less, was not some sort of pre-defined plan. As is common in both of the Geiger’s personal philosophies on approaching life, Sara’s journey into the shop was an organic one and it evolved naturally & curiously. In fact as she tells me, not only did pipe-making provide her a creative outlet for artistic expression but there was actually an emotional pull into the shop as well. Sara felt very deeply that for the couple to have a successful marriage/partnership, she should work on finding ways to spend more time with her husband. There was definitely an emotional pull that brought Sara into the pipe-making shop.
Sara’s pipe mind lies on the complete opposite side of the pipe spectrum from that of her husbands. Sara is absolutely not the pipe-geek that Love is. Love is the one who spends a lot of time both on the internet, learning about what is going on in the pipe-making world & talking to other pipe-makers extensively about pipes in general. Sara on the other hand, does not do anything of the sort. In fact it is safe to say that Sara actively stays away from the informational world of pipes. Sara does not spend time learning what is current in pipes nor has she focused much of her attention on the past of pipes. Sara has separated herself from common pipe world information.
Love: “Drilling some of Sara’s freehand shapes can be a real fun challenge.”
This act is not something intentional on Sara’s part. This is just her personality. Sara’s concept of creating art is that it should all come from within herself. It is a type of self-exploration approach to the artistic process. By ignoring what other people are doing, only then can she find out what she can actually do. A self-imposed trial and error system of learning & creating if you will. All wrapped up inside a very creative and talented mind. This natural barrier to the outside pipe-world has allowed Sara to keep her mind clear from other pipe-maker’s ideas so she can focus exclusively on her own.
Sara: “Slightly asymmetrical shapes can be misunderstood by some people but that idea is incorrect in my opinion. Angling the briar on one side a few degrees more than the other, in order to highlight the grain, this is a good thing. This is an organic approach to the organic material of briar.”
When we go back to the tagline again – CLASSICAL INNOVATION. The bulk of the ‘Innovation’ portion of those two words clearly resides in Sara.
Love: “Depending on what kind of pipe we are making ,when Sara is freehand shaping she concentrates on the grain without having a fixed idea of what the final shape will be. This is an interesting way of creating and a great way to come up with new stuff. To let the mind wander and allow inspiration to come from just following the grain. Although some monsters have been created this way it is necessary and it is something we learn from. The briar monsters end up staying in a closet of course. This way of free learning is what defines our pipes. Sometimes Sara will sit at the disk sander for hours, completely lost in the moment.”
There is however a balanced system that Geiger Pipes follows when making their briar. Divide & Conquer is a very apt way of describing this dynamic duo’s pipe-making process. Sara takes the lead in the shaping department and Love focuses on the technical elements such as drilling and engineering. The advantages of this division of labor are clearly seen in their work. Sara’s strength is in her ability to free-flow an assortment of ideas, unencumbered by traditional pipe shape design philosophy. This allows Sara to freely wander in any shape direction she chooses to go into. Sara’s part & strength in Geiger Pipes is especially seen when she is working on freehand pipes. It is because of her personality traits that I describe her process as a form of freedom freehand. Outside of needing to do the obvious adjustments to the block’s shape when a particular flaw is encountered, it is safe to say that when Sara is working in free-hand mode, she does not know where the work will end up.
The other important point in their pipe-making process is that Love is always by her side. Love is right there, ready to inject the immense amount of pipe wisdom he retains & he actively participates in the shaping process. You can say that Love puts on the hat of a Director during Sara’s shaping. Love reviews Sara’s free reign design and injects ideas that one could say come from both a collector’s point of view as well as a classical design perspective. This moment in their pipe-making process is what one could call the ‘grounding stage’. Ensuring that a pipe concept has actual legs to stand on and it does not end up in the abstract sculpture department of the Modern Art Museum.
Sara: “ Love always gives his input and he makes suggestions on what small changes to make. When I listen to him and initiate his recommendation, the pipe always gets better.”
This is an absolutely crucial step. Should Sara’s designs stray too far from certain ‘pipe infrastructure/pipe basic’s’ elements, Love will begin to suggest modifications to the design, in order to bring it more in line with his classical knowledge. This is the place where the duo quite literally conquers. The Geiger’s are using their individual strengths to the final product’s full advantage & the end-user / collector’s, absolutely wild-eyed pleasure.
Love: “If I was to design all the pipes on my own, they would be more boring. Sara’s ideas make Geiger pipes more interesting from an innovation perspective.”
