336. Brian Heydn: A Pete Geek Working Class Joe
‘I’ve been a mid-westerner all my life. Nothing out of the ordinary here,’ Brian Heydn told me. ‘Just an Average-American-Working-Class-Joe-Stiff. But from samples of his extraordinary designs, I had to disagree, and from there it wasn’t long until I invited him to share his Peterson pilgrimage here on the blog and become its official Artist in Residence, creating a Pete Geek poster which you can learn more about later. For now, Brian’s Peterson pilgrimage:
I have a variety of hobbies that I enjoy, one being art & design. I started drawing at a very early age, fascinated by the ability to create or recreate something on paper with graphite (pencil). From art history and the culture, I found it to be an expression of all the things I loved, humanity, life, and everything in between. Be it of one’s own vision, imagination, experience, hopes, or fears – art captivates us and promotes an emotional response.
The tobacco pipe is art. The very definition of artisan tells us that it is, ‘a worker in a skilled trade, especially one the involves making things by hand.’ Whether the pipe stands alone or is functional (smoked), it retains an aesthetic that many of us can appreciate for years. While I’ve never been very good at creating three-dimensional pieces, I can say that I enjoy watching artists, sculptors, or artisans create.
I try my hand at pipe restoration from time to time (I’ve learned a lot from watching various YouTube videos). It gives me the opportunity to delve into that world, only to catch but a glimpse of what artisans experience from the block up. I enjoy inspecting and deliberating over the angles and grain – possibly discovering something new.
Educated and trained in the art of graphic design, I’ve taken to promoting various things of interest. Since discovering Peterson of Dublin in 2006, I have been expressing this discipline in various forms of ‘visual celebration,’ if you will. Peterson has a solid culture and branding history. Much of my work is based on inspiration from that. I typically try to create something I’ve never seen done before. However, from time to time, I like to replicate ‘billboards’ from yesteryear for the sake of keeping it authentic. It is a fun endeavor.
What’s the culture of pipe smoking like where you live?
Columbia, Missouri consists of a fairly mixed liberal/conservative landscape, so smoking tobacco is treated no different than most cities these days. Then again, this is my best guess. The extremes speak for themselves. For me the mantra of respecting others, so others (might) respect you, seems to prevail (here). Then again, it all depends upon who you might ask. Much of it is ‘banned’ from businesses and public access areas -a good reason to go to places where there aren’t a lot of humans, I suppose (I like my garage). That said, I only know a few pipe & tobacco enthusiasts.
I may not be qualified to critique the tobacco-business aspect of Columbia, as I moved here in ‘95, so there may be more history and perspective than I can provide. Columbia is down to what I would consider one legitimate pipe and tobacco shop. I only frequent Jon’s Pipe Shop (and ‘Jon’s’ – or Wayne’s business is nearing its last days here). Jon historically had a great selection of tinned and bulk tobacco and there was always a nice selection of quality pipes for sale, primarily English selections. These days Wayne has a number of Petersons on display, also sprinkling in pipe and tobacco publications or books, paraphernalia, along with a ‘used pipes for sale’ case to create even more interest.
Often criticized for being crotchety, Wayne would engage and give some great insight into the history of pipes, tobacco, politics and religion, if you could tolerate it, or better yet, if he could tolerate you. I certainly enjoyed it and spent enough time with him to gain his trust, perceived or otherwise. Many samples of tobacco were offered over the years and he even gifted me a sweet limited edition McClelland Tobacco promo poster. More recently, my visits with Wayne are more personal and social. He invites me to come and sit with him behind the counter. He typically offers me something special that he has set aside or has acquired from a friend. The time there is priceless.
Jon’s Pipe Shop would never get high scores for presentation (and I certainly tried to help him out with this), but if you were truly into pipes and tobacco, the veneer (good or deemed not so good) didn’t matter. It is always about the camaraderie – the pipe-smoking experience, shared or otherwise. The newer shops in town are vapor shops, that sprinkle in (maybe) real tobacco and tobacco pipes.
The online pipe world truly has taken over – a bitter/sweet thing. I’ve purchased pipes online simply because ‘Jon’ wouldn’t build up his inventory. I suppose he just couldn’t compete and make the turns necessary to keep overhead costs low. Back when he had a decent selection, I bought his 1977 Peterson 20s Silver Cap. I knew I had to grab that one when I could. I paid $315 for that pipe in or around 2007. It was pricey, but I still own that pipe today and can remember t he wintery night I christened it with some McClelland Christmas Cheer.
