224. “Smoking is the Art”: Sweet Petes Future / Past
When we look at any beautiful object (natural or artistic), we suspend all other activity, and we are simply aware, we only want to contemplate the object. While we are in this contemplative state, we do not want anything from the object; we just want to contemplate it; we want it to never end. We don’t want to eat it, or own it, or run from it, or alter it: we only want to look, we want to contemplate, we never want it to end.
In that contemplative awareness, our own egoic grasping in time comes momentarily to rest. We relax into our basic awareness. We rest with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We are face to face with the calm, the eye in the center of the storm. We are not agitating to change things; we contemplate the object as it is. Great art has this power, this power to grab your attention and suspend it: we stare, sometimes awestruck, sometimes silent, but we cease the restless movement that otherwise characterizes our every waking moment. . . .
—Ken Wilbur, The Eye of Spirit: Integral Art and Literary Theory, 44
“Sweet Petes” has become an annual tradition here on Peterson Pipe Notes, having appeared in a kind of virtual gallery walk of favorite Petes from the past and present. It debuted in 2016 and returned in 2017, 2018, 2019 and in an IPSD edition for 2020. The idea is simply to offer a selection of fascinating Petes with a few notes on what hit me or other Pete Geeks as remarkable about each piece. This year’s edition begins with an update from Josh Burgess, Managing Director at K&P, on new pipes and finishes we can expect to see this year—some of which debuted this past week. From there, like every good museum, we preface the tour with a brief introduction by an informed guide, in this case one of the great guys in the hobby, Ted Swearingen.
New From K&P for 2021
Josh Burgess writes:
On new releases, we’ve got some things in the works. We’re adding a few shapes that have been in the Churchwarden/Specialty line that are going to be making appearances elsewhere now. The Specialty Tankard is going to be showing up as shape 701. The Churchwarden Dublin will appear in the standard line as the 124, the D15 will appear as the 127 and the D16 will appear as the 128. This will flesh out our Dublin/Bent Dublin offerings a bit, so we followed the 120 shape numbering convention.
The “new” 128 (formerly the D16) debuts in the Aran Nickel Mount P-Lip
Two other new series will be appearing soon. First is Deluxe Classic. This series will be a selection of high grades—non-Systems with classic mounts. It’s a revival of the old Deluxe series of sorts, but we’ve added a new twist. We’ll be offering three finishes: Natural, Terracotta, and PSB. Each shape will feature large silver bands to echo the POY aesthetic. I’m really excited about those. We’re also going to be releasing Irish Harp Sandblasted. It’s a nice brownish tan SB with a silver band and the Cumberland colored acrylic stem. I think customers can expect to start seeing both of these series in May.
Additionally, we’ll be expanding Deluxe System offerings by adding the PSB grade, as high quality sandblasted bowls become available. So interested Pete Geeks should be on the lookout for those. Finally, we’re working toward our POY, Christmas and a few other special designs for later in the year. More on those soon!
Smoking is the Art
by Ted Swearingen
This weekend I showed my wife a 110-year-old Barling, a pipe in pristine condition, one dressed in a few lovely silver adornments, which is something I like in a pipe right now. The pipe didn’t belong to me, and to the best of my appraisal it appeared unsmoked. “If that were mine, I’d smoke the hell out of it!” I shouted at my wife. I didn’t mean to shout. I was excited. But she was horrified at the idea of that pipe being smoked. She told me I should, effectively, become part of the stewardship of its virginity for the rest of my life, that I should adopt it, safeguarding it for a future generation beyond my reckoning. Her condemnation was quick to start, delivered swiftly, and ferocious. I’m so proud of her.
In attempts by many pipe smokers to explain our hobby to outsiders, pipes have been compared to art collections, and collecting pipes and treating them with care (i.e. handling them correctly) is not unlike acquiring art, because they’re created by absolute masters of the craft. I think, however, they’re rather unalike. As engaging as it may be, art appreciation is a passive pursuit. Art enjoyment is spectatorship. We look at art, or listen to or watch or read it, and we may be deeply affected by it, but we don’t do anything. We have no active part in the performance.
Likewise, I’ve heard pipes described as utilitarian objects. Which they are. Like toothbrushes, and coffee cups, pipes are functional items that provide a very real, practical use: the business of smoking pipe tobacco. But equally simple objects of utility don’t require anything of us; we need no practical or theoretical expertise to use a chair or a spoon in order to make proper use of them. When these objects are intelligently made, we need no training or experience to operate them. The blunt, pragmatic notion that a pipe exists only to burn tobacco, completely overlooks the entire dimension of pipe smoking itself as an artform, or at least the final fundamental and essential element of that art’s culmination.
