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Monday, July 14, 2008

What's In, What's Out

Biz News - One new Morta Classic is posted. I've got another one in process of the same shape, so check back in a day or two if you like (and miss) this current one. It's another in the same design as the #100 pipe.


Folks in the pipe hobby like to think of themselves as non-trendy, timeless sorts who aren't swayed by passing fads, but truth be told, we're just as fickle in our tastes as the rest of humanity. Case in point - There seems to be a current burning trend of fascination for ultra-short "noseburner" pipes. I've had more requests for, and interest in, these funky little stubby beasts in this past year than I have had in my previous ten years of professional pipemaking. I don't mind at all, because they're lots of fun to make, but it does seem odd that only a few years ago, most folks I know would have balked at paying a high grade pipe price for something that was just a few inches long. They take just as long to make as a full-sized pipe, yet the value perception tends to be "small = must be cheaper", so there just didn't seem to be much demand for me to be carving 300 €+ Talbert noseburners. Now, heck, I seem to get a regular stream of requests for the little buggers - the one in today's picture was done for a Japanese collector, and is a really excellent bit of sandblasting if I do say so (The briar gods were smiling).

Contrast this with bamboo-shank pipes today, which seem to be largely dead. Back in the late 90's, I had seen a few of these and loved them dearly, and I began to make my own. Every one sold, most nearly instantly, and they were impossible to keep in stock. Lots of makers began doing them, and suddenly it seemed half the pipes on the market were bamboo-shanked... to the point that I actually stopped making them for a very long time, just to avoid being part of the trend. Somewhere along the way, however, it seems to have died out cold - The only two mortas we've had unsold were both bamboo-shanks, retailers I talk with report that bamboo-shanks are slow to sell, and they're just not as omnipresent as they were only five or six years ago. A shame, because bamboo-shank pipes remain my all-time favorite pipes, for their light weight, their exotic "Adventurer's Club" aura, and the wonderful smoking and seasoning flavor that the bamboo imparts to the tobacco as the pipe is smoked (It isn't a flavor alteration, like morta, but rather more of a richening and deepening that I quite like).

Perhaps it's a sign of our economically-stressed times, with "obvious extravagance" being out and "minimalist frugality" being in. Alternatively, I could just be mad...

Oh, and my apologies for the very slow blog updates. We've had some big increases in our business taxes this year and it's forced us to pretty much devote all our waking hours to workshop, money-producing work. It's annoying because I've got several good ideas for blog posts, but just can't find the time to write them up. Ahh, well... This too shall pass, as the saying goes.