Outside of Columbia, I was privileged to attend the Kansas City Pipe Show in the past and enjoyed meeting many people within the industry. In 2018, I was afforded the opportunity to develop a design to help promote the show.
Pipe shows are a great way to meet others in the community. Meeting the likes of Lee Erck (Father the Flame ‘fame’) was a very special highlight for me in 2018. I’m a big fan of this production, as there aren’t many who have created a quality and artistic documentary piece such as this.
How did you come to take up the pipe?
I developed a desire to smoke real tobacco soon after graduating from college and that started with cigars (post ‘cigarette smoking experiment’). My brother-in-law introduced to me the Macanudo brand. Good experience, but over time, I found the brand of cigars I preferred was a habit I could not afford, nor was it (the odor) complementary to my family life.
Full disclosure, I try to balance a life of ‘physical fitness’ and ‘vice,’ if you will. I often refer to myself as a contradiction. While I love pipes and tobaccos, I also love endurance cycling. I invest in heavily and enjoy both. My hope is that one never inhibits the other. I’ll just wish myself good luck for now.
I still wanted that real tobacco smoking experience. So I decided to look into tobacco pipes. I walked into a Tinder Box pipe shop in 2006 and talked to a young man about my desire to try pipe smoking. He didn’t give me the typical, ‘buy a cheap pipe, so if you ruin it there’s no loss’ pitch (not bad advice though), but he did tell me that smoking a pipe was an investment. Not sure how, but the conversation led to the Peterson brand. He presented a 2006 Peterson St. Patrick’s Day 01 (smooth finish). It was a bent pot and it simply said, ‘I’m going to be your first tobacco pipe Brian.’ Lots of birdseye grain and just a great first pipe. Still own the pipe today and enjoy it as well as all the others.
The ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ quote comes to mind as regards my affection for Peterson. Couple that with the company’s history, culture, shape range, and branding and the further I dove into the brand, the more I loved it. It’s hard to find a product manufacturer that has such commitment and longevity these days. Pipes become a part of the family (history) and Kapp & Peterson obviously knows how to build a family.
I wish I could say it was because I’m 100% Irish or that I’m a native Dubliner that Peterson attracts me but that is not the case. I was pleased when Peterson released the Around the World series. The 107 that represented Germany gave me the opportunity to celebrate my family’s German heritage. It really goes back to the aesthetic for me. Peterson’s style is just the one (manufacturer) that catches my eye. No different than those who buy a certain brand of car or guitar. Peterson pipes have a unique and consistent style, often imitated, but never duplicated.
Do you have favorite shapes or lines in the catalog?
It all about the bold shapes. Peterson’s B-series are the ones that have always caught my eye (think Great Explorers Collection—I have the Crean and Shackleton). I’m not sure who was behind the design of these specific shapes,* but they were onto something that certainly caught my eye. My collection is dominated by shapes from the Classic range, with some Systems, but I would venture a guess that the Classics get smoked more often. Not necessarily an intentional lean, but simply because most of the pipes I’ve acquired from Peterson are special releases or POYs— ones I reserve for commemorative moments like birthdays, anniversaries of all kinds, etc.
With Peterson’s access to quality-grained briar diminishing dramatically over the years, I would have to say my quest for the holy grails of my pipe collection is complete with the 140th Anniversary Charles Peterson and the 150th Anniversary Founders Editions. Sure, I’d love to own one of those rare, beautiful and pricey amber-stem releases, but the significance of the 140/150 means more to me from a commemorative or historical perspective. Then again, obtaining a rare pipe owned by Charles Peterson himself might be a close second!
I feel as though I’m nearing that stage where pipe acquisition is slowing down significantly. There are many pipes I would love to add, but I’m finding the collection is nearly complete with the shapes and styles preferred. However, I still visit eBay on occasion to see who’s offering that one I just might not be able to pass up. Who knows what the future holds? I will add that, since discovering the Peterson Pipe Notes blog and The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson book, they are every bit a part of my collection, as they reinforce the brand and culture like no other, making the Peterson pipe experience all the more satisfying.
In my piping ventures, I’ve had the fortune of meeting some very good people along the way, albeit very few in-person. I’ve participated in Face Book Groups for a number of years. Kier Townsend, the Pipe Smokers of Ireland founder, and I worked together to develop the group’s logo and promotion in the very early stages of the group’s existence. From website banners to Peterson PSOI Group Pipe promotions and t-shirts, I was afforded the opportunity to help brand PSOI. While I’m not an active member, I still see its members on other Face Book groups and have the opportunity to give well wishes on occasion.
