Well, I have a confession to make. I smoke. Yes, that's right; I use tobacco. In fact, I love smoking and I haven't touched a cigarette for decades. It is the lore of the briar that I am drawn to and what many consider to be the gentle art of pipe-smoking. For those of us who cherish this 'vice' there are artisan tobacco blenders out there who obtain and blend the finest tobaccos grown all over the world. There are over 2600 blends available to the puffer and some of them are just as satisfying as a fine and rare wine is to a connoisseur of the grape.
There are also a small coterie of pipe-makers who have taken making a smoking pipe to the level of art. Many of them are in Denmark, a country where pipe-smoking has been an integral part of the culture for centuries, and there are a few extraordinary makers in Japan, with the rest being scattered across the globe. The pipes from these artists are so prized and in such demand as collectibles that most of them actually go un-smoked, and are sold originally for multiple thousands of dollars. To get a pipe, for instance, from Nana Ivarsson, a young female Dane who is a third generation pipe-maker, you will have to pretty much find an aftermarket item, or get in line. Her work, like that of most of the great Danish pipe-makers, is characterized by clean lines and a flowing design, executed in briar that is so exceptional that just the beauty of the wood is a marvel in and of itself.
Japanese makers, with their cultural heritage of taking crafts to a level that is both imaginative and amazing in its execution, turn out some of the most intricate and mind-boggling pieces. The images presented here are a spare sampling of a few pipes that I have looked at with admiration and even joy.
Craft becomes art when the person making an object pulls out all the stops and allows a free flow of creative impulse to come in. Coupled with flawless craftsmanship, the beauty and feeling of such pieces is an artistic statement that rivals that being made in any medium one can think of.