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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Classical 2008?

Biz News - I've just added a new natural, unstained smooth Ligne Bretagne to the LB catalog, the first of what I hope will be a steady stream over the next few weeks. It's the rear pipe in this week's photo. The billiard may already be sold, before ever reaching the catalog...

In a recent conversation with a collector/friend (Well, actually not "recent" by most people's standards... I think it was something like five or six months ago, but that's the sort of lag time I write under), he expressed the opinion that classical shapes were coming back, and would be the Big Thing this year. He feels the market is over-saturated with high-end Danish shapes and organic designs in general, and believes the buying public will start turning back to billiards and bulldogs.

I think he may be right.

We've had a HUGE explosion in the number of pipemakers over recent years, and everyone seems to be determined to shoot for the horn/blowfish/Danish styling theme. I always feel just a bit awkward making such pipes, as if I'm trading on someone else's blueprints, and I think (with the best objective view of my own work as I can manage) that I do my best in schizophrenic poles - either completely fantasy-oriented, original Talbert shapes, or my renditions of the classics like pokers and bulldogs. I don't know... Others might not agree. But I can posit one observation I've drawn over the past six to eight months - Our classical shapes here are selling FAST. Much faster than freehands. While a swooped and curved fantasy piece that would have been an instant sell a year ago might sit for a week before finding a buyer, every classical-shape Talbert that I've put on the site has sold within the first hour, often the first few minutes of sending the email notice.

The same phenomenon seems to happen with the Ligne Bretagnes too - We can't keep any inventory of straight bulldogs and billiards, and our only stock now are some more unusual pear shapes. LBs have seen a rather startling sales explosion this year so it may not be a related factor, but it's still odd. I won't mind if this does become a trend, since I very much enjoy doing classical shapes. It's funny how my preferences have changed with time - These days I find just as much creative satisfaction in subtle details like the shank-to-bowl length, or the silhouette view (Being able to see the departure of the stem from the shank lines in silhouette is a crime against elegance, IMO).

Perhaps it's my imagination. Perhaps it's the phase of the planets. Perhaps collectors are responding on some inner level to our current global financial uncertainties by yearning more towards the familiar shapes of the nostalgic past. Maybe our ten billion Baby Boomer buyers have gotten tired of splashy pipes and want the styles they remember dad smoking in the 50's. It doesn't really matter to me either way - I'm happy making any sort of pipes, really - but I'll be curious to see if 2008 marks the start of a classical shape renaissance in the world of the pipe.