The Geiger’s become the perfect example of team-work with each stunning high-grade pipe they produce. The process of letting go of their personal ego’s, for the greater good of the common goal, creating & selling sensationally impressive pipes is for me, the place where the master-piece of Geiger Pipes lies. Their democratic approach to the act of creation. It is their ‘secret sauce’ so to speak. To do this step effectively one has to have a lot of wisdom & clearly, these two have it.
I make it a point to only cover pipe-makers who have achieved the point in their careers when their work can begin to be classified. How does this occur? Quite simply. Once you begin to see a unique pattern in all of their work & that pattern becomes consistent, you can then begin to define them. No matter what shape a pipe-maker’s system decides to tackle, if they have come to the point of developing an internal method of expression, they have achieved their own vocabulary and they are now expressing the art on their own terms . My personal definition of Geiger Pipes is that they are some of the most experimental pipe-makers on the planet whose work remains fundamentally placed within a classical design foundation.
To illustrate better perhaps, this is very different from a Roger Wallenstein pipe for example, whom one could also describe as very experimental, yet his pipes are not relying so much on classical design philosophy.
There are no wrong definitions or right definitions being expressed. Nobody is better or worse than the other. Everyone is creating on their own terms and this is a beautiful and pleasantly dynamic environment. We simply have definitions which assist us in categorizing the pipe-maker’s work with the purpose of being able to explain what types of different elements reside within the pipes themselves.
No matter how many innovative & different pipe-makers this blog covers, the pipe industry today retains a very un-friendly view to ‘innovative pipes’. Our hobby is still rooted within very traditional & very conservative views on what a pipe should be. No matter how many ‘rebellious’ pipe-makers you read about on this blog’s pages, their cumulative work will pale in comparison to the work of more traditional pipe-makers.
I would wager to guess that for pipes costing less than $200, a full 90-95% of them are made in Classic English or Classic Danish shapes. With higher grade pipes costing $400 on up, the numbers are likely better but still, I imagine that ‘innovative or different’ shapes make-up less than 15-20% of the overall high-grade market. The shift however for higher figures can at the very least be seen more clearly now. Those %’s of innovative & different pipes are rising. It is my opinion that pipe-makers like the Geigers & specifically their approach to creating pipes, is in fact the future of pipe-making.
Love: “For us growing and keeping the learning and exploring moving forward is key. This is what makes the work feel alive and not stale and boring. That being said, just because we make a shape that has not been done before, does not make it automatically great. Our joint innovation is simply our collective collaboration. We are two different individuals and we both inspire each other & we are both inspired by the idea of being to transform each other’s ideas into something else. This is one of the best parts of working together. Getting to watch the natural evolution from our process, it truly is fascinating stuff.”
How many years from now will it be that pipe-collectors will actually buy at least 50% of their collections in these ‘new’ shape styles? I cannot say exactly but that day is coming. Those collectors that will and are leaning towards these new shapes & are open to learn more about them, they will be following and purchasing pipes similar to that of the Geigers. The best way to achieve this goal of enticing the ‘perhaps’ old collector, is to make pipes that find the right balance between old and new. Something that the Geiger’s are doing extremely well as of late.
Sara: “At the end of the day we both enjoy what we do and we focus on not being too hard on ourselves. Fear and doubt, which often creep into anybody’s mind, are not good drivers for moving things forward. We think it’s best when our crazy ideas get ventilated and out there. You have to have standards and we definitely do. We are also critical of our work and we use that as well but not to the point where it impacts our personal selves in a negative way and it begins to inhibit our growth. Both personally and in our work.”
When you look at the quality of their work. Their pipe production is not just a statement to the pipe-world of what two heads merging as one can create, also though, it is a testament to the personal philosophies they have. These personal ideals carry them through the entire process of collaborative pipe creation in the husband and wife environment. They have taken the task of working together to a whole new level. They are beyond the usual bickering & the senseless fighting and they now create magnificent pipes together, in as peaceful a harmony as a husband & wife making pipe duo can ever get.
Thank you to both the Geiger’s for sharing their incredible story. It was truly a pleasure to learn so many wonderful things about this incredible pipe-making duo. So much behind their story helps us understand both how their pipes are made & what they stand for. I will never look at a Geiger Pipe the same way again.
All of the incredible personal photos of The Geiger’s were shot by their talented friend Kate Visonj. Thank you so much Kate.
Geiger Pipes can be purchased at the following pipe retailers.
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