Because pipe smoking, properly informed by refined technique and applied experience, is and of itself an art form, I tend to think of a pipe as an instrument that makes art, like a musical instrument, and not a “piece” of art (though it certainly can be; just ask Antonio Stradivari or Roman Totenberg), nor is it a functioning item that also happens to be art. Smoking the thing is the art, and the pipe is the instrument of that art making. A pipe can be a useful thing, as a tool, as an instrument, and it can be a work of art produced by a master craftsman, but a pipe is first, and always, an instrument at the crux of the smoking artform.
So, if that were my pipe, yes, I would smoke it like I smoke all my pipes. I fully understand maintaining something beautiful and old. Besides, what if it smoked terribly? What if it lost my interest? But the ultimate satisfaction to be derived from a pipe isn’t in its possession; it’s in its use.
I explained much of this to my wife. She stood down, reflected. I may have got through to her. On the other hand, she’s always wanted an antique Steinway piano, and I fear I have handed her a new argument in favor of the purchase. I can’t read her mind, but I can see thoughts darting through her head, and they’re Steinway-colored thoughts. If the time comes, I think I may relent and accept her argument. She should never play that piano.
From Scott Forrest’s collection, a 1905 Patent System with the FA (Facing Mount) and ultra-rare AB (tapered) stem. Breath-taking.
A Kapruf shape 57 Made in England. The “57” is either the London factory’s number for a K&P oom paul or K&P’s Canadian number. Note the P-Lip. Made sometimes between 1937 and 1963.
From Craig Hairrell’s collection, #1/1000 of the very first POY in 1997.
This extraordinarily rare glazed clay System, shape 20, was probably made at the D. McDougall clay pipe factory in Glasgow. It is seen in the 1945 catalog and would have been made after Hitler invaded France in May and June of 1940 and French production came to an end (notice the ferrule lacks the “Brevet”). Not as fine as the French glazed or unglazed pipes, but still wonderful.
Here is a mystery I have never solved: a Patent Heeled Dublin reproduction from the Late Republic or early Dublin eras. I put these images in a folder at some point before we began work on the Peterson book in 2011, but never found out anything more about it.
And here is the real thing, from Lance Dahl’s collection: an Amber Patent Heeled Dublin.
One of Paddy Larrigan’s XXL Hand Mades from the 1980s or very early 1990s, this is the first meerschaum-lined I’ve seen. He did almost all of K&P’s meerschaum-lined pipes, experimenting with ways to make them smoke as cool and sweet as possible.
From Brian 500s collection, this is only the 3rd K&P gourd meerschaum I’ve ever seen. The other two are owned by my publisher Gary Schrier and are seen in the Peterson book. Like the bog oak and clay System, these bowls were outsourced, then completed in the factory with precious metal adornment and P-Lip stems.
Here’s a wonderful Irish Free State 362 (shape 11) System with a P-Lip horn mouthpiece. Horn is becoming a bit more known these days thanks to the Ropp Vintage series. More easily damaged by dental chatter than vulcanite, it’s still quite strong and gorgeous to look at. It has no taste or odor. I say K&P should bring it back! Oh wait, they have issued a few vintage horn stems, haven’t they?
…Yes, they have. This XL23 (Lestrade) is probably still at Haddock’s. The vintage horn P-Lip is really long to take a bend like that.
Here’s a fascinating 307 Standard System (shape 9). Notice the wide-flared “A” or army mount mouthpiece. Sometimes on the estate market a Peterson is seen with a WDC Wellington mouthpiece, but as we can see the impressed “P” on the stem, we know this is an OEM stem. It must have been made sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I say this because of a very important shape chart that the late Chuck Wright sent me back in 2011. Study it carefully, as it contains the great “comfort P-Lip” mouthpieces I sometimes rant about, as well as containing the cross-reference pipe numbers for each bowl shape:
This photocopy from an old Hollco-Rohr catalog demonstrates why paper ephemera can be so important: at the time we discovered it there was great contention among other Pete Geeks as to the parallel pipe shape numbers!
A non-System shape from the 1905 catalog, one of the 160s, hallmarked 1920. Do notice the bend at the clenching shelf: the bowl would hang down about 15 degrees. Tsk, tsk.
From the Brian 500s collection, a DeLuxe gold-band straight apple nosewarmer with amber P-Lip.
What’s so fantastic about this 2020 fat bottom Premier 302, at least for me, is the contrast stain and the perfect blast ripples up both sides. I do love a Premier System.