One of my favorite PSOI pipes is the 2015 Christmas Group Pipe, a 606 Royal Irish sterling-mount mounted tan sandblast with a Cumberland stem. The pipe inspired me to build a couple of different group promos to celebrate its release.
I’ve also had the good fortune of freelancing for Peterson of Dublin, courtesy of Glen Whelan, K&P’s Sales Director. Glen commissioned me to develop a few different pieces that would help promote the shop in Dublin, including two photo-collage poster designs and various small window placards promoting the products for those visiting from China. Glen mentioned that the Chinese frequented the shop and Ireland in general as tourists and that there was a specific need to be able to communicate to them about what Peterson had to offer. My final design was a gift token, or what we in the US call a gift card.
I was super stoked (or ‘chuffed’ as Glen might say) to be able to do this for the shop, as I had become such a fan of the brand and culture over the years. Glen wasn’t short on compensation for the services I provided. It wasn’t uncommon to find a large assortment of tobaccos from the shop, along with various Peterson-branded accessories in the post every once in a while. He even commissioned a personalized straight grain gold spigot (XL90) for me to add to the collection.And how could I not mention Peterson Pipe Notes!?! Long before I ‘met’ Mark, the blog posts became a kind of weekly staple of my online reading. The knowledge, perspective and imagery Mark provides about Peterson of Dublin gives me that weekly ‘letter from home’ feel every time I open the email notification. It continues to be a quality experience, to say the least.
In addition, Mark’s provided some opportunities for me to contribute to his blog and continue supporting the Peterson brand. Its been a fun ride and I look forward to new opportunities.
My pipe collection is one that pursues a reflection of my own taste, likes and leanings. Don’t let marketing dictate your collection. Be it a style, shape, reference, etc… make it your own. Doing so helps accent your identity as a pipeman. Be yourself. That’s authentic! And with that, I think I’ll go and prep that Peterson 2006 SPD 01 with some McClelland 2035 Dark Navy Flake.
All the best!
P.S. I’ve attached the following journal entry and newspaper article from yesteryear along with a poem about Jon’s Pipe Shop and owner Wayne Davis—
Jon’s Pipe Shop -A Visit with Owner, Wayne Davis
11/ 29/ 2022. I visited Jon’s Pipe Shop today. When I walked in, I was greeted by a young man who was smoking a cigar and simply enjoying the accommodations Jon’s provides its customers. The air was filled with smoke, as the young man puffed away. Then he simply pointed toward the counter and without hesitation, he and I both knew where Wayne was. Sitting in his aged leather easy chair (with an ottoman close by), Wayne was enjoying his pipe.
I peered over the counter and looked directly at him. ‘Hello Mr. Davis!’ I said. He paused, with a stern and suspecting look. Then his eyes brightened. He was surprised. Of course, he doesn’t remember my name, but his mood changed and he responded with a confirming demeanor that I wasn’t some lackey coming in to bother him with some useless inquiry. I told him he was looking good. Of course, he rebutted … the pleasantries were brief and we got on with ‘business.’
We bantered back and forth a bit about the time I was absent and what not, but with a few compliments and encouraging words, we were right at home again. With COVID, it had been
literally over a year or more since I had visited the shop. This visit was long overdue! It was nearly magical, as though we picked up right where we left when I last visited him. Of course, it started off about tobacco and what’s new in the industry. Wayne proceeded to slowly climb out of his chair to present a catalog he orders from that had all the descriptions and reviews one could want. We both knew we didn’t have the McClelland any longer, but Wayne said he had confidence in a ‘good replacement’.
G.L. Pease is a tobacconist Wayne can stand by. Pease’s history for developing the craft and gaining influence from masters of the art, provide Wayne confidence in Pease’s blends. ‘Did you bring a pipe?’ asks Wayne. ‘No … no, I didn’t. I’ve got an appointment today and left work a little early so I could stop by,’ I said. Wayne brings out a large tin of G.L. Pease ‘Olde London Series – Quiet Nights’. ‘This is a really good English flake,’ he says. I opened the tin, took in the aroma and concurred–even without smoking it. It has a beautiful aroma that encourages one to load a pipe and sit back for something quiet.
