by Jeff Gracik




Durch einen Hinweis des belgischen Pfeifenenthsuiasten Erwin Van Hove wurde ich kürzlich auf Jeff Gracik aufmerksam. Er hat einen eigene Web-Site, auf der einige sehr ansprechende Pfeifen zum Verkauf standen. Jeff hat sich als ein freundlicher, kommunikativer Mensch erwiesen, binnen kurzer Zeit kamen wir ins Gespräch und alsbald wurde auch die erste Pfeife geordert. Diese Pfeife läßt eine sehr ausgeprägte Begabung erkennen und gepaart mit sauberer Verarbeitung und vielen, liebevollen Details befindet sich nun eine sehr schöne "J.  Alan Pipe"  in meinem Besitz. Dies war auch der Anlass, für diesen jungen Pfeifenmacher recht unmittelbar eine Info-Seite einzurichten. Abweichend vom sonstigen Vorgehen, will ich hier einmal den Pfeifenmacher selbst zu Wort kommen lassen, indem ich einen Brief unkommentiert einstelle, den Jeff mir zugesandt hat.


Where are you from ?
I was born in 1979 in the small town of Meadville, Pennsylvania in the United States.  I am currently living in Princeton, New Jersey.

Are you a pipesmoker ?  Yes

If so what are your favorites pipes and tobaccos?

My favorite pipes that I own were made by my two teachers, Todd Johnson and Tonni Nielsen.  Todd’s is a bamboo Dublin that smokes like a dream.  I have a weakness for bamboo pipes anyway, but this particular pipe is gorgeous and I am honored to own it. Tonni’s is one of his beautiful standard shapes, a Danish variant of straight billiard.  Both pipes are, indeed,wonderful smokes and beautiful to look at.  They provide a lot of inspiration for me when I am making pipes.  My favorite pipes that I do not own, although I hopeto one day add one or two to my modest collection, are made by Cornelius Maenz.  I stumbled across Cornelius’s pipes in late 2003, shortly before I began making my own.  I was amazed at their beauty and originality, although I probably could not have identified the particular aspects that distinguished them from other pipes at the time.  As I have gained a greater grasp of and appreciation for pipe design over the past year of pipemaking, his pipes have continued to grow in appeal to me.  They are truly works of art and set a benchmark for quality and attention to details.

When I first began smoking, my favorite tobaccos were Virginia based blends, especially Virginia/Perique blends like Escudo.  However, I bought a tin of Dunhill’s Durbar by accident (I didn’t know what Latakia was at the time) and was repulsed by its odor when I opened it.  After two bowls, though, I was hooked and have been an English/Balkan smoker eversince.  My favorites are GLP Renaissance and Bohemian Scandal, Dunhill’s Night Cap, and Esoterica Tobaccania’s Margate.

Meeting Jeff at Cornelius´ place in Reutlingen, 2011

Where did you learn pipe making ?  

At first I learned by reading the book by PIMO and by talking to Tim West on the telephone, and on the pipemaking forums at www.tylerlanepipes.com.  Last July, I was invited to work with Todd Johnson, of STOA Briars and that really represents a major turn in my craft.  I have also spent time with Tonni Nielsen, who graciously shared his vast knowledge with me as well.  Jody Davis is another pipemaker who has been incredibly generous with his time and energy and has fielded innumerable questions.

Where do you pick up your inspiration ? Who are your pipemakers references?

Much of my inspiration, at this point, is still from other pipemakers.  I find elements of their work that I would like to produce variations of.  However, nature also provides a wonderful source of inspiration for me.  Todd Johnson, Jody Davis, and Cornelius Maenz’s designs are the most influential ones to my work and also the ones that I use most frequently for reference.

What is the origin of your materials : briar, stems, and eventually accessories as rings

I use briar from Italy, Corsica, and Algeria.  All of my stems are now handcut from German ebonite or cumberland.  I also decorate shanks and stems with various and beautiful exotic woods like French boxwood, Gabon ebony, bocote, zebrawood, and padouk. 

How many pipes a year do you carve ? 

That is hard to say, I have just begun making pipes. I made my first pipe last January (2004) and have made 25 since then.  So I guess 30-40 a year would be a good estimate.

Is pipemaking your only activity ?

No, I am a full-time graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary, studying theology and ethics.  Pipemaking is a part-time activity at this point. Although, I hope to spend some time making pipes full time upon graduation in 2006.

Interview and all pictures by Jeffrey Burt-Gracik, with kind permission

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