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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Halloween in January

Biz News! I've just posted some new pipes to the website - a new Talbert Briar sandblasted bulldog and a new smooth Ligne Bretagne Collector. Also, I've reshaped and revised the Talbert Briar Suscinio, the pipe with the much-disliked stem - go check it out and see what you think of version 2.0!


It's Halloween in January here. I'm working on an order for a Halloween pipe which met all the magic criteria that I need before even thinking about doing pipes like this on request:

A) It's from an established buyer, so the odds are significantly higher that I'll actually get paid for my work at the end.

B) It has vague design parameters. "Scary", and "a churchwarden" were the only given guidelines.

So, I thought I'd take a minute and toss some of the "imagination process" up on the blog in the form of doodles. In the first set of sketches, above, they're extremely rough and vague, because I start out just trying to capture the overall "look" (general shape, sense of motion, dynamism) and the main visual "hooks" (attention-grabbing bits like claws, teeth, etc). One thing I resolved on going in was that I did want the pipe to be genuinely scary, not just clich├ęd. I'm not knocking on the various black skulls and such that I've carved in the past, but that sort of thing is really very easy - just make a big grinning, malicious fanged skull and you're there. The ones I prefer, however, and my favorites of the Halloween pipes over the years, were the ones that were more surreal and disturbing, rather than just "BOOOO!"-scary. The problem is that it's just really freaking difficult to make something as pre-set as a pipe, disturbing.

Looking up, I started with some rough ideas of a churchwarden with big teeth.This went OK but didn't really grab me so much, so I doodled around for a bit, in the process producing the cute three-legged standing churchwarden design that isn't scary in the slightest, but will probably become an incredibly fun Goblin pipe sometime later. The bottom left sketch in the above image was the most elaborate, a huge tusked thing that would have looked quite brutal. Still not scary to me, though. Plus, more problematic, it would have been virtually impossible to make due to its dimensions - I simple don't have any briar blocks thick enough to allow the two big rounded tusks at the sides to be outset from the bowl and STILL have bowl walls thick enough for more carving and a chamber diameter wider than a pencil.


I've created a nice "scary music" playlist for myself in my Amarok music player, and it's ideal background music for getting into the right mood. Further goofing about produced the roughs to the left - starting with the strange, fat, chicken-winged duck-thing. Looked incredibly silly. But I liked the "wings" - tipped with curled claws, they evoke the disturbing mental image of plucked wingbones & fetal curls. I elaborated them, doodling ways to do the bottom and producing the frog-footed shapes. Again, more silly than scary, but they'd make ideal Goblin pipes and I bet they'll turn up in Green froggy form in the Goblin catalog before too long.

But I still wasn't getting the sort of genuinely unsettling look I wanted...



It took me another page to get something I liked. I trifled with combining the big tusks with the fetal wings, but they didn't work together. Em and I talked about motifs and she suggested Eraserhead, and that was all it took. The bottom needed limbs that were as twisted and fetal and creepy as the uppers, so I added thick haunches with a long, curved "leg" ending in a sort of bone-nodule "foot", and a second, stunted leg to carry the fetal curl and lack of development.

The great thing about the design is that it's a practical smoker as well as unnervingly hideous. If I can get the balance right, it should sit. Unlike too many "art pipes" and just plain "weird pipes" that I see, I try hard to keep the underpinnings of my more exotic pieces as practical and functional as possible - I want them to be smoked, not just collected. One can see in the cutaway view that the pipe is essentially just a big bent billiard, laid out to allow a centered airhole, pipecleaner passage, and good wall thicknesses... all while (I hope) being a genuinely creepy little creation. These sketches are still quite rough and undeveloped, but a good bit more detail will be added as the pipe progresses and is worked and reworked on the fly.