From Stephano Zerbi’s collection, two beauties from the Italian market. At top, a 1996 XL12 (looking exactly like the Baskerville System from 1990) and a 1997 shape 230, also with the wonderful tapered vulcanite P-Lip. Such wonderful pieces! And there’s that tapered mouthpiece again. I especially like the aluminum “P.”
This is the 2019 PSOI (Pipe Smokers of Ireland) pipe, the now-retired D19 Large Tankard, one of Glen Whelan’s finest creations.
Another great piece from the Brian 500s collection: a pristine and practically new/old stock bulldog meer with amber P-Lip, hallmarked 1907.
This calabash is remarkable because of the extraordinary elegance of its mouthpiece, which dates it to the Early Republic era, c. 1945-55 or so. I believe it was sold through Todd Becker’s Deadman pipes on eBay.
A NAP amber mouthpiece was found at the factory not long after the return to in-house sandblasting. Here’s the wonderful result.
From Lance Dahl’s collection, a Patent Lip Meerschaum, probably shape 160. Love, love that swan neck.
The 304 is another of my favorite Larrigan shapes, here dressed in genuine vulcanite cumberland and a silver spigot, dating from about the time of its release in the early 1980s. Many don’t appreciate the very Irish aesthetic Larrigan brings to this shape: it’s essentially the 1945 [Beer] Barrel Specialty enlarged as a bent “setter.” At the time Larrigan made it, he wanted a pipe he could set on the table or the bar at the pub. It makes sense to anyone with half an interest in quality brew. This kind of birdseye is one of nature’s greatest gifts to pipe smokers.
A real rarity, a dublin Patent Straight System with amber mouthpiece, hallmarked 1908.
This charming Kapet 11 is from the Early Republic era. The stem bend and dublin stack give it a very Irish aesthetic. The rustication is spot-on identical with Castello’s Sea Rock, although why the pipe was stamped “Kapet” (a smooth line) rather than “Kapruf” (the rusticated line) is anyone’s guess. I’m beginning to believe that “1” or “11” signifies “one off,” having now seen about a half dozen pipes with these numbers.
From the Brian 500s collection, this 1916 CAD (see footnote 2 here for the name’s origin) or bulldog is one of the shapes estate collectors seem to come back to again and again, and you can see why. It’s a fantastic chubby and the tapered lines of the P-Lip mouthpiece are exquisite.
Lee Skiver writes, “My Patent Commemorative Rustic (Pebble Grain) is mounted here on a magnetic stand of my own design that I’m currently testing. Essentially a 1 inch wide rare earth magnet buried in some stacked leather, with a 3/8 inch magnetic sphere in the tobacco chamber.” Pebble Grain still rocks the rustic Pete world, folks.
From the collection of Brian 500s, one of Charles Peterson’s own favorite shapes, the O1, with an AB tapered mouthpiece. I wonder why the shouldered army mount replaced the tapered one? Any guesses?
Prof. John Schantz wrote back with the probable answer: “I would guess that it would make for a better ‘straight pull’ on the stem if the stem were a little bit stuck. A stem without the ‘grip ring’ would tend to be pulled from the bend of the stem and put more angled stress on the mortise/shank possibly cracking it, or maybe even snapping the stem off at the bend.” This makes perfect sense to me. Thanks, John!
This is the earliest Donegal Rocky I’ve encountered. The line debuted in 1945 and my guess is that this was among those released between 1945 and 1950. The chunky rustication isn’t far off from that being done in-house these days, and certainly rockier than any of that line in its later iterations. Like the Donegal line through the 1980s, it features a slender aluminum stinger, easily removable.
Of course I can’t end this without something from “the Great Shape,” Shape 4, aka 309, 4s, 79, et al. This one is a new/old stock 1309 MIE (Made in England) System 0, bearing the number for the Canadian market. The 1937 catalog indicated that First Quality (our De Luxe) bore no number and was followed by 0, 2 and 3. That makes four grades. But when the catalog was issued, the 0 and 2 were available in sterling mounts. As I’ve yet to document a 0 grade with a sterling mount, I’m not sure that ever happened.
“Smoking Is The Art” is republished by the kind permission
of the author and Smokingpipes.com. It originally appeared in
Pipe Line, March 20, 2019.
Many thanks to Josh Burgess, K&P
Thanks also to the Pete Bhoys,* stalwart and true, who contributed to this post.
And finally, CHEERS & APPLAUSE
to Mel-Bud for the long hours spent
stripping the malware from this blog site!
Unlock the identity of the new 2021 POY by unscrambling this message
with your Captain Pete Secret Squadron Decoder Ring:
*It’s Celtic. Look it up.