Jan Pietenpauw, Local pipe magic
So what's in a pipe? Some say it is the soul of the briar, others claim euphoric smoking qualities, pure aesthetic and fond memories of origin or how it was obtained.
I have drawn the conclusion that the answer must be at a minimum of $500-00 artisan pipes or limited editions. Be that as it may, the more you seem to pay the better and more established the carver or edition.
Local is 'lekker' so we say and it really is. As we now no longer refer to our beloved motherland as a third world country as it is, like many other things, politically incorrect. A 'developing country' is now the buzz word to be absolutely correct.
In that case I fail to see carvers like Jan Pietenpauw to be developing in any sense of the word. The latest work to come out of the Pietenpauw pipe shop is absolutely astonishing to say the least. The lines are perfect, composition has carefully been considered and the exceptional attention to detail goes unsurpassed. Here great men of briar and leaf is a $500-00 pipe, and make no mistake the fine finish and aesthetic beauty including the smokability of the instrument is without a doubt worth its asking price. Compared to carvers in the USA, UK and Europe it stands its ground if not surpasses what is considered contemporary in every sense of the word.
I for one, as a pipe enthusiast, am sick and tired of the rest of the world looking at this developing country thinking that the fine pipes we produce are worth nothing more than developing prices. This may be the outlook of the rest of the world but not ours, and not mine in any sense. I have had time over the years to study in fine detail what comes out of our country. This task has been an easy one as there are but not even one handful of pipe makers in our beloved country. This is no surprise when compared to say the USA. I have come to understand that the fine art of kapnismology is just as unpopular over the great big pond as it is here on African soil, but the major difference being people per capita. South Africa, when looking at statistics is then not doing any better or worse than the USA or Europe.
A major mental disease that needs to be nipped in the bud locally is that South Africans of all races have been indoctrinated to believe that everything off African soil is bigger and better and naturally costs more and the more you pay the better it must be. This in my opinion is due to generation X living through the days of international sanctions to emerge after 1994 to a dystopian society faced with one of the world weakest currencies.
While Jan Pietenpauw may not be frowned upon locally or abroad, there seems to be a questionable attitude towards his location in the world when prices are made for his pipes. I simply do not understand this attitude. I find it difficult to pin the blame on any party. Ask yourself, would this be the case if he were American or European?
Pietenpauw pipes seem to have made quite an impression on smokers around the world. Over the past couple of years there has not been a single pipe and leaf forum around the world that has not responded favourably towards his work.
One of the latest Pietenpauw offerings I have just purchased comes in the form of a beautifully blasted magnum cutty. The pipe is simply perfect. The blast exposes the unique grain of the briar in a delicate fashion and the engineering is clean as one would find in Dunhill pipes. This, I am aware may be a profound statement to some indeed. I have over time worked on several Dunhill pipes and would be the first to admit that they are worth their monetary value when one pays careful attention to cleanliness, perfection and construction. Dunhill pay fine attention to detail which is always evident in their drilling, finish and shank to tenon connections. This latest Pietenpauw in my opinion carries the same attributes. I cannot see a single floor, or lathe chatter in any area of the pipe exposed or hidden. Hidden detail is what makes pipe MAGIC! Dunhill pipes are simply elegant no mess, no fuss shapes. Less seems to be more and their winning recipe not only lies in the smokabilty of the white dot but in the elegance of clean simplistic line, much like the sculptures of Constantin Brankusi.
Jan Pietenpauw's cutty which evokes eclectic styles of the 1652 Settlers, is just like the above mentioned. Beauty lies in the simplicity of line and formal shape and this is often a very difficult aesthetic utopia to find. There are no shank ring adornments, 'funny' cut rings or oval swelling in order to convince the viewer of its inherent beauty. These are the elements of art summoned by the master's hand in perfect proportion and harmony. There is simply noting to look at besides a pipe and in this lies creative perfection.
Now, I am the first to worship at the temple of most artisan carvers' work around the world including the extravagant Italians, freehand Danish and elegant English one man shows and small boutique outfits. Don't get me wrong I love all the extra's too, besides what can be more beautiful than and an 'overdone' Ser Jacopo or Mastro de Paja or the interesting sculptural abstractions of Love Geiger and the list goes on.
I think it must be a 'timing thing' in the sense of right time and right place incorporating a certain mindset encompassing the right materials and the combination there of. I think this may be summed up as Artisan Style.
I am not here to offer a review or critique on the work of Jan Pietenpauw but rather attempt to expose the carver's persona and cultural identity in the process. His work is unmistakably South African. A post modern phenomenon of cross cultural heritage no one may ignore. Let's face it, noting is new anymore or that unique that it may be claimed by a single ideology. Yet we contribute collectively to the bigger picture. In this case we have pure local magic offered on a plate of artist perfection.
Clean perfection is what I think the perfect pipe should be. Then again ask any pipe maker, none of them claim to have achieved this yet or have even come close in their own opinion.
Let's face it, pipes are worth what they are worth in the 'art for smoke sake' ideology, and not bound by country or carver. Jan Pietenpauw is no better or worse than all his contemporary pipe carvers' world wide that have achieved clean perfection as art for smoke sake aesthetic. Now how is this measured? This becomes a problematic paradigm. In order not to confuse myself I have my pre requisites but nothing comes closer than "cleanliness is near godliness" and often easier said than done. I want to see my reflection in the Lucite stem, see no file marks on the button and for the larger part the hidden parts in the combustion system should be as perfect as those parts which are exposed. The whole deconstructs and needs to be as perfect as the sum of the parts. This process of obsessive perfection of rubbing over and over a surface to seek it material beauty imparts soul to the object in question. Without this care and dedication the pipe seems lifeless, almost identity less in character. This one often sees in factory made pipes where an assembly line process is more than evident in order to supply the consumer world with smoke machines.
This and mainly this would be the key reason for pipe enthusiasts around the world to seek out these artisans pipes. High prices are also linked to the "one of a kind" phenomena and the low turn out of artisan pipes as opposed to those that are mass produced.
We as collectors obsess about this, pathetically at times, but hey who says we may not. After all spare more than just penny for the ferryman, he may need it on the othr side!