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Love & Sara

Classical Innovation

2009Posted by Love Geiger Sun, March 08, 2009 15:26:48

Participating in a recent article for the French forum Fumeurs de pipe I was left with some thoughts..

What fuels a pipe maker? I guess in the bottom of our souls the basic lust to create..but from there it varies greatly from maker to maker..

Before reading any further let me just state for the record that my intent with this article is to try and clarify for myself and others what drives me and Sara in pipe making..

Let me also say that it is my belief that as long as you love what you create and manage to get a following of pipe lovers and fellow pipe makers who appreciate and support your creations then you are on your way.

IMO Nothing is worth more than the other.. if a pipe maker loves making classical shapes, shapes of the Danish school, the Japanese school or the Marsian school and working within the rules that define them or trying to twist and bend them then than that is grand..

Make what you love and love what you make..For me pipe making is not a competition and something very personal. It’s just a question of what makes you tick and of course on a professional level what sells..

When I started out as a layman hobby pipe maker every pipe I made was in a new shape. I just immensely enjoyed exploring the various different forms of expression through briar… and in a way I think I was trying to define what I liked.

Later on when my tastes had developed a bit more I learned to cut down the variables and focus on refining and improving shapes that I was fascinated by and that also tends to change over time and I'm in no way done exploring new paths.

Even the great Bo Nordh who was known for coming up with new additions or innovative improvements of other makers inventions basically had a form vocabulary of 10 or so different shapes that he did variables on plus his takes on classical shapes.

Still to this day, one of the things that motivate us the most when making pipes is coming up with new shapes, although it happens more rarely than in the beginning and we’ve become more selective and dogmatic which is natural in any development I think.

It’s just a very special feeling to charter unknown territory, challenging your creative side to come up with good solutions to new design ideas and it can be truly rewarding .

Trying to picture in your head and draw in 2 dimensions the shape from every thinkable angle…figuring out how to best lay out the shape in a block of briar to accent its form and maximize the beauty of the wood, and coming up with the best way to position the holes for the pipe to function well.

The last couple of years we’ve even started to cut a prototype bowl out of pine just to see how all the details and features of the given shape interact in 3D before wasting a nice block of briar because all ideas aren’t good even if they might seem so on paper or in your mind..By doing a prototype we get a much better feeling if it “works” and how the pipe feels in the hand ect.

I have to constantly tell myself to focus on the given path, not all (most) new pipe ideas are good ones and developing them can take a great deal of time, more than you’d think actually.

The Saying: Creativity does not happen in a vacuum rings true and there have been times we have created a pipe we felt was unique only to find later that some other pipe maker crafted something similar…Such is the way of the briar pipe, there are only a limited number of ways the grain runs and on smooths and sandblasts that sets the bar..Everything comes from something..

The internet while being wonderful for our hobby, bringing us closer in creating a contact net previously impossible and taking us to new heights in frendship across the globe ,making it possible for our creations to travel more than I ever have.

But creatively it also has a few setbacks ,we try not to look too much on pictures of other makers work because I’m afraid it will influence what we make too much..Incorporating features and certain style ideas from other pipe makers and making them your own is fine by me and a good way to develop, no question about it and I would be a fool to say we didn’t… we admire some pipe makers work greatly and cannot help being inspired by it.

I remember discussing this with Tom Eltang once and he proclaimed that most “young lions” should get a house in the forest for a year with no internet connection.

As a pipe maker trying to live on selling his works one is of course dependent on people buying it and thereby one cannot help to be influenced by popular demand and what sells..that is the way of our western talks..

I remember reading once in an article about art and music that people in general will not accept something totally new. When a painting or art object had 10% of innovation and 90% classicism it was conceived as great art. This I think is very true.

It’s fascinating to me the different motives people have when making or collecting pipes and what they focus on how we grow and expand and take thing in new directions ..

Well that’s all for now, sorry for rambling on once again in a language that is not my own ..

I could have written more on the subject but out of fear of boring you ill end it here

What are your thoughts on the subject?

  • Comments(5)

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Posted by Love Geiger Tue, March 10, 2009 17:12:15


Good to see you posting here smiley and a thoughtfull reply to the subject from another angle..But please don't be silly.. to call yourself an amateur is a big understatment to say the least....

And I agree, not being 100% satisfied with a pipe is what makes one revisit a shape again and again hoping to incorperate what you have learned on the next one and mabey the gods of grain will awnser your prayers..Its always something!!Even though its on a level customers don't notice..

Posted by Ed Anderson Tue, March 10, 2009 11:40:57

Very nice blog site Love! It was fun reading your thoughts on pipe making. The part about 10% of innovation and 90% classicism being conceived as great art fascinated me. I always kook for something "different" in a pipe but I appreciate it most when that difference is so subtle as to be hard to define, yet it still makes that pipe stand out from the crowd.

Posted by Love Geiger Tue, March 10, 2009 11:10:26


Thanks for the kind words...we are crossing our fingers and hoping our 2 little girls will stay away from the nasty kindergarden flue(Indra our biggest is actually home with an Ear infection nowsmiley) for the most so that we can make enough pipes for the showsmiley

Posted by Bengt Carlson Mon, March 09, 2009 23:08:08

Hello Love,

Congratulations to your new blog, beautiful layout, thoughts worth considering and nice pictures.

I agree with you in most of your thoughts. But I have some more aspects of pipe making although I’m just an amateur.

The first and very crucial thing to me is that a pipe must be comfortable to smoke. If not, it’s not a smoking pipe regardless how beautiful it is. It’s rather a piece of handicraft. And if this is the result I think the point of making a pipe is missed.

Then the question about inventing new shapes. It’s not many people who have got that gift. So what is left for us others? I started about the same way as you did, making pipes in all kinds of shapes. Of course I looked at pipes made by other pipe makers but didn’t try to copy them altogether, but make something alike but with a Bengt-touch. I think that’s a good way to start and don’t agree with our friend Tom that a beginner should be isolated, not being able to look at other pipe maker’s creations. The best thing is of course to get the opportunity to visit an experienced pipe maker who teaches you the significant techniques of sanding, drilling, staining etc. And also discuss aspects of shaping the pipe. But you can learn much by yourself by scrutinizing pipes made by others. And pick up those things you like and when you get a bit more experienced put your own personality on what you make.

The shape of the pipe is of course the important thing. And I don’t believe in momentary inspiration. Or to let the grain of the briar navigate you totally. My belief is that the shape comes first. Then pick up a piece of briar that makes it possible to make such a pipe. Which all pipe makers know is nearly impossible in practice. Either the grain is not perfect all around and/or spots and alike shows up. So you have to moderate the original intentions. But with the idea of the shape in mind. This was the way Bo Nordh worked, at least his last 15 years when I know him. As you say Love, he concentrated on about ten shapes, trying to perfect these. And he collected only briar pieces he found good for this. In fact, he rejected very nice briar, with perfect grain, but not fitting his shapes (I know, I bought them from him!).

I don’t think anybody of us is 100% pleased with any pipe we have made. Or at least only with very few. So what is very important is of course to study our creations when finished and try to find out what we could have done in another way.

All the best

Posted by Tim Crowder Mon, March 09, 2009 15:12:28

Doing work that you love and doing it well should be the road to success. It seems to be working for you. I'm looking forward to seeing you both and your pipes in Chicago!