From there we cussed and discussed (as my late friend James A. Churchman used to say) a wide variety of topics, but mostly those that related to our political climate and how our country has progressed/digressed–a favorite of mine with Wayne, because he is well-read and a true scholar of history and the politics of our nation. While some may think a conversation such as this is biased or from one point of view, Wayne has a a solid objective perspective he draws from both sides of the aisle, complimenting their attempts to bring the nation together onto some sort of agreeable path. Which emphasizes what can make America truly ‘great’.
Politics aside, we went on to discuss the conclusion or ‘ending’ of McClelland and why he thought they dissolved the business. Wayne’s perspective was that the FDA was putting too much pressure on McClelland and it became too difficult to do what they loved to do–create new blends. Creating new blends triggered the FDA to get involved (create 3-5 year studies on the product before release/ sale) and that just made more red tape for McClelland. I had also heard that McClelland prided themselves in their ability to hand-select their tobacco and due to regulation, they were no longer allowed to do so. In addition, Syrian tobacco (prime for many blends) had gone away, due to a war-torn region. Regardless, McClelland is a brand that is truly missed.
The highlight of the visit was when Wayne told me about his acquisition of some rare and old (unsmoked) James Upshall pipes form many years ago. He brought them out to show me and I was simply blown away. This prompted a conversation about the industry and how briar wood is not the quality is was years ago. We referenced the leaning pipe manufacturers are taking to presenting ‘dark stained or painted’ pipes as of late.
The visit was good and I always leave with the idea that it may be the last one with Wayne. He’s not young and doesn’t get around easily these days. I give him credit though. He’s the only business I know in this town that still operates with an antique cash register and doesn’t take plastic. Seems to reinforce his personality–God bless him!
Pipe Smoking: ‘Last Refuge of a Truly Male Patronage’
Columbia Missourian – January 7th 1982 by Jill Quinlan, Missourian Staff Writer
Let Aristotle and all your philosophers say what they like, there is nothing to be compared with tobacco.
Pipe smoking has been viewed as more than jut a silly pastime ever since its introduction to Europe from the New World in the 15th century. Europeans previously smoked only medicinal herbs. Tobacco smoking was quickly embraced by a curious public.
To the Indians, it was old hat. They had been smoking the stuff for centuries. Passing around the peace pipe symbolized the faith and trust one had in his fellow man. The Europeans didn’t necessarily agree to its spiritual value, but they did adopt the custom of methodically puffing on a pipe as a form of relaxation. The English, the first to adapt the practice, gave the choosing and blending of choice tobaccos top priority. British tobacco laws today vie in complexity with many of our food and drug laws.
But really, what is a pipe? It has two basic parts–a bowl, which holds the tobacco and actually functions as a tiny furnace; and a stem, which allows you to puff away to your heart’s content. Most pipes are made from the root of a rather stubby-looking plant called a brier. The briar has thick, close-grained, hard roots that are either hand-carved or machine-turned into a variety of shapes and sizes. The best of these are made of roots that have been seasoned in the ground for years–the most expensive have been aged for over a century.
Wayne Davis, proprietor of Jon’s Pipe Shop on the Strollway Centre, is a classic aficionado of tobacco smoking. He flutters between his cigars and his pipes, pointing out advantages in both. Today he is puffing away on a cigar, answering questions and conducting the flow of traffic through the shop. It has the smell of wood and smoke and has the feeling of a comfortable old jacket that you wear when you curl up to a good book.
‘At worst, pipe smoking is a filthy habit,’ he says, as a puff of smoke drifts lazily away. ‘At best, its something one can cultivate for pleasure and leisure.’ A pipe is a beautiful piece of furniture in its own right. The wood is chosen with care, for the beauty of the grin and shape of the final product. A pipe is utilitarian, but it’s something that can be refined. It can even be considered a personal accessory just like cufflinks.’
Davis greets a customer and brings out the man’s order of cigars before continuing.
‘Pipe smoking is the last refuge of a truly male patronage,’ he growls. Most pipe manufacturers do carry at least one line of women’s pipes, but they’re horrible, he says. ‘I don’t cater to trying to draw images of the typical pipe smoker. There is an infinite variety of people who smoke pipes. Some are no more fastidious than they are in their personal appearance,’ Davis says, chuckling.
‘Most tend to be slow, thoughtful, methodical people in general. I call this identification with academia the ‘sophomore phase’, he says. ‘After all, they are rather pubescent and nervous when they first start out.’
