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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Emily makes pipes too


Today's pic shows a couple of new pipes destined for Pipe & Pint. The green one is a bit of a tip of the hat to Will Purdy, as the idea came from his Alchemist shapes. We haven't made a green pipe for a month or so, so it was obviously time.

The title today refers to a fact that seems to still surprise a lot of people - Emily makes pipes also! I was prompted to write about this after a recent visitor expressed surprise all over again when he was shown her work station and told she was an equal contributor in the pipemaking. Oddly, the French seem to have an even harder time with this than the Americans, but then I've noticed that sexism is still stronger and more entrenched here than it was in the states (Em has bristled on a number of occasions at being told, "That is not work for a woman", in totally casual fashion, as if it was not a radically sexist statement).

Despite having made LBs, mortas, and Talbert Briars for four years now, her invisible status continues.

When Dave Field was here, we laughed about it, calling her the best totally-unknown pipemaker working today, but it wasn't all that far from the truth. While I continue to carry the spotlight and present the customer relations face in the form of this blog, website work, and email communication, Emily has gradually moved more and more into pipemaking over these last few years.

When we began, it was a long road - longer than I'd expected, really. Em is quite talented at all things craft-ish, carries an arts degree, and is particularly good at fiber art and jewelry. Thus, we'd both assumed she could learn pipemaking quickly, but alas, her own nitpicky nature stretched the training process out a good bit longer than expected. Where I will learn a new trick and then immediately dive off into trying a dozen variations and deviations from it, Emily prefers to repeat the new trick 50 times until she has totally mastered it, before taking another step.

We found out early on that, due to the quirks of the market, her selling value would be an uphill struggle. At first, I would comment on each pipe as to who made it, but it quickly became obvious that buyers would skip over her pipes and go for mine instead, regardless of comparative quality, apparently preferring mine for name value alone. We didn't have the luxury for slow sales to build an independant reputation for her, so I quickly stopped identifying who made what and suddenly her pipes began to sell again.... once buyers believed that I made them! Sales-wise, over the past two years, I've seen virtually no difference between the enthusiasm and speed with which her work sales or my own. It seems obvious that buyers like her shapes and detailing just fine, they just want to think I made the pipe!

However, Talbert Pipes is a team effort. Our work is so intertwined that it's often hard to say who made what, and many times we will share work on the same pipe or set of pipes. Two heads are far better than one at a job like this - The benefits of having another pair of eyes to judge, critique, and evaluate is essential, and having another head that knows the equipment and materials and can help puzzle out problem solutions can be life-saving. For its first few years of existence, Talbert Pipes was me, but for some years now - and moreso today than ever - Talbert Pipes is Us. A jointly owned and operated workshop where we both do equal work and co-mingle our various strengths and aptitudes to make a superior pipe all-around.

I bring this up because the two pipes pictured today are perfect examples. One was made 100% by Emily, one by me. And I'm not telling which! But I'm so happy with the two of them that if I could afford to, I'd keep them both :D