News from the Pipemaking Workshop with the Funk.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rough Sailing

Biz News - There is one new Goblin posted, finally! More to come, I promise. Also, I recently posted the fiftieth Ligne Bretagne pipe for 2008. I can't believe I've made fifty LBs this year!

Here you can see some scans of a few sketches I've made for this year's batch of Goblins. Ideas range all over, from the cute to the decidedly sinister (The pipe in the top sketch is more likely to become a Talbert Halloween pipe than a Goblin). The little fat creature with legs reminds me of something from a Miyazaki film. Several sketches can be seen as completed pipes in the photo below, showing the three most recent pipes in the final stages of their finishing. Alas, only one of them is currently finished and posted - BOTH of the others have been unbelievably fussy and problematic and appear determined to fight to the last against ever being finished. Yet more are in the pipeline, though, and I hope the newer ones will be more pleasant (and at this rate, they may be done before these trouble-prone ones are!). The sad part for me is that now it is virtually impossible that any of the new Goblins will be done and posted before Halloween, when I had hoped to be posting new Goblins every few days for the last half of this month.

This month..... Gads, this year. What a horrible year this has been, easily the worst since the year of continual disasters (which actually lasted about 2.5 years) following our move to France. It already seems certain that 2008 will be another year of no Christmas presents, this time not for each other nor anyone else we know, sadly. Unfortunately, the news of the world suggests it's going to be a while before things get any better - There's nothing like trying to hold to your standards and create a high-end luxury item during times when everyone is ducking and running for cover as banks and financial pillars crumble left and right. I'm left to wonder how Alfred Dunhill felt during the war, except that today, it looks like bank foreclosures rather than German bombs that will force us all out onto the streets to sell pipes from fold-out tables.

Now that I've gotten a few Ligne Bretagnes into stock, once these current Goblins are finished, the next big project I want to tackle will be more Talbert Briars - nice Talbert Briars, some quality examples of the best work I can do.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Halloween Pipe that wasn't

There's another Goblin posted. As I write this, it has already sold in-between the time that I posted the catalog page update and wrote the brief News page update to announce its arrival. I realize that must seem like an awfully pitiful product for a week of work - one single Goblin - but words fail to describe what a financially disastrous week this has been, in terms of both money and lost working time.

In the pic to the left, you can see a Halloween pipe that might have been - Something I've been working on in hopes of posting this month. I've still got another couple rough-shaped, but I don't think my odds are great of getting them done in time. This discarded one is a classic example of the sort of hidden faults that can lurk inside of any briar block, no matter how "perfect" or "flawless" the exterior might be. This is also a great example of why I've often said that for all the fluff about sandblasts being "inherently flawed", they are actually much more likely to be structurally flawless than smooths, because these kinds of epic, "just under the surface" failures would be exposed and seen rather than lying in wait.

This pipe looked flawless. The briar was excellent quality, pits were minor to nonexistent, and it gave no indications that it might have any serious problems. The design idea was to make a more complex, more sophisticated, and generally more creepy version of some of the "walking" Goblins, but in full Talbert Briar Halloween complexity, with a curling, scorpion-like tail stem, hand-shaped to arachnid design, with detailed legs paused in motion, one raised to move forward. It would have been smooth and very black, with a massively deep contrast-black stain that I've been working on and have dubbed "Sinestre"- very dark yet still with contrast enough for visible grain.

Unfortunately, while sanding the front of the bowl round, after much carving and shaping, I exposed a small pit. More sanding enlarged it, and within about 2mm of sanding, it opened into a fissure within the wood which could swallow most of a test needle. So much for that pipe! This sort of dramatic briar flaw means days of lost labor, a 700+ euro hole punched in the month's income, and the general desire to hurl things across the shop. Grrr. One can only hope next week will be better!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goblins do Facebook

Biz News - I've posted several new pipes to the site in the past couple of days, including some new Ligne Bretagnes (including one Collector-grade poker) and this October's first Goblins. More will be arriving very soon!

Today's photo is a sneak preview pic of the next Goblin that will be hitting the catalog in a day or two. I'm trying to schedule the work on them in sync so I can post a few at a time together, but so far am not having much luck with it, and always seem to have one that's near done and three others that still need work. They'll be going up from now until Halloween, though, so watch the Goblin catalog page for new postings.

Rollicking times these days, eh? I'm sure that like most artisan pipemakers now, we're crossing our fingers and hoping we can make it through this current economic crisis, that always seems to hit the little people the hardest while the Wall Street crowd float away on their golden parachutes. All I can do is give a heartfelt plea to all the pipe folks out there to please help support our artisan community now, as best you're able, because times are most certainly tough. I suspect we'll be seeing more than a few makers pull out of the biz for better pastures in the weeks and months to come.

But in other ways, the wretched state of the world economy has actually helped us - after years of being abnormally high compared to the devalued USD, the euro has finally started to fall a good bit, making our pipes MUCH more friendly in pricing to US collectors. What was $628+ only a few months ago is now $540, a whopping savings! The change is all the way through the lines - even the Ligne Bretagnes benefit with USD costs falling from $190 to $160 or less. So, hooray for falling currency values ;) I hope we'll be able to stir up some more (and new) business in the states again soon, after virtually having to abandon the market there for lack of pricing flexibility due to the high euro. I'll be happy if we can - While I'm pleased that our market is now much more worldwide, with collectors all over the globe, the US is still near and dear to my heart and it's been intensely frustrating being at such a competitive disadvantage. I've always prided myself on making a damned good pipe for the money at every price level we sell in, and having the table stacked against me has not been fun.

Finally, a few of you had some early warning that Goblins were about to be posted if you were following my Facebook profile. Facebook has apparently exploded with activity affecting me in the past month - I've had an account on there for about a year now, and there was NOBODY on there that I knew. It seemed like a completely pointless exercise, and I never bothered to update my profile or keep track of it. Now, suddenly, it seems that my entire high school has joined and all started contacting me, plus numerous pipe folks (making for an eclectic group of friends to be sure!). Due to this activity, I finally went in and added photos to my profile, and have started actively updating it. So, if you're interested in what we're up to here at Ye Olde Talbert Workshop, just add me as a friend on Facebook and you can follow up-to-the-minute notices on what's happening. Of course, there's a fair bit of ordinary life stuff mixed with the pipe stuff, but curious parties can see a bit of Brittany, some of the places we've been, and even follow what I'm reading now via my profile's "Virtual Bookshelf", where I'll be posting my own reviews of my daily reading.