The best way to choose a pipe is to browse. There are pipes of all sizes and varieties to please all types of personalities. Jon’s carries a supply from the tiniest clay pipes to rather curious-looking, hand-carved pipes made from a mineral called meerschaum. They all lie within old wooden and glass cases that lend the air of an antique shop to the place. You want a pipe that’s easy to care for and serviceable. Something relatively light for its size. The wood should be of tight grain, with no bald spots. And, of course, it should be one that suits you. A 6-foot-tall man smoking a tiny pipe would look ridiculous. Bent pipes tend to be larger. They’re good for reading, writing or any hand activity because they’re tucked in and stay out of your way.
Once you’ve chosen a pipe, you face the dilemma of finding a tobacco. ‘Choosing a tobacco that you like is the hardest part. ‘It’s far more difficult than choosing a pipe,’ Davis says, displaying several varieties he carries. ‘There are virtually an infinite number of blends available; some may have six different tobaccos in them.’ You really want a good flavor that burns well. Due to additives, you can have all the flavors in the world. ‘In this soda-pop society, it isn’t surprising that essences are added to appease those sugar-sallied palates!’ Davis rumbles. ‘It’s adulteration. Sometimes syrups contribute up to one-third of the weight of the tobacco,’ he says.
‘Additives frequently lead to tongue-bite (irritation of the tongue) and can also lead to souring a pipe if you don’t clean it regularly. I’ll sell some aromatics; because there is a demand, but I’ll never recommend one.’
‘Women are the greatest perpetrators of additives,’ says Davis, waving his cigar to make the point. ‘Additives make things smell better. If a man’s wife, receptionist and secretary don’t like the aroma of his tobacco, I’d tell him to get a new wife, a new receptionist and a new secretary because they’re easier to replace than a good tobacco that you really like!’ he says with a chuckle.
Manufacturers do push smoking tobaccos at different times of the day, and some of their reasoning is valid. ‘A heavy tobacco can be really over-powering in the morning, or even at mid-day. But in the evening, and with a good cognac, it’s fine,’ Davis says. ‘A lot of it’s just advertising flack for increased consumption, though.’
Pipe smoking is the cheapest way to smoke once you’ve made the initial investment;’ Davis says. Pipe smokers smoke for the taste and for the enjoyment. Most cigarette smokers are too nervous to pick up the habit.’ They can’t take the time to smoke a pipe.’
THE AMAZINGLY INCREDIBLE & PARTICULARLY AWESOME
CPG PETE GEEK MAN-CAVE POSTER EVENT
designed by PPN’s very own Artist in Residence
Way, way back before Larry Gosser’s Charles Peterson Pete Geek T-Shirt . . .
way back before Gary Hamilton’s SPD Tamper Event . . .
and even before the Pete Geek Zippo Lighter Event—
before Christmas 2022, as a matter of fact—
Brian and I were chatting back and forth and he suggested a CPG poster. Something to hang up in the garage, shop, man cave, smoking lounge, bomb shelter, Dookie room, wherever. We went back and forth with some of my ideas and he said, ‘Mark, those stink, why don’t you just leave it to me?’ and he was right. They did stink. And of course, he came up with a good one. Then he refined it and refined it and refined it some more. Then all sorts of Pete Gear began shooting up like dandelions through concrete and we kept having to postpone it. Today, however, we postpone no longer. Today is the day!
The CERTIFIED PETE GEEK poster will be printed on high-quality 16 x 20 poster paper, rolled and placed into a clear plastic sleeve, then into a cardboard mailing tube. Cost in the US, including shipping, $25. International orders, including FedEx International Connect Shipping (no more loser government postal services, thank you very much), $45.
We need a minimum of 20 orders.
—If you want one, fill out the GOOGLE FORM HERE.
This will be the last CPG Event
until the 2023 PPN Pipe,
already scheduled for the faithful by K&P for this fall.
The second batch of Pete Geek lighters has arrived. We are mailing them out tomorrow,
LARRY GOSSER ORDERED T-SHIRTS FOR ALL WHO REQUESTED THEM ON FRIDAY, 3/24/2023. If you want one, it’s not too late. Mail him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org before Tuesday, 3/28.
*Bernadette O’Neill was the design manager (for lack of a better word) that Tom Palmer hired not long after he acquired the company. It was in great part her vision and agenda that would successfully relaunch K&P in the 1990s. You can read about her work on the Great Explorers collection, the historical background of the set, as well as her designs for the individual pipes in Post #107.